The School Situation


Exchange students are the best students

Exchange students are the best students

I go to a private school called Henrique Castriciano for my regular school day classes Monday through Friday from 7:15am to 1:15pm. My host mother pays for this school. I am one of six rotary inbounds that attends this school. The other two inbounds attend other private schools in the city.

Henrique Castriciano is a private school. Our host parents pay for their exchange children to attend these private schools. At these private schools, we are not expected to do any of the classwork, homework, or take any of the tests. We are expected to attend school every day and sit in the class while the teachers lecture. There is never any classwork for the students to do. Each class, including math, consists of a lecture for the entire block. And the teachers speak fast, so even if I wanted to pay attention to what they are saying, I’m only catching words and phrases here and there and the next thing I notice I’m completely zoned out and five minutes have passed.

At the end of our classmates’ high school careers, they will take a test to determine their entrance to university. Therefore, class consists entirely of the material that will be covered on the entrance test to university.

As you can surmise, this is not the case for the exchange students. For every single one of us, school (in a grading standpoint) does not matter. Either we have already graduated or upon return to our host countries we will have to take the year over again.

The teachers do not care what the exchange students do in class (with the exception of the physics teacher, for some reason that none of us can figure out). Chen sleeps every day. The rest of us mess with our phones, read books, write letters, etc.

I’ve never known a person in the world to not complain about school at one point or another, and the Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 are no exception. We all hate school so much. We just want some work to do or something to make the time go by faster. The only thing that we are all united in liking about school is time in between lessons and the thirty minute break in the middle of classes since we can actually talk to our classmates and friends.

As for activities, yes, they are offered at Henrique Castriciano, if you want to pay an extra fee. And soccer practice is still only two days a week with the extra payment.

The Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 go to a public school called IFRN on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a Portuguese class. IFRN is often proclaimed by anyone you ask on the street anywhere as the best public school in the state because it is federally run, not state run. Even the kids at HC (Henrique Castriciano, the private school) say it is a really good school.

The exchange students from the international youth exchange program of AFS attend IFRN for their everyday schooling. This is completely free of charge. IFRN is not a traditional school. You can choose classes. You might be able to learn how to cook or take a carpentry class. Furthermore, the activities that are offered by IFRN are completely free as well. And, if you join the IFRN soccer team, practice is every day.

The Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 are practically salivating we are so desperate to go to IFRN. Even if we get stuck in some boring class like biology where we have to listen to a lecture, hey, at least there’s a gym on campus that’s free of charge to all students.

So, the natural step is to ask our host parents why we are required to attend a private school. The answer is quite simple. We are not allowed to go to any public school since Rotary is concerned that the teachers of IFRN take too many strikes and we will not go to school for a long period of time.

Chiara, my German friend

Chiara, my German friend

A perfectly valid opinion. At this point, however, I think I’ve been in school as much as I’ve been out of school. Since we aren’t required to take the tests, the exchange students are always being told that we have to go to the classrooms of the small children and give presentations about our countries. This has yet to happen and it’s been a month for me, and two to three months for the rest of them. We end up sitting in a corner of the classroom talking, sleeping, reading, playing games, etc. So we’ve all taken to ditching school on the testing days, since there aren’t classes on those days. Furthermore, there have been random school holidays that no one is sure of the reason for. At this point, the AFS students in IFRN have been in school more than the Rotary students have been and the Rotary students are the ones paying.

Another reason that Rotary gave us for not being allowed to go to public school is that at public school, there are drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere, folks. You just need to look.

The next step would be to ask our host parents what their reaction would be if we were interested in enrolling at IFRN. So far, all of the parents say that they think we should go to IFRN instead of private school. I asked my mom about it and she was all in, and the next thing I knew she was calling all of the other moms and asking their opinion.

Parents Against Private Schools. Check.

Exchange Students Against Private Schools. Check.

(These aren’t actual organizations, people, I just made them up. But you get the idea.)

The next step? Talk to Rotary. On Monday, I will be talking to my club counselor at my Rotary meeting. Also, at the end of this month, all the inbounds will be having a meeting with Clarice, one of the bigwigs in Rotary, to see who our next host families are. Then we will bring up the School Situation with her, though she’s probably already heard about it since some of the other inbounds have already talked to their counselors.

Best possible outcome: Rotary answers our pleas and we are in IFRN by next month.

Next best possible outcome: We get out of school for summer sometime in November and Rotary lets us change schools for the next school year. Personally, I think that this is likely to happen.

Other possible outcome: Rotary says no and we stay in our private schools. While I obviously don’t want this to happen, I won’t really be upset because at least I do have friends at HC and I’ve gotten more writing done in the past few weeks than I have in the past year.



Being a Teenager Sucks

I’m not joking. I hate hormones and having to adjust insulin and how I’m never steady even if I count carbs perfectly and take insulin ahead of time (like a good diabetic should, even though apparently that isn’t me) and exercise.

And maybe this happens to every diabetic, but I’m a teenager and thus haven’t been an adult yet so I don’t have anything to base it off of. But it sure is dang annoying.

But being a teenager is stressful. I’m not joking. Like right now the first thing that people ask me when I tell them that I’m a junior in high school is, “What colleges are you thinking about?” Or at least some variation of the above question. And this is super stressful and annoying to a girl who hasn’t mapped out her life plan and has no earthly idea what to do with the next six years of her life, give or take a few, unlike what seems to be the rest of my grade. I don’t know how they do it. And then there are ACT and SAT tests coming up, AP exams are in May, and this year is my first opportunity to go to prom. And lacrosse season has just started, and I was voted captain, and that is sort of stressful because I don’t feel like the greatest girl on the team, even though I may be the oldest. Plus I’m going to have to miss a lot of practices and games because of band rehearsals and things like that, even though the coaches say, “School first, lacrosse second.” Sorry, but lacrosse is not the highest thing on my list of TO DO.

Second semester junior year is wonderful. (Notice the sarcasm.) I even considered quitting lacrosse so I would have more time, but I’m glad I didn’t because it is a ton of fun, even though coaches can get pretty serious.

Plus the whole managing diabetes thing aspect of my life. Kind of a big deal.

On the plus side, I may be getting a new pump sometime soon! And if I ever need a hug, my dog is always and my dog

Adios for now, and may your blood sugars be ever in your favor!


Claire Montgomery

Insulin Pump Fashion

A couple of days ago I wore a dress with some boots. And as I’m sure that my fellow female diabetic pumpers are aware of, even if you have shorts on underneath your dress, it’s pretty awkward to reach up your dress and take your insulin pump out. And then my problem is that I LOVE wearing dresses, and I would totally wear them every day if it weren’t for people saying, “Why are you wearing a dress?” whenever I DO wear a dress. It’s actually pretty annoying. “Because I felt like it.”

So this time I wore a dress with boots, and then I clipped my insulin pump onto my boots, so I could get my insulin pump without having to feel so awkward about it like I usually do.

So band was my first period, and people kept on bugging me out of genuine curiosity because they obviously didn’t have any idea what an insulin pump was, and I must say that I was enjoying the attention. After band I was checking the list to see who made it into Wind Ensemble (the highest band at my school) when a girl came up to me. Her name is Sam, and she told me that she really liked my Medtronic insulin pump, and that her’s was boring and black. It turns out that a flute who sits three feet away from me is a fellow type 1 diabetic. That pretty much made my day. We talked a little about going to diabetes camp, and then I had to leave to go to class.

So if you wear your insulin pump on your boot, you realize that people have a ton in common with you. That little thing made me happy for the rest of the day. :) And I still am happy.


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Diabetic blogger, Insulin pump fashion-ista.

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Smartie Spit
Party in the Nurse’s Office!

Smartie Spit

Get that picture into your mind: Smartie Spit. Now think of that spit going through a clarinet. Gross, huh. Don’t stop reading.

I play the clarinet. I’m in my high school’s symphonic band. It’s really fun, because I got first clarinet, and I just love love love music in general. It’s just so much fun. It’s really one of the best part of my days.

A couple of days ago I was low in band. Now that’s just awkward. I mean, try to imagine trying to inhale smarties during the rests (pauses while playing) and then forcing Smartie spit down your instrument. It’s really gross. And I’m not grossed out by many things, but this is just one of them.

And then in many cases your band teacher just gives you this look, that basically says, Why the heck are you eating and playing your instrument at the same time? Irresponsible student.

So you basically hope that you never get low during band.

Okay, and then you join the marching band. Which can technically be counted as exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Marching band is totally fun. Football games are the life. I mean, we’re all the “band geeks” so we really know nothing about football. So we just sit around and play little rifts and laugh and talk.

But throw the whole marching thing into the mix. We play at parades too. But how do you march in a contest in formation and get low in the middle of the song? It’s a puzzle, I tell you. A puzzle. My band teacher told me that I could just duck out when I needed to, and I’m not saying that I’m against the idea, but that it’s sort of awkward to playing our school’s fight song and then to duck out of the group when we’re all in formation.I will totally duck out if I need to, but it’s still weird. I still have a bag of Smarties in the pocket of my uniform. But I haven’t been low yet, which is a good thing.

Luckily, just now we’re only doing basketball games right now and no marching, so I wont have to worry about this until next school year, when we start marching again.

Well, adios for now!

Claire Montgomery
Type 1 diabetic, Diabetic blogger, Smartie spitter

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Party in the Nurse’s Office!

Come all ye diabetics and lament about blood sugars…

…’Twill be fun. :

I love the nurse at my high school. She is so awesome and hip and cool. At my old middle school I didn’t really like the nurse, but here she’s awesome. So the other day I’d been having high blood sugars for pretty much the whole day so finally I just went down to the nurse so I could change my site because I figured it was a bad site. But when I got there I didn’t have any insulin so I had to call my dad so he could bring me insulin. I had all of the other supplies. Anyway. So I sat in the nurse’s office while I was waiting for my dad.

And then this kid named Noah came in. He was a diabetic and he was something like over 400 mg/dl. So we were sitting there and talking and lamenting about other nurses that we’ve had that we didn’t like and about insulin pumps and about medical IDs and about tattoos that serve as medical IDs (look them up). And we were talking about iPumps (don’t you think that would be totally wicked? It could count your carbs and test your blood sugar and be your pump AND be your phone, iPod, etc…). It was totally so much fun even though we were just so totally high. And being high is never fun except on that day it was because we could complain to each other and talk about things that nobody else would ever get. Just hanging out with diabetics is fun in general but it was even better this time because we were both high.

And then my dad came and he gave me my insulin and then he left and I gave myself a new site. Blah blah blah.

AND THEN a girl named Nicole came in and she just happened to be a diabetic and she just happened to be high. Join the club, sista. I swear, that’s the best time I’ve ever had in the nurse’s office, and I mean that quite literally. Three diabetics were high at the same time and lamenting about high blood sugars and were in the nurse’s office at the same time. IT WAS SO COOL!

So, a message to all you diabetics who are still in elementary, middle, or high school. Go to the nurse’s office when all the other diabetics in your school are high. It’s fun.

Adios for now!

Claire Montgomery
Type 1 diabetic, Diabetic blogger, Nurse’s office party thrower

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My Gum Drops Are Out To Kill Me

Okay, maybe I’m joking.

My normal pencil bag candy for school is Smarties. I’ve mentioned this before. Well, last time I checked, Smarties are strictly American and Canadian candy. And, oh right, I live in Mexico. So it might be time to extend my candy preferences.

So let me remind you about something: I absolutely loathe Smarties. And that’s exactly the reason why I carry them. The basic idea is so my willpower doesn’t crumble and so I can same my Smarties for when I’m actually low. Also, so I don’t eat too many of them and go high.

The Mexican candies I have to choose from are pretty limited. There’s candy with chile (basically spicy stuff), which even though I like, it’s hard to eat fast, unless I want the fire extinguisher and I to become best buds.

So when Mom and Dad went on a shopping expedition, they came back with gum drops and chocolate covered raisins.

Here’s the good/bad news: I actually like these candies. I sense a high blood sugar in my future.

The problem is this: Okay, maybe my willpower doesn’t collapse, but when I’m actually low I eat too many of them, and then go high. Or my willpower crumbles completely, and I go high. It’s sort of a lose lose situation.

My dad is a speaker, and so he flies out of the airport to go to jobs. So the last time he left, what do you know, he brought me Smarties.

Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Insulin Pump User, Candy Eater

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Give Me The Candy!

Low blood sugars in Mexico.

When I’m low at school, I eat Smarties. Unlike in the US, people here don’t really know that I have diabetes, where in the States, it was just some sort of random information that wasn’t big news.

Here, nobody knows about it. I mean, I don’t like to publicize the fact that I have diabetes, but it’s really hard to explain to people that I have it when they notice my insulin pump or see me testing my blood sugar, because I don’t speak Spanish, and my questioners usually don’t speak English. I can usually fumble out a sentence or two, but they just look at me blankly when I say, “Tengo diabetes.” (“I have diabetes.”) Then they nod wisely as if they know exactly what I’m talking about, but turn around and shrug at their neighbor. And I don’t have enough language skills to explain what it is.

So back to the Smarties issue. So, as you know, I eat Smarties when I’m low. I hang out with a strange group of friends at school in Mexico. Two girls speak pretty fluent English and another girl speaks a ton of English, but is in no way fluent. Her name is Adriana. Sofie and Atalya are the fluent ones.

So one day I made the mistake of giving them all Smarties and Adriana hasn’t left me alone since. “Can I have some candies? Can I have some candies? Can I have some candies?” She doesn’t understand that I have to have these candies or I’m in trouble if I’m low. Finally I got fed up with it and got Sofie to translate that if I didn’t have these candies, I could end up in serious trouble that might end up in a trip to the hospital. Adriana left me alone for about thirty seconds and then started asking me for more candies. Here’s what I say to this: Never give candy to someone who doesn’t understand why you might eventually need it.


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Diabetic Teenage Blogger, Candy Giver

A Diabetic Viking

In which we talk about Diabetes but the teacher ignores my thoughts.

When I was in 6th grade my Social Studies class learned about the Vikings. These are some of the things that my class mates and I discovered about Vikings. They had awesome ships that were good out in the ocean and in rivers. That they looted a lot of towns. And that many English words come from them, including “Son” and “Berserk”.

You see, the Vikings had a group of absolutely crazy men who could seem to defeat anything. These men were called Berserkers. (Hence the word “berserk”.)  So my Social Studies teacher, Mrs. N., told us that historians now think that these Berserkers were so good at fighting and so crazy because they had some certain diseases. Diseases like Diabetes.

Then Mrs. N. and the rest of the class started to try to figure out examples of people today who had Diabetes. There was a wide speculation and I sat there trying not to laugh. My friend Sofie was sitting next to me grinning. She glances over at me and winks.

“Oh! Oh! I know! That Broncos Quarterback! Jay Cutler! He has Diabetes!” says Mrs. N.

At this point I decide to take some action. I raise my hand and say, “I have diabetes.” Mrs. Nelson keeps talking, and completely ignoring me. However, more than half the class turn around. But my teacher continues to ignore me. Sofie and I both crack up laughing.

Thankfully, the bell wrings so we don’t get in trouble.

Personally, I think that this story is hilarious. I don’t know if my teacher didn’t hear me, but she knew I had diabetes. But really, I guess I don’t mind that she didn’t hear me or whatever, because now I have a hilarious story. Which is just as good.


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Story Teller With Diabetes, Ignored Teenager