Saturday, 5 September 2009

When Saturday comes

Today is Saturday and I have finally finished a long week’s work. I woke up at 5.45am Monday to Friday but then had a lie in today – I got up at 6.30am. I finished work at 9pm Monday to Friday although I did have about a 6-hour break every morning/afternoon, when I would snooze, watch US Open tennis or cricket and prepare for afternoon classes.

I was waking up so early in order to get a bus to the industrial area of Querétaro, about a 40-minute ride away, to teach one of two classes of business professionals in their offices. This was a new contract agreed by my school and I stepped in to fill the gap at short notice – it will not be a permanent arrangement, and I at least made sure I will be well paid for it. This morning was my last class there. Next week, I will wake up early on Monday to escort the new teacher out to the industrial area for her class, and then I will sleep in every day until Saturday, not starting classes at the school until 4pm. Nice.

Each morning, leaving the house in the dark of night and eating a solitary banana (no breakfast till after class for me) I would feel tired, but not apprehensive, even though in most cases I had not yet prepared any activities to fill my hour-an-a-half slot in front of 5-8 professionals. I enjoy the classes, and as tired as I feel on the bus, I am never sleepy once I’m standing in front of the class. I suppose it is a little bit like going on stage.

It’s early days as yet but I am enjoying teaching. I still have a lot to learn, especially in my grammar teaching techniques. Sometimes I feel I pitch my classes to the wrong levels (like too basic for the advanced students, or too advanced for the basics), and I think I love the sound of my own voice a bit too much in the classroom (the idea with “communicative” teaching of English is to minimise TTT – “Teacher Talking Time”) but I rate myself as an OK teacher, who at least makes things fun. Eventually I hope to be a good teacher who makes things fun.

But now I finally have some free time. I realised last week that I had been in Mexico for four days before I had my first beer. The previous time I was in Mexico –October 2008- I was in the country about 20 minutes before having a beer. Last Saturday, though, I did make up for my prior temperance at a party organised by one of the students at the school for one of the teachers. It was a great house party and I didn’t get home till 5.30.

As for this Saturday, this afternoon I’m joining Jason, sort of my boss from the school, in going to a football match. The local team have just been promoted to the top division this season and they are the “West Bromwich Albion” of Mexico, so to speak – weekly whipping boys for the top teams. I doubt they will have much to cheer today against the usually-strong Monterrey.

After the football match we are going to a bar with some of the other teachers to watch... a football match. Mexico against Costa Rica is a critical clash in the World Cup Qualifying, as Mexico began their campaign disastrously under Sven Goran Erikkson’s command. Sven is now gone, having earned $4M in about a year, but the damage remains as Mexico are still out of the automatic qualifying spots in the CONCACAF region. If results go against Mexico in the next few weeks, watch out for Honduras in the role of “West Bromwich Albion” in South Africa, 2010.

So tonight will be my first trip to a bar this time in Mexico, about two weeks to the hour since I arrived. The previous time I was here, it took me, once again, 20 minutes to get inside a bar....

But I’m liking my lifestyle here so far. I have even had a flashback to my long train rides to and from Amersham a year and a bit ago – this week I have been tearing into Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter every morning on my bus ride home. It has made me laugh (almost out loud) consistently and though the ending provided much less drama than I had hoped, it has galvanised me to read another of MVL’s in Spanish. I finished it today sipping a latte in Starbucks. The grande skinny latte was a rare treat and provided a sensation that might be familiar to loyal readers of James’s America - that of finding a little bit of home in a good old American multinational franchise. Don't knock it.


dyanna said...

I like your blog very much.I'm waiting for your new posts.

Richard Smith said...

Dear James,

I too am in Latin America—in Buenos Aires. You know the place much better than I do, but did you visit Evita’s tomb house, as I call it? I’m staying in a hotel opposite the Recoleta Cemetery, where it seems all prominent Argentinians are deposited (buried is not the right word). The cemetery is about 600m square with high walls and the tomb houses crammed in. Walking through the streets of the cemetery reminded me of Pompei, a city of the dead. Most of the tomb houses have doors and windows, and you can peek through the windows to see small alters, sometimes chairs (why?), and sometimes coffins, usually covered with a cloth. Two of the tomb houses had stairs descending into the tomb. Most of the tomb houses are marble, and some are extraordinarily modern. But most are older, and some huge and draped with statues of angels, weeping women, and corpses. Everything is remarkably clean, much cleaner than the streets outside. Ironically, it’s a rather alive place with lots of people walking through the maze of streets trying to find particular tombs—and cats everywhere. It’s easy to imagine the dead emerging at night to do their shopping, gossip, and dance. I’d love to be there on the day of the dead.

I’m also struck that the cemetery is surrounded—beyond the high walls—with bars, restaurants, night clubs, and cinemas, as if people felt more enlivened by the proximity of the dead.

You’ll know the Argentina lost to Brazil on the day that Mexico beat Costa Rica, and Argentina is now in danger of not qualifying—something much more unthinkable than England not qualifying. I’ve watched Maradona on television looking humbled. Presumably it’s hard to sack a national icon, but it may be necessary.

Teaching is exactly like performing, well it is performing, and I recognize entirely what you say about feeling tired on your way to teach but never feeling tired when you’re doing it. That’s the adrenalin. And to my mind keeping the class enjoying themselves is almost the most important thing as it’s essential for learning.

How are your jokes in Spanish? And did you read Aunt Julie and the Scripwriter in Spanish? I wasn’t clear.

I’m about to have one of my das where everybody speaks Spanish apart from me—and yet we will have to keep talking in English. Unfortunately (or really fortunately) my colleague from NHLBI is a Spaniard. Maybe you could teach me Spanish, the Everest for Spanish teachers.

Keep the blogs coming.



James Smith said...

Yes, I went to the Recoleta cemetery twice when I was in BA. (Once we arrived late and didn't have time to find Evita or Sarmiento.) Recoleta looked like a nice neighbourhood, I was about ten blocks south of there, near the Congreso building.

Mexico-Costa Rica was HUGE on Saturday. Flags and Mexico shirts everywhere. Tonight they play Honduras. I aim to catch the second half after I finish in school this eve. I should be able to watch most of England-Croatia before school starts.

I read the Vargas Llosa in ENglish - in fact it was the copy I stole from your study. Now I'm reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland by a Japanese author. (Marukami?) It was a present from Elizabeth before I left. Very surreal, Kafka-esque.