Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's been quite a while since my last post, mainly because I have been transitioning into teaching this past week. I wound up taking a job here in Guadalajara at a school that teaches to business learners. The students at the school work for companies like Hewlett Packard and Hershey's, and other companies based here in Guadalajara. All my classes but one got cancelled this week, which worked out well since it gave me time to go get my permission to work from the government office, as well as get a little more teaching training. I taught for the first time on Friday. It was a private lesson for a man that works for one of the larger companies here in Guadalajara. I spent the day preparing--going over and over what he had already learned, and selecting the games to play carefully, according to the skill level and his current topic of study. But when I got there and started teaching, it became readily apparent that he was not, after all, up to the level that the paper said. He wants to review the entire book. There is something inefficient about the way ESL teaching is happening in a lot of these places because apparently it's pretty typical for students to get through an entire book without having actually acquired any permanent, or recall-able, knowledge. Language acquisition may be tough, especially when you have a full time career on top of classes, but it seems like there's got to be a more orderly way of going about this. I met with the teacher that used to have my students today, and he said that sometimes he just talks to students all of class, rather than making them do lessons, because that's what some of them prefer. It's not exactly like teaching high school kids, where they're going to have a test at the end and need to be responsible for the knowledge you've tried to impart.

i find myself having the same conversations over and over again in Spanish. Everyone wants to know: do you like Mexico? What do you think of Mexicans? Do you like Guadalajara? I love talking to people but when it comes to answering these questions, I am considering making a tape recording of my answer and just playing that whenever people ask them. It would really make a lot more sense. I mean, practicing my Spanish is all well and good, but I'm beginning to feel like a walking broken record. On the other hand, I do appreciate that Mexicans tend to take a genuine interest in Americans who come to live here. There is always a smile, and the effort to engage in conversation, when they meet you. Mexican culture seems to really value honesty of heart, and openness towards strangers. Yesterday, I was on the bus during one of those really intense rides, where it's dark and there are blue lights inside, and everyone is crammed in, clutching the bars for balance as the bus lurches and halts. At one point, we went up onto a curb in order to make our way around another car in heavy traffic. I looked over at a lady who was clutching her little baby, trying to keep him safe, and she looked up and said "Dios mio!" and gave me a look of exasperation at the bus driver's craziness. There was a strong sense that we were all in the craziness together, for better or worse.

We really are, too. There is no telling what a day will bring forth, says Magda, my host mother. She does not make plans because you never know what is going to happen. i agree. When I make a call on my cell phone, for instance, I never know if I am going to get through or not. I never know if the last place I tried to purchase minutes at was truly legitimate or not, or whether I am going to mysteriously run out of minutes. I never know if I am going to be able to meet up with friends or not, due to these phone issues. And I also never know if my taxi driver truly knows where he is going or is going to drive me all over the city in search of my destination. And I never know when the next wave of exhaustion is going to hit. When I'm out on the streets for too long, or have gone running at all or done yoga, I get these waves of exhaustion where all I want to do is sit and watch the crazy world go by...or sleep. It's strange because a lot of the time, I do not know when they are coming and cannot explain why it happened then. Each day is this unlocked mystery that demands me to respond as I go, rather than make a plan and stick to it. It's not exactly intuitive, but it's interesting.

I will be moving in with two other teachers soon: a mother and a daughter. They're back home in London for the holidays, and I'll be moving in over break. The apartment is midway between the city center and work, which is perfect. They both have a really sophisticated air about them, with their regal British accents. Sitting in their airy common room, drinking coffee at the long wooden table, it seems that everything the mother says has an authority to it. With her extensive background in teaching, she is a legitimate authority on ESL teaching, but even their hobby of making pigs out of paper mache has a sophistication to it. As they tell me how they have filled the table with crafts for months to make these pigs for their friends, I can't help but think to myself that maybe, sometime down the road, they will be professional pig artisans, and this is just the beginning. These pigs are hot pink, green, light pink with feathery wings, orange; you name, it they've done it. There's a real sense of respect for taking a creative approach to things, and I appreciate that.

In any case, I hope everyone has a merry Christmas!

I have one Christmas wish for you all, and that is this: if you could ask anything about Mexico--the Mexican people, the city of Guadalajara, the mentality, the way of life---what would it be? These questions will give me more to think about, more to question for myself, as I live here.

As we say here, Feliz Navidad.

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