Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


old faithful

Back home, the car license plates always had an abbreviation that told the world which town you're from. CCN was the abbreviation for Uitenhage. As with all things, we'd add to it, jokingly. CCN, for example, stood for (in our humour) "Courtesy costs nothing", just as CAW (for the town, George) stood for "Cold and wet". Port Elizabeth's (my hometown) number plate was CB, which we maintained stood for "Come back", as those who left the town invariably returned. The car pictured here was our 'old faithful'. The odometer had ticked over twice. We did over 250 000km in that car. It was eventually sent to happy driving grounds when a newly installed exhaust fell off on the freeway, which inspired the cops to take a closer look at the rest of the car. Let's just say that car had been through the wars and more. We loved our canary-yellow Toyota : ) This photo was taken at Yellowoods, outside PE (Port Elizabeth). The park was named because of the abundance of Yellowood trees growing there.

Hm... now why was I going on about number plates? Oh yes! I went to the supermarket, which was overflowing. Queues for everything going on for miles upon miles. I had a basket with a few items, bread being the bulkiest. The 'express' queue wove itself up and down a couple of isles, so I scrapped that idea and parked myself in a queue with a couple of trolleys (carts to you). My mind was drifting over the week and I wasn't paying much attention to the people around me until a man in the next queue who had two trolleys tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if that was all I had. "Yes," I said and he offered to let me go before him. That was so nice. It is rare to encounter that here. It made my day.

Kippy suggested I blog about a typical day teaching. That is something of a misnomer. 'Typical' doesn't exist in my teaching world.

The students I used to have were interesting enough. I taught most of them for a few years, though I did have students who didn't last, such as R. Now he would arrive at my class (at his offices - all my students back then were taught at their places of work or at their homes) and within moments, he'd be fast asleep. Now I know that I'm not the most charismatic person I know, but... ! It turned out that he used to go to nightclubs (this is during the week) until 5am, Sleep an hour at home, go to work, then catch up on sleep during my class, which was during the lunch hour. Then there was C. She was sweet. She's Japanese, but born here. She had a book on business English, which we were making our way through, but we didn't make much progress. Our discussions were just too interesting. We became fairly good friends. I was sorry to stop teaching her when we moved out here, but to start her class at 7am, I'd have to leave home at around 5am *shudder* I'm not a mornings person. Then there was L and her kids. I've mentioned them before. I started out teaching her at work, but she asked me to teach her privately at home and take on her kids too. Their English was far in advance of the English they did at school and she wanted them to learn more advanced English in a fun environment (translate that to 'surrounded by the toys and games'). The condition was that Tat goes with to speak English to them while they play (yeah right... show me kids who'll, unsupervised, speak a foreign language while playing). I was to teach the mom first, while Tat 'taught' the kids, after which I'd teach the kids using books. They loved lessons I'd create from the Goosebumps and Hardy Boys series. It was for them that I created a Scrabble set... no board, just the letters, made from card with points, with which they had to make words in Scrabble style. The rule was that they had to use the dictionary, so they'd learn new words. The mom would sometimes give us the most divine Creme de papaia with Licor de Cassis in summer as a snack. Omg! Delicious. That, alone, would have kept me going back there.  Creme de papaia is basically papaya blended with vanilla ice cream. Over this, you pour Licor de Cassis. The kids had theirs with Groselha, a syrupy 'juice' made from a local fruit. I had a lawyer, a financial director for Playland (the local amusement park... he stopped because he was always travelling and just couldn't keep up), a psychologist specialising in bariatric surgery cases who needed English for overseas conferences, a group of engineers who were working on the of our underground system, a handful of computer programmers, and a couple of housewives who were just looking for something 'more' in their lives.

My students and classes are very different now. I'm teaching at a school... no more traipsing around to students, though the co-op I'm registered with wants me to go back to teaching business English at the companies. My schedule doesn't allow for that though. So far, I have R. He is a tax accountant with an English bank. All their courses are apparently in English, so he needs to study. He's a quiet sort of chap, but interesting to talk to. He's intermediate and is working through a book that involves discussion, listening (we listen to recordings on cd and he answers questions on them), grammar and vocabulary exercises and so on. The class lasts an hour and is before work in the morning. I have two groups I teach using what they call open conversation. The book is a series of images in subjects and we are to have two hour long discussions of those images... not as easy as it sounds. What do I know about verbs related to rock climbing and ice hockey? The one group is a group of teens ranging from 15 to 19 years, except for one talkative chap who is 38. Their English is fairly good though. Then I have F who is delightful. She is so enthusiastic and I love teaching her, if for no other reason than she showed me how to use the DVD player *blushing* Here I was, (I don't own a TV and haven't had one for over 15 years) faced with a TV and slimline DVD player... and a video player. There were at least 5 remote controls. Help! She has both video and audio in her classes to improve listening skills. The rest is discussion. She asked to be taught by me because she wanted the challenge of hearing a native speaker, as opposed to a local teacher. Her classes are at night. She works in marketing. I suspect that one of the teens I teach is her son, as he studies at the same school. Then I have M who is sweet enough, but getting her to stick to English is tough. The moment she is 'lost', she breaks out in very fast Portuguese. When I got her as a student, I didn't know that she had already started the book we're on, so I prepared the first unit. I got to class and ended up having to 'wing it' when I discovered she'd already done that. I embarrassed myself this Saturday though (I teach her on Saturday afternoons for 2 hours, right after my teens, who are also for 2 hours), as I had just moved on from the teens. I hadn't had the book to prepare the lesson from this week, as there is a shortage of books in the school, so I rushed into her class, opened the books I'd just been handed, saw the unit I didn't recognise and proceeded to teach. She said nothing. It turned out that it was one of the lessons she'd already done before getting to me. Ugh. No problem... consider it revision. The school's director thought it was amusing and said, when I lamented that M didn't tell me she'd already covered that, that this student was one I could throw anything at and she'd quietly take it *sigh*

I have two sets of groups waiting that I haven't met yet. The schools here start tomorrow for the year. On Friday, Carnival week starts, during which time, nothing functions. Only after that will we get on with actual school and life will settle into a routine of sorts.

There! Have I made up for my lack of blogging during the week? ; )

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