Things have really picked up for me work wise now. At first I didn't have many hours as two of the teachers I came to replace didn't leave for a bit. I didn't actually pay any rent for 4 weeks but it was ok because the school rents the apartment for us and I just owed the money to them. It's only $65 a month anyway as it's a shared flat, 5 bedrooms, not much furniture, but a lovely view.
The last couple of weeks I've done 42 hours so I'm ok for money now. Loja is quite a rich town by Ecuadorian standards and some things are surprisingly expensive but after a while you find the cheap places for clothes and stuff, and I just bought a stove top espresso machine with a teapot for only $12 so I'm made up today (I am a coffee freak).
I start work at 9 so I get up about 7.30 as I like to have a bit of time to myself in the morning, and I can have breakfast and coffee on the balcony, looking over the town to the mountains and Podocarpus National Park. The sun rises over there and the valleys are often filled with mist, it gives me nice peaceful feeling to start the day. If I need to I can do a little lesson planning then aswell.
I try to get to school in time to get some good ideas for my first lesson. I have a level 2 class of adults (16-30 ish but mostly late teens or early 20s). It's a bit hard with this class as I've just taken it over from a teacher who spoke much better Spanish than I do and they expect me to give instructions in Spanish quite a lot of the time. It's a bit hard for them too as they have to make this adjustment just before their exams, so I have to be patient. I've been trying to explain that it's pointless them learning it in theory if they can't understand me speaking to them slowly in plain English, but some things need translating because they don't have the listening skills to understand my explanations. We are getting used to eachother, but the other problem is that they are finishing their university courses at the same time so I get a lot of absences.
At 11 this class finishes and I have a private level 1 student until 12.30. his name is Armando and he's doing pretty well now as I have insisted on doing most of the lesson in English and only speaking Spanish when it's really necessary. His speaking skills aren't too good, after all, he's only been studying for about 6 weeks, but his listening is above my level 2 class, so it shows that it's worth persisting with speaking in English. (I learnt loads of Spanish in my week with my Spanish speaking family, but now I'm with English speakers all day it's really slowed down). I gave Armando a test on Friday and I'm fairly confident he will be able to join a level 2 class in September. It's a bit intense sometimes with privates, but you can give them just what they need and they don't seem to expect constant entertainment like classes can, it's more businesslike and they seem more motivated.
The school is then closed for 2 hours. I go shopping in town or to the market or Supermaxi, the Ecuadorian version of Tesco. I love the markets with all their colour and noise, it's so alive and vibrant and you can get some really fresh produce. There are places that will mend your clothes and shoes too. On Friday i go and cash my cheque. all the banks are in Parque Central which is a lovely little green plaza where you can sit and chill out in the shade or get your shoes shined if you wish. The shoe shine kids hang out playing cards when they're not earning and there are stalls that will take your photo or try to sell you paintings or handicrafts.
I start again at 4, when I have another 1 1/2 hours with Armando. He's keen because he wants to visit his brother in London. For this reason I've been teaching him from my New Headway books instead of the American books they use in the school. Then i have another private from 5.30 until 7, Israel, he's level 3. He's studying for business, a pretty smart bloke, designs circuit boards for telecommunications.
From 7 until 9 I have a level 5 class. I took over this class a few weeks ago and at first I found them odd as they seem to need entertainment really often. The books are fairly boring and I keep having to come up with diiferent activities. Ones that work with other classes I've done, like truth and lies, or vote for me don't seem to cut the mustard with this lot at all. There are only 9 of them so if a few don't turn up then my carefully planned activities wont work anyway and we have to have a back-up plan. Their weakest point is listening so I've been bringing in music for a warm up most days recently and we've clicked a bit better since then Their favourite was 'every step you take' - the whole class was singing along by the end. We've covered all the topics in the book now and it's a matter of doing review activities and conversation tasks until their tests. On Fridays we often join another class for a movie in english.
Then on Fridays I usually go for a beer with a couple of other teachers. Often the students will join us or we meet some of them whilst we are out. There are some really nice cheap places to eat and the locals are pretty friendly on the whole. It's a small town so there's not an infinite variety but it's enough for me at the moment. They love cheesy music round here and sometimes the nightclubs are a bit hopeless! We always manage to have some fun though and I've made a couple of friends in pubs and clubs already. The people here are tactile and free n easy; they love singing and dancing and alot of them can play musical instruments. The clubs tend to close at 2 but sometimes you can find a party afterwards.
Saturdays and Sundays vary. Sometimes I walk up to a castley thing on the other side of the hill that looks as if it built be a hotel but then was abandoned but there are great views from up there. Hopefully Kallen will visit soon from Quevedo and we can go on a trip somewhere. There are plenty of lovely places round here but I have been working Saturday mornings and been too tired to do much travelling. On Sundays there is a fresh produce market in town which is fantastic. I love the clours and noise and smells: as my local friends call it, the ambiente. It's really busy and you can go about finding the best looking produce from different stalls. You can also buy fresh honey and herbs and flowers, homemade peanut butter and sauces and all kinds of stuff. A taxi home is only a dollar so the only problem is eating all your stuff before it goes off.
There are challenges here. teaching is really different to the community classes I was helping with in Bristol.. People came to those from all over the world and were really highly motivated as their jobs and integration into the community really depended on it. They were on time and worked hard all lesson long and took it seriously. Here I'm teaching a lot of young people from rich families who don't have the same motivation and expect more in the way of fun from the class. I'm having to learn whole new tactics and with a 42 hour week I don't get much free time for research. I can't use internet at school so I have to go when the cabinas are open. There is lots of lesson planning to do in my free time aswell and to be honest I don't want to spend my whole life working - I want time for myself.
It's also really satisfying when things go well and students pass their tests. Work isn't everything and I'm loving Loja at the moment. It's a great place to wind down after 7 years in some of the most dangerous parts of Bristol. Life here is nice and I'm really glad I came.