The Rooster

The Rooster

One of the first things I noticed about our new home is the presence of a very vocal rooster. It doesn’t matter whether it is 5 in the morning or 5 in the evening, he is crowing. What he is so excited about, I have no idea. But there he goes, cock-a-doodle-do!!!!

It is hard to tell exactly where the rooster lives. This community is quite a mish-mosh of houses, apartments and vacant lots. Most places do not have a “front yard.” The dwellings sit right on the edge of the sidewalk or, sometimes, the curb. The houses, too, are generally shuttered or gated. Occasionally, there is an brick wall with openings that allow you to see within, but not often. So the whereabouts of our rooster friend remains a mystery. One thing is apparent in the neighborhood, however, even within a small area, there is wealth and there is poverty. I suspect that our rooster has a clutch of hens whose egg-laying he supervises. That is a much more appealing idea than that he is destined to be dinner sometime soon.

School Day 4

Our classes are getting more and more interesting as we start working toward our teaching practices next week. In addition to our classroom work where we learn about how to teach different parts of grammar, we also learn about how to write lesson plans and manage a classroom. Classroom management appears to be a large part of teaching here, especially in an environment where their primary language is not your own. This is probably the most frightening reality for those in the class who don’t speak Spanish. Nevertheless, our instructors insist it is doable.

Partly to learn and partly to gain confidence, we have been observing other teachers at the school work with native speakers. The teachers have different backgrounds — one is British, one is from Spain, and another is from Michigan. Their styles are also completely different. I particularly like the class I observed this morning. The teacher, Sara, was very laid back, and her four students were very sweet and worked very hard. What always surprises me is how much I learn about English in these situations.

Today, for example, the students were learning about comparative adverbs (from “always” to “never”). Sara had a chart that gave percentages to the adverbs, i.e., Always=100%; Never=0%. In this way, the students could choose from words like “seldom” and “sometimes” to “rarely” or “almost always” in a way that makes total sense. As an activity, the students were paired up and given a survey to complete about their partner based on what they thought they knew about them. For example, “He always, sometimes, almost never, never watches football.” After they completed the survey, they had to ask their partner the question “How often do you….” At the end, they tallied up their correct answers to see who knew their partner best. This exercise enabled them to use their writing and reading skills, as well as their verbal skills in a very comfortable and friendly way. And, of course, they learned something about each other!

At the end of the lesson, we played Go Fish. This helped with asking “Do you have any…” paired with knowing their numbers and the names of the face cards. By having everyone participate, we all got to get comfortable with one another in a friendly yet competitive environment.

Classmates

Just as in the EFL classroom, our group of classmates are getting to know one another. After class today, a group of us went out to lunch together. It was a wonderful chance to further explore each other’s interests, thoughts and beliefs. The conversation ranged from relationships to our classes and our expectations. One of the group had spotted this little restaurant not far from our house. It was delicious!

Next door to this restaurant was a sushi place. Don’t think we’ll be eating there, though. Neither Lyn nor I is a big sushi fan!

Observations

Today we started observing others teaching TEFL classes. The observations are scheduled either before class (from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) or after class (usually starting around 3 or 4 p.m. until about 8 p.m.). Because of the way we were sitting during the first class, Lyn and I are in different time slots. I am paired with a young woman named Ailsa (pronounced Elsa). Lyn is paired with a young man named Michael.

Observing someone else other than our teacher teach was interesting, especially since Luke is British. His English pronunciation and word choices are very different from what Raul’s would be. Nevertheless, it was interesting to actually watch someone teach English to non-English speakers.

The group of students I observed ranged from around 13 to 30 years of age. There were several women, but mostly men, and the mend did most of the talking. It was clear that they had some English vocabulary skills; however, they frequently resorted to Spanish and Luke responded in kind. The interesting part of that is that Raul told us not to speak in Spanish as it was counterproductive. The thinking is, that if you are translating, you are not learning the language. So when Luke was speaking in Spanish, it caught me off guard. I mean, I understand. If you know the first language it is a simple matter to engage in it. But, what if you don’t? You can’t. In some ways, it seems to me that it forces the students to be more attentive and engaged in order to follow along.

As Raul said, frequently when they are speaking in their native language, they are not really engaged or listening.

I have to say that Raul is an exceptional teacher. With the exception of some quirky words or turns of phrase, his command of English is impressive. His teaching style is very easy and upbeat, and he really works hard to make sure we all understand.

English Grammar Scares Me!

Initially, I was very intimidated by the course content. Apparently there is a strong reliance on teaching verb forms and sentence structure. While it makes the teaching more formulaic, it was terrifying to me. We didn’t learn English that way because we “acquired” it naturally as part of our day to day life. I do recall learning verb tenses and grammar when I learned Spanish, which helps me somewhat, although English feels more complicated. Why, I don’t know.

After watching Luke today I feel a little more confident that I can do this. Lyn is a little less certain, since he doesn’t speak any Spanish and was put off more by Luke’s approach. On the other hand, he will have a better command of the grammar than I will, since he remembers just about everything he reads. I suppose together we will muddle through.

Mosquitos!

So far, I have found being here in Puerto Vallarta a lovely experience. One thing that is literally driving me crazy, though, are the mosquitos! I have been eaten alive! I spend most of my time scratching the itching and wondering why I don’t see, feel or hear this pesky critters before they get to me. Anyone have tips on how to avoid more discomfort (other than buying bug repellant, which I already have)?

I expected there to be more bugs here since the city is on the water. However, this is ridiculous. My legs are covered from thigh to ankle in bites big and small. Lyn seems to be immune, as are others in our group. Why they are biting me so much is a complete mystery. I’m not wearing any perfume and haven’t used any creams or lotions that may be attracting them. I am truly at a loss to explain, and I am even at a greater loss to remediate the situation.

Someone please help!

 

First Day of School!

First Day of School!

Monday. First day for many things. For us, school. Today we started training to teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). We started the day early, just in case, of what I’m not sure, but just in case. You know, first day jitters. Interestingly, although everything went well for us — we had hot water for showers and food for breakfast — the main water supply (a big bottle on a stand) had leaked over night and flooded the kitchen floor. Fortunately for us, it was someone else who found it and cleaned it up before we got down there. While it left no potable water in the jar, we had plenty in bottles in the refrigerator, so no one went without.

Class itself was very interesting. There are 12 of us of various backgrounds and ages. Lyn and I are probably the oldest, but Mark is close. Then there was Gabriel, Andrea (33), Nicole, Peter (from Germany), Kate, Justin, Ailsa, Jocelyn, and Michael. A very diverse group with very different interests. The reason I know Andrea’s age is because we ran into her at dinner and I asked her. (You know me….) Our teacher, Raul, is from Spain and has taught in a variety of countries around the world. He is very engaging.

This week we will be in class until noon most days, although we do start our “observations” tomorrow. Mine is at 5 p.m., Lyn’s is at 7 p.m. This is where we observe classes being taught to get ideas and learn various techniques. Fortunately, the school is directly across the street!

The lessons today were mostly about what qualities you need to teach, a history of teaching languages and where things stand today, with some icebreakers. The icebreakers were interesting, as we learned what types of these activities would be for beginners, intermediate and advanced students.

So much to learn!

News from Home

The good news is: We sold our house! It only took 3 days and the first offer was cash and more than we were asking. While there were three offers total, we went for the first as it was the simplest and best of the three. We close February 19. That is both exciting and terrifying, as we will need to get all of our stuff out of the house in 9 days!

On a positive note, it does mean that our dog sitter and the dogs can move back into our house. I’m sure she is relieved, as the dogs will be to be home.

Other good news is that I was successful in setting up a prepaid debit card from Lyn’s mother. Now I can easily transfer money onto it from her own account so she can go shopping and get cash without overdrawing her bank account. Of course, when I called her to tell her, she informed me that she once again couldn’t get her phone to work. Her boyfriend, Don, had to take her to the AT&T store so she could get it fixed. Phew! Someone else is now dealing with her inability to figure things out! If that sounds mean, you have to understand, I have been troubleshooting her problems for 7 years now. I don’t mind helping people, but it helps when they try a little.

A Small Celebration

To celebrate the sale of our house, Lyn and I found a lovely restaurant called Andareigo’s. It was lovely. We started out with free taco appetizers and then taquitos. Our main courses were, for me, a fish fillet with white wine sauce, rice and veggies; and for Lyn, a stuffed sirloin. Of course, no meal is complete without flan. This was the BEST EVER flan! I was totally in love with it.

As is typical for me, I started chatting up a couple sitting near us. They were from Canada and were excited to learn about our adventures. From there we went to the beach to watch the sunset. Again, I can’t help myself. I talk to everyone. There we met a lovely women from Quebec who has spent the last four months floating around Mexico, totally enamored with the country and the people. She took a picture of Lyn and I against the sun setting over Banderas Bay.

Although we had taken a bus to the restaurant, we decided to walk back to our apartment, which was much closer than we expected. Along the way we stopped at a hotel so I could use the bathroom and ran into Kevin and Sara, the couple I spoke to in the restaurant. They were so taken with our adventure, they wanted to know more about it and whether they might do the same. We were happy to share our information with them about the school and hope they follow up. Turns out, too, that Sara plays tennis. She and I are going to try to play Wednesday afternoon. They have a racquet I can use. Wow!

It seems that when things are meant to be, they go very smoothly. So far that has been the case with us. I feel particularly blessed to be able to live out this dream with my best friend (Lyn) along with me. I know this is way out of his comfort zone, and I applaud him for taking such a bold leap.

Life is good!

Sunday: Day 2

Sunday: Day 2

Mexico is a Catholic country. Not surprisingly, therefore, many places are closed on Sunday. Today we learned that people who don’t work on Sundays include our 24-hour security guards. Fortunately for us, I was able to use my foot to dislodge the rod holding the gate down and open it. Otherwise we and our groceries would still be standing out there! A young man in the apartment closest to the gate told me later about the Sunday issue and promised me he would get a key for us tomorrow.

Before we were so challenged, Lyn and I wandered around Villa Vallarta — the shopping center across the main road from our apartment and where the school is located. We met a gentleman named Arturo who works at one of the shops. Most people are very kind to us, but even more so when we tell them our plan to move to Mexico. Today we learned that moving to Mexico will make us “salted feet,” i.e., locals/natives.

We then rode the bus to Marina Vallarta, where the cruise ships come in. It is also home to the 24-hour WalMart. The MEGA store close to us is more than adequate for most of our needs, but the WalMart has precios baja (lower prices) and carries even more goods than the MEGA, including food.

I have taken to the habit of carrying my foldable sacs with me, so we took the opportunity to do a little grocery and other shopping. First on the list were pillows. The ones here are ok for sleeping, but inadequate for reading. So pillows, pillowcases and some cleaning supplies made it into the shopping cart. I also bought some sharp knives (don’t get me started on the kitchen here) and some additional forks and things.

Once again, I cooked. This time spaghetti with meat sauce. It is nice to eat in. As much as I like to eat out, I enjoy my own cooking and know it won’t make me ill. As time goes on, I expect to have provided this apartment with spices and utensils that most normal adults use everyday.

House Update

Last night we received the first offer on our home in Boise. Cash, $5000 over list. Wow. First offer. There has been one more, and another is expected tomorrow. Looks like the house is going to sell!

Poodles!

Sophie and Izzy have been cooling their heels at Kassie’s house while the house is being shown. They seem to have settled right in!