Over my English teaching career there have been plenty of highs and lows. My two-year trip around the world teaching and travelling was full of them. Here's the 4th excerpt from my book which shows how much of a roller coaster life as a TEFL teacher can be. It's set around one of the maddest carnivals I witnessed: The Fiestas of Quito. Just to fill you in with the characters quickly, TJ was an Argentinean English teacher who had a bit of a crush on me. The Lord and Marcus were both funny Ecuadorian English teachers. I'd been invited to go with the school on a crazy trip round Quito in their Independence week on the top of a Chiva - a dangerous musical bus. The scene starts as we were waiting outside the school for the Chiva. Here's a short video so you can get an idea how big the festival is out there.
“This is going to
be awesome,” said The Lord as we gathered with over fifty students by the main
road. Two women students were clinging on to The Lord’s arms, while Marcus was
trying to calm down the youngsters.
“Hey, I was hoping
you were coming,” said TJ. She greeted me with two kisses; something I was
still trying to get used to.
“Oh, you know,
getting ready for the party, will you dance with me later?” She brushed my arm.
“Maybe, if you’re
lucky.” What was I saying?
“Oh really, hey
come with me,” she said, dragging me off to check out an artesian goods stand.
She bought a green pearl necklace which, when she put it on, slid straight down
into her cleavage.
“What do you
think?” she asked, shaking her chest.
“Yeah, very nice,”
I said. “Is that Alex?” I darted off.
minutes cheering and waving at random Chivas hoping they were ours, the
students became restless.
“Donde estan las putas chivas? – where
are the bloody Chivas?” said one kid.
“Yeah, donde estan las putas Chivas?” I muttered, not thinking
anyone would hear me.
“DONDE ESTAN LAS PUTAS CHIVAS?” they
chanted, pointing and laughing at me. Mark became agitated.
“You are supposed
to be the future of Ecuador,” he said to the kids. “Stop this right now.” He
threw down his arms. Luckily he didn’t realise I’d encouraged the behaviour.
When our puta Chivas did arrive on the other side
of the road, everyone cheered and bolted across; oblivious to the other Chivas
and cars whizzing past.
I went up top with
Marcus and we sat at the back, TJ was at the front, and The Lord ran over to
the other Chiva. The metal rail was again only knee high but it didn’t stop
everyone standing up and prancing about.
The band looked as
though they had been Chivaring it up all week. Most were in their fifties. One
bloke was passing round some booze to the others.
“Do you know canelazo?” asked Marcus, opening his
bag. “It’s a mix of cinnamon, sugar, and aguardiente,
the secret ingredient. Normally it’s hot, but today we drink like this.” He
held up a bottle he’d prepared.
“Go on then, twist
my arm,” I said as he poured some in to a white plastic cup. The drink was
potent but sweet and fruity.
The two Chivas were
full of students and teachers and when the band started everyone jumped up and
down on the roof. I remained at the back like a responsible teacher, hiding
from TJ. When the engines started, we jerked forward.
The canelazo changed my perspective on the
dangers of the Fiestas of Quito and soon I was standing up waving to strangers,
and chanting “Viva Quito!” When we stopped alongside another Chiva we whistled,
waved, and cheered as if everyone was lifelong buddies.
“How do you like
it?” Marcus asked as he topped up my crushed plastic cup with his lethal
“Strong stuff; does
the trick though.” He laughed and slapped me on the back.
We flew about the
streets of Quito at fifty mph with screaming students dancing
about. As we reached the old town, Ecuadorian flags flapped out the windows,
Chivas rammed the roads, and partiers grooved on the pavements waving and
celebrating. Fireworks screeched into the sky. It was a once in a lifetime
“Hey Barry, will
you dance with us?” asked one of my students.
“Sure why not,” I
said. The students cheered when I got up and even more when I started to dance.
I could feel TJ gazing from a distance.
After about two
hours, we were driving through La
Mariscal to go to a disco when the Chiva screeched to a halt. Everyone
rocked forwards onto the floor. A couple of girls screamed and one boy at the
bottom of the pile yelped. Luckily no one was hurt and everyone laughed it off,
but someone grabbed my hand.
“I feel a little
drunk,” said TJ. “I have never done before,” she added, holding her head. I
helped her down, but she dragged me inside. Then she went dizzy.
“Sit down here and
I’ll get you some water,” I said, plonking her onto a chair.
“You are so sweet,”
she said. I ignored her and went to the bar. When I returned she was putting on
makeup; so much for feeling dizzy.
“Thank you, you are
so sweet.” She took a sip. “Do you want to kiss me?” She looked deep into my
eyes, pouted her lips, and lifted up her chest. I was under the influence of
very strong alcohol.
“Sorry, I have a
girlfriend in England. You are a lovely girl but I can’t.”
“That is a shame
because I would like to kiss you,” she said, pulling me closer.
“Sorry, you know
how it is.” I pulled away.
“Yes but I love
you.” Her eyes were watery.
“I fell in love
with you the first moment I saw you.” I kept silent. “I think you are
wonderful. I have a feeling about you.”
“Okay nice, sorry,
I need the toilet.” I jogged off.
The Lord was in the
men’s room brushing his hair.
“I see you have
found a nice muff,” he said, patting me on the shoulder.
“The muff found me,
she’s crazy man; she just told me she loved me.”
“I need to get away
from her. Can you go and distract her?”
“Okay dude, I don’t
mind sloppy seconds.” He surprised me yet again with an expression. I hid in
the corner with Marcus while the Lord persuaded TJ to get a taxi home. I was
We danced, drank
some more, and partied into the early hours and I got a taxi home, without
getting mugged. It turned out to be one of the best nights I had in Quito. The
Lord and Marcus knew how to treat a guest and show the ins and outs of their
culture; something I would never have experienced had I not been living there
as a teacher.
The next afternoon
I avoided TJ and walked into a standing ovation to Marcus’ class.
“They are impressed with your dancing,” said
Marcus. I wasn’t the gimpy shy English man any more.
Sales jumped up last month and Teaching English Foreign Land has been in the best seller Amazon charts in Biography-Travel, Asia, Latin America, and Essay and Travelogues sections. Hope you enjoy reading it. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think. Cheers.
Labels: book excerpts, fiestas of Quito, highs and lows of being a tefl teacher, life as a TEFL teacher, nonfiction travel literature, teaching English in a foreign land