Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TEFL and the Village People

I love my TEFL course! It is rapid and intense and full of all kinds of teaching tools. I feel like I have learned so much, am equipped with so many more tools and concepts than I was before. My brain is busy with new teaching techniques, rapid-firing, full of curiosity and questions.

Something about teaching English as a second language feels really wonderful. There are a lot of parameters to take into account when lesson planning, which keeps me focused and from spinning out of control. As a teacher, your goal is for your students to talk, so you spend little time talking, your directions are short, and you plan your lessons with "potential issues" in mind, as well as solutions. You have to have clear learning objectives, and specific tasks and practice for how to reach those objectives. Having these guidelines and structures to follow iws so comforting to me! I know I have tendency to be scattered, and to try and cover so much in my plans for teaching, and this keeps me focused! It felt great during my mini-lesson to feel so prepared, in control of the classroom and my material. Not to say that it is rigid; teaching so far has been fun and creative! The students are a blast.

I have class observations this week, and I'm teaching a mini-lesson on a specific grammar rule or concept on Monday. We start practice teaching full classes for full class periods (60 minutes) next week! It's crazy to think that I only have three weeks left of this course, and in my homestay. I am putting the feelers out for another place to live, considering working at Máximo, and I sent my resume to the progressive bilingual preschool.

I adore my classmates, and we've been hanging out after class as well as in class. It's great to be branching out on my own, meeting new people, taking on the challenge of "being a great teacher." We're starting to study more English grammar this week, and I am excited for that challenge as well. My head can feel so messy sometimes, but everything is simple and calm in my TEFL classroom, whether I am in my role as a student or a teacher.

It just occured to me that I also have similar feelings about teaching Preschool. I still keep vocalizing that TEFL and Preschool are the only "school" settings in which I can see myself teaching. I wonder if this is true, or if I will continue down the educational path and find that I can fit in other avenues, with other grades or subjects. I am so curious as to what lies ahead of me!

Also, 20 soles for a ticket to see the Village People on Saturday. In Cusco. How could I not? A bunch of people from my class are going. And with the current exchange rate, that works out to be 6.34 USD.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Quick Things

My mini-lesson is tomorrow. My topic is Easter. Juan Carlos is getting out of hand. See the following email for proof:

Subject: amor

From: Juan Carlos

March 24 at 8:58pm
hola amor espero q estes bien y q te cuides de lo q estas un poquito mal de salud te amo mucho no sabes cuando tengo ganas de berte todo los dias y decirte q te amo mucho espero q esta relacion sea lo mas lindo chau cuidate mucho te amo juan carlos

For context, Juan Carlos (or Johnny Charlie, as Americo refers to him) works at Máximo Nivel. And as I said to Melissa last night, "He keeps mopping close to me!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Recent News . . .

I had my first TEFL class day today! My classmates seem really rad, and so does my teacher. I have my first mini-lesson on either Friday or Monday. This consists of me choosing a topic, planning a lesson, and teaching in front of 6 ESL students for twenty minutes. Yikes! I am excited! Although, everyone who finds out that I am doing TEFL says, as an ESL student said to me today, "poor thing." Even the first word out of my Spanish teacher´s mouth was "pobrecita." I know it will be a lot of work, and it will be a challenge, but I feel profoundly positive about it.

We have a new housemate, Lou, from Texas. He´s pretty quiet so far, but he just arrived yesterday, so we´ll see. He´s also in the TEFL course; there are 8 students total.

I have started sitting closer to people. I.E. if there are a couple of empty chairs at a table and one is close to a student, I´ll sit there. It´s pretty American to keep the distance, but my guess is I will meet more people this way.

Not over my cold yet; it keeps coming back in different forms. Any positive thought or healing light you could send to my body would be greatly appreciated, especially to my nose and throat areas.

A lot of the students in my TEFL class are well-traveled, and as I suspected, most of us are like-minded and in similar places in our lives. I am thinking the intensity of the course will require bonding, and homework parties, and general hanging-out. I am so glad I tuned in to my wanting to start my travels with a TEFL, and I am equally glad I got two weeks of light Spanish classes in which I was able to settle, ground, and explore.

We´re off for a city tour in a few, so I´m out of here.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Accounting for my Blessings

  • I have decided that night-long dance marathons heal everything. They're so detoxifying! As long as you don't count the alcohol I consume in order to make them possible.
  • On Saturday there was a party to celebrate the TEFL grads at my school, Máximo Nivel (that'll be me in four short weeks.) There were free drinks, food, and a DJ who played a great mix of hip-hop, salsa, and the occasional 80s song (including a-ha's "Take on Me") which carried over into various other Cusco clubs. I danced for at least four hours, mostly with this total charmer from Máximo, Juan Carlos. A live, local Peruvian band covered everything from "Give it Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to "La Camisa Negra" by Juanes, as well as many other traditional songs.
  • My favorite moment of the evening: The band started playing"La Camisa Negra" (which is suuuchhh a good song) and of course we both loved it and started dancing like crazy, and I have this realization, this epiphany, so I point to his shirt, and in this excited drunken 5-year-old on too many sour patch kids way say," tienes la camisa negra!!!"
  • Is it weird that I enjoy being the minority? Whenever I go anywhere and I'm the only gringa, it feels great.
  • My boleto turistico (a ticket allowing entrance to many local and surrounding archeological sites and museums) is up, and I visited all but four locales. This weekend will be relaxing: the only things I have on my plate are TEFL course homework, and Veronica's birthday party. More dancing!
  • Today I spent 70 USD on two pairs of hot jeans that fit (!!!!!!!!! I could get used to this), a pair of spiffy teacher-appropriate pants, a cardigan and a nice knit top. My teaching ensemble is nearly complete.
  • I know my Spanish is progressing because I was able to carry my weight in a conversation that started with, "Let's be lovers!" I'm considering it. Meanwhile, I am learning more commands. They come in very handy, as it turns out. Especially with los hombres.
  • Aaaaahhh I love it here in Cusco!
  • I am counting my blessings. I am slogging through foggy doubt and looking at the bigger picture, which is this: I am here, in Cusco, in this moment, present and confident and with unshakeable faith that everything is unfolding perfectly and preciously. I am expressing gratitude for my blessings, which come in many forms. I am communicating clearly, and tuning into my energy, wants, and needs. --Also, what I don't want or need! Overall, I feel lighter here, relaxed; my life is simple and stripped. There is so much space for greatness to happen. Nothing is squeezed, everything is breathing.
  • Namasté.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Cups Here are Tiny

Today I am feeling like, "What the hell am I doing here?" The inside of my head is whiny, cranky, and uppity. This is what it sounds like: I hate school, it's too hot, my nose is sunburndt, I feel sick, I am a total grammatical failure, I eat too much bread at breakfast, the cups here are tiny, I don't want to smile and make Spanish small-talk at the table, I'm not progressing as fast as I could or should be, my housemate is too damned perky and happy and excited and active, I don't want to do anything else on my boleto turistico, I am not doing anything remotely spiritual (if whining counted I'd be game), there is a man with a fruit cart-cycle outside of my window who yells in this annoying nasal voice through a megaphone, "Choclos, mandarinas, uvas, uvas uvas, choclos, naranja!", I just want to read "Gang Leader for A Day" and fall asleep on my barbie-dressed bed with lumpy pillows. Plus, the inside of my ears are waxy and I didn't bring any q-tips. I think the remedy to this solution is to cancel my English tutoring session with a girl that's too nice for my bad mood and walk to the market where I will buy mangos and cucumbers and q-tips and white wine (not because I'll drink it, but because Melissa feels like a lush for having three empties sitting in the kitchen.)

Sometimes I feel like there is nothing remotely spectacular about Cusco, or where I am in life, or what I am doing. Sometimes I feel grateful. Most of the time I don't feel present, but I keep telling myself that the fact that I am aware that I am not present is a sign that I am, in fact, present. I just feel fetal, vulnerable, small, like meat.

I should note that this is most likely related to my recent consumption of more sugar. Also, maybe the honeymoon period is over since I am getting bent out of shape about tiny cups. The fruit-yeller man is pretty annoying, really, you've got to believe me, but tiny cups?!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Sacred Valley

On Saturday, Veronica, Susanmi, Melissa and I explored the Sacred Valley. A truly powerful place, a man dressed in traditional and colorful wear serenaded the mountains with his flute playing in Pisac, where Inkan structures still stand strong. We walked among the mountains, in awe of their beauty. True to spontaneous Cusco weather, we saw both sun and rain. We walked among Inkan astrological viewing towers, religious and ceremonial areas, and irrigation systems- that still function, I might add!

After Pisac, we took another bus to Ollantaytambo, which the guide books always describe as a town akin to a "desserted western town." It is pretty desserted and very dry, but we found ourselves a fabulous lunch. The trucha (fried fresh-water fish) was delicious: crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Also, mixing light beer with coca cola is common here. Not bad.

After Ollantaytambo, we took a combi (shared van- and I mean shared. Everyone gets really hunched, puzzle-pieced into one another, stooped over, and scrunched up.) to Urubamba. Urubamba is far more impressive than my pictures captured. After a steep walk up stairs upon stairs, the view is phenomenal. Susanmi pointed out the locations of different indigenous communities ("Just behind that mountain," she says) and told me about different Inkan legends. The formation to the right is said to be a jail. Well, either that or a pantry. Can you see the face in the mountain?

New words in Quechua:
bamba: valley
tambo: pantry (kind of)
qucha: lake
killa: moon
chaka :bridge

After the walk around Urubamba we took pictures of cute kids!

Next weekend I'm going to visit Moray and Chinchero. Everything is really huge. I can't quite fathom the greatness of the Inkas and all of their creations (physical and otherwise), how long they have lasted, that after years upon years they are still here for us to visit, admire, and respect. I think I'm going to pick up a book about Incan history. The internet just isn't cutting it. Something about curling up in my Barbie sheets and blankets with a book while the rain shouts at the roof and lightening crackles doesn't compare to reading articles online. We just had dinner and Americo is reading expressions in English and Melissa and I are repeating them in Spanish. This is great practice for all of us. Better get on it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


After a fitful night of not-sleeping and head-aching, today has been great.

I've started Spanish classes at Máximo Nivel. I'm in classes two hours each day with three other students, and our teacher is fabulous! She teaches grammar and I understand, and her teaching methods are fun, interactive, and personalized. I aspire to be a teacher like Magda.

Máximo Nivel has a tandem learning program where a student studying Spanish signs up to meet with a student studying English and become "buddies." I signed up for that and met with Susanmi (sue-sah-mee) yesterday. She has a humble spirit and knows so much about plants and medicine. She's from the jungle in Peru and now lives in Cusco, working for Casa Ecologica, a non-profit that works with local indigenous communities, and she works at their store where you can buy natural medicine, local handicrafts, and also, order ahead for organic produce(!!!). She showed me around Cusco, and we went to a market in the Plaza de Armas, where she pointed out numerous different plants and vegetables, and I ate market-food for the first time, and to great success. We met again today at Máximo and first I helped her with her English homework, and then we had a conversation, mostly in English (which is great with me-- I am immersed in Spanish (and don't need it to move up in the job market to support my family), while she needs all the English exposure she can get.)

Long story short, Melissa (the other woman who lives with the host family), Susanmi, and Veronica (a friend of Susanmi and Melissa's new tandem partner) and I are going to see the Sacred Valley this weekend. Susanmi and Veronica both studied to be tour guides so we're totally set. This is wonderful becaaaauuse just last night Melissa and I were talking about visiting the Sacred Valley this weekend and finding people to go with, and voila (what's "voila" in Spanish, I wonder...?), here they are. Susanmi also offered to collect and observe local plants with me, and she suggested that I go to local indigenous communities to learn more there. Do I sense an Evergreen Independent Learning Contract coming up? Maybe. It's so funny that the intentions of my ILC I wrote for this (winter) quarter and never ended up doing are all presenting themselves here. All paths lead.

On the family stay: We have to fight Americo, our host papá, in order to wash our own dishes, much less clear them. I am collecting traditional recipes and ingredients, of which there are many. His wife, Dahlia, and his son, Brian, arrived from Lima last night. They're super amable, which is no surprise. I got landed with a wonderful family, and for this I am grateful.

Speaking of landed, I think I am finally landing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009




what's been the hardest part so far?

or one of them?



being sweaty

and saying no to kids asking for money in the street

in that order

Sunday, March 8, 2009

En Cusco

Estoy en Cusco, y está muy bonito. I'm staying with a host family: Americo and Dahlia are my host parents, and another woman, Melissa, is staying here as well. I can see a tumble of green hills and houses from my window. The clouds hang close; bursts of light shine through them and illuminate this beautiful city. To see what I'm seeing, visit my flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/quetzalista). More pictures to come . . .

We're close to the statue Pachacuteq. He's a super-important king. In Quechua, Pachakutiq means "he who remakes the world." According to Wikipedia (a reputable source, I know, I know..) "He began an era of conquest that, within three generations, expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cuzco to nearly the whole of civilized South America."

Another bit from Wikipedia: Pachacuti's given name was Cusi Yupanqui and he was not supposed to succeed his father Inca Viracocha who had appointed his brother Urco as crown prince. However in the midst of an invasion of Cuzco by the Chankas, the Incas' traditional tribal archenemies, Pachacuti had a real opportunity to demonstrate his talent. While his father and brother fled the scene Pachacuti rallied the army and prepared for a desperate defense of his homeland. In the resulting battle the Chankas were defeated so severely that legend tells even the stones rose up to fight on Pachacuti's side. Thus "The Earth Shaker" won the support of his people and the recognition of his father as crown prince and joint ruler.
I've been spending a lot of time resting, letting my body and its contents adjust to my new surroundings. Letting candy de coca and toffee linger in my mouth is helpful, and tastes good as well. Melissa and I went on a massive walk to Plaza de las Armas ayer (yesterday), visiting the mercados and taking it all in. "No, gracias" were the words of the day.

Today we woke up to a leisurely breakfast tipico de peru: a hot cereal (de quinoa, flour, oats, and some other grain I can't remember) y pan con mermelada de fraises. We set off for Molino, a huge market with industrial items (versus the handmade market we visited yesterday) where it's not uncommon to see babies swaddled and sleeping in booths and children running through the aisles. We went for lunch at a small restaurante nearby and when we asked for a menu, and instead of receiving a list of food options, we were served the menu (the special of the day), a delicous sopa with rice, vegetables, and meat of some kind. Que rico. The waiter's brother, Carlos, teaches the salsa classes at Maximo Nivel (our school for language and TESOL classes.) How perfect!

I can't wait to have more stories to tell. Orientation starts tomorrow, which is followed by two weeks of Spanish class. It's wonderful to use Spanish so often! I have much more to learn.

Hasta Luego,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Hey from Chicago. I am staying with the wonderful Matt and Graham in their cute apartment.  I do have a roommate, but she's pretty quiet and really cute.  Her name is Angelina; she's a hamster.  We've (Matt and Graham and I; not Angelina and I) been cooking together, eating out, playing games and showing off our smarts, watching Fleetwood Mac videos, and observing lent (some of us). M&G live in Pilsen, a largely Latino neighborhood.  It's sweet, and also a little bit sour. Perrrrfect.   

I am wrapping myself up in Chicago's gray skies and getting lost, staying in, sleeping in, wandering, cooking beautiful food for my working-class-friends to come home to, and sharing laughter and clever comebacks with the boys.  

Other things to note: I got sick (fainty, hotcold, etc.) in the airplane (partially dehydration, partially a low-level cold intensified by being onboard) and somehow this deli cashier at the airport tuned in to that because when I arrived at O'Hare he gave me a free banana and told me, "Take care of yourself."  

I am remembering to say thank you.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

an email regarding my travels:

Hey dear ones,

I am in the chilly and beautiful Chicago with a couple of good friends, transitioning into my trip to Cusco, Peru.  I leave for Cusco on Friday the 6th and wanted to send an email to check in with all of you.  I'm ditching my cell phone on the 6th but I will be reachable through email, facebook, and my blog (http://quetzalista.blogspot.com).  Pictures can be seen on my blog and also on my flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/quetzalista

For all of you that aren't aware of my plans, I am embarking on an independent traveling journey to Cusco.  I will be taking a training course in order to be certified to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) in other countries.  The training itself will take 6 weeks; after that, I will go where the pull comes from (and hopefully appreciate wherever I am, all of the time, and hopefully listen for the pull, and hopefully count my blessings, and, well, you get the point!).  I am also going continue learning and experiencing Spanish (organically- through conversation and immersion; I can't wait to DREAM in Spanish!  I'll let you know when that happens... expect an email) travel around Peru (and other countries), experience new culture, set intentions, say yes, say no, and stay present, open, clear, and aware.  I might eat a guinea pig.  I'm definitely going to connect with Machu Picchu on a physical level.

I am positive that this will be a challenging and beautiful experience, and if you want to stay connected please feel free to email me, check my blog (which will be full of pictures and stories) and remember that we're always connected anyway, whether or not we email.  :)

I am wishing you every peace as you welcome the Spring, and I would love to hear whatever you would love to share.

Love to all,