Teaching English in The DR

Teaching English in the DR
Passing by the Baguilla outdoor eatery at two in the morning, I was summoned in English by some locals.  Although it’s usually a mistake to respond to such calls, I had a good feeling about these friendly folk, that they weren’t just after my money.  I joined Delsi, the head of a local foreign language institute, Oriol, an ex-body guard for the president, and three students who wanted to practice their English with me at their table.  Several rounds of chicken fingers, salsa dancing, and improper verb tenses later, I agreed to teach tomorrow’s English class for Delsi.  This was a first.  Instead of asking for money, they recruited me to do their work for them.
Not sure what I was getting myself into, but also unwilling to break a promise, I showed up the following evening to an elementary school where they teach English.  A guard wouldn’t let me in so I summoned Delsi from the window of her classroom.  She escorted me in and introduced me to the class.  I looked across the small room to a shocking but rather pleasant surprise…almost all of the class were women, aged 20 to 26, and quite beautiful, I might add.  Their smiles were flirtatious and despite speaking in my native tongue, I was nervous and tonguetied.  Delsi announced that I was going to teach today for the first hour.  There was silence.  A blank stare in her direction and Delsi realized that  she had forgotten to brief me on what I would be teaching.  I love improvised lessons, and have done a fair bit in my days in Colorado, but I didn’t even know what level class I was in.
Delsi intervened, “Let’s start off by having you all ask Jeff questions about his life.” Phew, this would be easy, and I took back the control of the chalkboard.
“Ok first question.  You in the back.”
“Are you married?”  Interesting first question.  Next question…do you have kids?  Third question…what are you doing tonight?  Wait a second…who was teaching the class here…Tom Cruise?  In low-income countries, this sort of attention is actually quite normal for foreign men; I just was not expecting it at my first English class.  I’m not saying that I was upset by the situation though.
The questions continued, I interviewed them, we danced, played Simon Says, and the hour flew by.  I realized how much I missed teaching and how enjoyable it is to teach English as a second language.  They asked me to come back, but I was not sure if I was allowed to.  I instead offered to do free private tutoring and put my phone number on the board (was there an ulterior motive here?  Nahhh…)
The following evening, while chatting with a friend outside the local gym, I saw Delsi, Oriol, and a group of students piled on a few bicycles, pedaling down the road.  “Where are you heading?” I asked?  To my surprise, they were pedaling to my house!  They were using class time to take a field trip to casa gringo.  I joined the group, and we invested in several gallons of chocolate ice cream for a party in the central plaza.
I returned to teach and tutor English almost every day for the rest of my month.  Oriol, Delsi, and their students turned out to be my best friends of Baguilla and their families literally adopted me for my stay.  They were so kind that in my last week we had a 12-hour pig roast at the local river as a way to say goodbye.  Parting ways at the bus station was THE most emotional part of my entire trip so far, but Baguilla is one of the few places in the world that I have to come back to.  With the upcoming wedding of Delsi and Oriol, it will likely happen soon!
No textbooks, no dictionaries, no technology...just a chalkboard and student notebooks.

No textbooks, no dictionaries, no technology...just a chalkboard and student notebooks.

Passing by the Baguilla outdoor eatery at two in the morning, I was summoned in English by some locals.  Although it’s usually a mistake to respond to such calls, I had a good feeling about these friendly folk, that they weren’t just after my money.  I joined Delsi, the head of a local foreign language institute, Oriol, an ex-body guard for the president, and three students who wanted to practice their English with me at their table.  Several rounds of chicken fingers, salsa dancing, and improper verb tenses later, I agreed to teach tomorrow’s English class for Delsi.  This was a first.  Instead of asking for money, they recruited me to do their work for them.

Not sure what I was getting myself into, but also unwilling to break a promise, I showed up the following evening to an elementary school where they teach English.  A guard wouldn’t let me in so I summoned Delsi from the window of her classroom.  She escorted me in and introduced me to the class.  I looked across the small room to a shocking but rather pleasant surprise…almost all of the class were women, aged 20 to 26, and quite beautiful, I might add.  Their smiles were flirtatious and despite speaking in my native tongue, I was nervous and tonguetied.  Delsi announced that I was going to teach today for the first hour.  There was silence.  A blank stare in her direction and Delsi realized that  she had forgotten to brief me on what I would be teaching.  I love improvised lessons, and have done a fair bit in my days in Colorado, but I didn’t even know what level class I was in.

Delsi intervened, “Let’s start off by having you all ask Jeff questions about his life.” Phew, this would be easy, and I took back the control of the chalkboard.

“Ok first question.  You in the back.”

“Are you married?”  Interesting first question.  Next question…do you have kids?  Third question…what are you doing tonight?  Wait a second…who was teaching the class here…Tom Cruise?  In low-income countries, this sort of attention is actually quite normal for foreign men; I just was not expecting it at my first English class.  I’m not saying that I was upset by the situation though.

The questions continued, I interviewed them, we danced, played Simon Says, and the hour flew by.  I realized how much I missed teaching and how enjoyable it is to teach English as a second language.  They asked me to come back, but I was not sure if I was allowed to.  I instead offered to do free private tutoring and put my phone number on the board (was there an ulterior motive here?  Nahhh…)

The following evening, while chatting with a friend outside the local gym, I saw Delsi, Oriol, and a group of students piled on a few bicycles, pedaling down the road.  “Where are you heading?” I asked?  To my surprise, they were pedaling to my house!  They were using class time to take a field trip to casa gringo.  I joined the group, and we invested in several gallons of chocolate ice cream for a party in the central plaza.

Goofing off with Oriol in the local Emergency Room

Goofing off with Oriol in the local Emergency Room

I returned to teach and tutor English almost every day for the rest of my month.  Oriol, Delsi, and their students turned out to be my best friends of Baguilla and their families literally adopted me for my stay.  They were so kind that in my last week we had a 12-hour pig roast at the local river as a way to say goodbye.  Parting ways at the bus station was THE most emotional part of my entire trip so far, but Baguilla is one of the few places in the world that I have to come back to.  With the upcoming wedding of Delsi and Oriol, it will likely happen soon!

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One response to “Teaching English in The DR

  1. You always make a lot of friends on your way aren’t you! I want to stop reading, have to work. But love your stories!

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