Any type of noise that wakes you up at 5am is more than just a little irritating. When the noise is your alarm clock, even more so, because it implies you have to get up rather than roll over and nod back off.
But this is a day in my life as an English teacher in Mexico, and because I teach business English, on location at their place of work, an early start is the norm. The lesson must be started and concluded in time for them to start their own working day at 9am.
Today, Wednesday, my class is a two hour session in Cuatro Caminos, right across the other side of the city, so an early rise is obligatory. Just enough time to check my emails, brush my teeth, make a feeble effort at wetting my hair where it is sticking up, and off out the door I go clutching my string pull bag complete with books, tapes and a couple of pens. And my MP3 player – it’s a long ride!
It’s dark when I head out at 6am, to hail the clapped out, green VW Beetle that passes as a taxi which will hopefully take me to Taxquena metro station. This morning’s driver wants to chat, which is a bit of a problem. My Spanish sucks. Really sucks. I can give the required directions just fine – “Buenas dias senor, Metro Taxquena por favor, por Miramontes.” Perhaps too fine. He thinks I can speak his lingo, but he’s mistaken, and although his opening sentence contains enough vocab that I do understand to get his drift, I soon have to confess.
“Perdon senor, pero mi espanol es muy malo. Muy, muy, muy malo.” The polite way to say my Spanish sucks. He was talking about the weather anyway, or so I assume as he did mutter the word ‘frio’ (cold), a concept which Mexicans talk about a lot, but have absolutely no comprehension of whatsoever. It doesn’t get cold here! Chilly, yes, and this morning is indeed a bit chilly. But cold? No. They still wrap up at this time of year anyway, as though there is an arctic wind blowing through though.
I get to Taxquena safely, and make my way to the metro entrance ,through the slowly awakening bus station and it’s accompanying mercado, with all the little plastic roofed stores selling sweets, newspapers and magazines, pirate CD’s and DVD’s and all sorts of hot food. The smell of sewer finally gives way to the smell of tacos! Fat Man is there as usually. He is grossly overweight, always choking on what sounds to be his final breath, and sometimes manages to croaks out the destinations of the bus rank he’s in charge of. Can’t be even 40 yet. Too sad. He can’t put me off the 5 peso coffee I buy most Wednesday and Friday mornings from the little shop next to him though!
A quick 4 peso purchase of two tickets. no such thing as one return ticket here, and I trundle down the stairs to the platform. They are building some kind of quirky, art deco, tiled things at the bend on each set of stairs of Taxquena at the moment. Mexico City is full of quirky, odd art!
Forty-ish minutes later and the metro stops, discharging me along with a stampede of other passengers into what is now bright sunlight. It’s quite bizarre really to go in a tunnel at one end in the black of night, and to emerge the other in dazzling sunshine! Pleasant though, as I have a 10 minute walk and wait for a bus that drops me just metres from my job!
I’m late! I’m always late. If I leave 10 minutes earlier, the trains run 15 minutes late. There’s no beating Mexico City. Nothing runs on time, and neither do you, like it or not! Such is life, I am fourth into the classroom. The two normal early birds are there, plus the ‘part timer’! I’ve only ever been first once or twice, and their dedication is too much to compete with!
So here I am in class. What to do! Well with the vast majority of classes, all of them in fact bar my one conversation class, we have a book! I am doing the CAE book with this lot, at quite an advanced level. Problem is, whilst some of them are up for it, or can at least cope with the majority of the material, there are one or two, at least one, who hasn’t a clue.
Today’s lesson – a, the and a few other misfit words that are commonly used incorrectly. Sounds easy, huh? Basic even? Don’t think it for a minute. The complexities of the English language are endless, and the opportunities to use an article when you shouldn’t are equally endless. In fact, I think my very next post will be on the subject, just to show how difficult it can be to use the most simple words. Native English speakers will usually have no idea why they use their language, even if they do know exactly how.
Some lessons are easier than others, and I can see that today is one of those that is not! Most get some of it, some get most of it, but none, I dare say, got all of it. But that is what practice is for! I often used to remind all of my students that an extra hour or two a week spent practicing the material taught will make all the difference. Nowadays I just try to encourage an extra 15 minutes study! However, I know of only one student who actually makes the effort! I have to say this of course, because she is the only one likely to read this! But that in itself rather proves the point.
This morning the section comes to an end five minutes before time, which is a bit tricky! I don’t like packing up before the clock hits nine, but there really isn’t any point in starting a new page, and there is clearly little enthusiasm showing on anyone’s faces for a word game. Two hours is a long lesson – most are 90 minutes. But it’s just twice a week, and besides it would be a long way to come for just an hour and a half. I like my classes, this and others, but travel time is a factor! It’s taken me the best part of an hour and a half to get here this morning, and it’ll be 11am, two hours after class finishing time, before I walk through my door.
I stroll out of the building at about five minutes past nine and spark up a Marlboro Azul, a product that I can pronounce perfectly when I want to thanks to daily practice! I’d had one at about 8 o’clock, half way through the lesson, as per usual, just after my coffee and biscuits! But it’s still nice to light up at the end of a lesson. Relaxing so it is! Which is perhaps why I’m finding it so difficult to give up!
So home I go. Another 20 minute walk back to the metro, a forty minute ride one one end of Linea 2 to the other, and a 20 minute bus ride back home. And my day is done. I have afternoon classes most days, but not on Wednesdays! The rest of the day is mine!