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.
“Hi TJ, what’s up?”
“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.
After twenty 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 homemade brew.
“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 studentsdancing 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 experience.<
“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.”
“No way, good work!”
“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 safe.
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.