Excerpt 11: Life-changing students

I find it amusing when people who have read my book comment on the fact that I didn’t speak enough about the locals I met while on my TEFL adventure around the world. Do they not realise that students and other teachers count as locals? My trip would never have been as life changing had I not been influenced by the local people I met on the way. 
What follows is an excerpt from when I started to settle in Salvador, Brazil. I already had a job teaching, but manage to find another one. It was only conversation classes on a Friday evening, but it was one of my favourite times of the week because of the students I met. Brazilians are so much fun and just happy to be alive. Here’s a clip from when I met Anderson, one of my best students ever.
Used to see this view everyday!
Photo by martin montingelli

Just like in Quito, I had to learn the lingo if I was going to boost my confidence and understand what my students were gossiping about. I spent my free time studying Portuguese. Reading was easy after learning some Spanish, but understanding and speaking the nasal language was much harder.

My luck changed when I met Anderson.
I found another teaching job with A.E.C over the other side of Pelo. The director, Charles, a well dressed Brazilian man in his late forties, offered me two hour conversation classes after an ‘English by Singing’ event on Friday evenings. Those nights became my favourite moments in Salvador.
On my first night, I was surprised how many trendy young adults and teenagers turned up. Over fifty eager learners were rammed into the outside hall, covered by a white canopy. Didn’t they have anything better to do with their Friday night? This would never happen in England, I thought. I sat at the back next to a small pine tree and observed.
“Right everyone,” said Charles on his microphone. “Today we have two new songs for you, but first I’d like to introduce our new conversation teacher.” Oh shit, I thought; he never said he was going to introduce me. “He’s Parry, come here please Parry.” Fifty smiling students turned to look at me. I blushed as I walked down the aisle and stood next to Charles.
“Would you like to say something?” Did I have an option?
“Well, hello everyone, err, I’m from England. I’ve been in Salvador for a month, it’s a great place, the Carnival was a bit crazy,” I said, waving my hands in the air. The students must have been thinking, what a plank. “And now I’m here to teach you guys some English, hopefully speak to you soon, thanks.” The crowd applauded as I took my seat.
“Okay, great, thanks Parry, and now we have our first song for tonight, Prince, the most beautiful girl in the world.” I felt like a right plum.
Each student had a copy of the lyrics in English and Portuguese and after we’d listened twice, they sang along. The students loved singing and the majority joined in. I was relieved that Charles didn’t summon Parry to sing.
“Hey, I’m Anderson,” said a tall lad after the choir practice had ended. “So where are you from exactly?” His English was the best I’d heard since Nish’s.
“London, and you?”
“I’m from Salvador, of course. My uncle lived in London for seven years. He loved it there; one day I want to go there and make money.” Anderson’s sociable smile was catching. He beamed when he spoke English and his eyes gleamed with passion.
“I am a voluntary English teacher at another school, you know,” he said. “Eventually I want my own school.”
Charles dragged me away and introduced me to a group of ten happy students; I’d almost forgotten I was there to ‘work’. I spent an hour chatting with the students about the Carnival, which most of them loved.
“It was very nice to speak with you today,” said a young lady student at the end. She was a pretty girl with cute dimples and a bright smile. “I hope to see you again,” she said, stroking my arm as she left.
“The women here will be crazy for an English man,” said Anderson, smiling down. “She’s head over heels for you already.”
“Nah, she’s a student,” I
said. “Anyway, where did you learn that expression?”
“Like I said mate, my uncle was in London. This is Junior.” He introduced me to his taller cousin. They looked like a couple of pro basketball players. 
“You having a beer Parry?” said Charles. “I’ll get it.” It was the least he could do after getting my name wrong so many times.
Anderson reminded me of The Lord; he was equally as keen to learn expressions about women, but not as crude.
“So a good looking bird is a fit bird,” I said.
“A fit bird?”
“Yeah, but don’t say this directly to a girl, unless you are on good terms.”
“What about ugly girls?”
“Minger or munter are the most popular, but be careful.”
“Cool, can you write these down for me,” he said. Lads wanted to learn the most useful vocabulary first in any part of the world.
The academy closed late so Anderson and Junior walked out of their way to take me back to Pelo; they knew the area was dangerous.
The following week I chatted with Anderson again and told him I’d been having problems learning Portuguese.
“Oh I see, so you want to chat up some birds?” he said.
“Nah, I have a bird, but I do need to learn the language. I could teach you and you could teach me.”
“Sounds like a deal.”
We met on Saturdays by the cathedral in Praca de Se and spent all afternoon chatting. I taught him expressions and he corrected my pronunciation. Anderson talked about London. His dream was to go there and follow his uncle’s footsteps.
Junior often came along but would sit and listen rather than participate. They were only about seventeen and had to be home early so we never went for a beer. Back in England I would never have done that, just sat with mates chatting all day without alcohol being involved.
Anderson and Junior became friends and when you know people in a place you feel protected. Their passion for English inspired me to learn Portuguese and over time my confidence grew, not only with the language, but in Salvador as well. When I walked through Pelo the locals recognized me and instead of asking for money they’d say hello.

Anderson is now an English teacher and still lives in Salvador…If you’re reading mate, Beleza!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *