By: Degan Hill
“Aaaaalo, where you from?”
I like the way she rolls her 'R's'. If I'm feeling ambitious, I will try to convince her that I'm Peruvian, but it's a long shot. I smile and respond, “The states”.
“Oooooohh, A-MER-ICA! What you do here? Vacation?”
It's a typical assumption when they see a Gringo, but I'm here for the long run.
“No, I live here. I took a TEFL course here in Arequipa through a company called International TEFL Academy. I teach English”
Telling foreigners that you teach English usually wields 2 responses. Either the, 'oh my gosh, that's totally like the coolest thing ever!' response. Or the, 'Teaching English huh? Ya, for the sake of you not judging me, let's just talk in Spanish'.
She immediately rattles off something typical of a 1st response kind of person. Her English is terrible, but she's cute, so I stay. It's a typical Peruvian / Gringo conversation.
“For how long you be here?”
“I've been here for 10 months.”
“Ohhh long time. Until when?”
“Probably March. A year is a wicked long time in a foreign country.”
“What mean 'wicked'?”
“Don't worry about it”
“Ya, you like Peru?”
“Sure, everything but the traffic.”
She looks to be about 20 something and I assume she's in school. We talk about this and I make her a bet that if I can guess what she studies, she buys the next round. In Peru, most schools offer around 10 different majors of which only about 5 are the most popular. This is not a fair bet.
“Sí sí sí, how you knew this?”
Uh, because more than half the people I meet study this and since she doesn't seem very original, I'm sure she's the type to go along with what's popular.
“What you want drink?”
“I'll have what you're having.”
She gives me a confused look so I say it in Spanish. For the sake of my patience, it's just easier. We talk for a while, and I realize that she's rather boring. Clearly every girl is different, but she's a typical Peruvian chica who has never been outside of Peru and the conversation inevitably ends.
Talking with foreigners is always an interesting exchange. Some want to talk in their broken English, others grill me about my thoughts on Peru, and taxi drivers ALWAYS ask me what I think of Peruvian girls (Gorgeous, but conservative). People frequently tell me about their time spent in the States, which is usually spent in Miami or Los Angeles. To which I reply, “Well did you speak any English?”
I'm 6 foot, freckly, and extremely good looking. I stand out. Because I speak English and more so because I teach English, I'm always talking to someone on a Saturday night. Just last night I met a guy who spent 5 years in Mississippi and graduated high school. I asked him how he liked it and he responded, “I wish I weren't back in Peru”. (I asked him if he had met any girls and with a smile he responded, “I was there for 5 years wasn't I?” Because I teach English, I have a unique perspective into the local culture.
My students teach me slang, recommend bars, and give advice as to what exactly is considered 'crossing the line'. We also talk about soccer and unavoidably end up in a half hour debate surrounding Barcelona and Real Madrid. Unintentionally, they also give me something to talk about when I am out. For example, last week I was telling my students how I missed all the snow which is typical for a Christmas spent in the American Northwest. I also added that because of all the sun here in Peru, it didn't really feel like Christmas. To which a student responded, “You are such a grinch”. I couldn't have translated that word if I tried.
I teach 7 hours a day and I love what I do. Unlike someone who works at a bank who might say “Oh what a week! I can't even begin to tell you how many checks I cashed”, I have stories worth telling. My students bring a smile to my face each and every day, either because I am laughing with them, or occasionally at them. When I'm at a bar and someone asks me what I do, I'm proud to say, “I am an English teacher”.
It's a great piece of writing. I know. If you want to see more awesome stuff, check out my blog: www.ocpobwd.tumblr.com
Degan Hill is a traveler who spends his free time boxing and teaching English abroad. He is a 23 year old graduate of Eastern Washington University where he studied Spanish, Communication and learned about the intricacies of the female race.
For more on Degen's adventures, check out his other ITA contributions: