Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Day in the Life of Teacher Mike

Estan bien!
My eyes open.

It is still dark.

My alarm blares. I reach to shut it off.

I sit up and throw my feet over the bedside. Rubbing my eyes, I check my cell for the time.

It is 4:30 a.m.

Plodding to the bathroom, an unseen shoe nearly sends me to an early grave. I step into the shower, turn the faucet and wait for the water to heat up. Thanks to the electric showerhead, there is always hot water. I step in. As the steaming water streams down my back, I ponder the sensibility of using electricity to heat water. Fortunately, I make it through without becoming gringo frito.

After showering, dressing and scarfing down a typical Bogotano breakfast of Zucaritas and Tampica, I head downstairs to catch the bus.

I wait on the sidewalk to flag one down. The frigid air cuts to the bone. I can see my breath.

There is no such thing as too crowded in Colombia.
I see my bus and hail it like a taxi. It stops and the doors open. It’s already overflowing with people.

But in Colombia there is no such thing as too crowded.

Like an all-star running back, I push my way through a tangled mess of humanity to find a place to stand. I am thrown off-balance when the bus accelerates, but months of colectivo conditioning have given me Spiderman-like reflexes, allowing me to catch myself on a support bar. As usual, I am too tall to stand comfortably and am forced to tilt my head at an awkward angle until one of the seats opens up.

Forty-five minutes later, the bus reaches the Juan Rey barrio and I disembark. A chill breeze shoots a shiver throughout my body. It is even colder here. I head down to Nueva Esperanza, stopping at a tienda for a café tinto along the way. At this early hour, the streets are mostly empty save for a few beat-looking dogs meandering the streets in search of sustenance.

Nueva Esperanza.
I enter Nueva Esperanza and head to the teacher’s lounge. There, a few teachers sit drinking coffee and engaging in a cherished Colombian tradition—gossip. I look out the window at the street below, beginning to fill with burgundy and black-clad children.

It is 6:30 a.m.

Time for school to start.

My co-teacher and I head down to the classroom. Loquacious children fill the halls. A student comes up to me and gives me the handshake I had taught him—two slaps and a knuckle pound.

Another student approaches and says, “Gewd Mowerning, Teacher Maik.”

“Good morning!” I respond. The student smiles and walks away, proud of his English prowess.

Helping students.
We arrive outside the classroom, where our students await. Entering, the students take their seats. The lesson begins. As the students work, I troll the classroom and helping those who need it.

One student, a small, light-eyed boy, gestures for me to come over.

“Teacher Mike!” he says.

“Yes?” I reply.

The student smirks, then shouts, “Playboy!”

I shake my head and roll my eyes. Every day, the same thing.

Another student signals for me to come over.

“Teacher Mike,” she says, “Como se dice perro en inglés?

“Dog,” I say.

The girl nods, then exchanges devious looks with her friend.

“Como se dice, perra en ingles?”

I smirk, but don’t respond. I am not going to teach her the English word for female dog.

I move to intervene when I see one student has captured another in a headlock. When he sees me approaching, the aggressor releases his captive and says “Estamos jugando!” (We are playing) I shake my head and tell them to cut it out.

The next few classes progress in a similar fashion. It’s like playing that groundhog-bashing game at an arcade. I put out one fire only to have three more ignite.

 But this isn’t chaos; this is a Colombian classroom.

Six hours and four classes later, school ends. I head to the outside seating area that passes for a cafeteria. It’s lunchtime. Nueva Esperanza offers authentic Colombian lunches for $4,000 pesos ($2 USD). With my Zucaritas now long-digested, I inhale the meal.

Eating Colombian comida.
The bus ride home is a lot less crowded.

But I am exhausted.

After being solicited by multiple peddlers trying to sell me an array of frivolous items, I arrive home in Ciudad Kennedy.

It’s 2:00 p.m.

Siesta time for Teacher Mike.  


  1. Sounds much more chaotic than my little village life! What is Tampica?

    By the way, congrats on the Colombia Reports poll. You keep beating me, but you deserve it. Your writing rocks. :p

  2. You are just the best!

  3. I assure you, if you speak with the parents of the unruly students, there will be no more trouble in the classroom.

    I saw one student come home with a poor grade/note concerning his deportment, and his mother went off like a volcano. Even his siblings caught hell.

    The next day, she marched her children into school and had them apologize to their teachers, the principal and all the other students in the class.

  4. Reportando sintonía here. I think you misspelled Tampico if what you mean is the orange juice. If it is that, do you mix it with the cereal? Aww. I usually take cereal with milk. Maybe I didn't understand well and you have them separate. Alright, keep writing very often as you've done lately. We always enjoy your stories!

  5. Wow! That sounds tough! You are doing great even when sometimes I'm sure you feel like it's very hard, your efforts help a lot. Keep working =)