I’ve been living in paradise for a few years now. I’m just five minutes’ walk from a beautiful, picturesque beach lined with palm trees and seafood restaurants that serve the catch-of-the-day, fresh, every day.
And, get this…I only pay $320 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, complete with a second-story terrace where I watch the sun set, as I’m caressed by the cool ocean breeze on most nights.
But not tonight. Tonight I’m heading to ‘work’…if you want to call it that.
To pay my ridiculously inexpensive rent, I teach conversational English. Tonight, I’m meeting a student at her work place, after hours. I’ve planned this special meeting time so she can practice her English in ‘context’. She’ll be expecting me.
As I walk into the marina office, Maria greets me with a big smile. “How are you?” she asks in her best English, which is still thickly accented. But, we’re working on it.
“I’m fine. I’ve just arrived in my 53-foot sailboat,” I reply…even though it’s been years since I owned my own sailboat. But, I know marine vocabulary and speak English and that’s all Maria is really looking for.
“How long you want to stay?” Maria asks me.
“How long do you want to stay?” I gently correct her.
Maria scrunches up her face, scolding herself.
“It’s ok,” I say, “That’s why we practice. You’ll get it.”
For the next 45 minutes we go over how to greet and check-in a customer. I play the ‘customer’, preparing her for her real life workday. I spent several years of my life sailing and working on boats, so I can easily help her when she doesn’t know a word or term.
Maria needs to learn English in order to advance here at work. She works hard, is a single mum and lives on a government secretary’s salary. Yet, she knows just how important it is to learn English and she dedicates a portion of her hard-earned income and precious free time to our lessons.
For me, this is not only easy, it’s fun! I don’t have to work up special lessons or correct homework. I just show up and Maria asks me, “How do I say this?” or “What’s the word for that?”
The setting is peaceful and tranquil and the work, not at all stressful. We chat and learn to the soft sounds of the boat lines stretching and releasing from the cleats on the dock, as the boats bob and sway in the surge of the Pacific Ocean. After an hour, she pays me for the lesson and I stroll home.
“Maybe I’ll head down to the beach and see if the catch-of-the-day is tuna or mahi-mahi,” I think to myself as I look up at the first emerging stars and listen to the ocean breeze play through the coconut palms overhead.
Just another day in paradise…not bad at all!
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