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Tag Archives teaching

A walking tour in Bucharest (or thoughts on making friends with temporary colleagues)

Bucharest

Bucharest, August

It’s hot and I’m sweaty. My legs and arms are covered in bites. I’m used to bites that swell momentarily, and then disappear, but perhaps it’s the foreign insects, or perhaps it’s the foreign heat, but these are less helpful. They itch, breaking my resolve to meditate without fidgeting. I downgrade my ambitions of serene perfection for vaguely keeping my eyes shut most of the time. I didn’t even bother this morning. Not that I’ve had much time. I woke too late. And made a mad dash to be at the University Square for eleven.

The kind guy also living in this apartment made me coffee. It was strong. I added more boiling water and tried to gup it down when I should have added cold.

I arrive with a few minutes to spare. My tour companions are a mix. The guide herself (Walkabout Tours) was excellent. Easily one of the best walking tour guides I’ve had. She was bubbly and professional. Amazingly, somehow, she managed not to look too upset at our inability to really gel as a group and laugh or ask questions. We’d met each other at the same time as we had met her, as strangers, but were fast trying to form bonds as we knew we were working together for the next week. In practice, we’re wary of each other.

When you’re with travellers who have spent just a month or two away, there’s often an over-enthusiasm with the desperate need to be friends. You’ve been travelling long enough to actually miss home, and long enough that the people back home don’t really get what you’re doing. You feel disconnected and alone. In its own way, it’s quite adorable. With travellers who are perhaps a little older and have travelled longer, there’s often a more cautious approach. Despite the difficulties, you’ve worked out that loneliness is manageable and new people (like sugar or alcohol) are merely a distraction that perhaps makes you feel momentarily better. I know this is stereotyping, and just a generalisation, but it’s also a safe assumption.

We act knowing that in a week we’ll all say goodbye. Be wary of commitment now, and you’ll find it easier to carve out your own space later in the week and easier to admit the truth which is that friends here are friends for now (which is not bad – just something to be aware of).

As a side note, although I say this, I do stay in regular contact with a number of people who I’ve worked with, either in teaching, being an au pair, or in the case of the Finnish Photographer, carpentry.

On this tour though, ambling through the streets of Bucharest when most of the population is wisely indoors, we’re all English Teachers. It’s a weird social mix. Most people have already done a program like this one we’re doing together, typically in Poland where Angloville, the organising company is based. There are more men than women. The age range is a little younger than me to older than my parents. I’m comforted by the variety. Americans, Canadians, Australians, a chap from New Zealand, a guy who lives in Switzerland, another lass from Yorkshire – we make an odd bunch, but I enjoy the company and conversation.

As we walk the streets of Bucharest, we learn about hidden, relocated churches; a revolution sculpture nicknamed the potato; the reconstruction of buildings post-communism; the area known as little Paris (influenced by a little brother relationship with the French post-independence); the palace of telecommunications (the post office); an alley decorated by umbrellas hanging above, giving a gentle respite from the sun; and we eat lunch.

And in a short few hours, I find myself belonging to something.

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Poland: Teaching non-native speakers business English

I went for a run this morning in the hotel grounds

We’re situated in the north-east of Poland, not so far from the border with Lithuania, by a beautiful lake. In the shade of the trees the air held a chill, but still the sun shone brightly, and soon I was sweating and glad I’d left my jacket back in my room.

We had breakfast. A buffet of cold meat, salad and bread. I had coffee and muesli, which oddly had chunks of chocolate in it. I’m not normally a chocolate at breakfast kind of girl, but neither am I a ham sandwich person.

Then I met up with my mentee

She’s working on a presentation which she’s going to be giving tomorrow on the salty snacks industry. I coached her for the hour. She’s nervous of course, but she knows what she’s talking about and she’s going to do just fine.

Then I found myself a mug of hot water with a few slices of lemon. I need to take care of my voice. And went outside with a lawyer who needed my assistance practicing negotiation. A lawyer who has taught lawyers, and who employs lawyers and who needed my help. We sat on a bench in the sunshine to discuss the situation. We covered potential problems of high unemployment, the challenges of persuading young people to stick around in a town with few job opportunities, and developed the arguments that he would need to negotiate with a farmer’s alliance for gain support for the building of a new supermarket which the farmer’s alliance were dead against.

At one, I took a break

A few of us hired bikes and went for a ride, picking up essentials from the village shop, like chocolate.

Then time for lunch: beetroot soup which, like cucumber soup, is apparently a very traditional meal, followed by roast chicken and buckwheat groats. With an accompanying conversation about jellyfish.

And now, with my tummy full, I have an hour or two of time to get on with my own work. Soon though, I must return to the conference room and begin a session on telephone conversation. With my wonderful accent this will be an excellent listening test for the people I’m coaching.

Teaching, coaching, mentoring, listening

This is how I’m spending my week in the sunshine and I am learning so much.

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