Hi, my name’s Dan and I previously spent a short time teaching at Bristol Language School last year. Following a break from teaching, I am now in Peru working at a private language school in the remote town of Chachapoyas in the Andes. It is the capital of the region of Amazonas, but with only 24,000 people it is quite a small place and it is a 9-10 hour bus journey from any larger city.
Travellers’ Corner: An Experience of Teaching in Peru
11 Aug 2014
The school itself, the International Language Center, which has been established over ten years ago, offers recognised language certificates and receives funding from the US embassy. Most teachers work here as volunteers so there is quite a changing line up of staff, hailing from all over the world. All of the foreign teachers tend to band together, so you don’t feel lonely when you arrive, though it does possibly hamper your Spanish language practice as you end up chatting in English all the time! Luckily the school also offers Spanish classes, so there have been plenty of opportunities to practice.
At school I teach a range of abilities, from basic to upper intermediate. Most of my students are between 12 and 18 and I’m pretty lucky as they are generally a nice bunch. They do, however, spend an awful lot of time speaking Spanish in class, which is a constant battle. It contrasts dramatically with my previous teaching experience in Taiwan, where teenagers will sit in class in complete silence! However, it still boils down to the same issue, a need to encourage students to use English as much as possible and I’m finding (with patience!) it works out okay. Most of my students are friendly and of course it is always fascinating to get to talk to people from a different country and find out about their culture.
I also have a class of teachers from the local area, a program funded by the US embassy. The aim is to raise the standard of English in education. Although at first it was a little intimidating to face a whole class of English teachers, it has proved to be the most enjoyable experience and a great opportunity to get an insight into local education. I have also picked up some tips for games and activities so I think it has been a mutually beneficial experience!
Chachapoyas itself is a largely undiscovered gem. It was home to the Chachapoyan civilisation who were established years before the Incas. Around the area there are many ancient sites including ruins of villages, mausoleums that housed mummies and, most impressive of all, the walled city of Kuelap. Perched on top of a 3000 metre mountain, Kuelap is considered the second most impressive set of ruins in Peru, but while Macchu Picchu receives over 2000 visitors a day, Kuelap has only about 50. This means you can marvel at the place without any sense of it being overrun by tourists. On top of this, Chachapoyas is a place where you can visit the third highest waterfall in the world, go trekking on horse to remote lakes and ruins or just hang out in town drinking tasty local liquors. Currently, without an active airport, it is definitely a place waiting to be discovered by tourists on a larger scale, so it has been great to see it before it does!
Overall, I have been enjoying my time here very much. While there may be occasional battles with weak internet connection and sudden stops in water supply, I have found Chachapoyas to be a friendly, safe town where students are (mostly!) eager to learn and where you can spend your free time seeing some incredible places. A great experience.
Written by Daniel B. Matthews
Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photos courtesy of Daniel B. Matthews
International Language Center`s website is at www.ilc-peru.com.pe