Saturday, 15 January 2011


A few days ago during TESOL training, I was working with a fellow teacher to determine how we might explain certain vocabulary words to a new English learner. When we came to the word “adjust,” she suggested that we use my current situation as an example, since I was “adjusting” to life in a new country.

While life in Guatemala City is not completely different than life in the U.S. (wherever you are in the city, you are likely within walking distance of a U.S. fast food chain), there are certainly a number of adjustments to make.

Although I consider myself a “proficient” Spanish speaker, the Guatemalan accent and the speed at which they speak leaves me asking “¿permiso?” many many times a day. And several people, my landlord included, cannot understand my New York - Long Island - Spanish accent, even on those occasions when I am positive that I am using the correct word. I know that I will become fluent while I am here, but I wish I could fast forward to when that happens.

There are also certain cultural adjustments to make. I am familiar with the typical Latin American greeting from my trip to Argentina, but I forgot about it until I started meeting new people, who introduced themselves with a kiss on the cheek. I also have to drop a bit of the Argentinean accent that I picked up; apparently, the Argentine pronunciation of “yo,” which means “I,” and is thus very frequently used, is actually a very rude saying here. I’ve already incited lots of giggles with this error.

Surprisingly, teacher training has required little or no adjustment. I am immensely impressed at the caliber of the teacher training sessions that I have been attending every morning this past week. Thankfully the sessions have been conducted in English, and the teachers running and participating in the program speak English extraordinarily well. In addition, in the past six  days we have covered almost everything that I had spent the past seven months learning in graduate school, using much of the same terminology. I laughed aloud the first time someone wrote SWBAT on her worksheet, and have had similar reactions as we’ve discussed “modeling,” “activating prior knowledge,” “modalities of learning,” integrating technology into the classroom, and how to write a good objective, among many other topics and methods that mirror those utilized in U.S. classrooms.

Everyone that I have met so far has been beyond helpful. Donna Smith told me before I came that she knew that I would find people who would be happy to help me out, and, as expected, Donna was correct (did you expect anything else?). During coffee breaks people ask me about how I am doing and offer answers to my many questions, but they also treat me like a friend, and involve me in their discussions and chatting. I feel really comfortable and happy to work with them, and I feel like their offers of help are sincere, not just perfunctory or polite. Not bad for my first week!

So I need to adjust to the internet being slow. And not being able to use public transportation, or drink water from the tap. And it sucks having to budget my funds when I am dealing with dollars and quetzals simultaneously. But I am hopeful that after a few weeks I will adapt. “Adapt” is the synonym we put on the activboard for “adjust.” An activboard is basically the same as a smartboard I think. Another adjustment.


  1. So good to hear from you! And to read about what you've been up to is great.
    I'm looking forward to reading all of your blogs :)

  2. Denise, congratulations to you! I had a Fulbright to Greece in 2009, and it was absolutely life-changing. Totally worth the "ajustando" or however that's said in Greek. Will eagerly follow your blog, Your cousin, Catherine