As children, often we dreamed of changing the world. Typically, we’d imagine growing up to be a highly paid athlete, a famous actor, a successful doctor, a well-respected lawyer, or a world leader. At some point, most of us narrowed our dreams into a field where we played our daily role with a height of passion, like a habit or something in between. Most adults look forward to retirement as a time to realize the adult dreams that flew into our minds perhaps just before or after punching a time clock or some other dull routine we wanted to break away from at the time.
Regardless of whether your earned income was from self-employment, an hourly wage or being the CEO of a big corporation, there was a feeling at the end of the day of having accomplished something during that time other than typical domestic duties. No matter if the successes were large or small, when you retire that something ceases to be there at the end of the day. Some people become depressed and mourn that loss of passionate engagement – others move to Ecuador instead and experience a lively transition!
Most of my life I’ve been honored to live and work among Latin Americans. I say that because the core of the Latin Americans culture is a strong family bond of expected behaviors that outwardly manifest a remarkable level of polite respect. Spanish-speakers have taught me the lessons that I often found lacking in my native North American home. Experts who study social change inform us that 2017 has ushered in a wave of prejudice and the disrespect that is the hub of that wheel. People, who were kinder in the past, have been absorbed into this new wave of public insults and physical attacks. If leaving that atmosphere appeals to you, Ecuador will be a refreshing and positive change.
In contrast, my daily life is filled with full-face eye contact smiles from those people I know and also many strangers too. The smile I see from friends is followed by big, welcoming, warm greetings from Expats and Ecuadorians alike; positive behaviors “rub off” on immigrants and visitors alike. Every contact with an Ecuadorian makes me feel that I have value. In the USA, my white hair makes me invisible; in Ecuador, white hair makes me a respected elder.
As a direct result of living outside the USA for over a decade, my husband, a friend of ours, and I have instead been welcomed into several Latin American homes as extended family members. On a daily basis, we laugh, live, cry, or express love toward them as though we were born next door. Even complete strangers, who are friends of our Ecuadorian friends, end every introduction with a solid handshake or hug and kiss on or near our cheeks.
Does that mean that expats do not need to learn Spanish? No, is the short answer. It does mean that every step of the way a kind Latin American is trying hard to understand you, encourage you, and help you to make your needs understood. Fortunately, there is an easy plan for you to learn Spanish: teach English!
You do not need to have a background in teaching to teach. You do not need to speak a foreign language to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) learners. All you need is to “Speak with Your Heart” to eager to learn Spanish-speaking kids. Without even trying, you will create positive changes in the hearts and minds of young children.
Teaching here creates such joy that many retired English speakers volunteer one to three hours a week just for the joy of working with these great Ecuadorian kids. I know that for those of us who had years in a classroom with challenging situations (like teenagers who are too busy with a cell phone to look at what is being taught in the classroom), this ideal teaching and learning lifestyle seems especially hard to imagine. However, honestly, these kids look at you and listen. They know that learning English will open many more doors – perhaps today just an online game in English – or tomorrow an entire career that requires a bilingual employee. Other expats teach as a way to make it easier for them to learn Spanish. Retired visa holders who try teaching will tell you what all teachers know: “To teach is to learn twice over.”~ Joseph Joubert
In Central Mexico, 2005 to 2013, we were volunteer teachers. When we arrived in Salinas, Ecuador in 2013, we were delighted to learn that there were programs in place with expats teaching the National Police. The officers would gain a promotion if they learned English. There was also a program to teach street vendors. Yes, positive changes occurred, but we missed teaching children.
When we moved to Vilcabamba a year ago, a children’s program was already in the works. At this time, they had so many kids that they were expanding with both a rented space three days a week and a Saturday reading area at the Organic Market. For the whole story, with a tiny video too, just read on or pass on our online campaign (June 8 – July 22, 2017). If you’d like, come on down to just below Loja, and be a part of a Saturday morning or weekday (2pm-5pm, M, W, F) class. We’d love to have you join us!
If you have any questions regarding this article or starting your reading, teachings, and learning for positive changes program, please feel free to email me a [email protected]
To teach is to learn twice over, I never heard that but agree. I taught skiing and a bit of tennis and improved with both as a result. Nice article and I never thought about teaching English as a way to learn Spanish.
Great article. Been to Ecuador 6 times and am thinking of moving there. Can’t decide where. I like Vilcabamba but seemed apartheid with little interest in assimilating. Your work surely helps. Like you, I love Latins, teaching myself Spanish. BA Degrees in German, Italian, Master’s in German and English/ creative writing and have taught German and Italian at the U. of Colorado at Boulder. Thanks for your interest. Bob