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Teaching English and Working in Ecuador

I recently took a few months sabbatical away from the school which is why you haven’t seen me write any blog posts recently. I went travelling around South America and then I went to do some voluntary work with a Shuar community in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

I lived and worked with the community for 6 weeks and had a truly amazing experience. The Shuar people are indigenous to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and I was given the opportunity to get to know their culture and lifestyle. As you can imagine, it was very different to the life I am used to in London and I learnt a lot about how indigenous communities live.

I was teaching children English in the mornings and I then did other forms of work to protect the rainforest in the afternoons. The classes I taught were very different to what I’m used to at the London School of English. To start with, I was teaching children, something which I’ve never done, but they were really friendly and we had a lot of fun in class. Their ages ranged from 8 to 14 and often I would have different ages and levels (of English) in the same class. This made the work quite challenging but very enjoyable at the same time. In addition, I was amazed at how quickly the children would pick up and be able to use the vocabulary and expressions I taught them. They made a lot of progress with their English and teaching them was a very rewarding experience for me.

In the afternoon, I was working on the land, helping the community to plant seeds to grow food and manage the plants that were already growing. We had to do a lot of weeding and even had to cut down a few trees, which at first I thought was a bad thing, until they explained to me that by cutting down the trees it would help the community to manage the land better and protect the rainforest in the future.

The Shuar community live in a very basic way. Their houses are made of wood and they don’t have electricity. They do their washing and wash themselves in the river which was a shock to me at first, but I got used to it. They do their cooking on open fires and all the food they eat comes from the rainforest. They eat a lot of vegetables that they grow, as well as lots of strange and unusual fruits which I’d never seen before. Occasionally, they would catch fish from the river or kill an animal as a special treat. I found living like this a bit difficult as I’m used to living in more comfort but I realised that there are many things that I take for granted in my life and it helped me to appreciate what I have. I was also interested to see how happy the Shuar people were without all the material things that we have in our lives. Overall, I had a brilliant time and would recommend doing something like this to anyone. I would also like to thank the school and the community for allowing me to have this great experience.

To take a sabbatical - (col.) to take an extended unpaid period of time away from your work

To do some voluntary work - (col.) to do some unpaid work to help others

A truly amazing experience - (col.) something you do which has a really positive effect on the way you feel and think

As you can imagine - (exp.) expression used to state that something is obvious or clear

To pick something up - (phr. v) to learn something by watching or listening to other people

To do some weeding - (col.) to remove unwanted plants from a garden or other area

To do your washing - (col.) to wash your clothes

A special treat - (col.) to buy or get something special that people will enjoy

Comfort - (n) a way of living in which you have all the possessions you want or need

To take something for granted - (exp.) to think that something will be there when you need it and never think about how important it is

To appreciate what you have - (exp.) to understand how good or useful the things you have are

Material things - (col) relating to the things you own

By Ben

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