After a year of traipsing into San Jose at 6am and again at 6pm to teach English at language schools in San Jose, I decided to teach in my home. My first student was Alejandro Martinez, a tall, handsome, smart, funny, guy from Argentina, with a winning personality. Alejandro had been studying English for many years, but there was still room for improvement. Alejandro came to class twice a week at 7:30 in the morning with his friend, Andrés Serpa, who was also from Argentina. They were at about the same level of learning, so it made sense for them to study together and to reinforce each other's learning.
There was something magical about the three of us working together, even though they were in their mid-30s and I was, well, old enough to be their mother. We had so much fun together that it was almost sinful to take their money. For my other students, I provided only a glass of water. But for A&A, I made coffee, and made sure I had Splenda for Alejandro's coffee and honey and Lipton tea bags for Andrés. I also kept their favorite butter cookies on hand, although sometimes Andrés brought us croissants or other breakfast goodies.
We started with an intermediate level book, but we diverged from the book so often that after a year and a half we were still only halfway through the book. We joked that in ten years we would still be working with the same book. We talked about everything in English - cultural differences, travel, investments, life purpose, sex. I taught them swear words, and they returned the favor in Spanish.
Alejandro knows a lot of people because of his work as executive director of the Aden Business School. He was responsible for my entire student load for quite a while, sending me Argentinian friends and even his dentist, Tatiana Arias, who also became my dentist.
Ale's wife, Valeria, became my student, too. She is beautiful, smart and insightful. My students and I talked about much more than English and work issues. We became friends and confided in each other. In all that time of meeting with both Ale and Vale, I always kept their individual confidences. When I look at the two of them together, I think how perfectly suited for each other they are.
Valeria has not been happy living in Costa Rica, and Alejandro has gotten the most from his job at Aden. So they have been looking for a change. That change came in the form of a job offer for Alejandro to manage a cancer radiation clinic in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Last week they came over to tell me the news. He gave his notice and will start his new job July 15. They will make the move to Guatemala by October 1.
As I tearfully write this, I think of all the fun and serious talks we have had, and the barbecues they invited me to at their place. I went to their house this past Sunday, to enjoy probably their last grilled meat and wine party. I saw friends there, Olga and her mother Ana from Venezuela, whom I met through Ale and Vale, and now we'll have to get together on our own.
Guatemala is an unsafe Central American country with considerable poverty. The only relatively safe areas with extra security are in Guatemala City, Antigua City and Tikal, where tourists go. Alejandro and Valeria will be living in the Pink Zone of Guatemala City, which is supposed to have even more security. I hope they will be happy there. I hope they will be safe there.
Ana, Olga, Me, Alejandro, Valeria