If you want to get to know a place, buy a tambourine

The mandatory first day of school photo, tambourine at the ready.

As the first day of school quickly approaches, it dawned on me that I should probably be spending my (soon to be scarce) free time preparing for my English classes, or rather searching for the odds and ends that could supplement my English classes. Of course there’s the mandatory pens, folders, notebooks, etc, but yesterday I went in search of something a little different, a tambourine. The funny part was that I didn’t even know that’s what I was looking for.

The afternoon originally started as a quest to find some kind of noise making device. Literally, ANY kind of noise making device. A bell, a whistle, a kitchen timer, anything. The idea being that I could use the noise maker to signal transitions in my class/get students attention. The quest seemed easy enough. But my dream of students salivating for the 2nd conditional at the sound of a bell quickly melted away as I got redirected from shop to shop in search of the elusive noise maker. After half an hour of going from store to store trying to explain my grand classroom management plan I was ready to give up. But I decided to go into one more shop.

I was immediately informed that no such noise making devices existed in this shop (aside from the disassembled doorbell with loose wiring sticking out). However, the older woman that ran the shop was extremely nice. And in fact her daughter happened to be my neighbor. And she happened to know last years volunteer whose place I’m taking this year. Before happily parting ways she had me write down my phone number so that she could give it to her son in law (who happens to be Norwegian and speaks English). I left the shop glowing after such a great foreigner/local interaction. Revived from the experience, I pressed on. But now, it wasn’t even about the bell, or the whistle, or the hello kitty alarm clock. It was about running around, talking to shopkeepers, introducing myself as the new gringo in town, flirting with the girl behind the counter, trying to decipher the seemingly vaguest of directions, and getting to know Zipaquirá a little better. Finally I stumbled upon a music store (in hindsight this seems like the obvious 1st stop right!?), where I decided that a tambourine was exactly what I was looking for. Noisy, yet non threatening. Perfect.

So while it took me quite a while find what I was looking for, in the end, the day was a success. Not just because I bought the perfect Pavlovian device that will soon turn my students into salivating grammar pooches, but also because I had a lot of great personal exchanges and went into a bunch of shops I probably never would have bothered checking out. So as they say in the old country, “If you want to get to know a place, buy a tambourine.”

Until next time,


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