Notes from the TEFL Graveyard

Wistful reflections, petty glories.

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Location: The House of Usher, Brazil

I'm a flailing TEFL teacher who entered the profession over a decade ago to kill some time whilst I tried to find out what I really wanted to do. I like trying to write comedy (I once got to the semi-finals of a BBC Talent competition, ironically writing a sitcom based on TEFL), whilst trying to conquer genetically inherited procrastination... I am now based in Brazil, where I live with my wife and two chins.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


I recently caused some controversy on my Facebook page when I stated that I was sitting in my room freezing with no glass in the window while working on the mother of all translations. But I stand by my assertion - I have never been so uncomfortably cold as I have in Brazil.

Now, in terms of absolute temperatures, of course Brazil is not the coldest place I have been, by several packs of frozen produce. Demure debutantes have been known to swoon when gathered around my piano on hearing my tale of when I got off a superheated Soviet train in Moscow one February in the late eighties in a T-shirt, drowsily aware of a bit of a nip in the air, only for the platform display to reveal an ambient temperature hovering around a bracing -20ºC. Here, we rarely get below 10ºC, but with everything geared towards bermuda shorts, sandals and little shame, the stone floors, lack of insulation, tropical humidity and, in our case, shoddy glazing practices all lead me to recall stories of my shirtless great-grandfather breaking the ice on the sink of water in the back garden in order to shave in the deep mid Salisbury Plain winter.

The day in question I was huddled in the west wing dressed in a T-shirt and two sweaters, and still my head was going numb and I lacked embrocation. My fingers struggling to stab computer keys, I resorted to my fingerless cycling gloves, but they proved utterly pointless as my fingers were the coldest part of my anatomy at that juncture. In the end, I slipped my bath robe over my attire, fancying I cut a rather Noel Coward-esque figure. Only when I caught a glimpse of my unshaven face, increasingly white stubble and pallid aspect in the bathroom mirror after snapping off a leak did I realise I was, in fact, the image of Alfred Steptoe.

If you don't believe me, next time it's ten degrees outside, switch off all heating, open a window and only walk around on your bathroom / kitchen lino. You'll soon realise just what I go through for my art.

What is the coldest you've been? Do you have glass in the window of your boudoir, or did a "glazier" come and take it away in March and never return? Are you calling me soft? Would you care to step outside with me to resolve this lik...

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