The secret life of teachers: Mark Douglas

Where exactly did you come  from? 

I was living in a lovely place called Saltaire which is a World Heritage Site in Bradford in England. 

What things about Peru most certainly motivated you to come here? 

I knew very little about South America in general and was intrigued to experience Latin American culture. Peru has a fascinating history. I wanted to go to a place which I had no preconceptions about, a place which might make me feel excited to discover more. Peru seems to have plenty to discover. If only I could get out of the apartment! 

When you arrived here, was it everything you were expecting it to be? In what ways? 

I was aware of certain cultural stereotypes (a very relaxed attitude to punctuality, an obsession with football, a very Catholic country, etc). The relaxed attitude to time has been very much in evidence in my time here. Sometimes, it has made living here quite stressful. I have found Peruvians in general to be very self-contained, which I like. I am a bit surprised that so few people speak English. I haven’t yet discovered the amazing food that everyone always says Peru is famous for. Maybe that’s my own fault for not liking seafood, though. 

Are you comfortable with the way people are in this new country given that the culture from where you came from was drastically different? How exactly? 

Yes, I like the fact that people are very friendly but not intrusive. That definitely suits my personality. They appreciate it when you make the effort to speak Spanish, however badly. 

Besides being in school, what are some of the things you want to accomplish here? What places do you want to visit? What do you want to see? 

Apart from the obvious touristy places, I am very interested in the art of Peru. I am also interested in Catholic places of interest. I want to go to a football match at some point. I would like to see some live music. I like the idea of having Peruvian versions of the things that I enjoy doing in England. Most of all, I want to feel like a citizen of Lima, a part of the fabric of the city rather than just a tourist. 

What specific thing do you miss the most from the place you came from? 

I miss English pubs and my books. 

If you ever go back to where you are from, what is one thing from Peru that you would most likely take with you? 

The knowledge that I have experienced the feeling of existing for a significant part of time in a completely foreign city. A sense that I have taken the sort of risk that many people only ever talk about. And a bit of the Latin temperament, especially a more relaxed attitude to time. 

Up until now, what is the most valuable thing you have learned from the new culture that will be stuck with you forever? 

That you have no control over some things. And no one else really cares about your lack of control. And that you don’t always have to be in a hurry. 

What is your favourite word? Is there a reason behind it? 

Claro. I don’t think it has a direct equivalent in English. I love the multiple ways it is used and the fact that the meaning of the word at any given time is all down to context, body language, facial expression and tone of voice. 

If your life was a book, which title would you pick? 

Catch 22 

What would students be surprised to find about you? 

That I’m not such a pain in the backside after all. 

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share? 

Your achievements and your failures are your own. Don’t expect anyone else to care. 

What song should students listen to when doing work for your class? 

‘The Sinking of the Titanic’ by Gavin Bryars. 

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