I don’t want to rub it in or anything but I’ve just been on an AMAZING holiday. Calling it the ‘holiday of a lifetime’ tinges it with a little sadness, as it implies that I will never again sail inviting turquoise waters, feel a warm breeze dance across my shoulders and witness two lizards battling over a flying ant (sob!). So, I won’t.
My destination was Colombia. Better known for its decades-long, violent drugs war, it’s now a growing tourist destination, winning visitors over with a cocktail of Amazon adventure, vibrant cities, coffee, ancient ruins and a slice of Caribbean paradise. And that’s not even mentioning the mud volcano. Yes, A MUD VOLCANO! In which you can wallow for up to an hour while the minerals are massaged into your skin by a dextrous local and then scrubbed off by a nice lady in a lake. Or the abundance of weird and wonderful fruit that is readily available on almost every street corner and expertly juiced up with either water or milk and ice to refresh you of the steamy midday heat. Or the stunning colonial architecture that imposes itself on dusty plazas. Needless to say, I have a new love in my life.
Holidays can not only recharge the batteries and give you a new perspective on life but also provide much inspiration for the classroom. And not just as a dull story-writing exercise. At this year’s IATEFL conference in Glasgow, I attended a talk that eulogized on the importance of photography. It is said that a picture tells a thousand words. Well, I definitely could (but won’t) bore you with that many, but the picture accompanying this article was taken by me on the aforementioned holiday, and I’ll explain a little bit about it …
It was the day we went diving in Tayrona National Park, in an area rarely visited by tourists. The boat you can see in the picture was our means of transport from the fishing village of Taganga, from which we endured a rough 40-minute drenching before arriving at our paradise bay. Approximately two seconds after taking this picture I wondered why on earth I wasn’t lying in that inviting stripy hammock and dived right in to admire the view and contemplate whether to do the twelve-metre dive in the afternoon. We’d just eaten a tasty lunch of lentil and bean stew with rice and beetroot after completing our first seven-metre dive, which admittedly scared me a little more than I thought it would as I struggled to get to grips with the whole not-breathing-through-your-nose thing. But I did both dives (albeit lamely holding the instructor’s hand for most of the time!) and spotted more varieties of colourful sealife than you can shake a snorkel at, whilst carefully trying not to kick the delicate coral. And it was undoubtedly worth it.
So, why not encourage your students to bring in their holiday pictures and allow them to tell their own stories? Of course, it’s best to produce some yourself to get their juices flowing. And it’s amazing what you can find out. Like the photo of the miniscule black and yellow striped frog that we snapped on the steps of our eco-hut, which I then showed to a friend who pointed out that it was of the poison dart variety … It’s good to share!