Happy new year!

I traveled down many roads (…as well as stairs, ladders, and bridges) last year both literally and figuratively. It will be hard to top 2014 but I am excited to see where 2015 will take me.

Thanks for reading my attempt at a blog – I hope to have a reason to resurrect it again in the future (maybe the Machu Picchu draft post that is now 9 months old. Maybe.).

PicMonkey Collage

10 Useful Spanish Phrases…in Arequipa

I have been working on a Machu Picchu post for more than a month but I have not gotten it to a presentable state. If it is already four months late then what’s six more at this point, really.

Instead I am tackling something more manageable, fun, and hopefully interesting: some common expressions I have learned here in Arequipa.

My Spanish is okay. It is difficult to assign level of fluency for such a subjective topic but I can express my general mood, general ability, needs, and necessities, and carry on basic conversations. The biggest challenges (no big surprise) are grammar structure and expressing wit/joking around.

I have learned mainly through listening to native speakers. Although I am a firm believer in classroom lessons (I learn best in that environment – forget Rosetta Stone or Duolingo, I have zero self-discipline), you just can’t get more authentic than seeing and listening to how people naturally use their language in everyday situations. This is how I also learned to discern which words and expressions go with various social settings.


The thing about Spanish is that there is a crapton of local, regional, and national variations. One city might use a certain word for something but the next city over may not.

I did not want to post this title “…in Peru” because hello, I do not know shit about Peru. I only know Arequipa and that too is a stretch. Regardless, here are some common expressions I have learned here and I frequently use (if not frequently then everyday).

If I said something wrong then please do let me know.

1.) “Buenas!”

This is the more casual, informal alternative to hola, buenos días (good morning), and buenas tardes (good afternoon). You can use it to greet taxi drivers, cashiers, salespeople, street vendors, secretaries, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you say the textbook version of the greetings but this helps you sound more natural.

If you are ever in doubt you can use the textbook versions.


3.) “Qué bueno!”/”Qué chévere!”

Roughly translates to great, how great, how cool/awesome!  The latter is informal. Use it to respond to someone or mutter to yourself when you see something cool.

4.) “CLARO” and its variations

Super useful. As I understand it, I use it as “of course”, “sure”, “obviously”, or in general when you agree with someone.

  • Claaaaaaaaaaaro – of couuuuuuuuuuuurse, riiiiiiight
  • Claro, claro, claro – yeah, yeah, yeah or of course, of course, of course (agreement)
  • Claro que si – of course
  • Claro que no – of course not


5.) “Ciao!”

I cannot actually remember if I ever heard “adiós” being used here. Most people use “ciao.” Also frequently heard is “ciao ciao” otherwise also written as “chau chau.”

6.) “Cómo?”/”Qué?”

These are “what?” or “I’m sorry?” when you did not understand or hear what another person said. “Cómo” is more polite than “qué,” which is pretty direct. I only use “qué” with my friends and people I know well. I think you can use “perdón?” as well but I have not heard that one.

True story a small kid who looks like Chucky asked me a question at school and I said “cómo?” out of habit like he was a freaking king.


7.) “Está bien”/”No te preocupes”

Depending on the context, “está bien” can mean “it’s okay/fine” or  “never mind.” The latter can be combined with “no te preocupes” or “no worries” or “don’t worry about it.”

Carlito: Ay lo siento, olvidé el cumpleaños de tu perro. (Ah I’m sorry, I forgot your dog’s birthday.)

Domingo: Está bien, no te preocupes. (It’s ok, don’t worry about it.)

8.) “Pucha”

Basically “dang/damn/darn,” a softened, more acceptable form of its less socially acceptable cousin, “puta.” Can be used to express disgust, disappointment, anger, surprise, frustration, or even relief.

This is an example of jerga or slang.


9.) “Qué tal?”

This translates to “what’s up?” I almost never hear “que pasa?” here.

10.) Know the difference between “tú” and “usted”

As many of you already know Spanish has two forms of singular “you”: tú is informal and usted is formal. Even memorizing some common phrases is helpful. It is difficult to explain when I use the usted forms – my rule of thumb is when I am speaking to someone reasonably or obviously older. Here the first one is in tú form followed by usted:

Cómo te llamas? vs. Cómo se llama? (What’s your name?)

Cómo estás? vs. Cómo está? (How are you?)

Adónde vas? vs. Adónde va? (Where are you going?)

You can see that the verbs here in “tú” form ends in “s.” It is a good general rule to remember but of course there are always exceptions.


Honorable mentions:

  • Creo que si/creo que no – I think so/I don’t think so
  • Tener que… – (subject) has/have to – “tengo que ir” (I have to go), “tenemos que limpiar” (we have to clean)
  • Acá/allá – colloquial forms of “aquí” (here) and “allí” (there)
  • Más o menos – more or less, so so

This took longer than I had anticipated. Now go an try it on your friends! And Latin American-looking people on the streets because surely that is obviously appropriate and would not backfire.

It always helps if you have an inherent interest in a certain language. For me, that is French and unfortunately not Spanish. It has been an interesting process, though.

On a sadder note, my iPhone was stolen earlier this month, which means I have not been able to take pictures. I have gotten over not checking emails every 0.000000000000002 seconds but not having a camera has been killing my soul and I did not even have a soul to begin with! If anyone sent me an iPhone 5 I would not stop you.

Final note: the accent marks in Spanish are basically little Hitlers

Maybe the trick is to be ready, but not to wait…

Waiting for a monster is a bit like waiting for the messiah to appear and lead you, a noble pursuit for the faithful, but you risk living out your life in limbo, not having really lived. Maybe the trick is to be ready, but not to wait, to lead yourself while in a state of readiness. – Dispatches from Iceland – Egilsstadir: Waiting for the Monster


Happy Thursday – some pictures from here. Some of you may have seen these already. Hope the thunderstorm in 703 did not cause severe damages.

The temperature during the day here is a steady, sunny, and dry (Team Oxford comma para siempre) ~75 degrees; however, it might as well be Antarctica at night.

The light in Arequipa is beautiful.

More scenes from around the ‘hood –

OK, last four –

May your day have as little brain aneurysms and desire to choke other people as possible.


The World Cup has commenced.

…Which means all of my male students in my afternoon classes yesterday did not show up as I had surmised since they were probably at home watching the game. Proof: only ladies in my yesterday’s class.

Ladies of Upper-Intermediate 3

Since my last post probably got on everyone’s nerves, here are some pictures of my classes and school life. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Example of my setup
Enigmatic notebooks of 20-something year old students
Fellow teachers Leo (Peruvian), Emily (also roommate and TEFL course classmate), and Danny the Leprechaun (Scottish)

Sometimes ESL books (published by National Geographic) are questionable. Other times they are amazing.

Aww National Geographic is pro-sexism!

If you are not teaching, breathing, sleeping, eating, or pooping, then you are probably planning.

Planning in the morning before class with roommate
Planning after class
Planning and correcting papers at lunch
Grading all exams in one night and wondering what your life had become
This is what happens when you see a bakery on your way to and from school everyday

Sometimes student answers bring tears to my eyes and make teaching worth all the pain.

Not entirely untrue
Again, not entirely incorrect

I asked my advanced students to write advantages and disadvantages of borrowing money to attend university. One girl confidently wrote:

“Another drawback is that if you don’t pay the debt the bank will destroy you.”

In another exercise I had two students come up with a business idea of their own. The guy decided to open a sex shop in Amsterdam and the girl opted to open a male stripper business catered to the ladies. I was proud.

Although my classes this month are awesome, my demon class from last session didn’t even know my name. Variations as seen on the final exam are as follows, including the best one – blank:

Sometimes they listen to me:

They usually like coming up and writing on the board
Elementary 2 from last session
Contrary to popular belief, I do try to be friendly

Just to show reiterate the reality, I am willing to show this…this is what usually happens when my life gets taken over by teaching (THOSE ARE NOT TRASH BAGS THEY ARE GROCERIES):

Off to my afternoon classes – day two of not expecting to see my male students. GOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL?

I think I will try to watch a part of the game on the internet or something. Maybe.