The last Take a photo and… post of 2012 was contributed by a mighty duo: James Taylor (now based in Costa Rica) and Bruno Andrade (Brazil). James is quite a travelling man, so before he moves on again, I thought I’d pin him down and scorch him with … The Burning Questionnaire. So here you go: all you ever wanted to know about The Teacher James and then some.
What is your full name, and where did it all start?
My name is James Taylor and it started in Brighton, England, where it continued until I went off to London to go to university at 18. 11 years later, and sorely in need of a jolt, I went off to Brazil on my adventures that have also led me to South Korea, Belgium and now Costa Rica.
What music do you listen to while driving/cooking/contemplating your navel?
You’ve asked a big question there without realising. I’m a huge music fan and always have been. My taste tends to be a bit more leftfield than most peoples and as I am such a huge music geek, I tend not to talk about it too much. I think the level of my fandom scares most people off, quite rightly!
But since you ask, here are my favourite bands of all time in order. Not that I have this prepared or anything…
The Beach Boys
But to really answer your question a) I don’t drive b) I listen to podcasts about science, football and comedy while cooking c) I’m not the contemplating my naval type!
What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
It used to be doing all the admin that went with being a freelancer, but hopefully that’s over now for a while. So I would say that fact that it’s very hard to make advanced students aware that they are making progress. Not impossible, but hard.
Writing or teaching? Why?
Teaching, every time. I enjoy greatly the end result of having written something much more than the writing itself. But teaching I really love. I completely lose myself in the moment when I teach, and time just flies by.
A teacher from your schooldays:
It would have to be Mr Lacey. If you were on the wrong side of him, he was terrifying. But if you were on the right side, and fortunately I was, he was truly inspirational.
What was the first thing you learnt as a TEFL teacher?
The basics of grammar! Of course I knew them in the sense that I could use them, but I didn’t have the terminology to be able to explain them, so the coursebook helped me as well as the students.
What motivates/inspires you most?
Okay, let’s get deep. Firstly, I am a teacher and no matter who or what I teach, if I do my job well, I will make the world a marginally better place.
Secondly, being cynical is the easiest thing in the world. Being positive in the face of so much negativity, which is how the world is presented to us, is much harder work. I chose to take the second, more difficult path because I wish to become a better person and evolve. If I do this continually, I might just be able to drag a few people along with me, you never know.
Do you ever cry in the cinema?
Absolutely not, and I’m not saying because I’m a man, I’m saying it because I never go to the cinema!
Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
It’d be a toss up between what you could loosely call middle eastern food (couscous, tabouleh, hummus etc) and Brazilian food, which I think is very underrated. Where? Somewhere warm? And who? I don’t mind as long as they are good company with good stories.
Apart from seeing Tom Waits live? I’d like to keep travelling, keep enjoying my job and keep trying to make myself a better human being. That’ll keep me busy!
I’ve always loved Candide by Voltaire and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift for their shared sense of the ridiculous coupled with intelligent and sharp satire.
I also enjoyed American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis for the same reasons, although that has a very different tone and I wouldn’t recommend that to those with a sensitive disposition. Definitely not. I met someone who buried his copy of the book in the garden because he thought it was evil. I think he may have had issues.
The Red Shoes, which, somewhat bizarrely for someone with no interest in the subject, is a film about ballet. But really it’s about the struggle between love and art. The ballerina is forced into a situation where she cannot have both, and the film is delicately and beautifully portrays her struggle. Plus it’s one of the most sumptuous, gorgeous things every committed to celluloid and I recommend it all of you. It captivated me as a teenager and I’ve never stopped loving it since.
Beach, mountains or city?
Live in the city (I am a city boy through and through), visit the mountains whenever you can (I really enjoy long country walks), and go to the beach for a couple of days every now and then again to unwind (any longer and I get bored).
As with most people nowadays, it’s all about football for me. I’ve been a supporter of Brighton and Hove Albion basically since I was born (I didn’t have a choice!), and despite years of suffering, I still follow them through thick and thin.
I’ve chosen the four images illustrating this interview as they represent four countries I am fortunate enough to have called my home, or in the last case, am about to. I wouldn’t be who I am without the people I met there.