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SANCTUARY… HOME… BLOG 11th NOVEMBER 2019 – #58.

Bucket list always sounds negative to me. I have a list of places to see. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO Heritage site. It is seen,rightly, as a wonder of the world. A couple of families were living here and calling it home long before westerners decided it was a “wonder”. The Inka people knew where it was. Resting majestically at around 2,900 metres (9,800 feet) above sea level. The engineering, planning and complexity of it all are breath-taking before the views hit you. These places were built with the Gods in mind. In homage and in “thank-you” to them. Machu Picchu lies amongst the snow-capped mountains of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. It was built in a great geographical, security and spiritual location. A hub of administrative, ritual, artistic, cultural, religious, residential, agricultural and storage spaces. With a key concept of Inka planning. The sun is the primordial source of life and power. The rooms are orientated to the sun for maximum sunlight. And the buildings are in a graduated layout to prevent shadows being cast on other buildings.Why didn’t European empire builders, when they came upon these ancient, magnificent and classical African, Asian, Latin and Southern American citadels. These wonders of the world. Not just stop!! And sit in awe and wonder and amazement at their beauty. Their technological marvelousness. Their ingenuity. The engineering skills and craftsmanship. And look for what was embedded in so many of these cultures. Harmony. And take the chance to live, work and thrive alongside. And sit in wonder and the joy of this taste of paradise. And recognise how close they were to the spot where the heartbeat of man touches the face of God.

MACHU PICCHU – TAKE ONE.
The wait. The lines. The chatter. The hustle by a guide. The lines. The walk up the gang way. The splendour. Everything the photos paint and more. For today I am taking no photos and the camera is stored away. Just my eyes and everything spirit and soul can find and digest. For once I was in the splendour of the moment.
The drive in the bus up to Machu Picchu is breath-taking. Such views. And as you climb higher. More. And more. The valley swims below and above glimpses of the sights to come. Those heart jumping moments when you can look over the edge of the road and see down. Hoping. Actually, knowing that the driver has it under control. By my side-left and right. Behind me. The spirits of my mum, my grandmother, my cousin Don and my ancestors. And my Inka ancestors. All getting live feed of my ascent to my destination. They didn’t all get to see here in their lifetime. But today they will. So peaceful to know my mum’s spirit was close. And at the gate they left me to adventure. Because they know I can.
God at work. No selfie sticks are allowed in some areas because of a fall. Just the endless parade of – take my photo with my arms outstretched and this place behind me. I never understand it. Do you send your friends these photos of you? Surely the place, the view, the colours, the magnificence of it outstrips you.
My gift for the day. Taking a bottle of water someone forgot at The Sun Gate to the bin. And sharing “hellos” and “not much further” and “it’s worth it” to others as I descended from the awesome Sun Gate. Well, one photo of the newly engaged couple who sat arm in arm. We chatted and the next thing, he was kneeling and slipping a ring on her finger. She said yes in their fairy-tale moment.
Visiting Machu Picchu is an equal opportunities activity. There were people of all sizes, shapes and ages. There were families with granny in tow. Such a gorgeous sight.
After lunch and a rest, the walk down was enough exercise to last the year. Then like something from a folk tale, I could her a little music as I manoeuvred my way down the steps. I saw a little figure in black on the steps below. Heard her say” Hola” with every day casualness. Just like two people passing on the street. And like a saviour for lost explorers on that long journey to coffee and cake. She bore refreshments. She was selling oranges. Two sol each. She peeled it too. What fantastic entrepreneurial insight. Ingenuity. The Inca spirit alive and well in Aguas Calientes.

MACHU PICCHU TAKE TWO – “You were meant to be here”.
The wait. The lines. I know where I am going. The Inka Gate – steep, heart pumping, scary – a long drop down. That guy said it wasn’t anything much and he was wrong. The engineering and the will to build that? Built to make it easier for local villagers to access Machu Picchu. It must have changed peoples’ lives – gifting them a shorter journey. And as I sat there just in awe and wonder, a mother, daughter and son passed me. She told the daughter how much she loved her. Proud because she had made the scary hike to the bridge gate. And they prayed. And then the guide beside me started playing his flute and the most beautiful notes pushed tears out of my body and whatever else the spirits wanted to take from me. And give to me. I gave the family my onyx New Year horse from Hong Kong and that gift set it free on another journey. And me too. Something has finished. And something has begun. My photographic eyes are wide open and I am filling up with great images. I could feel these ancient Inka people and we waved to each other. It’s real for me. I,well my spirit and soul more, found a home. And with them full it was time to leave. Farewell my long-lost friend, until we meet again.

K

Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder She Wrote and Colombo aficionado. And a Presuntos Implicados fan. Happily teaching TEFL from Peru.

www.keithstewart.co.uk

10th NOVEMBER 2019 BLOG #58

C KEITH STEWART

BOWEL MOTIONS AND DIAMOND CELEBRATIONS. DIAMOND TIMES. 11th OCTOBER. #57

Turning 60, or late thirties to be precise and being healthy is a milestone to enjoy.
I celebrated my 60th birthday in Barcelona. One of my favourite cities. And one of the best cities in the world to relax. Finishing my birthday at The Palau de Música watching The Mississippi Gospel choir soar and never falter was splendid.
Of course, there’s post to deal with on your return home. Bills, a bowel cancer test kit, circulars and the endless pizza takeaway leaflets – the usual stuff. All crap. Well not all. Yes, a bowel cancer screening kit. A present that everyone receives from the NHS on their 60th birthday in the U.K. It’s always cheering when someone remembers your birthday.
The National Health Service was founded on 5th July 1948. A monument to post war Britain and the Labour Party’s vision and aspirations for ALL to have better lives. And good healthcare regardless of wealth and that the service be “free at the point of delivery “For all of its faults the NHS is still a diamond to cherish. Not a commodity to sell to the lowest bidder for their highest profit and the lowest staff wages. My tax money and N.I. contributions should pay for staff and services not to make people like Richard Branson even richer.
When you turn 60 in the U.K. you are sent, much to my surprise and a little shock, a kit to help you take samples for a bowel cancer test. Panic!! I didn’t know I had it. I didn’t even think about it. The C word that is. Much less taking samples of my “bowel motions” and sending them to someone who I have never met. We’ve not even been introduced! The letter is addressed to me. But the kit has a barcode. It will be anonymous. That’s o.k.
Just follow the step by step instructions. In a way it’s like setting up a new stereo. Or an Ikea cabinet. Actually, the instructions are clearer and much easier to follow. The innocuous looking envelope has everything you need. All you have to provide is the stool sample. These samples are then sent in the envelope provided for testing. Joy!
Type equation here.

The kit contains a detailed leaflet explaining the programme, what is the bowel, what is bowel cancer, symptoms, how screening works, what the results mean, treatment options and a leaflet on how to use the kit. With step by step instructions to follow. All available in braille, other languages, audio CD and BSL DVD format.
You need to take samples of bowel motions each day for three days. Your hand covered in a small plastic bag worked for me. Spread a small piece from the motion on the orange and white test kit using the cardboard stick provided. And using the prepaid return envelope post the kit for testing.
ERRR!!! The gut-wrenching smell and idea of it all. Then I think. My mum was a nurse for 40 years and had carers for 20. Every day around the world health professionals save, care for and improve the lives of and see, smell and touch the most intimate parts and outputs of the human body. UNSUNG HEROES OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.

About two weeks for you to get the results they say. So, you can do other things. The Murder She Wrote box set of course came up tops. Actually, it took about 3 days for my “result is normal letter”. No test is 100% they say BUT I know about bowel cancer now and it’s on my radar. I am aware. JOB DONE!!
In two years, I will receive another kit. If after Brexit and U.S. Trade deals the NHS still exists. Nevertheless, I have added the date to my diary.
“FREE AT THE POINT OF DELIVERY”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT – your doctor.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme – Freefone – 0800 707 6060
Cancer Research U.K. – www.cancerresearchuk.org

Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder She Wrote and Colombo aficionado. And a Presuntos Implicados fan. Happily teaching TEFL in Tehuacan, Mexico.
www.keithstewart.co.uk
BLOG #57 – 11th OCTOBER 2019. © KEITH STEWART.

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LIVING AND TEFL TEACHING IN MEXICO.RED CARPETS AND HUMANITY

I AM BOWLED OVER BY THE BEAUTY OF THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE. My fourth month in Mexico sails on happily. The little I’ve seen of this massive country has me hooked. And the people are some of the friendliest, most welcoming and easy going I’ve ever encountered. I feel safe and at home here in Tehuacan. More than in some English cities and towns. I’ve had people shout things at me in the U.K. Here, a guy I had never met walked past me as I sat outside having a coffee. He shouted “Enjoy Mexico”. Like anywhere it’s not perfect but it’s been perfect for me.

(The view from Cinco Senores,Puebla)

“To learn a language is to have one more window from which to see the world”
A Chinese proverb.
Teaching English while travelling and living in other countries is like taking control of YOUR own endless roll of red carpet. It makes you feel comfortable and so special. One of my students gives me the biggest smile whenever he sees me. Always checks if I’m busy. Then sits down with his questions of the day. Then leaves with both of us smiling. He tells me about his plan to learn German, Arabic and Chinese alongside the taste of French he already has. I love the sound or glint in a student’s eyes when they understand a part of the topic we are discussing. And when they see their potential. Students ask my permission before entering the room. People are respectful of each other. People stare at me because I am a tall, black, different and a foreign visitor. With bemusement, amusement, interest but never with anger or aggression. And exchange greetings as we pass by.
A DOWNLOAD WITH TEFL LEARNING TIPS.

I’ve just updated my website – www.keithstewart.co.uk. Here is a clip of the new -Improve your English download that has been added. A collection of tips and ideas to help you learn and improve your English. Or any language I suppose. Mexican ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit would say – make it work for you. The ideas don’t belong to me, so feel free to use and share them. I like the environmental friendliness of a download. Please download and share it.
“AN INTEREST IN LANGUAGES IS AN INTEREST IN PEOPLE AND THEIR WORLD. PEOPLE NOT LIKE YOU” (UNKNOWN).
My Mexican students are hungry to learn English. They see windows open. A sharp contrast to the populism of trump and brexit et al. I read that in the U.K. the number of GCSE students taking foreign languages has fallen. Teachers speak of parents telling their children that they don’t need to learn a foreign language because Britain is leaving Europe. Rolling up the red carpet of opportunities. There’s the real wall.
For students here at the end of the work or school day, there is no such fear. They pack up and head to more classes and homework.
HUMANITY, TACOS AND GOOD MENTAL HEALTH.
All the “white noise” of brexit, trump, populism and the usual grind takes on a new perspective from this side of the world. You realise a lot of time is given to what is very little. That’s the real damage to your mental health.
My life is definitely richer in very many ways since starting my new career as a TEFL Teacher. Even my own small and slow journey learning Spanish is opening the world to me. It’s a window into the culture too. Sometimes it’s more than the cost of an item in the shop. It’s ordering your dinner and chatting with the woman and man running the taco stand. Being given a free taco while you wait as a blessing. Because they appreciate the blessing of your visit to their village. That’s the real sign of good mental health. That’s humanity. That’s how to unroll your red carpet for others to share……
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST AND EXPERIENCES OF TRAVELLING THE WORLD?
www.keithstewart.co.uk
TOP 5 LANGUAGES BY SPEAKERS 2018.
1. Chinese. 1.28 billion total speakers. Spoken in 37 countries.
2. Spanish. 436 million total speakers. Spoken in 31 countries.
3. English. 372 million speakers. Spoken in 106 countries. More widely spoken.
4. Arabic 295 million total speakers.
5. Hindu 269 million speakers.
(World Economic Forum.)
MEXICO BRIEF 2018 FIGURES.
SIZE – 762,000 square miles (U.K. 94,000 square miles), 13th largest country and 15th largest economy in the world. 126 million population. (various sources).

Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder she wrote, Colombo and Presuntos Implicados fan. Happily teaching TEFL in Tehuacan, Mexico.
KEITH STEWART – 27TH AUGUST 2019

BLOG #56

CATASTROPHE? GOOD NIGHT!

CONVERSATIONS WITH BARCELONA-TUESDAY 1st JANUARY 2019

Up early. Taxi. Hang about.Train.Hang about. Airport. Read. An easy and comfortable flight. Modern travelling is a breeze when it all

goes right.
Hola Barcelona!
The waiting is over and my next trip begins. A great way to start the final three months of my year. I love Barcelona. Another city that is joyful to just stroll around and get lost in.Cosmopolitan. Modern.Old.Lively. Colour full. Lots of streets to get lost in. Fashionable alongside tacky touristy.
This time I tackled the Metro with help it felt comfortable and easy to handle. Easy to navigate. Like it is in many European cities. Quiet from the airport and busier when we came to Catalunya and the city centre. The station area looked like a market in an African town. Lots of black African men with their white blankets spread out and an array of bags, trainers and football shirts for sale. All calmly done. In a way not the best site for a central underground station. Scrappy. But part of the fabric of the city now. They sell their wares in other parts of the city too. Modern entrepreneurs? Can they move from these blankets to shops of their own?
No hotel? No panic! On the way into the city I got a text. The room I had booked – The guy isn’t in the city. Excuses and sorry…..blah,blah. Booking.com and an alternative found. Easy. The wonders of modern technology. Smartphone, website and a credit card. Frustrating but sorted.
A catastrophe averted over a meal at Taco Bell. Onwards.
The Bnb I found is a few minutes from La Ramblas. Perfect. Friendly. Clean. Good night!!
K

KRAKOW AND AWAY!! – SATURDAY 8th SEPTEMBER.

Packing for the trip was a breeze. I’ve now collected a bundle of stuff that allows me to pick and mix. And be ready to go on my two week Polish adventure with one small backpack. Nothing to check-in and no waiting at the conveyor belt watching all the bags but mine come down.
All checked in. Easy. Security. Easy. A seat and a roll and a tea at Pret a Manger.. Easy. Flight delayed…. Lots of things are buzzing in my mind. Modern technology is great. A few emails and texts to sort out tasks for my return. There are times when the glamour of flying wears off. One is being on damp tarmac, breathing in the aroma of fumes from the plane’s engines before trooping up the stairs to your seat.
The feeling of suspended animation when flying is unnerving. What if everyone collectively stopped believing that these tons of metal etc could really fly. We were rolling over the ground below and it was laid out like an endless road to nowhere, busy going somewhere. A plane in the distance was slicing its way through the horizon. Foretelling of the soon to arrive sunset.
I watched and listened. What do people find to talk about non-stop. The stewards and stewardesses never stopped talking as they stood in their oblivious huddle. Maybe something I should learn if I am spending two weeks helping Polish business people to improve their conversational English.
The carpet lights of Krakow unfolded below and I had arrived to begin a two week volunteer session with Anglovile.
Krakow is a lovely city. The Main Square has an atmosphere and feel of its own. Lively. Busy. Friendly. A buzz without over buzzing. High quality musicians playing for and earning their keep. Gentle conversations outside the resteraunts that are placed around the Square. And off course a Starbucks. A young crowd on the move. A young man came and offered me the chance to drink, relax and watch girls dancing in a club. I think he picked the wrong guy there.

These two weeks in Poland with @angloville will be a great opportunity to put things down. The Angloville experience makes me think of my Blue Star Camps experience in America. For a period of time you can immerse yourself in it. Step away from the regular and normal day to day life.
A vegetarian meal option for the next two weeks will be great. A chance to rest my digestive system and stimulate my pallet. Especially if they stop serving such nice meat and chicken options.

K

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