In ESL Learning Games, Holidays

What is Romance to the Romantic?

Don’t you love the smell of bread baking in the oven? It reminds me of all things warm and cozy. Have you ever heard the expression “comfort food”? For me, warm bread with butter is the ultimate comfort food. Pair it with a cup of cappuccino, some close friends, good conversation or an interesting book on a rainy day in a cafe in February, and you have romance. I know these aren’t the typical Valentine’s images of red and pink hearts, roses and boxes of chocolate. But, it is romantic. Nostalgic even. A moment to savor. Maybe it’s because this scenario reminds me of traveling through Europe as a young university student studying abroad. Not only because French, Spanish and Italian are Romance languages, but it’s just that the whole idea of traveling and learning about different cultures is romantic. It opens us up to the mystery and inspires the imagination.

I spent many years after that year abroad taking every opportunity to travel and live abroad. But, finally, sometimes it is love that settles you down. The love you have for your significant other. The love for your family. Eventually, the love for yourself, in what you do, the daily routine. Love for something higher than yourself. At this point, chasing the call of distant lands is not an option for me. As it turns out, my plane is really the car that gets me to a classroom of international students four days a week. I feel lucky that I get to learn new things from them every day, and I know that the students also enjoy the experience of sharing and learning about foreign cultures (including American culture) in the classroom. Friendships are formed. Bonds are forged. 

There is a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn called, “Wherever You Go There You Are.” As I write this, those words pop into my mind. Maybe because it makes me think about how important it is to embrace the moment we are in now. Appreciation. Gratitude. These words are at the core of Valentine’s Day. I once had a friend who despised Valentine’s Day thinking it was only for lovers and the romance you see in cheesy movies where the girl always gets the guy. This is one, fairly limited version of what this day is about. In schools, this day centers on friendship. It is nice to have a day that reminds us to show our affection for others, albeit highly commercialized. Yet, we really should make it every day, wherever you are, that we open our hearts to others, to the moment, to the mystery of the unknown. 

Sometimes the unknown is the other. The other could be an attraction in a faraway country. It could be a potential girlfriend, boyfriend, or soul mate. It might even be your own spouse that you have gotten so caught up in the daily routine, you have kind of lost sight of that initial excitement you had when you first met. It’s like that song by Rupert Holmes, “If You Like Pina Coladas”. Sometimes we get stuck in a routine. Not just with romantic partners, but with friends, too. Just like exotic places, people are meant to be explored. There is a lovely energy that comes from meaningful interactions with others. Sending flowers and writing cards is often just an initiation to spark the relationship and create excitement.

Of course, if you are like my friend and are bummed out on Valentine’s Day because you are alone, a romantic evening can also be spent in peace and quiet with a good book or movie and some comfort food. There is an expression in English, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I would like to add that this is true for women as well. Love yourself by enjoying a food that recalls good times with loved ones. Romanticize the mystery of what is yet to be, and don’t try to have all the answers now. Love where you are and who you are. 

Valentine’s Day is for (ESL) Poets and Dreamers

There is a wonderful Greek myth about Eros and Psyche. Psyche was so beautiful that people mistook her for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. In a jealous rage, Aphrodite sent her son Eros to punish her by making her fall in love with a hideous creature. However, Eros ends up falling in love with Psyche and taking her to his palace where she is bathed and fed. At night, Eros comes to Psyche. She can feel the presence of his beauty, but she was told she could never look at him. After a visit from her jealous sisters, a seed of doubt had been planted for how could it be forbidden to see the face of her lover? That night, Psyche turned on the light to see the face of Eros and saw the most handsome man she had ever seen. Feeling betrayed, however, Eros quickly vanished. Psyche, regretting her mistrust, begged forgiveness from Aphrodite, who in turn sent her on multiple tasks to prove her love and loyalty. 

This is a condensed version of the story, but you can find different versions of it online or in greek mythology books. Originally it was written by a Roman author, Apuleius. By the way, the Roman name for Eros is Cupid. Another interesting tidbit of information on their names is that Psyche, or soul in Greek, also means butterfly. There are various interpretations of this myth, but my favorite is related to this idea of faith in what you believe, in what you feel, and not always in what you see. 

You may be wondering why this whole blog post began with the smell of warm bread and cappuccino and ended with Greek mythology. Well, besides bread and cappuccino being popular French and Italian treats, the word romance originates from that part of the world. And I guess that’s just how my brain works. Plus, I think I was going to try to squeeze in a recipe for friendship bread, but I think I will save that for another post.

ESL Students Learn More by Experiencing Culture

In the U.S., Valentine’s Day is not exclusive to lovers and sweethearts but for friends, acquaintances, and classmates as well. At Excel English Institute, we try to expose our students to various aspects of American culture. We believe that learning English is much more efficient and effective if students acclimate to the culture by participating in American holidays and special events.

The Annual Valentine’s Day Party at Excel English Institute demonstrates just how much students enjoy learning English by taking part in American cultural events. Today our ESL students had enjoyed games like; a baby bottle drinking contest, pin the heart on the Frenchie, and relay racing. It was super fun 🙂

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