America: the richest nation in the world, home to one of the largest English speaking populations in the world and one of the most technologically advanced.
Yet in the middle of his holiday to Miami, instead of taking in the sights, a retired Japanese business man paces about in his hotel room. Looking out of the window, the town looks gloomy, no early evening lights twinkle.
Miami is experiencing one of its regular blackouts. Nothing is functioning. In his hotel the lights are dark too, apart from one little glow as he turns on his computer and logs onto EF English Live to talk to me. For the next forty minutes he ignores the rain and thunder battling outside, to focus on his retirement hobby, learning English. He’s incommunicado in America, but as long as his battery holds out, he is in touch with the world.
Only a few days later vast chunks of America are under water, the power lines are down and the heating off – hurricane Sandy has shut down the East Coast. Yet one of the country’s millions of recent Hispanic immigrants determines that Sandy will not get in the way of her American dream. Her stricken neighbourhood rings to the sound of Mexican voices as everyone tries to cope with the chaos Sandy has brought.
The young single mother and her sister are lucky: they have work, but it is poorly paid and – with the transport system down – hard to get to. There’s one thing that will improve her job prospects in the long run, and will help lift her and her child out of the poverty they are trying to escape; English. So despite the wind-ravaged line which makes hearing me almost impossible for her, she logs on and comes to class, much to my astonishment.
Working for EF English Live is an extraordinary privilege. Day in day out I meet determined students learning a language regardless of what life has to throw at them, just as these two students do. Everyone who joins EF English Live has a story. What is yours?