About Pura Buena Onda.
About Carolina, founder of Pura Buena Onda.
My name is Ana Carolina Francisca Mery Letelier, but you can call me “Caro”. 🙂
I am the founder/owner of Pura Buena Onda – Conversational Spanish Classes.
My story is a long one, but here is the short version:
- I was born in Chile in 1970.
- In 1973 Chile experienced a military coup, which resulted in a 17-year military dictatorship.
- My parents decided to move to the US (not as easy as it sounds, it took years, but we were finally able to settle outside of Philadelphia in the late ’70s).
- I got here and felt completely out of place due to the language barrier.
- When I was 23 I moved to San Diego and started working in the hospitality industry. At Hotel Del Coronado I was the Signature Services Manager, in charge of the Concierge and the hotel’s social VIPs, which included celebrities, dignitaries, and repeat guests. I LOVED it!
- In 2004 I got married and decided that I no longer wanted to work when everyone else was out having fun (weekends, holidays, summers, etc.).
- I worked in various jobs related to hospitality for 1 ½ years, and found nothing I was passionate about.
- A friend suggested I open a business, which had never occurred to me, but I decided why not?
- I offered several different services, Spanish classes being an afterthought (Even though I had worked with Bilingual Education programs every summer for years and had tutored in Spanish in high school and college, I never really thought of it as a skill or as something I wanted to do.).
- And then something beautiful happened…I fell in love with teaching Spanish! At first, I used traditional methods, books, teaching verb conjugations, vocabulary, reading/writing, etc. I realized within 2 months though, that what the students really wanted was to be able to communicate in Spanish. I remembered how difficult life had been for me when I moved to the US, not being able to communicate with anyone even though I had studied English for years, and decided that conversation was the way to go.
- I started offering private classes in people’s homes in 2006. A few months later I decided to offer a small-group conversation class to intermediate level students, in my home.
- The class was such a hit, that I opened a 2nd one the same month. The following month I offered a 3rd one and realized that I needed an office.
- I rented a tiny space on 4th & Brookes in Hillcrest and officially opened Pura Buena Onda in 2007.
- I worked out of that office until 2009, when it became too small.
- I moved to North Park, to our current office in 2010.
- By mid-2010 I realized I needed help and hired 2 teachers. At that point we had grown from 3 classes to about 15.
- Each year PBO has grown by a few classes and we have added teachers as needed, from a variety of countries.
- In 2013 we added a second classroom and started offering 26 classes per week.
- Today PBO is a perfect combination of my passions, which are teaching, learning new things, meeting & getting to know interesting people, and providing outstanding service.
- At this point we have 4 teachers from Mexico, 2 teachers from Colombia, 2 teachers from Spain, 1 teacher from Argentina, and myself, from Chile. I am incredibly lucky to say that we have the best team ever!
On a personal note:
I’m 50, separated, and live with the love of my life, Lola (the greatest dog on earth), in Normal Heights.
My favorite things include: dogs and spending time with my dog park friends, music, learning new things (just started learning Italian, a life-long dream of mine), podcasts, audiobooks, dance, cows, gardenias, art, the sky, the sunset, convertibles, comedy, reading, fuschia & orange, purple & green, giraffes (honestly, most animals in general), walking or just sitting on the beach, swimming, spending time with my family, ladybugs, musicals, iced coffee, silver rings, exploring new places, my colleagues, Southwest architecture, Coronado, The Grateful Dead, Ted Talks, NPR & PRI, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Led Zeppelin, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance and SO much more. But my favorite thing in the world is hearing people’s life stories, sharing with others, and building connections. There is nothing better in this world than good conversation. 🙂