Living in the Daylight

I should be grading papers right now, but I’m procrastinating, and figured I’d update this since it’s been almost 6 months.

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe my life since returning to the States. Within 12 hours of landing, I had taken the test to get my teaching certificate in Florida, and started two classes for my gifted endorsement within a week. I also met up with a friend from high school, an amazing man who I’ve since been dating.

Between getting a charter school up and running in its first year, working with entirely new curriculum and a wonderful but challenging group of children, being on our third director, and driving back and forth between Ormond, Deltona, and Orlando, almost every moment of my days have been filled. I spend on average 12 hours a day at school, trying to plan, but mostly grading papers and getting caught up with what we’ve already done. I am taking another endorsement course that ends in December on Tuesday evenings, and I haven’t been very good about keeping up with that class because I feel like I have to complete my grading for my current school before I start doing my homework for the class where I’m a student. I’ve also been dealing with lots of random strange events, such as raccoons breaking into my house and jumping on my bed.

Despite being incredibly busy, Thad and I have managed to do quite a bit in the past few months, and I’m really looking forward to attending the Orlando Calling festival this weekend with him. We’re also planning on visiting our friends up in DC after Christmas, and doing a western Europe trip this summer (as well as Bulgaria).

So hopefully I’ll be able to find time at some point to go back and finish my trip to Greece, as well as write about the rest of what I saw in Turkey before I left, and before I go to DC. We shall see.



Ephesus and Sirinci

I’m going to post this and a few other posts a  little differently than the rest of my posts. Usually the images would be accompanied by an account of the day, and explanations of the places and things pictured. However, since I started this draft more than a year ago and never published it, I’m simply going to post it unfinished for now, and possibly come back and add the narrative to it later. 



Another brick in the wall

I am constantly made to feel like just another person, just another teacher, just another body walking around in this school.

Last week, my students went on a field trip on Thursday in the morning. I am scheduled to teach all morning, and then leave after lunch, as it’s my half day. No one told me that the students were going on a field trip, and the information wasn’t published in our emails. So essentially I came into work for four hours, and then left without ever having seen a student.

Today, I had several students in my first class tell me that they weren’t going to be at school tomorrow, and could they have their Friday homework today. I didn’t think anything of it until I went into the next class, when another several students told me the same thing. Having six students absent in one day was more than abnormal, so I went to go ask the vice principal if there was something happening tomorrow. She said the students were going on a field trip tomorrow, and I should give them my homework today since I wouldn’t see them tomorrow. So I went back to my lesson, and finished teaching.

After the lessons were over and we were at lunch, I went to talk to the other foreign elementary teachers. Neither of them had heard anything about it. So then I went to ask if we’re going on the field trip with the kids or not (as it seems like a fun trip – Galata tower, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Sultanhamet), but we were told that there was only one free teacher’s ticket for every ten students, and that there weren’t enough for the foreign teachers. So then we tried to talk to the principal about either going with the students, or not coming in to school at all, as it would be a waste of a day. The principal said she had no clue about it, and wanted to know why we didn’t either. So, the principal had no idea what was going on, or why we weren’t informed, and literally threw up her hands and said “What do you want me to do?”.  And later I get a text telling me that I can go on the field trip if I want, but I have to pay 65 lira because there are no more free tickets. And if I don’t come in tomorrow, they’ll take it as one of my sick days.

So, I was not informed (yet again) about a change in schedule that directly affected me. I was not included in my students’ activities, and I am being asked to come in to work for no other reason than “because I said so”. My students are going to be gone all day, and at this point I’m not doing any more lesson plans. What’s the point if they keep changing everything around at the last minute? Why should I plan ahead if they don’t?

22 teaching days and 31 calendar days until the students’ last day. 36 days till my last day at Kultur. 55 days until I leave for England. 68 days until I’m back home. I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can…

What’s the reason?: Egypt and regret

Do you ever get a strange feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think back on something you’ve done that was particularly embarrassing, stupid, disappointing, shameful, or otherwise unpleasant? Usually, this feeling tends to subside with time, and after a while, you remember neither the feeling, nor the event that caused it.

Though it’s only been three months since I was in Egypt, the feeling I get when I think about when I was there, or see pictures posted by my friends, is still just as strong. Oddly enough, I don’t get this feeling when I’m watching the news about Egypt. It’s purely when I’m exposed to something more personal and more connected.

I don’t mind telling people about when I was there. The conversation doesn’t usually linger on the subject too long, and normally we move on to something else before the feeling hits. But sometimes that sinking knot is there when Egypt is brought up, and sometimes it isn’t, and I can’t quite figure out why. What is it about these conversations I have that causes, or doesn’t cause, this feeling? Even now, as I’m writing about it, I can feel it creeping up, but it’s not quite present yet. What is it that I do, or say, or see, or think, that causes this reaction?

I’ve noticed that the feeling is strongest when looking at other people’s pictures from Cairo and Egypt. Based on that alone, perhaps what I’m feeling is jealousy. Maybe I’m jealous that other people got to see things, like the pyramids, that I was forced to miss out on. But that doesn’t quite work out, mainly because I have so many friends now who have traveled the world, and seen far more than I have, and the feeling doesn’t apply there. Case in point – my friend James. He has just completed a year-long round-the-world trip. He included south-east Asia, Oceania, South America, and Mexico on his itinerary, and he’s been to places I’ve never even heard of before. Of course I’m jealous of him. But not in a bad way, not even remotely. Every time I hear about another crazy adventure he’s had, it just makes me happy that he’s experiencing all these awesome things that would make anyone covetous, and that stomach knot is nowhere around. So, ixnay jealousy.

How about regret? Hmm. Do I regret going to Egypt? Not in my normal definition of the word, no. I would define regret as wishing that you hadn’t done something. And I certainly don’t wish that I hadn’t gone. I’m actually glad I went, as it’s certainly going to be one of the more memorable events of the past year, if not the past decade. Websters lists another definition for regret as “a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.”. Well, when you define it in that sense, maybe I do harbor some regret. I certainly feel disappointed about my time there, for multiple reasons. I was there. I was in Africa. In Egypt. In Cairo. And I saw hardly anything. I spent my nights at the airport, and my days in a cab. I could just make out the pyramids in the distance through the dirt of the passenger window and the dust outside. Everything was closed, so I couldn’t buy the Christmas presents for my family that I’d been planing, and I couldn’t find my friend, whom I’d been wanting to see. I couldn’t even get out of the city because all public transport was shut down. I knew my trip wasn’t going to be like what I’d originally planned, but I thought there might be one or two things I could do while I was there and still avoid the protests. But the protests consumed everything, from water to food to flights, and there was no getting around it.

And maybe that’s the worst part of my regret. Maybe, if I’d been in a hostel overlooking Tahrir Square, able to actually see what all the newscasters were in the midst of, it might be different. But then again, when I hear stories like that of Lara Logan, an experienced war correspondent who had an entourage to protect her and was still assaulted, I know that being in the midst of it on my own probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea. So yeah, I was there, but I wasn’t really there. I saw the peripheral effects of a massive political shift in a mid-eastern country, but I didn’t really experience anything, except inconvenience. Maybe that’s what I regret, is that my experience was completely mediocre, when it could have been amazing in so many different ways.

Or maybe I’m just pouting because I didn’t get to see the pyramids.

The end of an era?

Since my last update, I’ve received, and accepted,  an offer to be part of the family at the Galileo School for Gifted Learning in Sanford, Florida. This is the job I was hoping and praying for, and though it seems like the work is just beginning, I can’t wait to really get started.

I’m still working out the details for the summer, and I’m not sure if I’ll have time to go to England like I’d planned, though I really hope that I still can. But now that I know for sure I’m going home, and it’s to a stable, secure, well-paying job, I’ve been thinking about the things I’m going to miss about living abroad, and the things I’m looking forward to when I go back home. There’s also the flip side to that – the things I won’t miss about living abroad, and the things I’ve thankfully forgotten about living in Florida. Here’s a few of the things that have crossed my mind:

Things I’ll miss from abroad:

  • Access to real international food, not the American version of it
  • The ease of meeting people from different cultures and countries around the world
  • Most of the English-speakers I meet are well-traveled and open-minded
  • Easy access to cheap(er) international travel
  • The constant reminder that even though I’m living here, I’m still traveling
  • Public transportation (though Istanbul doesn’t come close to Seoul on this one)
  • Living rent free and in my own apartment
  • Cheap or non-existent bills
  • No car insurance
  • Having a reason to keep a travel blog
  • Living in the history and culture of another civilization
  • Mountains and hills (i.e. scenery)
  • Not having to pay taxes
  • Learning a lesser-known language within the culture where it’s spoken
  • Knowing a multitude of people who are fluent in two or more languages
  • Picking up (and using) local expressions, like “oof-ya” and “chin-cha?”
  • Knowing the pictures I take are of things that my family has never seen
  • No sales tax (wysiwyp – what you see is what you pay)
  • Low/no tipping
  • Seasons

Things I miss from Florida:

  • Understanding every conversation I overhear
  • Being able to read and understand the labels on the stuff in the grocery store
  • The ability to have a full and complete conversation with a complete stranger (i.e. the sales-guy behind the counter at UPS or the hair dresser) without a second thought
  • The convenience and 24-hour-ness of a Super Walmart (or Target, or K-Mart, or whatever)
  • Being within 1,000 miles of family and friends when there’s a birthday, holiday, marriage, graduation, or any other special event.
  • Getting my own mail
  • Health insurance
  • Being able to file a 1040EZ instead of … that other one
  • The freedom/responsibility of  having a car
  • Already knowing how to get from one place to another, without having to look up bus/subway times/stops
  • Understanding the culture and knowing what is acceptable and not acceptable within the confines of a certain situation, or knowing what’s legal and what’s not
  • Sea breezes
  • Homemade meals
  • My book collection
  • Having a local library that carries books that are all in my language
  • Teaching subjects, not English
  • Riding bikes with my dad and getting hugs from my mom
  • Jobs aren’t usually one-year contracts, but open-ended agreements for employment

Things I won’t miss from abroad:

  • Dealing with an 8-13 hour time zone difference with everyone from ‘back home’
  • Having to Skype every time I want to talk to my parents, and dealing with “hello, can you hear me?” when the video doesn’t work
  • Having to wire money home every time I need to pay for something online
  • Lack of direct deposit options
  • My lack of fluent language ability
  • Having to keep up with, deal with, and having no control over, currency exchange rates
  • Bad pop music (though it seems like this will still be a problem when I go back)
  • The expense and difficulty of finding English language books
  • Culture clashes
  • The possibility of things like earthquakes and bombings
  • Insane markups, or complete unavailability, of anything Western
  • Prices for shipping things home (or having people send things to me)

Things I don’t miss from Florida:

  • Junk mail
  • Lack of access to cheap(er) international travel
  • Lack of undulations in the landscape
  • Things like tabloids, reality tv, and the people of Walmart
  • Mosquitoes and roaches
  • No decent public transportation
  • The mindset that America is the end-all-be-all of everything
  • Tourist season and snowbirds
  • Gas and gas prices

So, is this the end of my era of traveling? I have no idea. I left three years ago with the idea that “I’ll try it out for a year and see how it goes”, and three years later I’m not really ready to come back. But finances, job-opportunities, and family can’t be ignored, and even if I never live abroad again, I know this is by no means the end to my travels. I’ve been given a taste of the world, and I’ll never be full.