I grew up in big, noisy capital cities. My life reads like the window of a smart shop, Johannesburg, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Strasbourg, Montreal. Winnipeg sort of ruins the look of the window. Trinidad is too small and exotic to make the window and who knows what is next? I haven’t been to a big city since July and I fear I might feel a little like a country bumpkin as I tread the streets of London. Hopefully my “cured” but formally serious bout of materialism won’t come creeping back and hopefully I will ingest enough culture, good food and fabulous window shopping to last me another 6 months. I used to think it was not worth living any where if not the top of the world, the capital big smoke but I think I have changed my mind. Sometimes the noise of a big city drowns out the important noise inside my head. Having said that, put me in the country for more than 4 days and watch me go mad.
Expat life is a bit like living in a bubble. As I step out of the bubble for the next 10 days I am excited to see how I feel. Bumpkin or fabulous world wanderer coming home?
Three auspicious things going on today. It is Chinese New Year, and the Year of the OX at that, it is Australia Day, so that means lots of BBQs on the beach in OZ and it is my dear friend Clare’s 40th and that means a big O. That is an interesting thing, especially because the biggest O of them all is the Oh nO! It is me next! I am turning 4O.
This will probably become a common theme in the weeks and not so many months ahead. I am trying hard to embrace this fact. Of course, I do not mean, by embracing, anything to do with letting the hair go grey and letting it all hang out. No. I mean the 40 is the new 30, it is the best time of your life thing. Hmmmmm.
But if my friend Clare can do it with such panache; she had flown down here to Trinidad from a chilly NYC to celebrate (see the “celebrate” instead of “commiserate”?) the big day, she has two yummy daughters, a lovely Swedish, marathoner, diplomat husband and a gorgeous pregnant belly. She is also lovely, and has been like a sister to me since I was 11. If she can throw 40 together, toss it up in the air and catch the confetti, then I can too.
It’s funny how different my daughters are . One brushes her hair three/four times a day, loves to borrow all my lotions and potions, soak in bubble paths and spend hours choosing the perfect outfit. She is soft, self aware and very feminine. He older sister needs to reminded to cut her nails, shave, sometimes even wash her hair. She is a natural beauty but doesn’t care too much about clothes, would rather be comfortable.
Is this nature or nurture? Did I focus more on one’s prettiness than the other or are they just wired this way? One has a voracious appetite, the other eats like a bird. One knows how to play the charming game, can coyly say just the right thing to get what she needs; her sister is so concerned with telling the truth, she has no concept of conveniently leaving out facts for the sake of diplomacy.
As much as one is intensely curious and needs to know it all now, her relaxed sister is content to let things lie until the moment determines her need. One loves to play with babies and small children, always the first to help out and show her maternal and nurturing side. She is empathetic to a fault and loved by many friends. This comes from a drive inside her that needs the affection of others. Her independent sister likes the limelight to shine on her and at times lacks the empathy she needs.
Someone wise once told me that we never love one child more than another. It is just that some children are easier to love. In fact some people are easier to love. In my classroom I don’t have to try and treat all my students equally. I do. It is easy to like them all, truly I have come across very few that I have disliked. But having said that there are some students, just as there are some people, that shine. There is one girl who sits in a corner with a smile and a gaze that glows. She is a person that will glow through life. Easy to like, easy to teach , she is popular amongst both teachers and peers. Life will come much easier to her, just as it does to all people that are charismatic, smart and attractive. There is another student who is prickly. Many students are rubbed the wrong way by him. He is stubborn, arrogant, talkative, crude and often contrary. And yet. There is something gentle and brilliant and vulnerable about him. I can see through the bristly exterior to some thing deep inside. I know that it will take a special and patient person to find that core and appreciate it.
I realize now that the reason I love to teach is that I love people. I am too optimistic to be a misanthrope. I know that I will never reach some, there are people who walk out of my class and instantly forget what we did. But I do not consider that a failure. They were there for a time and if I did my job right they will remember most of it some of the time. And truthfully I am not being altruistic. I am not only there for them. I am there for me.
I wonder what kind of students my girls are?
Words that should be struck:
Salmon kamikaze sushi
There are a lot of things I have trouble accepting. There are a lot of reasons that I sometimes get angry. It is called baggage everyone has it, some more some less; basically you can either carry it and complain or leave it behind.
I have gripes. I live in the sun and love my job but I have my own things I need to make peace with .
1.I will never have loads of money. My financial projections were all wrong. Now I am trying to make that okay in my head. I have a theory that richer people have more heart disease because they are stressed from all that hard work and worry about getting the latest bag and keeping track of all the cash. I, on the other hand just need a bit more money and I’ll have a healthy heart.
2.I will never have very long thin shapely legs,with gorgeous calves and delicate ankles. Not much to be happy about there. Not sure I can love my body but can probably learn to like it, a bit.
3. Elements of my childhood that I have to shrug off. Like a fluffy dandelian I just need to count and blow. Or turn it into fluff.
4.I have certain tendencies to be bossy and controlling towards the gentle and handsome man I live with. I need to accept him exactly the way he is. It is interesting that a lot of strong and bossy women try to change aspects of their husbands, some even to the point of divorce. Eventually, and for most women this is after the kids leave home, she has a choice. Stay or go. (Sometimes the husband shocks her by being the one to turn round and leave). Wouldn’t it be great to start accepting the husband earlier and just enjoy the ride?
So there it is. Money/Body/Man.
The point I am trying to make is really a question. Does acceptance come with age? (Not for everyone, mind you, some stay poor fat and bitchy), but there are those who make peace with it all and are much happier.
So this is my big epiphany:
Happiness simply comes from not being mad anymore.
So there I was on the beach and I was alone with my husband, it was sunny, the place was empty, the light was gorgeous and it was a THURSDAY!
When I got home from school at 2pm I had flumped on the sofa and said “I’m bored” . I didn’t want to face another afternoon of homework, a nap, some tv and then dinner. “I wish we could DO something” I whined.
The handsome man I live with who luckily is not at work these days suggested we go to the beach. I knew this would not go down well the girls. As I suspected, they stomped and got cross and complained and suffered and pulled faces so I said “FINE!” I got a baby sitter, slipped jiggled into my bikini and off we went. Within 40 minutes I had a green sands in my hand, sand on my toes and my face in the sun. There was even a gentle breeze just to make it more perfect. After talking like uninterrupted grown ups we went for a swim then came out and had ANOTHER green sands (wow, ginger beer!) the drive home involved sandy bare feet on dashboard, wind in hair, a great view, golden dappling light and some very cool French tunes.
Why is this the first time I have done this?
Some people have date night, with a meal and maybe a movie. I am going to initiate Thursday afternoon dates. It’ll totally be worth the 20 in baby sitter $$$$.
And coming home all sandy in the middle of the week is really a slice of heaven.
Back to school, back to real life. The problem with holidays is that towards the end I fear them ending. I can’t imagine ever going back to my real life and the hard routine of waking at 6 and dragging our selves through breakfast and into school. Day 2 and I am fully back in the swing. That alarm clock is evil, however.
Routine, discipline, getting out of the house, talking with other humans; these are all imperative to my sanity. The first few days of vacation are a blissful stream of hours spent doing nothing. Guilt free nothing. Three weeks later, guilt sets in and I am gnashing at the bit to get out.
On the 28th of January I am going to London to the International Teacher’s Job fair. (CIOS) I will be leaving my children with the capable handsome man I live with and my students in the hands of a sub. (They will not be happy).
The CIOS School fair takes place in a London hotel over 4 days. Interviews will be held and most applicants will be offered a job by the end of the fair. I have picked London so I can visit family and enjoy some London culture and shopping at the same time! I have fantasies about a waiter, white table cloths and being served cold wine with a very good meal.
Out of the 102 schools attending the fair 35 are looking for English teachers and of those I would instantly rule out about 20 so here’s hoping I get an interesting offer from the other 15! The short list as it stands today is this:
Ghana (sounds amazing!)
UK (I have no IB experience so unlikely)
Paris (See above)
Amsterdam (see above)
San Francisco (would love it!)
Beijing (At first I ruled this out but then looking at the school it seems very interesting)
Jordan (not sure, maybe)
Egypt (the job is not really my profile but I would love Egypt.)
Laos (Very remote, but looks good.)
Oman (could be cool.)
Dubai (only if I really have to)
These are rejected:
Saudi Arabia (are you mad?)
Switzerland (snooty expensive boarding school)
Germany (not keen on living in Bavaria)
Malawi (A fundamentalist missionary school)
Ecuador (would love it but what would husband do there?)
Ukraine (too cold and Russian)
Kazakhstan (see above)
In case you are confused there are multiple jobs in many of the countries so the numbers do add up.
All will be revealed on February 2nd. (I hope).
“The Future’s so bright I have to wear shades?”
I am running so fast I need to lose the heels?”