Tag Archives: moving overseas

Continued Transitions

Every week I think about writing a new blog post and every week I get so overwhelmed with all my new experiences, I can’t decide which one to write about, so I don’t write at all. I’m reasonably relaxed now, a week into my Winter Holiday break from school, and decided to put words onto digital paper.

I’m excited with my choice to live and work in India, but the transition stages of culture shock seem to be taking longer to process through, as compared to when I moved to Istanbul in 2013. In Turkey, I remember feeling invigorated to be living in a new-to-me Muslim country and experiencing life in a historically rich, city with new tastes, languages, sights and sounds. As I reflect, there were many things that were familiar to me already.

Turkey is a European country and I’ve traveled to Europe many times. Istanbul has four seasons, just like in Texas. I had been a tourist in Istanbul two years prior to moving there. Western fashion brands are common. Surprisingly, there were Victoria’s Secret billboards up on the main roads. There was a clean and modern metro to get you around from place to place. The city of Istanbul has city services in place, such as trash removal and recycling. Metro and bus cards were easily topped up. I could always find a relatively clean public toilet if I needed one. Although Turkish foods were new to me, fruits and vegetables were the sizes and shapes that I knew and had used in the USA. There were so many dogs and cats on the streets and these animals were common to me. I knew at least something about several of the great civilizations in historical Turkey: Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. Islam is different from Christianity but because Islam, Judaism and Christianity all recognize Abraham as their first prophet, they have a lot in common.

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In contrast, there is very little here in Chennai that seems familiar to my western understanding of the world. It is both bewildering and exciting. My local, Indian friends have said there are 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. It is tropical here and I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a tropical environment before. The trees, plants and flowers are so different. There are some fruits and vegetables that I know, but there are many more that I don’t know and have never even seen pictures of. And the foods here are prepared with an understanding of the medicinal effects of each food and spice. I had never traveled to India before moving here to live. Chennai, with a population of approximately 10 million, has limited city planning. There are very few city services available in the way that I’m used to. There is public transportation that the locals use but I don’t (yet) feel comfortable using the buses and trains by myself. There are many new forms of transportation to me including tuktuks, or autoricks, and so many, many motorbikes. The rules of the road are completely different to me and I can’t begin to imagine driving here. There are dogs and cats that live on the street, but also cows, donkeys and goats, monkeys, tropical birds, bats, lizards and strange insects. In north India there are also camels and elephants roaming on the street. Tigers, half-horse-half-cow sort of animal called a blue bull nilgai and so many more exotic-to-me animals live in this country. The beautiful clothes that most women wear are certainly not western. Cotton and silk are the preferred fabrics. In most cases, the recipes for cooking are completely new to me, including the spices. For many years in Dallas there were only a few Indian restaurants. The food here in Chennai is not like anything I’ve ever had or tasted in the USA. Thankfully, many Indian people have immigrated to Dallas and new, authentic Indian restaurants are now opening. Although Christians, Muslims and Buddhists live here, the Hindu religion is the most noticeable, and certainly the most different, to me. There are temples and alters on every block. Flower, fruit and oil lamp offerings are made daily and small businesses exist on the street to provide the commodities needed for these daily rituals. The smells and sounds coming from these holy places do not connect to any memory in my life experiences. There are 30 MILLION gods. Hard, manual labor exists and you see it everyday. An American friend said, “Although I’ve worked all my life, as an American, I’ve never really worked a day in my life.” And, for good or for bad, the ugly is not hidden away.

After living here for two months, I consciously passed through a new phase of transition when I received my bank debit card, figured out how to order groceries online and figured out how to take a tuktuk to/from school everyday. These three things caused my transition to blossom into positive possibilities.

After living here for four months, I recognized the amazing difference it made to befriend Indian people as they held the secrets to understanding this new way of life. Within these friendships, I could ask questions without offending. They see that I am truly curious and am eager to learn. I am so grateful for these people that have shown up in my life as they are making all the difference in my transition.

Are you aware of the transitions of your own life?

 

 

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Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

alliswellFly away.

A friend compared it to living inside a hair dryer, and it’s true. The blissful temperatures of San Diego made for a rude awakening when I arrived in Dallas this week. 105-degree temperatures help me let go of this place I’ve called home for 28 years.

I’ve been able to see some folks, but mostly I’ve been packing and re-packing and making difficult decisions on what to take with me, and what to leave, for the hundredth time. My school gave me a generous excess baggage allowance, but my international teacher friends reminded me to be ruthless and to only bring absolute necessities. They told me that whatever I heaved over, I’d have to hoist back. Meditating on this thought caused me to clear out the contents of one more container.

Three international teacher friends I’ve made this year have already departed to their new countries: one to Switzerland, one to China and one to Ethiopia. During the stressful days of interviewing at recruitment fairs, the connections you make with people are emotional and friendships can develop quickly. I look forward to staying in touch with these friends and comparing their new experiences to mine.

My favorite hours spent this week were with my Mom. We went out to breakfast two times, talked non-stop and watched a special TV series on Istanbul called, “A Short History of the World.” She is excited for me and I hope she can come visit one day and see the great, preserved histories of the Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman empires. She recently sent me a newspaper article about a young, mid-western man who has been living in Istanbul. Within the article, this quote, from Missouri native, Mark Twain, resonated with me:

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all of one’s lifetime.

This is one of the truest things I have ever read and describes my feelings exactly. I started dreaming of teaching overseas when I first visited Europe in 2006. Since then, I’ve been unraveling a big tangle of ideas and possibilities to make this dream come true. And here I am today, a few hours from arriving at the DFW Airport, about to fly 6,278 miles (think of the mileage points!!) to Istanbul. And yet, I’m already starting to dream about the next thing. I’ve learned to never stop dreaming, and casting your net, for all things are possible!

Please be patient with me as I begin to assimilate all that I’ll be involved with during the next few weeks. Two caring teachers, who remember what it’s like to be a newbie, have been organizing social outings for the next couple of weeks and I’m grateful. I’m sure I’ll be gathering many ideas to blog about!

The last few days I’ve been remembering back to all that I’ve done in the past two years, to make this dream a reality. It seemed overwhelming at first: finding ways to earn extra money, going through all my possessions and determining what to keep, store or sell, sorting through all my art supplies and artwork, and re-examining every area of my life, but I took baby steps, one day at a time, and it happened.  I’m not special. I’m not doing anything that isn’t available to everyone. What’s your dream? You can make it happen.

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Update #1

Crates to TurkeyFive crates to Istanbul.

1. Summer Clothes

2. Winter Clothes

3. Art Supplies/Teaching Resources

4. Shoes (winter and summer)

5. Household Items

My house is set to close this Thursday. I have to be out next Saturday. Vagabonding begins.

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50 ways to leave your lover (Part 2 of 3)

Get myself free.

From my point of view, the title of this 1975 Paul Simon song could also be 50 Ways to Leave Your Home, Your Family, Your Country, Your Job or Life As You Know It.

As my mentor to all-things-adventure, Chris Guillebeau said in his recent post titled, How To Go Everywhere, “We often feel paralyzed by choice and make no choice. But the thing is, no choice is a choice. If you’re not doing something about it, you’re doing something about it. So if you too want to travel and you’re trying to make a choice, just choose. If you want to go somewhere, what’s stopping you? That’s right, nothing.”

You just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

You don’t need to be coy, Roy

Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus

You don’t need to discuss much

Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free

This rendition is by Matteo Grondini.

I can remember the first time I heard Paul Simon’s voice. It was at my 3rd grade friend’s house in Merriam, Kansas. Kathy had 3 older siblings, one of whom was in college and his hair was just like Art Garfunkle’s. Not only was he handsome, but he drove a VW bug! From that day forward I paid attention to Simon and Garfunkle. Simon’s lyrics have come to mind many times over my lifetime as either my friends or I were wrestling with how to get out of a bad relationship. One can easily apply Simon’s lyrical advise to all kinds of other situations as well. Continuing from last week’s post, which refers to The Clash’s song, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, this week I will present an option on how to go and get yourself free.

Just go.

So how does one go about getting themselves free? I have been thinking about moving overseas for about five years. For starters, I’ll need to either sell or rent out my home that I still owe a mortgage on. From the expert advise of others who have moved overseas, I’m still left in a query; some say it’s great to have a place to move back to in the USA, others say, “Sell!” and be released of the burden of worry. Furthermore, I’ll need to sell my car and rid myself of accumulated material possessions. As an artist, I have artwork, books galore and art supplies that will have to be reckoned with. This is a daunting task as it has taken me my adult lifetime to accumulate these items. Do I get a storage unit (climate controlled I’m told…) or do I choose a POD? These answers will come to me over time I feel certain, but ultimately, I’ll just have to choose.

Part 2 of 3: ISS (International Schools Services)

Since 1955, International Schools Services (ISS) has been dedicated to providing international students access to a premier Western education. It is difficult for ISS to give me data regarding how many art positions are available each year because, unlike UNI, they have continual, year-round recruitment fairs at various locations around the world. Currently, ISS has five recruitment conferences scheduled in 2012-13 to include Philadelphia; Nice, France; Atlanta; Bangkok and San Francisco. There will be more posted as dates are confirmed.

In 2010, a variety of schools, in countries such as China, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, UAE and Vietnam, needed art teachers but each year the represented schools and countries are varied. There is no way to predict how many schools from how many countries will need art teachers each year. When I recently inquired there were 11 positions most recently available.

ISS also manages and/or owns 16 schools. Not only does ISS staff their own schools but they assist other schools in staffing theirs as well. An ISS representative told me that their recruitment fairs are somewhat selfish, as they try to get the best candidates for their own schools. ISS is deeply rooted in the international education community and there are many educators that have been placed by ISS.

A fee of $185 is required to participate in two recruiting seasons (Sept-Aug). It is strongly recommended for interested educators not to establish membership until they are ready to pursue an international teaching position.

When I asked ISS why their recruiting fair is “the best”, I was given this response:

“The dynamics of a recruiting conference have always included the anticipation of discovering the opportunities present and meeting those who can best describe their schools, their communities, and the positions available. The IRC [International Recruiting Conference] presents a tremendous learning experience and orientation to the overseas recruitment process, where one can learn from those currently working overseas and speak with the heads of international schools from all over the world. School administrators offer video and slide presentations so that candidates may picture the communities they may choose to join. These sessions also offer the opportunity for Q&A during small group settings. [Additionally,] International school heads participate on regional panels to discuss the realities of life and work in each of the five major continental areas. Candidates are encouraged to attend these sessions. In the candidate lounge, computer assistance is provided – with a bank of computers allowing email access. A copier is also provided. Regional guides and other print resources are provided for review, as well as brochures supplied by the schools in attendance.”

After applying, being approved and paying the registration fee, the best way to determine which ISS fair is best for you to attend is to see which schools registered for the fairs and which ones have positions that suit you. Most candidates attend the fair that is closest to their hometown.

An invaluable piece of advise was recently offered to me by a new friend who currently teaches art overseas. She suggested I join the organization International Schools Review (ISR).

This $29/year website membership is maintained by teachers, of all subjects, from all countries, who currently teach around the world. This amazing website boasts having over 5,000 reviews of international schools written by international teachers available to its members. This means if you decide to work with ISS, for example, and you “see” a teacher listing, let’s say, in Berlin, Germany, you can look up this school on International Schools Review and read many different teachers’ opinions about the school, the administration and the community. Additionally a Forum exists, where teacher-members can read about a variety of subjects. Members can also start new conversations, asking specific questions to these seasoned teachers.

A featured question in April 2012 was this:

How Do International Educators See Their Careers?

Teachers teaching all over the world, with a plethora of experiences answered. Three of the responses were:

Anonymous said:

“I’ve basically done my career already in NZ, so at age 50 decided to ‘retire’ and enjoy my love of traveling combined with teaching. It was a good idea! Highly recommend it.”

Loving Life said:

“My son completed first grade at home and has lived in five different countries, learned parts of five languages with 8 years of Chinese. He won the EARCOS Global Citizenship award last year, along with a $500 grant for a project he is involved with in an orphanage in Cambodia. He will graduate in a month with the IB diploma. I could never have done this as a single parent in the States. Moving overseas was the best decision I made. I hear my sister talk about teaching in the States and I feel so fortunate, even when things get difficult overseas. It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”

One day at a time says:

“Teaching overseas and being part of the world has been very rewarding and eye opening. My own children have truly been brought up as world citizens and have learned much more than they would have from textbooks. Their lives aren’t about being proud Americans but about being proud world citizens.”

So there you have it. Already it’s a hard decision between UNI and ISS and next week I’ll be reviewing Search Associates. Do I pay all three application fees? Do I go to UNI and chance the weather? Do I go to a recruitment fair or just take my chance interviewing with Skype? Lots of decisions and when it’s time, I’ll just choose.

Do you have any experience working in a foreign country?

Thanks for reading.

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