The red shoes – a tale of twelve countries

On starting work and getting to know new classes, a favourite game is two truths and a lie. Everyone has to think of two true (and preferably interesting) statements about themselves, and one lie, and their new classmates can ask questions to find out which statement is false. It’s a great icebreaker for the group and, if you do a demonstration as the teacher, the group gets to know a bit about you, too, which helps in building productive rapport.

Recently, Wonderboy played this game with a new class and included the statement, “I’ve been to eight countries this year” as one of his interesting facts. This threw the whole game out of order as no one in the room could believe such a thing could be true! In fact, even for me the last twelve months have involved an epic amount of travel. Travel all witnessed by a pair of cheap pumps which I bought this time last year, specifically to see me through the biking holiday I went on last June.

Here, from the perspective of the Red Shoes, is a photo record of my travel adventures, June 2015 to June 2016.

Red Shoes' first day out - Seoul

Red Shoes’ first day out – Seoul

June 2015: In Korea. Seoul to Busan bike ride. The red shoes are purchased as a cheap and cheerful alternative to wearing ugly sports shoes so that I only have to travel with one set of all-purpose footwear. I was so pleased with both my new shoes and my new photography skills that I spent five minutes taking artful photos of them in the park. They saw me through the journey perfectly, although it wasn’t so much fun when I tried jogging in them once we reached the beach!

Sneakily, I completed the full route a couple of months later by adding the Yeoido to Ara Hangang Sea Lock section (near Incheon airport) in late August. This added an further 40km to the total, and a couple of extra stamps in my ‘bike passport,’ one of my best-ever holiday mementoes.

September 2015: End of contract holiday to Tokyo, Japan. Packing up to leave Korea and move to Thailand for three months to study meant I’d shipped home my winter clothes and shoes and given away or binned all but essential items. The Red Shoes, having proven their usefulness, were definitely coming on my travels to uber-stylish Tokyo!

Later in September 2015: The move to Thailand, where I spent two months studying hard and a month travelling to relax after I completed the course. What could come with me but my trusty red shoes? We traipsed mountains, towns, and many, many temples, as well as being lucky enough to experience the nighttime phenomenon of the Loi Krathong festival.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

December 2015: Packed up once again and headed home to England for my first visit in just over two years. On the way, we took advantage of our KLM flight to spend a day in the Netherlands soaking up the Christmas spirit in beautiful Amsterdam. Fortunately, it was in the grip of a very mild winter as I touched down, and a mere pair of red pumps was enough to keep my feet comfy and stylish during a trek around the canals.

December 2015 – January 2016: the UK. I would argue that, as we visited family in England, friends in Scotland, and a castle in Wales, this could count as three countries. Wonderboy, helpfully pointing out that much of the world often mistakes all of the UK as synonymous with London, disagrees. If Britain votes to leave the EU and Scotland goes gung-ho for independence once again, he might have to change his opinion.

February 2016: Vietnam. We came to move in and call the place home for a while. Instead we got a bonus six week backpacking trip and saw some of the most beautiful beaches, mountains, and historic sites south east Asia has to offer.

As well as beaches and temples, I saw the night parade of the yachts in the clipper round the world race while in the port city of Danang, and got to see them set off on their next leg – sprinting across the horizon.

The shoes came in for some considerable wear and tear during a solid six weeks of travel and exploration. People on the streets offered to repair them for me, spotting their evident state of distress. They definitely suited the communist colour scheme.

New culture, new horizons

New culture, new horizons
The Grand Mosque, Muscat

March 2016: work finally caught up with us and we made the move to the Middle East and our new home in Oman. The Red Shoes have been hanging in by a thread, quite literally, for some time, but they’re still just about serviceable so I insist on wearing them. It has only rained once since the start of April, so they’re perfectly serviceable for the climate.

June 2016: making the most of a month off work during Ramadan and Eid, and aware that there will be no further time off until December, we pack as light as we can and head for a cross-Balkan backpacking adventure. Other than trips home, this is my first holiday in Europe for about seven years and I’m excited to be travelling to places where I have at least a vague idea of the culture, language, and history.

Of course, I bring my trusty Red Shoes, forgetting that rain is a more common occurrence in Europe, even in the summer. Consequently, I spend at least one day squelching around the historic city of Sofia as rain seeps from the Roman cobbles through the numerous holes in my tired travel companions.

As I write this post, I’ve visited Istanbul (Turkey), Sofia (Bulgaria,) and Skopje and the stunningly beautiful lake Ohrid (FYR Macedonia), various gorgeous parts of Albania, and I’m resting up in the breathtaking Adriatic coastal town of Budva, Montenegro, marvelling at the number of different countries, cities and parts of the world I’ve travelled through in just one year. I’m also marvelling at the fact that four of the countries I’ve visited in this most recent trip are current candidate countries to join the European Union, while the fifth (Bulgaria) is already a member, whilst in my own imperious and recalcitrant country, polls that may well take us out of it have only just closed. I’ll sleep a fitful sleep hoping that the wiser, more internationally focused and cooperative minds prevail and that I wake tomorrow morning with an ongoing right to enjoy the best that Europe has to offer – both within my country and further afield!

Last June’s bike ride seems a lifetime away. By the time I return to Oman, I’ll have travelled through a further two countries, making this the biggest year for travel I’ve ever experienced. There are numerous pressures in teaching EFL as a career, but at times like this it definitely feels like I’ve made the right choices.

 

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