Travels and changes

How much can change in six years? Well, it turns out pretty much everything. Hair colour (used to be kind of brown-and-blonde, now obnoxious red over far too much grey), goals (didn’t really have anything specific in mind other than ‘travel’ and ‘have adventures’, now aiming for early retirement somewhere warm with a farm and a goat), hobbies (used to be dancing at every opportunity, now brewing tropical ciders in my broom cupboard and tropical compost in my garden) and a host of other superficial and more profound things.

A younger me in pursuit of adventures. Shortly pre-CELTA

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It’s Life, Jim, but not as we know it

Recent conversations:

Me (M): “Ummm, there’s this job going in Burma that looks quite interesting. Lots of training, and it’s in that bizarre new city that they’ve built as the capital but no one lives there yet. Whaddya reckon?”

Wonderboy (W): “Hmm, could be good. Let’s keep an eye on it. What about this university job in Ho Chi Minh City? We liked Vietnam when we visited. All that fresh fruit and veg.”

M: Yeah, that’s definitely one to keep in mind. There’s a half decent job going in Hanoi, too.

W: I don’t think we’d like the weather in Hanoi.

M: There’s a brilliant job going in Cali, starts January. It’s perfect for us and I’ve always wanted to go back to Colombia!

W: No, even with the Delta, it’ll be a bit too soon to go back to South America. Let’s keep looking in Asia.

M: Yes, and I can keep my fingers crossed for the Pyongyang job to come up again.

W: You and Pyongyang. I just don’t get it.

M: Anyway, let’s see what’s going…

M&W: … after the Delta!

Yes. These are extracts from what constitute real conversations in my household. Five years after I jetted out from Heathrow to Mexico with a vague intention of travelling, doing a bit of light teaching here and there if I wanted to stay somewhere a while, and doing my best to make it twelve good months out of the country in the wake of the election that got my job abolished, teaching has become my career and travelling is the name of the game.

September 25th has rolled around again and prompted me to take stock this time not only of the past year, but of the five years since I left home and set my sails for the horizon. More

Oh, the places we’ll go.

Or, adventures in expatting (verb, intransitive – the habit of living in countries that aren’t one’s own).

Booyah, Shakespeare, I just invented a word, too.

Or so I thought. This is a verb that has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness for a while, but it wasn’t until I idly looked it up to discover a raft of references in the Urban Dictionary that I realised why I feel part of neither one world or another. Even the wryly humorous term expatbagger (see note) seems to me to refer to someone who moved to one different country and then returned to their home country, rather than someone who left their original country, has travelled around and lived in a couple of others, and just hasn’t gone back home yet. In my current place of residence there are a high number of transient, short-term contractors passing through in a similar manner to me, but this is an exception. In previous places I’ve found myself part of a community who have moved in and stayed long-term. So what should I call myself that would fit the bill? More

“No tengo lapiz.” Linguistic acquisition and the ESL teacher

언필이없서요 (yonpil-ee obsoyo). A recent addition to my catalogue of chunks of Korean, of which I now know a range, none of which are related to each other enough to form sentences let alone serve any useful, communicative purpose. Meaning, “I don’t have a pencil,” this, like the Spanish phrase for the same dilemma in this post’s title, is the extent of my on-the-job language learning.

The situation is reciprocal. I learn phrases like, “I haven’t got a pencil,” “I’ve finished”, and bathroom,” in the language of the country I’m living in. The under-10s I encounter in those countries in turn learn the words, “TEEEEEacherrrrrr” (with bored / outraged / despairing inflection depending on the situation) “No homework pleeeeeeeaaazzzzz,” and, astonishingly, all the words to the latest Disney / One Direction song (depending on grade level). Neither I nor they seem to get much beyond this point. More

An anniversary

Three months! Darnit, mi gente, I really let the ball drop, roll under the cheap seats, sneak off out of the ballpark and head post-haste for the getaway vehicle. Well, it’s certainly time to get these nimble blogging fingers limbered up again. And I plan to start with a reflection.

September 25th marks the day each year where I reflect on my life since I took redundancy and headed for the exit. The first year it fell just after I cancelled my return flight and made a go of life abroad, longer term. Things were still very uncertain. I was living in a guesthouse in a small, Peruvian jungle city eating lentils and boiled eggs, both of which I boiled in a cheap electric kettle. Yes. In the kettle. In the tiny bathroom. Hell, those were the days.

By the end of my second full year away from home, life was somewhat more stable and involved things like frying pans and salad bowls again, generally used in a kitchen. This, while less pioneering, was probably a much healthier sign for both my digestion and my prosperity in general. I had managed to squeeze in a visit home to take the edge off the homesickness any traveller feels after the novelty and regular emails and dispatches to and from home start to dwindle. I caught England in the midst of a glorious English summer: the 2012 Olympics, an epic thunderstorm, walks through the Essex wheatfields and strawberry-picking all reminding me why it takes a journey to realise a home. More

Feathered friends

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