Preparations

After over two months of waiting since receiving the offer of employment from Malaysia, I find that I’m suddenly down to my last few days in the mountains. It’s been quite a long wait for all the paperwork to get processed, but I knew that once it was done, the leaving part would be quick. I’ve been preparing myself for this part for the last few months, but leaving home and family is never easy, especially when I tell them that I’m leaving in two days.

I’ve been telling myself to start packing since March since I’m incredibly awful at it, so I’ve been doing a little bit every day, reminding myself to stick to essentials only. My mentality about things has always been, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. However, that does not apply when there are things like airline weight limits and excess baggage fees to consider. I’d like to think that I’ve finally learned my lesson after the Vietnam debacle and I’m limiting myself to one suitcase this trip.

Ditching books is difficult for me, but after living abroad for two years, I’ve learned that it’s the most impractical thing to have. I’ve moved on to ebooks — with great sadness — but when it comes to reference books, I just can’t adjust to using a screen. Particularly when I’m lesson planning, I need to be able to flip through the book and litter it with post-its because that’s my process and that’s how I function. I’ve narrowed my reference library down to two essential books, though, and if weight limit permits, they’ll be the only books I take with me.

Resources is another thing. It’s an essential part of teaching, but it gets pretty heavy. I spent time digitising worksheets and handouts so that I could leave the physical paper behind and just refer to it on my laptop or print it off if I need it. A sheet of paper on its own weighs next to nothing, but a stack of them is another story — literally, when it’s a novel.

My challenge for this trip is probably going to be the stationery. I’ve reduced my post-its to less than a quarter already, which was difficult, but I just kept chanting “essentials” in my head over and over again. The fact that Malaysia’s stationery game is strong helps to narrow it down, though, when I know that I can easily just get it there if I need it.

Actually, I should really be packing right now.

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The Offer

The title pretty much gives away that I got a job offer from one of the interviews I did, but the suspenseful part is finding out which one! Just kidding — you won’t be left hanging for that long.

So, the first interview I did was for a two-month summer teacher position in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I haven’t been back there since I finished CELTA, and I always told myself I would go back since I liked it there and also I didn’t really get a chance to explore being so busy with the course. I felt that I had the advantage because I had experience teaching Vietnamese learners and I met all the other essential requirements, plus a desirable one. After nearly a four-week wait, I finally heard back from them the other day. They were very sorry to inform me that, after careful consideration, the panel felt unable to offer me the post. They did give me feedback about the interview though, and I thought that was pretty great.

The second interview I did was for a much longer contract period in Penang, Malaysia. I mentioned that I felt pretty good (I wouldn’t say completely confident) with how the interview went, and my feelings were not wrong because I was actually offered the job the day after the interview took place. I could hardly believe it. The Vietnam post was looking for 15 teachers and Malaysia was only looking for 1, I thought my odds were in Vietnam, for sure.

I can’t say that I was completely thrilled at first — actually, I panicked. The prospect of joining the British Council was incredible, but it wasn’t that. It was the fact that my passport was expiring and my appointment to renew it wasn’t for another week after that, plus the 2+ weeks it would take for the new passport to be released. I thought it was a possibility that they would rescind their offer because of that, but I told them and nothing terrible happened, so I was safe. I had to keep reminding myself that “everything happens for a reason” whenever I would start to worry. I kept saying that if anything were to happen to prevent it from happening, then it wasn’t meant to be, so keep calm and have faith in the universe.

Present day, I’m working on completing all the requirements they need for processing my work permit and visa — including spending 5 hours in the hospital yesterday for the medical — and I should be getting my new passport in a few days, so everything is working out so far. I can’t relocate yet until all the paperwork is done, so I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be heading over, but it probably won’t be long now.

I’ve been on my break for a lot longer than I’d anticipated. Things didn’t really go as planned, but it all seems to be falling into place anyway. It’s not exactly where I had hoped to be, but I love Malaysia, it’s always been the start of good things for me. It was the first foreign country I ever visited — the very first stamp on my passport, I got my first classroom teaching job there, and I don’t doubt that this time will open up another wonderful path.

Interviews

Working for the British Council has been my dream since completing CELTA. I think it’s safe to say that everything I’ve been doing in my career so far is to eventually get me to the BC. The last two interviews I’ve had with International House had me nervous and sweating. You can only imagine how it feels to have two British Council interviews in the same week. My sweat glands are basically on overdrive. 

I feel like the second interview went better than the first because I had an idea of what to expect and I felt a bit more relaxed, like I’d already done one, so I’ll be fine for another. The questions were a bit different for both, but I still feel my answers were much better the second time around. 

The first interview actually took place on my birthday. I’m sure that had nothing to do with anything, but I had a lot of blank moments. I’d spent the days leading up to the interview trying to get my holiday brain back into teaching brain — made sure I had the language and terminology back in my head. I went over the guides they’d sent me and went full-on nerd mode preparing answers for any possible questions. In the end, I still felt like words were falling out of my brain. 

I definitely feel that I did my best for both, though. It would be amazing to get either position that I interviewed for, but if it’s not the right time yet, at least I know that what I have so far is enough to get me interviewed and I’ll keep trying till I get there. 

Pursuing Creativity

I’ve been out of the classroom for a few months now, so I don’t have any teacher stories to tell, which should explain the lack of updates/posts. I do, however, have a job interview next week that I need to prepare for because it’s a pretty big one and I definitely, definitely want it. My only fear at this point is that I’ve been on a break for too long and that I’ve already forgotten how to lesson plan and teach (but that doesn’t happen, right?).

Back in January, I mentioned that I picked up a new hobby in brush lettering, doodling, and bullet journalling. I’m happy to report that I haven’t given up and I’m still at it.

Because I’m not really busy in terms of having a schedule, the bullet journalling has taken a back seat, but I still have a lot of fun creating my monthly spreads/calendars.

Every week, I try to create a mandala – “a complex abstract design that is usually circular in form” according to a Google search for a definition. I find the process very relaxing and almost meditative. Depending on how intricate I decide to make the patterns, it could take several hours to complete one. If I choose to do something a bit more simple, though, I could be done in an hour or less. I think my record so far is four hours in one sitting. Most times, though, I will take a break and do a little bit every day because it can be torture on the hand to go non-stop.

The area that I’ve focused on the most is brush lettering. This is something that I’ve been practising daily, sometimes a lot less than I should, but I do practise nonetheless. I joined an online class where I gained enough confidence to share my work and it got positive feedback which then led me to join two daily lettering challenges on Instagram. The challenges give you a prompt, usually a word, and you create something based on the prompt.

With all three creative pursuits, I enjoy the challenge that is presented in attempting to create something new, something different from the one before, something unique. Some days, it can be really difficult to get inspired, but I think that’s part of the process.

I honestly think that if I had jumped straight into another job after my previous one, I would never have done any of this creative stuff. I would have established a routine and I would have watched Netflix on my days off. I may not be great at any of it, but at least I know that I’m capable of it and that means a lot to me.

These are definitely things that I will make sure to keep in my routine once I’m back at work.

Penventory

Growing up, my pen purchasing abilities were limited to my allowance. I don’t remember how much money I used to get, but I’m sure it didn’t all go to pens because I know I used to buy books and other useless junk. Once I started making my own money, however, the possibilities were endless (as you’ll see).

Here are all the pens I own. Seeing them all together in front of me at the same time kind of put my crazy addiction in perspective – I have a lot of pens.

First up are the Staedtler triplus fineliners. A Christmas present and currently my favourite pens (the 6 neon pens were free!). I really like the case it comes in because it turns into a nifty stand and also makes it a lot easier to carry around or travel with.

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Stabilo Pen 68 (on the left) and point 88 (on the right). These were slowly accumulated over the span of two years from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.

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Brush pens. I’ve got the Tombow Dual Brush Pens (from my dad) and Koi Coloring Brush Pens (from Malaysia).

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Whiteboard markers – a must have for teachers (or so I tell myself). The Expo markers are from my dad in the U.S. and the Pilot markers are from Malaysia. The Expos are super light (to carry) and come in lots of pretty colours. The Pilots are cool because they’re refillable. I like both brands because they’re easy to erase from the whiteboard unlike some other pens that leave marks on the board even after considerable effort. I also like the chisel tips because you can write thicker lines which makes it easy to see even from far away (good for the students sitting at the back).

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Highlighters. The Zebra Zazzle pens (top left) are nice and bright. The Pilot Frixion pens (bottom left) are pastel and erasable. Then there’s the lone orange Paper Mate one (right) which I have because the Zebra set didn’t have orange.

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Sharpies. I’ve got ultra fine points (top left), regular fine points (right), and mini fine points (bottom left). I’ve also got Sharpie Paint pens, but I forgot to take a photo.

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Then there are the Crayola markers (left) and Paper Mate Ink Joy pens (right). I prefer click pens because you never have to worry about misplacing the cover.

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On the left, more Pilot Frixion pens – 2 Frixion Colors and 2 Frixion Clickers – all erasable. On the right, my mechanical pencils. My favourite is the blue Pilot Rexgrip 0.7 pencil. The purple one is a Paper Mate Quick Flip 0.5 and the green one was a gift from Japan from a friend. It comes with coloured lead.

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Then I’ve got the solo pens. My only Muji pen (top left) used for marking test papers (though my favourite eraser of all time is from Muji), a Micron 0.2 pen (top middle), and another Pilot that I like to use on coloured paper (top right). At the bottom are some Uniball pens (left) that I’ve had for over a decade and Creams milky gel pens from Malaysia (right).

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Lastly, I’ve got the pens I bought in Vietnam. Nice, clicky, 0.8 pens and some 0.38 gel pens.

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And that’s it! 170 pens (if my math isn’t wrong) + 7 Sharpie Paint pens (not pictured). This doesn’t include the stray pens that I happen to pick up or get free from workshops or elsewhere.

It’s definitely an addiction.

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Home

I’ve officially been on a break from teaching for two months now, half of which has been spent at home, up in the cold mountains. I’m enjoying being with my family, eating home-cooked meals, reading actual books with actual pages to turn, and drinking yummy cups of tea every day. I may never want to leave.

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I mostly stay home reading or practising my lettering and doodles. Some days I go for walks around the neighbourhood to stretch my legs, feel the cold air on my face, and get a bit of sunshine. Some days I go into town to run errands or see people (though that doesn’t happen often since I’m in full-hermit mode at the moment).

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to do with my career. I wanted to relocate to start a new chapter in a new city – and I still do – but my knocks have gone unanswered so far, which leads me to think that there might be another step I need to take before that specific door is ready to open.

If this was a few years ago, I’d probably be panicking and going out of my mind. But I know better now and I understand that things happen when they’re meant to as long as I stay focused, positive, and productive.

In the meantime, I’m quite happy being home, exploring my creativity, and experiencing indecision about which book to read next.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – The Alchemist

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2016 Highlights

I know that it’s basically halfway through January (where has the time gone?!) but I feel like I sort of neglected this blog in 2016, so I just wanted to post something to make up for it a little bit. Here’s a recap of the highlights.

Hanoi. The delicious food, the beautiful ceramics, the quaint scenery, the wonderful people.

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Paper. IH CYLT certificate, met the legendary Jim Scrivener and got him to sign his amazing book, and Best Teacher of the Quarter Award.

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Travels. I was able to do a bit of travelling which my passport was quite happy about.

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Stationery. It was a good year for stationery.

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🙂

Brush Pens

While I was browsing through Pinterest discovering the art of brush lettering, the most recommended pens were the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. There were pictures of the pens in the posts, but I had no idea how big they were until I actually saw one.

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The people who do the tutorial videos online make it look super easy. I’m still practising. 🙂

New Year, New Hobby

I’ve always had a thing for stationery for as long as I can remember. I don’t know why. I remember being in grade school and spending my allowance on things like pencils with smiley faces on them or erasers shaped like fruits. They didn’t erase particularly well, but they were nice to look at.

Before I moved to Malaysia a few years ago, my addiction to Post-Its slowly crept in until it reached ridiculous heights. While I was in Malaysia, the pen hoarding began. I think it started with the Sharpies. My time in Vietnam created some kind of monster. I think it was because I felt very stationery deprived there that when I was able to set foot into a properly stocked stationery section, I just wanted everything. And I bought it all.

I reasoned that I could put these to use in the classroom. But who was I kidding, there was absolutely no way I was going to let the kids have them after I’d seen what they were capable of doing to whiteboard markers and pencils I’d lent them. So my pens sat mostly unused.

Late last year, I discovered bullet journaling and brush lettering on Pinterest. I was initially drawn to brush lettering because the addict in me saw new pens that could be acquired for my collection. Also, I’d always been interested in calligraphy but had never quite gotten into it (regrettably). Bullet journaling, on the other hand, gave me a way to be creative – something that I’ve never really thought of myself as. The two of them together equals a use for my pens.

So this year, I’m trying to explore my creative side – whether or not I have one, and if I do, how much of it do I have? I’m trying to do something creative every day, even if it’s something as simple as lettering practice (because that stuff is not easy). I don’t think I’m completely terrible at it and I actually find it relaxing and enjoyable. Plus, my pens are getting used like they’re meant to be.

I’m really good at starting things and not sticking with it, but I’m hoping this will be different. I’ve just started so I’m not confident enough to post any of my work yet, but at some point, hopefully, I will.

Also – disclaimer – I’m not using this new hobby as an excuse to buy more pens.

 

Thanks, 2016.

Despite the numerous celebrity deaths, political craziness, and all the scary things happening around the world that have caused many to dub 2016 as “the worst year ever,” I can honestly say that 2016 has been a really good year for me, personally.

I’ve mentioned it a bit in my previous posts, but I’m happy to say again that 2016 has been professionally rewarding. A YL qualification, a promotion, teacher of the quarter award, another contract completed abroad, and so much learned in the classroom from trial and error, not to mention all the ideas and information I was able to exchange with my incredible colleagues.

I was able to experience another year in a different country, I was able to take little holidays and trips throughout the year, I got all the stationery I wanted, I spent time with my loved ones, and now I’m at home eating to my heart’s content. I honestly can’t complain.

I’m incredibly grateful for the year I’ve had. I am determined to do what it takes to ensure that the coming year will be just as fruitful, if not more so. It will be challenging to top the highlights and achievements of 2016, but I’m ready for it.

So thank you, 2016. You’ve been awesome.

Off to the next adventure.