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.

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Post-Vietnam Update

I haven’t been very good about writing over the last month or so — I got busy and writing took a back seat. But here I am, in an attempt to recap the highlights of the last few weeks.

My final week at work went by rather quickly. I had a nice farewell dinner with my colleagues on my final Sunday, and they gave me the traditional farewell card with lovely notes and well-wishes on my last day (a Tuesday) that I was quite touched by.

I spent another ten days in Vietnam after my contract ended, mostly packing up my apartment and eating at my favourite places. I did pretty well with throwing away and giving away my things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly enough.

My check-in luggage was spot on at 40kg and I knew my carry-on was overweight for sure, but I decided to try my luck anyway. Checking in went smoothly and she didn’t weigh my carry-on so I thought I was going to get away with it. When I was about to go through to immigration though, the guy at the gate stopped me and told me that I had too much stuff. I attempted to argue with him, but he had weighing scales for eyes. I had to go back to weigh my stuff and eventually ended up paying for excess baggage.

I suppose I deserved it. I’d been lucky with that kind of stuff in the past and I always told myself I’d minimise to avoid having to go through that again in the future, but then never did it. So I see this as my final lesson — it took an exorbitant penalty to make it stick.

The next three weeks I spent on holiday in Singapore and Malaysia. I very much enjoyed going to the bookstores and seeing proper stationery options and displays after being so deprived of it in Hanoi. I was like a little kid so excited in the store, but at the same time Christmas songs were playing (which I despise), so I felt very conflicted. Also, lots of ramen.

Now I’m back home for the holidays stuffing my face with home-cooked food. It’s been nice being able to take a break from work for a while. I get to spend time with loved-ones, clear my head, and reboot for next year. Things I definitely need. Can’t think of a better way to end the year.

Happy holidays!

One Month Done

As of the 27th, I’ve officially been living in Vietnam for a month — It flew by so quickly. This is the same amount of time I spent in Ho Chi Minh City for the CELTA course back in 2012. 

A few days ago, I completed a 14-hour weekend. I taught for 7 hours on Saturday, and another 7 on Sunday. I started planning for the lessons a week in advance and it took over my life. At the end of Sunday, I was exhausted. I had a terrible sore throat before heading home and assumed I was going to lose my voice. The next day, I had symptoms of falling ill. I suppose it was down to exposure to lots of children every day, lack of fluids and sleep, and not to mention a poor diet. Fortunately, I only had a bit of a runny nose for a day and then it was gone. I have another 14-hour weekend coming up. Hopefully, it goes better. 

After four weeks of teaching, I’m adjusting to my work pretty well (aside from the falling ill part). I’m getting used to the course books and levels and the way things are done. It’s definitely been challenging, but a very welcome one. To be perfectly honest, the job in Malaysia was a walk in the park compared to this. I can already feel myself improving in so many ways. 

In terms of lifestyle, Vietnam is about as different from Malaysia as it can get. The first week living in my apartment, I went out to buy some home essentials as well as groceries and toiletries. It was admittedly a bit of a struggle for me because I didn’t know where to find anything, whereas in Malaysia, you just need to step into the nearest mall and everything you need will most likely be there. At the end of the day, I just wanted to be in a Cold Storage or Watsons. But once you know where to find things here, it obviously makes things easier, although there are things that are not easy to find or that you can’t find at all — I haven’t had much success in finding herbs and spices or certain toiletries that I use. 

So overall, I’m quite happy with my job and I’m very comfortable in my new home, which, on a side note, is very conveniently located which allows me to walk everywhere instead of taking cabs, so I’ve been getting a lot of exercise. I think I’m adjusting quite nicely. In terms of homesickness, I’ve already had my first visitor, another scheduled in a months’ time, and I’m set to spend the holidays back home. 

Things are good. 

Slightly Homesick

With my time in Malaysia winding down and my departure date drawing nearer, I find myself thinking about a particular little mountain city with its beautiful pine trees and its wonderfully cool weather, and a part of me longs to be there. It may be because I haven’t been home in close to a year and I know that in less than a week, I will be in a completely foreign city on my own and it’s slightly terrifying, which is probably why I’m yearning for something familiar before I go off.

The life of an expat is an interesting one, as I’ve come to discover. Living abroad is something I’ve enjoyed — after the headache of sorting out all the necessary paperwork to legally reside and work, that is. Experiencing a different country and a different culture is rewarding in so many ways especially when it coincides with a job that one enjoys. However, on the other side of it is the homesickness.

I grew up in a close-knit family and I have a great relationship with my parents and siblings. Whenever I travel and see something beautiful or interesting, my first thought is almost always how I wish that my family were with me to see it. Likewise, they send me photos and tell me stories of things that I’m missing out on back home. Many times I wish to have been there with them to share in those moments, but I chose this life — I chose a career that would take me away from my home and my family because it isn’t possible to do what I do back home and make a decent living. If it were, maybe I wouldn’t have left. That’s not my reality, though.

I love my job. I honestly enjoy teaching and I know how rare it is to actually enjoy what you do for a living, so I know that I’m lucky. I love that my job enables me to travel and have experiences that I could never have back home. But sometimes, I miss my family.

On the upside, though, staying in the same region means that visits are always possible, albeit expensive. Keeping in touch nowadays is easy to do as well with all the technology, as long as you have mobile data or an Internet connection.

So it has its ups and downs, as with all things in life, but as long as the ups outweigh the downs, I know I can’t complain. Christmas is just a few months away, and if I’m lucky, I may be able to make a trip back home to see everyone I miss. Until then, a new adventure awaits.

Contract Completed

A year can seem like a really long time before it actually starts, but as I approach my one-year mark, it feels as though no time has passed at all. The past year has been such an amazing adventure with its euphoric highs and despondent lows. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I’ve grown as a teacher, I’ve experienced life as an expat, and I’m moving forward in both life and career.

A few months ago, I made the decision not to renew my contract at my current school in Malaysia. I dreaded the thought of having to go through the job search and application process again, but I felt that it was the right move despite feeling somewhat settled down and comfortable. I think that was the problem — I don’t want to settle yet. Right now, the opportunities are out there and I’d like to take advantage of it while I still can. There is a demand for ESL teachers, but the competition is tough, which makes it tempting to stay where you’re wanted, because the only way to get a foot in the door in many places now is to have a wide range of teaching experience and qualifications that I don’t really have yet. However, I decided to take a risk along with the stress it comes hand-in-hand with and hoped for the best.

After months of sending out my CV and filling out applications, I finally got a door to open and I’ll be relocating to another part of Asia in a few weeks’ time to start a new adventure. As always, it’s exciting and scary at the same time. It will be completely different. I’m trading in the university for a language centre, the adults for young learners, and the set schedule and time table for an irregular schedule and split-shifts. It will be a big change, but I’m ready for it. It’s the logical next step to advancing in my career.

Packing up and getting ready to move is the next challenge. I’ve acquired a lot of things in my year here and I’m not proud of it. I’m serious about cutting down to a minimalist lifestyle until such a time that I’ve actually settled down and am sure that moving to another country will not be likely. I feel I am too sentimental and would like to be less so, especially when it comes to material possessions. So tomorrow, I tackle this challenge. Wish me luck.

Moving House

I came to Malaysia with 40kg of material possessions. After an additional trip back to the Philippines, 7-8 months worth of shopping, and previous expats’ leftovers, I’m moving out with more than just 40kg. A lot more. 

With just 4 months left on my contract–which means another move–I need to face my lifelong challenge of attachment to material possessions. 

Moving away from the Philippines, I was filled with a lovely sense of relief from leaving all my things behind, starting fresh, and with a goal of living a minimalistic lifestyle. After packing up the apartment in preparation for this impending move,  it seems I have not been successful in achieving this goal. 

I see myself country hopping in the next few years while I nurture my teaching career. I know that the best way to do this is by traveling light, un encumbered by little trinkets and material possessions. 

Cutting down and prioritising starts now.