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.

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!

Cleaning Up

I ideally wanted to start this process months ago, but every time I told myself that I’d do it next week, sleeping in was top priority. I started cleaning out my cubby at work a few days ago — though if I’m being completely honest, I have two cubbies when we’re really only supposed to have one. Today, I started with the files I’ve been keeping at home. I have made a few observations.

Observation number one: Way too much paper. Course book pages, worksheets, templates, lesson plans. It’s no wonder I have two cubbies. What accumulates over the course of a year is a shocking amount of paper and I couldn’t help but feel absolutely wasteful about it.

Observation number two: I’m not as organised as everyone seems to think I am. If I were, I’d be able to have just the one cubby and I wouldn’t be drowning in so much useless (and wasted) paper.

Observation number three: Dust, cobwebs, and rust. If something has been sitting in the same spot for a long enough time for it to gather dust and have cobwebs built all over it, it must be safe to assume that it’s not really a useful thing to have. Also, metal paper clips are nice, shiny, and look more professional than the colourful plastic coated ones, but if left to sit in a file, untouched, for an extended period of time, it will get rusty along with the paper it happens to be making contact with. I don’t know if that’s just an Asian thing with the weather and the humidity, but I am definitely swearing off metal paper clips. The same goes for staples, unfortunately, but I don’t think I can swear those off.

I will definitely try to get rid of as much as I can since I aim to travel as light as possible upon my exit. I will do my absolute best not to be too sentimental and step away from the hoarder mentality of I might need it or it might be useful some day. May be easier said than done, but we’ll see how it goes, I guess.

The Quest for Paper (part 2)

In 2014, I wrote about my decade-long quest for paper, which ultimately resulted in the acquisition of a college degree. Not long after that, I landed a teaching job in Malaysia and fast forward to two years later, I am about to complete my second expatriate stint in Vietnam.

Although Vietnam would be happy to keep me, I have begun the process of applying for new jobs in another Southeast Asian country in the hopes of finding something more long-term and comfortable. I wish I could say that my search has produced positive results, but on the contrary, nothing has turned up yet. Admittedly, it is a rather large step up that I’m trying to make, but I remain determined and optimistic.

One of the outcomes of seeing all the job adverts – and there are many – has been a realisation that I’ve still got a lot of work cut out for me. Getting the college degree wasn’t a finish line at all, but rather, the first checkpoint of who knows how many.

Despite being a fully-qualified and somewhat experienced English language teacher, I now have a few new barriers in the way.

  • Schools are looking for native speakers. According to Wikipedia, “a native speaker is someone who speaks a language as his or her first language or mother tongue.” I consider myself a native speaker because I grew up in an English speaking environment – we spoke English at home and I attended international schools where everything was done in English. I didn’t speak my country’s local language “fluently” until I was eighteen. Unfortunately, my passport automatically classifies me as a non-native speaker.
  • Because of the above point, I now have to give proof of my proficiency in English. Because I didn’t attend formal schooling, I can’t produce grades, so I’m left with having to do certificate courses to prove my English language abilities. I can do this through the IELTS or Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE) exam. Both of which cost quite a bit of money.
  • Although I have the IH CYLT qualification to teach English to children and teenagers, there is an additional requirement for teaching in preschools, which is the Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education. Attaining this as a foreign student will cost an arm, two legs, and probably a kidney. Though a useful qualification to have, it’s a rather large investment for an area that I’m not even sure I want to dedicate myself to.

So, two years on, the quest for paper has not ceased. In the back of my head, I fear that being Asian provides an obstacle in my chosen career, though I remind myself that any institution that shows any sort of discrimination is not a place worth working for.

Right now, I think that DELTA is still the logical next step. If I were to invest a large sum of money into something, it would definitely be that.

In the meantime, the job hunt continues.

Countdown Commences

With only six weeks remaining in my contract, it’s starting to sink in that my time in Hanoi is winding down. My job search for the next chapter of my adventure has begun and the familiar feeling of slight anxiety sinking in has made itself a constant visitor in the back of my mind.

I attempted to start packing a few weeks ago, but work has kept me busy so I haven’t made much progress in that area. Looking around my apartment though, I can already tell that a challenge awaits me — how do I fit this all into my airline weight limit? But perhaps this will be the time when I am finally able to let go of the things that I don’t need.

I’m looking forward to taking a break at the end of my contract and spending the holidays with my family. I’ve worked really hard this year — sometimes a little too hard — so I think that I’ve earned myself a little time off to reevaluate where I am, where I’m going, and just to be with my loved ones.

As you can probably tell from this post, I’m a bit scatter-brained at the moment and there isn’t really much flow to my thought process. However, I felt that an update was in order, and I will attempt to write a better post when I can.

 

One Year in Hanoi

I’ve reached the one year mark of living and working in Hanoi. As with the previous year, it looked long and daunting as I began it, but looking back from the end feels like it was only a short moment.

This year has been an amazing one for my career. I’ve completed my two-years post-CELTA teaching experience (in a classroom), I have a year of teaching young learners under my belt, I added a young learner certificate to my qualifications, I got promoted to Summer Mentor Teacher, and I’ve basically just grown so much as a teacher overall. I’ve learned a lot and it’s been an incredibly rewarding year.

Hanoi is a lovely city. Despite its crazy traffic and horrible pollution, I’ve had a pretty good life here, however much of a love/hate relationship it’s been. The people are nice, the job pays well, and life is affordable. It’s a quaint place. I’d consider staying if not for other things calling me away and if it weren’t such a health risk for me living here (I’ve been sick here more times than I’ve ever been in my life).

I have around ten weeks left until the end of my contract. Moving forward, I think I’d like something that’s less temporary. I’d like to go somewhere for longer than a year and work on getting my DELTA modules done. Part of me wants to settle down in a way, which I’ll be happy to do if I end up in the right place.

Job hunting starts soon.

Stationery 2

It’s no secret that I love stationery. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a thing for pens since I was a kid. 

Here are the contents of the pencil case I bring with me to work. 


This is one pencil case. This is probably less than half of the total amount of pens that I actually own and have with me right now. 

Whoa. 😳

Back to School

Summer is officially over which means the end of back to back classes and late night finishes. It means going back to working two days over the weekend. It marks the end of my Summer Mentor Teacher position and it means saying goodbye to all the summer teachers and a few full-timers.

The end of summer usually means heading back to school for students and teachers who get the summers off. As for myself, I’ve decided to go back to school, too. Well, not school exactly, but learning.

My education has been unconventional, but I like learning and I enjoy being a student. I spent maybe eight or nine years in a proper school and the rest of it has been online—high school, about a dozen Coursera courses, some ELT professional development courses, and most recently the IH CYLT.

Now that I have a bit more free-time on my hands, I’m going back to online education. At the end of August, I’ll be starting Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics with Coursera, Universiteit Leiden and Meeterns Instituut. In mid-October, I’ll be starting Understanding Language with Future Learn and the University of Southampton. As you can see, these courses are career related. On a side note, they’re both free.

I did some research recently about further studies and what sort of experience and qualifications I need to advance in my career and it looks like the next step is the DELTA. It’s a very big and intimidating step, not to mention an expensive one, but it is half the price of a Master’s Degree and it will ultimately enable me to reach my career goals.

It’s something that I definitely want to do. If I start saving and preparing for it now, I think that I can probably do it in about a year or two. Let’s see how it goes.

Milestones

Milestone 1:

I am officially certified to teach young learners and teenagers as of the 19th of July when I received my certificate and reports. My marks and tutor feedback were quite positive. I received 17 out of 38 Above Standard marks, and the remaining 21 marks were Standard. I felt a wonderful sense of achievement when my tutor handed me the papers knowing how much work I put into it and knowing that I’ve been applying everything I learned in the classroom with good results.

It was a tough 3 months and it’s hard to believe that it started nearly 6 months ago, but I definitely feel that I have improved as a teacher. I’m thankful to everyone who supported me in this undertaking.

Milestone 2:

I am nearly at my 2 year post-CELTA-classroom-teaching-experience mark. This means that I can apply for more jobs, particularly those that ask for this specifically. With that and my YL qualification, finding employment should be much easier after I move on from Vietnam.

Milestone 3:

I have been living in Vietnam for 11 months now, fast approaching a year. This also means that I’ve been living and working abroad for almost 2 years. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year in Vietnam or 2 years away from home. Time is flying.