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.
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).
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
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.
Paper. IH CYLT certificate, met the legendary Jim Scrivener and got him to sign his amazing book, and Best Teacher of the Quarter Award.
Travels. I was able to do a bit of travelling which my passport was quite happy about.
Stationery. It was a good year for stationery.
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.
The people who do the tutorial videos online make it look super easy. I’m still practising. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.