Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday #3

The rain in Bahrain falls mainly... everywhere!  The first time I've ever used one of these here!
The Jenny Evolution

Five Reasons to Revist a Country You've Left

Until this weekend, I've never revisited a country that I've left (excepting the good ol' USA, of course).  The opportunity, or the funding, has never really presented itself.  A couple of years ago, we got a save-the-date to a destination wedding in the DR- I got excited.  But then... they got married somewhere else... or something, because we weren't ever actually invited to the wedding.  But that is another story for another day.  Okay, that really was the story.  There is no more story.  I lied.

The point is, I didn't go to the DR and I haven't been back to China, Kuwait, or Guatemala... until NOW.  So I present to you:

Five Reasons You Should Go Back to a Country You've Left (in no particular order):

1.  Old friends.  This weekend I got to catch up with two of my friends from my KLT days (Kuwait Little Theatre... or That Which Shall Not Be Named... and that is a story).  It was only for an all-too-short hour but it was so wonderful to catch up with people I haven't seen in seven (WHA...?!) years.  And when you meet up with friends like that, friends you haven't seen in so long and have not really had much communication with except through Facebook likes and comments, you worry Will we have anything to talk about?  What if we sit awkwardly, drinking coffee, trying desperately to think of something to say... what if we have nothing to say after all this time?

But we did.  We talked about my kids, our careers, the problems with our schools and theatres and how teaching drama and directing theatre in a Muslim is really, really challenging.  And we laughed and we joked and we caught up as best we could in such a short time, drinking only coffee, and I was left with a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

2.   New friends.  I was going to Kuwait to do a Color Run with L but, in true Kuwaiti fashion, it got cancelled after I had already bought my ticket so... I went anyway.  And I got to catch up with a few new friends who I've met because of L.  It's amazing how the traveling world, especially the international world, brings people together.  You can be friends just because you do the same thing, and a lot of the time, it's enough. 

It's also really helpful if new friends are hysterical, a little sassy and sarcastic, and just fun to be around. 

3. Revisiting the old stomping grounds.  I could not find my apartment building.  There- I've said it.  L and I drove down to Mangaf where I lived for three years and it was so different, so built up, that I couldn't even find where I lived.  Of course, I recognized some big landmarks- the mall, the Hilton, the McDonalds.  I found the building where we used to buy our DVD's, which also had a six-lane bowling alley in the bottom.  I saw the Applebee's where we ate WAY too many dinners.  We went to the mall that was new when I was there- it was a little more run down but still just as crowded and just as sparkly.  It was fun to share memories with someone new.  It was amazing to see how changed it all was.  

4. Remembering why you loved it.  Going back to Kuwait brought back all those memories of meeting the Rugby Star, being in various KLT productions, going to rugby matches, watching the world go by from our Mangaf apartments.  I remembered sand storms and having the bakala deliver ice to parties.  There were sunny days spent at the Hilton pool and cool evenings hanging out at the villas after giving guitar lessons.  Even though I didn't find my apartments, it brought me back to a time when we used to BBQ down by the pool and the RS's favorite weekend pastime- putting a chair in the shallow end of the pool and reading his book in the water. 

5. Remembering why you left.  Truthfully, I wasn't really ready to leave Kuwait when we did.  I really loved my job and my students and the colleagues I was closest to weren't leaving yet.  The Rugby Star was ready to go- he needed to be able to watch sports at a pub and play on grass again.  The funny thing is, once you've decided to go, you do start to notice all the terrible things about the country you're in and by the time you actually get on the plane, you're pretty okay with leaving.  I have glamorized Kuwait in my mind because it was such a happy place.  But, after being there for a weekend, I do remember why it's okay that I moved on.

It was a good weekend with good friends and I'm really happy I got to go.  I don't know if I need to go back again.  But now it makes me more curious to revisit the DR and Shanghai (maybe- for the massages anyway) and, in a couple of years, good ol' Guate.

How do you feel going back to a place that used to be 'home'?

Monday, March 17, 2014

My 30 Most Awesome Life Moments

There have been a lot of awesome life moments for me since I moved overseas... but there were also a lot of awesome moments before I moved.  Today is a bit of a reflection on all things awesome in my life.

So here they are, in no particular order-   

My 30 Most Awesome Life Moments

1. Marrying the Rugby Star
2. Finding out I was pregnant with the Ladybug
3. Having the Ladybug
4. Finding out I was pregnant with Sprout
5. Having Sprout
6. The day Shannon moved into the neighborhood
This was a pretty awesome moment!
7. The day Cuthin brought Jenny home
8. When Sissy used to come sleep in my room
9. The night Sissy stayed up all night with a newborn Ladybug so we could sleep
10. The day I met Cindy in church
11. The day Carol wanted to borrow my blue blue-jean shorts from Goody's
12. While I don't remember the day I met Marissa, pretty much Marissa is an awesome life moment
13. Watching Cuthin and Jenny get married (and almost not singing in the wedding)
14. The day the Rugby Star proposed 
15. Meeting Rachel in the hall
16. Getting cast in Picnic
17. Singing "Fever" to Jim at the Valentine's Cabaret
18. Finding the March 2011 Bump group
19. Getting hired in the DR (because it started this adventure)
20. Getting hired in Kuwait to teach MS/HS Choir (because it was exactly what I wanted to be doing)
21. EMAC- all the festivals
22. Getting hired in Shanghai (because I met Ken and it makes for an amazingly dramatic story)
23. Getting hired in Guatemala (because of Lindsey, Andrea, Darryl)
24. Stepping off the plane every summer
25. Choosing to have a roommate in the DR over living alone
26. Joining AGD
27. Family reunions at Aunt Beverly's
28. Yearly trips to Oklahoma
29. Singing karaoke after work at the bar with the funny name
30. Brenau- not so much the acceptance part because I didn't want to go, but then I did

There have been so many other awesome moments in my life.  This list could really go on and on.  Doing this list has put me in a ridiculously good mood.  It's a good idea to think about those awesome moments every now and again.

What is your most awesome life moment?  Top five?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Reason I Left

The Move to America

Today's post is the 2nd in an Expat Link-up series by Molly over at The Move to America.  The topic today is ‘The Reason I Left’ – share why you became an expat. What made you choose a particular place or the traveling lifestyle? Has it been what you expected? What did you consider/wish you had considered before you moved? End with three tips that may help people figure out if a big move is for them.

If you've read any of my posts from the Expat Blog Challenge led by Cristin at In an Opal Hearted Country you know why I left.  If you haven't read those other posts, well, you should.  But if you don't have the time, here's a brief recap.

I left because:

1. Kimi made me.
2. I couldn't say no.
3. I really, really had to.

Since I feel like I've covered the why a few times, let's talk about the since it happened.  Was it what I expected?  No.  I had no idea what to expect.  I didn't know the international teaching world existed.  Like a lot of people, I thought 'teaching overseas' meant teaching English in China (which I almost, almost did once).  That's all.  I had no idea that there was a network of international schools covering this great planet.  I couldn't fathom that Americans, Canadians, Australians, South Africans, Kiwis, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans and more could gather at one school to teach.  And it was impossible to believe that all these people were connected before they met, just because of what they do.

I was also shocked to say the least at the behavior of my fellow teachers.  When I first left home, I went to the DR, along with a whole pack of young, single, rather attractive men and women.  Who liked to surf.  And party.  I will leave it up to your imagination what shenanigans they got up to, but I will say that it changed my views on how my high school history teacher might have been spending his weekends.

Why did I choose to live where I'm living?  The thing about this lifestyle is that, at least for the Rugby Star and me, we don't have a lot of choice in where we go next.  Being a specialist couple, we're not really top of the list for schools so when we recruit, we might have a pick of three places, tops.  And usually only one of those is really desirable... sometimes, not even that (how I ended up in Shanghai).  Once, we literally had nothing.  We went to a job fair, had one interview, and didn't get the job.   We flew back to China with nothing.  Nothing.

Thank the Lord for Facebook. 

What did consider or wish I had considered before I left... nothing really.  I think that if I had thought about it too much more, I might've found a way to chicken out.  This lifestyle has revealed so much to me, about myself and the world.  I would have been an idiot to miss out.

Three Tips- Is Moving Overseas for You?

1. Consider your relationship with your family.  My family often makes me feel guilty for not being home, but I know that deep down, they're proud of me for what I'm doing and who I've become.  Talk to your family- moms and dads, grandparents, siblings- before making a big decision like this.  Help them to understand why you're doing it and what you want out of making a big move like this.  You don't need their permission, but the support is a big plus.

2.  Consider why you want to move overseas.  Are you looking for an adventure for a few years?  Are you hoping to make a career in another country?  Are you escaping the law?  Why exactly are you leaving and what do you hope to accomplish?  Know this before you leave.  It may help you decide where to go.

3.   Consider how brave you are.  If you want an adventure but you're shy or intimidated by new places and faces, consider moving somewhere that will not present you too many challenges to start.  Perhaps a country where your native language is primarily spoken or at least spoken.  Perhaps a city you've visited before or a place where you might have extended family or friends nearby.  Culture shock is a real thing and if you aren't big on big change, start little.  If you're up for anything, heck, pack a bag and move to the Amazon.  Just consider how much change you can handle at one time. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I did not edit this photo.  Notice the sky is the same color as the sand on the ground. 
Welcome to a sandstorm in Bahrain.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Some Really Good Advice...

The recruiting process for international teachers is hard.  It's a ridiculously long, stressful process that reminds me a lot of Rush (Recruitment) in a sorority.  Will they like me?  Is this school cool?  Will everyone think I'm awesome if I go here?  Why is no one else applying here?  What do they know that I don't?  Can I really live with all these people, day in and day out?

When the Rugby Star and I started recruiting during our third year in Guatemala, we had no idea where we wanted to go but we knew one thing- we needed more money.  Guatemala was beautiful and we made some wonderful friends there.  The campus was sprawling and green, our principal was a dream to work for, the old city made for a great day trip and the mountains and rivers calmed the soul.  But we were broke.  So we made the decision it was time to leave and find a job where we could save money, plan for the future a bit more and not have to count every penny.

We liked the Middle East- it's where we met, we had fond memories.  You make good money.  We decided to put our efforts into getting a job back in the ol' sandbox.

A school in India started poking its' nose around our profiles and resumes.  We got a request for an initial interview.  We researched and talked and thought about it and talked some more.  We had the interview; they wanted another one.  We had another one; they wanted another one.  By the third interview, it was feeling pretty promising.  We had stopped putting out feelers for other schools, had stopped sending our resumes out.  After the fourth interview, I went out and bought the Lonely Planet guide to India.  We had a fifth and then a sixth interview.  The director wanted us to fly to Portland for an interview over Christmas break.  We considered it.  But it was really short notice and the Rugby Star was going to his first NFL game with my dad...

The only problem with all of this- I did not want to move to India.  I still have no desire to live in 
Well, if Oprah went...
India.  From everything we read, from everyone we talked to, it sounded like all of the things I hated about Shanghai, magnified.  People, pollution, noise, traffic, heat, humidity.  The school sounded wonderful; the director told us that people spent weekends at 5-star, all-inclusive resorts to escape the city.  That was promising, but I was also tired of living places where you felt like you couldn't relax unless you left.

He said that the city wasn't incredibly child-friendly.  There weren't really parks or places to go for walks.  Well, I wanted to go for walks.  We couldn't really walk in Guatemala because it wasn't safe.  I wanted a family-friendly place to live. 

Basically, I didn't want to live in India and I knew that.   And I kept saying that to the Rugby Star (who did want to go to India- he thought it would be a great adventure and the school did sound unbelievably amazing).  But the whole process of recruiting is so stressful that you worry- if I turn this job down, will I get another?  What if this is my only chance?

During each interview we had, the director kept stressing the hard parts of living in India.  And at the end of every interview he gave me the best advice I've ever received, whether in recruiting or life in general- Just Think About It.  He kept telling us to really think about it- could we handle living in the place he was describing?  The Rugby Star assured him that we could... but I think he might've sensed my hesitation. 

In the end, we didn't get the job.  He said he wouldn't hire anyone until he met them face-to-face.  We were scheduled to meet him at the recruiting fair we were attending in February but he hired someone at an earlier fair.  Fine by me.  Because I had thought about it.  I'm pretty sure I would not have liked living in India.  Maybe one day I'll visit but it's not a top travel priority.

My advice to those moving overseas (or making any big decisions):

Just Think About It.  Go with your gut.  You know what you can and can't handle.  If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.  Don't be afraid to say no- it just means something better is waiting out there for you!