Monday, April 19, 2010

Back to Work: Day 1

  • I'm lucky I live on this island.
  • I'm also lucky that I have a fabulous fiance, who - when I come home cranky and miserable - takes me out shopping, and then for a fresh seafood dinner afterwards. I love him.
  • And finally: it' a good thing that I waited until after dinner to write this blog. 'cos the tone would have been somewhat different if it hadn't. :)
  • I knew it would be a challenge. New jobs always are. Perfectionist that I am, I like to be on top of things immediately. I like to know what's what from the start.
  • And obviously - that's not possible with children. With children, you need to ease into their space. You need to be likable and open and warm, while at the same time not look like you're trying too hard. You need to allow them to trust you in their own time, and yet keep a comfortable distance until they draw YOU in, or you run the risk of making them feel intimidated and uneasy. It's a complicated dance. It's a very gentle - and a very fragile - balance that needs to be struck. And then maintained. And then built-upon, and shifted accordingly.
  • Add to this the administrative duties of teaching, and that - in a nutshell - will give you an idea of why I came home with a "pounding head and aching feet".
  • My school is fairly new. The premises are lovely, the atmosphere is warm and pleasant, the entire staff very friendly and helpful.
  • But the fact is that I have stepped in to replace a teacher who left all of a sudden, without leaving any lesson plans as to how to complete the last 11 weeks of the year. You see - the school curriculum is not developed out of textbooks. There are certain standards set by the U.K education model which we follow and adhere to, and as long as the children can fulfill the requirement for their specific level, then they are on track.
  • So basically, it is up to the teachers to set an entire schedule of learning. We need to find and design worksheets and lessons and themes and EVERYTHING. And we teach ALL the subjects: English, Math, History, Geography, Science, Art, Design & Technology, Music. And I currently need to make up 11 weeks worth of lessons for each of these subjects. Without any real idea of what level they are at (yet), or what the plan was going to be for the rest of the year, or what they have and haven't done so far. (I received the previous teacher's lessons plans for the stuff that he has already done, today. So that's something.)
  • Also, the job is complicated somewhat by the fact that the kids are very different in terms of their levels already. Some started school long before others, some have both parents speaking English to them at home, some only one, and some come from families where even their parents can barely speak any English at all. I had one student today reading a set of instructions for a chess-game, with vocabulary words that would make some 12 years olds pause for thought, while another student could not spell the word "big" correctly. True story.
  • Still - I'm up to it. This is a very typical situation for an international teacher to be dealing with - in my experience.
  • My focus, really, is to somehow gain control of the class in a way that is firm, yet fun. The kids need to be behaving well and paying attention because they WANT to... because school is SO MUCH FUN, that they can't wait to go back again the next day!
  • Hhhmmm... how to make school fun...
  • Luckily, I am deeply encouraged by the fact that this will not be the situation for next year. When I take over full control of my class at the beginning of the next school year in August, I will actually have lessons and themes prepared for me. The new director of the school has been frantically working on completing this for every class there is. I can't wait! I love to be organised. I foresee myself being VERY happy next (school) year!
  • Basically, all I need to do is keep reminding myself that this phase always takes time. The Entry Phase. I need to ride the wave, roll along, and enjoy. Things ALWAYS fall into place, and before I know it everything's running along at its own smooth and calm pace.
  • I look forward to it.
  • I even went out and bought new shoes today. Wearing flip-flops for a whole year means that the only "proper" shoes that I have hurt so much that they cause my feet to send shooting pains all though my body up to my head, resulting in a blinding headache come afternoon. And now... I'm all set to conquer the world of Elementary School!
  • But at the moment - nose to the grindstone.
  • Ah, who'm I kidding? I LOVE this life. xxx

Friday, April 16, 2010

Settling in to "Reality"...

  • Listen, I won't lie. My reality is infinitely better than even I ever dreamed it would be!
  • But yes - after a week on the island, I am attempting to slip out of Backpacker Mode and into Permanent-Resident-of-a-Tropical-Island-Paradise Mode.
  • I feel like I'm permanently on holiday, and yet this place feels like home in a way that transcends verbal explanation. It must be felt to be understood.
  • Soooooooo... what's new... I GOT A JOB!!!
  • As of Monday, I will be teaching Grade 1 at an International School on the island! I'm really excited! I've missed being around kids all day! The director is lovely (and a friend of mine), the other teachers seem really nice, and kids are just awesomely amazing the world over. And the school uniform consists of brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirts! SO YAY!!!
  • What else?
  • D and I are house-hunting this weekend. At the moment, we live in a room with no windows (but great A/C) in a house on the main road. The other room in the house is vacant for now, and the main reception area is being used as an office space. It's been great for D as he pays no rent here, but during rainy season (which starts in mid-June) it leaks, apparently.
  • And we want something that we can make into a HOME now. It needn't be big, or lavish, or fancy in any way, but I would love to have somewhere that makes me happy after a long day... somewhere warm and inviting and peaceful... My inner Cancerian is most certainly ready to nest.
  • What else? Job, home... oh! Wedding! Erm... that's a tough one. I have no idea what's happening with the wedding. D seems really calm, so I assume everything will fall into place. We don't have a definite venue yet. That's the first question-mark. D's extended family is putting up a hotel on the island, and if it's ready in time, we'll have it there. But it's hard to know whether it'll be ready or not. It was supposed to be done in September 2009. :) I love the elasticity of time in the 3rd World. It makes me happy.
  • Anyway, if not there, then we'll just have it somewhere else. There are plenty of options on the island.
  • I feel like I need to start making lists of all the things that need to be done. Because there actually IS a lot to take care of. But I feel like, between the New and Improved Honi-the-Chilled-Out-Gypsy and D-the-Chilled-Out-Islander, stuff may fall through the cracks. We're both great procrastinators too.
  • The other thing is that the small community of local friends that we have on the island has been so warm and welcoming and AMAZING, that it forces you to relax too! I always feel like I'm surrounded by people who are looking out for me, loving me, helping me. It's really a special place indeed. And everyone is so INTERESTING!!! People here come from all over the world, and all over the Philippines, most have parents from different countries, and have lived in so many places and experienced so many cultures... We are ALL gypsies here! How fabulous. I love.
  • So. Friday afternoon and the weekend sets in. I think I may try to spend as much as time as possible in the sun this weekend seeing as I start work on Monday. And after 3 weeks in South Africa (mainly nocturnal!) I am looking startlingly vampire-esque at the moment.
  • Yesterday I spent the day on Puka beach with 12 of my friends. We swam in the sea, had a delicious picnic on the beach, I played with the kids, and we laughed. And smiled. And reveled in life.
  • I am so happy here. And now. I send out my thanks to the Universe every day.
  • COME AND VISIT ME IN BORACAY, YOU GUYS!!! But I warn you - you may never leave again.. ;-)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coming Home to Paradise...

  • I've arrived!!! I'm home!!! Helloooooooooo Isla de Boracay!!!
  • Just in time for the weekend, as it turned out! Whooooooooooooop!!!
  • On Friday night, our first day back, my divine fiance D had arranged a surprise party for me to welcome me back to the island. There was champagne, and emotional moments, and laughter, and so many wonderful people...
  • It was really special to see some old friends again - people that I had met in 2006 and 2007 on my previous visits here, and also to meet new awesome friends of D's that I didn't know from before.
  • It reinforced for me just why we have chosen to make a life together here. There's a different energy here - warm, embracing, kind. An Island Family, if you will.
  • On Saturday we went to a party on the beach organised by Hey Jude, my favourite fun-place on the island, which just happens to be owned by friends of ours too!
  • It was amazing - dance music, a bubble machine, crazy lights and decor, and even long fancy plastic cocktail glasses in bright primary colours with LED lights on the bottom! Madness! So much of happy!!! :)
  • And last night - Sunday - we ended up at our friends' place, with 2 super-nice couples - one Spaniard, one Norwegian, one Canadian and one Filipino - having sundowners on their terrace, on a hill overlooking the azure sea, eating yummy pizza and laughing at how chewing gum is the reason for the beginning of rap music... :)
  • It feels like home here, for sure. But I suppose home is really anywhere where you are loved, and surrounded by good people, and good energy.
  • "Beuna onda", I learned in Argentina. It applies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Year, in summary.

  • What an absolutely atrocious correspondent I have been!!!
  • So much has happened since I last wrote. Damn.
  • I was supposed to write a blog about being back in Brazil - I had it all planned in my head already! About how warm and earthy and real Brazilian people are, about how being back across the border from Argentina I was already smiling and feeling a different energy in the air...
  • I was supposed to write a blog about Carnaval too! Oh, what an experience that was! In truth, the entire month of February - in the days both preceding and following Carnaval - was thoroughly spectacular. I spent pre-Carnaval weekend in Rio, attending "blocos" (block parties) with a group of local crazy girl friends! We followed trucks spraying water to stave off the 40-degree temperatures, with blaring samba songs coming from the bands perched atop the trucks, dancing in the parades with thousands of locals along the walkways of Ipanema beach...
  • And Carnaval itself, which I spent in Salvador de Bahia - WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! Afro-Brazilian music and energy and vibrancy and electricity!!! SO INCREDIBLE!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! :)
  • And now I have just been home to South Africa - the first time in almost 4 and a half years.
  • What an overwhelming 3 weeks THAT was!
  • Initially, I was delighted. Smiling, warm, friendly African people all around me! Everyone is so nice! So polite! And then I found myself surrounded by white people. Angry, stressed, impatient. How very odd. I have NEVER divided the world racially. And yet, there is such an obvious difference here that it slaps you in the face. HARD.
  • I don't count my friends within the aforementioned generalisations, mind. It would be impossible to be objective about people that I know. As a social scientist (!) I base my observations on random people around me. I watch people interacting - in restaurants, shopping centres, bars, on the roads... It's quite jarring.
  • I'm not sure I could ever live in SA again. It's become such an ANGRY place. People seem to have lost the spark, the hope, the magic that was so tangible in the years before I left. I won't enter into any political discourse here, but suffice to say that the government has NOT provided the kind of major changes which it promised - and could have delivered on - previously. People work hard, live hard, no real unwind time. It's tough.
  • Sooooooo... Africa was difficult for me, but also brilliant. There's nothing quite like touching base again with friends that you haven't seen in years. And I am INCREDIBLY blessed with all the magical beings that I have in my life. This visit was very important for me, for that very reason. And I got to hang out with my mom and my brother again, which was pretty damn special after all these years too... :)
  • And now the year is over. I am in the Philippines, beginning the next phase. I'll be writing in the next few days about the new beginning, but right now I'm trying to close a chapter.
  • ... and I can't. It feels rather superficial, really - this whole "closing" business! It's all part of life! One wave rolls into the next, I've just started to ride the new one, as the old one races to the shore... and it's GOOD. It's SO GOOD.
  • I am so happy. I am so delighted that I have had the opportunity to see the world. I am over-the-moon that I am now living on a beautiful little island where people smile and are chiiiiiiillllllll. My life is vibrant and colourful and magical, and I am LUCKY, LUCKY, LUCKY.
Love you all, and thank you for being a part of the kaleidoscope. xxx