On March 1st, I eagerly wrote my first slice to mark the start of my tenth year on the Slice of Life Challenge, reflecting on who I am now vs. the me from 10 years ago. I’d been anticipating this challenge for months, the excitement growing each day that it got closer to March. I needed something to reignite my writing life, the one that lay dormant for months.
I began March 2nd like any other slicing day, keeping my eyes peeled for potential slices, debating about what would make the cut. Little did I know that everything would change that afternoon. The writing plans (and let’s be honest…all other plans) I’d had for this month vanished before my eyes.
Each day brought new challenges, as I, like many others, embarked on the monumental task of virtual schooling, with little to no preparation and very little sleep. Many of my slices centered on this new reality that I couldn’t seem to escape. I wrote to reflect on my experience, learn from it, and hopefully help others who would soon join me on this journey.
I leaned on this writing community more than ever, and my fellow slicers rallied around me, lifting me up with encouraging comments, empathizing with my situation, and offering suggestions. I felt seen and heard and loved.
The slices I’ve read this month have been raw and honest. We’ve all laid bare our worries and fears for everyone to see. I feel honored to be among these writers.
March 2020 will forever be etched in our memories. We’ve witnessed and lived through a historical moment in time, and in doing so, have recorded memories that we will look back on for decades to come.
This month, that seems to have lasted forever, yet was over in the blink of an eye, had more highs and lows than I’m used to, but instead of shying away from the ugly emotions of isolation, fear, and frustration, I wrote through it.
After a week off for term break, our virtual school resumed today. My work day began at 7:00am and finished a little after 9:00pm. To be honest, I’m tired and ready for bed, but more than anything, I’m thankful for the busyness of today. After nine days off, the days had started to run together, and by the end of the week, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. While this is a less than ideal situation, and I would 100% rather be in the classroom, I grateful for the routine of my virtual school day. I was excited to chat with my students again today, and while many of them were tired today from a week of staying up late and playing, I can tell they were glad to be back, too.
After our first three weeks of virtual school, we reflected as a leadership team, taking into account student, parent, and staff feedback about their experiences with online learning, and made some adjustments for this last term of school. We realized that it was unrealistic to expect primary students to attend virtual school all day like they would at real school. We scaled back the expectations, and now students have four homeroom learning days and one single-subject day. This means that on the four homeroom days, students take part in one lesson each of literacy, math, unit of inquiry, and PE per day. This is in addition to a morning message video, which may be pre-recorded or done as a morning meeting on ZOOM. We all do one ZOOM class meeting per homeroom day.
On their single-subject days, students have one lesson each of art, music, PE, library, Bahasa Indonesia or Mandarin, and Religion or Indonesian Studies. On the single-subject days, the homeroom teacher has time to plan and prep lessons for the rest of the week and give student feedback, as the only requirement is to post a morning message video and the daily learning overview with the students’ schedule. My single-subject day is on Wednesday, which is perfect for me. I can prep for Monday’s and Tuesday’s lessons on Sunday, and Thursday’s and Friday’s lessons on Wednesday. It’ll be nice to have a bit of a breather in the middle of the week, too. I hope that this new schedule is helpful for the students and that they no longer feel overwhelmed with everything they have to do.
Another change we’ve made is to be more mindful of screen time. We’ve encouraged teachers to assign more offline activities during virtual school so that they are not online all day. I know how being on a screen all day affects me, so I can’t imagine how the students must feel!
How’s virtual school going for you? Have you made any changes?
From the title, you probably think I’m writing my annual writer’s block post (it inevitably happens when one writes for 31 days straight), but I don’t have writer’s block per se; it’s just that there’s nothing I really want to write about. To say that this has been the weirdest month ever is an understatement. When have I ever, in the history of my life, been stuck inside for an entire month straight? I’ll give you a hint…it’s never!
What gave me pause when I sat down to write today was that I’ve written about it all before. I mean, how many more slices can I write about virtual school (it starts back up tomorrow), how I feel about quarantine (the ups and downs have been covered), and connecting with people virtually (which is fun, but there’s only so much I can really say). I started rereading my past slices from previous years’ challenges to get ideas. While I thoroughly enjoyed the walk down memory lane, I was acutely aware that all of those slices were about things I had done, experiences when traveling (which I’m always doing in March), or life as an expat in my current city. When you are confined to your house, writing inspiration for a slice of life is slim pickings.
I am so looking forward to being back out in the world. Writing about my experiences and travels is such a gift. Reading my old slices brought back a flood of emotions, the memories bubbling up to the surface. This Slice of Life Challenge has allowed me to capture these memories forever, giving me a purpose and an audience to develop a writing habit for a month each year. While I always have every intention of keeping it going, I never continue for very long. Life always seems to get in the way. But I’ll always have this yearly month-long slice of my life to look back on. It might not be a lot, but committing 1/12 of every year to paper is something worthwhile. Without the daily slicing commitment, I could easily have a blog with only the ‘good stuff’ on it. But when you write every day for 31 days about your life, there are bound to be days that aren’t so good, days when you stumble, and days that are down-right crappy. In this challenge, those days get written about, too, which is real life. Thank you TWT for hosting this challenge that is a gift I give myself year after year.
Who remembers playing MASH as a middle-schooler? If you don’t, you are entirely too young and clearly don’t know what fun you missed out on growing up. During this time of boredom, I made up a new game, MASH: Quarantine Edition, and I got to play it tonight on a Zoom happy hour call with two of my besties, Michelle and Linner.
The original version of MASH is a game where your life is decided for you. You know, the big stuff like who you’ll marry, which car you’ll drive, the type of house you’ll live in, and how many kids you’ll have. My version is a bit different.
You still have MASH, which stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House, but you are deciding which type of house you’ll be quarantined in.
Who will you have to be quarantined with?
What activity do you do the most in quarantine?
What time do you wake up each day?
How many pounds will you gain during quarantine?
What do you wear each day?
What’s your favorite snack to eat during quarantine?
To play the game, we each took turns giving 2 choices for each question. As you can imagine, some were good and others were awful. Once all the choices were written down, I drew a spiral until they said stop. That tells you how many to count before you cross off a choice. The game continues until you have one choice left per category. We laughed quite a bit during the game, as our friends were stuck with the crappy choices.
Here are the results:
In summary, I’ll be quarantined in a shack with Grumpy Cat. I’ll wake up at 3:00 am each day, wear crotchless undies, and spend my time eating beans and Cheetos. Despite this healthy diet, I won’t gain any weight though. At least there’s one good thing!
What are you doing to combat boredom during the quarantine?
Today is Day 24 of quarantining at home, and apart from a 3-hour trip to the dentist on Day 18, I haven’t left my house. I’m not married, no kids, no pets, and no roommates, so it’s been a pretty lonely three weeks. Other than my video chats and phone calls with family, friends, colleagues, and students, I don’t get much interaction with others. I’m trying to check my privilege, as I realize I have a comfortable home, working electricity and plumbing, consistent Internet, enough food, and I don’t have to worry about money, which I know many people in the world don’t have at this time, but today I’m feeling the effects of isolation.
Here’s what I’ve learned in my 3+ weeks of quarantine:
The hair on my legs seems to have stopped growing. I haven’t shaved my legs since I went into lockdown, and by looking at them, you wouldn’t really know. I’m way past the prickly stage, too.
I’m not a self-motivated person at home. Despite all the advice on the internet touting, “You have all the time in the world, you should do all the things you’ve always said you never have time for! There’s no excuse now,” I seem to find an excuse.
My attention span, which if I’m being honest was already wavering (I blame the constant interruptions of modern society for that one), is down to a few minutes at a time. I have started 9 books. Nine. And I haven’t finished one yet. Now, I’m a multiple-books-at-a-time person by nature, but this is overboard. I can’t even watch a TV show all the way through in one sitting. What is going on?
At first, I was excited about cooking and was eating way too much food because, hello, what else have I got to do?, but now all the food in the house is boring. I eat when my stomach is growling, but it’s all pretty blah. Well, except for the fresh-out-of-the-oven bread slathered in butter, but I can’t eat that every day, can I?
I crave routine and structure, and I need to leave my house to have a sense of normalcy. I’m not a work-from-home person. Guess I can throw away those dreams of becoming a travel blogger.
My moods fluctuate from really happy to complete boredom or frustration. Yesterday I was so full of energy, and today, nothing. It’s a dice roll each day I wake up.
I am hoping that things get easier next week when virtual school starts back up again, as the school day will give me a routine to follow. What have you learned while in quarantine?
When I initially made the decision to move abroad and teach internationally, I can remember telling my parents (and everyone else) that it was just going to be for 2 years, and then I’d move back home. At the time, I actually believed that’s how it would play out. Fast forward to now, ten years later, and I’m finishing my contract in my fourth country, with no plans to return home anytime soon.
The life of an expat, while not for everyone, is my preference. It’s afforded me many opportunities I never would have had living in the states. Apart from the obvious travel opportunities, I have been able to meet some truly remarkable people, learn a great deal about myself, become a better educator, teach in the PYP, immerse myself in new cultures, develop some long-lasting friendships, and work through some very challenging times. In the past ten years, I’ve lived in Shanghai, China; Tirana, Albania; Bangkok, Thailand; and Jakarta, Indonesia. While I’m sad that this chapter is coming to an end, I’m so excited about my new adventure!
I’m thrilled to announce that this summer, I’ll be moving to Jeju Island, South Korea! To be honest, Korea was never really on my radar because, despite loving it when I visited Seoul in 2011, it was too dang cold for me! What I’ve learned about Jeju is that while it does get cold (and even snows a few times a year), it’s generally 10-15 degrees Celsius warmer than Seoul. Plus, Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea,” and you can’t go wrong with that!
Firstly, I am really looking forward to joining my new school, Branksome Hall Asia (BHA), which is a prestigious all-girls boarding school. It’s all girls and boarding in the Secondary School, but there are a mix of boys and girls in the Junior School, which is a day school. What first drew me to BHA was that it’s a full continuum IB World School, offering the PYP, MYP, and DP. They are known for being innovative and they push the boundaries of what most schools think is possible. BHA was recently awarded the International School Award for “Initiative to support students as future-thinking innovators.” During the interview process, I was so impressed with the Head of School and the other administrators I spoke with about the work their students are doing. I’ll be joining the Junior School team as the Deputy Head of Junior School and PYP Coordinator, tasked with leading the integration of transdisciplinary and innovative practices in the younger grades. I can’t wait to be a part of it!
Branksome Hall Asia’s mission is “Each day, we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world.” This is something I can get behind! 🙂
Now that you know more about the school, which is the reason I chose to move there, let me highlight what I’m looking forward to exploring in my new home on Jeju Island!
Jeju Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such, it has so much natural beauty with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors. A quick Google image search of Jeju revealed these amazingly beautiful images, and I have to say, after seeing these, I cannot wait to explore all that the island has to offer. I did mention it’s the Hawaii of Korea, didn’t I?
I’ve been researching all that I can about my new home. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Jeju has over 360 volcanoes, most of them dormant.
The island is small, with a surface area of 1,846 sqkm and a perimeter of just 274 km, so it’ll be, by far, the smallest place I’ve ever lived abroad. Jeju is even smaller than Rhode Island, USA!
Not much English is spoken in Jeju, so I’ll be learning Korean. I’m really excited to learn another language, although I’m a bit intimidated about this one! So far all I know how to say is hello and thank you. I’m going to use my quarantine time to start learning Korean using an app.
The population of Jeju is roughly 600,000, which is a far cry from Jakarta’s population of 10 million+. Guess this means a lot less traffic to deal with!
I’ll need to drive a car there, which I’m actually anticipating, since I haven’t owned a car while living abroad. Of course, I’ll be getting a Hyundai!
Being an island, it has tons of fresh seafood. There are also lots of other food options on the island that I can’t wait to try.
I’ll be less than a 15-minute drive to the beach, where I can watch the dolphins jumping in the surf.
After living in an urban area for the last 10 years, I’m looking forward to being close to nature, where I can go for walks and hikes in my free time. I’m not a hiker, but this is something I hope to change.
I can get to Seoul in about an hour and for less than $50, which means I can get my big city fix whenever I want! Fun fact: The Seoul to Jeju flight path is the most regularly flown in the world, which means there’s always a flight coming or going.
Shanghai is only an hour and 20 minutes away and about $150. Looks like I’ll be getting a 10-year tourist visa for China!
The currency will be easier to deal with since 1 USD = 1,2335 KRW (Korean Won).
The cost of living will certainly be higher than in Indonesia, but I’ll be able to save more than 50% of my salary, which includes my travel expenses throughout the year. Hello retirement!
Jeju has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinct seasons, which I am actually looking forward to experiencing again. After 3 years living in a climate that’s either hot and dry or hot and wet, with no need for a sweater ever, I’m excited that I’ll need to wear boots and a coat for part of the year! Jeju’s yearly temperatures range from 3-30C (38-86F), with mild winters and hot, humid, and rainy summers. Annual rainfall is 58-75 inches. After Jakarta, I think can handle some rain!
The lifestyle on the island is much more laid back than in big cities like Shanghai, Jakarta, or Bangkok. This will be a welcome change.
I’ll be able to breathe clean air, as there’s no air pollution on the island. What a bonus!
I know there’s so much more to learn about my new home, and I’m really looking forward to exploring it in a few short months!
I’m not really sure how to feel right now. I found out today that our school closure would be extended, which if I’m being honest, is what I wanted. I was terrified to go back to school next Monday, and quite frankly, I was prepared to refuse to go should the school decide to open. But when I envisioned the school closure extending, I was thinking we’d push it back another month or so, just until it was safe to return. I wasn’t prepared to hear that we would most likely close for the remainder of the school year.
I made the decision a couple of days ago that I would stay in Indonesia, rather than relocate to Texas right now, figuring that it’s safer for me to remain in quarantine here instead of traveling through several airports and spending many hours on an airplane. I am at peace with that decision. While I’m comfortable with the routine of virtual school, I’m not happy about doing it for two and a half more months. However, the realness of what’s happening is starting to sink in.
I won’t get to say goodbye to my students in person. I won’t get to have a going away party before I move away for good. I won’t get to see our 2020 graduates walk the stage. I won’t get to celebrate with my students after their PYP Exhibition (and I now have to figure out how to do a completely virtual Exhibition). I won’t get to hug my colleagues and say a proper goodbye. I won’t get to say thank you and goodbye in person to the parents who have been so supportive of me over the past three years. I won’t get to laugh with students out on the playground again. I won’t get to hand out another Learner Profile of the Month award. I won’t get to see our students perform at the Primary Concert or Swimming Carnival. I won’t get to spend time with my friends before they’re gone (many have already left or will leave soon). I won’t get to have our pizza, movie, and bonfire night at school with my students (and I promised them we would do this). I don’t get to celebrate my Year 6 students’ transition into Secondary.
I won’t get closure. I’ll just work until June 12th online and then leave. That’s it. This chapter of my life will end abruptly, and then it’ll be gone. I don’t think I’m okay with this.
This is the first Spring Break in about 10 years that I haven’t traveled. I had planned on traveling to Perth for the week, but for obvious reasons, that trip was cancelled. Instead, I’m spending the week at home, and after a weekend of relaxing, I was restless today.
I decided to tackle cleaning out the fridge and freezer to see what I had and organize everything, making sure I had enough food for the next few weeks of quarantine. After pulling out everything in the freezer, I realized I had lots more food than I thought. In order to remember what I had, I made lists on sticky notes and stuck them to the outside of the freezer. My plan is to cross off things as I use them.
I cleaned out and organized the fridge, too, but I didn’t make lists, as I am able to clearly see everything. I organized the shelves by food categories (dairy, condiments, leftovers, sweets, fruits, veggies), which will help me know when I need to restock.
It wasn’t a super exciting task, but it was rewarding once I was done!
If you’ve been reading my slices for the past month, you know I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions, however most of them have been in the uncertain, worried, and fearful categories. Many of you have been there, too. Our lives have been upended in a matter of weeks, and we are grappling to make sense of our new normal.
In some ways, I felt like I needed to feel this way about it. That little voice in my head telling me that this is not okay and I shouldn’t be dealing with this. Today, however, I woke up feeling at peace. Despite the chaos going on in the world, I am safe and healthy, and frankly, all the worry and despair won’t make the virus stop anyway, so why keep dwelling on it?
So today, I felt compelled to express my TBAs (Truths, Beauties, and Appreciations). I always find this slice format to be a grounding experience that brings me back to reality.
I have let fear control me over the last 3 weeks, but I’m releasing that fear today.
I am healthy and safe in isolation. I have food and supplies, and I’m not in any danger.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the what ifs only make me more anxious about what’s to come once my visa runs out in June.
I’m learning to be kinder to myself, forgiving the times when I know I should do more of this or less of that. These are extraordinary times and no one has a rule book on what any of us should do. We have to find our own path.
While I’m not able to travel right now, I know that once everything is safe and back to normal, I’ll be back out there, exploring the world again.
The green and sunshine out my window reminds me that the natural world is beautiful.
The smiles on the faces of my friends and family when we connect on FaceTime.
The seven days off that lay ahead, full of promise and opportunities for self-care, reading, writing, planning, sleeping, puzzles, and TV shows, are such a welcome relief.
My house plants that bring a splash of color, a reminder that we are all growing, and a smile to my face.
Being still today has allowed me to truly listen to the sounds outside…the leaves rustling with the light breeze, the birds chirping, the occasional motorbike riding by, the call to prayer, the ducks quacking, kids calling to one another.
Quiet mornings like this, where I can wake when I want, sip tea and read slices in my PJs, cuddled up on the couch under a blanket.
Rohana, my live-in maid, who has looked after me during this tumultuous time, ensuring that I have fresh food to eat, clean clothes, and a disinfected home. She’s been such a constant for me and has kept me company as I remain in self-isolation.
Technology that allows me to connect with my loved ones and work remotely.
The support from all of you in the SOL community this month has meant more to me than you’ll ever know. I’m able to pour my emotions out in writing so much more than when speaking to others. I’ve felt seen and heard this month, and your comments have fueled my soul.
After being cooped up inside, I appreciate that I can come up to my rooftop oasis to read and relax. The blue skies and plants make me smile so much!