Tag Archives: Slice of Life

A New Adventure!

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! 🙂

This video highlights so many things I love about the school, including the gorgeous campus!

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!

Aerial view of Jeju Island Source
Jeju Island is the purple island south of the mainland. Source

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!

So…who’s coming to visit?

Mourning the end

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.

Source: Giphy

Keeping Busy

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!

TBAs

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.

Truths

  1. I have let fear control me over the last 3 weeks, but I’m releasing that fear today.
  2. I am healthy and safe in isolation. I have food and supplies, and I’m not in any danger.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Beauties

  1. The green and sunshine out my window reminds me that the natural world is beautiful.
  2. The smiles on the faces of my friends and family when we connect on FaceTime.
  3. 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.
  4. My house plants that bring a splash of color, a reminder that we are all growing, and a smile to my face.
  5. 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.

Appreciations

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Technology that allows me to connect with my loved ones and work remotely.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

A Day for Catch-ups

Spring Break, Quarantine Edition began today. I was able to catch up with so many of my favorite people throughout the day. This is definitely a perk of being in isolation…you have time to talk to people without being too busy. Silver lining!

My morning started off in Texas with Lisa, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew, Randi and Logan, where I got to hear about how their week off from school has been going. Lisa’s a teacher, too, so she has the tough job of teaching online while homeschooling 2 young children. I can’t imagine how she’s going to do all that and stay sane!

Next up in Vietnam was Michelle, whose birthday is today. It’s such a bummer that she doesn’t get to properly celebrate it now, but she is getting together with a small group of friends later tonight. We commiserated about online school and how much we miss having our kids in the classroom and debated whether it was safer to go back to the states or stay abroad. The verdict was it was probably safer to stay rather than braving the trek home.

Late morning took me to Canada to see Shaggers, who also just finished her first week of online learning, and like me, is on Spring Break. With both her and her husband teaching, Marlowe (their 4 year old daughter) is struggling to understand why her parents are preoccupied and not able to devote all their attention to her while they’re home. They’ve been working on an alternating schedule to make sure she gets what she needs. I imagine that’s a tricky line to walk. Of course, we also talked about Marlowe, her budding writer!

This afternoon I got to catch up with Annie, my temporary roommate, who moved back to her place once the self-quarantine went into effect. While we are both glad we have a week off from school, we both plan to take advantage of the week to get ahead for the next week of virtual school. We also weighed the pros and cons of going back home during this uncertain time. The verdict’s still out.

After Annie, Vanessa was on deck. Since we usually chat on and off during school days, it was weird to not talk to her all day. We briefly chatted about her fun family day spent in PJs, where they watched movies, ate yummy food, and played Monopoly. Everyone is glad for a brain break from school!

Wendi, my friend I originally worked with in Albania and who now works with me here in Jakarta, called to talk through whether it’s best to stay put or go back home. She’s got more to consider, with a baby and a dog, but no matter the reasons we came up with, there was no clear answer. She’s going to sleep on it tonight.

Rounding out tonight was my parents in Texas. We discussed whether or not I should come home (sensing a pattern?), but again, there was no clear decision. I have to weigh up whether it’s safer to stay here, where I am quarantined in my house, or risk the airports, airplanes, and long lines once I arrive, plus the 14-day quarantine in a hotel once I am stateside. I’m likely to catch it on the way home, but the medical care is better at home, I’d be near my family, and I’d be guaranteed to get out of Indonesia. Who knows if/when flights in and out will be shut down…with so many unknowns, there’s no easy answer. Our conversation ended on a positive note, where we talked about non-Coronavirus topics, which was pleasant.

Fri-yay!

I never thought we’d make it, but Friday finally came! Today was an even more TGIF moment, as it was the start of our spring break. While this is not the week off I had planned (so long Australia, hello self-isolation in Jakarta!), I am so thankful for this week of respite. After 3 weeks of virtual school, and 11 straight weeks of school without a day off since winter break, it’s much-needed!

Just like the last day of term in real school, we had some fun today! We met as a class this afternoon on ZOOM to have a check-in. We chatted (usually all at the same time) about whatever we wanted, shared how it was going, talked about what we missed about not being together, asked each other questions, showed off our pets (a kitty, a dog, and a hedgehog!), told jokes, sang our favorite song from camp, and laughed a lot. I was reminded of how much I love this group of students. We all needed a bit of fun and to take a step back from the demands of school.

Following our ZOOM meeting, we continued chatting in Teams, sharing funny videos and memes. Here are some of our favorite videos:

My friend and colleague Vanessa is a mentor for one of my students in his Exhibition, and after their meeting, she called to ask me how she could support him, but I was on the other line with a student, so she left a voicemail. The voicemail on Teams has a feature where it sends the voicemail and a written version of their message using their text-to-speech feature. Vanessa is British, so her accent didn’t entirely translate to the written version. As I listened to the message, I was following along/reading ahead on the written version. I laughed so hard at this…

“I said, what are you struggling with what can I help you with? He said his grandma and so I’m more than happy to support him with his grandma…”

I was so confused! The message said he was struggling with his grandma, but she said he was struggling with his grammar! I immediately called her back to tell her what happened, and we were cry-laughing about it. We needed that laugh today!

This evening, after school was a distant memory, several of my colleagues and I got together for a virtual happy hour on ZOOM! It was nice to see everyone and talk about things other than school (although school creeped into the conversation a few times…we are teachers, after all). Lots of laughs and silliness was the perfect start to this week off!

Hope I can continue to see the fun in virtual school and self-isolation…it’s going to be a while! 🙂

Productivity and Working from Home

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity, time management, and scheduling. Working from home has never been a strong suit of mine. Whenever I need to get a lot of work done on the weekends, I always have to work somewhere else…school, a cafe, Starbucks. If I don’t, I am so distracted by things at home that I just procrastinate all day until I stress myself out and end up staying up late on Sunday night and then don’t even get half of my list done!

What started me thinking about time management was my students’ reflections on virtual school last week. All but one said the hardest part of online learning was time management and managing distractions. Same for me, guys. To help them learn more time management techniques, I went on a deep dive on YouTube, because let’s be honest, I’m not the model for this skill! I found 2 really good videos (here and here) for them and they’ve been using the new techniques to create a daily to-do list and schedule each morning, which they submit to Seesaw. I’ve seen improvements this week in their ability to submit assignments in a timely manner. If we are still online after spring break, I’ll tackle the distractions element!

While researching for my students, I came across a YouTuber named Amy who is a time management, scheduling, morning routine, and productivity expert. I’ve watched way too many of her videos this week! With tomorrow being our last day of virtual school before a much-deserved week off, I’ve been reflecting on how I will improve how I approach the planning and execution of virtual school and how I will take some time for myself on my isolated spring break. Here’s what I’ve planned so far.

Things to do during Spring Break

Daily:
-Exercise
-Blog/Slice
-Read
-Skincare routine
-Sleep well

Fun:
-Puzzles!
-Try new recipes
-Catch up on my shows
-Movies and popcorn
-Coloring books

Organize:
-Clean out closets
-Cook and freeze meals
-Create a daily schedule for Spring Break
-Create a daily schedule for virtual school (if it continues after next week)
-Decide what to pack/move and what to donate

Work:
-Plan ahead for the next week
-Film all lessons for the next week
-Student feedback
-Catch up on curriculum work
-Brainstorm how to do an entirely online PYP Exhibition (if it comes to that)

I’m hopeful for next week and want to be productive, not succumb to binge-watching Netflix every day, because we all know how easy that would be!

This video from Amy is sooo helpful and applicable now! Anyone struggling with working from home should watch it. She gives great tips!