Teaching Shakespeare is never easy. But teaching Shakespeare to a classroom of mostly English Language Learners? It’s not only difficult, but hilarious.
This morning I began reading Romeo & Juliet to my ninth graders. We had already gone over the history of Shakespeare’s life, the history of Elizabethan England, and what was considered popular entertainment at the time (think bear baiting, public executions and cockfights–and yes, “cockfights” evoked some serious laughter from the 14-year-old boys in the room.) Now it was time to discuss puns.
Where does the time go? Seriously.
I remember rolling my eyes when “old” people used to say this to me. And now, all of a sudden, I’m the old one saying this. (Well, not old, but “old-ish” according to my teenage students). It seems like overnight all of my friends got married and had babies, and my bedtime became something of an embarrassing topic of conversation. I’m also about to wrap up my fifth year teaching abroad. It just doesn’t make sense.
As an expat, there’s nothing more exciting than having friends and family visit. You get the opportunity to show off your new home, introduce them to a new culture, and hopefully convince them that you’re not completely insane for living abroad. However, there’s also a flip side. It can be quite stressful having guests, especially if you live in a non-English speaking country and plan to spend some of their vacation working, leaving them to their own devices.
I am not a morning person. I never have been. I never will be. But the fact that I’m now a high school teacher means I at least have to pretend.
So Monday through Friday, I set my alarm for 6am, giving me a solid hour to quietly enjoy a giant cup of coffee. I make breakfast. I cake concealer under my eyes. I bike to school to get my blood pumping. By the time my students enter the classroom at 8am, I fake a smile and actually resemble a human being.
If you’re an expat, or if you’ve ever traveled by yourself for long periods of time, you know that sometimes it’s tough to meet people. True, you may get lucky and meet that perfect group of people at a hostel, or another solo traveler on a walking tour. But what if you don’t? Well, my advice for you is to get online.
There’s Meetup.com, which is a great site for finding activities or weekend trips with like-minded individuals, Couchsurfing.org, good for finding a couch/room or meeting locals, and the Tinder app for the single traveler, looking for a possible romance on the road.
But if you’re planning on making a semi-permanent or even permanent move abroad, Internations is the way to go. The website is similar to Meetup, but with an emphasis on networking opportunities. I’ve personally been to several events, and have made many friends and business contacts along the way.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I do for a living. “How did you start teaching overseas?” “Do you teach at a Chinese school or an American school?” “How do you travel so much?” “What kinds of benefits do you get?”
Then the most important: “How can I do it too?”
Six years ago, when the U.S. economy took a turn and I was left without a job, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and move to Korea to teach English. I had never taught before, I hadn’t traveled much, and admittedly, kids weren’t really my thing. But I thought, Hey, I can do anything for a year.
Now that I’m finally back and settled in Shanghai, with the second semester in full swing, it’s time to acknowledge that it is now 2015. It always takes me awhile to make the switch; in fact, my students corrected me today when I wrote the date on the board.
2014 was a busy year for me. I finished up my contract in Bogota, Colombia, attended my sister’s wedding in the States, started a new teaching contract in Shanghai, and added a new continent to my travel list. It was a good one. Here are the highlights:
It’s been five days since I landed in Shanghai; and let me tell you, it’s been a whirlwind.
Living abroad isn’t easy. You’re forced to pack your entire life’s possessions into a few suitcases, learn a new language, a new culture, and make new friends to combat the inevitable homesickness. And while you’re busy doing all these things, Facebook reminds you of everything you’re missing back home. At times it can get lonely, but most of the time, it’s incredibly exciting.
I gasped for air and kept peddling, my head down so the spinning instructor wouldn’t see me laughing.
“Is it just me, or is he doing a sexy dance on top of the bike?” my friend Kari said on the bicycle next to me.
Day two in Korea, still jet-lagged, I had a 9:30am health check appointment at the hospital. A vision test, hearing test, lung X-ray and four vials of blood later, it was time to pee in a cup.
After being pricked and poked in front of what seemed like half of Seoul, a little urine sample sounded relatively painless.
I was wrong. My first public peeing experience—in a hospital mind you—ended up being in a ceramic hole in the ground.