Friday, March 27th, 2020
Last night, my husband and I spent some time looking out the window. All around us, apartment buildings were full of light. Even the old, gray Communist block down the street–the one I assumed was condemned–had suddenly sprung to life.
A man in his living room did squats. A woman folded laundry. We saw people cooking, eating. A couple danced in their kitchen.
I thought back to a few months earlier when Luke and I were on an Alfred Hitchcock kick. We watched “Rear Window,” and the whole time I kept thinking, Why doesn’t anyone just close their blinds?
Tuesday, March 24th, 2020
It’s day 8 of distance learning, day 11 of social distancing. At first, people were jokingly referring to this as “Corona-cation.” It was sunny and warm, and the first day of online teaching began with pancakes and coffee on the balcony. I believe my husband and I even toasted to the “time off.” A few days later, we found a Coronavirus playlist on Spotify. We made Aperol Spritzes and listened to “It’s the End of the Word as We Know it” by R.E.M.
I have a confession to make: before yesterday, I hadn’t filed my taxes in three years. I know this is awful, but I was honestly just too overwhelmed.
Before moving abroad, I filed my taxes every year. It was easy: I claimed 0 on my W-2 form, then when tax season rolled around, my employer gave me all the information I needed. I typed it into Turbo Tax, and then got a nice refund in the bank and treated myself to a new outfit.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy when you move out of the country. I’m going to do my best to explain what I’ve learned over the past ten years as an expat, but first…
Here are some basics that you need to know before filing:
Today I received a Facebook message from my friend Austin, who paid me the best compliment: “You’ve inspired me to move abroad.”
He’s heading to Costa Rica, with plans of running an online business, while learning Spanish, hitting some waves, and hopefully meeting a girl. In his words, he’s searching for “pura vida,” or “pure life.”
His message reminded me of something I wrote myself eight years ago, just before moving to South Korea. I was full of excitement and optimism and would spend hours scrolling though images of temples, reading about weekend trips from Seoul, and daydreaming about what my life would be like. I emailed everyone I knew who had spent time abroad to hear their stories.
But Austin included something in his note that I wish I had: he asked for advice, for insight. I thought about what I was going to say for awhile, and figured I’d share my reply with all of you. So, here goes: Continue reading
Prom tickets are for sale, yearbooks are circling the campus, and the students have traded their long pants and tennis shoes for jean shorts and sandals. It’s officially the end of the school year, and I’m counting down the days until I board a plane to Florida.
As a longterm expat, and international school teacher, I look forward to summer for so many reasons. Obviously it’s a chance to get in some much-needed friend time, family time, and pool time, but it’s also a chance to stock up on products that are hard to find (or just ridiculously expensive) on this side of the world. Continue reading
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:
On January 1st, I rang in the New Year on Copacabana Beach in Rio. It was a crazy celebration, full of live music, fireworks, dancing, wave hopping (a good-luck tradition), and kissing. Yes, Mom, I said kissing. Sorry, but those Brazilians are a friendly bunch (and cute!).
1. A decent shower.
Over the past few years I’ve learned that I had it good in Florida. Hot water, steady pressure—a shower head that was a comfortable distance from my skull. In Korea, I had one of those all-inclusive bathrooms where you shower over the toilet. In Colombia, I had a faucet that was heated by a faulty electric cord. Now in China, I am currently battling to keep the water anywhere between 15 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I will, however, give props to Chinese showers for having heating lamps in the ceilings. Nicely done.