Nine Months Down, On the Homestretch, Again
Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
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Hard to believe it has been 9 months since I packed up a bunch of bathing suits and headed for Mexico. Where does the time go??
Nine months: North America, Central America, South America, Europe and a wee bit of Asia. 12 countries later and I am headed back to Canada. I called this year's blog "A Diary of Interrupted Days", because that is what my nomadic life is about - living without a plan, being open to whatever the day may bring. And what amazing days I have had.
Most of these months I have been travel ling with friends from home – some coming for a week, a few weeks, a month here and there, taking a little respite from their frantic lives – getting to try out my style of 'slow travel’. That has been really fun. The places I have seen and the people I have met are as diverse as the cultures I have been able to get a glimpse of. As daunting as Mexico, Central and South America seemed before I left, with the legends of dangers around every corner, I am happy to report, for the third year in a row – no robberies, no thefts, no pickpockets, no victimization of any kind. I wish I could say that for my many friends along the way, but Lady Luck continues to shine on me in so many ways. I am brimming with gratitude.
I am headed to my Dad’s place in Guelph Ontario. Lady Luck took a bit of a break for them the week before Christmas. My Dad and his wife suffered a devastating house fire – destroying their beloved home and all of their belongings. The only lucky thing that day was that they were baking cookies together, smelled smoke, and when they realized it was coming from the basement, looked down the stairs as a giant fireball rocketed towards them. Although my Dad says it took just seconds for the whole house to be engulfed, they amazingly got out the door – out into the snowbank with only the clothes on their backs and socks on their feet. Because the house was destroyed, they moved into a suites hotel and have spent the last 7 months waiting for their house to be rebuilt. Two weeks ago they, finally! got back into their brand new house. I am headed there to help out where I can. Starting over in their eighties, with all new stuff!!!! My Dad is notorious for making ‘projects’ and, like last year, the lists of ‘projects’ with my name assigned is growing exponentially. I am looking forward to getting the yard back into the shape I left it last summer.
Their experiences are yet another testament to simply living for the day. No amount of foreshadowing could have ever predicted the changes to their lives in a matter of seconds. Two long lifetimes of stuff, gone. All we really have forever are the memories we make. They learned quickly that, although it is just ‘stuff’, some of it is still missed terribly. The kindness of their neighbors have kept their spirits up and made it impossible not to return to the neighborhood they love so much.
A couple of days ago I received more news of how quickly things can change. The boat Carolyn and I were on in the Galapagos sunk a month ago. I hear it was hit by three big waves and took only three minutes to completely sink!!! Everybody got off into the panga but the disaster has left our terrific young guide and the crew unemployed. Ahhh, I feel for them. I have to say the Galapagos was the highlight of this year and I am so sorry those guys have such a tough time ahead of them with no boat.
I have spent the last 10 days in Madrid. Even though it is summer and the city is packed with tourists, the place still has an incredibly relaxed ‘vibe’. I could live here. I have been doing little day trips here and there – the public transportation system, from the Metro (second largest in the world – after London) to the bus service that connects the surrounding towns, is incredibly efficient. Even without much Spanish, I have maneuvered my way around a lot of this city and a lot of the province.
I came to Spain to do the Camino. And I just might do a Camino some day – most likely a different, less popular one - for those of you turned off by my comments - have a look at the Camino Portuguese or the Via de la Plata from Seville. Both routes end in Santiago de Compostela and definitely are not as popular...yet!. The idea of just walking from Point A to B obviously has mass appeal. I guess, looking back, I have been ‘doing’ my own Camino for a few years now. The difference is I never know where Point B will be. All the interrupted days have made for a very indirect route around the globe, and so it will continue. Except for Tommorrow…. .Point B will be Toronto, after a little stop in Paris!.
Not sure when I will get to Calgary to visit my friends, family and my 'stuff'. I miss everybody and of course I miss having a variety of shoes to wear. By the time I get to my storage locker the styles will have all changed!!
I would love to have updates from you too. What are you doing this summer? Come on, I share my life through this Diary with you...... it is only fair you reciprocate. Drop me a line - what is new/old/different/same???
Update on Jan’s week. Deciding to head back to Asia instead of looking for work in the Middle East seems to have been the right decision. Here is her report on Week 1 – Indonesia.
A little sad and already missing Deb, my evil genius partner in world exploration, I marched stiff-lipped and head held high through the Istanbul airport. Sour-faced employees thinned out the further I got from the security check and more familiar, welcoming sights began to fill the void. My long journey ahead had a stop in Kuala Lumpur before my final touchdown in Surabaya so the departure lounge seats were crowded with a variety of smiling, chatting, curious SE Asian travelers. *sigh* This feels better already. I was a novelty again; sneaky glances from grown ups, open-mouthed gaping from kids, giggles hid demurely behind delicate hands or snapped open newspapers, what’s the white girl up to? And smiles. Even from obviously weary travelers, I got smiles. Wow. Nice. I’m definitely heading in the right direction.
When in my life did 12+ hour flights, long layovers, more flights, then long drives in random vehicles become a normal bout of travel? Ugh! A little frazzled I finally arrived at the Surabaya airport, only a short 30 minutes late, bought an on-arrival visitor visa, collected my ginormous backpack and stepped out into my new country. The heavy, humid heat wrapped around me like a welcome home hug and I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew this place. I knew this culture. I didn’t have a clue where I was, knew zero words of the local language, and was being led blindly by the sweet girl and driver from the school who had come to pick me up but I was floating. The frantically swerving motorbikes on the overcrowded roads, the endless line of street carts steaming with bizarre and tempting foods cooked up while you wait, the palm trees towering amid the concrete maze and smoggy pollution, the long, straight, black hair, the flipflops shuffling along the ground, and the tiny bodies with the big, big smiles. Oh hello SE Asia, I think I’m home.
I’ve been here a week and it has passed by faster than a frat boy’s spring break in Mexico. New house, welcome dinner, new school, teachers, classes, students… my head is still spinning. But I’m being taken in and taken care of every step of the way. I live in a HUGE one level house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an enormous sitting area, dining area, and kitchen. My neighborhood is a posh residential area with quiet, tree-lined streets and a big, icky, central stagnant swampy pond where you can find locals either using it as an afternoon fishing area or outdoor toilet. Apparently it’s not uncommon to see someone going number 2 six feet away from someone catching their dinner. Hmmm… remind me not to eat at the neighbour’s house. Lots of food carts stroll by on a regular evening route, outdoor eating areas come alive after the sun has gone down, and mosquitoes multiply by the millions. I’m back, baby, I’m back!
I have my very own room with AIR CONDITIONING!!!, a luxury I won’t deny myself after years of simply having to sweat it out. I have two housemates and so far, it looks like life will be pretty easy. Adam, a lovely English guy who has been teaching in various places in Asia for the last six years. Only a couple of months here and he knows the ins and outs of this place already so has been showing me what’s what all around our cozy little neck of the woods and making sure I’m sorted out. Partner in the Philippines with hopes of being reunited by year’s end. Separation is tough. John’s a funny Greek guy who’s on his last term here. Ha ha “funny”, not weirdo “funny”. Laid back and encouraging. Not sure if he’s heading back to Greece or somewhere else but I’ll only have three months to get to know him. Girlfriend in Jakarta. Again, separation is tough. Easy to talk to and laugh with guys who are looking out for me and similar in that we all like our own space so no one takes offence when someone is hanging out in their room instead of chilling on the couch. I think I’ve been placed in the quiet house, by the sounds of it, and that works out perfectly for me. Now all I need to do is buy me a little motorbike so I can start getting out and exploring on my own soon soon!
Oh. And did I mention that we have two cleaning girls? Oh yeah. Two LOVELY young local girls who clean the house, wash our dishes, and wash our laundry. Seriously! I’ll come home from school and my bed, that I DID make, has been remade the way they like it, my dirty clothes have not only been washed but ironed and PUT AWAY in my closet, and any dish that I might have used has been washed and put away as well. Oh. My. Gosh. I feel SO guilty but WOW! I’ve been told not to interfere, they’ll take this as a slight on the job that their doing, so fine by me. Have at ‘er! Help yourself! You wanna make my bed and wash my clothes? I think I love you. My life is way too easy here.
The school is incredibly organized, professional, and comfortable. A big, resource-filled teacher room with curriculum already laid out, fully stocked classrooms with desks, whiteboards, sound systems, and sweet, sweet A/C, and a support staff that will do anything for us, including running off to get our lunch for us or hailing down taxis. The rest of the teachers at my school (the company has 4 schools) are par for the course in terms of getting my head on straight (more on my teacher folk later) and are just fabulous. A private school attended by the wealthy and educated so yeah, this place is top notch. Pinch me, please. How did I not come here before?
My students… oh wow. Classes are offered from 2:30pm – 9:15pm depending on the level of the student. They go to school all day and come to us for private lessons a couple of nights a week. Apparently expensive private lessons. Privileged kids but for the most part really, really nice. Really. I’ve got 6 classes that I teach on a rotating basis, 5 year olds, 8 – 9 year olds, 10 – 11 year olds, junior high kids, and senior high / college kids. All of them… super smart. Their English blows me away. Even the little ones! And the curriculum for the oldest students, yeah I’ve had to actually study and research the topics to be taught before going to class – they’re THAT good. Yikes. Intimidating for sure. Basic teaching and simply speaking English isn’t going to cut it here. Big learning curve for this girl but by the end of the year, I’m should be talking English real good yo yo!
I think I’ll generally work from 12:30pm – 8:30pm, even on the days I only teach for 3 hours, because I’m an organization freak and need to make sure I’m uber prepared before teaching. This apparently will fade as I become more comfortable, I’m told, or until someone kicks my ass for being a keener. They’re tolerating my eager beaver antics for now but I’ve been duly warned. I have the entire weekend off and a ridiculous amount of holiday time. Too much time to actually know what to do with at this point. I’m going to have to be careful I don’t spend every penny I make on all of the diving and exploring I want to do around here. Once my head stops spinning, the map is coming out and destinations will conquered. I’m in Indonesia!
I don’t have any pictures yet but I’ll get on it right away. I’ve made the mistake far too often of living in a place and getting so used to it that I forget that it’s not an everyday sight for most people. I’ll bring the camera everywhere with me next week and see what I can do. I also want to… *gulp*… get a motorbike as it’s a necessity to get anywhere. Looking into it now and will fill you all in on the horror stories once it becomes a reality.
Have to fly to Singapore for the day (oh my, doesn’t THAT sound fancy?!) on Tuesday to get my work visa organized and then I’m a true blue Kelt teacher. Yay me! I think this year will pass really quickly and hopefully, I should feel more and more at home as the days pass. No first month of crying myself to sleep (oh Thailand how I miss you!), no overwhelming horror at the choice I made, no yearning for comforts that have long since faded from memory. I’m a big girl now. While committing to this for an entire year is still a humming haunt in the far recesses of my mind, I think the year will come and go ending with a whole new world of opportunities laid out for me. Sticking with my theme, my universe is incredible at finding me these grand adventures… it’s upward and onward from here. Terimah kasih universe… I love what you’ve done for me!
Posted July 16, 2011