I desperately needed a haircut. I couldn’t even look at my hair. Everything happened so fast I didn’t get the chance to have my hair cut before I moved to Italy and the last one I had was early in the summer in Southampton (I miss the UK so much more I dare to admit sometimes).
Of course it wasn’t about the hair. It was all about self care and I’d started neglecting myself, pretty dangerous for me, it lets the depression and severe anxiety demons creep in and slowly take over without me realising until is too late, so I had to get my hair cut. Urgently.
I’m not sure if you remember where I live now, it’s a small city where very few people you come across speak English, so even the thought of attempting to book an appointment I found intimidating.
But self-preservation prevailed and I wouldn’t let my very poor Italian get in the way. (My Italian hasn’t improved much since, in case you are wondering.)
If you asked me what the most common expression I’ve used so far during my first three months in Italy was, it’s not ‘scusi’, or ‘per favore’ but..
‘Non parlo Italiano’.
It’s my opening line most of the time. Oh no, I actually first speak in English, as I often forget they won’t understand me, then I notice the baffled expression on their face and I explain.
So here’s how I managed to get a (decent) haircut with minimal communication but plenty of awkwardness.
Eleni- ‘Hi, I’d like too…, oh sh**. Non parlo Italiano, parle Inglese?
Hairdresser- Mmmm, no… (waves at one of the other hairdressers who knows a bit of English apparently).
El- Taglio (cut). Pointing at my hair. ‘Un po’ (How the hell do you say ‘trim’ in Italian?)
H-Si. Quando? (Yes! Finally a word I know!)
El-Sabato, matina (morning)?
H– (After checking their appointment book). Mm, tredici? (1pm, Italians tend to follow the 24hr format).
E– Si, si, grazie!
Pheew. First step done. I managed to book an appointment!
Saturday (haircut day)
I couldn’t remember if the appointment was at 11am or 1pm. In my head numbers were mixed up the minute I left the hairdressers two day ago. Full time teaching does that to you, messing up your brain. So I went at 11am, just to check. The hairdressers burst into laughing. I thought I’d attempt to go food shopping since I got up anyway, but the supermarket was way too busy for my liking (Damn, I could have stayed in bed a little longer).
I walked in. I had no idea what to say or do. The place was full of customers chatting away. I felt paralysed, mute. I couldn’t let any words out. I didn’t know how to. I could understand some of the conversations but I couldn’t take part. A horrible feeling.
That’s how my students must feel… I kept thinking.
After about half an hour wait (which I was ‘lucky’ as quite often you wait way longer, I was told), I was summoned on the chair.
The stylist asked me how I wanted my hair. I managed to explain (thanks to Antonella, Elena and Google translate) that I just wanted a trim and layers but not too short.
I was terrified. What if she gives me a horrible haircut, what if I end up looking like a pencil?
We didn’t speak much after that. She couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Italian. She made an effort, which I appreciated, she asked me if I was a student, thankfully I knew how to say ‘I’m an English teacher’. My second most used expression (‘insegnante di Inglese’).
An hour later and after a lot of miming and gesturing (and a few word exhanges partially thanks to similarities between Greek and Italian), I left the hairdressers relieved I didn’t look like a pencil, it was actually a decent haircut and cheap compared to UK prices (12 euros).
But it was the most awkward hairdresser’s experience I ever had. And kind of funny at the same time. I had a little giggle afterwards. It’s fascinating how we humans manage to communicate even when we don’t speak the same language, although sometimes we can’t communicate even if we do speak the same language. The irony.
A month later and I’m none the wiser when it comes to Italian. My timetable doesn’t allow me to attend Italian lessons anymore, though I’m still learning from my students, who feel incredibly proud judging by the huge smile on their face every time they teach me an Italian word.
I’m not sure I’d like to stay in (Southern) Italy after my contract ends, but one thing I discovered is that I love living somewhere I’ve never lived before, being thrown into the deep, learning how to… well how to adopt and survive in another country, another culture, another life. That’s something I definitely want more of.
For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of my stay at this little, odd town that is Reggio Calabria.
I’m holding a coin wrapped in tin foil and everyone is cheering me. Surreal.
It had just turned 2019 and I was the ‘lucky’ one, the ‘lucky charm’ was in my slice of Vasilopita, the traditional New Year’s cake. Who knows, maybe luck would be on my side this year. That will be a first!
That’s how 2019 started and what a year it’s been!
I regularly self-reflect, that’s how this blog started afterall, but inevitably this is a great time to look back on the year that’s ending and remind myself of all the lessons I learned from my mistakes, my achievements and more importantly everything I’m thankful for.
Whilst going through all these changes I had great adventures with loved ones, climbing up and down hills on our Jurassic Coast Macmillan Mighty Hike, exploring Bruges and Brussels with my little sister, an awesome holiday at Rhodes with my middle sister, I made great memories with friends and family, who I wouldn’t survive with at times, and for that I feel blessed and happy.
It’s not only the end of the year but the end of the decade and well, where to start from?
I can’t possibly reflect in detail and I’m not sure it will help in anything but tο sum up (take a deep breath):
I left Cyprus to do my Masters, I had my first long term relationship of 7 years that left me with emotional scars but taught me a lot and made me who I am, I ended up staying in the UK for 10 years, I had my first ‘proper’ job at Solent Uni where I worked for almost 8 years and lived in Southampton where I met some of my greatest, life-long friends, volunteered, lost myself, found myself again and learned to live on my own and with depression and anxiety, struggled with grief after losing grandma Frosou and aunt Anna, learned how to love myself, tried new things and discovered how to be happy on my own, doing what I like, singing, volunteering, theatre and musical trips, blogging, vlogging, hiking, reading, yoga (with Adriene). And that’s just a summary (breathe again).
I guess that’s life. It’s never a smooth ride. It’s full of surprises, ups and downs, easy and tough. Each of us follows their own path and are on their own timezone, so you can’t and shouldn’t compare your life to others but we all go through the same motions. So what matters at the end of the day?
I don’t do New Year resolutions, I find them pointless, I just make a small bucket list with things I’d like to do hopefully in 2020 but that’s another story I’ll post about later.
So what I learned in the last ten years and is my 2020 year and decade wish to everyone other than health, physical and mental (which is THE most important), is be happy, and never let it just depend on others, love, yourself and each other, and enjoy the little things, we truly live in a beautiful world and we often don’t appreciate life’s precious moments.
I hope you all do whatever makes you happy (don’t compromise that for no reason), quit your job if you hate it, devote time on what you love doing whatever that might be, make great memories with loved ones, enjoy every moment with them, you never know when it’s the last time you’ll see them (such a cliche but true), always be kind and try to make the world a better place. If we all do a little, as much as we can, who knows, we might make a huge difference.
Happy New Year! Here’s to a new year and a new decade. Here’s to 2020!
Pizza, cheese and wine every day, wandering on little cobble streets, gelato for lunch, pasta for dinner, music everywhere, slow and relaxed life, Italians are never in a rush, everything is easy. The Italian dream. That’s how most imagine living in Italy is like. But is it really?
I’ve been living at Reggio Calabria, a small town down at the bottom of the Italian ‘boot’ for over a month now and let me tell you what I’ve learned so far.
Oh my lord I thought bureaucracy was awful in Cyprus after I’ve lived in the UK for 10 years, but so far Italy is the winner by a mile.
Setting up a bank account is a nightmare, especially if you don’t have a permanent address or if you do but it doesn’t ‘match’ your nationality.
First of all, you need a translator as nobody speaks English (more on that later), then you have to physically go to the bank, which still happens nowadays (although with most large banks you can set up an account online, at least in the UK), so fair enough. But, be prepared.
In order to open an Italian bank account you need a ‘fiscal code’ first (the equivalent to the NI number in the UK). To get that fiscal code you have to fill in a form and apply, in person of course, at ‘Agenzia delle Entrate’ (Italian tax office). Therefore first step: Get the fiscal code (then an Italian phone number, -see reason below-, and then go to the bank to open an account). You will also need some official documentation (if there’s a mismatch between your address and nationality) stating your NI number.
Also, it’s highly recommended to get an Italian phone number before you get an account. The bank I’m with will send you your PIN through SMS for free OR you have to pay an additional 5 euros (to the 23 euros fee to set up the account) to send it to you through the post.
Bear in mind that for some providers e.g. TIM it takes 24 hours for the sim card to be activated, so I’d suggest getting the SIM card a few days before you head to the bank in case something goes wrong (which can easily happen).
Sorting out the internet is not straight forward I found. The flat I live in doesn’t have a router, I don’t even know if it has a landline set up. The only option was mobile internet. I got a MiFi device (mobile wi-fi) for 40 euros and a data SIM card, 14,99 for 50 GB a month. So far so good, though TIM customer service is not the best, topping up after the first month didn’t work and I was overcharged and when I asked for a refund I was asked to send a fax (we live in 2019 for God’s sake, who uses fax?).
Non parlo Italiano. The most common phrase I’ve used so far. Living in a small Italian town has its perks but also means that very few people, even in shops, speak English. My advice: learn Italian as soon as physically possible. (PS TV is also in Italian, everything is dubbed, thank God for Netflix).
Renting is cheap compared to other Italian cities (I pay 450 euros for rent plus electricity and gas), though salaries are generally low. Financially it would have been much better to share, but I’m too old and fussy.
Rubbish collection, when, what, how? In a huge contrast to bureaucracy and archaic systems in place, (as well as horrendous traffic) Southern Italians are keen on recycling, which is awesome, though ever so confusing. Some days are only for organic/food waste collection, others paper and cartons, then multimateriale (cans, plastic etc) and indifferenziato (still unsure what that is) and each bin it’s a different colour. It took me a while to get used to it and remember to regularly check the schedule.
Local cuisine is as great as you’d expect. I don’t have much free time as you might be aware if you read my previous post on the life of a newly qualified EFL teacher, but so far I’ve tried the local pizza and Sicilian arancino and canoli. De-li-cious.
Food shopping can be expensive, if you don’t live near a Lidl. I pay more than I thought I would on groceries and some things you’d find for a pound or less in the UK (or Cyprus) you pay 3-4 euros here e.g. baked beans.
Amazon Italia is not as good as Amazon UK. Most products are more expensive than expected and the range is limited compared to Amazon UK.
The Chinese shop is the place to go for a rather random but large selection of affordable items from Christmas decorations to stationery.
What dance/yoga/art… lessons are you talking about? I’m not sure if this is due to location or the size of the town but for whatever reason, other than shopping and an escape room I recently discovered there’s not too much to do in the city in terms of hobbies, not that I have time anyway, but I’d love to have the option. Plenty though outside the city (or if you take the ferry to Sicily). If only driving was easy in this crazy country!
Drugs are ridiculously expensive. I paid 14 euros for Nurofen Cold and Flu!! I had no idea that you can get the same drugs but ‘unbranded’ cheaper. Of course pharmacists avoid telling you that so you buy the most expensive ones, so make sure you ask for Tachiflu instead or Tachipirina (paracetamol) or take some essentials with you.
Public transport is not the best around here, so be prepared to walk,-don’t even think about cycling, even if the town was not that hilly, you will almost certainly be hit by a car-, or if you drive you’ll have to get used to risking your life daily getting hit by another car and endless hours stuck in traffic-. Italians are infamous for their terrible driving and that is actually very true. Please remember, very rarely cars stop at crossings, check carefully before you even attempt to step on the street.
Other little things I discovered:
Certain cities e.g. Palermo (where I stayed for two nights) charge City Tax for hotel stays, 1-3 euros per person per night depending on hotel stars.
Haircuts are dirt cheap. I paid 12 euros for a decent haircut.
Some things are difficult and/or expensive to find in a small Italian town e.g. kettle, Chocolate Digestives, avocados, WHERE THE HELL ARE THE AVOCADOS?e
Italian time is similar to Cypriot time ie noone is in any rush, expect delays to the hairdresser, supermarket, meetings, I won’t even comment on post etc.
People are a bit nosy and loud but quite friendly, caring and always offer to help, which I love. Some of the kids in my classes, although they only know me for a month, they give me a hug every time after each lesson, one girl drew a little sketch of me and I had plenty of fun conversations and laughter with my older students.
All in all it’s been a mixed bag so far but I love the experience, getting to know a city by living in it. I’ve only been here for two months, I’m sure I’ll find out more as time goes by and when I do I’ll post an update.
I hope this might help anyone considering moving to Southern Italy. Feel free to share your experience on the comments, I’d love to hear how it’s been for others!
Saturday evening. I’m wrapped in my fluffy blanket, not because it’s that cold, it’s still 20 degrees in Reggio but because I’m just getting overa cold for the second time in 5 weeks.
I just finished working on my portfolio tasks for my Young Learners IH online course, since I had zero free time on any weekdays this week. Not a single day. At least today I had time to catch up with some of my friends and family. (Apologies to all my friends who I haven’t messaged for a while, or didn’t reply to your messages, I honestly, genuinely didn’t have the time. Keep reading and hopefully you’ll understand).
I was going to go out after this, have a drink with my lovely fellow teachers but I’m exhausted, I’m finding it impossible to leave my sofa.
Surely that’s not how a typical ELT teacher abroad lives you might think.
I’m not sure what I expected teaching English would be like. Most of the stories I’ve read or heard are of partying, travelling, exploring, tasting the local cuisine, living like a local. The actual teaching was rarely mentioned in detail, I always assumed it won’t be that time consuming, though when I made the decision to join my current school I was well aware that was not going to be the case.
‘We work hard here, but we love it’ Lucie had said at the interview. That was one of the reasons I accepted this job. I needed a challenge after years in a mundane job and I could feel just from talking to Lucie how much they all cared about teaching.
”Since it’s my first year, I’d rather work hard, learn as much as possible as fast as possible, so the following years are easier.” I told myself.
I didn’t quit expect it to be as crazy busy though.
So let me give you a taste of how a week of a newly qualified teacher at a busy IH school in Reggio Calabria is like.
First of all there’s no ‘typical’ week. Every day or week something would come up that will change your schedule. ‘Typical’ doesn’t exist in this job, I’ll therefore describe you last week as an example.
(Also, this is NOT my full-time schedule as not all my courses have started yet, this is about two-thirds of the way (God help me when it all kicks off)).
11 am. I made it to school early (considering I don’t finish until 7pm today). My first lesson starts at 1:30pm and I have to leave the school at 1pm to get to the public school I’m teaching at. I thankfully prepared a draft lesson and I only had to print copies of everything and gather all the material I needed.
But first, coffee! I can’t survive without it. OK let’s do everything quickly (everything takes longer than you’d expect). Oh shhhugar (not a good idea to swear at school), I need to have some lunch before I go. Do I have time?? Nop. OK it will have to wait.
3pm. I’m back at the school. I’m starving, a quick bite (thankfully I brought lunch with me today) whilst I show a colleague how to use my camera for some filming for a promotional video and then off to finish planning my lesson for my one to one later today, re-design my poster for the conference on Friday (ah, why did I do it in Word?) and if time allows plan my new one to one with a doctor starting tomorrow. Lisa already gave me a few ideas for that (I love Lisa’s ideas) so that will save me some time.
About 4pm. A message comes in. Tomorrow’s external lessons are cancelled, public schools will remain closed due to the weather warnings. Southern Italy is not built for rain.
5:50pm. I lost track of time. I have 10 minutes to print off an activity to do for my one to one, the rest of the lesson is ready. The weather is getting worse, we can hear the gusting winds hitting the windows. Apparently the port closed. I wouldn’t like to be in a ferry in this weather!
6pm. One of the receptionists comes in. ‘We are closing the school’. Hooray you might think, you now have some free time. No. I make it home around 7pm, feeling a bit shivery and with a sore throat. Just what I needed!
I filled in my register (we need to submit a form after each lesson we do), had a shower, dinner, I helped my bestie with a presentation she was working on and then I re-designed my poster, from scratch. I finished about 11pm. Absolutely knackered. And it’s only Monday.At least my poster looks cool, I can’t wait to see it in A3 on Friday! (Thank you Suzanne for reminding me how awesome Canva is).
12pm. I don’t need to be in until 3pm now that my external lesson was cancelled but there’s a lot to do and no time to do it in.
OK, let’s start by planning today’s lessons, pop in to lesson planning with James (life and time saving!) and then make time to start preparing for my first formal observation on Friday.
3pm. Time to film one of the lessons. I’m glad I managed to do that. I love filming. The little ones are adorable and Mariah, their teacher is awesome, it gave me a couple of ideas for my lessons!
4:20pm. I just finished filming and I need to hand over the camera to Suzanne and rush to my next assignment, help out an Italian couple with their presentation for a pitch event.
4:30pm. The lady arrives but she is not happy, her first session was with someone else, she didn’t know she would get me today. It was hard not to take it personally though she kept repeating it wasn’t my fault (the conversation was in Italian but I could pick up a few words). Anyway by the end of the session both herself and her husband left smiling and thanking me profusely. Job done.
5:30pm. I have 45 minutes to finish preparing for my adults lesson later tonight and start working on my lesson plan for the new classes starting tomorrow. OK, I need another coffee!
6:15pm. Time for my one to one with the doctor. Not sure what to expect, I can’t even concentrate.
7:15pm. It all went well. You never know with one to ones, they are so personal and intimate, if your student doesn’t like you, it can make your life and theirs impossible. But all good.
7:45pm. OK, thank God I last minute printed all my material for this lesson. And thank God I teach adults too, keeps me sane!
9:30pm. I made it home. My throat hurts even more, I’m tired and I need to finish some work but I can’t. I do the register, have dinner and straight to bed.
11am. I drag myself to school. My throat definitely got worse overnight and I didn’t sleep much because of my now blocked nose. I have my Italian lesson in half an hour and I still need to print all the material for my classes today. I just hope and pray to make it through today.
12:30pm. Italian lesson done. I have about an hour to prepare everything and then have some lunch. It’s gonna be very close.
2:30pm. I’m here with the rest of the crew, two classes back to back at this new school. The language assistant is lovely, but she doesn’t speak much English, I hope it all works out OK.
5:50pm. Alessia picked me up to take me back to the school but we are stuck in traffic. I have to be at the school for my 6pm appointment.
5:55pm. Oh my lord. OK. Pheew. I drop everything on my desk and run upstairs (My desk is in such a mess I can’t even look at it).
6:20pm. The lady who I had the one to one with (another person to help with their pitch) didn’t show up. I might get some time to work on my observation lesson after all.
6:30pm. The lady showed up, half an hour late. Running back upstairs!
7pm. She was so lovely, I wanted to give her a hug and her business idea was great. I hope she wins!
7:30pm. I need to get my hair dyed and I need to buy food but all I want to do is lie down and wake up when this cold goes away.
8:30pm. After a quick stop at the supermarket, I made it back home, had dinner and put the hair dye on (finally I’ll get rid of white hair, it’s been giving me nightmares)! My cold got worse, I can’t breathe properly.
9:30pm. OK, I need to comment on the forum, a requirement for my online course, otherwise workload will pile up. What day is it again??
11pm. I’m heading to bed early. Oh please universe help me sleep.
3am. This is the fifth time I woke up. Stupid cold!
11am. I don’t need to be in until 1:20pm but I have a crucial, time-constraining to-do list. I head to the pharmacy to get some Nurofen Cold and Flu (14 EUROS!!!) and straight to school.
1pm. I finished preparing for my poster presentation, I finished reading the scientific article the doctor sent me for tonight’s lesson and I can have lunch very quickly.
1:20pm. INSETT time. Vince is presenting today. I love Vince, his British humour in his Italian accent. Brilliant. And what a great time to sit down and have a little break from all the things I have to do and learn something new.
2:50pm. I’m running to get to a local school I’m invigilating an exam for. Thank God Anna showed up to give me a lift. I wouldn’t have made it on time.
3:10pm. I’m at the school. Not sure where to go, I vaguely remember the way from last time. I asked the caretaker, she doesn’t speak English bless her.
3:14pm. I found the room. It was locked. Back to the caretaker. We somehow managed to communicate using gestures and Google translate. She came back, let me in and the person with her turned the lights on for me (no it wasn’t a simple switch on the wall, in case you are wondering, it was a panel with labels in Italian!).
3:22pm. I quickly arranged the chairs and let the students in. We start the exam.
4:45pm. I’m finally back at the school. I need to finish a vocab exercise I prepared for the doctor, finish my lesson plan for the adult class straight afterwards and finish preparing the material for my observation lesson tomorrow. PANIC!!!
6:15pm. OK, only thing left to do is finish cutting the material for tomorrow. But time for my one to one.
7:15pm. What an amazing lesson. I taught him English and he taught me medicine. We talked about different cancer treatments, types of cancer, haematological diseases. Fascinating. I should have paid him for teaching me.
7:45pm. OK I just need to get through this lesson then I can finish all the cutting and head home to finish off my documents for the observation.
9:45pm. All the material ready for tomorrow, I can head home now.
11pm. After a quick dinner and shower, I spent the last two hours preparing my paperwork for tomorrow. All done now. OK I need to go to bed. I have to get up at 7:30am.
7:45am. Thank God for Nurofen I feel a bit better. I only have 45 minutes to get ready. OK, remember it’s Friday, this week is almost over!
8:40pm. After a very tiny, small breakfast I got ready as quickly as I physically could and ran outside. The School’s annual ELT conference starts in 20 minutes!
8:50pm. I thankfully made it at a reasonable time, only 10 minutes late and it hasn’t started yet. Pheew.
11am. The first two sessions were great, especially Simon Ward’s talk on using positive psychology in the classroom. I forgot how awesome and engaging psychology practitioners can be. I guess that’s what experience with helping other humans make sense of the world does for you. Now for my poster presentation and then I can leave early (thank you Lucie!) and go back to school to print off the paperwork for my observation and have some lunch.
11:30am. The poster presentation went better than I thought. I was worried no one would be interested in my poster but I actually got to talk to 6-7 different people who genuinely seemed to enjoy it!
12:20pm. All ready for my observation lesson. I have no food with me so off to the nearest shop.
1:20pm. We made it to the school early. That means I can check whether the smartboard works! Of course it doesn’t. Let’s hope the mini-projector I brought with me does the trick.
2:30pm. I feel defeated. I don’t have any strength even to cry. Whatever it could have gone wrong in that lesson, it did. Technology failed me several times, my regular language assistant was not there and the children wouldn’t listen to me but I refused to shout at them. I tried my best. On the positive side that’s why I asked to be observed and be given feedback on this class, is my most challenging by far and I desperately need help.
3pm. I have some admin to do and then I need to tidy up my desk. I can bear this mess any longer.
6pm. OK admin done and handed in, I deserve a coffee and a snack. Lucie just came in and gave me a chocolate bear for presenting a poster at the conference. She is the sweetest!
7:30pm. Desk all clean, everything packed. I can go home and not do any more work for today!!
10pm. I’m so tired I’m actually heading to bed early on a Friday. Thank you universe. I can’t believe I made it through this week.
That’s it, that’s how not just my week but everyone else’s I work with has been.
The first year of teaching is NOT easy. If you work full-time, if you care about your students and what you teach them, if you care about your teaching and your performance, if you work for a school that cares, prepare to work hard. It’s exhausting but at the same time incredibly rewarding.
I miss having time for myself, I miss doing other things I enjoy, I miss not having free time to just chill.
You know what though? I love every minute. And also that means it will only get easier.For now, I’m ready for another crazy week.
A few days ago, I woke up in a sweat, tears streaming down my face, in the middle of the night. I saw my uncle Spyro in my dream, he looked so alive and healthy but he was sad. He knew he was going to die and I was painfully aware he was already dead. It took me a few seconds to realise where I was. I’m in Italy. How on earth all of this happened in just few months?
That’s when it hit me.
I have no idea what is going on. Not a clue. Now that the dust has settled and I’m getting into a routine, a routine I’m not familiar with and not quite sure how it should be, teaching English in a foreign country is brand new to me, I’m making time for myself to reflect, to make sense of what has happened in the last few months.
I don’t know where to start and how to end this post but here it goes.
I still sometimes feel I’m on a long, albeit random and bizarre holiday and I’ll be returning to the UK anytime now. I don’t miss my job, or the grey weather, OK I do miss British autumn, golden leaves across the park, hot chocolate at Mettricks, reading a book or watching silly TV on a Saturday afternoon with a blanket, a cup of tea and some chocolate biscuits whilst pouring down with rain outside, but other than that I don’t miss the UK.
I miss things from the UK, the convenience of it all (Amazon Prime aaah), actual little daily things like decent tea, Hobnobs and Chocolate Digestives, but most of all I miss my friends, my dear friends. Not that I don’t love my new colleagues and friends I’ve made already, but I miss my people.
So far I’ve enjoyed working as an EFL teacher. But is this the career I’d like to follow?
I don’t know, I genuinely don’t. I don’t even know if I’m any good at it. I’ll soon get feedback from my managers after they observe me but for now I’m doing what I think best.
Of course if I decide that’s not what I’d like to do long-term I can change careers again, but to do what?
For now I’ll give it time and not think that far ahead, but it’s always at the back of my mind.
I’m strangely not stressed or too anxious, not as much as I expected I’d be. Being one of the oldest teachers and having lived life already comes with its perks I guess. I do sometimes feel I let the rest of them down when I’m too tired or too ill or too old (in a ‘been there, done that’ sense) to follow them in some of their excursions.
It’s still unclear in my head whether I pursued this so fast to not disappoint my tutors who gave me a Grade A or to avoid dealing with my grandpa and my uncle’s deaths, I feel I haven’t processed still what has happened.
I remember the last time I was at my grandpa’s house, where my auntie now lives alone, without pappou Costa or theio Spyro and I caught myself waiting for them to show up. A horrible, sad realisation they will not ever again.
I also feel terrible guilt. I feel guilty I didn’t give my home, Cyprus more time. I was so occupied worrying not to get stuck I left after just a month. I didn’t travel across the island, I didn’t see all my friends and family. I needed an escape and ended up changing my plans at the very last minute.
I know deep in my heart I made the right decision leaving my job and leaving the UK. I’m not sure I made the right decision rushing into my first ELT job, but time will show.
For now I need to find myself again, I have felt the black cloud of depression getting closer over the last week and I desperately want to keep it away.
I need my remedies, my writing (which I’ve done a lot, this terrible cold I can’t shake off did me good in other ways), my Yoga- God I miss Adriene-, my guitar- God I miss my guitar-, and I need to feel like myself because at the moment… (I couldn’t have described it better than Wind and the Wave’s Lost)
It’s been a crazy busy few weeks as you probably have guessed from my recent updates.
I’m finally catching up with my blog and vlog (and my life in general). So, almost two months later here’s the vlog from the short break I spent at the beautiful island of Rhodes with my sister Stella.
Places mentioned/we’ve been:
Nafsika hotel. One of the cheaper options for accommodation, where we stayed. Sparkling clean, central, amazing sea views, pretty decent breakfast. We loved it.
The port area
Anemos taverna– The cafe/tavern we stopped before heading down to Tsambika beach. Gorgeous views.
Tsambika beach- Where the mountain meets the sea. No need to say much. We loved it.
Ι’m sitting at a cafe at Roma Fiumicino airport, sipping on my cappuccino and forcing myself to finish my baguette, I’m too anxious and excited to eat, whilst waiting for my next flight to Reggio Calabria, a place I never knew existed until a month ago. How did I end up here?
Everything happened very fast, I didn’t have time to tell many people. Many of you will only just find out. So here it goes.
The day after my uncle died a teaching position came up at an IH school in Reggio Calabria, the job I didn’t apply a month ago when one of my CELTA tutors recommended the school. I always kept thinking whether I should have applied the first time, so when another job came up at the same school, I thought I’d give it a go. I had nothing to lose and I now knew that my priority was to get as much experience teaching as possible.
I’ve been applying for teaching jobs abroad for a week or so, I’ve been itching to go for a while, but I didn’t know what to do, whether I should go or not and what to go for. After uncle Spyros’ death, I felt like the universe was reminding me again that life’s too short to sit and wait. When this job came up again, I guess I saw it as a sign.
I applied on that morning and I had my first interview the same afternoon. I had a second interview two days later and by the end of the week I was offered the position (I’ll write a separate post on the whole TEFL job hunting subject and what to look for, it’s a minefield!). I was offered two more jobs, one of those in Vietnam, a country on my bucket list, but I loved the people at Reggio Calabria from the first interview, everyone I talked to has already been incredibly helpful and considerate and it’s obvious they love their job and their school. I also realised that I won’t have much free time to venture out much on my first year teaching. I need to be at a quiet place with not many distractions where people care about what they do and a great school at a small, coastal town in Southern Italy, with scenic views of Sicily across the water sounds perfect!
A week later, I’m at the airport on my way to Reggio Calabria and tomorrow I start my new job. Who would have thought. I’m thrilled and at the same time terrified. How will I teach English to little Italians??Will my students, colleagues, flatmates like me? Will I be a good teacher?What if I disappoint everyone?
I guess I’ll have answers to all these questions very soon.
Every time I visit Italy the first thing that comes to my mind it’s a salutation from a classic scene in one of the best films ever made , La Vita e Bella (Life is beautiful). That’s what I thought when I woke up today to this view.
I’ve been back to Cyprus for two weeks now and I’m still ‘adjusting’. It’s never been that bad before, maybe because I always had an end date in mind or I had somewhere and something to return to, regardless how gravely I disliked it, or maybe so much happened in the last month alone, my brain is still struggling to fully comprehend what is going on.
But it can’t explain my annoying, pretty much constant (with very brief moments of happiness, laughter and relaxation) irritableness, and no, it’s not hormones.
I’mlike an upset, angry hedgehog, keeping my quills raised, prickling everyone in my way, blindly and indiscriminately.
Why do I feel like this? Why does every single thing upset me? Have I been away for too long? How long can I stick it out for? Should I just find a job in another country and leave ASAP?
Endless questions with no answers. Suddenly, out of nowhere Gaia Vince turned a shining light in this question mark shaped pitch black room.
“This idea that you gain a new personality with every language you speak, that you act differently when speaking different languages, is a profound one.” she writes in a brilliant article discussing the benefits of being bilingual. Ironically from the whole article I focused on one of the disadvantages of being fluent in two languages.
Am I really bilingual since I was born, raised and lived in Cyprus until I was 22 you might wonder. The answer is without a second thought yes. After 10 years of fully immersing in the British culture and way of life, I think and speak in English first.
Apparently bilinguals develop two different mindsets, they are a different person depending on the language they speak at the time (when you add the country they live in AND the language they speak at a given time in the mix that’s when it gets mind-baffling) and those mindsets are always in conflict as the brain is constantly trying to decide which language to use.
My two selves are always in conflict now that I’m back in Cyprus and not just the language parts. The noise, the attitudes, the people, the culture, everything I’d normally enjoy when I’m visiting Cyprus contradict my ‘British self’ who is dominating at the moment and can’t compromise and accept the fact now we are in Cyprus for (hopefully only) a few months it needs to let my other self out more or learn how to live here. My ‘Cypriot self’ is weak though and doesn’t even have an idea on what makes it Cypriot anymore, it hasn’t lived here for 10 years and since it last lived here it was a whole other person, an immature, 22 year old Cypriot who knew nothing about life or herself. That person doesn’t exist anymore but for most of my friends and family that’s the person they knew and sometimes treat me as if I’m that person, which doesn’t help with the eternal battle in my head.
So, I finally have the answer, but what’s the solution?
No idea. Though my ‘British self’ desperately desires to flee, I’m giving it time for now.
If you’ve been in a similar situation and/or wish to share some words of wisdom, please do. In the meantime, I’ll get back into my yoga and try to bring some calmness and tranquillity in this stormy, windy sea of my mind.
Good morning, I had an idea! The little sister messaged, a week before I was to finish my CELTA course.
Do you want to book a holiday apartment in Protaras for two days for the two of us to go the first week you are back? Sun, sea, swimming, food, relaxation?
YES, of course. I’ve been desperate for a holiday, I hadn’t had one since Christmas, I was overly stressed planning my last teaching session at the time and I was so tired I was still in bed on Sunday noon, this was just what I needed.
There was sun, sea, swimming and all the things she promised plus (unnecessary) drama and laughter. I vlogged the whole thing, perfect opportunity to start filming again. I’m a but rusty and because there was a lot going on in my mind, I spoke SUPER fast at times, but I hope you like it.
All the places we’ve been:
-Mimosa beach. A little bay hidden behind a hotel (where you can get drinks and food). Quiet and serene most of the time, perfect for a relaxing day in the sun and a swim in the clear blue waters and there is a diving instructor nearby if you are into it.
–Light and Blue Marelia apartments. Bright, airy and inspired by Greek island architecture, set on the top of a hill facing Profits Elias church (gorgeous views from their terrace), reasonably priced, we loved these apartments three years ago when we first stayed and they did not disappoint this time either.
-Profitis Elias church. A beautiful little chapel on the top of the hill overseeing Protaras, offering incredible views of the city and the sea. We went at night and the steps were well lit, the ascent only took 5 minutes. It’s definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.
-Pahit Ice. One of the island’s local chains offering scrummy ice cream. I recommend their pistachio ice-cream and their frozen fruit yogurt.
–Konnos Bay beach. A gorgeous bay situated between Ayia Napa and Protaras, one of Ayia Napa’s 14 Blue Flag beaches. Clear, perfect temperature water, waterports facilities and a great cafe overlooking the beach. Just stunning.
–Souvlaki tou Soukri tavern. A quirky Greek tavern in central Paralimni (a 10 minute drive from Protaras) where all food is served on wax paper. Everything we tried was delicious, especially their fried courgette balls and chicken souvlaki. Excellent customer service, generous portions and great prices (we paid 19 euros for three souvlaki skewers, a sausage, a meatball/’soutzouki’, 4 courgette balls, salad, tzatziki, fries and water) though have cash with you as they don’t accept card. Oh there is an ATM and parking space at the central square, a two minute walk from the restaurant.
–Andama tavern. A huge tavern in the middle of Protaras tourist area. One of the few in the centre that offers great, authentic Greek food. We tried their ‘Piatakia'(little plates), their version of tapas (smaller than meze) and everything tasted amazing, especially their Garida saganaki (prawns in tomato and feta sauce) and Politiko Kebab. A bit more expensive than we expected (we paid 40 euros for Politiko Kebab, fried calamari, prawns saganaki, salad, falafel and water) but great service and plenty of food for two, it was worth every penny.
I hope you enjoyed my video, I’ll try and make more over the next few months, depending where life takes me. Next one will be of Rhodes, since I’ll be exploring the island for a few days starting tomorrow.
Wow. I do NOT know where to start from. If you could only see what is happening inside my head.
OK let’s start from right now.
I’ve been in Cyprus for two days and I spent the first one at the beach, at a gorgeous little bay in Protaras, Sirena Bay (with a cute, bohemian restaurant at the top of a hill overlooking the sea) which felt like manna from heaven, like rain after a hot, humid day, like a hot cup of tea and chocolate digestives on a freezing cold, winter afternoon.
As you know, I spent August in Cambridge doing my CELTA course. One of the most challenging, intense, stressful but also rewarding, extraordinary experiences of my life so far.
I haven’t slept more than a few hours a night for a month, I cried many a times, my anxiety completely paralysed me more than once, I didn’t get to see Cambridge much, visit Grantchester or the Wren library or go punting (I’m definitely returning in Cambridge just to do all this) but it was all worth it, not only for getting the qualification and marked as ‘above standard’ (Who? Me! I never taught in my life!) but mostly for the friends I made from all over the world. My classmates, my students, my flatmates. I’ll write about it very soon to share my experience with others who are considering doing the CELTA. For now, I’m still trying to recover from it. I still dream of lesson plans, teaching, my classmates, my tutors.
On my last day in the UK, I visited my brother Andi and had an awesome day in London. It didn’t feel real what was happening. I have actually left Southampton for good, I finished my course and I’m on my way to Cyprus, with no fixed plan. What the hell.
I’m in Cyprus since Sunday and I feel completely lost. Should I try and get an English language teaching job and get experience right away, since I absolutely loved teaching, but leave in a month, or should I do what I originally planned, and have a few months of holiday, write, make videos, read books, try different things and then go? Should I go in Vietnam first or Costa Rica? Asia or Latin America? Or Europe?
No bloody idea. For now, I’ll leave all of this behind and enjoy a couple of weeks of holiday, a few days in Protaras and then Rhodes (vlogs coming very soon), get back into my yoga, give my mind time to rest and reset and then who knows.
To all my friends, in Southampton, Cambridge, Russia, Bangladesh, Spain, Italy and wherever else you might be, I miss you dearly already.
I sometimes wish making a decision was easy, so many options but then again how boring life would be if I didn’t have any.