Beginnings, culture, Getting settled, vocation

Thank God for Frank conversations

Coming from Oregon, no one is going to have any sympathy for a person who is living and working in the Caribbean.  If they do, it is a stretch.  From Oregon, it all looks like an island oasis with beaches and fun for days and days.

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a mental image of “the Caribbean”

The “grass is always greener” syndrome.

So, to speak to teachers here who acknowledge that all sun, no green, no trees, mountains, rivers or bracing Oregon Beaches where children wear parkas over their bathing suits… gets old.  It’s not home.  No one knows your heart.  No one knows to trust you.  Most all the familiars are elsewhere.  Only Ella Fitzgerald and ones own clothes are the same as before.  What is abundant are new challenges, overwhelming situations and patient, persistent problem solving.

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A hoodie or a full on winter coat is pretty normal on home beaches in Oregon.

But like I said before:  no one is going to have any sympathy for a person who is living and working in the Caribbean.  So the one option remaining, as it always is:  get above it.

Teaching overseas is alternately an education like no other, an unforgettable life experience, an incredibly uncomfortable stretch that leaves one, at least at first, longing to return to the land of comfort and familiarity.  But it is also a bug that bites you and makes a great many other things seem mundane, ordinary and not quite as interesting.

Those who have lived and worked overseas know that even the most idyllic place will wear thin.   I was drawn to this because of the challenge it presented in ways I want to be challenged, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t self-doubt, fatigue, wondering if or how challenges will be met.

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the kids are often the reason at the end of the day, the most unforgettable part of working overseas.

But…no one is going to have sympathy for a person who is living and working in the Caribbean.

This week I might have been able to get above the a sense of having my back up against a wall.  Starting off irritated Monday, around Tuesday I realized that walking around feeling overwhelmed, exasperated or whatever other negative thoughts I had been entertaining for the past week would not create success and that I had to get over it–and get on top of it.

So that was this week.

Because…no one is going to have any sympathy for a person who is living and working in the Caribbean.

Beginnings, culture, Getting settled, island culture, montessori, vocation

300 sunsets

From my balcony of the rental, the bright disk named sun slowly lower itself down behind the exhausts of catalytic converters, and through more layers of atmosphere causing it to turn a variety of warm blushing shades.

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Never had such a view all to my own.  The retiring sun skips off rooftops and outlines hotels and is in no particular rush as it departs, but still it moves almost imperceptibly scurrying itself away to a sunrise somewhere else.  Each night the clouds smudge and glow and create a new piece of creation artwork.

In this place that gives me the contrary experience of feeling perspiration slowly making its way down my back on a daily basis without having to do any strenuous labor, making my face shine like a glazed donut and frizzing my hair so that I even more resemble a muppet, counting the best moments and letting the others go is simply part of what is required to complete the task at hand.

The task at hand is 26 people aged six to nine: their education and their childhood.  Just wanting it to be good isn’t enough.  Just being patient isn’t enough.  Just caring a lot isn’t enough.  There is more involved.

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Ms. Montessori was a stickler for detail and had some very spot on ideas.  But like all great ideas, there are parts of it that may not translate well to every place and time.

Instead of counting the days till going home, daily survival requires active appreciation of the things I actually really do like here.

  • People in traffic stop in order to let cross traffic cross. Just because.
  • Strangers greet each other as a matter of culture and courtesy.
  • Even the smallest most humble amount of use of the home language here brings genuine smiles.
  • Party busses with buckets of candy just laying around for children (from the 9 year old).
  • People adopt street dogs, spay them, foster them and contribute to try to make things better for these poor canines.
  • People visit donkey sanctuaries, ostrich farms and sell you chicken nuggets that don’t actually exist.
  • The kids are SOOOOO excited to do ceramics.
  • People actually hang out with new people here–and they have parties.  Coming from the PNW, I found (along with many other visitors) that it was common to receive a warm welcome and to be held at arms length.  This always confused me, but I learned that many folk have their ways–ones which are protective and private because of how ready others are to judge and gossip.  Unfortunate.
  • It is not unusual to hang out in the bedroom (where the only air conditioner is) all day long.  There is such a thing as too much sun every day.
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I went and found out why they are called asses, though this pic makes them look lovable.

 

Finally, I am going to have to actually step up my game.  Figuring out how to humbly step out in confidence to do what I know how to do, regardless of the support of my immediate peers.  Because moving to a new country, teaching a different curriculum/method in a new students with different community specifics, resettling with a dependent to care for in a new school– that’s peanuts (apparently).  I’d just be happy to find some beach chairs, but no, the call is to be different.  It is the opportunity and the challenge I may have wanted and felt ready for, but now the rubber hits the road.

I will be trying to get above the bummers and live into the good things.

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings, Getting settled, photography, S-bee

Hooray!!

Today was a good day.  It was sad to say goodbye to some close family, but in return, I got a lovely apartment confirmed to move into this weekend, I was handed a brand spanking new Macbook Pro and I started the first day with all the colleagues.  We’ve been invited to so many friends houses here.  I am feeling super positive about the school I am working and the fit in this role, which is pretty huge.

In fact, I never realized how important.  I think all one has to do is have a toxic workplace to realize that not all places of profession are created equal.

I’m also happy that my dognose will be reunited with family and that the trip with family was successful… and financial details are worked out!

Hopefully we will celebrate tonight–I have no idea how that will look?

 

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Butterfly farm–new friend.

 

Beginnings, culture, Getting settled, language acquisition, papiamento

Where speaking 4 languages is normal.

 

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a Spanish Creole language with mixtures of Portuguese and Dutch, spoken on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

With my whole family here, finishing up part one of Montessori training (the final submission will be about 100 pages long, questions and answers–close to 500 of them), getting a car and an apartment and trying to make my family love the island, I haven’t completed a single one of the half a dozen posts I have half written.

And then there is island time.

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found in a market here.

One of the things that was most of a draw for me in making decisions about bringing the family here had to do with the languages of this little island.

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The official language is a creole called Papiamento (pronounced poppy-mento).  It is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and native languages with a little bit of French and a couple other languages mixed in for good measure.  If one speaks Spanish, they will understand the lion’s share of Papiamento, but there will be words in Dutch (which is also, like English, a Germanic language– so words are often not so difficult to guess) and it has a Portuguese flavor that is unmistakable.  Words are often shortened (ayo=adios, ta=esta=is) or change one letter to another that sounds very similar (por fabor=por favor).  Sometimes words are straightforward phonetic (awa=agua=water)

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The government, however, is Dutch speaking along with Papiamento and schools educate the students in Dutch, which from my understanding, creates a genuine need for the GED program that is run out of the school where I work.  There is something in the works to have kids in school start out in Papiamento and introduce Dutch slowly, but the teaching materials in Papiamento are scarce.

Natives who work in the tourist sector which brings in over a million people a year to this small island nation of about 100,000 people must speak 4 languages fluently to have a chance to work with tourists.  All people in tourism speak Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento, which Papiamento being the home language.

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Cruise ships at port in Oranjestad stand enormous offshore with their enormity of size and cash inflow to Aruba.

It’s difficult for me to not draw comparisons to my home country.  I have been told before only the smartest kids could learn a foreign language in the U.S., but it seems that is more a function of the way foreign language as taught, as an academic subject much of the time.  It’s also tempting to speculate that the knowledge of a foreign language (or not) says something both about the way we educate: who is fortunate enough to receive an education that comprehensively includes foreign language from the earliest years, and the rest of us who haven’t received that education.

On the street here in Aruba, all the language diversity gets equal representation.  Signs are either in English, Spanish, Dutch or Papiamento.  In the Northern part of the island, it is not hard to get by speaking just English because the area is dominated by wealthy homes, high rise hotels and the white sand and clear sea salt turquoise waters.  The East side of the island, the windward side, is mostly undeveloped and is home to Arikok Park which is a reserve that takes up a good 1/4 of the island.

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A sign in Arikok park demonstrating the linguistic diversity of Aruba.

What are the reasons you believe that the US is known to be a monolingual country?  Is it really because we believe that other countries all speak English, so we don’t have to learn other languages?  Why is the US one of only a handful of countries in the world that is persistently monolingual?