A nomad no more?

Living here is either going to teach me to be deeply patient and incredibly Zen about life, or it’s going to send me stark raving mad and end with me being locked up in an asylum. 

It could go either way, truly, so it’ll be an interesting experiment.

I’m glad I only signed a contract until June, as it gives me a lot more freedom while still allowing me enough time to settle in and decide if it’s worth staying. At the moment it just feels like one stress after another, and I am forcing myself to smile and shrug instead of suddenly dropping to the floor and screaming my lungs out until someone helps me. 

Nothing is simple, NOTHING. Now, here’s the thing. I seem to recall there being loads of hassles in Korea, too. Classes being interrupted halfway through, lack of communication, difficulties getting things done when you couldn’t speak the language… there were frustrations, weren’t there?! I dunno… somehow they’ve all faded into mild inconveniences at the back of my mind, but I’m certain I must have felt like screaming more than once. It’s just that right now, my Korean life all looks so easy. So straightforward, so uncomplicated, so simple. It wasn’t really. Was it?! I’m honestly doubting my own memories now. 

I’m pretty sure, though, that my stresses there never made me feel so utterly out of control and helpless as I do here. And I don’t know if that’s because Turkey is not a match for me, or because I am just over this whole expat thing.

In Prague, I knew almost instantly that life there wasn’t for me. I had no desire whatsoever to be there. I questioned my expat lifestyle, but decided to give somewhere else a go – and to my delight, I found that I instantly loved Istanbul. Cool city, nice people, so much to see and do. 

LIVING here, though…? Seriously, I am a giant stress ball. Everything is more complicated than it has any need to be, and it’s maddening. For example:

the phone thing. Gave up on that, as the police made me cry and the government clearly just wanted to piss me off so much that I would buy a Turkish phone. I did. And it’s crap, and slow, and annoying, and stopped working at the weekend for no particular reason anyway. 

accommodation. Everything about flat-hunting was painful, frustrating, and stressful. When I eventually got somewhere, it became even more so. It took over a week to get the Internet connection that was meant to be there already. Bills, which were meant to be included, are separate and I have no idea how to go about paying them. Nothing is simple, NOTHING. And to put the icing on the cake, I have wasted so much time just sitting alone in my flat waiting for that fecking estate agent that I just feel maddened and irritated.

work. So much better than in Prague, don’t get me wrong. I’m not unhappy at work. But sweet fecking jumping Jehoshaphat, it’s frustrating! The kids’ behaviour aside (and that’s a BIG aside), the place is ridiculous. Nothing is simple, NOTHING. There’s never any paper in the photocopier, and people look blankly at me when I ask where to go to get more, as if that’s an insane thing to do and not perfectly logical. They just sit around and wait for it to magically refill itself. The Internet breaks down approximately twice a week, and then people get annoyed with you for not doing the stuff you’re meant to have done, which you can’t access because there is no fecking Internet. The electricity goes off about twice or three times a week, sometimes for up to 5 hours at a time – which completely wrecks any lessons you have planned, since we’re largely dependent on electronic/interactive whiteboards (“smart boards”, as they’re called. Not so smart when there are regular power cuts, let me tell you).We have to get the homeroom teachers to tell the kids to bring things in, like materials for projects the powers that be want us to do – yet the teachers don’t speak English and I don’t speak Turkish, so the inevitable miscommunication means half the class turns up without stuff and I’m the one who has to then try to manage that class. Why can’t there be someone in charge to deal with this shit in one simple message to all the teachers, instead of constant frustrations and misunderstandings? 

Today, my lessons all went wrong, due to a combination of all these things. Also, the classrooms were suffocatingly, sweatingly hot, which led me to glance around and uneasily note the complete absence of air conditioners for the first time. It is still winter. I am worried.

Everything just feels so unnecessarily difficult, and I can’t work out if it’s Turkey, or it’s being an expat in general. I’m inclined to go with the latter, to be honest. I’m fed up with having no home. I’m weary of trying to figure everything out from scratch when I move somewhere new. Turkey itself is not the problem – I’m still really excited about visiting all the places I plan to see here. However, wanting to travel around and explore is one thing. But dealing with red tape, and residence permits, and work visas, and electricity bills, and staff meetings in a language I don’t speak, and spending a whole week trying to do something as simple as get internet access… that’s another thing altogether, and I’m tired of it.

I’m not all doom and gloom about it, mind you. I’m meeting nice people here, and I have a well-paid job and a lovely flat, and I’m enthusiastic about taking a few trips in Turkey – and in some surrounding countries, if I do settle down and decide to stay for a while.

It’s just a thought. A kind of tentative “but what would I do…?” thought about retiring from being an expat and putting down roots somewhere. Plenty of time to think about it, and lots to see and do in the meantime.

But something to think about, nonetheless.  

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4 thoughts on “A nomad no more?

  1. Why not head a document with “What would I do…?”

    Then list all the jobs other than teaching English to foreign children.

    Look at all the different things you have done since you left home.

    Would you be satisfied working nine to five in a monotonous job at home with a smaller salary?

    Give the teething problems a chance. Take a day away at the weekend and come back refreshed.

  2. When I first started teaching at the German school, I could never find anything (and I speak the language fluently!) and didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, either. I’m on year 3 now, and I think I finally understand about 75% of the system – but I am still learning new things daily.I should point out that, when I taught (as a boring old regular classroom teacher) in America, we moved across the country several times, and every school I went to had a significant learning curve. In fact, I clearly remember my first school year in Texas, storming across the campus (looking for someone who could tell me where I was supposed to find someone who could approve my photocopier code – which I didn’t know I needed) near tears, and fuming about the fact that every single bit of information I got required superhuman effort. And – since everything in Texas is huge, you know – this high school campus was like a small university, and I couldn’t figure out which room was even in which building. Note: this was (in theory) my native country! All this to say – starting a new teaching job is challenging in any situation, in any country, in any culture. More so (I think) when you are a ‘specials’ teacher and not the regular classroom teacher. As far as the photocopier and smart boards not working go – I travel to a number of different classrooms during my lessons and have gotten to the point where I always have a backup for EVERYTHING. No photocopier? Fine. I’ll read a story. Smart Board doesn’t work? Fine. We sing a song. Can’t get the DVD to play? We’ll play cards and practice numbers today. Now, granted, it interferes with the progression of the curriculum and completely screws up your lesson plans, but what do they expect if the equipment doesn’t work? They’re lucky anything is happening at all! It is a pain to do all the extra planning and carry things with you all the time, but since you’re the one who suffers if your lesson goes awry, it might be worth it to you to have some emergency backup for those inevitable no-electricity days or dysfunctional copier days. I would say, though, you will probably find that, in a few months, you have hit your stride and will start to find it all much more do-able. I also don’t think you’re ready to quit being an expat as much as I think you are a little burned out from having had to go through the expat adjustment process twice in such a short time. If you’d gone to Turkey straight from Korea, I think your tolerance level would probably be a little higher. Unfortunately, the Prague Experience probably drained you a bit – and here you are doing it all again. Chin up and I am crossing my fingers for you – betting/hoping that Turkish is easier to learn than Korean! xx

  3. I actually think Turkey may be part of it though, to be honest – at least things like the powercuts andthe phone randomly not working any more. As far as I’ve gathered from the (admittedly few) people with Turkish backgrounds I know in Germany, it’s normal for things to just not work there and everyone just kind of shrugs and gets on with it.

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