Stop It Now

I’m going on rant. I’m stepping up on my soapbox and I’m gonna holla and shout at a whole bunch of people.

Let me start by saying this:

I am a certified teacher. I started my education journey by obtaining my associates degree in Early Childhood Education. I went to college for 4 years to get my undergrad degree in Early Childhood Education. I then went BACK to school and obtained my graduate degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy. I have also started graduate degree number two Teaching English Language Learners. I took the Praxis exam to become a certified teacher. I have the debt to prove it. I have the knowledge to prove it. I have teaching certification to prove it. I have the degrees to prove it. I have taught preschool to 4th grade. We will even add the year I worked with teenage mothers.

I said all that to say this: TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD IS NOT THE SAME THING as teaching.

Obtaining an TEFL or anything that you can get off Groupon for 120 credit hours does not put you in my league.

We are not on the same level.

Now I am not negating the fact that there are some amazing teachers who are open minded and willing to put in the work to be a teacher as a second career choice.

But (yes I started a sentence with but) what is pissing me off and many in my profession, YES TEACHING IS A PROFESSION, are these people who see teachers teaching internationally making loads of money wanting to jump on some bandwagon.

Have a seat boo-boo and let me educate you for a moment.

When you teach ENGLISH abroad WITHOUT a teaching certificate they are lowballing you. They are placing in an ENGLISH LANGUAGE CENTER or some random public school. You are “teaching” a lesson that was created for you. You will work on the weekends. You will work long ridiculous hours I’m talking getting off at 9:30 pm. Public schools will have 30 to 50 kids in ONE classroom with no teaching assistant. You won’t get paid a whole lot to the point you just may have a roommate. Some cases they won’t cover the countries taxes. They may or may not cover your flight over or flight home. The horror stories about teaching aboard and the hate for certain countries are more than likely from those who are not educators. Not saying educators don’t have their fair share of horror stories but for a different purpose.

My salary as a certified international teacher is similar to my salary back in the states if not more. My school covers the local taxes. I don’t have a roommate unless you count my daughter LOL. I won’t have any more than 24 kids in a classroom. I have a co-teacher. In some cases I have a co-teacher plus a teacher in training. I follow an international curriculum either American or British. I still go through professional development to maintain my teaching certification and to know the latest research to effectively teach my students. I teach ALL core subjects (English, Math, and Science) I have access to learning support teachers. I can refer my students who need further assessment. Basically it is a highly similar setup to teaching in the states. I don’t work on the weekends and school is over around 3:30pm.

So yes I get UPSET when I hear people say I want to live and work abroad and their first idea is to teach. How boo? You have NEVER taught a day in your life. You don’t know how to teach, what to teach. You do not even have the educational background to teach. So what has happened is this: someone said let’s create a TEFL and tell people they can go teach abroad and make loads of money. Okay one TEFL is more for teaching adults English. Two would you want a doctor who went to Groupon to perform surgery or diagnosis you? Would you want your own child to have a teacher who went to Groupon to be a teacher? Can you at the very least look and see if your current skill set is marketable abroad? Can you see if your current career is in demand abroad.

I am tired of working with people who do not have the basic understanding or knowledge or strategies to teach children properly and align with developmentally appropriate practices. I am tired of people who can only teach from a TE (teacher’s edition). I am tired of sitting in meeting after meeting, training after training, “professional development” session after “professional development” session about shit I learned in undergrad. We can’t get to the heart of teaching our students because you decided oh I am going to teach abroad and now you gotta be trained to do the simplest of shit like classroom management and the importance of structured routines while being flexible using children interests to drive instruction and lesson plans. Now we gotta have a meeting about how to hold a positive and productive PTC. Now my Saturday is lost on developmentally appropriate practices explaining that worksheets is not okay ALL the time. Now we gotta discuss at a departmental meeting about how children should be allowed to create their own work and all the crafts should not look identical. You don’t understand the importance of baseline assessing students within the first few weeks of school. You don’t understand the importance of building relationships with students. Your classroom is not warm and inviting. You can’t even explain differentiated instruction. You don’t know how to effectively implement small group rotation to support your small group instruction. You don’t even do small group instruction or guided reading. You don’t even know your student’s reading level or how to access their reading level. You don’t even know the popular websites for resources either paid or free. Amazing schools are being run into the ground because of your incompetence. Teachers are leaving schools by the droves because it is cheaper to hire you and we can’t keep working around the incompetence. It makes teaching 1000 times harder and complicated when there are people who do not effectively do their job and don’t reach out for help. JUST STOP IT!!!! STOP infiltrating the teaching PROFESSION with your get rich quick bullshit. STOP saying I want to go abroad and teach and make a load of money and you have NEVER taught a day in your life. STOP coming abroad getting mad at your pay, work conditions, the country, the school, the system when you DO NOT have the proper training. You can come teach if you have true passion and desire to become and EDUCATOR and be CERTIFIED. You can come teach when you are willing to go to a doctor that become a doctor on GROUPON. You can come teach when alternative facts become real facts. You can come teach when you have taught in your home country. Let me drop this here teaching online does NOT equate to teaching. You were given a lesson and you read from a script. When you can adapt a lesson to meet IEP goals come holla at me. When you can conduct a small group guided reading instructional lesson that is fun and engaging that does not involved worksheets, holla at me. When you can throw your WHOLE lesson plan away because the students that were not interested and you gotta pull out a lesson from your bag of tricks, holla at me. Teaching is NOT easy if it were then you wouldn’t need a four year degree. You wouldn’t need professional development hours to keep that teaching license current. As an educator you are always learning. If you think you know everything then you don’t belong in a classroom.

Now I’m gonna jump on us teachers us educators. God bless our hearts. We have come abroad for a better life and actually teach our students without all the constant testing and a million people telling us how to do our job.

STOP LYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!!

I love you but this life is not always easy. This life is not all glamorous. It’s not always fabulous. Some of these schools are straight trash. Some of these kids are horrible and that’s putting it mildly. Sometimes the pay and the cost of living do not match and you struggle just as much abroad as you did stateside. Sometime our kids are miserable and hate EVERYTHING about living abroad. This goes deeper than homesickness. This is about faking the life you are living and now you are encouraging people to come over without giving them the whole story.

Now we have someone who is over here miserable and is ready to pack up in the middle of the night break their contract and run back home.

This life is hard. You are away from family and friends. Some countries are just hard to live in. The culture is vastly different from home. Some of the locals are just mean and stupid. Some are even more racist than back in the states.

Now I know you can’t always share your true feeling on social media but pull your homegirl to the side in a private message and tell them the facts and your real experience.

Yes we travel. Yes we save. Yes we get out debt. Yes we are living the life but when we are not openminded and we want an American experience in a non-American country we end up miserable.

RANT OVER! I love you guys.

When Tragedy Strikes part 2

*Edited: it’s been a year March 31 I started writing this at the 6 month mark and could never fully finish it or articulate my feelings, thoughts and emotions*

It’s been 6 months. Her 60th birthday was October 5.

I wanted to share what happened during that last week of her life. It was a shock to a lot of people. When you called and spoke with her she never let on that she was pain. When you came by and visited she never let is show that she was in pain. She joked with you. She kept life pretty damn normal. She would tell me “I don’t want to be a burden” I would roll my eyes and say “Mama that’s what we are here for, lean on us.” I know we couldn’t take the pain away but we could help life be easier and comfortable.  I would fuss at her from Kuwait on the phone. I would call and tell on her to Chris. She would call and act fake mad. I appreciate everyone who she was able to lean on in her time of need. I was her daughter and didn’t know the extent of her pain. I knew she was in pain but not how much until I got home and saw for myself.

Elise happened to call mama the day she got her results back. I rushed Elise in the shower after she said her piece because I needed to focus on what was being said. I get the phone and Betty is acting all nonchalant like there ain’t a purpose for this call. Mama didn’t you have a doctor’s appointment today? What did they say? My mama’s exact words “a lot of things” Me mentally eye rolling because we are video chatting and I was not gonna for real roll my eyes. No matter how far away I was, I wasn’t stupid. She then tells me “I have been released into hospice care” I hold the phone away and compose myself I will not let her see me cry. Then she says “don’t do anything rash” Mama I am coming home. “you don’t need to do that” Mama I am coming home. I am coming home while I have a choice not when I am forced. “oh that makes sense” Mental eye rolling again. “don’t post on Facebook and don’t tell Elise. We will tell everyone when y’all get here” Got it.

I went to work the next day and told them I need to leave and don’t ask me when I’m coming back. Let’s aim for after spring break. My mama is being released into Hospice care and that is my focus right now. I cried in every office I went into that day. I started with my VP. Then I had to go to HR. Final stop was my Principal. Then I went to my team. I was offered to go home but Elise didn’t know what was going on and I just couldn’t deal. So I let work distract me.

I flew out that Saturday morning. March 24. I landed in Charleston Saturday night. Longest flight of my life. I get to the house and she’s sitting up waiting like she normally does. She informs me about her alarm going off to her remind to take her medicine. We all go to sleep. She seems pretty darn normal.

Sunday I do not go to church because no one is supposed to know I am even home. Let’s not ruffle feathers and cause a commotion here.

Art and Regina come over after church for their version of church at the house. I get kicked out of the room like I still sit at the kid’s table. I legit had to take Elise in the room and “play” with her. Really I am 37 years old. How rude. But I get it. No way she was going to be able to hold an adult conversation AND Elise stay in the room the WHOLE time. I heard snippets of the conversation. She told them she was in hospice care and she has made peace with everything. She is tired of being in pain. She is not suicidal. Keep us in prayer. She asked Art to be the song leader at her funeral. They let her know they were going on a cruise in April for Art’s birthday and she politely told them she won’t be here for that. Of course they all laughed it off. Said good-bye and left.

Monday we go to therapy and have the leg massaged and re-wrapped. This is when I got my first glimpse of how much pain she really was in. The struggle to get in and out of the car. How uncomfortable it was for her to sit in the car.

Tuesday the Hospice nurse came over to wash her and she politely in her own way declined. I ask her how many people know. She says “you, Chris, Dee and Runette” Mama are you serious? Again I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want Naomi changing her plans. Mama?!? How Jin didn’t know is beyond me. Well mama I think you need to tell your brothers and sisters. They have a right to know what is going on. You can’t just die on them without letting them know what’s going on. Besides I told Freddie and he’s on the way. Hop to it. I’ve already spilled the beans and do you really think Art and Gina are gonna stay quiet. Don’t let your family find out at church from strangers.

She calls family one by one. Those who are able come by and visit with her. Doesn’t look like anything is wrong right? She’s sitting up being normal Betty.

Wednesday we miss the eye doctor appointment. She just couldn’t get going that morning. Once she did get up, she didn’t want to sit in the car for the 25 minute ride West Ashley.

Thursday night she falls in the front bathroom. I go across the street to get the neighbor to help me. She refused to push her help button. She fell she is fine just get her up. Mama it’s okay I am here and so is the neighbor. We get her into the bed.

Friday Chris is on his way down from Greensboro. I tell him come straight home.

I go check on her that morning. She hadn’t taken any medicine and she’s asking about me and Elise going to church. Mama what medicine do you need to take cause it’s Friday and we don’t even have clothes for church. We finally take the medicine and she goes back to sleep. Chris gets in and tell him what has been going on. She finally get up and Chris helps her down the hallway in time for the hospice nurse to come. We pull this lady to the side and tell her everything. She’s being too nonchalant for my liking. We get a bedside toilet and I am asking about what happens when Chris leaves with getting her in and out of the bed. Again too damn nonchalant. (looking back on it they knew more than what they were telling) We eat our Easter dinner. She tries out her wheelchair. The kids push her down the hall in the wheelchair. She says it’s uncomfortable to sit in for church so it was a good idea but not gonna happen. We help her get ready for bed.

I get up that night to go to the bathroom. I hear her alarm go off but don’t hear her get up to take her medicine. I can hear her coughing. I go in and check on her. Mama you alright. “I need to go to the bathroom” I go get Chris. We each take a side……………………….

I will warn you NOW this is when it happens.

*I think I can finish this.*

It’s now been a year since she’s passed. As you can see I can’t finish writing what happens that night. I think I’ve only told one person what actually happened. It’s a memory that will live with me forever.

I can’t say life has gotten easier. Nor can I say it’s gotten better.

There are days I am drowning in grief. There are days I walk with my grief and I’m okay.

When my daddy passed away he was at the hospital and I came home to find out what happened.

When my mama passed I was in the room.

This year I have felt like an orphan with both parents gone. I haven’t felt like I have a real purpose at life. I’ve been winging it.

Grief is cruel.

Grief with a child is torture.

I am grateful for therapy. I am grateful for those that take a moment to check in on us. It’s hard.

This will always be my favorite picture

October 5, 1958 to March 31, 2018

Gone but never forgotten.

Dating Abroad

So I’ve had several conversations and laughs about dating abroad.

So I’m gonna share those conversations and hopefully you will have a few laughs along the way.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Melissa Holmes. I am from Charleston, SC (Summerville to be specific) I am currently 38 years old with a 10 year old daughter. Never married. Desire to be married. Been in love a time or three.

I came abroad in August 2016 as a single parent in Kuwait. Moved to China August 2018 as a single parent.

When I was stateside I had a boyfriend or two. Dated seriously and dated for fun and dated because I was bored. So this whole dating game I am not new at. Ive dated the bad boy type who wouldn’t meet family. I’ve dated the good guy who my mama would approve of. I’ve dated guys who went to church and a the guy who only went to church for funerals and weddings. I’ve dated damaged men, well put together men, single parent, divorced, older, younger, etc. Look I’ve got all the bases covered and I’ve stories to tell.

Got into the latest trend of online dating and swiping right and left. I did OKCupid when I lived in Maryland. Meet a few cool dudes on there. Most went no where because of a lack of a follow through or inconsistency or just lack of interest.

Came abroad to Kuwait and was encouraged to download Tinder. I meet one guy with a follow through. Neither one of us were looking for anything serious. He became a cool friend to hang out with. I meet a guy through friends who tried to run game on me with a whole wife back home and a girlfriend who was in and out of Kuwait.

Tip 1: ask questions and ask around. The level of game playing has reached a whole new height abroad.

Tip 2: please know what you want BEFORE attempting to date and create a profile on ANY dating site

Tip 3: be open minded

I am too old to be further limiting my already limited dating pool.

Like I can’t make half this mess up.

Now I’m in China

OH. MY. GOD. this is whole new circle of hell.

1. There are like no black people in China. Ok I’m exaggerating. There are black people but one China is like the size of 18 countries. Yep exaggerating again. Okay. Picture the United States. Imagine you live in Florida and the next black person you will likely see lives in Ohio. Now add the next black man you will see lives in California. So Tinder becomes your life just to meet another black face alone. Yes there are WeChat groups

*wechat is like this jacked up thing with Facebook and phone and messaging combined. You can only access groups of you are invited (Facebook groups) and you message each other in these groups (like a group chat) then you post pictures in your moments( like Instagram). You can text individual people and make phone calls as well. Let’s add you can pay for anything via wechat.* look wechat is another post.

So I’m in WeChat groups with other black people but remember I’m in Florida and they are in Ohio.

Now let me explain black people. It is not limited to African Americans. It’s Africans (like 90%) British, Australian, Canadian and like one American. And I won’t even touch these new Moor people. I. DO. NOT. HAVE. THE. ENERGY.

Here’s the extra fun thing Mother Africa got jokes with her men. These babies and yes I call them babies because they are under 30 at university working on degree number 1. Baby what is we doing cause it can’t be me.

So I go back and forth. I uninstall and install again. I swipe right. I swipe left.

I just don’t even know anymore. I try. I really do

But lord you can only good morning me so many times before I lose interest. I am not up for idle chit chat. No solid plans are made.

Then I have these dudes out here trying to recuse me because I’m a single parent.

“Your daughter needs a father” sir you have sent a few good morning texts and we have not seen each other in person, I don’t know your birthday, I met you 3 seconds ago….You have not been upgraded and selected to be step daddy. Sir there are steps to this.

I don’t get it. I really don’t. It baffles my mind.

I had one dude get salty with me because I didn’t tell my child who he was and introduce them. Sir I don’t like you. I don’t have tell that little girl one thing. She don’t pay my bills and you ain’t sticking round. Matter fact you can leave for the night sir. And this was the dude that ended up with a whole wife back in his home country.

and lord don’t get me started on the roommate situation. Sir go away.

I hate dating but yet I keep doing it. I keep trying. I keep hoping and praying. If nothing else I have loads of laughs to share about dating abroad.

Maybe just maybe I will have my happy ending. I’ll keep you dated until then I have stories to share and laughs to give.

Real conversations:

Him: I have a surprise for you send me your location(address)

Me: okay

Him: shows up with jiffy cornbread mix and bacon

Me: you are my new best friend I think I love you

I lived in Kuwait and bacon was not gonna be found. I told him I wanted to make cornbread and he got me jiffy mix. He worked on base and he listened to me. He was one of my better dates.

Different guy

Him: why didn’t you tell her who I was

I had just put Elise down for the night and he was sitting on my couch after hours. He must have thought I was gonna give him some sex. Well after this conversation that option left the table.

Me: because she don’t need to know who you are

Him: why not

Me: because I said so. I don’t even know who you are and she don’t pay no bills

Him: but that’s not how this works you are American

Me: and?

Him: you are supposed to tell her because you tell your children everything

Me: look I tell her what she needs to know and she does not need to know who you are until I decide who you are. I’m a single parent and I don’t go around introducing her to every body that says hello or that is trying to get in my pants. I don’t know what you’ve been listening to but that’s not how this American mama rolls.

Him: okay I apologize

Me: good night you can sleep on the couch or you can go home

Him: you aren’t gonna keep me company

Me: no I have to work until the morning and I’m going to bed alone. There’s a blanket.

I leave him on the couch and that was the last time he came to my house.

Next conversation

Him: let’s meet

Me: okay

Him: you wanna come here

Me: no I prefer to meet somewhere public

Him: like a hotel

Me: goodbye

Random social media inbox conversation

Me: where are you from

Him: Africa

Me: sir Africa is big continent which country

Him: Nigeria, have you heard of it

Me: if I didn’t know any countries in Africa I would not have asked you to be specific. Why are you in my inbox? What’s your purpose? What’s you intention?

Next conversation different guy

Him: how’s your family

Me: my daughter and I are fine

Him: where’s your husband

Me: never married don’t have one

A few follow up questions about Elise and then

Him: so I’m part of the family now

Me: excuse me no that’s not how this works sir

Him: you don’t need me, she needs a father

Me: and who promoted you to this position. Sir there are steps to this. I haven’t even met you in person

Tip: Married folk stay married don’t come out here I these dating streets.

Tip: don’t be afraid to push the conversation along. You gotta weed out the bullshit and quick or they will waste your time and WYD you to death. Or kill you with small talk.

I have been chatting with a guy who lives in another country for a solid year and I cannot tell you his birthday or favorite color or nothing significant because we talk about nothing and I get irritated with the idle chit chat. I’ll go days without responding because I’m pissed. Sir make moves. Make plans. Use your big boy words. I work with 5 year olds all day. My attention span is nonexistent. My patience is gone. I need a real conversation. I need depth. I can’t guide a grown man on how to converse. I do that all day.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU SETUP YOUR PROFILE.

When attempting to date someone from another culture know the norms. Mess around and have a husband in a week.

Dating is fun and dating is not. One day I will date my husband for the rest of my life. Until then…..pray for me. I’m getting weary

38 Things

As I embark on year 38 of life, I have to pause and reflect.

First life doesn’t look anywhere close to what I thought it would be at 38.

Lets start here. Who remembers playing MASH to determine your life? Let’s just say it is a setup for failure.

Growing up all I really ever paid attention to was getting married and having kids. Never gave much thought to a career. I was going to get married and have kids. Work? Why? My husband was going to work and provide for the family.

Please don’t even ask me where I got this idea from both my parents worked.

I toyed around with being a lawyer….that was 8 years of schooling I did not want to do. I was too squeamish to be a doctor or a nurse. I wanted to be rich and live in a mansion. I even thought about a singing career and can’t really sing.

Lets have some laughs at the child’s mind.

So high graduation comes and here I am off to college.

Let’s face it College is not for everyone and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

Wanted to become a teacher but there was no money in that field.

Went and obtained my cosmetology license

Got a job at a call center…QUIT

Got a job in retail….hung out there for a while but quit TWICE….nope wait THREE times

Alright Melissa time for a heart to heart.

1. There is no such thing as a knight in shining armor coming to rescue you and sweep you off to your mansion

2. You gonna kiss a whole bunch of frogs and only God knows when the frog will turn into a prince…. meaning you gonna have a lot of dating woes to the point of questioning your sanity.

3. Find your passion and make a career out it.

Here’s my heart to heart conversation with myself

Melissa what is the one thing you want to do no matter what?

Self: damnit I wanna be rich and live in a mansion

Melissa what could you see yourself doing for the rest of life

Self ugh I don’t wanna

Melissa stop denying your calling and get right

Self looks up schools for early childhood education

I start with my associates and working in daycare.

Got pregnant and instantly realized I can’t feed two people on minimum wage goes back to school to obtain my Bachelors degree.

Enter into the public school system.

4. Life is not all pretty and laid out. It’s a bunch of ups and downs and curve balls. You gotta learn to roll with the punches. If plan A don’t work there are 25 more letters in the alphabet. Don’t give up

5. Having a child will make you grow up real fast.

6. Being a single parent makes you grow up even faster.

7. you realize your parents were and are right and you have pretty much “wasted” 27 years of your life

8. Becoming a mother is a challenge you are never prepared for. Look playing house with doll babies and toys is bunch of lies.

Yes babies are cute but they don’t stay babies forever and they cry A LOT. Yes they can make doll babies look like real babies but a real baby requires, demands attention. Breastfeeding, yeah don’t stress over that. If you can, great. If you can’t, don’t trip. Organic go for it. Hand-me-downs, no one cares. We will all parent our children differently. What matters at the end of the day is that you loved your child and you prepared them to be adults. Humans who have to function in society with other people. Teach them manners. Teach them kindness. Teach them about integrity. Teach them about their reputation. Teach them all the things you wish you knew while not forgetting the things you do know. Our parents weren’t all idiots and fools. There are things that they taught us that are useful and wise. Provide your children with a firm foundation to hold them strong in this cruel world. I guess that’s number 9.

10. Associates, Friends, and Family
I’m gonna quote Madea on this one “there are people who come into your life for a season” you better learn QUICK who those people are. 

Growing up I had a whole bunch of “friends” and all of sudden “friends” had to pick a side and I was left on the outside looking in. I learned at the tender age of 13, keep my circle small and keep real friends close.

All you really need in life are one maybe two close friends who end up becoming family. We don’t always get to choose our family but that moment you do, choose wisely.

11. Do your job and go home
I probably should have put this up around my career advice but whatever.
Look not everyone you work you with is your friend. Don’t date where you work. Do your job and go home. I have been fortunate to have at least one co-worker I could go and talk to and not worry about it getting around. You need one person who understands your career. One person you can look at during staff meetings and roll your eyes with. One person you can ask for a reference. Don’t be that person at work who can’t hold water and knows all the gossip.

12. those who gossip with you will gossip about you.
watch who you tell your plans to, watch who you vent to. Everyone is not in your corner. Some are gaining your ideas and plans to fuel their own. They will snatch it and not even mention your name.

13. sometimes you gotta move in silence. Tell people of your plans once it is completed.

14. Mental Health is important.
I cannot stress this one enough. That whole strong black woman is utter nonsense. Being strong does not mean you don’t ask for help or even seek help. You were NOT built to carry the weight of life on your shoulders ALONE. I don’t care if you can or you have done it. STOP and STOP it now. You are killing yourself and don’t even realize it. Get some sleep, a full 8 hours if you can 7 hours is good as well. Turn off your phone. Silence the ringtone and notifications. Say NO. Mediate. Journal. Pray. Relax. Release. Relax your shoulders. Smile. Fix your face. Wear some different colors. Do something different every once in while. Let go and forgive. Talk to someone. Do NOT be afraid to seek professional help.
*bonus you can be a Christian believe in God and still seek professional help. Guess what you can also mediate and do yoga too.* I’m making this 14-20 cause I dropped some real life nuggets just now.

21. Get your passport. Leave your city. Leave your street. Leave your state. Stop letting other people tell you what do and see.

22. guess what you can travel and not go broke. You can travel and not be rich. It’s called budget and plan. Take those vacation days. America is the only….okay one of the few places where people legit work to death. Every company will give you vacation days, sick days and even personal days…..USE THEM!!!!!

23. don’t believe the media hype about any and everything. The media is there to play on your fears. I’m talking about traveling. Every country is not evil and guess what America ain’t the best place out there.

24. that thing you are afraid of doing, DO IT.

25. Cherish people while you can. I can’t even begin to explain what it is like to lose a parent. It’s crippling. I loved my mama and my daddy. My daddy I have some regrets because I was a bratty teenager when he died. When my mama passed away I just wasn’t ready and my days are filled with what if’s. You don’t get a second chance at life. Love those who love you. Repair relationships if you can while you can

26. Life is what you make it. You can do ANYTHING you want. I didn’t always believe this. But with faith and stepping out of our comfort zones you can legit do anything. I would have never thought I would live and work internationally but here I am.

27. Real talk: are parents aren’t complete idiots. I find my parents coming out of my mouth daily. Some of the things they taught us make sense and we realize they were protecting us from ourselves.

28. Live within your means. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t have a desire to travel, don’t. If you can’t afford a BMW, then don’t. This leads me to point 29…

29. Don’t go into debt trying to keep up with the Joneses. I have never wanted a house. Guess what I don’t have one. I want to purchase land and build a house, guess what I will. I have friend who have land in Ghana, Jamaica a few with property on Thailand. None of those places are my dream. So I’m not jumping on it. I want I fly business every flight but my wallet and budget say NOPE. And that’s OKAY. My dream ain’t your dream. My reality and your reality.

30. College debt is a lie and bullshit. You do not and repeat you do not have to go into debt for a college degree. Research and research and research some more on how to attend college for free. If you don’t want to attend college then don’t. Find your passion and go forth.

31. Everyone can’t be that straight A student stop stressing your child(ren) out. Know your limits and your child’s limits.

32. Encourage and uplift. You never know what people are going through. A warm friendly smile goes a long way. Call and check on your friends. Be consistent. Treat people like you want to be treated. Spread some love and cheer

33. When a child is talking LISTEN our children are going through some things and they need to know we are there for them. They need to know someone cares. Be their advocate

34. Can we bring back the village? Can we support one another? Can we truly be there for one another? it’s something about living away from home that forces you to create real and meaningful bonds with people you don’t know but you get to know. When someone looks at you and says “hey you are not okay, let’s go out” or they let you just cry it out or vent it out….that’s a village. That’s support. I have been fortunate enough to always have a village wherever I live but some people don’t have that.

35. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. This goes back to mental health. Stop carrying life on your shoulders thinking you have to do it alone. You don’t and guess what NO is a complete sentence. Stop apologizing for things you aren’t sorry for. Stop saying yes when you mean no. Stop giving excuses. Take those Ls and learn from them

36. De-clutter your life. De-clutter your social media. De-clutter your phone. I clean my social media often. What is popping up on my timeline? Is it positive uplifting helpful, do I actually know you? Do I use this app? Why do I have this number? When was the last time I wore that? Do I really need that? Why am I paying for this subscription?

37. Children and pets will make you question your sanity.

38. Birthdays mean something totally different as you get older.

Life ain’t easy and it doesn’t come with a handbook on how to live it. We make mistakes. The important thing to remember is to learn from that mistake or you are bound to repeat it again. Don’t feel like you have to live this alone. Bring along a few good friends. Have some laughs. Do something daring. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. I’m living my life one day at time. Some days it’s one moment at time.

I made the switch

When I moved abroad it was highly common and popular to have two phones. Your American phone and your local phone.

After a while this became a pain. I mean really why put myself through this. I had a dual SIM Samsung but I didn’t like it and it was a downgrade from my current Samsung S9. So when I traveled I would get a local SIM and essentially I had 3 numbers, again was it really necessary?

Then I moved to China where EVERYTHING is blocked and monitored. Here’s where having a Samsung became a pain in the ass.

So I had to do some research on Apple and iPhones. I have a MacBook . Elise has an iPad but I LOVE my Samsung. I am loyal to Samsung. Even have a Samsung watch and Samsung wireless earbuds. I would buy stock in Samsung. I even bought a Samsung TV once.

iPhones are internationally friendly meaning who hasn’t spotted an Apple store when traveling? iPhones can sync across devices I already have a MacBook. I prefer iPads to Samsung tablets so maybe just maybe I will like an iPhone. So I booked a flight to Hong Kong to get a real iPhone not the blocked up Chinese version. I settled on the iPhone XR because it comes with a dual SIM slot. The other iPhone XR have a dual SIM but one is an e-chip and I can’t risk that not working when I travel or where I live.

I popped my T-Mobile SIM inside and BAM it works. I waited until I returned to China to put my Chinese SIM inside. BAM it worked

So I’ve been using the iPhone XR since December. It’s now February

*update it’s March*

I still don’t get the hoopla about iPhone. It’s a phone.

Yes it syncs across all my devices.

I enjoy the use of two SIM cards and only having one phone.

Honestly if you travel a lot and ever cross into China I would suggest getting an iPhone.

There are things I like and things I don’t.

I miss swiping my fingers across the keep board to type.

I miss being able to customize my ringtones and notifications. Somethings are just set to default and there is nothing I can do about it.

I miss the silly filters on my camera.

I miss not having a home button

I like the Face ID

I do like I don’t always need to have my special blocker on to access normal things like Facebook. It will move slowly so I just turn it and save myself the headache.

I do feel like there are more app options because most people create apps for iPhone before droid.

Apple maps translates nicely into English

I do like my notifications flashing across the screen and I can swipe down and not leave my current app

Never used a lot the functions on Samsung to miss them. I think I used the multi screen option twice.

I do like the syncing option across devices

I do like the Bitmoji

A phone is a phone if you ask me. Maybe an iPhone user can tell me the difference. I will more than likely get an Apple Watch but I like my Fitbit and really just want to track my steps. Not really concerned about the rest of things.

As long as my phone works and I’m not stuck without access to the rest of the world I’m good.

would I be in a rush to upgrade when a new one comes out? Doubtful

I’m still team Samsung but for now I have an iPhone.

My first vacation since

When you are born you have a lot of celebration of  firsts.

When you first sit-up on your own, roll over, sleep through the night, crawl, walk, eat baby food, eat table food, talk, etc

Your first birthday is a huge milestone followed by turning 5. Attending kindergarten and the big school.

Your sweet 16. Turning 18 and graduating high school then college.

You get a drivers license and if you are lucky a car you don’t have to share or be a taxi.

You get an apartment. You ruin your credit. You rack up debt. You realize being an adult sucks and it was a setup and you don’t always feel fully prepared.

Then one day life gives you the worse blow ever, life snatches a loved one. Then you have a whole different set of firsts.

Those first holidays. Those birthdays. Those milestones you wanna share but they are no longer there. You share with others but it’s not the same. You try and channel their voice and what they would say, but damnit it is not the same.

You work through your grief. You try to keep life normal as it once was. But let’s face it’s not the same. Life is different. There is a WHOLE person missing.

If you’ve been following me, you know my mama passed away March 31, 2018.

My life has not been the same since and it never will be the same.

There are days I come falling to my knees in a heap of tears like it just happened.

There are days I can laugh and be happy.

There are days where I am irritated and frustrated, where is all the love and support now. Don’t you know I’m still hurting. Don’t you know I’m not better. Don’t you know I still miss my mama so much it physically hurts. Don’t you know I’m afraid for what lies ahead because she’s not here to share it. Don’t you know I have to grieve for myself and my child.

There are days I’m happy and laugh.

There are days I wanna give up and not feel anymore.

There are days I lean on God and there are days I hate God.

Life keeps moving on whether I want it to or not.

We took our first vacation since moving to China.

We went to Malaysia.

First 3 days I struggled to leave the hotel grounds and explore. Not because I didn’t want to but who was I gonna call? Who was gonna be happy about the pictures?

I would get to the airport and call my mama and tell her “hey we are at the airport about to broad, call you when we land”

Didn’t call a soul. I’m not even sure who knew of our plans. We even traveled business class for the first time ever. I called no one.

When we land I would text her in the runway ” we just landed” and she would respond “thank God” I don’t care what time I texted she would immediately respond “thank god” I know on some level she worried about us traveling and making it out destination safely. She also knew I was safer in the air than on the ground.

When I landed in Malaysia I texted no one. Checked in to our hotel in silence. Mama wasn’t asking me what time it was. I wasn’t snapping pictures and sharing it with her.

My new normal was me moving in silence. My new normal was watching my daughter smile and be happy.

I finally went and had a massage along with a mani and pedi. I haven’t done these things since I left Kuwait and my body was tense and stressed. I left the massage table feeling like new money.

Elise hung out at the pool like she usually does

I, well I tried to ignore my issues.

I tried to keep a smile on my face so Elise wouldn’t pick up on my emotions.

But the string was slowly snapping and I was going to collapse under the weight of this new normal and pretending I’m okay.

We went to the theme park. We were walking along enjoying ourselves and all of a sudden my heart is racing way too fast for my liking. I go stay by a pool to catch my breath. I can’t seem to calm down. We walk a little towards the shade and all I wanna do is cry

I want my mama. Why are you people happy and enjoying life? Don’t you realize there is a WHOLE person missing from this world? There’s someone missing from my world and it will NEVER be the same.

How is this fair? She’s no longer in pain but I am in pain almost daily and the pain won’t go away.

While Elise plays in the water. I sit and cry.

While the world keeps on living and moving.

I sit and cry because I miss my mama. I want her here. I want to share this with her. I want her to see Elise will find water I don’t care what country we are in, she will find water and will play.

The worst thing ever. Housekeeping broke my MacBook I am near tears. Anyone who has ever owned a MacBook know my frustration. One I purchased this stateside so any insurance I have is only good stateside. Apple will charge me an arm and a leg. I take it next door to the mall and pray for an easy fix. Nope not gonna happen. He’s like you need a new one. Sir that’s not an option. Fixing this ain’t even in the budget but I need my MacBook.

300 USD later it’s fixed. The hotel is not responsible or liable but they will talk to housekeeping.

Lesson: keep your valuables up

Philippines on deck.

Not to say I didn’t enough Malaysia but I definitely was happy to be in the Philippines

Arrive at the hotel and I’m greeted by hotel staff by my name. Okay I see you pimping. Get to the desk greet by name again and they are all ready for me to check in. The smoothest check in of my life.

Get to my room and I am happy with the accommodations

I am not one to recommend places but look if you are ever in Manila please check out Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

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I will leave them a glowing review.

We did not see not one sight. I wanted to relax and hang out poolside and Bay side.

I did get a massage and it was heaven.

Recruitment Season Part 2

Let me take a moment to compare countries and schools

With recruitment season upon us and many trying to make the best decision for themselves and their families, I am going to share some information.

Recruitment Sites

to pay or not to pay that is the question. Am I getting my monies worth? Why am I paying? Who am I paying? Can’t I just apply directly to schools? This all depends. Schools pay for their membership and they are cracking down on applying directly to them. If you take the time to fill out all the details on these sites and pay the fee they know 1. you have patience 2. you probably are taken more seriously 3. the recruiters have done all the hard work for them and have said “hey we have vetted this person and they will be a good fit” With that being said. I know people who have paid and not paid. I personally have paid and not paid. 

Middle East vs Asia

This depends on the person and both are two very different places. I worked in Kuwait. I liked Kuwait. Kuwait had more black people. Kuwait didn’t have people gawking at me. Kuwait didn’t have 4 seasons. Kuwait was easy. While in Kuwait I could dating easily. China people gawk. China doesn’t have a whole bunch of black people in one city. We are here but we are spread across this country. Black people and blonde hair people get gawked at. Children get gawked at. You smile, nod, say hello, and move on. I make more money in China.

Money/savings potential/cost of living
China: now this is will depend on where you are placed. I happen to be in a tier 2 city. Which basically means the population is not a huge as Shanghai. Shanghai has like a billion Wuxi has like a million (totally exaggerating the numbers but you get the point) My rent is under 900 USD for a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom flat. It came fully furnished. I bought things for the kitchen and bathroom. I packed sheets and blankets. 3 of the 4 bedrooms came with a TV. I send home 50% of my salary to my US bank account I put money aside in Elise’s bank account. The little bills I have I pay them. Once I figure out how and who to save with I’ll update that process. Thing is being an expat is becoming increasingly complicated to just throw my money at say Fidelity to save. I have to prove I live stateside or at least have a stateside address. Which I do but it still comes with complications. I still travel. My utilities are less than 100 USD every other month. I get a housing allowance that covers rent and utilities and I still have half of it left over. I live pretty darn comfortably.
Kuwait: the school provided housing so I have no clue how much rent was or utilities. I had a two bedroom 2 and half bath fully furnished flat. I paid for a live out nanny. I found the cost of living to be more in Kuwait. By the time pay day rolled around I was down to my last dinar. I sent home about a third of my salary. I traveled but I still felt the pinch to my wallet.

Work/life Balance
The first month of settling in I would have said Kuwait was better at this work/life balance thing. Now that I have been here 4 months I say it’s an even tie. The major thing is finding things to do in your host country and having the energy at the end of the day or week to actually do something. I will say there are more black people in Kuwait…let me explain. Kuwait is small where China is massive. There are black people here but we are spread so far apart it is ridiculous. English was spoken more in Kuwait and you could navigate is easier around the country with limited to no Arabic. China is not English friendly nor do I expect them to be. Hell I’m a visitor Chinese is their language. I live and work here, then I will learn Chinese. But it does pose a challenge when you are confused or lost and do not speak or understand the language. Lucky enough I have co-workers who will help in a bind. There are more things to do in China than Kuwait. I can book a train ride and hop over to the next city. I can go out to western places or even local places have fun and go home. Places close around 10pm around these parts which takes some getting used to. I still leave work at work. I do stay longer at work but it’s mostly because I am waiting on Elise except Tuesdays when we have staff meetings she waits on me.


School

Okay lets start with I switched curriculums. I went from the American common core standards to the UK standards.
1. I have fewer numbers at my current school. The ratio is 3 teachers to 15 students. 3:1 pretty darn amazing
2. play based is encouraged and basically what we do. I don’t have to stress my nerves about ensuring these kids are reading and writing by the end of the school year. Plus they are 4 turning 5 so technically I teach pre-k according to US standards.
3. we have a quiet/nap time most of my kids sleep
4. co-curricular is built into the school, meaning after dismissal kids from KG3 up attend extra curricular activities/clubs. Now this is wonderful on the surface until you realize as a teacher you are required to teach/run 2 of these things a week. (this goes back to work/life balance) *KG to grade 3 dismiss at 3:30 and their CCA run from 3:30 to 4:15. Grade 4 and up dismiss at 4:15 and their CCA run from 4:30 to 5:30. I have a kid in grade 5 so even though I get off at 3:30 I am on campus until 5:30 at least 3 days*
4. I actually work with people that understand pedagogy and my career is better off.

If you want an easy life and barely work head to Kuwait. You wanna work and grow head to China.

Whatever you do, whatever country you decide on PLEASE stick to international schools. DO NOT sell yourself short. Know your worth as an educator. Don’t fall for these TEFL traps and low pay. Your degree and expertise will be valued abroad. GO for it.

Business Class

So this started as looking for places to visit during the long holiday break. We are off January 25 to February 19 for the Chinese New Year Holiday break.

Malaysia is the destination. Researching flights. Okay great this is doable and in my budget.

Playing around with prices and BAM the business class is cheaper than the economy ticket. Sure let’s do this.

Elise forgets we are traveling business class so it becomes a nice surprise that she tries to guess what the surprise is.

We get to the airport and I head for the business checkin line.

Pure excitement radiates from my child. Get through customs and BAM there is nice shorter line for those who are traveling business class. Why thank you. Just wish it came with some perks like not taking everything out and off. But whatever I’ll take the short line.

Then we get to sit in the lounge for an hour while we wait to board.

She eats and I find a nice welcome in the bathroom

I haven’t seen a bidet since Kuwait and when I tell you I pushed every button on that remote. I left feeling fresh and clean.

Come downstairs to our gate.

Firsts ones to board the plane. Amazing.

Get on the plane

They offer to hang up my sweatshirt in the closet. Nah lady it’s okay. It’s a sweatshirt. I’m good. I stretch out my legs praise the lord. There is room for both of us on the armrest. The seats are two per row.

Comes around with complimentary drinks. So friendly and smiling and happy.

I get offered a blanket and she takes it fresh out the pack.

Wonderful noise cancelling earphones.

It’s gonna be hard going back to economy.

The menu is passed out. Let me also explain this was a short flight. 2 hours to Hong Kong then 4 hours to Malaysia. I got a menu

Pulls out the tray and she lays the linen down

Elise’s meal. Then this happens

A cart comes by and she points out your options.

I started to eat before taking a picture.

This kind of service and food I could get used to. Elise had the option to eat the child meal or one of the regular meals. The bread was warm. The drinks were plenty.

If you ever have the opportunity to fly anything but economy I say splurge.

My next splurge will be a suite or first class. Business was great and I will fly it again if I catch a deal.

Cathay Pacific is now my go to airline in Asia and they are apart of the One World Alliance which is partners with Qatar. So I didn’t have to start over with miles.

2018 in review

2018 was full of ups and downs as with any other year. You get 365 days. You can plan it out and then life happens. How you respond to life is what matters.

It started off great with a job offer….yeah no way was I gonna spend another year in Kuwait especially not at the school I was at.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed my time in Kuwait but it was time to move on.

Then my mama’s health took a turn for the worse and I found myself home and one week later she was gone.

My whole world changed and I was not ready.

Summer had me face to face with Elise’s dad for the first time in almost 10 years. Elise meet him for the first time in her life. (He has since fallen back into his hole)

I would add the picture but I don’t want to. Look I am still a work in progress 🙂

Went on our first ever Disney Cruise. Would love to do it again but good grief I need Disney to go down on those prices. Granted it’s all inclusive expect for the alcoholic drinks and the excursions. You are paying for the Disney brand and the Disney service. 

August had me in China.

Dating has come to complete halt. I need this time to work on me and besides dating in China….well that’s nonexistent as an African American woman. I accepted that before I came over.

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Survived, barely, my first Thanksgiving without my mom. I cried real tears when I couldn’t remember the yams recipe and when I realized I don’t know how to make sweet potato pie and I couldn’t call her to get the recipe. I bought whipping cream and cried again because I didnt have her biscuit recipe.

CoCo Jean was added to the family. There are moments I think I have lost my mind. How are going to travel with a dog? I live in an apartment. Granted there is space outside for her run around and whatnot but come on man, now I gotta get up in the freezing cold and blazing heat to walk her…UGH. Oh well for now we have a dog. 

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Elise’s first ever holiday performance

The first snow of the season

Yep chopped my hair off. It was a combination of I’m stressed, depressed and pretty much over doing my hair. Either way I’m getting used to it again.

Traveled to Shanghai Disney…I need a Disney break. Once you have been to Disney, you have been to Disney. 3 down 3 more to go. 

Ready for 2019, I think. But I will have a positive outlook for 2019

Let me explain

Let me explain again why I have no immediate plans to return stateside

1. NAPTIME

My new school requires an hour of rest time…you ain’t gotta sleep but you gotta be quiet which means 95% of kids fall asleep anyways. They have cots, a nap area/pod, nap music, lights out, blankets and all. Yeah you going to sleep.

2. 90 minutes of outside play/inquiry

I haven’t seen this much dedicated to outside time expect in a research article. At best I’ve had 15 minutes.

3. 2 snacks and at least 30 minutes for lunch

Let me explain this lunch thing. I had 30 minutes for lunch but that included walking to the cafeteria, standing in line and walking back from the cafeteria. Which left the kids maybe 15 minutes to eat and really what are you eating and disgusting in 15 minutes. 2 snacks is amazing because kids play and get hungry and let’s face most kids don’t eat breakfast and lord knows when dinner will happen.

3. I have 2 additional teachers in the classroom

Wait, what 3 teachers in one classroom.

4. My class size will never go over 15.

So that’s 3 teachers and 15 kids….I am currently at 13 kids and one is on vacation until after December break. So its 12 kids. Do you know what I can do with that? Do you understand how much individualized attention and differentiation we can do.

5. I work with educators and just adults who speak English looking for a job.

This alone will keep me at my current school. I almost, nope I did, I lost my shit last year dealing with people who did not understand how NOT to teach using the curriculum and the importance of small group instruction.

6. I get planning time

I cannot stress the importance of doing your work at work. I have a child when I get home and I cannot sacrifice time with her to do work.

7. I am trusted and supported to do my job.

8. Let’s revisit the small class size and 3 teachers

We legit did nothing small groups one day. Each teacher had a table and we pulled kids to do an activity. We didn’t do large group until the end of the day. It was the best thing ever.

9. I have finally figured out the work life balance. I don’t feel overwhelmed like I did when school first started. I have found my groove and the kids are happy. I am happy.

10. Its a nice happy medium between Kuwait and the states. They take education serious without all the extra. I could stay in kindergarten a little longer with this setup.