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.