Temporary Hiatus

I’m going to put this blog on a temporary hiatus, for the information of anyone who is still aware of its existence. I have lost all motivation to write it, perhaps owing to its vague and sporadic nature.

I may start writing elsewhere with more focus, but for this, for now, it’s goodbye.

Jack out.

Advertisements

Catch-23

Spring is in the air, or at least it is if you ask any of the snowdrops or daffodils that have been popping up lately. And of course with the weather getting ever so slightly warmer, my mind is turning to dusting off that qualification I got around about the last time there were double-digit temperatures and finding my very first EFL job.

Since then, I did the sum total of nothing financially beneficial for two months, and have been delivering pizzas by night for the other three so, again, I have very little money to my name. I’ve started firing off my CV towards anyone who is willing to glance over it, and some who aren’t, and actually I’ve been getting a seemingly positive response. I already have a month’s worth of mornings in the summer lined up, an interview request, and a response of “we’d love to interview you, if only you were living closer.” I would love to live closer. In fact I’d love to live in the very same city, but there is a small problem.

To move to the city (Brighton) I firstly need a deposit to rent accommodation. To save a deposit I need to be earning more than my expenditures which, working as a pizza deliverer, one does very slowly. To rent accommodation I secondly need to be earning a specific multiple of the monthly rent as an annual wage for the peace of mind of the landlord. At the last place I looked at, costing £925 monthly this multiple was 32. This worked out at £29,600. Even split between two people this works out at over sixty pence above the minimum wage, with a forty hour working week.

So what you’re essentially telling me, is that to be considered to work for you on a variable basis, I first need to find a full time job paying over £7 per hour, after having saved up over a thousand pounds working barely thirty hours each week paying £6.50 an hour.

Then I’ll need to write to Greenwich and see if they can add a few extra hours into the day for me, shall I?

My hamartia.*

I’m a sickeningly hopeless romantic. I’ll gladly, and only slightly sheepishly admit that. At the slightest suggestion of reciprocation of someone I’m in any way attracted to, my mind starts going at a million miles a minute on both lanes of the highway; she’s probably not interested in me; this would be a nice date to take her on; I don’t think she finds me funny, at least not in a good way, and so on. I’d probably make a good member of some disaster response committee – running through every possible scenario all at the same time.

I have jut realised that this tendency to get carried away with the future manifests itself into any time I go job hunting as well. I uploaded a profile on to one of these recruitment websites as soon as I completed my TESOL course, and no sooner had I clicked ‘submit’, I was contacted by a school in deepest Sicily. And sure enough, my mind went into overdrive; I felt myself wanting a job in Brighton, just to stay in the country a little bit longer, but I also started looking up apartment prices and the cost of living, so I’d be ready to go once I moved out.

Inevitably what happened was they wanted someone with experience in teaching towards specific exams. Experience which I didn’t have and, at two days notice, wasn’t likely to gain before I started, so I politely declined the position. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I’m currently waiting on the outcome of my second interview, again for a last-minute start in dear old Sicily. I’ve been promised a response by the close of business today, which could be any time until 10pm tonight, but to me, no news really is no news this time. I’ve learnt from a fortnight ago.

As yet there isn’t anyone around to test if my hopeless romanticism is still as wreckless…

Jack out.

Hamartia (Ancient Greek: ἁμαρτία) is a word most famously used in Poetics, where it is usually translated as a mistake or error in judgement. In modern discussions of tragedy, hamartia has often been described as a hero’s “tragic flaw.”

Time to really apply myself.

Following on from my last post, I am now almost a week out of completing my course, and as such I have been looking for EFL teaching work for a few days now. In the past few days I’ve applied to jobs in Spain, Italy, France, South Korea and the United States, and it really is a blast from the past.

What I mean by this, and this is something I’ve written about before some years ago, is the job application process is pretty much exactly the same as when I was applying for anything with a paycheck straight out of university having completely bombed my degree. There is a long list of hurdles you need to jump over before you’re even considered. I have a relevant qualification, but as I found out when one school contacted me not twenty-four hours after I uploaded a profile to a website, I need knowledge of the exams my hypothetical students will be taking. Or I need two years post-certification experience. Like I said, I have sent off half a dozen or so applications since the beginning of the week and, as before, it seems that none of them are in any rush to reply to me. In all honesty I’m not surprised at this.

It’s not all doom and gloom like last time though. I actually did well this time, and have a very relevant set of new skills in a very applicable area of the country. Two of the biggest tourist towns on the south coast, with probably the highest concentration of English language schools outside. Which probably makes you wonder, why haven’t I applied to any of the dozens of language schools nearby? Well, I actually went away from writing this and applied to half a dozen schools that had some sort of vacancy or invitation to apply despite no actual current vacancy. And therein lies the problem – it’s just turned October and most of the students are scurrying home to the warmer climes from whence they came. This leaves the teachers that are working less in-demand, and no requirement for any more, even less so ones fresh out of the training machine with a glint of hope and optimism in their eyes. In short, I’m expecting the same response from these applications as the ones I made for the unskilled jobs I applied to three years ago – radio silence.

As for the rest? Well the fantasy is that as an English speaker I’m much sought after. As one that’s been trained to explain the language to others, even more so. We’ll see.

Jack out.

The wolf or the sheep

I’m having second thoughts about staying in Brighton after I finish this course. The city (almost) where I went to university. The city (sort of) where I worked before and after I went abroad. And now the city (near enough) where I’m training for my next career choice. I obviously like it here. Or maybe it was just a coincidence that I’ve spent the last three years not-quite-living there.

I’m great at making acquaintances, it seems, but piss poor at making friends. Up until recently I had gone eight years without intentionally seeing anyone I went to school with. I am still in touch with precisely two people I went to college with, and as for university, I’d struggle to tell you in any sort of detail whet more than a couple of those folks were up to.  I work at the same place for a total of eighteen months, and not once felt ‘in the loop’ with any of them. I move to a different country for over a year and meet a whole host of people, both native and foreign. I leave, and I keep in touch with no more than a handful.

And, like I said, I wouldn’t call most of these friends. It’s hard to apply that label to someone who you tell you’re available all day, every day for a week to catch up because, you know, it’s been a while and you’ve both been busy, and they don’t. Or who cancel plans with you and then don’t seem all that fussed about rearranging. Or who I feel, or rather don’t feel, the effects of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ from.

Maybe I’m applying some impossible standards to my friendships, where plans are made to touch base once in a while, even from half a world away, or sending a message out of the blue, or apologising for not getting in touch sooner. But I don’t think that I am, because I have these friends. So maybe I need to re-evaluate, stop putting in effort for no reward, shed the image of the guy who is so understanding he won’t mind if it takes a while to get round to him again, and start rewarding those that do put in effort, and actually want a two-way relationship with me. Because the only thing I’m understanding is who sees me as a rent-a-friend, and don’t actually value my presence in their life.

It probably doesn’t help that in the six years since I “left home” for university, the longest I’ve spent in any one place is a measly fifteen months. At the home I “left” three years previously. So while Brighton might not be the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ it has become after so long of perpetually being so near but yet so far, maybe six months of independent regularity that could potentially be indefinite is just what I need.

Jack out.

Tiny footsteps. Tiny, tentative footsteps…

So the day has arrived. Today was my first day of teacher training!

In an ideal world, with infinite time, I’d like to blog daily during what is a very exciting time, but with the sheer volume of work I’m expecting, I just don’t think that will be practicable. So, in no change from the usual regularity with which I post anything, I’ll be operating an “as and when” schedule.

I figure that after the first day I’ll have the lightest workload of the course, so here’s something. What a day! I’ve been dumped in with what seem like a very nice bunch of trainees, and the confidence boost I’ve already received from somebody starting a sentence aimed at me with “well you seem to know a lot about…” cannot be understated.

I’m already having to plan a lesson, albeit of only thirty minutes. The one-hour goliaths will be towards the end of this and, for me, the beginning of next week. There is such a diverse range of backgrounds, from former civil service, to one woman who already teaches in Laos, and you can really feel the wealth of experience each person brings to the mix. Even me and my ‘dangerous hobby’ of motorsport watching.

I’ll write again when I can.

Jack out.

Return to form.

Five months of silence, and I still claim to “like writing” on my Instagram page. I guess the real reason I haven’t posted since March is that I’ve been without a means of posting since I got back to the UK in early April. That, and I slipped seamlessly back into the same job I had before I left for Italy many blue moons ago. And thus have had nothing I can, diplomatically at least, write about.

I’ve lasted, what, not even five months in that job the second time round. Not because my skill was seriously overestimated when I was offered it with minimal hesitation before I was even back in the country, and that I am, in fact, much worse at it than anyone seemed to remember. It’s more the fact that I got from my adventure in Italy something quite important; some semblance of direction where previously I had been wandering absentmindedly through life.

It’s probably quite good timing that my first post in so long is at the start of my last week in this job, on the eve of the second interview I’ve had to attend to get a place on a TESOL course, and two weeks away from the start of a course I’ve already been accepted to once. It really takes me back to the week before I left for Milan, unsure of what the next months had in store, and the last train ride back to Gallarate from that grand metropolis, buzzing from those same months and apprehensive about the next.

Getting a second interview on what is usually a one-interview interview process is not an easy thing to accept, but I suppose practice makes perfect. I did, after all, do very well by all accounts in the interview for the course in my hometown. I was offered a place and thoroughly looking forward to starting, perhaps with the small reservation about staying at home for another month. That was until the courses was unceremoniously cancelled due to lack of participants. Luckily, a course with identical dates, for the same qualification, and which I applied to through the same website, was available in the next major town along the coast. Did my previous acceptance onto the course have any weight? Did it heck. After a Hollywood-esque last minute application and tentative wait over the weekend I did today manage to arrange an interview for tomorrow, the format of which sounds incredibly familiar.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Jack out.

One Moment, One Chance [Poem]

If we met by chance,
By fate, by design.
If we never met,
But you gave your time.

If together we’ve been
To the limit and back.
If I’ve took your hand,
And you had my back

If we’ve shared a moment,
A room, a kiss.
If we’ve exchanged a glance,
A joke, a wish.

If I’ve told you something
I’ve never shared,
And you understood,
You heard, you cared.

If we’ve been apart,
And still you remain,
As loyal a friend
As I can ever claim.

If you read this through
And think it seems
A little familiar,
You know what it means,

To affect a life,
With a positive force.
For you I am thankful
For guiding my course.

To where I am now,
To where I will be.
And I’m here for you,
As you are for me.

The last post of the expedition – the tell-all fit for the tabloids

In the last two months I have gone from staying in Italy until June, to staying unless I screw up again, and now to being back in England by the end of the week. Strangely enough, or not, I’m not too unhappy. Why? Normally I’m not one to bitch or whine in a public forum but I think now I can safely, and freely, say that the only two things about this au pairing experience over the last were the friend that I made, the teaching experience that I gained, and the extra money I (briefly) earned that allowed me to see so much of this spectacular country.

I had a hunch back in the autumn that I wouldn’t see out my scheduled time here, that it was just a case of who got tired of whom first. I remember back in September, when I asked about the possibility of taking a Friday off to spend a three day weekend with a new friend in Rome, and how it seemed like such a big deal, only to be told later down the line that if I wanted to travel Friday afternoons and Monday mornings to get a full two days in wherever I was going, I could. This was only one element of the laughable hypocracy that has peppered the last three months out here.

Let me enlighten you on some of the episodes I’ve witnessed in the intermitting period. A few months in my host mum was seeming like one of the more pushy people I’d yet met. At first I thought it was just helpfulness, but no. It was actually just being pushy. Sometimes blindly so.

I had tried to get in contact with a handful of au pairs that would be living locally to me, before I came out, to help with socialising and seeing the sights. I did find a couple, including a particularly reliable one who I went on three weekend trips with. When I was telling my host of these planned trips before I came out, she used her network of au pair host families to find an au pair doing the same trip I was, on the same weekend. It was the au pair I had discovered.

A few weeks in, she was still using this network to find other au pairs who lived locally, or that might have been interested in visiting my host town. This was great as I’d not found any. Not that I needed to, having been busy with the one I mentioned previously.

One evening, she suggested yet another au pair I contact, although this one had contacted me hours earlier.

The next afternoon, as we were driving home from running a couple of errands, she told me she thought I needed to get out and meet locals, and that it wasn’t good only meeting up with English speaking people, and how girls, as in the au pairs she’d been putting me in touch with, were unreliable.

Which is all well and good, until you remember she had put me in touch with a number of these ‘unreliable’ girls, and that the nearest central bar is a ten, maybe fifteen, minute drive away.

One Saturday evening she had prepared what appeared to be a ragu sauce for pasta, en masse, in a pressure cooker. The next morning it was still sitting on the stove so, presumably in an attempt to avoid the inevitable ‘why has nobody put this into jars?’ interrogation from her later in the day, her boyfriend dutifully puts half an hour aside to do just that.

If he thought he had avoided the wrath, he was sorely mistaken. She comes downstairs and into the kitchen, and the first thing she says is something along the lines of, “Where is the pan with the sauce in it?”

“I put it in jars” he replies.

“Did I ask you to?” she retorts. I didn’t catch the rest of the rant that followed as I was too busy trying to resist laughing. This is a woman who routinely complained about things that have not been done, and here she was complaining about something that had.

I only recount these specifically as I wrote them up for a previously anonymous blog I started up to vent when such ridiculous events occurred. If my memory was better I would have dozens of stories to tell.

And maybe that is the reason I’m not particularly down, dejected or otherwise deflated that this experience has been so unilaterally bad. I repeatedly remind myself that in a few months and years down the line, they will just be hilariously cringeworthy episodes in an otherwise enjoyable au pairing experience. It’s all about the ‘long-game’ mindset I’ve had since I started to falter in university, helping me nudge myself ever more closer to the perfect course through life.

Jack out.

Risk.

I never considered myself much of a risk-taker. Three years ago I was content with sitting out my failing degree, and two years ago I was content with working a forty-hour week and still not being able to afford my own place. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I finally took my first risk. I did something that had no obvious immediate benefit, for no other reason than because I was finally sick of being content with the mundaneness of my existence.

More precisely a year ago, I was gearing up for the second risk I had taken – going to Rome for a few days, to meet a friend who may or may not have been too busy to meet me some or all of the time. It seems silly, in hindsight, calling it a risk. Nowadays I’d just call it a bit of travelling, but back then I had to resist drawing parallels between myself and Columbus, I felt epic. Of course I wasn’t, but the feeling became addictive. Doing something new, or unpredictable, with no thought for the consequences, so long as they wouldn’t be harmful. This was the first time I had stayed in a hostel, and it was the most enjoyable and social hostel experience I’ve experienced so far. I met some really interesting people and even found one or two to explore the city with.

I’ve been to many other cities since, and dare I say it I’m almost becoming accustomed to the novelty of it. I am still taking risks, in that I’m meeting up with new au pairs and seeing cities that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but now I’m starting to notice risk-taking seeping into other areas of my life. I risked being thought of as unusually chatty by a stranger on my way through London last week on my way home from the airport, and got rewarded with a very enjoyable evening with that same stranger on my return through London back to Italy a week later.

There is no telling where some of these risks will get me, but I am definitely becoming less adverse to taking them. My only concern now is that I don’t become labelled as cocky or arrogant, as I only really want to take chances for what they’re worth.

Jack out.