Saturday, December 31, 2011

GOODBYE 2011

As I write this, it's 11:20pm on Saturday, December 31 2011. I'm sitting on my dad's recliner which I have come to LOVE since I arrived home last week :) Also, I'm catching up on some recorded shows.

I'm thinking back to last year this time. My brother was out at a gig and my parents were asleep. I was sitting in the lounge - watching TV. I think it was around 11pm when dad joined me in the lounge. We watched a bit of Ghost Dad (Bill Cosby) and before we knew it... it was midnight. Dad & I wished each other and he went back to sleep.  

Me? I tried to pacify Zelda, our little Jack Russell who was afraid of the fireworks that had started.  I think I may have even uploaded a blog post just after midnight. I think I tried promising myself that I would try and upload a blog post as often as possible - maybe even on a daily basis!

I was feeling a bit low - so many people were raving about the rocking parties they were at. All with loads of friends. Truth be told, I don't have friends in EL anymore. Everyone has moved away. 

This year is so different! New Years Eve didn't phase me AT ALL. There were a couple of times throughout the day that I had to remind myself that it was December 31.

I've already blogged about what a dark year 2011 has been. So many people I know have lost loved ones, have fallen ill or have just experienced bad luck. That is why, I am so very happy to be home - with my parents & Zelda...and I am very excited to welcome 2012. I have a sneaky feeling that it's going to be so much better than this past year.

Have I made any resolutions? Not really... but, I do know that there are things I'd like to improve on - physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually. I have realized that many of the realizations that I have made lately comes with age (did I really just say that?!).

Anyway - there are 10 minutes left of 2011. So, let me wish you...a very Happy New Year. I hope and pray that the coming year will be a good one for us all... in health, wealth, peace & happiness.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday



I'm thankful for
:

  • ...my health
  • ...to have two healthy parents and brother
  • ...to have food to eat everyday
  • ...to have clean clothes to wear everyday
  • ...to have running water to take showers everyday
  • ...having a clean and warm bed to sleep in every night
  • ...spending quality time with my family this holiday season
  • ....being able to go back to CT to a job.
  • ...the Christmas gifts I received.
  • ...being able to see 2011 thus far - hoping next year will be even better.
  • ...the medium of blogging to be able to express my thoughts & feelings openly.
  • ...SO much more, which I know in my heart I am most grateful for.
What are you thankful for today/this week?

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. -Cicero

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Late for class...again!

Image from Google Images

A few students - especially in my morning Intermediate class - have been arriving late. Class is meant to start at 09:00 sharp, but I have been lenient with students arriving as late as 09:15.  

It goes without saying that students who walk into a classroom after the lesson has commenced is a disruption - not only to the teacher who has to pause the lesson until the late student has settled, but also to the other students, who made the effort to be on time.

My Int class has predominately male students and two female students. Both females have expressed their annoyance regarding latecomers - which is beginning to get out of hand.

I have discussed this with some of my colleagues, who have suggested that I put a sign on the door saying that late students should go home. The exception is, of course, if they have a note permitting them to be late (or absent).

I'm not sure if I'm very happy to send late students back home and have been wondering what alternative I can use - perhaps something like a writing exercise to do as homework (as a form of punishment?)

However, with all due respect, these are adults we are talking about and if they don't take responsibility for themselves, then who will?

I'm interested to hear from other teachers: How do you deal with latecomers to class?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A few minutes could make a difference

This is my third week with my Pre-Int & Int classes so it's no surprise that I've gotten to know their personalities and moods by now. This morning, when one of my students, who I'll call "A" walked into the classroom rather quietly instead of his usual smiling face, I immediately knew something was up.

I quietly asked him if he was alright. He said no. I asked if he was sick. He said no. I asked him if there was anything he'd like to talk about, and he said he'd tell me after class.

A is in his early twenties. He's sharp, witty and generally a nice guy. So when he spoke to me after class and told me about his "problem" I felt two things. Firstly, I was glad that he felt he could trust me enough to open up and tell me what was bothering him.  Secondly, it reminded me how each and every student comes with their own unique background. Within 90 minutes, I travel between Cape Town, Brazil, Columbia, Angola, Saudia Arabia and many other countries. Each student in my class has some story to tell. They're mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives etc. After a 90 minute lesson, I feel more rejuvenated than tired - believe it or not!

Being a teacher does not mean merely teaching. It means learning just as much as the students. It means empathizing, but at the same time being cautious so as not to become emotionally attached to students.

We have to remember that a language school is like a business. As teachers, we are the service providers and the students are our clients. Each "client" has a particular need and it is up to us - the teacher - to ensure he/she is comfortable as many have traveled far and wide to be here in our country to study English.

By just taking a few minutes of your time to chat to a student, you could be making a big difference for him or her. Just by knowing that somebody cares!

Borders are for people...


For the past few days, I have been mesmerized by the opening lyrics of a song from the Bollywood film, Refugee (2000) directed by JP Dutta, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor. With music by Anu Malik and lyrics by Javed Akhtar, the song Panchhi Nadiyan Pawan Ke was sung by Sonu Nigam & Alka Yagnik.

Panchhi nadiyan pawan ke jhoken (Birds, rivers, gusts of wind)
Koi sarhad naa inhe roke (No border inhibits them)
Sarhaden insaano ke liye hain (Borders are for people)
Socho, tumne aur maine (Think about it, what have you and I)
Kya paaya insaan hoke (Obtained by being born as humans?)


Many of us are taking emotional stock take of our lives as 2011 draws to a close. This song speaks about what it means to be born as a human and how birds, rivers and gusts of wind have no borders which inhibits them. I don't know about you, but it's almost as if I envy birds, rivers, mountains, flowers and trees. Compared to these natural beauties, we are on this earth for far less than they will be. As humans, we continue to be arrogant, we hate more than we love and we worship material goods far too much.

What does it mean to live a simple life?

For me, it means having few or no material items. Think about it - the less we have, the less we have to worry about it. How often do we go away on holiday and immerse ourselves into complete relaxation mode? More often than not, we're worried about our home that is locked up and guarded by a security alarm. A house filled with valuables. Electronics? Computers, laptops, TVs, DVD players, DVDs. The list could go on.

Imagine what life would be like as an animal - either wild or domesticated. What about life as a plant? As a tree...living through harsh weather conditions, yet still remaining strong and majestic.

Simply put, we live in a harsh world. Deadly diseases and crime rob us of our loved ones on a daily basis. We gossip about others to feel better about ourselves and kill our soul with that six letter word called "STRESS".

If you're reading this, no doubt you're a fully functional person. We can't suddenly transform into a sunflower, river or a mountain. However, while we're here on earth, let's try to love "things" less and people more.
This brings me to another quote I read recently:
People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved...and people are being used.
The more I think about it, the more I would love to be reincarnated as a part of nature - a bird who soars freely through the open skies, a mountain - standing tall and proud, or a rippling brook...drifting into a river and the ocean. Never-ending. Without any borders. Borders are for people.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My very own "Mind Your Language"

It's been a week since I met my two classes (Intermediate & Pre-Intermediate). My students hail from all over the world - literally, namely Angola, Brazil, Columbia, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast, Canada, Taiwan, Vietnam, Egypt, Belarus and Yemen! I'm rather proud of myself that I know all student's names - which, of course, sounds very exotic to my South African ears!

My two morning classes (focusing on General English) is 90 minutes long. Sounds like a long class, but in fact, I wish it were longer. Conversation seems to snowball in the class and interesting debates have ensued over the past few days.

The past week has taught me so much, especially how we, as native English speakers take the language for granted. What we regard as "basic" or "everyday" words actually seem to be problem areas for some of my students.

The topics covered so far have been Business and Health. This week, my Intermediate class is studying the unit on Design, while my Pre-Intermediate class is focusing on the Natural World. For each lesson that I prepare, I'm learning just as much as what I'm teaching my students. Sometimes I feel like I'm back at school with the Grammar aspect of it. I must be honest, though - it's not as grueling as I thought it would be...yet!

Some of my friends have joked around saying that I sound like "Mr Brown" from the old British sitcom, Mind Your Language. Honestly speaking, I do feel like Mr Brown - without the intense classroom fighting and minus the pompous principal, Ms Courtney!

Mr Brown & his colourful students in Mind Your Language
Speaking of which, I work with a fantastic bunch of people. Each teacher brings something very special to the staff room.  Many have either traveled extensively or have had several years experience in this industry, making the work environment a very stimulating place to work in. There's always some kind of interesting conversation happening - whether it's about books, theater, teaching methods or lesson idea's.

Everyday when I leave a classroom, I take a bit of my students with me. I love that even though I'm a teacher, I'm learning from them - about their respective countries and cultures - every single day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back in the classroom!

This morning, I found myself at the same language college where I got my TEFL qualification in 2007. This time, not as an eager, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student - but rather an eager, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teacher!

For two days, I will observe classes and lessons and on Friday, I will act as a substitute teacher. On Monday, I take over from another teacher.

Anyway, being back in the classroom - this time, only adult students - reminded me what an exciting industry TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is. I will try my best to blog & update on my experiences and challenges as often as possible. So far, I'm looking forward to it all - I'm going to be working with a great bunch of people...students & teachers.

That's all for today - lights out for me now!

Glued in...

Imagine my confusion when, this morning, I couldn't even put my (apartment) key into the keyhole from the outside. It worked fine from the inside, though. It seemed like something was stuck inside. But I certainly couldn't have broken a key in it?!

Much to my dissatisfaction, I had to leave my place unlocked for the morning till a locksmith came in the afternoon. After putting some oil and trying to maneuver whatever was blocking the keyhole, the locksmith asked me, "Do you have any enemies in the building?" Well - that was enough to shake me up!

He said it appears as though there is super glue in my keyhole.
I was shocked.

Over R400 later - my locks were replaced and I was given a new set of keys.  I looked this up online and the results I got from "super glue, keyhole" was "revenge". Creepy, right?

So let this be a warning to one and all - apparently, some people do it on car door locks as well.
Just be aware...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 - Nightmare from Hell

I'm all for positive blog posts and whatnot, but for this particular post, I would like to have a few words with something better known as 2011.

I don't remember another year which was as hard as 2011 was for me. No other year brought as much tears to my eyes as it did. From heartache to heartbreak, the last few months have felt like I was stuck in a nightmare and just couldn't wake up.

There are some days I would never want to re-live, where days seemed so dark I cursed life like never before.

Rejection hit me over and over and over again....and then some. I remember one particular phone call where I spoke to a person (for a job) and actually found myself saying, "Please...I'm on my knees begging you." Believe me, that is how desperate I was.

The day before my birthday, my e-mail account was hacked and Twitter account deleted. I cried bitterly - mostly because with all my e-mails and contacts that were gone, so were all my dozens of job applications. To this day, I'm still trying to re-build my Twitter following which was made up of teachers, writers and friends across the world.

People also walked out of my life this year. I've made peace with that and now realize that by them taking the exit, they were merely making space for greater people to enter my space. Everything - after all - happens for a reason. We may not realize it right now, but we will when the time is right.

I also feel like 2011 robbed me of my voice. It felt incredibly hard to string words together like I used to. I didn't feel the need to write like before. It was like my emotions were numb. Typically on a day where the skies are clear and the sun is shining, I would be in the happiest mood. This year, I saw very little sunshine and blue skies. I don't think I even heard birds chirping as much as before.

I know other people who also fell victim to the horrendous grey clouds that 2011 brought with it. Some experienced illness and others, death of loved ones.

So to turn the grey cloud around, if there's one thing I am grateful for is my health and the fact that I have two parents. Also grateful for my brother who at the best of times, has an old soul.

There's just one month left of this year and I will be glad as ever to see its behind on December 31 2011. I'm  fairly certain that 2012 will be a better one. For all of us.




Monday, November 28, 2011

Who are you, really?

If I were to ask the question, "Who are you, really?" - what would your answer be?

Would I say - I'm a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, citizen, etc etc etc...

These labels may be true, but is that ALL I am? Is that all YOU are?

Here's another question - Who are you in those last few seconds before you fall asleep?

...will discuss this further on a later post!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday


I'm thankful for:

  • ...my health
  • ...to have two healthy parents and brother
  • ...to have food to eat everyday
  • ...to have clean clothes to wear everyday
  • ...to have running water to take showers everyday
  • ...having a clean and warm bed to sleep in every night
  • ...landing a temp job
  • ....friends I chat to on a regular basis - Chetan, Lanese, Colleta, Yogita
  • ...my boss at work for giving me the opportunity to work for the past two months
  • ...my colleague at work, for making the days lighter :)
  • ...the security guards at work for being so friendly everyday.
  • ...the security guards at my apartment for ensuring that we're safe - especially the night staff.
What are you thankful for today/this week?

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. -Cicero

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teaching Tuesday: English Teaching Daily

I was approached by the founder of English Teaching Daily and asked if I wouldn't mind having my blog posts republished on their site.  According to its info:
English Teaching Daily features the latest blog posts, news, newsletters, videos, event updates and  much much more – everything for the teachers of English.
I'm looking forward to extending my pool of resources in the EFL field and hopefully this site will be a starting point for such.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of your wonderful site :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Monday: Dance of the Elephant God

I'm still loving this album, Namaste India by Rahul Sharma & Kenny G.
This track is called Dance of the Elephant God.

 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful for:

  • ...my health
  • ...to have two healthy parents and brother
  • ...to have food to eat everyday
  • ...to have clean clothes to wear everyday
  • ...to have running water to take showers everyday
  • ...having a clean and warm bed to sleep in every night
  • ...landing a temp job
  • ....friends I chat to on a regular basis - Chetan, Lanese, Colleta, Yogita
  • ...Carmen & Farhad for the Diwali dinner last week and for being wonderful friends.
  • ...My brother, for always being there for a laugh.
What are you thankful for today/this week?

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. -Cicero

I'm thankful for:
  • ...my health
  • ...to have two healthy parents and brother
  • ...to have food to eat everyday
  • ...to have clean clothes to wear everyday
  • ...to have running water to take showers everyday
  • ...having a clean and warm bed to sleep in every night
  • ...my mum healing after being hospital.
  • ...my mum and dad for their immense help in my settling in CT.
  • ...my dad for giving me the best birthday gift today :)
  • ...Vijayan inviting us to celebrate his birthday with him and his family last night.
  • ...Whoever called or e-mailed alerting me about my e-mail hack last week, especially Bazil.
What are you thankful for today/this week?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaching Tuesday: (TEFL) Thanking Activities

As someone who promotes giving thanks as often as possible, I was happy to come across this article by Alex Case:

Thanking Activities

Entertaining ways to practise expressing gratitude.

1. Who am I thanking?
Students are given a list of people that they might want to thank, e.g. Santa Claus, their parents, the postman and Walt Disney. They choose one of the people and thank them with phrases like “Thanks for working so hard” and “Thank you for coming all this way” (for Santa) until their partner guesses who they are thanking.

2. Real thanks
Students think of things that they can really thank each other for, e.g. “Thank you for usually answering the teacher’s grammar questions” and “Thanks for being so patient with me when I couldn’t think of a word.” This is good to do at the end of a course.

3. Thank you, really
In groups of three or four, two students take turns thanking each other, choosing any subjects they like e.g. “Thanks for lending me your dictionary last week” and “I’m so grateful to you for introducing me to my wife”. When they have finished, the people who have been listening to them try to guess which of the thanks (if any) are for things the other person really did. This works best if the people thanking each other know each other fairly well.

4. No no no, thank YOU
Students compete to thank the other person more than they are being thanked. This could be:
  • Thanking each other for different things (real or imaginary) until one of them runs out of ideas
  • Thanking each other with more and more passionate, longer or polite phrases
  • Thanking each other for bigger and bigger (probably imaginary) things, such as giving them a job and saving their child’s life, until they can’t get any bigger

5. Thanking roleplays
One possibility is just to ask students to imagine they are in situations in which they will probably need to thank people, e.g. leaving their host family, in a newsagent’s or after hospitality from a business contact abroad. Making these realistic is obviously useful, but you can also make them more fun by adding some more unlikely ones like “Thank your boss for saving your life during the team bonding mountain climbing session and try to find a way of repaying him/ her”. You could also tell them how many times they have to use thanking phrases before they are allowed to finish the roleplay, e.g. six times between them for the newsagent situation.

6. You call that thanking?
Give students many different examples of mess ups in the language of thanking, e.g. “Thank you for coming”/ “You’re welcome” (It should be “Thanks for inviting me”), flat intonation, and “I am very gratitude”. They must identify and correct the mistake each time

7. Answering thanks
Students match thanking sentences and responses, e.g. “I’ve photocopied last week’s notes for you.” with “Thanks, that’s a great help.” and “I’m afraid I can’t”/ “Thanks anyway”. To make it more interesting you can give it to them as a pairwork dictation or cut up into little pieces of paper.

8. Thank you for the music
There are plenty of songs which are about thanking people, e.g. the Abba song with the title of this section. You can do all the usual song activities such as gapfills, or you could give them two different thanking songs on mixed up slips of paper to sort out, put in order, and then listen and check.

9. Thank you for the dialogue
There are also plenty of scenes in movies and television programmes where people thank each other, e.g. thanking a mafia godfather for a favour, a woman thanking the queen for sparing her husband from the executioner, or an old woman thanking a policeman who has just saved her cat. You could give the students part of the dialogue and ask them to guess the situation, relationships and what they are thanking them before they watch and check.

Monday, October 31, 2011

QLC - It DOES exist!

Last week, while writing an email to a friend, I jokingly said, "Sometimes I think I'm going through a quarterlife crisis."

I'm not sure what made me read up on this a few days later, but it turns out that it's not as uncommon as I thought.

Could it be that I am, in fact, going through a quarterlife crisis? (QLC)

The very thought almost makes me shudder.

I came across an article that I read in The Guardian (UK) which stated that this "phenomenon" bears the hallmarks of a midlife crisis:

  • Insecurities.
  • Disappointments.
  • Loneliness and Depression. 

This shook me up a bit and the mere thought of the word "crisis" is enough to have my head spinning! Other articles state that those going through "QLC" also long for days gone by, like school or university where life was - dare I say? - simpler.

Reading this made me sit up, because I've recently been missing what life was like back in high school and university...and more recently, my life in Korea. My life has taken a complete U-turn in the past year and somehow, if it weren't for photographs of my time abroad, it all seems like a dream.

There are high expectations of 20-somethings these days, especially professionally.  For someone like me, who has sent my CV to literally hundreds of HR departments across the country, there is a sense of disappointment and failure with the very famous question, "What's wrong with me?" Finding a stable job - and putting my 4-year degree to use, has been incredibly challenging.

In a personal capacity, the majority of my friends are either:

1) Married
2) Engaged
3) Married with children
4) Have children
5) Have a boyfriend/girlfriend

I am obviously none of the above.  Having lived alone for three years in South Korea, I'm used to and enjoy my own company. In fact, I think nothing of going to the movies on a regular basis. Alone. Of course, I'm a sociable person and I would like someone to have a stimulating conversation with, someone to laugh with and someone to share special moments with.  I feel the bite of this when I'm in the company of a couple... especially those who finish each other's sentences!

In a way, it's comforting to know that there are more going through QLC and that I'm not alone in this...as we often think we are. I'm sure there are many people who would brush it off and say that it's just another excuse young people are conjuring up, but it's real.

What is adulthood, exactly? Is it something we reach when we exit our "teens"? or is it actually a state of maturity. And then what is maturity? In all honesty, there are times I feel like a 16-year old and other days, I feel like I'm 30-something.

Anyways - I think that's enough rambling on from me for a Monday night.
Tomorrow is the first day of November. Let's make it rock and let's exit 2011 with a bang! Good night :)

Music Monday: Boomerang ft. Akon, Pitbull, Jermaine Dupri

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Week...

I don't feel like I'm ready for Monday yet. As always, week-ends are far too short. On Friday, I was incredibly tired and allowed myself to have a bit of a sleep in yesterday (Saturday).  I had an extremely chilled day watching TV, reading and a wee bit of writing.

Today, I went to Canal Walk for a few things. Watched Ra.One which I enjoyed, but I when I stepped out the cinema, I was faced with hundreds of crazy month-end / Christmas shoppers.

It's 21:30 and I really want to stay up to write, but I need to be up at 04:30.  So what do I do?

Time Management! For the next month, I absolutely need to incorporate writing into my daily schedule. 300 words. Minimum. Daily.

Tomorrow is the start of a new week and also one where we say hello to November. The end of 2011 is in sight and I think I'm feeling a bit anxious about it, hence my uneasy feeling I've been having lately. Anyway, more on that tomorrow perhaps.

For now, I will publish this post, disconnect and head on over to slumber land.

Wish you all a wonderful week ahead :-)

Chammak Challo (Ra.One) The Making...

Chammak Challo (Ra.One)

Impressive vocals by Akon!


Criminal (Ra.One)

Lotsa booty popping going on in this song from Ra.One!
(Vocals by Akon)

 

RA.ONE

Today I watched Ra.One on the big screen - not usually my kinda thing (Sci-fi / Action) but I really enjoyed this!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Diwali 2011

For the past few years, I spent Diwali away from my family. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be home and spend this auspicious day with the most important people in my life. This year, I was/am in Cape Town. I had the day off, but spent it alone in the Mother City (my family's in East London). I had the day off from work and had the delightful surprise of receiving a care package from home filled with delicious Diwali goodies :)

Pic sent from Daryn in East London
It wasn't long before I had to get ready for dinner with my very good friends, Carmen & Farhad. They came over in the evening and the three of us went out to The Raj in Camps Bay for an Indian dinner - with a fireworks display outside as entertainment :) I'm so very grateful to have Carmen & Farhad in Cape Town with me...they're like my home away from home!

I hope everyone who celebrated had a very special day.

BodySpectra2011


On Tuesday, October 25 2011, I was invited to BodySpectra2011 which was held at Vaudeville, Cape Town. Showcasing body painting/art with the theme, "Immortal" I was blown away by some of the awesome artwork by the students of City Varsity. The picture above is just one of the many cool models who performed on stage. It was a fun night out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

I had a great weekend! Yesterday, Saturday -  I went to the city centre to sort out my parking for the duration of my work. After that, I was at a coffee shop where I got quite a bit of writing done. I left there making a new friend :) Later in the evening, I met my two special friends: Carmen & Farhad for dinner at the waterfront.

They invited me to go with them to Butterfly World this afternoon. (pics to follow) Before that, I made a quick trip to Canal Walk to stock up on some supplies of things I needed. Dinner was spent with an old friend, Helen who happened to be in Cape Town for a few days.

Tomorrow is the beginning of many good things for me. It's the first day of my new job in Cape Town. I feel excited, nervous and at peace - all at the same time.

For now, I need to get to sleep - Good night!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The light at the end of my tunnel...


Well, I cant believe the change of events within the past few days.  Last week this time I was longing for my life when I was in Korea. I missed my friends and the independence (on so many levels) that I enjoyed there. I even considered going back...

Now, I'm counting down the hours till Monday when I begin (proper) work for the first time in South Africa!

I have been engrossed in a very special book called The Gratitude Effect by Dr John Demartini. He speaks about the power of expressing thanks for absolutely everything around us, including the situations we find ourselves in which arent necessarily in our favour.  For friends who know me and who read my blog, you will know that I have been doing Thankful Thursday since I was in Korea. Everyday before midnight I would list 5-10 things I was grateful for that day. I then turned that into a weekly thing, but sadly, it fell away when I came back to South Africa.

As Ive written before, the last few months were quite difficult for me as I have been looking for a job. Honestly speaking, there was little that I could find to be grateful for. I was feeling fed up with life and people. I couldnt comprehend why the Universe was ignoring me.

Reading The Gratitude Effect felt like it was a wake-up call for me. I decided that I needed to find blessings in everything I was doing and situations I found myself in. I didnt think it would be easy, but I had to give it a shot. Almost as if it was a switch, I turned my thinking around and decided to say Thank You to absolutely everyone in my life. My list ranged from Higher Powers... the Universe, my parents, my brother, my aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, friends, security guards, shopkeepers, cashiers, parking attendants, past employers, colleagues, students. And then, the hardest of them all thank you to everyone who has rejected my job applications. Heavens knows, I have responded to dozens of job postings, made numerous phone calls...with no joy.

There were days where I didnt see the need to get out of bed. The sun would be shining through my blinds, but I woudnt be able to see or appreciate it. I didnt want to face anyone and I felt like I was becoming somewhat of recluse. I didnt want to attend any social gatherings where people were going to ask me, Have you found a job yet?

The sense of despair and rejection I felt was heartbreaking and no one will really be able to understand the deapth of this pain. It felt like I was being told that Im not good enough. Apart from the support of my parents, I felt like I was just not getting the validation that I needed.
When I woke up on Monday morning, I saw the sunshine and said Thank You for the beautiful day. I was not going to spend the day moping at home so I got dressed up and took a walk in my area. I walked into various shops and met a number of interesting people. It was one of those days where everything seemed to be going just right. Also, people I had been waiting to hear from were sending me e-mails!

Another miracle happened on Wednesday.

I went to the V & A Waterfront with my netbook. I thought I would get some writing done at a coffee shop overlooking the mountain and harbour. What better inspiration could I possibly ask for? When I arrived, I took a short walk and I found a bench near the harbour boat tours. One was leaving in 5 minutes. It was a gorgeous day and I was there...so why not? It was just a 30 minute ride around the harbour and then I went to a coffee shop where I decided to sit and write.

About 3 hours passed and I got so much done. Earlier that morning, I sent in a job application for an internship position at a company I have been itching to crack into. I decided to call the number of the person who I sent my application to. Just to make some kind of contact other than via e-mail. She was so kind and friendly and she encouraged me not to give up on my quest for getting in. As it turns out, she is is the assistant to the person who sifts through the applications and who I spoke to a couple of months earlier (and who was very rude to me on the phone).

I left the Waterfront feeling really satisfied about the day and that I managed to get a lot of writing done. Soon after arriving at home, I got a call from someone who happened to have been given my CV. She said that she would like to offer me a temporary job for two months. While it is not editorial, she would like to know if Im interested in it at all. My heart was racing. She asked that I go in the following day to chat more about the position.

When I hung up the call, I sat on my couch for about 10 seconds trying to absorb the miracles that were unfolding in my life.

I went in for the interview on Thursday and was asked to think about the position overnight and to call in Friday notifying them if I accept or not.

After much thought and weighing my pros and cons, I called her on Friday morning.

What have you been thinking? she asked.
Ive been thinking...that Id like to see you on Monday morning, I said.

And just like that, I accepted the job offer.

Today was a bit of a milestone for me as I drove into the city centre alone for the first time (not by getting lost this time!) to sort out my parking for the duration of my work. I was so lucky to deal with a very nice person and was also very grateful to a friend who told me about this parking garage.

I havent felt this happy and at peace in a long time and as my godmother said to me, The light is shining for you at the end of the tunnel.

Im very grateful to the lady who called me on Wednesday afternoon and for her giving me my first break at my first proper job in South Africa.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stop & Rewind vs Play & Enjoy


...or Im going through a quarter-life crisis, I told my friend. I was referring to the thoughts and feelings Ive been having over the past few days. I dont know if its the weather or? but Ive been feeling pretty agitated with life.

My decision to leave South Korea last year was based on many things. I didnt expect a red carpet to be rolled out for me coming back to South Africa, but I also didnt expect it to be *this* hard finding a job. I was positive that by this time, I would have landed something.

I moved to Cape Town in July and have started living properly here for a couple of weeks. I say properly because there were a couple of obstacles in my way before I could feel completely settled.

Over the past few days, Ive felt a sense of missing something and I realized I was actually missing South Korea.

But what do I really miss about it?

The food? My apartment? The efficient public transport? The students I taught?

Or is it my financial independence and the fact that I was a faceless being in an over-populated subway. No one knew me. There is something comforting about being a nobody in a foreign place.

I was feeling pretty listless this past week. I was doing the usual applying for jobs, sending my CV and application letters anywhere and everywhere, receiving e-mails of rejection or not even at all.

Over the last 2 or 3 days, I had a thought: If I didnt just commit myself to an apartment lease and move to Cape Town, I would have packed up and gone back to Korea. I bought my first car in December last year and even after purchasing it, I decided that if I ever wanted to go back to Korea, I would. But things are different now, I have an apartment to consider.

What would life be like in Korea if I were to go back? I certainly wouldn
t go back to the same life I had. After all, I believe that the Korean government is cutting back on hiring native English teachers.

If I was missing Korean food so much, was it reasonable for me to commit to a 12-month contract just because my taste buds were longing the spicy tinge of kimchi again?

Was it reasonable to want to go back to Seoul just to go to Yong-san (digital heaven)? I so miss buying gadgets!

I started questioning myself about why I came back to South Africa when I did. At the time of my decision to leave Korea, my 3rd contract with the school had almost expired. I was at my peak. I wanted to leave on a very good note, where my relationships with friends were still healthy.

The other day I watched a documentary about the tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year. It was eerie, and the streets and people of the places hit reminded me so much of my Korean friends again. I missed them and wanted to hear their voices. So I decided to surprise them with a phone call.

Angelina Kim: My first manager and co-teacher. She also played the role of my nurse, mother and big sister. She was visiting family in Bucheon when I called. She told me that shed moved schools and is now working in Bucheon, closer to where she lives. Shes still doing the same after-school English program that she started in Siheung.

Kim Hung-joo: The head teacher of the 6th grade staff who I was part of. He always had my back and we loved talking about movies and current events. Some days after lunch, I would take the longer route back to my classroom and office so that I could pass his classroom and see him. He answered the phone saying, Sheetal Makhan! He told me that in six months time, he will move to another school.

Kim Hye-youn: My dinner, soju & clubbing friend who would meet me after work on Saturday nights. She and I traveled to Busan and Hong Kong together and had some crazy nights of clubbing where we would head home at 7am! It was also great fun going to concerts with her and she was a riot of fun. When she answered my call, I said: Julie! referring to her going out name. After a few seconds and a gasp, she replied back saying Chingu!! meaning friend. We caught up for a little bit and then she said to me, Chingu, chingu I have a good news. I will marry this year.

WHAT?! I said several times. Hye-youn was adamant that she didnt want to marry a Korean man, but here she was planning her wedding to a Korean man!

Lee Mi-hye: My co-teacher and Korean mother who treated me with so much love and adoration I could never forget her. She told me that she also received one of the hacking emails that was sent from my address in July. She told me about the governmentss plans to cut the budget of hiring English teachers. After many months of not working, Mrs Lee is now working as an English teacher at an elementary school near her home.

Mr Lee (Papa): At first, when he answered my call in Korean (yeo-bo-se-yo?) I said Hello! and he hung up on me! I called back and this time, I said Papa! to which Mr Lee replied, Ohhh Makhan! My is daughter! We continued our broken conversation for a couple of seconds where he asked about my family and health and also told me that he wants to come to South Africa in 2012. I is come to Nam-a-gong...South Africa He ended off the call by saying, Ok, Makhan ...I love my daughter!

Lee Joo-hyeon: My co-teacher and close friend who shared a ton of dinners and coffee dates with me. We used to spend hours talking about all sorts of things. It was so easy with Joo-hyeon, also mostly because her level of English was near perfect. She told me that shed been to Vietnam with her family recently. I asked her to come to South Africa to visit me. Really? Ok let me think about it. She told me about some other teachers who had been moved to other schools and that almost none of the old teachers who I knew were there anymore.

Mrs Ham: The sweetest woman I got to know and who, despite her very broken English, treated me like part of her family. I could feel her love. 

I told her that Im now living in Cape Town and said, My apartment...downstairs is Korean restaurant!

Jjin-jja? (Really?) Sheetal is happy, said Mrs Ham.

Kang Sun-hwa: A temporary co-teacher who worked with me while my regular co-teacher was on sabbatical. Sun-hwa is married to a Muslim man from Pakistan and she told me about their recent celebration of Eid. In a few days time, she and her husband will be traveling to her parents home to celebrate Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). Sun-hwa is now teaching a few students as part of their home-schooling at her friends house.

Mrs Park: Mrs Park's 2 children were in my class and I got to know Mrs Park very well when she started her beauty therapy course. She invited me to her house where she did facials for me usually after work, and while I cleaned up afterwards, she had a steaming helping of my favourite meal waiting for me (dol-sut bi-bim-bap) and sometimes, if I was lucky, she used to make pa-jon for me (Korean pancake). At the beginning of our relationship, Mrs Park relied a lot on her children to translate our dialogues to each other. We soon discovered the English-Korean dictionary on our cellphones and from there, continued our broken conversations! She had her daughter speak to me and then her son, who I knew in Grade 2. Hes now in Grade 6. Sheetal! I miss you! he said.

Bae In-suk: She was the teacher who taught the junior after school lessons and after her coming to our English office to use the photocopier, we slowly developed a friendship. She loved going out to dinners and movies and if our schedules agreed, we used to meet up. I dont have another foreign friend after you leave Korea. Sometimes, I want to speak English to someone, but then I think of you. I miss you, she told me.

Every person I spoke to asked me the same question, Do you have plans to come back to Korea?

About an hour and a half later, I got to thinking about all the people I had just spoken to on the phone. Everyone had moved on to a different sphere of their life. Why was I wanting to go back in time? If I was longing for the comfort and familiarity of the old school I worked at, I was guaranteed I wasnt going to get that. Everyone I knew had moved on to another school some to greener pastures.

Friends who I relied on as my last-remaining single friends were now planning their wedding, while others (in their own words) were keen to have a baby soon.

Everyone was moving forward. And here I was - longing to go back. Would I be happier if I were to go back to Korea? To live in the same kind of solitude, surrounded by a language that I only knew little of? To where I had very limited choices when eating out (since Im a vegetarian?) to a place where I was continuously asked to produce my ARC (Alien Registration Card) reminding me time and time again that I am an alien?

If anything, I was very happy that I made all those calls to my Korean friends, as it helped put many things into perspective. I need to stop being so hard on myself for the rut I seem to be in. My time will come. The perfect job will come to me. I will be happy. I can't stop and rewind my life. I won't even try to fast forward. I will just hit play and enjoy it as best I can. 

Above all, God has a wonderful plan for me. This, Im sure of.

10-year Reunion: Sunday Breakfast


The breakfast on Sunday morning served to wrap up the reunion weekend. About ten classmates met at Footprints Cafe and we bid farewell to each other  not really knowing when wed see each other again.


With Carolyn, Roxanne & Natalie

10-year Reunion: Girls Night


Friday night was finally going to happen. Weeks of planning was finally going to come to fruitation. The evening went of absolutely well with tributes to our late classmates and friends, Lelethu Lumkwana and Ashanti Kakaza. I also prepared a slideshow for the girls filled with photos and tidbits from 2001. 



With my oldest friend, Catherine

10-year Reunion: Grateful


Leaving Founders Day, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Clarendon is an institution that Im so proud to have been part of.

First and foremost, I was grateful to my parents for recognizing what an excellent school Clarendon was and still is.  They knew that by enrolling me at Clarendon Prep, I would be taught the best life lessons and be introduced to opportunities that I may not have been exposed to elsewhere.

For my entire school career, I felt like I was constantly nurtured under the loving care of my teachers. 

It was the encouragement of my English teachers that fueled my love for the language and ultimately lead me to explore the wondrous world of words.  My very first piece that was published in an anthology of verse was a poem I wrote in Std 2 called "My Secret Garden". This was the beginning and I am proud to say that I have had my writing published in local and international publications - enforcing my belief that I can spread whatever message I wish through the written word. My love for English also led to my career choice in teaching English to foreigners.

I was a bit of an introvert growing up and was a bit hesitant to take risks and challenges, but in Grade 10 I felt like I went through my own metamorphosis. I joined the Forum Discussion team, the school magazine, Interact and other clubs and societies. It was through these platforms that I developed confidence in developing my voice. Above all, I developed leadership skills.

With their guidance and caring attitude, teachers like Mrs Felton, Miss Rose, Mrs Edwards, Mr Deutschmann and so many others, my wings had fully grown by the time the end of my matric year came by.  

Biology was my weakest subject and I was sure I was not going to pass with good enough grades to enrol at a university.  The day I went to collect my results from school with my mum, I cried tears of joy. Months of hard work, studying and tutoring had paid off and I passed with good grades. I now have a Bachelor of Journalism from Rhodes University. Something I never thought would be possible!

Ten years later, I am still very good friends with many of the girls I met at Clarendon High School...including those from Sub B!

Thank you, mum and dad for choosing Clarendon as my education foundation. Thank you to the dozens of teachers who believed in me. Thank you to all the friends I made.  Without you all, I know for sure that I would not be the person I have turned out to be.

If I can give any piece of advice to current Clarendonians, it would be...

"Don't for a single second take any opportunity you have for granted. Respect your teachers and recognize that they are very special people who take on many different forms to ensure that you will leave the school successful and ready for the world. Don't wait till your reunion to come back to school and realize what a fine institution you were part of. Know it now. When you look around at the lack of education in our country and the children who would give anything to be in your place - even sitting on those hard, wooden floors, appreciate that you are one of the most privileged people to be receiving education of such caliber."

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