7:45: After a quick shower I double check that I have all of my materials for the school day, along with triple checking that I have my keys. Life abroad is incredible, but navigating the language barrier between my landlord and I to tell him I forgot my keys…again…is not.
I am greeted by the familiar smiles of the hard working ladies at my local breakfast shop and order the usual–a scrumptious fried egg, ham, cheese omelette with a mysterious, yet delicious, brown sauce on top. I know enough of the language to get by and not embarrass myself for the most part, but I was relieved when these ladies began asking me “the usual?” and I could simply reply with yes and a smile.
My meal comes with a sweet milk tea that I didn’t love at first but I have slowly come to appreciate. Now I look forward to this subtle magic in a cup.
8:00: My tasty meal is in my belly and I pull out a book to get some reading in. Back home, I never seemed to have time for reading, but as ESL teachers rarely have more than 25 teaching hours a week, we have a lot of free time to fill. Last year I read 36 books and this year I’m going for 52!
9:15: Time to head to class! I get on the subway and take it eight stops to my school. Subway systems back home were just a nightmare, but I’ve noticed that everywhere I go abroad there are eye-openingly efficient ways to get anywhere you want to go. While the hordes sit in hectic traffic jams above me, I get to read my book in an air-conditioned train as I zoom towards school.
9:30: I depart my train and walk about 10 minutes to get to school, stopping at the local 7/11 for the largest coffee they’re allowed to sell me. This “teaching juice” fuels the ESL industry, especially for those who work with younger age groups.
9:45: I arrive at school and make sure to get a few extra sips of coffee in my veins before opening the Pandora’s box that is my kindergarten classroom. I’ve been doing this long enough that the chaos is more of an organized chaos, but when your job is to teach 18 energetic four-year-olds, no day is completely sane…and I love it.
10:00 – 16:00: I teach five lessons throughout the day to my class of minions and throw in a healthy dose of dancing, singing, and going off on entertaining tangents that arise during class. The best part of teaching kindergarten is how young it keeps you. You’re back to the days of imagination, playing outside at recess, and of course…naptime!
While my students snooze I get a lovely two-hour break to lesson plan, grab lunch with other teachers, or even take a nap myself. After the grind of university, this built-in down time each day is wonderful.
16:00: I wave goodbye to “my kids” and head out into the early evening air knowing that the rest of my day is mine. Twice a week I tutor adults, but today I’m heading back to my place to get the grill fired up. A few teacher friends are coming over for hamburgers, chicken wings, and a few drinks on my rooftop.
Back home, rooftops are for rich penthouse owners. Abroad, they’re commonplace and an added bonus for whoever lives on the top floor. For $650 a month, I rent a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment on the fifth and top floor of my old building in the city center which means I get the sixth floor all to myself which features a kitchen and rooftop. I have lived here for years and still can’t believe my luck.
17:00: My girlfriend and our teacher friends come over to spend the evening grilling, eating, and swapping stories about funny things our students said as we take in the sunset over the cityscape.
20:00: It’s trivia night at one of the neighborhood bars, so we head out to test our knowledge against the locals and other ESL teachers.
22:00: After securing a decent third place finish, we say our goodbyes and I begin walking home all the while thinking about that one decision I made all those years ago that led me to take a leap of faith and move abroad. I’m a lucky guy and tomorrow I get to do it all over again.