Ways to live frugally as you travel

Being an English teacher is a reasonable way to live and work in many different countries around the world. With some rare exceptions, however, you aren’t going to make a lot of money doing it. The places you can make really great money are not going to work for me. I’m not interested in working in the Middle East. Turkey was close enough for me, but I understand that Saudi Arabia pays very well–if you don’t mind living in a compound and wearing a burka. I’m too old to get a work visa in South Korea (they won’t issue one for people over age 45). China also has visa age limits, though if you are willing to work outside of the major cities, you can probably get one. Unfortunately, China has a horrible reputation for living up to contracts, so you may or may not get the big money promised. And the pollution and restrictions on personal freedom (no Google, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter…..) will probably keep me away from there, except as an occasional tourist.

Not being independently wealthy IS getting in the way of the life I want to lead. It’s not going to stop me, however. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Unless you have a rich family, a regular source of income (like a retirement pension), or have stashed away a bundle before you left home, you are going to have to find ways to live frugally. Currently, I’m in Mexico, but most of these tips will work anywhere in the world. I know that, because this is my fifth country outside of the USA. Here are some things I do to keep my expenses low.

Hair: I keep a very simple hairstyle that I can trim myself—shoulder length, which I wear in a ponytail or with a headband. I don’t color or perm my hair—which means I have completely grey hair now. Am I stylish? Of course not. But this saves money on trips to the beauty shop, plus it saves in frustration. It’s almost impossible to explain what you want to a stylist when the two of you don’t share a language. It also means I need fewer hair products in general.

Clothes: I have a job where I don’t have to dress up, which makes my life much easier and it keeps down the expenses. I have mostly solid color pants/shorts/ tops that can be mixed and matched. My color scheme is pretty boring: black, grey and red. Nothing needs to be ironed or has any special washing instructions. For color and to keep from looking like I’m homeless, I use scarves or simple necklaces. I have scarves from all over the world, in fact.

Makeup: I don’t wear much. I use a simple foundation with sunscreen, powder and lipstick. I rarely wear eye makeup. Makeup products are always pricey and, let’s face it, you don’t always know what you are buying. I know how to wear eye makeup, but 15 minutes after I put it on, I’ve smeared it halfway down my cheeks. Best to do without. Do you get the idea that I’m simply not fashionable?

Eat on the Street: Street food is cheap and there are lots of healthy options. Lots of UN-healthy ones, too! Of course there are risks when you eat off food carts, but that’s true even in NYC. Most countries sell fresh fruit or vegetables on the street. If you’re concerned about cleanliness, stick with fruits that you can peel yourself. For example, I eat an avocado every day here in Mexico because they are inexpensive and filling, not to mention healthy. Bananas and oranges are cheap in most countries. When there’s meat involved, I stick with carts that cook the food right as I stand there and watch. The exception is tacos de canasta, which are wrapped and then steamed. Steam kills most any germs. In Vietnam, there was piping hot soup. Usually bread items are fairly safe on the street. Deep fried foods, though not the healthiest option, are fairly safe from a germ standpoint, though not great for your heart. Not many bacteria or viruses can live through a deep fat fryer.

The one item I stay away from is drinks that are sold on the street, but aren’t bottled, especially in countries where I wouldn’t drink the water from the tap. I also get most drinks without ice. The exception is iced coffee or iced tea. Coffee and tea are usually boiled, but also they do a fair job on their own of killing most beasties in the water.

Eat the local food, in season: Eat what the locals eat. Fast food may be cheap in the USA, but it isn’t in China, SE Asia, Turkey and Latin America. Besides, the local cuisine is probably much more interesting and healthier. As I type this, cactus fruits are in season, tunas, and they are reported to lower blood sugar.

Learn to love plain water: Water is the best liquid for you. Even if you can’t drink the water from the tap, bottled water will probably be less expensive than any other liquid you can buy. The exception seems to be Spain, where the cheapest wine—which was still pretty good!—was less expensive than a bottle of water. Here in Mexico, fresh fruit juices are only slightly more than bottled water and often less expensive than coffee or tea drinks.

I also try to save in this area, since buying water can add up. The larger the container, the less expensive, so go big. Unfortunately, the largest sizes are very heavy. I now carry an electric kettle and a water purifying pitcher from country to country. Here in Mexico, the water quality isn’t totally horrible (better than I expected), but I still don’t drink the water from the tap. I will, however, boil the water and then filter it after it cools. I expect this is as safe as most bottled water. In some cases it might be safer since there are few quality standards for bottled water, even in the USA. I also believe that this is a better environmental option, since the plastic bottles just end up in the trash. There’s little recycling here or in most undeveloped countries.

When I don’t drink water, I usually  have tea or coffee, made in my room with my electric kettle.

Walk: Even the cost of cheap transportation adds up over time. I take the bus or an Uber occasionally. I took a taxi a couple times during my first few days here, but usually I use my feet. It keeps me in shape and reduces my need for a gym membership. (Which I still need. The food here is too good!)

Living accommodations: Learn to lower your standards. When I travel, I stay in hostels, which are cheap, but have zero privacy. I’ve lived in shared apartments most of the last two years while I’ve been teaching. I won’t accept a teaching contract unless the company assists with housing. I’m simply not in a position to find a place on my own, so they are going to have to do the legwork for at least the initial months. In Russia and Spain, the accommodations were part of the compensation. In Turkey, I got 3 free months in an apartment with the understanding that I could extend my stay or even move to another apartment with the same English speaking landlords. In Vietnam, the school had an apartment which I rented (though I hadn’t been told I’d have a roommate. Surprise!). Here in Mexico, they found an apartment for me, (though clearly no one bothered to look at the place or ask the price ahead of time).

Remember, though, that if you lose your job with your employer, you can also lose your housing if they are providing the apartment. Something to think about.

But sometimes, like here in Mexico, you have to look for something better. I look for accommodation (in my price range) based on these things: 1). Safety Can I walk around outside at night? I usually teach in the evenings, so may come home late. 2). Cleanliness I don’t have to be able to eat off the floor, but I don’t want bugs, either. You may have to lower your standards here. 3). Proximity to my work I want to keep my commute time/costs to a minimum. 4) Facilities Does the place have everything I need? Bed with linen & pillow? Bathroom that isn’t shared by too many people? Kitchen with cooking/eating utensils? Is there a washer/ironing board/drying rack? How is trash handled? 5) Location Is it close to the things I need? Grocery? Restaurants? Laundry facilities? Public transportation?

My current flat isn’t ideal, but it (mostly) meets the first two criteria and I’ve found ways to mitigate the others. Though I’ve always had a separate bedroom, living alone is seldom going to be an option. There are some super-small studio apartments here in San Luis Potosi and if I can find one in my budget, I’ll consider it, but I think I’m at the lowest price place I can find but still live in comfortably.

Stay in one place longer: The big expense with this kind of life is the plane flight to a new location and the initial costs of moving.

Flights are expensive and you may have to pay extra for baggage. For example, I carry only one suitcase and a large backpack of belongings. It isn’t much. However, on some flights, only one is allowed without paying an overage charge. The second bag can cost an additional $100. You have to decide if it’s cheaper to buy new stuff or pay the fee.

And there are other expenses, as well. You usually end up paying for a hotel for a couple days when you move to a new city. Since you don’t know how to get around you take more expensive taxis rather than walk or use public transportation. There may be the first month’s rent plus deposit to pay.  And you may or may not have gotten your damage deposit back from the last place. Every new place seems to need a few things. My first flat in Mexico needed a fan and hangars just to get unpacked and be able to sleep comfortably. These are bulkly items that I’m not likely to take with me when I move.

If you stay in one place longer, those costs don’t crop up so often and you have a chance to save up for the next move. Also, some schools have an end-of-contract bonus or will reimburse some travel fees if you complete your contract, typically a year. End of contract bonuses are pretty precarious, however. In Russia, they paid for flights in and out of the country, but they set a cap so low that it only paid about half my travel costs. In Turkey, the end of contract bonus was very substantial. I lived on it for almost 3 months while in Spain and hiking the Camino. Of course, I had to sit in the office for four days straight, waiting for them to pay me. They clearly hoped I’d have a flight out and have to leave before they got around to paying me. It was humiliating and demeaning, but in the end they paid me just to get rid of me. Not everyone was so lucky. Personally, I will shy away from contracts like that from now on.

Frankly, I make enough money teaching to live from day to day and save a tiny bit. It’s like volunteering with room, board and a small stipend. When I transfer to another country, I may have to dip into my savings for the travel and at least some of the initial set up fees. For most “adventures,” like a few extra days in Moscow or Mexico City, I definitely dip into savings. I prepared for this financial situation ahead of time, so it’s not a problem for me, but if I had to live just on what I make, I wouldn’t be able to do much additional travel.

There are some places I’d like to teach that pay even worse than where I’ve lived so far. Some don’t pay at all. India and Nepal are on my list, but I can’t even make enough money to afford to live and eat in these emerging countries. I can’t go to them right now. There are some “volunteer vacations” that, while not pricey by vacation standards, are out of my reach without putting a huge strain on my savings. I’d like to work on an archaeological dig and monitor sea turtles, for example, but it’s too pricey on my teacher’s salary. I’ve had offers for long term house-sitting in Europe, but would need money to get to the home and then be able to eat while I’m there. There’s no guarantee I’d be able to work (and in an EU country with a US passport the odds of working legally are slim).

Having money changes things. I’ll get my first pension in about 2.5 years and while I won’t be wealthy, I’ll suddenly have an independent source of income. In most of Latin American, it’s enough to live better than I live now. Who knows what I may do then?

The next adventure!

I have spent the last couple weeks in Madrid, Spain. I’ve been my successful in getting work visas and firming up a couple of future jobs, so I can continue my adventure to see the world.

Next week I will fly to the Pacific coast of Russia to teach an English summer school course. I’ve been working on some conversation lesson plans, since you never know what will be available when you arrive. The job begins June 1 and will take me through mid-July. It comes with accommodations, so I think I’ve been very lucky with this position. The flight is over 16 hours, so getting there will be fairly brutal. Wish me luck.

When I finish my job in Russia, I’ll be flying to central Mexico to work for a private language school. A fellow teacher has already worked for this school, so I have a good feeling about the place. It’s also at a bit of an altitude, so perhaps not as hot as much of Mexico. As a bonus, they will give me Spanish lessons, a language I’m determined to be functional in.

In addition to lesson plans, I’m also working on two blog posts about the Camino de Santiago–things you can expect to find in Spain that are different from the USA and a list of what to take if you choose to hike The French Way. So, particularly if you are interested in walking this pilgrim’s path, stay tuned!

 

New adventures?

Just before this band started to play, there were a group of women walking up and down the blocks, carrying posters with the faces of their children, presumed dead. Some have been gone over a decade--all are Kurds, caught up in the crack down of this minority by the most recent administration. Most of the children were teenagers who participated in a peaceful protest. Police dragged many of them from their homes in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.
Just before this band started to play, there were a group of women walking up and down the blocks, carrying posters with the faces of their children, presumed dead. Some have been gone over a decade–all are Kurds, caught up in the crack down of this minority by the most recent administration. Most of the children were teenagers who participated in a peaceful protest. Police dragged many of them from their homes in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.

10/26/2015
I’m developing a new way to choose which countries to live in. It’s the language. Not “can I figure it out” or “will this language be helpful for me in the future.” No, it’s the sound of things. When you live in a country where your home language isn’t spoken, you must listen to countless hours of the native language without knowing what is being said. You’ll be in line at the grocery, post office, airport and overhear conversations. You will be following some chatty old women in the market square or bragging young men on the metro. You will not know for a very long time what is being said. If you are lucky, you can catch a few words, newly acquired. Even when you are studying as hard as your mind will let you, it takes a while to tune your ear to the music of the language. And here’s the catch: It needs to sound like music to you. If it just sounds like clashing, guttural emissions, you are in for a horrible stay. The sound of people talking should not grate on your nerves. Life is difficult enough in a foreign country. You will be lost most of the time. When you think you understand you will often find later that you were totally clueless. You learn the true mending of “ignorance is bliss.” To live in another culture is to live in the dark. I can only liken it to losing one of your senses, but by choice. And if only twice a week you question your sanity, I’d say you’re doing well. Just don’t make it worse by choosing a language you hate the sound of.

Oh, and bacon. I’m not living in another country that doesn’t serve pork. While in Belgrade (honest, I’ll post pictures very soon) last week, I ate pork every meal and my dear friend Kathy brought me three boxes of shelf stable bacon. I’m having a couple pieces every day. Heaven!

This is a traditional band playing on the pedestrian mall of Avcilar. My students wanted me to hear them and they were very good. This is just outside the school branch in Avcilar, which I teach at on weekends.
This is a traditional band playing on the pedestrian mall of Avcilar. My students wanted me to hear them and they were very good. This is just outside the school branch in Avcilar, which I teach at on weekends.

Seriously, I’m looking at what to do with my time once my teaching contract is up in February. I don’t want to take another job right away because I plan to hike The Camino in April. Basically, I need a place to stay and I’m willing to work for it. If food is also provided, that’d be a bonus. I’m more likely to go to a country I can’t teach in, such as an EU country and I don’t want to get too far from the start of the Camino in Spain, just because of costs. Possibilities I’m investigating include: house/animal sitting (I’ve signed up with Trusted House Sitters and checking out availability); WWOOFing—world wide opportunities on organic farms (I’d really love to learn to make cheese or work with fruit trees) and Volunteer positions (there’s a potential farm in Bulgaria I’ve contacted). And while I expect I’ll take another teaching job when I get off the Camino, I have applied for a cruise ship job as staff. You never know what I’ll do!

Selling boiled corn on the square in Sirinevler. These are often roasted, too. Misir is the Turkish word for "corn" but also Egypt.
Selling boiled corn on the square in Sirinevler. These are often roasted, too. Misir is the Turkish word for “corn” but also “Egypt.”
These are just 1TL a piece, about 35 Cents. You can see that it is beginning to get cool here in Istanbul.
These are just 1TL a piece, about 35 Cents. You can see that it is beginning to get cool here in Istanbul.

Random Thoughts from Turkey

All the squares (meydan) are covered with political banners.
All the squares (meydan) are covered with political banners. Elections are next month.

5/22/2015

I’ve recently passed my three month mark working at English Time, so my probation period is over. Since no one has said otherwise, I guess I’m a full-fledged teacher now, whatever that means. Well, one thing is means is that I’ve been here long enough to make a few observations.

A pedestrian street in Avcilar, decorated for the election.
A pedestrian street in Avcilar, decorated for the election.

Noise: This is without a doubt the loudest city I’ve ever been in. There are no laws or limits that I can see to how loud music or speeches can be, even in residential areas. And while I generally like the call to prayer, it can be deafening at times since all the mosques use sound systems and they are all broadcasting at once, five times a day. And I don’t dare cover m ears, even when the sound is painful.

With the election only a few days away, the noise is worse than ever. Though they do usually stop by 10pm, the square outside our classrooms has music and folk dancing non-stop, 7 days a week, punctuated by speeches. I can’t wait for it to be over.

Now that it is getting so warm, I have to leave my balcony door or my window open to cool off. The sound of the E5, six stories below, is so loud that I can’t listen to music or hear if someone knocks on my door.

Busy metro: The only other metro system I’ve seen that was this crowded was Tokyo. Turks have much less of a need for personal space than the average American, though more than most Asians. But the Metro buses and trams are very, very crowded. Sardines in a can have a similar amount of elbow room. It’s unnerving for this American who isn’t used to having her body pressed against 3-4 strangers for 30 minutes at a time.

Ducks on the edge of the sea--taking from the park near my apartment.
Ducks on the edge of the Sea of Marmara–taken from the park near my apartment.

Driving: Turks believe that they are under the protection of Allah in all things, so cautious driving is optional at best. They aren’t as bad as Cairo, Egypt, or even quite as bad as Vietnam, but it’s bad. I don’t miss having a car. I would never be able to drive it here.

Knufe--a dessert with cheese and enough sugar to put you in a diabetic coma.
Knufe–a dessert with cheese and enough sugar to put you in a diabetic coma. I never thought I’d say this, but Turkish desserts are TOO sweet for me.

Ghost: OK, call me crazy. You won’t be the first. But I think my apartment hallway is haunted. Just the hallway, right outside my door. The handle to my bedroom door moves for no reason. Not the door—which will move because of air pressure changes, the HANDLE. And every time I get into the refrigerator, I swear I see someone in the hallway passing the doorway of the kitchen. Every time I look, no one is there.

My theory is that the ghost is trying to get me to eat less and get out of my room and walk more. How nice that I have a ghost concerned with my health.

Clothing and covering: Women are completely covered all the time. And most men are too, though no head covering. I’m beginning to realize that it’s less of a religious concern or a modesty issue. Turks believe that exposure is bad for your health. All this covering didn’t seem so bad when I arrived in February. It was still winter. There had been snow the week before I arrived.

Lentil soup (corba)
Lentil soup (corba)

But now it’s late May.

Even though it is over 80F now, the average woman will be covered head to toe, with several layers, with only her hands and face exposed. She will be wearing pants or a long skirt and long sleeve shirt, with a simple round neckline or buttoned to the neck. It is not unusual for her to have a long sleeved, calf length sweater as well. When out of her house (which includes inside the classroom), she will also have a overcoat. It will be ankle-length and long-sleeved, zipped to the neck and of a polyester (i.e. unbreathable) material. The coat will probably be black with buttoned cuffs at the wrists. Her hair will be covered first by a fitted black or white cap that tightly contains all the hair around the front of the face and ties behind her neck. Over this is a long, decorative scarf that is wrapped and pinned so that it goes over the head with the ends looped completely around the neck and knotted behind the head.

Even men will wear long pants, long sleeves and a sweater or jacket at all times.
I’m sweating just describing it.

Lamacum, one of Turkey's answers to fast food. Like a pizza, but no cheese.
Lamacum, (pronounced LA MA JUNE) Turkey’s answers to fast food. Like a flat-bread pizza, but no cheese.

Women are lesser human beings: Turkey is more progressive than other Muslim countries. I’m not required to wear a headscarf and according to the constitution, I can’t be made to do so. Officially, they are banned in public buildings, especially state universities. But that is a huge issue at the moment, so a step backward could be coming.

Regardless, women are still a lesser species here. Men are players and they act as though they have more rights than women. They do. Just yesterday I asked my students (a speaking exercise) to tell me what job they would like to have. One of my adult, female students said that if she were a man, she would be a pilot. When I said that women WERE pilots, she shook her head, “No, teacher. Turkey.”

Women basically have two routes: Wife and mother or wayward woman of the street. Your main job is to bring honor to your father or your husband. Women are paid less. Women are seldom in positions of authority. Women rarely go into male dominated jobs and they are expected to do all the housework and child rearing, even if they work outside the home. Men hold all the power. It’s roughly America in the 1950’s as far as women’s rights are concerned.

While I obviously don’t agree with this position, it’s not my country and I’m not here to change it. I’m a foreigner and if the situation gets untenable for me, I will leave.

I'm never going to get used to eggs left out on the counter. These have been here a week.
I’m never going to get used to eggs left out on the counter. These have been here a week.

Beggars: There are a LOT of them and they fall into different classes. There are those missing limbs and they openly display their deformities in exchange for money. Sometimes it’s family members displaying their seriously handicapped relative. At least I hope they are related. There are old women, usually with a child, begging loudly. It concerns me that the child is ALWAYS asleep. Perhaps “unconscious” is a better word. Honestly, I think the child is drugged. And I’ve noticed with the the old women I see daily in the same spot it’s not even the same child. I don’t know what to make of this, but it can’t be good. My least favorite class of beggar is the filthy children who never have shoes and rudely demand money, even grabbing at you. I immediately check that my purse is shut tight and I have nothing in my pockets for them to grab. They often walk up and down the Metro bus asking for handouts. Why are they not in school?

I don’t know what to think of these beggars. Some may be refugees. Some are disabled. I’ve given money, but the next time you pass them they yell at you if you don’t throw them some coins like last time. A few have loudly complained that I didn’t give them enough. And the children steal.

But mostly, the images make me despondent. Nothing changes. It’s the same beggars in the same public places with the same outstretched hands. You can give all you want, all you can, and nothing gets better. It feels hopeless.

Dork: I was working on descriptions with my Level 1 students this Sunday. When you try to explain questions like “How does she look?” and “How does he feel?” you quickly realize what a quirky language English is. It’s best to show pictures of emotions (He is happy, sad, angry….) and physical appearance (She is tall, short, young, old…). And when you run out of pictures, you let students start describing each other.

“Teacher, Emin is tall.”
“Yes, Emin IS tall.”
“Teacher, Emin is handsome.”
“Yes, Emin is tall, dark and handsome!”

And then I had to explain “dark” because that wasn’t one of the words in our vocabulary list. I thought everyone understood and we moved on to other descriptive words.

But after class, Emin came up to me and said, “Teacher, tall, dark and handsome?” I smiled and assure him that he was. But he looked so puzzled.

“Teacher, I stupid?” No! So I mimed “tall” and he agreed that yes, he was tall. I said “handsome” and he blushed. Then I pointed to his thick, black hair and said “dark hair” a couple times. I pointed to another student’s hair and said “blonde hair.” But he pointed to his head and repeated, “stupid?”

Fortunately, I gave him a marker and had him write the word on the board. He spelled it D-O-R-K. He thought I was calling him a dork! He’d used his cellphone translation app to find the definition. English pronunciations!

The white is manti, small dumplings covered in a garlic yogurt sauce and served cold. The salad just needed pomegranate syrup and lemon juice!
The white item is manti, small dumplings covered in a garlic yogurt sauce and served cold. The salad just needed pomegranate syrup and lemon juice!

Salad Dressing: There’s a reasonably priced, cafeteria-style restaurant near the school that I frequently go to. Some of the employees know a little English and always greet me warmly. I often get lentil soup and a salad. I usually just squeeze fresh lemon onto both before eating. The most gregarious of the troop brought over pomegranate syrup and lemon juice for my salad. OMG! This is an amazing combination for a salad dressing.

Touching: There’s a tremendous amount of touching in this country, but it’s rarely between men and women, at least in public. It’s usually between men. Men of all ages walk with their arms around each others’ shoulders. They kiss cheeks. They clasp hands and press their foreheads together for (what seems like) an uncomfortably long period. They stand very close when talking face to face. In America, these behaviors would signal homosexuality. The fact that the men are also fastidious about their appearance, particularly their hair and shoes, would just confirm that opinion. Oh, and lavender is a very popular color to decorate a bachelor’s quarters. But homosexuality is a sin in Islam and suggesting it is probably the worst insult imaginable. Besides I don’t think 95% of the male population is likely to be gay, though statistically 10-11% are. With the current conservative government (which is likely to get more conservative in the upcoming election), it can’t be a great place to be gay.

I still got it!
I still got it!

Quality Control: I keep some healthy snacks about. I eat things like seeds, nuts, dried fruit and roasted chickpeas. But I’ve learned to be very careful when I bite down. Quality control simply isn’t the same here. If you are eating walnuts, expect shells. I found a few rocks in my roasted pumpkin seeds the other day. The raisins often have stems attached. Get used to it.

Disappointing schedules, new views

The view from my new balcony. I love the light in this larger room. The balcony is a great place to dry clothes (no dryers in Turkey). In the morning, I have my coffee here and check the weather. The road below is the E5, once the Silk Road. If you could see clearly past those apartment buildings, you could see ships and sailboats on the Marmara. I've never lived close to the sea before!
The view from my new balcony. I love the light in this larger room. The balcony is a great place to dry clothes (no dryers in Turkey). In the morning, I have my coffee here and check the weather. The road below is the E5, once the Silk Road. If you could see clearly past those apartment buildings, you could see ships and sailboats on the Marmara. I’ve never lived close to the sea before!

5/2/2015
One of the things I’m learning about other cultures is to expect poor communications, last minute cancellations and precarious work schedules. I don’t like it. I’m dealing with it, but I don’t think I will ever get comfortable with the uncertainty.

I agreed two weeks ago to take a Level 3 class that started today (Saturday). It was from 3p to 7pm Saturdays and Sundays. Yesterday I checked AGAIN to make sure that the class was still on. When I got an affirmative answer, I made lesson plans for each day. Shortly before noon today, the class was canceled. No reason given. No information as to whether it is actually postponed or flat out canceled. This will cut into my hours for the month.

I can recognize many of the spring flowers!
I can recognize many of the spring flowers!

I’m pretty flexible with my hours. I don’t care what days I teach. I’m willing to work 6 days a week. I will work 7 days a week for a couple weeks straight, but find I start getting very tired and making mistakes by the third week of working every day. Four weeks straight and I get sick—I don’t sleep well and I catch a virus. One of the things I liked about English Time was that they strive for a 5 day work week for teachers. But, it doesn’t work in practice. It’s feast or famine with schools. Work is simply not steady. I went three and a half weeks working every day (though not necessarily many hours every day) and couldn’t get a day off. Now I have three days in a row. And, because of the split shifts, it doesn’t look to me that you can get enough hours if you insist on 5 days a week. This is only my second school/country, but I’m seeing a pattern and I’m never going to like this part. Yes, it usually works out and Yes, I have money to fall back on if I need it. But I don’t want to need it. I simply must get more comfortable with less stability.

On the plus side, I know my head teacher, Robert, is trying to balance schedules. He’s communicating as well and as fast as he can. And if I needed someone to back me up, he’s do it. But his hands are tied. He gets his information from the office. The branch office creates classes based on demand. Demand is fickle. Plus the office doesn’t communicate well and we don’t share much of a common language even if they did. Three weeks ago, Robert thought he needed more teachers. Now, I’m one of five with not enough hours. Robert is not paid well enough for the frustration he suffers. I wouldn’t have his job! He’s already announced that he’s going back to another school in Mexico in October and I will miss him. He’s grooming Gabriel to take his place. That’s a good move because Gabe is solid, but I’ll miss Robert. On the other hand, Robert says the school in Mexico is great and I might want to consider teaching there. Bonus!

It's a nice park to go for a walk or fish. There are benches and flowers.
This is the edge of the sea, and there’s a nice green space to enjoy it. It’s a great park to go for a long walk or fish. There are benches and flowers.

On a positive note, I just found out that Albert needs me to cover his classes while he goes home to Iran. We share a Level 5, weekday class (10a-2p). I teach Monday-Tuesday, but next week and the week after, I’ll need to cover his Wednesday through Friday. That should make up for the hours I’m losing with this class. What a relief! See, it usually works out, and today it all worked out in under 2 hours. I gotta learn trust the process.

And, this morning, I finally took a walk to the Sea of Marmara. I can see it from my balcony, but knew that it would be a climb coming back up the hill by my apartment. It was a beautiful morning, so I wanted to explore. There’s a lovely breakwater and park along the edge of the sea with benches, walking paths and a lovely view. It will make a great place to stroll in the morning or evening. I didn’t stay long since I thought I had a class to get to, but will go again soon.

This is the Sea of Marmara. Taken from a breakwater/park along the edge.
This is the Sea of Marmara. Taken from a breakwater/park along the edge.

Speaking of Plan B—I honestly think the political situation will be just fine here in Turkey, but I’m a person who only feels comfortable with a back-up idea or three. (Hence the trail name of Plan B!) I’ve just ordered a couple e-books on The Camino, a roughly 500 mile pilgrimage trail mostly through Spain. I’ve wanted to walk it for a while and I probably have all the equipment I need (Just need new shoes) , though it is stored at a dear friend’s house in NY. If the June elections go VERY badly and I think things are unsafe, I might figure out a place to store my stuff, get my hiking gear and walk the Camino. It’s just a thought for now. Nothing definite. But life is short and you have to start making plans for the things you want to do. We can run out of time so quickly…..

A large crowd gathered to hear the music and see the dancing. This was put on by a political candidate and I could later hear his speech outside the classroom windows. Wonder what he was saying?
A large crowd gathered to hear the music and see the dancing.  LOUD music, too. This was put on by a political candidate and I could later hear his speech outside the classroom windows. Wonder what he was saying?
This is a political rally at Şirinevlier square, just outside my school branch. Traditionally, only men sing and dance in Turkey, and it's a kind of line dance (similar to Greece).
This is a political rally at Şirinevler square, just outside my school branch. Traditionally, only men sing and dance in Turkey, and it’s a kind of line dance (similar to Greece).