The first five weeks of my new life in Amsterdam was spent in what I considered the suburbs, but in reality were still “inside the ring”. The distinction would be quite important. Where Jasper lives is still considered Amsterdam city, at least to the residents of the area and the local government. For the people that know me, they’ll realize just how difficult it was to be in North. I mean, there was a bus from Central Station, but any place that you can also take a ferry to get home is in the middle of nowhere. For me, not being a driver or a biker, being that far away from “civilization” made it a bit of a challenge to go out every day. But I forced myself to do it. The nature of teaching online for VIPKid made that absolutely imperative. Otherwise, I would’ve been a recluse. In fact, I probably would’ve been a card-carrying member of the International Union of Recluses.
At the end of May 2017, I moved into my own place. It ticked all of my boxes: Elevator building, upper floor, two bedrooms, canal view. Before you get all excited, canals are kind of a dime a dozen in Amsterdam. And mine was not one of the main ones. In hindsight, I should have checked a couple of things before I moved. In addition to being a card-carrying member of the International Union of Recluses, I was also a member of the International Union of Pyrophobics, to which I paid my dues religiously. My pyrophobia was (and is) so bad, that as a child that I could not light a match. To be fair, I still can’t. This was to prove problematic in my new place. My apartment has a gas stove. I did not realize at the time, but the burners on my stove are not connected to electrical power. As a result, they do not ignite automatically. For someone who has as violent a fear of fire as I do, the discovery was a disaster. When I realized that I couldn’t light the stove without a lighter, I began to hyperventilate. Also to cry. How do you not connect the stove to electricity? My landlord didn’t see what the big deal was. I will tell you that it’s really very annoying to have to light your stove every time you want to use it. I have gotten used to it now and using a kitchen lighter to light the stove on the lowest setting has gotten easier. The first month was rather terrifying. I learned my lesson, however. Before signing a lease, make sure that the appliances work properly.
Once I had worked on my fear (I won’t say conquered) and settled into my new place, I could get back into the swing of teaching. This I did with alacrity. I was soon teaching 36 to 40 hours a week over seven days. I have maintained this schedule for the last year. Three months after I moved into the apartment, I could start thinking about where I wanted to take my teaching career. I started thinking about how to transfer my skills in English language teaching to Amsterdam. Lots of little ideas were flying back-and-forth in my head, but I realized that I missed Inkreadable and face-to-face, in-real-life classroom interaction. I had the fortune to meet a woman who had been teaching for about 10 years in Amsterdam, though her language was Greek not English. Despina was all that was encouraging about my language teaching goals in Amsterdam. She told me and she was absolutely certain that I was going to be able to find clients who wanted to better their English. I told her about Inkreadable. She took a look at my website and told me that with a few changes I could easily bring it here to Amsterdam. This I duly started to do. It proved to be remarkably similar to the journey that I began in DC four years before.
I went to the city government of Amsterdam, registered as a self-employed person with a company and engaged the services of an account to pay my quarterly VAT Taxes. It turned out that I could run all of my income from VIPKid, as well as any extra income that I earned through the company. That allowed me to pay taxes in the Netherlands, which is good because you also get different benefits if you pay taxes and are a Dutch resident. Despina turned out to be a godsend. She gave me my first non-teaching lead in Amsterdam, as well as a Greek student who wanted English lessons. Things were starting to look up.
I had figured out that in order to excess both of my skill sets, the approach Inkreadable took would have to be a little different. I would market writing skills to English speaking children of the international school community, and English language lessons to parents who wanted a base in English for their kids earlier than the nine-year-old start. Now all I needed to do was figure out how to do that. That was easier said than done. Want to find out why? Come on back, the plot thickens.
That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable Installment. But stay tuned, As always, there is more to come.