Cretan Creativity

As quickly as the workweek passes, dear reader, vacation time seems to pass twice as quick. It seems like the last week in Crete flew by. I didn’t do very much, my sister was sick with the flu. So I got the chance to hang out with my niece and my new nephew. Childcare is always an adventure for those of us who do not have them, whether the baby is considered fussy or not. I am happy to report that my nephew is a copacetic little man who doesn’t really fuss about much of anything. I stayed at the hotel that Jasper and I stayed in over the summer. It’s a lot cozier in the winter. They have a fireplace that’s real and they keep it lit. My niece spent spend the night with me once and both of us had nightmares, I’m not sure what hers were about but mine were about not returning her to her parents. Thankfully it was all a dream and We both got back to her parents’ house the next morning with no trouble.

I did get to do some further editing, particularly on Thursday night as I was with my writers’ group in spirit. I’ve done a decent amount of editing from the beginning of the book. I’ve decided that’s going to be my new strategy for writing is to go back and remember what I wrote before so that I can continue the story because frankly, dear reader, I am stumped. I’m sure that it’s a problem for most writers. I think it might be the best way to go from now on as I am not sure how to end the novel.

Tomorrow after a day of travel I will come back to the Netherlands and be ready to start with my new class. I am both trepidations and excited about the endeavor. There are currently five students with the possibility of three more. I am extremely thankful to have a steady income and grateful that the class ends in March and I can go to the US in April.

I also have a new private client who wants a handful of lessons dealing with business English and I am going to do my best to try and make her more permanent. I am also going to contact Felix and see if he wants to get a coffee, but will not suggest lessons as there is only so much I can chase after clients.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Online Unlucky and a Class Caught

Well, dear readers, it has finally happened. I have become one of those VIPKid teachers who complain about low bookings. Since my return from the United States, I have been averaging four classes a day. I never thought that I would get to the place where there weren’t enough students for me. If you look at my schedule, there are a ton of interested students for nearly every slot from about 9:30 AM straight through to 2 PM. Which is interesting because not all of those ever book even though they’re interested students. What does interested student mean, you ask? The answer to that is I have no idea. A few days this past week it’s been a trial to get out of bed just for one class. And then I’ve had these long hour and a half to two-hour breaks in between classes. You all know that I’m a hell of a time manager and so I have used the time to do other things. Like prepare for other classes.

I’m not sure if I wrote that I actually got the pre-intermediate English class starting on 21 January. Because I’m going to be in Greece on that day and I only get back on the 22nd a colleague has agreed to take the class for me. I have been using the inordinately long breaks between VIPKid classes to actually prep for this class that starts for me on 23 January. I’ve also done some work on my website. I’m wondering, dear readers, if I will lose you if I combined the blog with the website itself. I have been enjoying your reading of the blog and the fact that some of you sometimes like my posts. Come February I will only be able to give VIPKid Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I suspect, as a result, that my bookings are going to continue to be low But let’s hope that they’re not as low as they’ve been in advance of Chinese new year. Speaking of, despite my reservations regarding the fireworks last post, I have decided to go to the Chinese new year celebrations here in Amsterdam. And we’re making it a VIPKid EU Expats meet up.

What’s the VIPKid EU Expats Group, you ask? They are the Facebook group that I’ve been running for three years for people to work for VIPKid who live in the EU. There are quite a lot of us. We have 700 members in the group. And while that is small in comparison to the 90,000 teachers that VIPKid employees, it’s kind of big for me I did not realize that we were that many people in the EU. We are quite the crew, and we don’t have nearly the drama of the big groups online that have to do with VIPKid. We are fairly copacetic about working for VIPKid, most of us are not #Blessed that we found this job. Sure we like teaching and we’re grateful for work but we don’t think the VIPKid is the end-all be-all of teaching. Some of us split our time between in real-life schools or private clients and VIPKid, and some of us split our time between different online schools. So I’m in great company really, regarding time management. I’m pretty sure several of the people in my Facebook group could run circles around me in that area.

Next Tuesday’s post will be coming to you from Greece, where I will have been for a week celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday, meeting my new nephew, and generally living it up on the possibly not so sunny. island of Crete. I’ve never spent the winter in Crete and so I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always there’s more to come.

New Year Nightmare

Happy. happy new year to you all, dear readers! I can write that a week into the new year without my hands trembling or breaking out into a cold sweat. It took me that long, my dears, to get over the trauma that is New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. I like celebrations as much as the next person. I like going to parties, I like drinking on occasion, and everybody who knows me, knows I love eating. What I do not love is walking through a war zone and being terrified that I’m going to lose my hearing. Or that someone is going to actively throw a lit firework at me. On purpose. Not because their aim was bad. But because their aim was very very good. It seems that New Year’s Eve is a time for people in the Netherlands to be imbeciles. They actively block first responders from getting to where they need to go. In Arnhem, two people died as a result of smoke inhalation when they were trapped in an elevator because it caught fire as a result of two boys setting off fireworks.

Don’t get me wrong. It was pretty. But pretty doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to walk home, and the sound of the noisemakers tightens your spine and hunches your shoulders to a place where the next day you are sore from trying to stay calm. Nope, New Year’s Eve is not for me. At least, not if I have to go outside. The irresponsibility shown by people was astounding. As we were walking home, you could see the remnants of firecrackers. Still. On. Fire. I guess people were too drunk to throw some water over the fireworks and make sure that they were completely out.

I started teaching with VIPKid on Thursday. And it was great to see a few of my students. But I had opened up next week classes as well. And I have become one of those teachers who is complaining about low bookings. I know that I complained before Christmas, but now it has gotten to a point where I am now concerned about getting another job either online or off. Of the 30 hours over six days that I opened, 16 1/2 hours booked for the week. And on Sunday, my booking dwindled to one. One. That’s never happened before.  When I first started VIPkid I was opening between 76 and 80 slots a week. I would book all but 10%. Those days are long gone. I have a feeling that this trend is going to continue.

The good news is that I’m starting to teach a class on 21 January for the English Center and that will run till March 5. I also have returning students: one in Amstelveen and my real estate guys in the middle of the city.  I was hoping to start with my Japanese students as well but after two emails to them, with no response, I think that unlikely. What’s worse is that I think that Felix does not want to take lessons anymore. He had started being flakier in November and then, of course, I left in December. When I contacted him to ask him whether he wanted lessons in January he said he was going to Columbia for a week and wasn’t sure about lessons in January. I suspect that he doesn’t want lessons at all.

That is the nature of my business, unfortunately. I am heading to Greece for a week in the middle of the month and after that, it’s full steam ahead trying to figure out what’s next for me and Inkreadable. Let’s hope this New Year’s nightmare does not continue and become a whole year nightmare.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Pernicious Puzzles

A very happy new year, dear readers! I hope that your New Year’s celebrations have fewer fireworks than mine will likely have this evening. Thankfully it was a very uneventful trip back to Amsterdam, I did a lot of reading. The last few days in DC were quite busy with T=trying to see friends, and not being very successful as I was spending a lot of time with my dad and my sister.

Christmas this year was quiet. It was an intimate celebration with several family members and numbered only 13 people. Which for a Greek family is unusual. We usually number at least double that if not triple. After Christmas, things started to heat up significantly.  And I mean that literally. The heater and boiler In my apartment in Amsterdam quit working. Luckily friends of mine were in the apartment and let me know so that I was able to get my landlord involved. But it was not very fun coming back to an apartment that has no heat or hot water as yet. It’ll be lots of blankets, a space heater, and showers at my neighbors until it is fixed.

The title for this week’s post is coming from the fact that it was really difficult trying to pack all the stuff that I wanted to take with me and ensure that none of it came back broken. At the time of this post, I still have not opened up my suitcase to see what survived. But the sheer engineering it took my dad trying to fit each glass piece into the suitcase so they didn’t move and was adequately covered was a sight to behold. I also was trying to figure out if I should separate out the pieces that I really wanted to keep unscathed and hand-carry them. which is what I ended doing. Fingers crossed that the glassware I check made it in one piece and not 1000. As of this writing, I am probably sleeping and this was published while I was snoring away. Once again, I wish you all a happy new year and will “see” you on 6 January.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Indelible Internationalism

While it still holds true that on a general level, the US is not home anymore, there were a couple instances this week where I felt part of a community. DC is a bit of a bubble In that it’s an extremely international city. As a result, most people are from somewhere else. There are very few DC natives. I happen to be one as do several of my friends. Being from here, on some level, meant that you were exposed to a million different cultures in a way that you wouldn’t be in a small town. Not that DC is actually that big. It also doesn’t help that I went to an international school in an international city. So that all of my friends are from all over the world. If we counted half nationalities my class alone represented 95 nations among its 43 graduates. It is in this microcosm of a melting pot that I grew up and was exposed to many different ideas. These 43 people are now scattered all over the world but every year some of us come together to attend the winter gathering and of course both marvel and lament at the changes at the school that we went to. When I went, we didn’t have a gym and instead will bust to facilities off-campus. Not only do they have a gym now, but they also have a theater and a coffee shop. And I don’t mean in the sense of the Amsterdam coffee shop. These changes were bound to happen, but also they meant the gradual fading away of the school that I remember. But I was among my people and that felt really nice.

I also went to the Washington creative writers club and was welcomed with open arms. Actually, it was probably more like daggers drawn. As I was told by my friend Adam “if you don’t come to the meeting we will hunt you down and drag you there”. Under threat like that, there was no possibility of me not going. And I’m really glad that I did. While I cannot say that I slipped back seamlessly into the group, I kind of think that if I ever came back to the US on a permanent basis I would be able to fit right in and that would make it a bit easier. And while I didn’t read, I didn’t get a chance to talk about my writing and where the book is going. It was with  an exhale of relief that I realized they were still my people.

Tomorrow is Christmas and so I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate and happy holidays if you do not. I am off to celebrate with my own family and then boxing day is taken up by Jasper’s family. The next post will be New Year’s Eve, and I will once again be back in Amsterdam. It might sound a little bit jumbled and garbled as I will be severely jetlagged but Never fear, I will still write something.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

American Apathy

It feels dear reader, like the first ten days in America, have passed with rather agonizing slowness. I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to acclimate in the first place. I missed two appointments, one with a friend, and one with a doctor. In the Netherlands, this is something I never do. Part of it, I think, is the stop and go nature of emptying out of storage. It wasn’t like we could do it all in one day. And we had to take four days to do it. But we couldn’t do it on consecutive days either and so what should’ve been a three or four-day ordeal ended up being a 10-day ordeal with one or two days in between each foray, means that it’s a slow process indeed. In addition, I am in Rockville and there’s no real reason to go down to DC if I don’t have some kind of plan. And so I’ve been sticking around Rockville.

My dad still works and so it’s very hard to see him during the day when I have time, and he’s been working until 9 o’clock at night. So I haven’t seen very much of him outside of storage anyway. So what’s a girl to do? Essentially I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of reading. I have not yet been to the Writers Group but I’m planning to go this coming week. I had a couple of friends in town over the weekend one of which help me with storage and the other was here with her mom doing touristy stuff. I also got a chance to see my sister. My dad is definitely complaining at the lack of time spent with him.

It’s definitely true that I don’t actually feel at home in the US anymore. My values don’t match. I’m not sure that they ever did. When people tell me “the state is not your mommy and daddy” I get really annoyed at their simplistic view. The fact is that we live in a society communally. We are not living in bubbles by ourselves. So if I can pay a little bit more taxes to help someone else down the road live a better life, I absolutely don’t mind doing that. I don’t consider my money, or your money, or their money, it is our money. And it should be put forth to help those in need. And ourselves. On balance I think I love that I live in the Netherlands, where nobody bats an eye at this idea. After all, with 35% percent of the Netherlands below sea level and essentially reclaimed from the sea, what that means is that if Rotterdam doesn’t protect her dikes, Amsterdam floods. There is no yours, mine, or theirs, there is just ours. America’s extreme individualism and lack of feeling for others is a real turn off. People like to play the game of being kind by giving to charity and raising money for issues but talk to them about universal healthcare and universal education through university, and they panic. And it makes me sad. Instead, it is OK for young people to go into debt to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars or more just to get an education. There aren’t that many scholarships out there and there aren’t that many kids receiving them.  It’s ok for them to pay upwards of $400 per month in insurance. It’s ok for them to need to live at home till they’re 40 because they simply can’t afford rent.

Where it not for my sister and the fact that Jasper likes being with his family. I think I would go back to the Netherlands sooner. While it’s true that I don’t have that many Dutch friends, because people aren’t that open to new friendships, they are satisfied with the ones that they have, they are in spite of that a little bit kinder to each other. They make sure that everyone has access to healthcare and contrary to how Americans view Europe, the healthcare isn’t free. I pay €170 for it and within that, I get a bit of physical therapy, my primary care physician is covered in that price, as are my dermatology screenings. It’s not a lot but it does help. There are some hopeful signs of change here in America In the run-up to the elections in 2020. A lot more young people are getting on board with the idea of universal healthcare. Whether it changes for real or remains something theoretical, is a problem for another day.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Class Captured

Greetings, dear reader, from the US where I have spent the last three days trying to figure out how to empty out my storage. It’s my own version of an “everything must go” sale, without getting any money. So all of the work and none of the rewards. The week leading up to our trip to the US was quite busy, both in terms of preparing for the trip but also because I had to run around to the City Council to get a background check.

While this is required for The Conversation Playground in order to work for them, I figured it would not be a bad thing to have as it applies to the whole of the Netherlands and maybe parents would be more likely to hire me if they knew that I’m in possession of such a thing. But I can tell you that the stress of trying to run around while I was trying to pack, as well as clean up from Thanksgiving’s party, as well as teach for the English Center and VIPKid, was an exercise in patience and letting go. It wasn’t so much that I had to get the permit, that took a half an hour. But I had to get the application from The Conversation Playground and that took a long time.

Over at the English Center, lots of nice things are happening for me. I have my Dutch guys coming back to me for another 15 hours of lessons on Mondays, I have the Japanese couple coming back to me on Monday evenings and another Dutch client coming back to me for another eighteen hours, all of this is starting in February. I’ve also been selected to teach a pre-intermediate English class starting on 21 January. You’d think that would be very simple, wouldn’t you? Except that I went and I booked a trip to Greece from 15 January through the 22nd. Which means that I would miss the first of my own classes.  There is, however, a light at the end of this particular tunnel. Remember the two intermediate business English classes that I taught for a colleague? He has now offered to take my first class. and providing that’s OK with the English Center, I’m happy to have him do it and then take the other 11 classes. They happen twice a week on a Tuesday and a Thursday from 10-12. This means €80 a day, but if I can get a Conversation Playground class on a Tuesday, that will be a decent enough working day. Fingers crossed.

Writing-wise, this week I attended my writers’ group in Amsterdam and actually got some really good editing done. I am hopeful that over vacation I’ll be able to do a bit more editing/writing. At least until everybody from Jasper’s family comes for Christmas and there will be no time to think let alone write. I’m also hoping to attend the Washington Creative Writers Club. But I’m not sure that I will feel as if I belong. That’s been a staple of the last few years of coming to DC from Amsterdam. This is Christmas number three and the more I come back the less I feel like this is home. The problem is I don’t actually feel like Amsterdam is home either. At least not yet. Maybe it’s Jasper that is home. Which is a burden I don’t want to give to anyone, let alone Jasper.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.