Intensive IELTS and a Resume Rewrite

This week at Inkreadable was pretty quiet in terms of hours worked, but difficult in terms of prep. Generally, it takes me about half an hour to prep for current students, but this week was a little bit difficult with the quick addition of a new student who wants resume help and interview prep. His name is Bjorn and he is located outside of Frankfurt. While he trained as an engineer, he is actually the CFO of a company that supplies bed linens and other white goods to hospitals. What’s interesting about him is that he is my age, possibly a little younger, but has been with the same company for the last twenty years. I had gotten used to IT Executives who had moved around companies over the 20 years of their career at least 10 times if not more. Bjorn has run his course at his company and feels that it’s time to move on. He contacted the English Center and they gave him to me. We had a great first lesson on Thursday but I was not able to convince him to do all of his lessons while I am still here in the Netherlands. As a result, we are going to do one lesson while I am in the States. Thankfully, he agreed to switch the timing of that lesson to the afternoon. His afternoon not mine. It will be my late morning. He sent me his resume and I did a little bit of commenting and corrections, although these were a little difficult as he sent it in pdf and I couldn’t actually edit the document. We spent most of the first-class talking about his resume and the things that he has done and I got the chance to get to know him a little bit. I also had some executive-level interview questions that I wanted to ask him and so I asked him a few of them and corrected his syntax on the spot as he was speaking. I think he likes my style of teaching but it’s going to be hard to challenge him in the next couple of lessons. I have decided to continue my lessons while I am in the States with all of my clients. They have thankfully agreed to switch their times if they meet in the morning here in Amsterdam. My clients were understanding that I didn’t necessarily want to work at 2 in the morning and most of them agreed to switch to central European time in the afternoon so that I can teach in the US late morning. ShinWei will probably be in the United States at the same time as I am so they will have to be some adjustment there as well.

In terms of private clients, Sander has decided to take a hiatus and I will not see him until the 7th of March. I have hit my stride with George and Jerry again after their hiatus for midterms. They informed me that they did ok but not as well as they would have liked. Jerry said that she got a 94 on her English exam but that is not considered a good score in China. I often wonder if anything less than 110% on an exam is acceptable in the Chinese school system. Certainly, the Dutch idea of just enough is just enough and that the average is ok would not be acceptable in China. It amazes me that with an attitude like that the Netherlands has one of the strongest economies in the world. But maybe that’s my American heritage coming to the fore and maybe I also have a little bit of American exceptionalism. Odhran and I are plodding through useful Greek verbs and I’m having him make sentences with those verbs. I am not sure how effective that is, but his parents seem happy and he continually wants to take my class. I have also hit my stride with Karina, the student that I negotiated a 10 hours package for €40 an hour. This past week I taught 4 days of IELTS review for reading, writing, listening, and speaking, then Friday we did an ESL lesson having to do with the definition of art. The plan for this week is to do more of the same, keeping the format constant. I did check in with her at the end of Friday to see how she was feeling about English generally, but she says that she’s been spending a lot of time alone so there isn’t very much opportunity to practice some of the vocabulary that she’s learned with me because she doesn’t go out.

Since she doesn’t know the details of the package, as she’s not the one paying, I am not sure that she is going to be able to remain a student. I will leave the offer open by saying that she should keep in touch and if she wants help with English to contact me on WhatsApp but I honestly hold little hope of that happening. I have to be philosophical about being an independent contractor and continually think that’s something will come up.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable but stay turned. As always, there is more to come.

Cancelation Confirmed, New Negotiation, and a Standby Struggle

It’s always difficult, dear reader, to come to terms with the end of a lesson cycle. Karolina did not get back to me with any news regarding her work so I have to assume that she has decided to cancel my lessons for the foreseeable future, if not forever. That makes me very sad as we have been working together for almost two years. It isn’t simply that we had a business relationship, I like to think that we were becoming friends as well. I was charging her half of what I charge in the Netherlands and that tells me something about Polish salaries namely, that they are very low. I have had all kinds of feelings over the last few days as you might imagine. I am surprised at the loss of a student but I’m equally sad that for Karolina it was a foregone conclusion that our lessons will stop, as that meant that she knew her salary was going to be low. Ever the optimist, I choose to believe that Karolina will come back on my schedule once she has her job situation sorted. I have not heard whether she would like to talk to each other once a week as I do with Delphine in France.

All was not lost, however, as my friend Erica gave me a lead from Facebook. The woman, who works for a consulting firm, wanted thirty hours of lessons for a friend of hers and was willing to pay €300 for 30 hours. The lessons were to take place three hours a day over the next two weeks. And they were to be in person. Of course, I said no as I think that that is ridiculous and I might as well sit online and wait for people to call me on Cambly with no prep for that kind of money. She came back to me on Thursday evening asking whether I’d be willing to work for €40 for a 90-minute class. Again I said no and then she came back to me asking if I would work for €40 an hour for a 10-hour package. I said yes to that and the student was to come to me. She asked me if I would be willing to have a Zoom with the student to talk to them before we started lessons, and I said yes. I was also able to get her to agree to pay me each week in advance. I had a Zoom meeting with the student on Friday to find out her goals and expectations. I was pleased that it’s to be IELTS help as I have lots of resources and materials.

Over at the English Center, I and finishing up packages with several students. I am retaining Harumi who would like to continue lessons but thankfully it will be once a week for an hour and a half on Friday mornings. I am losing my one pronunciation student and I’m uncertain about the other one. I hope that I get to keep her as she and I have a great rapport, partially because of both being Greek. On Thursday last week, the English Center was looking for a potential substitute for a teacher who may have been exposed to Covid from someone in her daughter’s class. Had it happened, it would have been a 6 hour class for me. While the idea of that much work was appealing, I was happy, of course, that she wasCovid negative on Sunday morning. I was then able to spend a very quiet weekend writing and reading as I had planned my lessons through the Wednesday of this week. That result also gave me the opportunity to move a Saturday class with my new, though temporary, student to Monday, My takeaway from my experience with that I’m not sure that I would want to substitute very often unless I had all of the information about the student and did not have to do any prep myself.

With the resurgence of the Sunday morning writing, I’m able to get quite a bit of stuff done. The writing proceeds will and I am quite pleased with the result. I only wish that Thursday nights were as productive. This comes in direct conflict with the fact that I miss my in-person writers’ group quite a lot. I even miss hosting. I am still conflicted about those in the groups who have not been vaccinated. I am not sure that there are that many of them. But it is still a concern and I am conscious of Jasper’s ask that we don’t have unvaccinated people in the house. Another dilemma is when to cancel the meetup subscription. The conflict comes because we have a thousand members and I’m not sure I want to lose contact with that kind of base. But, it’s a dilemma for Thursday.

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

Restful Return and China Canceled

A very Happy New Year to you, dear reader, from Amsterdam. Our flights back to Amsterdam were relatively uneventful. I will say that these flights are more tiring than the ones going to Greece. I’m not quite sure why because although our Crete flight left early earlier than our Amsterdam flight, we woke up much later. Chania Airport is much smaller than Schiphol. It might have been because we had much shorter layovers in Athens and Munich. While the flights were uneventful we did have a little bit of a hiccup in Munich. Apparently, we had been called of course we didn’t know it because we arrived at the gate the flight to Amsterdam as they were boring period I got to say I don’t think much of Lufthansa efficiency.

George and Jerry are in the middle of midterms over the next couple of weeks and so we have canceled classes. They are back on my schedule as of the 16th of January. Karolina is back on my schedule as of this coming Thursday. Sander comes back on my schedule on January 10th. And most of my English Center clients are also back on my calendar the second week of January. The only person I am unsure of is Claudia who is still in Colombia.

Yesterday was supposed to be a restful relaxing day. But it didn’t turn out that way. I got a message from Brenda who wanted to do a mailing to all of the English Center. So I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to isolate using filters the different types of contacts that she wanted and where to put the subsequent list. Kerry was able to help me in so save me a little bit of time with the task. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was how to isolate the rest of the mailing list that had no filter on it into its own list, but wasn’t able to get to it until later in the evening when I was able to get answers to all of my questions.

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

Tech Top Up and COVID Consequences

It has been a rather quiet yet fraught week here at Inkreadable. I have been slowly learning the two pieces of software that TEC is using to keep track of our schedules and payments, a Google extension called TimeNavi. It took a little bit of getting used to, but I was able to figure it out. The most difficult thing to remember is that you actually have to access the software from your calendar and not your email. It does save a hell of a lot of time when trying to create a timesheet. Where it used to take me about 40 minutes to create a timesheet, it now takes about 5. The functionality of Moosend was a little bit more complicated.

You’ll remember that I was asked to take over the management of TEC’s various mailing lists. The first list that I was asked to do was their newsletter. TEC was able to give me a list that I was able to format into Excel and upload. I sent an email saying that I had done my work and asked if there was anything else that I needed to do. I was assured that there was nothing else to be done, but scarcely an hour after my email, I got another email from TEC, that I needed to now edit the newsletter. After I had asked was there anything else I need to do. so that was a little bit stressful. But I managed to spend another hour making sure that the pictures were ok and the buttons clicked to the right places. Thinking I was finally done I sent another email, and this time, all was well. The next list I was asked to do was the business-to-business Christmas cards. Again, a list was sent and I again uploaded it into Moosend and sent out another email. Only to find out that I still wasn’t done. Six of the addresses that I had put into the list would not be recognized. I to spend another half an hour with my boss trying to figure out why the addresses were ignored. Eventually, with the help of Moosend we were able to figure out what was happening with the lists. wit turns out that the email addresses that were not populating had been unsubscribed from the mailing list. Since Brenda knew who they were, she was able to send them a personal Christmas card. It’s actually a pretty good strategy because that touch of personalization will make them feel like they are special, and bring them back to the TEC mailing list.

But my tech journey was not over yet, dear reader. On Friday, I was contacted to do a Christmas card list for the teachers. Again, they gave me the list of teachers but I had to put in the extensions on my own. So that took another half hour. Then I had to migrate the list to Moosend and thankfully that worked without problems. Of the 28th mailing addresses that I imported, not a single one was ignored. But I think it will be quite a lot of getting used to and a lot of adjustments before I am sufficiently comfrtable enough to use Moosend with no trouble. but I’m being paid and it’s a little bit of consistent work which is always appreciated. As is the trust in my tech abilities.

Saturday brought a press conference in the Netherlands and the news that we would be going into a full lockdown once again. In addition, Greece required a cover test to enter so I had to spend the weekend getting all of that sorted out. We were able to book our PCR tests on Saturday evening a 7:00 pm. We went and both Jasper and I were surprised to find that it was quite busy. After we got home, I decided to check my email. Upon checking I found an email from Lufthansa saying my flight for tomorrow is ready to check-in. I freaked out, dear reader. I looked at my ticket and confirmed with Jasper that we had in fact booked a flight leaving at 6:20 in the morning on the 20th and not at 6:50 in the evening on the 19th. We then had to spend our Saturday date night on the phone with Lufthansa: 30 minutes getting nowhere with Lufthansa in the Netherlands and then a further 2 hours with Lufthansa in Germany where we were able to get a ticket through Frankfurt leaving an hour later than our original flight, which flew through Munich. From Frankfurt, we flew to Athens. In Athens, we had a four-hour layover and then we got to Crete three hours after our original flight.

Yes, it was exhausting, but we have arrived safely on Crete. There was no rest for the wicked, however, as there was only enough time to get to my sister’s house, greet my niece and nephew, then we were off again. My sister was working on a new project, a bistro/art gallery/artist studio when I was there in the fall. The grand opening was last night. It was a lovely opening and I’m convinced it will be a great success. More importantly, my sister is living her dream. If you are ever in Chania, you should check out Maiami, which is the greek way to spell Miami, which is the name of the bistro as it’s located in a fabulous art deco building that does remind one of Ocean Drive. It’s a working vacation for me, and I have to go and prepare for today’s lessons. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and a festive holiday season to you all.

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

Family Funeral, and TEC Tech tales

Fall in the Netherlands is composed of short gray days and long dark nights. It is a rather sad prelude to more of the same in winter. I think everyone gets more or less affected by the winter blues, but for me, that means that lesson planning is in jeopardy. If I do not lesson plan during the day, there is no way in hell it’s happening in the evening. It’s been a challenge trying to stick to lesson planning even during the day lately, as the winter blues have been more present than other winters.

My aunt passed away on Monday due to complications of cancer. She was the oldest of my dad’s sisters. My dad is the second to last of the kids. My aunt Mary was a force of nature. She was full of love, but she also had enough respect for people to tell them what she thought straight. I am pretty sure that over the years that lead to quite a bit of conflict, but, as I’ve had a week to think about the impact of my aunt Mary on my life, I can only be grateful.

Mary was the one that my sister Taty and I were left with when our parents traveled. I am not sure her children would agree, but for Taty and I, we experienced an aunt with a very level head on her shoulder. As I grew from a child into a teenager, our relationship grew as well. Aunt Mary was brilliant. Had she had the opportunity to be more educated, she might have been one of those women in tech or the sciences. She was that smart. She had a sharp mind for debate. Talking to Theia Mary was stimulating in a way that I find with few other people. She dispensed advice freely, and whether you took it or not you came away the richer for it. I am glad that I got to see her one last time, and indescribably sad that I could not be there in person for her funeral. I’m also grateful that my cousins gave those of us far away a method to participate. It was surreal watching a live stream funeral this past Saturday. The only thing that remains to be said is that a great light has gone out of the world and we who remain are poorer for it.

The English Center contacted me about doing some of their database management for their mailing list. This past Wednesday, I stayed a bit later at Amstelveen to learn just how to do that. The two programs that I learned about were Moosend and HubSpot. Up until this past Wednesday, I did not know that these programs even existed. I would consider myself pretty tech savvy on a basic level. It was pretty easy trying to learn both programs, though I did run into trouble when I was playing around with it on Thursday evening. Yes, dear readers, instead of writing like I should’ve been, I was learning how to use two new pieces of software. To be fair, I also did a bit of writing, but I tend to get very distracted on Thursday evening. I was playing around trying to move through both HubSpot and you sent, when I realized that I didn’t remember I was playing around trying to move through both HubSpot and Moosend when I realized that I didn’t remember how to download a mailing list from a particular day. Hence the text to my trainer. She is currently in the United Kingdom so it was 9 o’clock for her. But I still feel guilty because I don’t like contacting people late at night. The problem is that I would’ve lost sleep over it if I didn’t ask at least for help. In the morning, cooler heads prevailed and I was able to figure out the problem on my own. I remembered that I had a video showing exactly what to do in both pieces of software. So all’s well that ends well. Yesterday I got a chance to do a mini importation for the next newsletter rollout for TEC. Turns out I had been making mountains out of molehills and it wasn’t all that difficult at all. Now I just need to remember to put when I do these importations in my calendar so I know where to start from in subsequent mailings. I am also part of a number of teachers who were asked to test out a new invoicing system that keeps track of your hours directly in your calendar. I found it easy enough to use, though I wish that things like travel time did not have to be a separate calendar entry as that can get a bit confusing.

My issues with jet lag seem to regulate a couple of weeks after I got back. I am in a more normal rhythm, But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced jet lag for that long. With the jet lag behind me, my thoughts are now turning to my upcoming trip to Greece. That’s right, dear reader, I will be coming to you from Crete from next Tuesday. Jasper and I will be there until 2 January. For me, it will be a working vacation. I cannot afford to lose clients just because I went away for a week.

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

Scheduling (Sort of) sorted, tech trials, and weekend work

I have been back in the Netherlands for about a week and a half. While I am slowly getting back into the swing of things, I have learned a couple of things that were unexpected. The most important of which is that the saying age is just a number is frankly. bullshit. At least when it comes to getting over jetlag. I am finding that it’s taking me quite a bit longer to get into a sleep pattern and that is even for me because I am not the best sleeper normally. It’s also been tough trying to get back into a gym routine. It also doesn’t help that twice a week I am in Amstelveen teaching Harumi and one of those is quite early. That is a tough wake-u. It’s been tough trying to get back into a gym routine. It also doesn’t help that twice a week I am in Amstelveen Teaching Harumi and one of those, though not unreasonable at 9:30 am, means I need to be out of the house by 8:00.

On the positive side, I very much enjoyed not having to travel to Amstelveen for the Conversation Playground. I have to say that’s one of my most stressful commitments. The kids are wonderful, but I did suggest to Amardip that he exclude the group 6 classes from participating as they simply don’t have enough language. Or, if he wants to capture the group six market then the games are structured in such a way that they learn chunks of language and vocabulary. It would be more lesson than game format.

Over at the English Center, I have pretty much scheduled all of my classes with the exception of one of my students, Martijn who does want continue, but was unsure that what that would look like. He wasn’t sure whether his level had improved in our classes. I had to explain, that in the context of private lessons improvement is measured differently. We can always test him to see how he has improved in his level. I also had to explain that the English Center is only giving lessons that are business-focused. I think that Martijn would do quite well in the intermediate business English class, but he feels that he does not want to be with business people who are much faster than he. So it looks like he’s going to stick with me. Harumi and Eleni both have scheduled their lessons. The two of them take me well into January. By far the most challenging student in terms of scheduling currently, Is ShinWei. He has decided to renew for another 10 hours, and that takes me to the end of February. At that point I will be in the states. The challenge is that we don’t know what his schedule will be like. There is the possibility that he will also be in the states and if I’m in the states at the same time it will be quite easy, but if I am back in the Netherlands then we have to adjust for that time difference. Because under no circumstances will I be waking in the middle of the night to teach. Those days are over.

My private clients are both a little bit easier, and a little bit harder. I have to schedule Sander because my unexpected trip to the US has knocked us a little bit off course. Since he paid me for the whole package in advance, it took me a little while to figure out where we are in the 15 hours and how much we have left to go. I sat down to figure this out on Sunday. With Karolina I bill her at the end of the month and she only pays for lessons that she’s taken. So that’s just a matter of counting from the calendar. George and Jerry are similar except that I get paid in advance into PayPal and deduct the invoice amount at the end of the month. With Odhran, the student in Ireland whom I teach Greek, the challenge is not the package, it’s four hours which makes 8 half-hour lessons, which theoretically should be used up in one month. The challenge here has been both my travel and theirs. Just before I left for the states they went to the states so that the kids could get vaccinated. Then I was in the states and they came back to Europe. I came back to Europe and taught two lessons this week. And then they went back to the US. So the ping-ponging of our lessons has me in a tizzy. I cannot figure out where in the package we are very easily.

The English Center is changing its payment system and I and several other teachers have been selected to be their Lab rats. I will find out tomorrow what that will entail. I hope that it is not terribly difficult because just as I’ve gotten into the swing of weekly invoicing, it may now change. I am not all that good with change. And I get really stressed out having to learn new things.

The Writers Group has been meeting online on Thursday evenings. We also meet on at least one weekend day. This weekend was Sunday. While I do actual writing and creating on Thursday evenings, Sundays had become devoted to lesson planning. It’s been quite difficult because of jetlag. I haven’t been able to plan a full week’s worth of lessons in one day. I think I want to get back to that place. I made a valiant attempt on Sunday during the time I was supposed to be writing, but I didn’t quite manage to get all eight of my hours planned. Still, I am confident that I will get back to that.

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

Rushed Return and Weekend Write- In

Greetings, dear reader, from the Netherlands. I arrived back home on Saturday. The trip was uneventful, but I must say that I don’t really like traveling in Covid times. It’s particularly difficult trying to figure out what each leg of a journey needs in terms of documentation for Covid. In addition, the new strains that are popping up seemingly every day are causing the end of anxiety for me and everybody else. Things I learned this trip: Do not transfer through Heathrow if you can help it. It is a terrible transfer airport. The layovers are way too short and the signage in the airport is way to unclear for you to ever figure out where you’re going.

I got back to the Netherlands to find that the rules have changed again, and a more severe lockdown is now in place. All stores with the exception of supermarkets, are to close at 5 PM. Essentially the lockdown is A 5 PM to 5 AM business curfew. All but essential stores have to close at five and they cannot open until 5 o’clock in the morning the next day. I’m not sure how effective this measure will be, however, it seems a little bit like they are just trying to give lip service to the idea of lockdown, Rather than any measures that are actually effective. While the European Medical Authority has approved vaccinations for ages 5 to 12, the Dutch government has not started putting anything in place to get kids vaccinated. I do think that would go a long way to stopping the spread of Covid. It would be nice if the Dutch government could make some concrete decisions and quickly. With a new variant in southern Africa, Jasper and I are reconsidering both our trip to Greece which is booked and our trip to America which is not.

My last class with Conversation Playground went online as well because of the regulations. The schools are now allowing people from outside the school to come in. I was a bit nervous about the class as I have not taught kinds online in a group. It’s always been one on one. It went really well, but I forgotten how hard it is to manage a group classroom. We used Teams and I don’t like it as much as I like Zoom. But I did get to hear positive feedback from the paents in the background.

My English center classes are mostly online, with the exception of one, which is in person at Amstelveen. I sent emails to everyone and confirmed lessons with most of them. The in-person lesson will still be going to go through as the English Center is open for business. At least until The government says otherwise. The consequences of my trip were rather severe. I lost one student because she said that she did not want to switch between teachers and did not want to wait for me to get back from the US. The other student seemed to be willing to wait, but he did not respond to the two emails that I sent him. He then contacted the English center to also switch permanently. I sent him an email wishing him well that he never responded to. That did not make me feel good.

The Writers Group had their first weekend Write-In a while. We met on Sunday from 10 to 1 and about eight people showed up. We will have to see if the Thursday night online session has as many people. This will continue for at least three weeks if not longer, what with the restrictions changing so quickly.

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

Schedule Shutdown and a Traumatic Trip

It’s been quite a busy week at Inkreadable this week. With things deteriorating Covidwise in the Netherlands, we took the Writers Group online at least until things calm down a bit. Since Jasper is diabetic, I have also decided to ask that only people who have been vaccinated come to my house once things open up. I think it’s an easy enough ask. What I am not sure about is how the unvaccinated people that I know will take that. One person in my Writers Group has used the term apartheid to talk about vaccinations. While I am not concerned about friction now, as this past Thursday’s meeting went online and there was no issue, the lockdown ending may have a different result. But it looks like I may have some time, as I’m not convinced the lockdown is going to end after three weeks.

Looking back over the week now, I’ve been wondering if the beginning of the week wasn’t a harbinger. On Monday, I arrived at Piet Hein To find that all but two of my students weren’t going to be in the class. I learned that one of the kids In my class had tested positive for Covid so the whole of his class, which included two other kids in my class, was in quarantine. My fourth student has only shown up to two of the sessions. I let Amardip know and he advised me to ask the teachers at the school about the student so that we can at least cover our bases. But things were about to change rapidly.

We had recently learned that my aunt was quite ill with cancer. They did not have a diagnosis of the type as yet, and I was waiting to hear about a possible prognosis. On Tuesday we received word that In all likelihood she would pass away either that day or the next. Knowing that I started making arrangements to head to the US. It was a lot more complicated than I thought it was going to be. I was not able to find any tickets that were direct to Washington from Amsterdam and everything else I found with connecting flights, was in the thousands of dollars. My sister contacted me and she was able to find me a ticket for quite a bit less. The catch? I either had to fly to London or Dublin. I chose London as I am a bit familiar with the airport. The next step was to figure out what I needed in terms of Covid for each leg of the journey. For London, I need a passenger locator form and proof of vaccination. For Washington, I needed proof of vaccination, an attestation form, and a rapid test. The time running short, I made a reservation for a rapid test at 8 o’clock in the morning on Wednesday.

The next step of course was to rearrange my schedule. I knew that most people would be willing to cancel and wait for me to get back. But one of my students wanted a substitute teacher and so that needs arranging with the English Center. Because I had prepped a lesson already for Friday, I was able to give it to the teacher who would do the substitution. The student also wanted to continue with the other teacher. While I am upset at losing a student, the customer experience is what matters. And I will probably get more students. I also had to arrange my other English Center students which were easy enough. A little bit more difficult was The Conversation Playground, But I was able to enlist Erica’s help and get her to take the class for me. We also had a conversation early on Monday morning to go over what she needed to expect.

On Wednesday, I ran to get my PCR test and then go teach in Amstelveen. It was a fraught morning worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to the lesson in time. But I was there with about 10 minutes to spare. Harumi decided that she wanted to wait until I got back. While I know that I traveled due to circumstances beyond my control, and most people are understanding, I still have a lot of guilt. I think I have come up with a way that everyone gets their lessons when I go to to Greece in December (which is the source of my guilt). I am going to offer online lessons to those students who wish to continue while I’m on holiday. Since most of my students are online anyway it shouldn’t be a problem, the only worry is my in-person Student in Amstelveen. Still, it’s a problem for when I get back.

I got to the airport on Thursday and presented my documents to the airline. I had filled in the incorrect airline number on the UK form, so I had to redo it. Once I got to London, the layover was so short that I got to the gate in the middle of boarding. When I presented my boarding pass and passport, I was pulled aside because my passport had been flagged. It was either a random check or they thought I was a person of suspicion. Lesson learned? Avoid Heathrow, whenever possible. On balance, I am glad that I came and was able to spend a little bit of time With my family, and of course, I got to see my aunt. It was also nice to see my sister and my dad who I haven’t seen in two years. The trip was the right thing to do. The bonus was that I was able to get some things done with my apartment here in DC. I am looking forward to returning to Amsterdam at the end of the week,

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

Ludicrous Lockdown

The week, dear reader, started out well enough, with me being quite busy just managing to keep to my time management schedule. By Wednesday of last week I had planned half of the lessons for the week and by Saturday was completely done. And that included the two-hour lesson for Mohamed in The Hague. But really, that was for the best as there wasn’t anything to do. On Friday night, the Dutch government announced a new lockdown that started on Saturday and will continue for three weeks. At that time there had been no word from the English center as to whether we would be holding lessons. I took the precaution of moving what lessons I could online.

ShinWei was easy because he and I sometimes meet at a café but the cafés here are all closing at either 6 o’clock or 8 o’clock depending on whether they are considered essential or not. Rather than taking the chance, on Saturday, I contacted him on WhatsApp and we agreed to move online for the duration. It’s a pity because we were planning on going to a Chinese restaurant where I would get to sample some authentic delicacies that I might not otherwise try if I wasn’t with someone who was native to the cuisine. With my lesson planning done by 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, all that was left to do was read a book and chill out. At least until I had to go to a birthday party.

While I did not stay long at the birthday party, I wanted to go and see if the balloons that I had ordered looked amazing. My friend had asked for a large number balloon delivery. So I contacted our mutual friends and we went in on a group and we bought her 33 balloons, one for each year of her life. She loved it. While it was a surprise, I had asked her straight out what she wanted and that’s what she told me. She had ordered balloons for other people but had never received them herself. So that’s exactly what I did.

This lockdown makes me angry. I am angry because this lockdown did not have to be a lockdown. If people had followed directions and maintained social distancing, and worn masks instead of acting as if the pandemic had never happened, we would not then have 16,000 cases in one day in the Netherlands from Wednesday into Thursday. I am angry at the government that there was no foresight taken for people who did not vaccinate. For the last few months, it’s been a free-for-all in terms of access. While it’s true that you have to show a QR code for vaccination status, apparently people have been showing fake QR codes. And that is insane.

I fully agree with people making the choice not to vaccinate. But then they should have to deal with the consequences of not being vaccinated. In Germany, they have started stricter measures called 2G, But those measures are still being debated by the government here in the Netherlands. With some major family trouble in the states, Jasper and my travel plans are up in the air. You see, I may have to go to America at a moment’s notice because a family member is ill. Terminally so. So the plan for the next few weeks is to do as little as possible in person. I will still have to go to the shops as Jasper shouldn’t. But most social activities will be online, and any in-person social activities will happen both distanced and outside.

I have also decided in conjunction with Mark that it’s best if we take the writers group online for the moment. We still have some people who are not vaccinated and Jasper has asked me not to have people who are unvaccinated in the house. It’s a small enough ask that I am happy to comply with. Still, it makes me sad that all of this could’ve been avoided if people had just thought about anyone other than themselves. After all, it’s just a small jab and will protect you in the long run. While I do believe that you have the right to make any choice that you wish for your body, you also have to deal with the consequences when it doesn’t conform to the rest of society. I just wish having complied with the rules, I didn’t now have to pay for other people’s stupidity.

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

Pronunciation powerhouse, daunting dilemmas, and writing wrangling

It’s been a decent week at Inkreadable. For the rest of my teaching friends, it’s been an emotional week because they have had to say goodbye to students that they have been teaching for years. You see, this is the last week that teachers could book for the final week of VIPKid, at least with the kids. That’s right, a definite shut down date has been given and it is 5 November. Because I haven’t been involved with VIPKid for over two months, I don’t feel the same anxiety. I could frankly care less. I have the WeChat accounts of the ones that I have a relationship with and that is enough for me. What has changed for me, is that my availability for the English Center has increased. And while I am not working the 20 hours a week that I would need to feel secure in Amsterdam, I am doing that between English Center and my private clients.

Over at English Center, I have one Greek girl that you know about, Eleni with whom I am working on pronunciation. And tomorrow I will have a second student for pronunciation. This one is Dutch. So it’ll be interesting to see and compare what kind of mistakes Dutch people make versus Greek people. I already know of one. The TH sound in Dutch is pronounced like a hard T. And there is no sound like in the word think or in the word then. In addition, the F and V sound are so similar in Dutch, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish them. Greek doesn’t have these problems because are all of these letters are pronounced on some level. Where Greek has a problem is the S. The Greek S is pronounced somewhere between the American S in serpent And the sound in sheet. It is both too soft for the S in serpent and too soft for the SH in sheet. Another problem with Greek speakers is the I. The word hit most of the time will sound like heat. So it’s been interesting trying to isolate the sounds and work on them. Other problems include the TION sound and how we pronounce the X sound. For the Greek speaker, H is also a problem..

The week opened up a couple of dilemmas. Over at the English Center, a potential client was offered on the WhatsApp group to the teachers but the catch is you have to go to The Hague. I received an email from the owner of the English Center telling me that I would be a really good fit for the student as I have an MBA and I am fairly experienced in talking about real estate. The problem is it’s location. The English Center does not pay for time but it does pay for transportation. Still. The dilemma was do I travel nearly 3 hours round-trip for an hour and a half class? Some of you might think that it’s a no-brainer and would say no. But in this economy where you’re strapped for cash, you actually think about it. The pressure led to me agreeing to teach two Thursdays in November. Because Brenda offered the group rate and is trying to convince the student to do two hours instead of an hour and a half to make it more worth it for the teacher. I am sharing the student with a teacher who is already located in the Hague but either cannot or does not want to do all of the lessons. They are having a really hard time finding people for the rest of these student’s lessons. You see he wants an hour and a half every day in November. I do not necessarily find it the most effective way to learn English, but I need the work.

This week at the Conversation Playground was a little bit difficult. While classroom management was not an issue, I still feel that the kids are not having any fun nor can they have any fun when their level is too low. If you don’t have the language to play the game how is the game fun? In last afternoon’s class we did a mystery-solving game and a Verb relay race. For the mystery, we divided into two groups of three. While these games worked reasonably well I am not necessarily convinced that the kids are learning anything. There is still a hell of a lot of Dutch being spoken between them. More and more as I teach these courses, I realize that the owner of the conversation Playground likes to micromanage everything and I’m also conscious that I could not do this for more than one or two hours a week. Because I can keep my mouth shut only so much. If you don’t allow the teachers to teach how are the kids learning anything? Lingueo has kind of fallen by the wayside. I had a one-off lesson with a student last week but have since closed off the schedule. My plan for them is to open on a week-to-week basis and see if I can get anything. At least until I come back from Christmas. I’m still not sure whether I should work from the US or not. I’ll be there for almost a month. And the only way it will work is if I can have my students change their schedules so that I work in the morning but not at 3 AM.

Jasper was quite sick this week with a cold. It wasn’t Covid, he tested. I had to quickly pivot and find a location for the Writers Group. We went to the library where it all began. It’s like coming full circle. Things I learned at the library this week: I have gotten old, People are stupid, and there’s no such thing as Covid. Or at least that’s how it felt. You see, the library was open as it had been pre-pandemic. There were no mask requirements, there were no QR code requirements. You could just walk in and sit at a table and write. While I am all for the world opening up again, it was not very nice to be sitting at a table where many people were coughing and sneezing. There was not a mask in sight nor was there any social distancing. All of this is in advance of a new press conference scheduled to take place this evening y and to possibly reinstate some of the measures of the pandemic. I am hoping that the measures are for people who have not been vaccinated. After all, it’s your choice to be vaccinated or not but then you have to comply with the rules based on that choice. This week the writer’s group will meet at my house. I have a friend with me this week who I met at the Edinburgh Writers Group so it’ll be interesting to see how she feels on Thursday when all we do together is sit and write. The Edinburgh Writers Group was a critique group. I am not sure how she will feel about it but it will be interesting to hear her thoughts.

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