Inkreadable Intensives, Library Love and a Plotting Powerhouse

The week began dear reader, on a note of extreme fatigue. I had forgotten how tired one can get when they are teaching for 6 hours straight as in the halcyon days of VIPKid. Teaching for two-and-a-half hours beyond that turned me into a bumbling idiot at the end of the day. So much so, that when I went to change, I asked Jasper for help with a zipper only to have him tell me “but there was no zipper on the back of your dress”. Such was the level of my exhaustion. Now imagine that was only the last 7 hours of a 21-hour intensive of which I only did 14. I don’t even remember how I got home that Tuesday evening. I certainly don’t remember how I got home without being killed by some bike somewhere. The location I was at is only a 17-minute walk from my house but I don’t remember any of that 17 minutes. I started the second set of intensives yesterday where I am teaching 25 hours of the 32-hour course. I am quite happy to be working with the teacher that I worked with on the last intensive. We work quite well together and are able to complement each other’s teaching styles as we have much the same thought process when it comes to learning. While Laurien was a fairly advanced student, we did not know the student’s level for the next intensive that started yesterday. From the intake that she did, it was apparent that she was quite a low level in English and so that’s how we planned. It’s a very nerve-wracking way to plan not having enough information because you’re always dealing with the problem that you might not have enough material for the student. I planned all four of my days for the week over the weekend. The only day of the intensive that I didn’t when was the final day =, which is next Monday figuring that I would be able to plan that over the following weekend. I thought about it in terms of things she needs to know. She is a stylist and is competing in some master class competitions here in the Netherlands and Italy. I designed the course to follow a vocabulary book and then supplement it with other materials. The plan is to get her to talk about herself, to get her to use some verbs that are common in speaking, to get her comfortable with describing other people, as well as talk about her job. Marike and I went over the plan on Sunday evening and she agreed that it was a good idea and then she would give the student a base of phrasal verbs, idioms, and collocations. Which I think worked out quite well. I had to call the English Center and the owner commented about all the hours I am working. I am not sure whether I should take that negatively or not. Still, I’m grateful for the paycheck. I really like Intensives even though they make me tired and I sometimes doubt their efficacy. Maybe the point of an intensive is just to get you speaking in English for enough time that you get comfortable with it whether or not you get the grammar or teaching points in the day.

Late on Sunday evening, I got an email from another of my students asking to change our Tuesday afternoon lesson because it was going to be too hot. I got the message at 10:30 in the evening and felt very guilty texting the English Center so late but I was afraid that they would not be able to cancel the room on Monday. Technically, my student sent me the email within the 48-hour notice window that The English Center requires for their cancellation. If the student cancels it’s a lost lesson to the student and the teacher doesn’t get paid. I do not like the policy and so I am always willing to reschedule but the issue is will we have access to a room. In this case, I was able to cancel the room. I emailed my student to let them know and suggest an alternative time to meet. We went back and forth as I wanted to meet on Monday and Tuesday of next week, but she requested Thursday. I never work on Thursday evenings, dear reader. That’s writer’s group time and is sacred. We agreed to move the last lesson in the package to after she comes back from a summer break in Turkiye, so All’s Well That Ends Well. But trying to match up the time and accommodate everyone is a bit of a juggling act. As the teacher, you have to coordinate with English Center and with the student. Sometimes, I find that to be quite difficult. In more positive events, Yuka and I liked the library in Amstelveen much better than we like teaching over at the English Center. It’s a little closer to town for one and is a transport Hub as well. So with Dutch transport being as unpredictable as it is right now with roadworks seemingly on every system, I think the library is a better bet for both of us, especially since she lives right on the same square as the library complex. The other nice thing about the complex is that there’s a shopping mall and so there is something to d if I am early.

The Thursday night writing group has been a bit torturous for me because I’m not really writing as much as I am trying to figure out whether I have filled in all the various plot holes that I feel that I have in the novel. We have been planning to meet in real life on a Saturday but because I couldn’t this Saturday I asked if we could meet on Sunday. This we did and we were planning to meet at the location that we normally meet at which is somewhere near Amsterdam Central Station. As I was walking there, there was a flurry of texts asking if we could meet instead in a cafe in my neighborhood. I was grateful for the change as I hadn’t started walking yet. We met and instead of doing any writing, I actually started plotting the novel out chapter by chapter, in addition, I started figuring out plot points for a future book in the series. I was able to do the first five chapters of the novel and so it was quite a productive day. I even feel like I can do that outside of the reading group itself. This, dear reader, is a big deal for me because for a long time I have felt that I can only deal with my novel when I’m actually in the writer’s group. It’s nice to feel like I can go to a cafe and just sit to work on my own. It also helps that I got a letter from a friend in the States who also misses our writing sessions and her letter is galvanizing me to get to work again. Ceridwen, I promise I’ll answer the weather this time.

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

A Covid Commotion, Dicey Dilemma, Dibilitating Déjà Vu

That is certainly a mouthful of a title, dear reader. But it’s also indicative of how much was happening this week. It started out well enough with me meeting in person with my new client from Jordan and going over the scope of our lessons. We have decided to do 4 hours in a hybrid of online and in-person in August. She has said that she wants help with writing as well as fluency. We edited a piece of her writing together and she was supposed to send it to me with the corrections so that I could take a look again and send more suggestions. As of this writing, she has not done so. So it was a bit of a quiet beginning of the week. I saw my Taiwanese client as well in person this past week, and we have decided to go online for our final lesson in Amsterdam before he leaves to go home for two months. We will continue online while he is in Taiwan but we need to figure out the timing. My other private clients remain on hiatus. My Chinese students are in exam mode and have no time for English or perhaps I could say they have too much time for English as that is one of the major exams. Odhran is in the US and has no time for Greek. Sander is on his early summer break and I should see him in September. I think he will be quite surprised however to realize that we only have two lessons left in the current package. I am also not sure whether he will continue because he is quite busy with a new house project that is giving him some stress.

Over at the English Center, things turned quite interesting over the weekend. In the afternoon on Saturday, I got a notice that the owners of the English Center came back early from vacation in Greece with Covid. That meant that the teachers going to Amstelveen this coming week had to scramble to find out if our students would be willing to go online or if we would have to find another arrangement in person. I realized that I did not have my student Yuka’s phone number nor did I have it anywhere in the student information. I heartily dislike bothering other teachers on the weekend because my weekend is also precious to me. Nevertheless, I bothered my colleagues and got the phone number of my student. Thankfully, she was quite understanding and we met online yesterday and are probably going to do the same on Wednesday. In other English Center news, my first intensive on Friday went quite well. The student is quite young she’s all of 24 years old which made me smile. It occurred to me that at 47, I am quite old enough to be her mother, and that was a sobering thought. Having said that she is a high B1 level heading towards B2 but she lacks the confidence to believe that. So we ended up doing quite a bit of talking in the context of the lessons that I was teaching. I happened to teach financial terms, idioms and some vocabulary. We did not actually get to phrasal verbs which was the plan for the last hour and a half or so that was because we spent a lot of time on presentations which she is going to be doing more of in English. I found it a little bit difficult to prepare last night for today’s lesson as it wasn’t enough time for me, but hopefully it will be ok. And now, dear reader, we come to the most dicey of my English Center situations. I was approached by the English Center to take over my friend Rose’s client. Apparently, she and the client did not have such a wonderful time in their lessons and Rose had to fire her. I told the English Center that I would take the lessons for the last 7 hours of the package, but the problem is this. I met with Rose on Saturday. I told her what was going on and she she advised me to not take the client. This client is too difficult. She has a zero self-confidence and does not do the work when she and the teacher meet in person. She’s a much better student online. In addition, she likes to meet in person on a Saturday, and I’m not sure that I want to work a Saturday sitting with someone who won’t do the work themselves. It is quite a dilemma. Do I sacrifice €210 for my sanity? Or do I try? My inclination is to let the €210 go because it’s not worth the stress. But the material side of me says “but it’s money”. It is a conundrum, to be sure. Especially as I already said I would take the client and I’m not sure how good it looks to back out. Luckily, it would not be a last minute back out because the student does not come back until August as she is on vacation. But unluckily for me that means that she will have forgotten everything that she learnt with Rose and I will have to start from the beginning.

I’m sure that I have mentioned this before, dear reader, but I have been feeling like my novel is getting long enough that I no longer remember which bits of conflict I have resolved and which I have not. I find myself reading bits of the novel and feeling like I’ve either seeing the situation before and have resolved it or I’ve seen the situation before and I’m repeating it without a resolution. I’m currently trying to figure out what to do about that and a good writing friend of mine suggested that I put the novel into Plottr and outline what I’ve done before. I’m still mulling over this idea as Plottr costs money and I’m not sure I want to spend money on more software. Still it’s been niggling at me for some time and the niggling will not go away.

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

Private Client Pickup, TEC Top Up, and Wicked Writing

It was a decent though quiet week at Inkreadable, dear reader. In terms of private clients for the week, it was just my student from Taiwan. While from the English Center I had a student no-show. I stayed online on Thursday for 15-minutes of a 1-hour online lesson to see if the student would show up. But they never did. It was a bit of a problematic student in the first place. Apparently, they had never confirmed to the English Center that they were going to do the lesson at all. They also never responded to the email that I sent with the Zoom link for the lesson. The nice thing is that the English Center paid me for the lesson. I also had my last lesson with one of my English Center clients who has decided not to continue for personal reasons. She did leave me a nice review saying that if she came back to the English Center she would want to have lessons with me again, which I appreciate. She did give me private feedback in that she felt that our second lesson of the series was not as effective for her. But she had asked me for interview prep and that’s what we did. She was much happier with our last lesson of the series. I am happy to receive feedback like that because it allows me to really think about what each student needs and try to stick to that to the best of my ability. That is always a challenge because clients have definite ideas of the things that they want to learn in classes. I have gotten two new private clients from recommendations from former students. I was quite surprised at the recommendations because they were from students that I haven’t heard from in quite some time. One was from the Greek woman who comes from my former TEC clients whose focus was pronunciation. The other is a client from the Middle East who was given my information by a client that I had at the English Center about a year ago. I will have an intake with this client this coming week. My Greek connection client will not start until the third week in July.

Over at The English Center, I am gearing up for the Intensive that I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I also have two new clients from them besides the intensive. One is a Japanese student and of course, I have to go out to Amstelveen on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 to 4:30 pm. The other client is a semi-intensive near my house which is great. There are also rumblings on WhatsApp of different intensives that are coming up for the summer that I’m going to try and throw my hat in the ring for, but of course with 60 teachers that will prove a little bit difficult. We will have to see what happens.

With the return of a beloved OG writer, we have started doing things that we haven’t done for quite a while. We have started doing things like word sprints and word Wars we will see if we get into doing prompts again, but people seem to be quite happy writing their own stuff. The word wars and sprints are good for me because it takes me out of my almost pathological need to look at the internet, which I do instead of write. What’s good is that I’m able to get quality words even if it’s only500 with these word wars. The problem with novel my is that I feel like it flows very well and it’s very hard to figure out where to throw stuff out. The Old adage of “kill your babies” tends to be quite difficult.

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

A Greek Goodbye and Lesson Planning Load

Greetings, dear reader, from Amsterdam. It was a relatively uneventful trip back but I will say if you’re trying to travel post-Covid, factor in extra time. On the trip back, like the trip there, the lines for check-in were quite long. It took an hour, but security was a joke and took barely 20 minutes. Still, Jasper and I arrived at the gate to find that the plane was already boarding. I’m not sure that I like that style of travel but also suppose it’s the new post-covid world and this is how travel is going to be for some time to come. I also always leave Crete with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love being in and having access to my friends and family there. I love fruit and vegetables with flavor which we don’t sometimes get here in the Netherlands even though The Netherlands is an agricultural producer. I even like the weather if it isn’t too hot. The problem is that 30 degrees Celsius is that line for me. And even 30C is ok provided you have enough air conditioning to combat that temperature. Unfortunately, our hotel did not have that. In fact, the usage instructions said that turning the AC down below 24 degrees was useless. I found that to be quite ridiculous. My take away from all of this is that I’ve confirmed that I definitely prefer Crete in the winter temperature-wise but I can also spend time with my sister more easily then, as the summer is her busy time.

After a rather restful Sunday post-flight, yesterday saw me getting back into the swing of things and planning the incentive I wrote about in my last post for Friday, July 8th, and Tuesday, July 12th. Luckily I am not doing all the work and was able to meet with my fellow trainer to do some planning so it wasn’t terrible. I also got a new student and so I planned her first lesson which happens on Thursday. As mentioned in last week’s post the rest of the load is quite small and so I’m not terribly busy so I am occupying myself both with reading and on occasion writing.

Tomorrow, dear reader, is my birthday and I have planned an evening out with friends at a restaurant that I would like to try. The restaurant is called Carter and has a little bit of a sidewalk terrace. Organized person that I am, I actually made the reservation before I left for Greece. Though in all honesty, it wasn’t so much organization, as it was the fact that in Amsterdam if you don’t make a reservation you’re not going out to dinner, and people reserve at least one to two weeks out. Not wanting to take the chance I did it early and got one of their terrace tables for me and Jasper and two other couples. I’m quite looking forward to it.

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

Class Conclusions and Writing Recess

Greetings, dear reader, from sunny Grease. The lead-up to leaving for Greece was a little bit hectic with classes that I was trying to finish up before I left. I finished up my classes with the Palestinian girls on Wednesday before I left, and I’ve got to say that it was really difficult. You wouldn’t think that 15-minutes makes a difference for either job but in fact, I had a really hard time teaching them for a total of 2 hours. They are going to continue with me in August and while I’m not really happy about it, I need the work. . Their father asked me for a progress report after each class. For the last progress report, I also contacted him via WhatsApp and sent him a message saying that it would be helpful if they practiced their English outside of our lessons otherwise nothing is going to stick. We will see what happens with that. I also finished with Galini, but as with ShinWei, she and I are going to keep in touch so I will likely see her in different situations. In wonderful news from the English Center, I will be teaching an intensive in July. The total intensive is 21 hours which I will be teaching 14. I will be teaching with my friend and colleague Marike who used to be the scheduler for the English Center but now is just teaching for them. We have decided that we will meet by Zoom on Monday after I come back to talk about how best to approach teaching the intensive. And this will include assigning homework before the class even begins.

In my private client world, I am completely on hiatus from my Chinese client though I have contacted her to see if she is nervous about her upcoming teaching competition. A’s not so much a hiatus as it is a vacation. We will take a week off. I did not want to have to teach as they are frequently rolling brownouts on Crete to conserve electricity. There is nothing worse than trying to teach and having the electricity go out. It’s the same deal with George and Jerry, and Odhran in Ireland. I simply did not want to take the chance that there would be a lack of power to be able to teach and frankly, it’s nice enough that I don’t want to stay in the hotel room teaching when I could be outside.

In terms of writing, I have a little bit more flexibility with writing my own stuff while in Greece because theoretically, I could do it if I wanted to. The problem is I just don’t want to. While in Greece, I was keeping abreast of what was happening in Amsterdam via the WhatsApp group. We have some members who meet on Sundays via discord. I do not have time for this one as I already have Sunday commitments and I don’t feel like being online. Since Sunday is usually a work day that is absolutely fine. I am very happy when my group meets in person on a Saturday because then I can also meet.

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

Summer Slow Down, Class Challenges, Resume Rewrite, and an OG Writer Returns

June in the Netherlands brings with it longer days and sunny weather. It’s a fun time of drinks in the park, and picnicking down to a science, as well as other forms of alfresco entertainment. The end of the pandemic has brought the multitudes of tourists back to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, it feels like the pandemic never was. It’s nice to see people back in the city and it’s wonderful to have the stores open again. No longer do I have to worry about trying to find a bathroom on one of my many long walks. For me personally, June also brings the annual summer slowdown. This year seems particularly slow as there’s no VIPKid to fall back on. That’s not to say that I couldn’t open slots on VIPKid and see what I was able to get get, but I’m hearing from colleagues who are still with the company that they’re getting quite sparse bookings. And opening up my schedule for six hours to get me the one or two my teacher friends are getting hours seems a little silly. Also, those one or two hours may have long breaks in between, and that is exhausting. The breakdown goes something like this: I currently have six private clients three adults and three children. Two of my adults are going on a vacation and I will see them sometime in September. My third Adult will continue but he will continue online from Taiwan. He leaves in the middle of July and comes back in the middle of September. My client here in the Netherlands has said that he might want help for his son who may be going to the British School in September but as yet they have not made a decision. As I understand it, he will be interviewing at the British School in a couple of weeks. Once they make a decision they may need my help to get him up to snuff with English in an immersive environment. I don’t think that second languages anywhere in the world are type using immersion except for in an international school. And not all international schools. Maybe my experience at the Washington International School was different as we were able to learn geography and history in French as well as French class itself. My friends who took Spanish had the same experience with history and geography in that language as well. In most schools, second languages are taught by teachers, not necessarily by language teachers. I know that in the Dutch schools the English classes that are required are taught by Dutch teachers who teach the theory in Dutch and there’s not a lot of use of the English language. I think it’s the same whether it’s a French class or an Italian class or a German class. There’s just not a lot of speaking happening.

Over at the English Center, things are winding down as well. My Palestinian girls will have their last class of this package tomorrow but will come back in September as well. I had my last class with Harumi last week but we have promised to keep in touch when she moves to Paris so while it’s a goodbye in terms of teaching, I am hopeful that we will maintain a relationship when she goes to Paris in July. I thought Harumi was my biggest challenge in terms of my adults. But my new client from Palestine who is trying to get a job here in the Netherlands is proving to be a bit of a challenge in terms of bridging her perceived problems and the reality of interviewing in a language not your own. She does a lot better than she thinks she does and I’m not just saying that because she might read my blog. She has a good command of the English language, particularly in her field which is International Development. In yesterday’s class, I did notice some tense trouble and assigned some exercises for her to do to try and get it under control as well as trying to prepare her for her interview coming up later today. I also I found her homework and I gave four questions that we practiced for the interview as well as two extra questions that I found to try and get her thoughts more organized. Or at least organized in a way that she is happy with. It’s a little bit stressful for me because she is also trying me out as a teacher, as she wasn’t really happy with her interaction with The English Center. I thought I had shown her that I could do the job at the end of our first of three lessons. And the email she sent me after the class led me to believe that she was happy with our first lesson. But after yesterday’s lesson, she said she still hadn’t decided. I did tell her at the end of class what we worked on and told her to keep in touch via WhatsApp up and I took the initiative to contact her later in the afternoon yesterday and see how she was getting on. I hope it’s enough to keep her as a student after I come back from Greece. Gallini and I have our last class tomorrow and I think we are ending on a positive note. She has acknowledged that her learning is just a drop in the bucket so I have the feeling that I will see her again soon. Whether it will be in an English Center classroom remains to be seen. Wesam and Leen will continue after their holidays. I am both looking forward to seeing them again, but also feel like I will be starting over from scratch when I do see them. While the last couple of classes that we had were quite a bit easier than they have been in the past, I am struggling to both make it interesting for them as there is only so many classes on shopping that I can put together.

In other news, an interesting position came up for an ESL content writer for Twinkl which is an ed-tech company that provides resources to teachers and parents. It, like most of the other tech companies out there, does not actually specialize in one language but has platforms for multiple languages. I have found when looking at both Twinkl and ISL collective that there are a lot of translated worksheets so why might use them as a base I don’t necessarily use them in their entirety. I work from them and create my own material. When I saw the job for ESL content writer I figured I would apply and rewrote my resume to reflect both my teaching and my curriculum-building skills. We will have to see what happens as I submitted the resume on workable. As ever, dear reader, I will keep you posted.

Over in the writer’s world, we have the return of a founding member. Ellie, Mark, and I started the group in 2016 but Ellie left us because she was trying to complete her studies. I had kept up with her a little bit from time to time as we were friends on Facebook and I knew that she was doing some stuff with with a group that works toward getting more women in politics. But Amsterdam, dear reader, is a small world. I was minding my own business one morning last year at the English Center in Amstelveen when I walked into the kitchen to see Ellie preparing a morning cup of tea. It happens that she rented out Michael and Brenda’s garage. So we have run into each other over the last year or so whenever we were in the kitchen at the same time. One such time Ellie said that she wanted to come to the writer’s group. She did that this past Thursday and it was great. We got back to some of the original things that we had been doing pre-pandemic like writing sprints. It will be great to see more of her in the context of the writer’s group and not just in the kitchen at Amstelveen.

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

Computer Kaput, Floriade Fun, and Complicated Classes

Well, dear reader, it happened once again. I’m not sure if you remember from my US posts in February but just before I left my computer died and I did not have enough time to fix it in the States. Once I got back to the Netherlands, the repair was scheduled, and I got a new motherboard. palm rest, and audio jack. In essence, a new computer. Everything was fine until Friday. At least I thought it was. On Friday, I went to teach my penultimate class with Harumi in Amstelveen. I didn’t use my computer with her as we did conversation and a bit of grammar that didn’t require the computer. Once I got back home, I had a bunch of time to kill before I had to pick up a friend from the train station and so I thought I would get some work done. I went to turn on my computer and nothing happened. There were blue lights on my cooling laptop stand and the backlight remained lit, so I knew that the computer was receiving power but it wouldn’t turn either on or off. I managed to get it to turn off and then never got it working again. This is the third time that I have had a problem with my Dell in two years. But this is also why I got the super expensive repair package. Basically, with my warranty, Dell has to come to me no matter what happens to my computer. I called tech support and spent 20-minutes on the phone explaining what was going on and they diagnose a bad motherboard. At this point I think I should be getting a fully new computer, as I’m convinced they’re using old or bad parts. They would have been able to get to me on Saturday but unfortunately I was not going to be home as Jasper and I and some friends went to see the 2022 Floriade Expo which is to horticulture what the world’s fair was to technology. It only happens every 10 years in the Netherlands is definitely worth it.

When I first started working for Vipkid, I started a Facebook group for teachers working for the company in the European Union. That Facebook group grew to about 870 people. In that time, I had hosted several teachers to stay at my house and slowly got to know a bunch of teachers in person. During the pandemic, I formed an additional group of teachers who meet every Sunday evening from about 8 just to catch up. One of those teachers came to visit me and especially to see Floriade. So we met up with a couple of other teachers who live in the Netherlands. who are also part of the Sunday group. I didn’t take a lot of pictures figuring that I would go back and there would be plenty of time to take pictures. Below are a few of the pictures of the flowers near the Chinese and Indian Pavilions.

Floriade

Teaching has proven to be quite difficult since my computer’s not working. I do not like being on my backup because it really is much worse in terms of the screen then the one that I normally use. My girls in Palestine continue to be a challenge. I got some great tips from a teacher at the English Center regarding the British Council and their websites for children and teens. I kind of had to wing it with the younger of the two girls and see if she could handle the lessons. The kids lessons were too easy for and I suspect the teen lessons are going to be too difficult but I will try to make a lesson for Wednesday and see how it works. The plan is to do the thing with her sister and maybe only focus on the exercises for teenagers. I also have a new student starting this week and she is business English client who needs help with writing. I wrote her an email asking her for a writing sample, but as of the writing have not gotten anything. I’m going to have to do my own intake with her even though she’s done an hour-long intake with the English Center. It’s always this way with a new student. You don’t quite know what to prepare and just have that the lesson you do prep matches what the student wants.

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

Ascension Antics Teaching Trials, and a Cataract Continuation

National holidays in the Netherlands are either derived from Remembrance or religion. Many of them occur in May and June. This week’s holiday was Ascension. I don’t normally have many students on Thursdays so for me this would have been a day off anyway. I got an invitation that I could not refuse from my former student ShinWei. We met at an IMAX theater to go and see Top Gun: Maverick. I was not expecting much but I got to say I was blown away by how good the movie actually is. It had enough of the elements of the old film to be considered a sequel but definitely told new stories. I highly recommend it. My other takeaway is that Tom Cruise is a vampire, and was turned when he was filming the first Top Gun. The fun did not stop there, however. Jasper also had the weekend off and I was surprised when he sent me a link to rolling kitchens, a food truck festival here in Amsterdam. H doesn’t generally propose doing interesting things and I’m frequently on my own for festivals and the like so I jumped at the chance to actually go do something that he suggested. I combined it with a visit to a jewelry exhibition with my friend Nico. The agenda there was twofold: go see shiny pretty rocks and deliver a few kilograms of moon pies to her son Stirling which I had transported from the US. I got the best thank you note ever. Please note that in the picture below moon pies have been given a very exalted status.

Stirling’s Thank You note

Sunday was a regular workday with both George and Jerry and the Palestinian girls on my schedule. Or at least it would have been if George and Jerry’s mom hadn’t mixed up her days with a cancellation. We were supposed to meet on Sunday as normal and then we aren’t going to have a lesson today as there’s too much noise in my house from some workers who are fixing my windows later on. The girls from Palestine continue to be quite a challenge and I am struggling to give them lessons that are appropriate for their level. They are both being trained in school at a B2 level but they are not nearly there yet. They simply can’t string a sentence together and it makes it quite difficult to have a conversation. I have tried some teenage-focused lessons but these girls haven’t indicated any interests at all, besides shopping. There was some progress as Wesam who is 15 has expressed an interest in design. I am going to try to find some lessons on design to pique her interest. She’s also a bit of a self-starter so maybe I will try to discuss starting your own business as a language topic.

The Writer’s group was canceled because the library was closed for the holiday and I haven’t looked at my laptop in terms of writing since the week before I left for the US. The good news is that we’re thinking to do a live session perhaps on Monday next week which is another holiday. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my characters once again this Thursday and possibly one other day this coming week.

There was some not-so-great news from the eye doctor yesterday. While my right eye is back to where it was post-cataract surgery, my left has gotten worse and sure enough, they have seen a baby cataract forming. It’s too early to do anything about that so it’s a waiting game to see when they can actually operate. Fun times are ahead.

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

Duty Done and Grizzly Grammar

Greetings, dear reader, from Amsterdam. We returned very early on Saturday morning. The last three days have passed in a haze of jet-lagged induced fatigue. This culminated in surprisingly waking up at 3:30 in the morning yesterday and not being able to sleep after that. this is not how it’s supposed to be. I should be waking up more than tired each morning as my body should think it is still on US time. But for whatever reason, my body has decided that it should acclimate to the opposite extreme.

I am happy to say that all of the things that I planned to do and some things that I didn’t plan were successfully completed in the States. So much so that I was able to visit with a friend. But the trip was not without its drama. The apartment I was dealing with had been rented furnished for 8 years and the new tenant did not want it, so I had to go and take it out. What I found out is that though all my furniture was good quality and some of it antique, no one wanted it, not even an auction company. So I had to find a junk hauler who would take it and dispose of it. I was able to coordinate much of this stuff while still in the Netherlands as I wrote in my previous post, and I found a company that was quite accommodating. I had a walk-through with the company and hired them once I had their quote. I didn’t have the luxury of doing a ton of research as I needed to be finished by the time I left the States. But there were more problems than I realized.

In addition, to having to move my stuff out, I also had to deal with a range and hood that weren’t working. Since I’ve been taking the easy way out from the beginning I thought there was no reason not to keep doing so. As a result, I decided to replace both the stove and the hood, rather than try to repair them. I had my tenant measure the stove and I ordered it. My brain said “OK I have a stove that is 30 inches wide so I need a hood that’s just as wide. I went ahead and ordered the hood but I did not measure it. I got to the apartment and started supervising the move-out. In the midst of this, the hood was delivered and I went to pick it up up from the package area. I brought it up to the apartment, put it in the kitchen, and then started to panic. I was not sure that the hood would fit. Neither of the people helping with the move had a measuring tape. Of course, I didn’t have one either. Luckily, a neighbor came by and was able to supply a measuring tape. Thankfully the hood fit. But you can perhaps imagine the state I was in before I got a hold of the measuring tape. Luckily I was able to call the installers and reschedule the install. It all worked out in the end but after I told the story to Jasper I had to ask if he was ready to be a landlord. His response was that if he didn’t have me he wouldn’t consider it in the least. I am not entirely sure how to feel about this.

I did not rest on my laurels for too long upon return from the US. In fact, I met up with a Vipkid teacher friend on Saturday after a couple of hours of sleep. I taught for three and a half hours on Sunday. It was quite torturous, as it was my girls from Palestine. Their being away for over a month really showed. With Wesam the older one, I helped with the conditional rather than doing my own lesson as that is what they are learning in school. She barely has the speech level for the present let alone the five forms of the conditional. Leen the younger girl, did a little bit better with the future continuous but I could tell that she was struggling as well. I’m going to have to sit down and figure out how to teach these two girls because this was quite difficult. While I understand that grammar is important, I can also accept Jasper’s assertion that grammar is not the only way to learn a language. Using language is key and these two girls aren’t using English nearly at all. It’s going to be a challenging 11 hours for this package and who knows if they will renew. The difference between what they are learning and what they can actually do is immense.

In terms of the writing group, this week was a little bit better than last week in terms of attendance. The only hiccough for me occurred when I arrived back in Amsterdam on Saturday and switched out my American SIM card. I missed a text from someone who was asking where the group was this past Thursday. They apparently no longer have WhatsApp, and when people leave the WhatsApp group I tend to delete them from my phone. Luckily, the person was able to link up with Mark, the co-organizer and they were able to attend the meeting. It’s getting harder and harder to figure out how to keep track of the group members who don’t have what’s app.

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

Lovely Lessons, Fraught Flight, and Stressful Stateside

While I love to travel, dear reader the lead-up to any trip can be quite stressful. Luckily the trip itself isn’t. Normally. In terms of work, I had two English Center lessons and my private clients in China. Greek is on hold until I go back to the Netherlands. Xander is on a hiatus until June, but my new client from Taiwan will start on Monday next week. I had my last lesson with ShinWei and continued lessons with Harumi and my Greek client Galini. Before I left I was able to coordinate with my Palestinian girl’s dad and they will be back on my schedule on Sunday. I hope I am not too jet-lagged. While I’m in the states, I only have two lessons scheduled, one with Lillian, which took place on Saturday, and one with Galini, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

We left on Thursday and while Schiphol Airport is usually efficient, you could see that they had staffing shortages throughout the airport. Usually, you wait about 15 minutes to go through security, but we waited for about 40. But the trials and tribulations weren’t to end there. Once at the gate, I had a text from KLM on my phone that said my information needed to be updated. When I got to the counter, it was not to update information, but rather I had been selected for a random security screening for explosives. This was my first experience with this kind of screening. They basically take a swipe of your hands and have you take off your shoes and do a pat-down like at security. But you’re not allowed to go back to your traveling companions. You are then boarded first. I can’t say it was fun but it was certainly interesting. Once the randomly selected people were boarded, on came the rest of the passengers. That still meant that Jasper didn’t appear for about 20 minutes after I had been boarded. The flight was fine for the first four or five hours and then things got surprisingly turbulent. I am not a frightened flyer, in fact, I quite like it, but this was just a shade too much. The other lovely occurrence on the plane was that I thought I had lost my wallet. You can imagine my sense of panic. Luckily Jasper’s preternatural calm helped me find it. But I spent much of the flight annoyed with myself. The annoyance only got worse when we landed.

The flight arrived on time at about 3:35 in the afternoon and then we discovered that the TSA was also having staffing issues. It took us three hours to get out of the airport. I was out of the passport control line sooner than Jasper and had to wait for him for 40 minutes. I felt particularly bad for my dad who was waiting for all of that time. I don’t remember travel to the US being as difficult when we came in February, or at any other time, for that matter. And that was in addition to all of the covid stuff that we still had to comply with for the US as they still have a testing requirement. Luckily, when we go to Greece in June we will not have this issue as it is EU and we can travel freely without a testing requirement. If you’re planning a trip to the US anytime soon and traveling through Washington be prepared for long wait times.

Of course, for me, the running around started on Friday morning having to deal with various issues at the two apartments I have here in DC. I had real estate agents help me rent my apartments and the first one went very easily but the second which is older and hasn’t been renovated in 20 years was a bit harder to rent. In fact, it took almost 6 months. The larger of the two apartments we had rented in October of 2021 needed to be registered as free of lead paint and so I needed to do an inspection so that was my first stop on Friday. Then I went to the smaller apartment to meet my tenant as well as take a look at what furniture was in there and how best to move it. To do that I found a junk hauling service and had them come and give me a proposal. We agreed on today as the move-out date because my tenant is moving in and we can share the elevator. I absolutely hate it when I don’t have all the information that I need when dealing with my Apartments. I had never had to test for lead in the seven years that I owned my apartment so you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from the Department of the environment for the state of Maryland saying I needed to do just that and that I had a deadline of May 23rd. Luckily I was able to coordinate everything from the Netherlands so that it was in place when I landed but for me, coming to DC is not a vacation. Hopefully, the move-out will go smoothly especially as I was able to find homes for some of the more interesting pieces that I own. It’s been said that moving is one of the most stressful things, on a level with divorce. I’m not sure how true that is but sometimes it certainly feels that way. I’m not looking forward to when I eventually have to find a house in the Netherlands with Jasper. Which by the way we may have a deadline for. My landlord tried to raise our rent by 200 Euros in defiance of the rental cap which is no more than the CPI plus 1% which puts you at about 3.4% in the Netherlands. He had been a fairly reasonable landlord in the past but I was angered by his attempt at trying to get more money than was allowed. As a result, I would like to have a place bought and moved into by the time the rent goes up again in May of next year. Because I don’t want to deal with his BS.

I kept tabs on the writer’s group a bit, and Mark was at the library all by his lonesome on Thursday. Not a single solitary person showed up. He was pretty positive as he got a lot of good writing done. We’ll see what happens this Thursday. That’ll be my last full day in the US as we leave on Friday. So the session on the 26th should be back to normal.

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