I Deserve a Medal

I was just thinking about the move here and my first crazy year living abroad. When I think about all I went through and how DIFFICULT it was for me and the fact that I survived it (basically in tact) well, I absolutely deserve a medal –and the title of Superwoman, dammit!!

Let’s review, shall we? Now, to be fair, it’s important to note that I came here in search of three specific things: money, balance and to feel like I was living and doing something interesting with my life. I still don’t have balance but two out of three ain’t bad. And there are certainly some positives of living here like having a cook/nanny/maid and being able to travel around Asia. And with all the positives of living back home the reality was I was broke and felt like life was passing me by. Those aren’t good. But still, it is crazy to think what I dealt with this year in the name of finding my pulse and saving some money. I needed those things desperately and I am glad to have found them but getting them took hard work (and perseverance, determination, patience, many glasses of wine, loads of cookies and buckets and buckets of tears)!!!

Positives of my life back home when I left:

* great job * great colleagues *supportive administration * 5 minute commute to work through lovely tree-lined streets * nice neighborhood * loads of friends * close to family * tons of free activities for kids and families * enormous Ethiopian community *on-site day care for Coco * fantastic teacher who loved her like a daughter * fall weather * men to date * Black community * great radio stations * easy access to healthy foods * large, supportive adoption community * beautiful home * many people who love me and my daughter * curly hair salon * Trader Joe’s * Target * ease of getting things done efficiently

Crap that I hated or added stress to my life this year:

* pollution and horrific air quality * insane and stressful traffic * new job with huge learning curve * time-consuming leadership role * long hours * ringworm * melasma * botched vein removal * hair got jacked up * my graduate class * single parenting an adopted child going through adjustment issues with no support * rainy season * awful hired help who lied and stole from me * rude and obnoxious colleagues * junk food and crap everywhere * mediocre living accommodations * no men * rare sightings of Black people * shitty radio * long hours at work * no good friends * few activities for kids * friends and family back home who didn’t bother to keep in touch * food poisoning * no green space

It. was. hard. 100x harder than I thought it would be!! Did you see that list??? But, I survived and I learned. I learned that I like being alone. I realized I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. I learned I am pretty courageous and self-sufficient. It’s been hard but good. Does that make sense? And to top it off I have paid off about $40,000 worth of debt!

Now for the $1,000,000 question. Do I remain here after my contract? Professionally it’s great, it’s more stability for Coco and it pays well but there are negatives (see above). Maybe I return home for a bit to spend time with family? Or do I continue to experience life abroad but somewhere new? I really do not know at this point; there are so many considerations like second language possibilities, culture, dating opportunities, cities where I know people, cost of living, quality of life, travel opps, savings potential, diversity and weather. And to be honest right now I don’t know which of these is most important. Here is my current extensive list of possibilities. If there was only one city in the country I’d consider I listed that; otherwise I put down the country. I’ve narrowed it down to my top 25. 🙂 In no particular order here’s what’s currently on the list:

1. Italy
2. Singapore
3. Spain
4. Paris
5. Germany
6. California
7. District of Columbia
8. Brazil
9. Costa Rica
10. Guatemala
11. Venezuela
12. Ecuador
13. Peru
14.  Jordan                                                                                                                                               15. London                                                                                                                                               16. Saudi Arabia                                                                                                                                       17. Thailand                                                                                                                                             18. Oman                                                                                                                                                  19. NYC/NJ                                                                                                                                             20. India                                                                                                                                                     21. Morocco                                                                                                                                           22. Dakar                                                                                                                                                 23. Lisbon                                                                                                                                               24. Nairobi                                                                                                                                               25. Johannesburg

Which city/country do you think is best and why?

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18 Responses to I Deserve a Medal

  1. AuntB says:

    Hi Amazing Joy! We are all very proud of you!! It’s been quite a year, but next year will be better 1) ’cause you know how to survive there & 2) it’s your last year !!!!!
    Now, your next post – as you know, we spent time in Ecuador a few years back. Yes, it is a beautiful country & yes, the weather can be like Southern California -IF you settle in the mountains (Quito, Cuenca). BUT remember Ecuador = Equator, & Guayaquil (another large city) is on the coast – UGH. If I were a courageous young thing like you, I’d love England (not London-too pricey), France (not Paris for the same reason), the coast of Spain or Lisbon. Middle East could be a financial gem, but there’s so much commotion over there.
    Love to you & Coco. See you soon! AuntB

    • Joy says:

      i do know how to survive here, true, but it may not be my last year! next year might actually be really good with all the changes 🙂

      ecuador -yes, you know i thought of you and that experience. cuenca sounds really nice, though. europe sounds great too but i won’t save. if can get debt free next year i might consider it!

  2. JJ says:

    NO to NJ. We lived there for 14 months and it was 14 months too long. It stinks, literally. Plus if you are not a cold weather person, then I think you should think of some place like Miami. =) What about Ethiopia or Uganda or other places in Africa?

    • Joy says:

      yeah, cold weather is not my thing but i could appreciate 60 degrees now and then instead of 95 degrees all the time 🙂 for that reason i crossed germany off the list. france and london, though not warm year round have other huge positives going for them. ethiopia is a consideration and i almost put it on the list but i think it should be reserved for when she’s a bit older to appreciate it more but then i probably won’t ever get there. don’t know much about uganda… tanzania was also a considertation at one point. gosh, i’m trying to whittle this down and now i feel like i need to add more places! 🙂

  3. kellycamille says:

    amazing, girlie. you and your experience/determination/courage. i’m super impressed and proud of you, as you know. i’d HIGHTAIL it out of manila asap and give yourself a breather w perhaps a nice, warm and friendly latin american country. relaxed pace of life, beautiful climate and environs, gentle, spirit-filled people, foreign language opportunity, brown people…

    otherwise, if you just wanna stash more cash real quick and THEN take a breather, do the middle east for a year. you’ll cash in and you’ve already learned the ropes of expat living in a rather inhospitable country. many ME locations are gorgeous w a great standard of living, plenty of access to services and great packages for teachers. get your money, experience a new culture/part of the world and go! then decide where you may want to settle for a longer term.

    job well done!

    • Joy says:

      good points. factoring in my age, i do have to realize even if hop every two years (which coco might not be thrilled with) i only have time left to do three other countries and that’s assuming they hire someone that old! i think two is more likely so probably one more post to make money and then somewhere i am happy to remain til retirement.. assuming i even stay in this field! who knows??

  4. annie says:

    I also think you are super brave! Its something you really wanted to do and you went for it. As a single teacher I know all too well the struggle of paying bills, mortgage etc..its tough so an opportunity to make money is great. But as a single parent you really do IMHO need a support structure..so thats a pull factor too. Good luck with your tough decision.

  5. Heidi Faber says:

    I think you’re amazing! And it’s about time you gave yourself some credit! $40,000 in payed off debt! Plus, you’ve had some amazing vacays, given Coco a real dose of another culture and grown so much yourself!

    I’ve included a few links for you to check out and that will maybe help you narrow your search.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8334-505145_162-57383075/10-best-countries-to-live-and-work-abroad-2012/
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/teacher-pay-around-the-world/
    http://www.worldsalaries.org/teacher.shtml

    By the way, while Sweden is expensive, it is a parent’s dream. You can leave your job at anytime or work from home/take the day off if your child is sick, with partial pay. Maternity leave is 1 year 80% of pay, garenteed same job after a year, 18 months 60% of pay, garenteed a job with same company. Paternity leave is mandatory. Although it’s only for a month and must be taken during each child’s first 8 years. Health care is very cheap, less than $20 per visit, free dental till kids are 18. College is free, just pay for the books.,..(taxes are very high…25% sales tax). Gotta pay for all if the free stuff some how. But, it’s great if you have kids! Plus, I’m here! =D

    I would go Spain..Protugal is a gorgeous country that is in the grips of a major recession, similar to Greece’s. But, if you lived over here in Europe travel is fairly cheap and there are great vacation packages! London is just a 2 hour flight away! England and France offer great teaching opportunites and you don’t have to live in expensive Paris or London. There are lots of other great cities that offer a great standart of living and lower costs. =)

    • Joy says:

      heidi!!! hi! thanks for the links. i hear about all the perks of europe. i think sweden is too cold for me. wasn’t i wearing a sweater when i visited you in july??? 🙂 would love to live in the same city as you, though!!! though a 2 hour flight away isn’t bad at all! thx for the tips on portugal..

  6. Magaly says:

    Hello,

    I am from France and I would not recommend Paris if saving money if one of your priorities. Living in Paris is awfully expensive and teachers are not well paid at all. And air quality is far from being the greatest. Paris is a great place to visit but, in MHO, not to live unless you are very rich and can afford all what the city has to offer (I lived 2 years in Paris as a student).
    Good luck with this tough decision.
    Take care,
    Magaly

  7. jessi says:

    I’ve always dreamed of living in NYC too! Hmmm. Buy a timeshare! Then you can live in the US but travel for basically just the cost of airfare to all the other places on your list 🙂

  8. kikielaine says:

    I have a colleague who spent 14 months in Taiwan teaching English. When I told her that I knew someone (you) who is living in the Phillipines her face dropped and she said “Whoa! What a TOUGH place to live!” Her expression said it all, so I totally understand what you are going through. That said $40,000…wow! That is awesome! You may not able save that much if you lived in Europe, but I would go to Italy or Germany. Rest a little, then go to another developing or low-cost-of-living country. India, no; middle eastern countries, hard on women, so no; Guatemala City is super polluted (but Antigua is lovely); Ecuador is beautiful, a definite yes and I gather its neighbor Peru is the same.

    • Joy says:

      LOL – That’s funny. Wish someone had hipped me to the fact that this is a hardship post! 🙂 Yes, Italy and Germany are speaking to me but I would love to learn Spanish so all the Spanish-speaking countries are very appealing. Meanwhile, I had to look on a map bc the only Antigua I knew is in the West Indies!

      • k says:

        I was in Ecuador for two weeks in 1996. What I liked about it was its spring-like weather which they have all year round; the Andes mountains are breathtaking; the indigenous crafts are beautiful (and inexpensive); you can drive to the beaches; there are museums you can visit around the country; Cuenca is an interesting, cosmopolitan town in the south; the food is pretty good…I had a great time in Ecuador!

      • Joy says:

        i keep hearing great things about ecuador!

  9. J says:

    I choose DC…. for obvious reasons. NYC would be awesome as well. I have dreams of living there one day as well. I don’t know if I can give objective advice! I think you will have a better idea of what you want to do closer to Christmas time. When do you need to decide if you are staying or not?

    You are super brave and strong and courageous. I’m glad to see you give yourself kudos.
    J

    • Joy says:

      I LOVE NY!! It’s so expensive though so that’s why it’s slased with NJ 🙂 I am not sure of when I have to tell them exactly but I think around late fall.

      Thx for the accolades!! 🙂

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