Sunday, February 28, 2010

Preparations Continue

We've had a good week of progress. It feels a bit like being in two worlds, or a parallel universe or something, because we are still working at our regular jobs, but we are thinking A LOT about our future jobs. Today was especially exciting because we got our first orientation newsletter from SCIS (and from Jeff to boot), full of information and a big to-do list. Turns out we're already slightly ahead of the game with our visa documents already sent. He didn't mention immunizations, but that's pretty well covered on the school website. The big news is that we finally have a suggested report date: August 5th or 6th!

Here's what came up this week.

Visa application: Jeff's newsletter sent a link to a form, and forms are always a positive step in bureaucracy. We haven't heard anything from the school about the visa documents we sent, but we figure Ms. Kasono (the main HR lady) is pretty busy right now. We will fill out this form and make our appointment with the Chinese consulate in LA sometime around the first week of July, when we will go and I will be uncharacteristically quiet and hopefully convince the Chinese government to let us in. We will be putting our reason for visit as "business," which is the magic word. We have learned quite a bit about magic words, which seem very important in getting things done that are supposed to be against the rules. For instance, betting is illegal in China, but you can place a "guess" on a horse at the track.

Immunizations: We are done with our typhoid series and I have my second hepatitis (A, I think) in a couple of weeks, right after spring break. I have been emailing to a couple of my SCIS colleagues and have been assured that medical care is great and we can finish the hepatitis series there, although she still told me to bring all the medications I need with me. Joe has already visited his doctor and got medical releases for both of us so we can take our medical records with us. We'll do a doctor visit at the beginning of the summer just in case we find something we need to clear up.

Jack's new home: I sent an email this week to many of my Flagstaff friends, detailing Jack's plight and his qualifications as a good dog, and asking for suggestions. One of my former parents, Karen, wrote back quickly to say that she was interested and would like him to come visit to see how he would get along with Mia, her cat. We were skeptical, because Jack has never had any sort of feline relationship, but he has done fairly well in his two visits this week. On the first visit, they stayed well apart in the same room and growled at each other. This cat can really growl loudly. On the second visit, Jack and Mia went nose to nose, and although Mia hissed at him, she seemed to settle down a little bit, and Jack was almost polite. I think he's knows something's up and he seemed to understand that he has to make friends with Mia. However, after the first visit, Mia spent the entire night under the bed, and that sounds like a bad sign to me, so we'll see what develops.

Communications from our friends: I have saved many of the emails we received from our family and friends, and they make for great reading. We have a surprising number of friends who have traveled to China, so we are getting lots of good ideas about places to visit, vaccinations, and communications of all kinds. One great thing that came the old fashioned way (the regular mail) is a Mandarin language DVD from my sister and brother-in-law, Rhonda and Andy. She has always been the one keeping everyone else organized! More on that after we start watching it.

Communications from our new colleagues: I am emailing to two of my new colleagues, Helen, who is part of the music team, and Wendy, an NAU grad who teaches language arts and is from Mesa. Although we will both be assigned "buddies" who are in charge of getting us up to speed on life in China, these two ladies have been great about answering all kinds of questions, and the answers have been very interesting. The government will be monitoring pretty much everything I do on the phone, and probably on the internet as well, at least those sites that are not blocked, which is just about everything (no Facebook? I can't do it!). Joe has nicknamed this problem "The Bamboo Curtain." However, we have learned about the semi-mighty VPN, which stands for Virtual Personal Network (I think, I looked it up on Wikipedia). The VPN can't help with the phone monitoring, but it does get past the "Great Firewall" of Chinese internet, so I believe I will at least be able to maintain my blog, but I think Facebook, and for some reason, AOL, might be non-starters in China. Boy, do I hate to give up my Violindiva address! If I can't make the blog work, I'm going to have to send my postings to someone back home to enter for me, but I'll find a way. (The Chinese haven't met me yet, you see.)

Studying: I haven't spent so much time trying to learn about something since law school, I think! We are reading everything we can get our hands on, from National Geographic (the March issue has an article on Shanghai) to books to other people's blogs (so I know the blogging can happen). If you're thinking about some foreign travel, how about the 2010 World Expo, being held in Shanghai through October of this year? If travel isn't on your plate, but you'd like to know more about China or Shanghai in general, here are the books we're currently reading: "China Road" by Rob Gifford, a Christian NPR reporter who was based in Beijing for six years and decided to take a cross-China trip prior to leaving for his new posting in London. He is very funny and very honest about the country, both good and bad, and I really love how his faith colors much of his commentary. The other great book is "Postcards from Tomorrow Square" by James Fallows, a writer for The Atlantic and other journals as well, I believe. He is a huge fan of the VPN and deals specifically with Shanghai and the joys and travails of living there.

The Farewell Tour: Once we got our report date, Joe started looking at plane tickets, which are really not crazy at all. Korean Air has been recommended to us by our friend Rick (remember Mr. South Korea?) as well as just about everyone on the travel sites, and a one way ticket comes in at $600 from LA (because we can get to LA through Southwest, of course). We also had a visit to our bank to find out how online banking works, and the test case turned out fine - our HOA check was cashed. So, if I can reach my bank's website from behind the Bamboo Curtain, I'm golden! It's so easy, I might do more stuff this way. Also, we're starting to plan our visits to various places, beginning with spring break in Tucson (Edina, Lourdes, we'll call you soon), and what is shaping up to be a big Vegas reunion for my side of the family, coinciding with my Uncle Steve's seniors' bowling tournament (over 55, not prospective grads). Finally, we have our Indiana trip set for mid-June to see Joe's family and our Louisville friends, so you Hoosiers and Bluegrassers get ready too.

More next week...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Preparing to Go, baby steps

It has been a couple of weeks since we got our big news, and now we are busy trying to get everything done to get to China. The list seems endless, but we have little victories that keep us from the pit of despair. For instance:

Getting a visa: The list of required documents is pretty long, but the good news is that the school will shepherd them through the application process. We dutifully copied passports, transcripts and our marriage license, took passport style photos (10 each) with a white background and both ears clearly showing (gosh, do I wear earrings or not?), and took digital pictures of our diplomas (some of which were a bit hard to find, but we had a nice trip down memory lane). All of this went off in a package to the director's secretary in Shanghai, where she will get it on her second day back after the week off for Chinese New Year, and happy Year of the Metal Tiger to all of you, by the way. If all of this goes well, we will then have to go to LA, the site of the closest Chinese consulate, and our visa will be granted. Probably. We hope.

Getting immunizations: China doesn't require any immunizations to enter the country (which I found surprising), but we found strong recommendations for hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, malaria, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and even some lively discussions of yellow fever. I was donating blood last Tuesday and answering the questions about any recent immunizations when I noticed that the hepatitis question was for the last six months. Fortunately, this was before I gave blood, so my brain was still working and I asked the interviewer about the vaccine, which it turns out is given as three shots over a six month period. We called the county health department right away to get our vaccinations, and even so, the last hepatitis B vaccine will have to be administered in China. By the way, we skipped the rabies and Japanese encephalitis vaccines and went with hepatitis (a series of shots) and typhoid (an oral dose of four pills).

Taking care of the house: We are keeping our house in Flagstaff, and don't want to leave it sitting empty, but finding the right people is a tough call, especially as we would like to come home over the summer break. We had some ideas in the form of two lovely college girls we have known for two years, so we invited them out to dinner, plied them with Wildflower Bread Company pasta, and sprung it on them. They really did look like deer in the headlights, but they recovered gracefully and said they would think about it. A few days later, they called and asked us to meet them at Starbucks, where they plied us with Americano coffee for Joe and a rather bad iced tea thing for me, and accepted our offer! We are really pleased, because we know these girls very well and feel completely comfortable in having them in our home. We still have a few details to work out and have to draw up the lease, but that was a large burden lifted, so thanks girls! Also, we've had this dirtbike in our garage since the summer, when our former neighbors moved out and asked us to store it for "a few days." We were worried about what would happen if we left and it was still there, when we got a knock on the door from our neighbor coming to pick up the bike.

Taking care of Jack: We have been told that Jack could come with us, and it is possible in this present reality, but the more we read about it, the worse it sounds. Assuming he survived the 14 hour plane flight (a dog who is terrified of loud noises), he would then be in seven days of quarantine and we would be unable even to see him (a dog who doesn't like being alone and has severe food allergies). At the risk of being unkind to my new country, there's no way I'm trusting the communist government with the safekeeping of my dog! There is much more to this whole issue, and I'll just say food and fur trade and leave it at that, but the upshot is that Jack needs to stay here in Flagstaff. Joe keeps reminding me that God has been very busy putting the rest of this China package together, and He will take care of our precious Jack as well.

Meeting new friends: Jimmy Buffett says that "everybody's got a cousin in Miami," but I think he might be a little behind the times. As soon as we started sharing our good news, everyone said, "Hey, I know a friend/sister-in-law/former co-worker/father's former wife twice removed/whatever who lives in Shanghai, so I'll give them your email!" It's really great to know that when we show up, we'll have the Chinese version of Welcome Wagon (kids, ask somebody old to explain that reference). Also, we are amazed at the similarities between us and the current staff of SCIS: four NAU graduates and two ASU graduates (well, I can be nice when I'm that far from home, I guess). Also on staff, a recovered attorney now teaching first grade (she and I have already exchanged emails) and a medical doctor who decided to teach science AND plays the violin. We are going to love these people!

There is probably a lot more, but we are learning things as fast as we can. My sister and brother-in-law sent us a DVD to learn Chinese, or at least to start. We are checking out library books on China in general and Shanghai in particular and devouring them. Did you know that Shanghai has a magnetic levitation (maglev) train that takes you from the airport at 270 MILES PER HOUR? I didn't think so! and aren't you glad I shared that important piece of information? Well, then, more in the next post; I've got to go read some more!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Job Fair, Day Three Plus

The third day of the fair (Sunday, Feb 7) found us still on the roller coaster, and then on a long car trip back to the Chicago area. Seoul Foreign called us at our hotel at 8:30 a.m., and as soon as I heard the recruiter say his name, I knew the news was bad. Although they were very interested in bringing Joe into the counseling department, the other candidate for the music position was better qualified and there was simply no other position for me. They were very kind and sincerely regretful, but that door closed very firmly. The good news is that we will be placed on a list of 300 names kept by Seoul. The school offers a $500 bonus for staff members who will commit in October to leaving the school at the end of the next school year. Once those resignations are in place, the school uses its list of 300 names and starts calling those who might fill the positions in the fall.

When we headed to the job fair, we asked God not to open doors, but to close all of them except the right one. We figured if we left the fair with nothing left, we would know to look elsewhere, whether with the Department of Defense or maybe even another year in Flagstaff. God is faithful, and he really slammed the doors shut right and left. After the phone call with Seoul, we realized that we had only Shanghai left as a possibility, and that would involve some commitment on our parts, but (believe it or not) we STILL WEREN'T SURE. We had spoken to many people (including the "Chinese couple") about China during the fair and got some very blunt advice, usually followed by "Wow, that's a great school..."

We skipped our hotel breakfast and went to IHOP to have some familiar food and think things over. While there, we spied Joe's friend Rick, our dinner companion from the previous night with the job in Korea, who had never eaten at an IHOP before but decided for no particular reason to try it that day. He was really hoping we would get Seoul Foreign so we would be nearby, but also thought we were crazy for turning down Shanghai. As we kept dithering, we asked Rick to join us and brought him up to speed. Because Rick had lived for a month in Shanghai one summer, we knew we could use him as a sounding board, so the poor man endured the Chinese Inquisition (and no one expects that, you know). By the end of breakfast, our fears were allayed and we were ready to call the school.

We went back to the fair site, hoping to find Jeff, but the man who had shadowed us since Friday morning was already checked out of his hotel and nowhere to be found, so we sent a VERY carefully worded email in which were were appropriately humble and confident at the same time, no small feat. We also sent a second email to Larry, who had left the night before, a bit shorter but hopefully just as convincing. Having no further business at the fair, we left town and headed for my Aunt Beverly's house outside of Chicago.

It was a long drive over to northern Indiana, and our emotions and imaginations were running pretty high, especially when we got a cell call from Taejon Christian while we were on the road and either I didn't have enough bars to take the call or (more likely) I hung up on them when trying to get the cell out of my pocket. We made it to Aunt Bev's, a non-Internet home, had a nice reunion with my aunt and cousins, explained the situation, and after the end of the Super Bowl (of course, we are still Americans), we ran to my cousins' house to check our email. Hallelujah! we had a note from Larry saying that he received our email but was unable to talk to Jeff who was still flying back to Shanghai. He promised a phone call within 48 hours.

We spent all of Monday checking email, seeing Lake Michigan, and watching the cell phone to see if it would ring. I must have checked my reception and power level every half hour! Finally, around 10:00 p.m., just before we nodded off, the phone rang with Larry on the other end. We greeted each other and he got right to it - why had we changed our minds? Being the strong independent woman I am, I handed the phone right to Joe! Actually, I knew Larry needed to hear it from him, because I had been more in the Shanghai camp all along; also, I was afraid we'd run out of battery, so I went to get the power cord. Joe had a very lively conversation with Larry and they both came to the same conclusion - sign those contracts and fax them to Shanghai asap! We celebrated with my aunt, a cool headed woman who kept us from going insane, and started making phone calls to our family.

We are moving to Shanghai in August, and if you'd like to see more about our future school, the school's website is and we will be at the Hongqiao (pronounced hong-chow) campus, which boasts a 750-seat auditorium complete with lighting. We have so much to do in the next six months, learning Chinese, getting visas, packing the house, and deciding about Jack. It's a big adventure and we are about as excited as we've ever been. We'll keep posting on our blog if something interesting happens, because I assume you don't want to hear about getting passport photos at Sam's Club. Thus endeth the job fair postings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Job Fair, Day Two

After sleep and a pretty good breakfast, we headed back to the conference center for more interviews. Upon our arrival, we found a rather terse note from Athens telling us that tomorrow's interview was canceled, and we honestly felt relieved. We met first with a school in the southern part of Korea (Taejon Christian), which had only music positions, so Joe would have to go back to HS band (no marching). This school was a partner school with another Christian school in Suwon (remember that name for later), and when we arrived we were told that the interview would be with Dr. Penlund, the headmaster, rather than Mr. Moimoi, the middle school principal, so not only did we miss out on saying "Moimoi" (very fun) nor did we get to hear his beautiful voice. Dr. Penlund, a lovely man in his own right, laid out five areas that needed leadership and asked us how we would divide them between ourselves. I was pretty interested in the brand new auditorium in which my HS choir and orchestra would perform, but it wasn't as attractive for Joe, whose heart is firmly planted in the counseling world. We accepted a flash drive with the school's application form and hurried to our next interview, checking our empty mail folder for any word from Seoul Foreign on the way.

Next we visited with our friends from Honduras in a school in the second largest city, San Pedro Sula. Some of you will chuckle when I say that I was interviewing for an 8th grade language arts and social studies position! I liked the middle school principal very much, and she felt sure that I could handle the job, and Joe made an excellent impression on the elementary principal. Because we had done some reading about the security issues in Honduras, we asked specifically about that aspect of the job. I even asked if staff members ever carried weapons, which really shocked our interviewers (well, I didn't mean on school grounds). While we gave the Hondurans high marks for direct and forthright communication, we left the interview (which lasted 90 minutes) with little expectations.

When that interview was over (about 11:00 a.m.), the nice fellows from Shanghai waved us down for a quick confab. They had been keeping an eye on us during the Honduras interview (which was conducted in the large convention room), and I had even given Jeff a quick wave. They presented us with a job offer! We were floored (I thought I might hurl) and spent a little time talking details, including a discussion of whether Jack could come (Larry was discouraging on that point), then we asked for a deadline, which was agreed for 6:00 p.m. We went up to the room for the Switzerland interview and found a note saying that all positions had been filled and all remaining interviews were canceled, except for someone named Barbara, so I hope she found success.

The fellows from Seoul had asked us to let them know if we received any offers, so we went over and camped out by their interview room, and that's when the real fun began. We weren't hearing from anyone, other than a very kindly worded decline from the Hondurans, so we cracked open the laptop, and lo and behold, Joe had a request for a Skype interview with his potential principal from Seoul, who was at a different recruiting fair in Boston. We hung out for an hour or so, talking over the various pros/cons with our new recruiting fair friends (all of whom thought we were insane to not accept the Shanghai offer IMMEDIATELY), then cracked open the laptop again for the interview. While Joe was waiting to get that going, I talked some more with Jeff from Shanghai, who assured me that Jack would be welcome (but that's not the same as making it a good idea - he was just trying to build up his case). Joe spoke for over an hour with the Seoul principal, but they were frustrated by the fact that I had not had the chance to interview with my principal (same overall school, but I would be working for the British part of the school, so slightly different curriculum). The principal in Boston said to me, "Would you be able to go for a year with only Joe working?" and I replied, "That depends on how much you're going to pay him."

We went back over to the Seoul interview room and camped out again to get some action on my position, and I did a Skype interview at 5:15 p.m. with the poor principal in Seoul, who had to wake up way too early on a Sunday to talk to me. He was very charming and British and said my accent wouldn't be a problem unless I talked too fast, which only my Southern friends seem to think I do. He liked my ideas, but had some concern about my lack of a music endorsement (my own district has been lecturing me about that for some time now) and my lack of experience in the British system, which is evidently quite different from ours. He had one other candidate to interview, and would be doing that later that day for him, which would be early tomorrow morning for us. The Seoul interviewer promised us a call by 9:30 on Sunday morning.

Sooooo, in the meantime, our Shanghai deadline came, and I went to their room to ......... decline. Yup, turned 'em down, we were really hanging our hats on Seoul. Jeff was very gracious and we talked about his interviewing strategies which worked well for him except for Joe and me. The school reviewed all credential files well before the fair and determined exactly the candidates they wanted to hire, then they issued only ten interview invitations and never interviewed anyone else. Of the ten interviews, only Joe and I declined the offer, but that meant they did not interview anyone else for the position. He asked us to keep his card and let him know how everything worked out (or didn't) with Seoul. He could not have been nicer, and I apologized for putting him in a bad position, but he assured me that his school will be fine and we hugged and everything was good. Rabbit chase: the Hondurans also hugged me when we parted ways - this is just a bunch of really nice people.

And that's where we ended the day, still kind of on the fence, which is uncomfortable, but also not committed to anything that wouldn't work. This is absolutely the biggest roller coaster I have ever ridden, but it was still a lot of fun. (Of course, I like roller coasters.) People were getting jobs left and right (including Ms. Venezuela, who will be teaching in Saudi Arabia because she is a steely eyed missile woman and will make a bucket of money). Joe's friend Rick had been offered positions in Abuja Nigeria and Tampico Mexico, but he was holding out for an offer from that school in Suwon (remember the partner school to Taejon Christian?). After a 6:45 p.m. second interview with Suwon, he got the job! We were thrilled for him and went to a place called Rudy's to celebrate. Now, if you ever find yourself in Waterloo, Iowa, you MUST go to Rudy's, which not only had great Mexican food (no lie!) but also an impressive display of marionette folk art hanging from the ceiling. I wished I had my camera. While we were there I fielded a call from Taejon and told Dr. Penland that we were waiting to hear from Seoul. I wasn't exactly in a good place to have a long conversation, so I think I cut him off perhaps sooner than he would have liked. We went back to our hotel happy for our friend and hoping for our own prospects. Thus ended the second day.

Job Fair, Day One

I had an email group created before I left for Iowa just to keep people (mostly family and friends who had already been sucked into the drama) informed. I opened with this email: This is a little email group I have for news of the coming weekend. For those who don't know, Joe and I are at the University of Northern Iowa this Fri/Sat/Sun for a job fair for private international schools. We are hoping to find a placement for next school year and have already been in discussion with a few schools in places like Athens, Seoul and Shanghai. Most of you already know this, but I thought I would put together this email list so I can send updates if we get any news this weekend. So far all I can tell you is that we made it to Waterloo, Iowa (via plane to Chicago and Kia Forte from there), the hotel is nice, and the weather is a blunt reminder of why I hated midwestern winters. This particular email is just a test of my list to make sure I have good email addresses. However, if you are already sick to death about hearing about our little adventure and just haven't found a nice way to say so, here is your chance! Nobody asked to be removed from the list.

When you arrive at the conference center for the job fair, the first thing you check is your mail folder where interested schools can leave invitations for you to interview with the school. Joe and I had already had quite a bit of contact with schools in Athens Greece and Seoul South Korea and a district of three schools in China. We had also sent emails and completed applications for many schools prior to the fair, so we were hoping for many interview invitations. We were figuring that the real decision would come between Athens, with whom we had already had a phone interview, and Seoul Foreign School, a vibrant Christian school that seemed to have many positions for us. I was leaning toward Athens, while Joe couldn't stop talking about Seoul. We found only five invitations in our mail folder: Seoul Foreign, Taejon Christian (also in Korea), Quality Schools International (a worldwide system of 35 schools), Universal American School in Kuwait and Shanghai Community International Schools.

The first order of the day was a panel session with three administrators and three veteran foreign teachers. We sat with a couple we had met at breakfast and compared interview invitations; they were extremely excited about our Shanghai invitation because the woman is Chinese and wanted to spend some time in Asia to be closer to family and the man had already lived a year in Shanghai while working on his master's thesis. Joe also looked across the room and saw Rick, a counselor friend of his from Mesa, so it was nice to see a familiar face. The veteran teachers were very helpful because two were a married couple who had taught in China (so they immediately became "the Chinese couple" despite being snow-white people from Maine) and the other was a single girl teaching in Venezuela (a tall redhead who became "the Venezuelan teacher"). They opened it up for questions, and I think we could have gone a very long time if we weren't all on limited time.

Next was the round robin, when all 650 of us went into the large convention hall, where the schools each had tables for talking to us and, if interested, signing us up for interviews. Joe and I went first to the schools that had already put interview requests in our mail folder, then we went to other tables for schools that had some interesting openings, where we got a few other interview appointments, and just had some nice conversations with other places (maybe for future prospects). We turned down the Kuwaiti school, especially after reading the reviews on the website "International Schools Review." We talked to schools in Mexico, Israel, Germany, Korea, China, Brazil and Honduras. The funniest encounter was with a school in Switzerland, where we didn't think we had a chance, but then the representative started talking about how they were looking for someone who had come to education from another profession. I asked if accounting would work, and we got an interview! The strangest moment was talking to the two principals from Athens, who went to all the trouble to do a phone interview, and then not only didn't issue an interview request, but acted almost like they'd never heard of us. They condescended to give us an interview with them on Sunday morning, but we already knew that such a late time usually is reserved for desperation interviews.

Our first interview on Friday afternoon was with the Shanghai Community International School, which is a nice for-profit school in Shanghai and has about 1800 students. Joe would be counseling and I would be elementary general music, which is a required elective. Joe had received an email from Larry, one of the board of directors, asking if Joe would be interested in teaching HS music and drama at the Hangzhou campus. After much thought, Joe replied that although his music credentials were strong, his only drama experiences were playing in pit orchestras and starring as a rabbit in his third grade play. Larry responded that he had a pretty good chuckle over that and would look for something for us in the Shanghai schools (two campuses). Jeff, the Shanghai director of schools, is pretty amusing, because he keeps following us around at group events to tell us nice things about his school, even standing in line with us while we were waiting to get our interview with Athens. He said they were "courting" us, and that's exactly how it felt; I was waiting for a bouquet of roses! It's nice to be liked.

After an early dinner, we talked to the Seoul Foreign School, which is a very impressive Christian school. Again, Joe would be counseling and I would be teaching music in the British curriculum part of the school, which was not a position I had been able to research. Positions available at the fair were sometimes quite different from what the school had listed on the job fair website, just due to last minute shuffles, we thought. We liked both of the interviewers and feel good about our impression on them as well. Jack could not go with us to Seoul, and that was a difficult idea, although I knew that was likely no matter where we go. They said they would get back to us tomorrow about the next step - they are interviewing 35 people over the weekend, and that has to be exhausting! They also asked if we had received any offers yet and asked us to accept nothing without talking to them first. I was very worried about what sort of pressure we would get, assuming anyone wanted to hire us in the first place, and it was nice to have a school give us a reason for not accepting right away.

Our last interview was with a group of 35 schools called Quality Schools International, which has different schools literally across the globe, but they have positions for us in two schools in China (Chengdu or Dongghou). They really liked us and asked us to continue the process by applying online, so we'll see what develops tomorrow and whether we want to pursue those jobs. The advantage of QSI is that if we wanted to move someplace else after our initial contract, it would be easier to find something with such a large network of schools.

The last event of the evening was a mixer at the convention hall where we could meet with other attendees and administrators, and we said hi to a few friends. We have met some great people here, and many of the teaching couples have already found jobs, so that's encouraging to us. The interesting social part of this fair is that nobody is a stranger; you walk right up to someone and start asking about whether they have found jobs, who is interviewing and pretty much any question that seems relevant to the conversation, no matter how personal. I have asked a complete stranger how strong she is in her Christian faith! Everyone was very excited for our interviews with Shanghai and Seoul, as these are both much sought-after schools. We greeted our Honduran interviewers and said how excited we were to talk to them the next day, and of course, we had another chat with Jeff from Shanghai. We were pretty pooped, so we cut out a bit early and tried to get some sleep in our very nice room, and thus ended the first day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Way-Back Story

Three or four years ago, I got a RIF notice from my school district (FUSD) and felt a bit grumpy about it, so I started talking about teaching in other places, specifically for the Department of Defense, working on military bases. I had lots of support for this position from my family who had attended such a school when they lived in Japan (before my time) and also from Paul, my best friend's father, who had spent fifteen years teaching in DOD schools with his wife. His stories were wonderful and his posts varied from London to Germany to Cuba (where he would drive along the fenceline shouting "Fidel, mi amigo!" just in case, you know). Joe loved hearing Paul's stories, but his job situation was really good at the time, and lots of other life events occurred, pushing the whole idea to the side. We both pooh-poohed the person (whose name we can't remember) who said, "Hey, if you really want to teach overseas, you have to go to this job fair in Iowa in February." "Pshaw," we said disdainfully, "what kind of idiot goes to Iowa in February?"

So, fast-forward to March of 2009, when Joe received a RIF notice from dear old FUSD and then he felt a bit grumpy, especially since the RIF wasn't withdrawn until the last day of the school year. We both went home and completed our DOD applications right away and waited for the offers to pour in. However, nothing happened over the summer and into the early part of the school year. Joe received a notice for a counselor position in Japan, but we had already started teaching and couldn't even follow up. Further conversations with the DOD were equally discouraging, and in the late fall, with FUSD budget scares (which normally don't start until spring) already lively, we started talking about Iowa as a backup plan. Joe found the website for the University of Northern Iowa and we made our applications for the international teaching job fair. We told a few people, mostly just those responsible for approving our personal leave requests, booked our flight/hotel/car, and started getting documents together for our credential files. You could call it our voluntary part-time job! As the day approached, we finally started telling people where we were going and why, and many asked for details of the job fair. I created an email list and sent little missives at the end of each day, and those will follow this first post. We hope you will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing and sending them. We'll be maintaining this blog to give you the stories of our adventures as we enter into international teaching, but more about that in later posts. - Tammy