When two seats opened up at the small table to our left, I nearly shoved the previous occupants out of the way to duck under the umbrella canopy and slide sideways into the wicker chairs. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow amidst the packed tables in the narrow laneway, and the competition was intense for some of Melbourne’s finest coffee, and by that measure, some of the finest in the whole southern hemisphere.
Month: July 2011
Mention actors Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, and most American students would be delighted to discuss at great length their popular box office movies, and …
We climbed up mountainsides, unshaven and sweating heavily in the late summer heat – we must have looked like bandits – then picked our way down the other side of the mountain and visited remote beaches or tiny white churches. We drank, ate and swam, then set off in the opposite direction to try and walk a different way back. One evening we were returning from a long, long walk, towards the setting sun. We were dropping down from a high pass into the top of Apolonia, the capital of Sifnos. We still had some way to go to get back to our rooms, and the sight of a taverna as we entered the outskirts of the town, with a terrific view across the Kastro valley to a glorious strawberry ripple sunset, was too much to pass up. We fell gratefully into the seats on the raised balcony, under a canopy of bougainvillea and grape vines, and removed our backpacks and hats. We were tired but happy and this was just what we needed – a scene of earthly perfection.
Call it a hunch. Call it intuition. Maybe some kind of creepy 6th sense. Whatever it was, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the folks at Buseok Elementary School believed in me. The privilege (burden) of educating the next generation of Koreans was placed on my shoulders. Thousands of young minds were in my care.
Actually it was more like 53. But still.
The first hint that my principal placed an inordinate amount of confidence in me as an English teacher was the sound of the door slamming shut behind me. Except for the 14 sets of beady little eyes staring back, I was alone. For the first time. In a foreign country. 12,000 miles from home. Alone. To say I was shoved into the classroom kicking and screaming would not be far from the truth.
We’re not all cut out for long-term backpacker travel and that’s okay. Some of us are ashamed to admit that we get eventually get sick of hanging out at hostels and subsisting off of ramen noodles and the occasional kebab. You find yourself stuck in the rut of “get on bus, arrive in new city, check into hostel, see the sights, repeat.” Isn’t this the type of monotony you wanted to leave behind when you decided to go on this trip in the first place? The side effects of this travel lifestyle can be exhausting, but here are a few ways to keep them at bay.