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My Expat Teacher BLOG

Vietnam (2009-2010)
Turkey (2008-2009)
Poland (2006-2007)


There are two aspects of working (teaching) overseas.  (1)  the life outside the school, and (2) work at the school.  I honestly and truthfully convey my experience about both aspects.


2009-2010:  Vietnam

I lived in Vietnam for a year.  I lived in Hanoi, and I worked at an Singapore International School.

Life in Vietnam:

Generally, the people were nice.  Not many people speak English.  Vendors almost always jack up prices for foreigners (multiple times the normal price).  There were several pick-pocket attempts on me.  The food was superb.  Cost of living was cheap, except housing and what I mean by that is if you want the same standards of housing that we have in the West, housing is expensive.  Cost of electricity is astronomical.  I paid $200/month for electricity and yes, I had air-conditioning.  I don't know how you can live without it in Vietnam.  It was HOT!  Winter was cold enough for a sweater, except in the mountains, where you needed a jacket.  But, for 9 months of the year, it was HOT!  ...and HUMID!  Mosquitoes and geckoes were a nuisance.  

Overall, I enjoyed my experience in Vietnam.  I was sad to leave.


The reason I left was personal and should not be reflection upon the organization.

FACTs:  Salaries were competitive.  Many teachers stay for a long time.

OPINIONs:  SIS Vietnam is a great organization to work for.  Salaries are competitive and teachers are respected.  Would I go back to work there?  Yes!  If they change their grading policy to something more.....let's say, "International," (as opposed to "Singapore" style).  I actually really enjoyed teaching there.  The kids were great!  The staff was awesome!  The work environment was very agreeable.


2008-2009:  Tarsus, Turkey

Life in Tarsus, Turkey:

Tarsus, Turkey was great!  The locals were very down-to-earth, honest, and lovely people.  Never had an attempted pick-pocket.  Never had a vendor cheat me on the price.  I could hold out my hand with a wad of money and the vendors would only take the proper amount.  I would love to go back and live there.  Such a nice place to live!


FACTs:  The salaries were very competitive.  The school took good care of its teachers.  They had smart boards in every classroom and each teacher was loaned a laptop.  The staff were always very helpful and all spoke English.

FACT:  Students were from the upper class of society and generally lacked discipline.

OPINIONs:  Tarsus American School had its good points and bad points, as any school, I suppose.  Would I go back to work there?  Yes!  I would.



2006-2007 Wroclaw, Poland

October 31, 2006:
"And the sky shall become as black as sackcloth..."

The other day (I think it was Saturday, Oct. 27, 2006), my son and I were playing catch in the nearby park during evening twilight. The sky was covered with clouds, which made the sky darker than it would normally be. Then, when I looked up to see the ball that Titus had tossed me, I noticed that the already dark sky was now speckled with black, moving (flying) animals, hundreds of them. I'd estimate that the breadth of the procession was fifty head, spead out about one animal distance apart from each other. If each animal was a foot (which seems about right), then the procession was 100 feet wide. The length thereof can only be measured in time. Titus and I stood looking up for at least ten minutes. It seemed like the procession would never end. At first, I thought that they might be birds, but their wings were webbed, like.... gulp! BATS!!!!!!!!!!!

The first thing that went through my mind was, "What if these were vampire bats?" "Isn't Transylvania near Poland?" "Maybe I can run faster than they can fly." But, they didn't seem interested in anything on the ground. It seemed that they were in a hurry to get somewhere special.

When we got home, I decided to google "Wroclaw Bats". I found some interesting information about bats in Poland. Evidently, when the Germans occupied Poland during WWII, they built some extensive underground fortifications, which the bats now use as winter hibernation grounds. No one seems to really know exactly when the bats first inhabited the caverns. After the German Nazis were defeated, the Russian forces occupied the fortifications (but perhaps not all). After the Russians left in 1993, scavengers (humans) have been searching the man-made caverns for burried treasures. Somehow, throughout it all, the bats have managed to survive there, and recently, the part with the most bats has been made into a nature preserve. Evidently, every year about this time, bats come from Czech, Germany and other parts of Poland to hibernation in the caverns. The bats that we saw, must have been on their way to the Nietoperek (Bat Preserve) at Miedzyrzecz Fortified Region. By my calculations (based upon the setting of the sun in the west, the bats were traveling North by Northwest, which is exactly the way to Nietoperek from here.


While the Poles all know of Halloween, it is not celebrated here. Poles celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1st. Whole aisles in the hypermarkets are devoted to candles, which are for the upcoming Day of the Dead, a national holiday in Poland.


December 21, 2006:
"Of Banks and Beggars in Poland"

The beggars in Poland are funny.  I write "funny", because they are honest.  They will come up to you and ask for money for beer.  I am told that it works.  I guess, sometimes honesty is rewarded.

The banks in Poland do not exchange money, with the exception of Euros (but you may have to have an account in order to get Euros from a bank in Poland).  If you want to exchange money in Poland, you have to go to a "Kantor", which sounds like the name of an evil troll, such as the one in Ernest's Halloween movie:  "Ernest Scared Stupid".  Actually, I've deciphered the meaning of the word; It means: branch office (akin to the German word: kontor).  Evidently, the full title of an 'exchange [branch] office' is:  Kantor Wymiany Walnut, but the only word you will see is Kantor.  Don't worry, there are Kantors all over the place [I should qualify this: downtown in BIG cities, Kantors are all over the place.  I wouldn't expect to find them in the more rural areas, nor in the smaller towns].

But, be aware that only certain currencies are exchanged there.  Stirling (the Pound) is accepted, but paper only.  Japanese money is accepted, but not Chinese or Korean.  (Korean money is not traded on the open market, but Chinese money is; so, I was disappointed that they wouldn't accept my Chinese bills).  Euros are, of course, accepted, even coins.  U.S. and Canadian money is accepted, but no coins.  [At least, I think Canadian money is also accepted.]


December 22, 2006
"The Land of Dog-lovers"

Nearly everyone in this city (Wroclaw, Poland) has a dog.  (Or so it would seem).  In fact, it seemed like everyone and his dog had a dog.

These signs are all around my neighborhood.  Even if you DO see these signs, watch your step in Poland.  People are supposed to pick up after their dogs, but as you can imagine, that doesn't always happen.


Leaving Poland:

The school that I worked for did not help with family visas, so when we finally left Poland, my son was detained at the airport for not having the proper documentation (i.e., no visa).  As we were being detained, I was getting worried that we would miss our flight.  So, I told the officer that my company refused to help me process the visa for my son and I didn't know how to do it.  She started making a plethora of phone calls.  She was frustrated.  She had never dealt with a problem like this before.  I had never dealt with a country like this before.  Everybody was getting flustered and frustrated.  She yelled at me, "Why didn't you get the documents?"  I yelled back, "What are you going to do, take my son away from me?"  She yelled back, "NO, I'm not going to take your son away from you."  And she let us go.

It was a clear case of bureaucracy having inane rules and people following those inane rules for no logical reason except that they are the rules.  When the woman finally realized that the rules didn't make any sense, she let us go.  We barely made our flight.  But, I will NEVER fly Lufthansa again; out flight was delayed, all our connecting flights were almost missed, and half our luggage got lost.  Eventually it was found and delivered to my home in America, but it was very unsettling.

FACT:  The school that I worked for did not help with family visas.

OPINION:  Not a family-oriented organization.  If you are single or a working couple, then it would be a great school for you to work at!  I actually quite enjoyed teaching there.  Would I go back?  Well, yes!  Now that my son is grown, I think I would go back to work there.


My 10-year Life
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My life in China My life in Mongolia Expats Page About me
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