When it comes to finding your way around, it can be a little tricky at times. When you are overseas the places, things and systems that you are used to are all slightly different, or non existent and at times it can leave you a little bewildered or confused. This has been particularly true of my school experience in the UK so far. I thought I had asked enough questions, and done the right research, however, not being able to see the ‘bigger picture’ until I arrived here, I couldn’t have realised that I was going into one of the worst performing and behaving schools in East Sussex.
Out with the old, in with the new
It has been a shock to the system to say the least, and months of negative experiences and emotions lead to me resigning a few months back without another job in place. Luckily, teachers are in demand in the UK, and I was quickly offered an interview at another school. This school was an hour away by train, or 25 minutes in the car. At first this seemed a little far, but Pete encouraged me to attend the interview at least for practise.
I really wasn’t in the mood on the day of the interview, but my spirits picked up when I met another teacher from Melbourne, but now living in the UK, also interviewing. Chances had it, that she was working at another school in the same road as my previous school and she offered to drive me back after the interview, which saved me a 2 hour trip on public transport. The vibe in this new school was completely different. It was calm, colourful and professional. It had a great feel to it, and despite the fact it was a little far away, I really wanted to work there. Luckily, they also felt that I would fit in, and I got the job.
Buying a car
Rather than take 2 trains and then walk 15 minutes, Pete and I decided it would be more workable to get a car. I let Pete have free reign on the model (since he would be responsible for any repairs etc.!) and he selected a 2003 Volvo V40 wagon. Economical, hard to damage, and easy for the oldies to get in and out of when we have visits later in the year. Within a week or so, Pete had tracked down a car £500 less than our maximum budget, so we headed off to Folkestone on the train to check it out. Needless to say, we are now car owners! Pete wants to call the car ‘Blue Steel’, but I secretly calling it ‘The Beast’.
Folkestone is just a short drive from Dover, so we thought we would take a drive and see if we could see the cliffs. Well, my phone and sat nav did not like that! Being so close to Calais, my phone decided that we were in France and switched to international roaming. It also directed us down a bush walking track and a scary windy beach road with barely any room to pass. It was a tense time, until we finally made it out on to the main road and found the turn off designed for cars! By that time it was early evening, and the cliffs require a bit of a hike, so we vowed to return another time and set off home.
Meeting my new colleagues
I was expecting to finish the term off at my original school, however unbeknownst to me, my new school had emailed and asked if I could spend the last 1.5 weeks with them instead, so I could be properly inducted and feel comfortable when school resumed in September. This was the best news I had heard in ages, and luckily I was released to go. My initial vibes of the school were correct and I have been very happy and am now looking forward to teaching again next year.
On Friday night was my new school’s end of year celebration, so I went, thinking it would be a good opportunity to get to know some more people. It was great, until I decided to make my way home. Again, my sat nav decided it knew better and my first English night driving experience was on narrow roads, without street lights, lined with hedgerows and me realising I hadn’t worked out how to turn on the high beams yet!
After 20 harrowing minutes of driving down windy roads with scary overhanging trees that made 50km an hour seem very fast, I came across a pair of glowing eyes in the distance. I thought it was a cat until I got closer, and realised it was a badger! Shortly after that I saw street lights – civilization! I’m not sure if I was more excited at the sight of the badger or the street lights, but the both rated quite highly at the time. Thankfully I made it out alive, but I am never driving through Crowshurst in the dark again!
Another consideration for the car was being able to put our bikes in the back. We tested this out on the weekend when we loaded up the car in order to go for a ride around the Arlington Reservoir. Pete had seen the reservoir from the train and decided that the ‘public footpath’ would be a nice place for a bike ride. We soon realised that public foot path has a very different meaning in the UK than in Australia. It simply is a right of way through people’s properties, and is more akin to a hiking track. Within minutes we were pushing our bikes up a hill and before I knew it, I was out of control careening through a poor farmer’s corn field. Corn was flattened! We also came across farmers shooting birds and some very posh country houses. Whilst it was a bit of an adventure, I might be wary next time Pete suggests an ‘off road’ biking adventure!
The end of a school year
The school year is drawing to and end, and on Friday I am heading off to Croatia to begin a 2 week trip through Eastern Europe. I can honestly say that I have earned this break, and whilst it may seem that we are travelling all of the time, there is quite a bit of hard work in the middle and all of the same (if not more!) stresses, strains and things to work through as at home.
With any luck the sat nav, and the direction we are taking will be a little more stable for the rest of the year and we can get down to the business of really enjoying ourselves!
Until next time, enjoy the snow, its blue skies and sunshine here.
Laura & Pete
The round up
Since last time we have: Visited a scarecrow festival, ridden our bikes through a corn field, discovered some amazing pubs off the beaten track, suffered kidney stones and a visit to A&E (Pete), bought a car, traveled to the Seven Sisters cliffs & Birling Gap (where there is sand!!), jetted across to the isle of Wight on a hovercraft, took The Beast for a drive to Portsmouth, started working at a new school, celebrated 18 months of being awesome together, learnt not to trust the sat nav…
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