Wednesday, 30 May 2012

I said…. Yeah

It’s hard to know where exactly this story started, in much the same way as it has not yet and probably will never finish. Maybe it began in a small and stuck-up office somewhere in Madrid where I was told to leave and never come back. Or maybe it began before that when I was lucky enough to become an aunty twice over, consequently promising myself I would never move as far away as Korea ever again.
As I searched for jobs, considering and then dismissing (or being dismissed from) various worldwide options, I found myself drawn to the UAE, but for one reason or another it seemed impossible to actually gain employment there at this point. Onwards my eye searched, to the UAE’s bigger, bolder and definitely scarier brother Saudi Arabia. After much deliberation, Lee and I decided we would give it a go. No less than ten minutes into an interview however, it became apparent exactly how big a problem it would be to live there as merely 'a couple.’ Walking down the street together, visiting each others houses or in fact talking to each other at any point are on the list of things that are illegal for a man and woman who are not related or married to do. Hello hands chopped off, or possible stoning (how I joke).This reality led to an awkward moment involving skype and a recruiter named Hannah, in which Lee proposed marriage, and Hannah left us to ‘talk things through together.’

Getting married? For a job? The thought was at first completely insane. Perhaps over time we talked ourselves into it, but nevertheless somewhere down the line it started to make sense. Surely everyone needs a reason to get married and maybe this was ours. I’ve heard a few people say they think marriage should be ‘for love’ but I’m confused why anyone would wag their finger at us disapprovingly and use this as an argument against our decisions. There has never been any doubt as to the fact that I love Lee, and I am certain the feeling is mutual. The real culprits of not marrying for love, in my eyes, are those who do it for money, due to pregnancy or pressure from parents, or because ‘it’s what people do,’ to name just a few reasons.
The next step was to call Coventry registry office. Has there ever been a more depressing thought? I’m not sure. Certain that it wasn’t the right way for us, and after a few too many drinks at a close friend’s wonderful after-wedding-house-party, our plan was born. Vegas baby!
And that was that basically. Four days later we arrived and exactly a week after making the decision we got married. Accidentally during a solar eclipse, may I add!
I loved it. People think Vegas chapels are cheesy, which they totally are, but it’s so perfect because you can do exactly what you want to do, exactly your way, and no one bats an eyelid. My only criticism is that same sex marriage is illegal in the state of Nevada- which seems to juxtapose the entire point, but never mind. The service was ten minutes long, conducted by minister Bob. I was terrified and clung to Lee’s hands, trying not to nervously laugh my way through the vows. I seriously don’t know how people do that in front of all their family and friends! I was actually so scared that it wasn’t till afterwards I realised I had in fact forgotten to say ‘I do.’ I knew at the time that ‘yeah’ wasn’t quite right, but couldn’t for the life of me think why. So there we have it, I am the girl who said ‘yeah.’ Nice one.
Afterwards we had a bottle of Asti and went on the rides at the top of the Stratosphere tower. All in all it was my idea of a perfect wedding!
I'm a great believer in things happening for a reason, so I know that however unconventional or weird it all may seem, something led me and Lee down this path and I know deep down that it was the right thing to do. Added to which, I'll always be able to say that my wedding dress cost 21 dollars! Now what could possibly be better than that?   

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Protect protect protect!

In the spirit of keeping an open mind I have recently applied for a couple of summer camp jobs in England. But the interview I had the other day reminded me of exactly why I don’t want to come back here to work with children and young people. After a grueling sixty minute interview in which I was asked every question under the sun, I was left dizzy and feeling out of my depth, which is crazy based on my experience and qualifications versus the job in question (sounds a little arrogant, but it’s true). Questions were split into sub-categories, including grammar, planning an entire program of lessons on the spot, and the dreaded ‘safeguarding.’ It’s been a while since I’ve heard this word and I can safely say I will happily wait a while before hearing it again. Of course child protection policies should be in place, but I feel like we take it to an extreme here in England, and often rules are now focused more on making sure the staff member doesn’t get in trouble. I was reminded by the interviewer that during the camp I wouldn’t be able to be in a room on my own with a child. And what’s so sad is that one of the main reasons for this rule is to protect the staff member from having an allegation made against them. I was also asked what I would do if I saw that a colleague was talking inappropriately with a student on facebook. I knew exactly what the interviewer wanted me to say—that I would tell someone about it—but I refused to give her the satisfaction. My suspicions were correct as she went on to say that in this circumstance I would be expected to go to senior management about the issue. It’s not that I think people should talk to their students on facebook (or make inappropriate comments to students) but I don’t want to be part of a company that wants its staff to spy and tell on each other. What kind of a working environment is that?
I don’t know, maybe I’m just out of touch with the British way of thinking regarding working with children and young people. I was stunned when I was told I would have to attend a two day child protection training course before beginning the job, but when I think back to my previous jobs in England I spent a lot of time on training days just like this without batting an eyelid. And I guess some of it was useful stuff, but was it all really necessary?
According to schools in Korea, the answer is apparently no. To get my job in Seoul, all my employers really wanted was a photo to check I had a suitably ‘western’ face, and proof that I had a degree. The interview consisted of asking me when I could start. In terms of the actual work, it was refreshing knowing that I could hold a child’s hand, or give a student a hug, without being accused of ‘crossing boundaries,’ or worse. But at the same time, any special needs were largely ignored and the supervision round the swimming pool was near enough non-existent, to name just a couple of the problems. I suppose it will unfortunately take for something bad to happen for Korea to up its game in terms of health and safety and safeguarding. Maybe it will be a good thing when they do, but inevitably sooner or later they’ll go too far as well.
My question is this: isn’t it possible for us to find a middle ground? A working environment where kids are protected, but where staff don’t have to question themselves and others at every single turn, to the detriment of a child’s learning and enjoyment.  
Answers on a postcard.  

Oh and just in case you're interested, I got the job, but didn't take it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

It's the fashion, darling

Being away from England has given me the luxury of simply ignoring fashion. In Korea I could wear whatever, as well as be safe in the knowledge that only a few (British) foreigners would know when I was wearing Primark. Of course Koreans have a distinct fashion sense, but I never felt out of place not partaking in it. I think both I and they understood that the heels and hot pants look was just not for me. In England, however, I find myself observing high street fashion and make-up and feeling like I need to step up my game. Apparently the hybrid traveler/student/don’t really care look doesn’t cut it anymore (did it ever?). An alarming percentage of girls out and about look like they’ve spent at least three days getting ready. When did fake eyelashes become everyday attire? It’s all so confusing.  
I’ve noticed a few things during my unavoidable shopping trips this week: # 1.The height of high heels is just scary. How the hell can anyone walk in those monstrosities? There must be a lot of shoe related injuries these days.  # 2. Perfectly nice dresses now have holes in the sides. Is this the fashion? I really don’t think it suits me to have my belly on show to left and right, not dissimilar to a swimming costume from a pimped up music video.  Personally I want to know where those extra bits of material went. Surely when you buy the dress you should be given a hanky or two made from the discarded parts, or a discount at the very least.
One thing I really love about shopping here is being able to listen to peoples conversations in dressing rooms. It can be so entertaining at times that I actually forget what I’m doing and end up being there for ages. So this is what I overheard the other day (imagine the Cov accent—brash and loud—for full effect):

Girl 1- Do you like it then or does it make me look fat?
Girl 2- 100% not, you look well good, I swear.

I love England.
I was having my hair cut today and got talking to two hairdressers. One of them said her boyfriend takes longer to get ready than she does. How is this possible? Do men wear makeup? Do men have to match outfits with handbags and shoes? I don’t get it. Then the other hairdresser chipped in, saying her boyfriend not only takes ages to get ready, but also gets his eyebrows threaded! To me this is a sure sign that we have finally all gone mad. Maybe this is the way forward, but I have to say that for now I am happy with a man who shoves on his clothes, rubs his  hands quickly through his hair, then puts a hat on to hide the mess before heading out. 
Perhaps the real reason why I am suffering from fashion confusion is that I am, in fact, getting old and have therefore given up caring. Sigh. But if that means I get to wear flat shoes and a whole dress rather than just parts, then maybe it's not as bad as it sounds.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Not a lot of words, but a lot of words

In the past week I’ve found myself short of things to say. (What? I don’t believe it, I hear you cry) I guess sometimes life is just not that inspiring or noteworthy. Or, it could be said that not blogging is a sign of actually having a life. I’ll leave you to ponder on which of these might be the truth in my case.
One thing that certainly is worth noting, in my eyes anyway, is that I’ve finished draft five of my ‘novel.’ I still think the word novel is strangely formal, but ‘book’ also seems wrong seeing as it isn’t a book yet, but rather just words on a computer screen.
So anyway, I’ve finished this draft. Yey. But of course it is still far from ready to send to a publisher. The question is, when will it be ready? I’ve heard that authors often do twenty or so drafts. I’m sure you could revise something forever and never feel like it was finished. Sometimes, I add in or re-write a line, only to find that I’ve already written the exact same thing in the very next line, or next paragraph. It seems I know myself too well….
I can’t help but be happy that the word count has reached 88 thousand words. Two fat ladies! I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried.
The next stage for me is the dreaded, ‘give your story to someone (i.e. Lee) to read, then cry when he comments on all the parts that you know are crap and need working on, but don’t want to be told about.’ Hooray, I am truly excited about draft 6 already.
In other news, I am the proud owner of a new kindle because the edges of the screen were cracked on the old one. The Amazon people were very understanding and didn’t accuse me much at all, instead offering to send me a replacement in the next post. It’s a proud moment for me who never sends anything back, but usually opts for suffering in silence and grumbling about technology instead.