We hope you’re enjoying the month of LOVE, and sneaking in some guilt-free chocolate before the big day on Sunday! Don’t forget you have less than two days left to pick up those flowers or chocolates for your sweetheart (or that special someone you’ve been eyeing on the bus)! No plans for the big day? Hard core romantics and Valentine Day cynics alike can cozy up to some good reading with the February issue of the Teach Away Telegram.
Job-seekers will be happy to know we’ve got some must-read information about new job opportunities in the tropical location of Brunei, so wipe off those chocolatey fingers and keep those resumes coming!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
-The Teach Away Team
In this issue:
Read about Valentine’s Day in Japan from the male and female perspectives of Teach Away representatives Adrian and Kathleen.
And They Say Women Love Chocolate…
Adrian’s Story: February 14th in many countries around the world is celebrated as Valentine’s Day. For three consecutive years, I experienced what Valentine’s Day meant in Japan. Being a Canadian, I expected to see couples exchanging gifts and romantic gestures. Lucky for me, I had a Japanese girlfriend, and could be considered as part of a couple during my first year in Japan.
Leading up to Valentine’s Day, store shelves overflowed with red and pink heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Thinking I’d see throngs of men crowding the aisles for last minute gifts on February 13th, the sight of only women scouring the shelves that night presented a surprise.
Shocked but focused, I plucked a fancy box of chocolates from one of the unreachable shelves (well, unreachable for many Japanese women) and sauntered to the check-out before going home.
On the day of despise for many singles around the world, my girlfriend and I met. Basked in the quivering glow of candlelight, she went into my kitchen and reappeared shortly after. In her hands rested a plate of delicate handmade fudge morsels dusted in a light chocolate powder. Surprised by the time and skill she had devoted to my gift, I felt ashamed to give her the off-the-shelf selection of chocolates I had bought for her. But, I stood up, grabbed the chocolates from their hiding place, and presented them to her anyway.
Her lips, unsure at first, began to form a frown. Her head and eyes both lost the excitement that should have been there on Valentine’s Day.
She looked at me and said, “Why?
“Because I care,” I replied.
“Who is she?” she barked back.
This is how I learned that Valentine’s Day in Japan is a day during which only women give chocolates to men.
Apparently, my girlfriend thought the chocolates I had given her were from another woman.
I am single now.
Thinking Outside the Box
Kathleen’s Story: My first February in Japan, I was shocked by the male responses to a romantically-themed conversation I had initiated with my adult English class. As a conversation starter, I had written on the board: “What are you going to get your significant other for Valentine’s Day?” While the women generously answered “box of chocolates,” “homemade chocolate,” and … “box of chocolates” – again – the men continued to respond with one simple word: “Nothing.” I had heard that Japanese guys were a little less romantic than their Western counterparts, but was it really this bad My heart, a sucker for all things romantic, was breaking with sympathy pains.
I soon learned that it wasn’t as bad as I had initially thought. The custom in Japan is that women give chocolates to the men in their lives on February 14th. One month later, on White Day, Japanese men give cookies to the women who are important to them.
After a couple of years of living in Japan, I had found myself in a serious relationship with a Japanese man. As the big day for all things romantic neared, I mentally (and emotionally) prepared myself for a day of no flowers, no chocolate, and no jewellery. *sigh*
Even though I knew it was custom to buy (or make) chocolate for your man on Valentine’s Day, I decided to break tradition and get my boyfriend something he’d actually like: some beer, a beer mug that got all cool and frosty in the freezer, and a couple of heart-shaped coasters, which I thought, nicely complimented the dual theme of beer mugs and romance.
On Valentine’s Day, I walked into our apartment expecting very little, so I was surprised to be greeted by the lovely aroma of cooking steak. My boyfriend had surprised me with a delicious dinner and my favourite red wine. I was impressed. I presented him with his gift so that he could get the mug-frosting underway, and we dove into our delicious meal. By the time dinner was over, his gift was nicely frosted and he was very happy to savour his nice, cold beer in his new mug while we watched one of the several romantic classics I had rented for us that evening.
During a movie break, my very sly guy asked me to get up and get something out of the closet for him. I was about to protest until I saw a mischievous twinkle in his eye, so I did as I was told. In the closet was a gift bag with some beautiful boots and a matching hat I’d been eyeing earlier that month.
Not only did I get to experience the romantic Valentine’s Day I was used to from home, but I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend who thought outside of the box … of chocolates.
Culture Shock, the infamous syndrome that hits unsuspecting expats trying to make a life for themselves abroad, happens to be a very fitting topic for our romantically themed February issue. A little sceptical that culture shock is in any way related to romance and relationships? Well, unbeknownst to most, the stages of Culture Shock are very similar to those of a marriage. Still unable to see the connection? Learn about the five stages of the love struck/culture shocked here.
• First, you have the Honeymoon Stage, where – you guessed it – everything is new and different and wonderful in your new country of residence. Just as you might wake up to your beautiful wife with a smile on your face each morning, the gorgeous view from your window will definitely be a sight for tired eyes during the first few months in your host country. During the Honeymoon Stage, you’ll notice that your feelings are heightened and that you love anything and everything about your surroundings. You will feel excited, delighted, curious, and eager to do and see more and more and more….
“After first arriving in Japan, the neon and noodle overload kept me wide-eyed and wanting more. Within the first few months, I had tried to take in as much of the culture, the people, and the land as possible. I was constantly being invited to dinners and events, and had explored many of the famous areas in the country, including a trek up Mt. Fuji. I may not be known as a romantic, but this was one honeymoon I didn’t want to end.” (Adrian, Teach Away Staff)
• The Rejection Phase can be nicely paralleled with that stage in your relationship where your ‘newlywed’ status is just starting to wear off. You no longer find it endearing that your husband leaves his smelly socks on the living room floor, and you aren’t finding the cultural quirks of your host country any more appealing. Similar to the pedestal on which you’ve placed friends still living the single life, you will definitely start idealizing your home country and culture to an emotionally unhealthy degree. What you once looked upon with wide-eyed curiosity and intrigue, you now find yourself rolling your eyes and questioning if it’s ever going to end. You begin to make unfair comparisons between your home and host country, and suddenly the list of things you miss from home far outweighs the perks of your new country. What happened to those feelings of adoration that were so prominent during the Honeymoon Phase? They are long gone – only to be replaced by feelings of anger, disappointment, frustration, close-mindedness, and even depression.
“After a few months in Japan my feelings towards my new surroundings changed ….I didn’t belong here – I belonged in Canada! I no longer felt an attraction to the neon lights, traditional foods, and even began despising the sight of eggs. (I couldn’t believe eggs were found on most foods – even on pizza and burgers!) I was annoyed that every day I had to put effort into reading and trying to speak in a foreign language. I missed home and longed for a place where I could easily order a meal or read a sign.” (Selena, Teach Away Staff)
• The Adjustment Phase couldn’t have come soon enough. Now you’re used to the fact that your wife has replaced your beloved lunchtime chocolate bar with a healthy apple. And, at this stage, you are familiar enough with the customs of your host country to not spend every waking hour worrying that you might be doing or saying the wrong thing. You may still question some of the cultural differences, but you no longer feel frustrated or depressed. You’ve fallen into a daily routine that is beginning to nicely suit you. You aren’t 100% adjusted, but you are no longer itching to pack your bags and hop on the next flight home. You feel less stressed, more contented, and have achieved a peace of mind that was definitely missing during the Rejection Stage.
“Once I started to establish a routine and became accustomed to the Korean culture, I became a lot more comfortable and relaxed. My sense of humour (which I was beginning to think I’d forgotten in Canada) materialized and any feelings of frustration I’d experienced, subsided. Sure, I wasn’t wearing those rose-coloured glasses that I’d donned during the Honeymoon Phase but I had begun to develop an appreciation and fondness for kimchee, K-pop, and karaoke.” (Valen, Teach Away Staff)
• The coming of the Acceptance Phase means that life in your host country has normalized and you finally feel like you belong. Just as comfortably married couples might begin naturally identifying themselves as “we” (as opposed to “me”), you will now find that your identity is intrinsically linked with that of your new home away from home. Cultural faux-pas will have become a thing of the past, and you’ll be able to explain the country’s (once weird and wonderful) traditions to newbies as though these customs were your own. You might even find yourself beginning sentences with “The way we do it here is…”. Your feelings of belonging will bring with them a sense of security, true contentment, and a much more relaxed lifestyle.
“An elderly Korean lady sat across from me on the subway scolding her grandson for not being neater with his English homework. He was practicing his ABC’s, his notebook precariously balanced on his lap. I had come to understand the importance of education in this country, and no longer judged it from my own ‘foreign’ point of view. It was important, and I accepted it as such. The grandmother looked up and caught me nodding in agreement with her. I gave her my best seated bow and told the boy to study hard. She may not have understood my words, but she knew their intent and smiled.” (Ash, Teach Away Staff)
• Reverse Culture Shock is shocking, to say the least. You might be surprised to feel the heartache and loneliness that might accompany the broken heart of a broken relationship. After having finally truly adjusted to your new life, you are suddenly thrust back into a lifestyle that hasn’t seemed to change much since you were an active part of it. The problem is you’ve changed a whole lot. The first few weeks of being back “home” can be more difficult than when you first left for the unknown. What was once second nature no longer comes naturally, and you may suddenly feel like a stranger in your own country. Friends and family will be unable to share in your memories and will likely lose interest in your tales from abroad after the first long slideshow of pictures. A lack of understanding (and sometimes even interest) may lead to short-lived feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even depression. And… beware of that travel bug – it may now be with you for life!
“Back at home, it was nice to see the faces and places I had been longing to see, but these feelings of excitement wore off quickly, and were even replaced by feelings of loneliness – once I realized that life had gone on without me. I quickly found myself missing the adventure and anonymity that I had experienced abroad. Giving it some time though, it didn’t take too long to get back into the routine of things and as the saying goes: There’s no place like home.” (Jessa, Teach Away Staff)
“I always caught myself too late when I would graciously bow in thanks at my local supermarket or department store. For me, it took more than a few months and a lot of strange looks to shake what had been the norm for thanking people in Japan.” (Kathleen, Teach Away Staff)
Test your knowledge and take the Culture Shock Quiz in the March issue of the Teach Away Telegram!
Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in the birth of one of the greatest school reform efforts that has ever been undertaken. In 2009, Abu Dhabi schools began the implementation of a well-developed, extensive, 10-year strategic plan. As the school reform takes place, its efforts will further the educational success of the Emirate by developing skills in students that will infiltrate into the local and global workforce. During this first year, the effort has been to reform the daily curriculum by focusing on strategies to improve the English language skills of all Abu Dhabi students. When students are able to speak and write English well, this transfers positively into all subject areas in the curriculum.
Upon my arrival as a teacher in the UAE, I was certain about one thing: Many of the challenges and successes that I had experienced as an educator in the US, with both students and their parents, were going to be similar here. I knew that how I handled the situations would make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for me and my students. I embrace this reform with the same personal philosophy I had always held towards teaching any student, a philosophy which simply says it is my job, as the teacher, to find the key to unlock the desire for education and quench the thirst for knowledge each student holds. I must seek for those keys and provide vast experiences inside the classroom each day to ensure that the right key is found for each student.
I see my position as first grade teacher as being vital to each student’s future success. A strong, early childhood education is the foundation for all future learning. The activities provided must be challenging, stimulating, fun, and exciting. I have found my students to be intelligent, inquisitive, and hardworking. They strive to be attentive in their English, Math, and Science classes as they are still learning how to read and speak the language. The students are also learning how to read and write in Arabic from local teachers. My fellow teachers are professionals who welcome opportunities to dialogue and communicate about student achievement as well as how classroom instruction can promote the highest level of learning for each student.
One of the major challenges I have found is not having a paraprofessional available for the first grade students, who are second-language learners, and also young and energetic. Sometimes these factors can be a speed bump in the road to academic achievement. Therefore, classroom management and routines are even more important than commonly thought.
Each day, I can see the great impact that the reform is having on the schools in Abu Dhabi. The education reform in Abu Dhabi is bringing teachers and administration together to ask the hard questions about what is working and what is not working in our classrooms. I find myself researching ways to enhance each student’s academic successes and starve their failures. In my opinion, the reform is working well, and in time the returns that are being seen today will only multiply and strengthen.
Teach Away is proud to announce opportunities for licensed teachers to teach in the tropical country of Brunei.
Licensed Commonwealth teachers with a minimum of 3 years of teaching experience are needed to fill public school English teaching jobs in Brunei. Only teachers with long term experience and no gaps in their employment history will be considered for these positions. English teachers or teachers with TESL/TEFL certification will generally be looked upon more favourably than teachers who have specialized in other subjects.
Teaching in Brunei
For the most part, teachers at primary schools can truly immerse themselves and dive into the Brunei culture due to the fact that they will most likely be the only foreign teacher working at the school. Primary teachers in Brunei can expect a schedule of 15 contact hours per week, with an additional 6 hours of weekly attendance at after-school clubs and activities. Currently 30 primary teaching positions are available.
Secondary teachers in Brunei, on the other hand, may be placed with as many as 10-11 other foreign teachers, and will have more opportunities to socialize with other ex-patriots at the work place. Typical contact hours for secondary teachers range from 12 to 16 hours a week with an additional 4.5 hours devoted to extra-curricular clubs and activities. Currently there are 20 openings for secondary school teachers.
Due to a dense student population at some schools in Brunei, school days can be organized into split shifts and many teachers will find themselves teaching only in the mornings or in the afternoons. This leaves most teachers with a freer schedule than they may have enjoyed in their home countries. As Saturday is a work day in Brunei, Fridays and Sundays are a teacher’s days off. From time to time, teachers will be expected to attend special school functions such as sports days, teacher-parent interviews, or school events on a day off.
Teachers’ salaries are assessed based on previous teaching experience and educational background, but even teachers who find themselves on the lower end of the pay scale can enjoy a lucrative salary and the benefits of tax free pay, a heavily subsidized spacious living space, partially subsidized medical insurance, an interest-free car loan, and a relatively low cost of living.
Living in Brunei
Brunei is home to hot weather, sandy beaches, and lush forests, all in a safe and wealthy environment. Located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo, Brunei shares the island with parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. Because of its location, the population is made up of a mix of Southeast Asian ethnic groups, of which, two-thirds are Malay. Also, two-thirds of the population practice Islam, although the government is tolerant of other religions, as is evidenced by the heavy influence of Hinduism along with Islam on the country’s people.
From a foreigner’s standpoint, the country is considered clean, safe, and a hub from which travel to other nearby countries is easy. Hence, it’s not rare to see foreigners from many nations living throughout the country, especially around the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. In many cases, expatriates often find the lifestyle in Brunei to be more accommodating than what they experienced in their native country; the official language is Malay, but English is widely spoken and understood; international schools are available for expatriate children; a range of international cuisine exists; and the cost of living is relatively low, especially considering that there is no income tax.
Please click here to read more about teaching jobs in Brunei.