October 11, 2014

As one door closes...

Oy vey.
I can't believe my time here in Greece is finally coming to an end. I don't even like talking about it, it makes me so sad... Everything has flown by so quickly, and I would have posted sooner, but our schedule here has been so hectic, that the thought of sitting somewhere on the computer for one more hour makes me want to gouge my eyes out. (But I do love blogging! :)
     So, what does a typical day look like here? Glad you asked. Basically, we wake up at whatever time we feel like, (but usually 8:00/9:00am for me) and the morning is for our own particular use, which usually consists of lesson planning, getting help on whatever we might need help with, paperwork, etc. We make the morning run for our orange juice, I usually eat a Nutella Sandwich with a banana for lunch, and then we start class roughly at 2:30. (Depending.) We have our teacher training for a few hours, and at 6:00pm one of us will teach our lesson, and the second teaches at 7:00pm. We teach Greek adults who are wanting to learn English, and let me tell you...they are some of the sweetest students you could ask for! The classes are relatively small, anywhere from 4-10 students, but they are so appreciative of anything you teach them, and bonus? They WANT to be there. It's been wonderful practice, and though I will be the first to admit that I'm not the most creative, and struggle with coming up with good lesson plans, I absolutely love standing up there and getting to present the material to them! It's like a weird high...
This is our School! Via Lingua TEFL Center
That's the front of our school on the right with the white overhang.
We were walking to the beach and passed this lovely market.  I bought some amazing grapes.
This is my room. A bit sterile, but it quickly became home!
More of my room. That's my makeshift dresser and closet. haha Don't mind the mess...
This is where we have our teacher training and where we teach our night classes.
This isn't the most becoming picture, but this is the 3rd floor balcony
More of our classroom.

After we teach, we usually go out for a late dinner and a leisurely stroll, or what-have-you, and get home anywhere from 12-2 in the AM. Then you sleep, wake up, and repeat. I don't even want to know what my accumulative hours would be sitting here at a desk. Last Sunday, I was so overwhelmed with things that needed to be handed in, I turned down a hiking trip to the Samarian Gorge and literally sat here at the school, bent over my computer and paperwork, for at least 12 hours. (I did get a lot done though!) That being said, if you're considering taking one of these courses, I will tell you firsthand that it's SO much fun, and an experience you will never forget, BUT it's not a blow-off course. It's a lot of work! 
There are always old men playing backgammon everywhere, and they play ALL day long until the wee hours. They don't usually like when people stand and take pictures of them, not that I blame them, so I snuck this one in while "looking for service." This is outside the orange juice place I'm always raving about.
This was the night I went out for a solo dinner. I'm not sure I like solo dinners, but the owner was very sweet, did a little Greek dance for me, and bought me a drink. :) 
Sandwich on baguette = slice of heaven.
     Besides the schedule, I did manage to get away 2 weekends ago and take a bus to Heraklion (towards the other side of the island, about 2.5 hours away) and stayed with one of my best friends who flew out to see me!!! I was so touched, and SO grateful for a friend/familiar face/fellow American. :) They were staying at some resort and even got an extra place for me to stay. We bopped around looking at different sights, and vegged by the beach. Unfortunately, that weekend marked the first trace of rain I had seen in my entire time in Greece, and when I say rain, I mean RAIN. It was like a tropical downpour, and it was cold! I felt so bad that that was their first experience in Greece, but we had a blast! Not to mention, that in itself felt like a dream to have one of your best friends hanging out with you half way around the world on a Greek island! Say what? 

As a whole, that weekend was significant for other reasons too. First, it was a time for me to come up with a plan, or at least a backup plan, since I had no clue what I would be doing once this course was finished. Second, I've said it before, and I'll say it again -  Some people just have that natural ability to travel. They think nothing of figuring out new territory, navigating airports, bus stations, renting cars in foreign lands, and all that. But me? Not even close. I'm like border-line challenged with street smarts and those weird traveling logistics that everyone else seems to naturally pick up. So, needless to say, what may seem like stupid, miniscule steps for most people, are giant endeavors for me! I was proud of myself that I took the bus alone and traveled out there. But truth be told, I was praying my little heart out beforehand! I didn't quite get where the bus station would be, I was nervous about arriving in Heraklion, which is a good-sized city, because it would be sometime after 9:30pm, and I didn't know how my friends (who had rented a car) would find me, since we had no idea where that bus station was either, or where exactly it would drop me off.  
     I didn't want to keep bothering people from my class about it, even though I was getting a little worked up, so I didn't really ask. It was getting down to the day before I was to leave, and I just kept thinking, "Eh, I'll figure it out. God will take care of it. We'll just see what happens..." and it was this day that Louisa, my classmate, without my even asking, just casually came up and told me she would walk me to the station if I wanted, when it was time to go. That immediately was SUCH a load off my shoulders.  She did that, along with taking me to my exact bus, and waited for me to board. (Second time she's come to my rescue! She is one of the kindest people you could meet. You would absolutely love her!) 
     As I was riding the bus, still with no idea where I was headed exactly, I just kept praying, "Lord, you've got this. This is nothing for you. You know where I'm headed..." But again, with each thought I was getting more nervous because I was assuming I would be stuck there waiting for a long time, trying to somehow explain random landmarks to my friends, even though I knew I wouldn't have a clue. (I noticed I subconsciously kept turning my volume up on my ipod to the point of rupturing an eardrum,  apparently in efforts to drown out my anxiety.)  So anyway, I finally arrived at my destination. My friends were on their way to meet me, but we had no idea if they were even headed to the right location, because everything was kind of a shot in the dark. I walked off of the bus to a hotel nearby and went  straight through to their main entrance, figuring it would be a safe place where I could wait a while in front. Then, I literally walked out the front door, and as I stepped onto the first step, I hear a beep, and my friends came pulling up right at that very second! I went directly from the stairs into their car, and I didn't even have to wait 5 seconds! You could not have planned the timing more perfectly if you tried. And once again, to me, God answered in such a cool and personal way. (I said a LOT of "Thank you's" that night!)
Photo Credit: Matt VanDerWende

(Sidenote - Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" is one of the epitomes of traveling songs, and is the perfect accompaniment to any backdrop, in my opinion.)

Same thing happened on the ride home. I was arriving around 8 or 9 something PM. I know it's very safe here, but I still have the mentality of home, so I didn't want to walk passed this small shady area alone on my walk home. I asked some of the guys in my class to meet me, and I'm sure they thought I was being ridiculous, which I probably was, but I didn't care. The whole time I never really got an answer, and didn't know if they would actually come. I wasn't going to keep asking and bothering them, so I let it go. (Again, praying about it). Since that was my first time coming into Chania from another direction, at night, I had no idea of telling when we were close or not. Turns out, the guys got "bored" last minute and decided to come, and they got to the bus station at the very same time that we were pulling up. Then they walked me home. :) (Chivalry isn't completely dead, apparently...) 
And then there were more "Thank you's!" that night.

     So, that was that. We had our final exam Thursday, (3 hours!) and I can safely say I passed and now have my official TEFL certification! :D We had our big celebratory meal yesterday, and had our last group outing.
Louisa and I - with our "Thank the Lord this thing is over with" faces

Maria and I holding my official diploma. :D

     You know how with every vacation, there's always that one song that will forever remind you of that experience? I have a whole playlist, and now I can't even listen to it, because I think I'll start crying. Actually, I take that back. We already started saying some of our goodbyes last night, and I was looking through the pictures today and did actually start crying. I get attached easily, and I'm no where near ready to leave. Especially since I've gotten so comfortable, and have a nice routine going, plus met these amazing people in my class that I absolutely love. Just the other day, I was out to eat with some of the guys, and we're sitting there talking, and it suddenly hit me, as it sporadically does, "I'm sitting here, having a dinner with new friends that I've made from all different countries, in Greece!" It's so surreal! It's been  AMAZING here. An experience I will NEVER forget. I've been stretched, molded, and challenged. I've cried, I've laughed, I've celebrated and I've been taken far out of my comfort zone; I've had moments of boldness and moments of loneliness. I could go on and on. I've become more adventurous and spontaneous! (i.e.- started talking to a random man at the beach, who ended up buying me coffee and took me for a ride through the town on his scooter! I know, I know-  "kids, don't try this at home." But truth be told, he was going slow enough that I could have jumped off if I needed to, or at least beat him in the head while he was driving?). 
We had a beach picnic with some classmates, new friends, and ukuleles. 
     Also,  I've been fortunate enough to have one of those movie-like scenarios, where I woke up one day, didn't feel like being in the school anymore, threw on whatever to wear, went towards the beach and sat at some bench to work on my lesson plans. Suddenly, some Mediterranean guy, (very, very adorable) came up and was asking me questions, and I had my headphones in, so he came closer and started talking with me, and the next thing you know, he's sitting next to me, we're laughing and he's trying to talk with me and write his name on my paper in his very broken English. (which was ridiculously adorable). We ended up going for coffee, where another of his friends came to meet us, and it was just an incredible time, and a nice break from the norm! We've kept in contact since, and who knows if I'll ever see them again, but that marks another experience I will never forget: My random coffee date with two incredibly sweet, handsome foreign men. :) On one hand, I never want to leave this place, and on the other, there's still so much to see! 
We gave Maria, our instructor, some flowers as a much-deserved THANK YOU.

     So, what's next? That's what everyone keeps asking. I don't have a set plan, but here's what I do know...
I leave Crete this Monday, and I will head to Amsterdam to stay with my friends. We will go to Barcelona for a few days, and return back to the Dam. After that? No idea. I've started the job search, and it's definitely harder than I thought it would be. I interviewed with South Korea, but that turned into me discovering all the paperwork I needed to have "apostiled," (which I had never heard that word until that day, and it's a big hassle), and I have applications sent all over to places like Spain, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, etc. (A lot of them are more complicated because I'm not an EU citizen. I'd love to stay in Greece, but it's the same issue, and there isn't any job availability.) I'm just praying hard for direction, wherever it is God is wanting me to go,  and waiting to see what door opens up next.

 To sum it up: As I know, you'll know. I appreciate the continued prayers. This is still one of the most terrifying, and yet exciting times of my life. I have the world at my feet, and I don't know where to step first. (I figured Amsterdam was as good a place to start as any...)
The thorn among the roses...;)

Special shout out to my classmates (if you ever actually read this) -  I will never, ever forget you and look forward to when we see each other again:
Maria - the sweetest instructor you could ask for.
Louisa- My saving grace. My fellow lady in the class. The most kindhearted person! 
Pavlos - The most interesting and adventurous man I've ever met. Like a  long, lost brother.
Doug- The guy who's always up for anything, and has insane determination! 
Dave - The sweetheart, my right-wing man. I feel like we've been friends for years.
and Yanni - the mystique. My Greek tutor. My absolute favorite Yanni on the planet. (and there's a lot of them!)  :)

With that being said, 
Until next time...wherever that may be.