248: A Better Place

Many people today are looking for a better place: a better life, a better job, a better climate, less expensive, to boot. Why do you think so many people move south to retire? You seldom hear of someone moving north to retire – staying there because the house is paid for and the family is there, sure, but moving there? Not, for various reasons: costs more to live there, buy property, the winter is too cold and too long, etc., etc., etc.

I was also one of those looking for a better life. I am a career teacher, so you already know by that admission that I am middling well-off, not rich, making it monthly from one paycheck to another. Every time something happened (dentist woes, medical emergencies, car trouble) we slipped a little deeper and deeper into debt.  That is stressful, and it was getting very old by the time my children hit high school. I started investigating other possibilities. I could stop teaching public school, K-12, and move up (sic) to college teaching. Then I looked into what colleges pay, and their retirement plans. There is a lot to be said for public schools, particularly the Georgia public school system retirement plan. University teaching did not appear to offer me any more than K-12 did, and the retirement was not as good. Then I considered moving to another state, since Georgia does not pay their teachers as well as some other states do. Then I looked into the cost of living in other states that paid more, but found that it correspondingly COSTS more to live in those states, and decided that there is a lot to be said for the standard of living in Georgia, and how little it costs to live here. But still, even though I was discovering that where I was was not as bad as I had initially thought it was, I wanted more. And less (cost), at the same time.

Then, surfing online, I ran across an issue of International Living. www.internationalliving.com  This is a publication that is aimed primarily towards older people looking to retire overseas, advising them about being able to maximize their limited retirement income in another country with a less expensive cost of living.  Well – yeah, that’s great, but I’ve got 12-17 years worth of teaching left before I can retire, and I don’t want to wait until retirement to make my life better, if there is any way to do it earlier than age 60-65.  Then my charming husband, who sometimes can see the forest (instead of the trees), far better than I can, said to me, “Why don’t you just teach at a school over in another country? Then we can live there while you work there, and we won’t have to wait on the retirement money to be able to do it?” Well, DUH. Sometimes I am an idjit.

So, I began to look into teaching overseas. I registered at several Web sites that list both advice for international teachers, and possible jobs, too: www.joyjobs.com, www.TIC.com, www.tieonline.com, www.educatorsoverseas.com, and even the Department of Defense, since I found out they operate international schools for the families of service men stationed abroad. I looked into what teaching at a school overseas was like. I read horror stories and I read glowing reports. Hmmmmmmm. Kind of like teaching public school in Georgia. I looked into what international schools paid. WHOA. Some paid a lot, like schools in the American north (expensive cost of living) and some paid not so much (lower cost of living), but nearly all of them provided furnished housing, medical insurance, and a LOT of other very nice perks that public schools have never heard of. Like NO United States taxes on the income that they pay. (!!) Like free plane tickets, and resettlement allowances, and other such niceties.

So, My husband and I did some math – yeah, I know, I hate math. However, he likes it, and does sums in his head for fun (I DO NOT get that), and together, with my research and his math skills, we figured out that with the advantages, we would be earning roughly equivalent to what I was earning in Georgia. Plus, we would, of course, have to sell our belongings in the US, and the proceeds from the sale should cover all of our outstanding debts. It would be like making a fresh start. Except…..our children.  So – we waited another two years until the last child at home was graduated and ready to move on to college. In the meantime, I took an online TESOL course (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) – just in case.

Then I began to apply. My school in Georgia was making noises about closing the art program I was teaching, since the budget was getting tighter and tighter, and arts, music and vocational programs are usually the first casualties when there are budget cuts. Plus, they were WAITING and WAITING to present the next year’s contracts, and I did not know if I would even have a job, the clock was ticking and time was a-wastin’…..and jobs overseas were on offer. I conducted a telephone interview one chilly morning at 6 am with a school in Morocco. Where was Morocco? As I paced around my front yard, walking though dew-covered grass that morning, answering questions about pedagogy and teaching, discipline, grading and parents, I realized that I really wanted this job. When they offered it, I accepted with alacrity.

Then, we sold our things, paid off debts, arranged for shipping some stuff by ocean freight, packed bags and booked flights.

After teaching here for three years, I can say that the job is better. Kids are the same everywhere, but they are marginally more respectful of their teachers overseas. It is almost like stepping back in time 30 years or so. Plus, the classes are smaller – WAY smaller in some cases. My biggest class ever has been 12 students. I routinely taught classes of 28 in the US. AND, there are fewer classes per week. I used to teach 6 classes on a  seven period day. Here, I have 25 class hours a week maximum – A WEEK. Much better. The furnished housing is not luxurious, but it is perfectly adequate, and I had the choice to rent a private apartment if I wanted, which the school would subsidize with a monthly housing allowance.

Actually living overseas is truly a dream come true. We can afford to hire a maid. Seriously. And we are living on half what the school pays me, the cost of living is so low. We have visited various destination here in Morocco, and have been modestly to European countries, too: Spain and Portugal, while keeping inside our half funds budget. I could, literally, hardly ask for more.

I have one regret: that I did not do it sooner. I have learned so much that I wish I had brought my children with us, so they could also learn these eye-opening things about other cultures, how things are done in other places and how people live (well) on far less than Americans think it takes to live well. 

Oh, well – I am doing it now – and perhaps they can come and visit for a few weeks and see for themselves!

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