Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Such Great Heights, or Laments of a Serious English Teacher

Remember that old gem from The Postal Service?

They will see us waving from such great heights
"Come down now," they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away...

Imagine that song played on a million tiny violins, because I don't expect sympathy. I just want to be straight about how things that seem so feasible can be so not feasible, and how hard it is to claw your way to good professional development in this field.

I have another post in the wings on my final thoughts on Distance Delta Module One, but that's not what I feel like writing about after my long hiatus (sorry - there was the exam, then the holidays, now getting ready to travel for Chinese New Year. Although our planned trip to Myanmar is not expensive, it is time-consuming to plan as it's not as 'easy' a destination).

Until about five minutes ago, we'd been planning to return to Istanbul - the Other City of My Heart - in June for the six-week Delta Module Two, plus a seventh week to visit the city (you don't get any time off for sightseeing on the course) and see our dear friend Emily, who was planning to make it so she'd be in town.

Then I did the budget for our trip and realized - this is probably not going to work. We made our nine-week trip to Turkey and the USA work two years ago and I'm not sure by what magic or sorcery that happened (and it almost didn't seeing as Paypal decided to hold our savings hostage for two weeks right in the middle of it - I was sending it from my account to Brendan's as my ATM card stopped working and they kept freezing the transaction because activity in Turkey is automatically "suspicious" - and I'll never forgive them for that. We only got to eat food and take the subway for those weeks because we have a great, supportive family).

So, seeing as we made it work two years ago, I figured we could make it work this time around too. Everything looks perfect from far away...

Between rent here (yes, we've considered subletting or getting a temporary roommate in the guest room, but we can't bank on that working out for us), rent in Istanbul, bills here (at least they'd be lower if we weren't around), student loans, course tuition, a 'cushion' fund for when we get back that does not impact my emergency fund (with a major family illness, I need to always have the cash on hand to fly home literally at a moment's notice), etc. etc. it comes to - and I kid you not - about $15,000 US total, about $7500 each. It's just too much to come up with between February (when we'll be able to start a fund for this trip) and June (when the course starts). I don't even feel bad admitting that it ain't gonna happen - I don't know anyone our age, anywhere, who can come up with $7500 that they didn't have before - because I won't dip into other funds, that's not safe - in four months.

Who knew CPD (continuing professional development) could cost so damn much?

There are ways to cut down the cost a little - we could rent out that guest room for awhile. We could couchsurf or cut our accommodation budget (but what if that doesn't work out?). We could ask someone to watch our cat for free as a favor (we usually pay). We could hack our spending budget for Istanbul to the bone and eat a lot of cheap bread, olives and ayvalik tost. If I cut the budget to "just enough to scrape by and there better not be any problems" I can get it down to about $6500 per person...still more than we or anyone we know who is our age can sock away in four months. We could spend very little over the next few months - no cafes, no nice beer, no fancy cooking, (I was really getting into the fancy cooking, but I can give that up for awhile) no dye jobs - everyone can just see the gray hairs, it's cool - and still not be able to put that away.

Anyway. I am sure a lot of tiny violins are playing for me now. Poor baby can't afford six weeks in Istanbul and to have her really nice three-bedroom apartment and she's going to Myanmar in three weeks, boo hoo. Of course we're quite lucky and privileged to have what we have. Of course I take none of it for granted. Of course I need to put on my big girl pants and be realistic about what we can and can't afford. And in the grand scheme of things, not being able to do this course in Istanbul this year is hardly something that will send Oxfam running to help.

I realize all of these things, but it is disappointing to know that a simple teaching diploma - not really all that much to ask - is something that may have to wait yet another year because we're on our own as far as CPD is concerned. We can always do Module Three in the meantime, if we're accepted on the course without having done Module Two, but it's disappointing to not be able to see Emily and return to a city I love so much, as we'd been planning for months (but not saving for months, because I took a part-time schedule to get Module One done. Sensible academically, nonsense financially). So far we've been the ones to make it work. To have enough cash, to get the nice apartment, to take the cool trips, to just make it work (They will see us waving from such great heights...). It's disappointing to know that this time, it's probably not going to work, and over something that's actually important like CPD. ("Come down now", they'll say...)

My only hope is that I can jiggle the numbers around to make it work, or maybe Brendan could sell his sperm (his genes have got to be more desirable than mine, and it's easier to beat off in a cup than harvest eggs...imagine cute little dorky kids with big green eyes reading books and wearing glasses all over Taipei), or I could take up pole dancing or something (people would pay me not to do it! WIN-WIN), or we could get accepted onto Module Three in Istanbul (if they run a face-to-face course there) and go for just two weeks. Or we could just put it off for a year, do Module Three online in Taiwan, go see Emily in Istanbul for a week (what is it about that city?) and then visit the USA. We have it's not like I expect people to be Kickstarting me or anything like that.

I'll end with this - all the after-school-special morality plays on not insisting on what you can't afford, on living within your means (which means budgeting within your means), on not chasing shiny baubles that will plunge you into financial disarray - hey, maybe those previous trips worked because we were willing to risk a little financial disarray, but now we're not! - they always seemed to have at their core something materialistic or even shallow. A new car, the latest video game system, an iPad for everyone including the cat, some expensive jewelry, a house that the protagonist couldn't quite afford. The sort of things my values have already taught me to not want (OK, we have an iPad. But just one). Nobody in one of those "how to be a grown-ass adult" specials ever had to face the idea that what they couldn't afford was education! Education - another thing my values have taught me to cherish!

Oh well. I'm going to go mope in bed now - it's 1:30am after all - and come up with a solution tomorrow. There's always a solution.

They will see us waving from such great heights
"Come down now," they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
"Come down now," but we'll stay.

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