I had a vision of what my life would be like as a TEFL teacher. Stretched out on my sun-soaked balcony, gazing out over waves lapping on pure white sand, turning over sporadically to make sure I baked evenly all over, while at the same time working on my memoirs. Oh, and some teaching of course. The lyrics of ‘If I can help somebody as I pass along…’ would play on loop in my head as I passed out my pearls of wisdom to my adoring students.
Fast forward three years. I’m sitting in my flat in Riga, Latvia. I’m wearing two t-shirts, a jumper, tights, jeans, two pairs of socks, slippers, a dressing gown and a scarf. And out my window, barely visible through the blizzard, I can see…a wall. I get up every morning at 6am and don’t get home until almost 8pm. Teaching is broken up by bouts of walking around in the bone-chilling, skin-cracking winter temperatures. And I have just under 4 lats in my wallet to show for it.
After three years living here, naturally I’ve settled in and am starting to feel almost like a local. But of course, as an Irish girl, there are things that will always differentiate me from the natives. Like the fact that I smile sometimes. And I say thank you to the bus driver. And I start to walk like an arthritic 90-year old as soon as three flakes of snow hit the pavement. In Ireland, we’d have a snow day and a state of emergency would be declared. Here, life goes on as normal. The schools don’t close until it hits -30…
So, it’s been a bit of an adjustment. But I’m sure the 40,000 Latvians currently residing in Ireland are having similar problems to this one Irish girl attempting to shift the balance by moving in the opposite direction. So, instead of my memoirs, I’ve decided to start writing this blog, partly to share my experiences, partly to reassure myself that my frost-bitten fingers still work.