New Year’s Post 2014

This is my New Year’s post. I’ve been chipping away at it since September, but hopefully I’ll get it up by the end of 2014 – which was a mixed bag at best, as you’ll see.

So I started out the year on a low. I returned from the UK, where my Nanan, who had been like a mother to me was taking her cancer diagnosis better than anyone else in the family.

I returned to coup de gras a relationship which had been in its death throes for months, and failed to end at length at a friend’s Yule party before I left. The relationship’s ratio of fun to drama had been weighted the wrong way for a while, but we ticked along for at least a month longer than we should have.

After that, I fell into an obsession with a different girl who channeled how messed up she was much better than I do. In more recent months we’ve come out of it with a decent friendship. In hindsight, that’s exactly as it should be. I don’t really want to discuss it a lot. Basically it was a thing for a while, while I was going through some stuff. I wanted it to be more of a thing, and it went badly as other things in my life went badly, and I was looking for a lifeline.

My Nanan passed away in mid-February. My main memory of the news is taking a few days off work to cry and drink over Skype with the male members of my family. It was a gut-wrenching loss. It had been a long time since she was a daily part of my life (though I called her every Sunday), but knowing that the person who always supported me – my number one fan – despite everything I did or said now no longer existed just tore something out of me. I’m still struggling with it, to be honest.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad's wedding almost 10 years ago.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad’s wedding almost 10 years ago.

I went home for the funeral and even spoke along with my dad, and met some of my Nanan’s friends and talked about who she was and the things they had done together. It was nice. My grandad was struggling. He couldn’t believe she wasn’t there, and between the shock of that and the creeping dementia Nanan’s very structured personality could no longer ward off, he was a bit helpless. Nonetheless, I stayed with him as I usually do when I go ‘home’. Probably for the last time.

It was week two in England where thing got bad. I was living with grandad trying to deal with stuff, while trying to take care of him, ‘but not too much’, and also try to get some time out of the house, enjoy England a little, whatever. Well, some things were said. I was called a lot of things, criticized in several ways – some new and creative – and on one memorable night advised to kill myself. I’m sure I deserved some of it, rubbed people up the wrong way accidentally. Someone I work with says that I have a skill for pissing people off. Well, maybe. Still, overall it wasn’t a happy visit, for reasons beyond the obvious.

Moving swiftly on, I spent the intervening months just trying to find my equilibrium again. I have to admit the I struggled pretty thoroughly, and got into some trouble at work when my personal problems started to affect my performance. There wasn’t much understanding there, so I just added it to the list and kind of dealt with it. I also failed the Delta (teaching diploma) exam around this time.

There were some good points to the first half of the year, though. I spent some of that time dating without anything serious to come out of it. I also came to terms with being a kitty-daddy, with all the trials that come along with that. There were nights out, trips to the canals and lots of little victories that kept me ticking along.

Then, in late June, some random girl messaged me on OKCupid. She was cute, and a Doctor Who fan and had a similar sense of humour to me. Looking back at the conversation, it was a pretty easy decision to meet up.

We met, and had a date that lasted well over six hours, all-told. We’ve been together ever since. Aida is awesome, and had really turned my year around, even as we’ve awkwardly gotten to know each other, navigated lots of early relationship obstacles, and come out of it with something good, strong and a bit weird.

Early on in our relationship, I went home to England for the summer. It wasn’t as negative as the last time as I was there, but didn’t feel great. I made the decision to stay away for a while – probably something we all need.

Grandad went downhill. He’s been between hospitals and homes since not long after the funeral. At time of writing, he’s in the hospital with a chest infection, but seems to be on the right mix of drugs to keep him present and aware. The new home that Dad and family have found for him seems great and very comfortable. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle there and be happy for a good long while.

Back in Mexico, Aida and I have done all kinds of things together. We saw Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat when they visited Mexico with the Doctor Who world tour. We dressed up. It was fun. We’ve helped each other through rough patches, and we’ve shared a big portion of our fun stuff together too.

We recently took a holiday together to Tepotzlan, Morelos, where we climbed a mountain to see a temple (yes, really!), ate shrimp on a stick and pointed at hippies. It was awesome, and the best holiday I’ve had in a long time.

We're an odd couple

We’re an odd couple

I’m feeling happy with the way things are going now (finally), and I hope that this trend continues. Aida and I are doing great – really great – and things are settling down at work, though there is some general bad feeling about the usual office politics type stuff that I won’t get into here. That said, there are some great new people working there, so that has upped the energy and atmosphere a bit. I refuse to borrow problems from the future during my winter holiday.

The only thing left to do is think about New Year’s Resolutions (before our trip to Guanajuato to celebrate!)

1) Travel more – this was my resolution from last year, but it didn’t happen until I met Aida really (not counting trips back to the UK). So this year I’d like to spend more time doing that, now we’ve discovered it’s doable. I want to see Pueblo Magicos, beaches, weird-ass sculptures I can’t remember the name of, and a camping trip organised by Aida and a friend’s partner in crime…

2) Write more – I got 30,000 words out of NaNoWriMo.org’s 50,000 word goal for the month of November. I’m not planning to do it at the same pace, but if I want it to happen, I have to make it happen. I have a word document open right now titled “write something, bitch”. Hopefully I’ll take this advice all year long.

3) Lose some weight – again, this was a goal in 2014, and I have done that (to a minor degree). I’d like to go back to it being more of a focus this year. Aida has promised to help me – I can go a bit paleo again, use my bike or ecobici again – all that good stuff.

4) Stress less – there has been a lot of crap this year, both personally and professionally. I need to learn to take time away from the city, from work and from all the nonsense that has been getting me down (and is still affecting my sleep, to be honest). Less time for bullshit, more time for me.

5) This is a sillier one, I suppose, but I’d like to record what I read throughout 2015. I keep meaning to do it, and never get around to it. So, yeah. That’s something I want to do. No deeper meaning, really. Just think it’d be nice to look back on.

(If you’re interested – “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks is my standout – realistic, stressful and actually quite educational. Honorable mentions go out to George R. R. Martin’s short story anthologies “Rogues” and “Dangerous Women”, S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalyptic pagans and the “Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher as always.)

Okay, that’s all for now. Hopefully it won’t be a year between this post and the next. Have a great New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2015!

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Addendum: I got a call from my dad after I finished writing this. It seems my grandad is in danger of passing away in the next few days. It seems that his body is just giving up; brain, lungs, heart… My dad told me he’d been asking to die – to be back with Nanan. He hasn’t been with us completely since her funeral – and was only with us before that thanks to her influence.

I’d like to believe he’s going to be with her. I really want to believe that. It’s what he deserves after so many years of loyalty – loyalty that has continued after she passed. Whatever happens, I hope he finds some peace. This last year has been torture for him. Hopefully 2015 won’t be – however that comes about.

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Young Learners’ (YL) Summer School 15/07/13

I_Am_The_Teacher_funny_education_photographsAs previously mentioned, I had some trepidation about teaching kids again after the troubles I’ve had in the past. Stress and stuff have kept me from the Writing Challenge (stay tuned for that), but I want to talk about about the class today.

Firstly, it differed because there were three adults in the room. That helped a lot in a 20-strong class with monitoring and discipline. There were no actively aggressive or misbehaving children in class; just a bit of giddiness. My plan worked quite well, and I had no real problems getting students engaged and involved in the whole thing.

Firstly, students played a story writing game where they write one part of the story, fold down the paper then write the next. The five sections were labelled “Who” “What” “Where” “When” and “Why. This got them warmed up and giggling when they read the story, though some students did struggle with which one was which.

Next, they went to look at a number of pictures dotted around the room which related to the week’s theme (the sea) and had to come up with a story relating to it. After that, they put it into a newspaper plan when given a format.

Finally, they walked around and made a decision about which was the best story plan. Tomorrow they’ll start writing it up in a newspaper stylee (as per the week’s ultimate goal).

All in all, I was very pleased with the way it went, developed a rapport and a way of doing things that seemed to work out, and all in all it really boosted my confidence with the whole YL thing. Maybe I was just unlucky with previous classes, or maybe I just needed this extra year of developing as a teacher before applying that to a younger class. Either way, I’m feeling quite positive about the whole thing. And none of the dread I felt yesterday.

Note: If you are a teacher and you’d like any of these materials, please drop me a message and I’ll pass them on to you. We’re in this together, right?

Facing a Teaching Fear

I find it very easy to teach adults. After all, teaching is just a conversation – and I converse exclusively with adults. It gives me the chance to practice. Of course, there’s theory, methodology, grammar and whatnot, but I truly think that the core of teaching is having that conversation.

The thing that I think makes me a good teacher of adults is also what gave me such trouble with children last year. As a person I’m chaotic, silly and a bit disorganised. I think adults respond to that because I’m quite fun in class – I make jokes and silly analogies – but also because it means I’m never patronising. I’m not an authority figure in those classes. I’m a guy telling them some stuff.

This of course doesn’t work in regular kids’ classes. If you’re the fun teacher then that’s what you are. In a well-behaved class that can be great and a lot of fun. In others… see for yourself.

The funny thing is, I didn’t have the same experiences at the start of my career – back when I exclusively taught kids in UK summer schools. With almost exclusively Italian students from age 8-18, I was a bit hit. Students loved my fun classes and wanted to be in my team for the other activities. I really enjoyed it too. The kids were fun, opinionated, playful and entertaining.

I realise that International summer schools are different from long-term daily

I've used this image before, but it's terribly appropriate.

I’ve used this image before, but it’s terribly appropriate.

teaching, but it did come as a blow when I couldn’t rely on being the fun teacher – on being myself – as the only tool in my arsenal. Unfortunately, by the time I had realised this my authority and discipline had already eroded to nothing. I tried all the tips and tricks of other teachers, but they didn’t work. The students didn’t respect me, despite how I tried for the next nine months to regain it. The failure hit me quite hard, and brought me quite low.

Now I’ve been asked to try teaching children again. Needless to say, I’m nervous after the miserable experience I had last year with 3*C, but I also remember how much fun I had in those summer schools that taught me I wanted to be a teacher.

I’m assured that it won’t be bad; that the students are coming to ‘my turf’ in the school, that we have a fun syllabus planned and that there’s lots of support available. I trust the people who have said those things, so I will try and hope for the best.

I don’t really have a conclusion prepared for this blog. Last year was hard for me for lots of reasons, and it’s difficult to separate it into all the constituent difficulties. During last week’s YL* training, I felt a hard lump in my chest, and with it flashes back to those classes, that year and how it all turned out. Nevertheless, this is something I think I can do. And I really need to let that year go. So cross your fingers for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

On Inaction, Depression and the Way Forward

My favourite image to represent insomnia.

My favourite image to represent insomnia.

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from depression. I’m lucky enough not suffer to the same extent that I know others do, but I am also aware of the effect it has on my life. It affects my relationships, habits, diet and any number of other things.

I’ve just returned to Mexico after a pleasant if uneventful visit ‘home’. I’ve spent more than my fair allotment in my three days back being utterly inactive and catching up on my TV-viewing and video gaming.

Beyond external stimuli (including but not limited to workload, dating dilemmas and familial guilt) there’s one thing that’s murder when it comes to depression, and that’s inactivity. Your body doesn’t work off any energy, your mind has the time to roll and roll through your mind, and you get the opportunity to spend 18 hour days watching TV and getting very little sleep. I expect that to be my situation tonight. So, I’ve decided to come up with a few “New Week’s Resolutions”* with which to occupy my mind:

  1. Finish typing up my novel so it’s all electronic. I’m at a stage now where I’m between half and two-thirds finished on the project and I’ve completely lost faith in it. I realise that when it is finished it will take so much editing as to make it a new book completely. Nonetheless, I’m determined not to give up on it. This is stage one in getting back to work on it.
  2. Write 3 new things. That’ll either be fiction or blog posts, I think. Today I dug up some old dabbles I can play with if needs be. Whatever I write,  they need to be of significant length and should hopefully get me back into the habit.
  3. Stop angsting about dating and stop acting on my angst. This one is a little more difficult and much less measurable, and therefore shouldn’t really be a resolution. Nevertheless, it’s mind blog and my head so nyer. 😛
  4. Lastly, I’m not going to sit in the house all day next Friday. What with the friends I have here, I’m sure this won’t be an issue as we all return to the country and get back to the work. That said, I want this to be my last weekend of inaction for a while. I’m giving myself tomorrow in response to the insomnia I’m anticipating for tonight.

So, yes. These are the thing’s I will and won’t do this week.

In other news, isn’t Jenna Louise Coleman cute and charismatic?! I can’t wait to watch the new half-season of Doctor who come my birthday.

Jenna Louise Coleman AKA Clara Oswin Oswald

Jenna Louise Coleman AKA Clara Oswin Oswald

The Predictable 2012 Retrospective

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2012 was a year of mixed fortunes for me. It started with the loss of a woman I thought I would marry and is ending with my being clumsily single and celebrating back home with family.

My life in Mexico has changed significantly since January, too. I started out as a school teacher in a small town; now I’m a teacher of adults in one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve gone from having a life which relied and focussed very much on my relationship, to one where I’m independent, single and have a wide circle of friends.

I’m progressing in my career, too, as I grasp every oppoetunity made available to me, and have made the commitment, therefore, to be in Mexico until at least mid- 2014.

My Spanish is still rubbish, but has improved massively from where it was even in the middle of this year. I’d like to be able to tell you about a huge improvement come the end of 2013.

Romantically, from the engagement I mentioned at the beginning, I bumbled through a rebound relationship which ended because I fucked up. Since then, I’ve tripped, stumbled and generally failed at being a single, exotic man in Latin America. All this despite knowing some wonderful and beautiful people in Mexico City.

I suppose all that’s left is to Gove my resolutions and predictions for the year to come:

I’d like to lose some weight. I’m going back to the gym next year, not only due to a not entirely complimentary conversation with a beautiful woman, but also because I’ve been losing weight by accident lately, and it’s been making me impatient for a faster change.

I’d like to be in a long-term relationship. I’ve had the opportunity to have more casual liaisons with terribly attractive Mexican ladies and that’s very tempting, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. So… yeah. I realise it’s one of those American Pie things I can’t do much about, but there you go.
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And I’m going to pass the DELTA: it’s the next step in my career and I’m not going to waste the opportunity.

Oh, and The Avengers and Doctor Who were good, too. Can’t wait to see Clara and Thanos in the new year.

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Later, kiddies. Happy New Year!

On Being at Home for the Holidays

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As you know, I live in Mexico, and I come from the north of England. I’m home for the two weeks and return just after sobering up from the New Year’s Eve party.

The first contrast I noticed, of course, was the weather. I’ve been chuckling away at people talking about the cold of Mexican mornings, while getting more and more susceptible to it. I didn’t realise how much so until I stepped out of Manchester Airport to walk to the nearby train station. My four layers suddenly seemed insufficient, and I was immediately frozen down to the bone. It took me about three days to reacclimatise.

The second thing was the food. Running high to potatoes and low on spice, it was a big difference to what I’d be eating in Mexico. Equally, since I’m living with my Nanan* at Xmas, eating copious amounts of unhealthy food is mandatory. I think I’ll have gained about half a stone before I return.

Next was the effect on my social life. It’s interesting how much an entirely electronic relationship can be with the same people you know in real life. It’s funny how you feel emboldened or impatient with this method of communication. I do, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how this time will manifest in my interactions when I get back.

Lastly, my relationships in the UK. Much as I’m welcomed with open arms to the bosom of my family, there is still the real feeling that I’m a visitor. Just in some running jokes, routines or changes that I’m unaware or unable to be a part of. This does make me sad, but I can’t imagine a life in Barnsley that would allow me to have these connections that wouldn’t drive me absolutely crazy in other ways.

In my friendships, too, I’m feeling the difference. With previously close friends settling; changing; making homes and plans; I feel more than a little out of the loop. Particularly those building homes for themselves. It’s something I’d love to do, but I can’t imagine the rest of the life that might surround it.

I’m also missing the friends and life I’ve made in Mexico. The nights out, flirting, eating, joking, and living back in MX… I think I’m going to find it hard to leave in eighteen months’ time.

 

*grandmother

 

Post-script: I’d also forgotten how much my grandparents yell at each other and gripe at the TV. Dear gods, I can’t wait for a day out of the house tomorrow.

Thanksgiving

I’m British and therefore not a follower of this holiday. That said, sometimes it’s good to think about the good things you have in your life. Doubly so if you’re a crazy person like me. So, here we go.

I’m thankful that I’m losing weight. I realise it’s shallow, but I used to weigh around 300 pounds. I’ll take every ounce I can get.

I’m thankful for the friendships and social life I’ve developed in Mexico. Much as I sometimes churlishly complain, I wouldn’t change them for anything.

I’m thankful for living in Mexico. I’m living a life far from where I was born; experiencing, eating and doing things I never could at home. It’s easy to become blasé about it, but that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I’m thankful my DELTA application was accepted, so I can keep moving forward in my career, while enjoying Mexico for 12 more months.

I’m thankful for Doctor Who. Judge me or not, I don’t care. 😛

I’m thankful that I have tentative plans to go to ComicCon next year. My point on judgement continues. 😛

I’m thankful for my life – even when I don’t or can’t remember to be.

Happy thanksgiving.