Emotional Landscaping

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heartmapquoteThe last few months have been a massive change emotionally for me. After deciding to step out on this path of travelling and working abroad I’ve really had to take stock and it’s had a big effect on my thoughts and feelings surrounding what I want for myself and my daughter. I think in a way, entering into the final year of my degree or even just coming back to university after giving birth, has been the biggest catalyst to all this emotional change.

If you’ve had kids then you may have had a similar experience to me, where during the pregnancy and straight after the birth it’s not really possible to really know what you want. I was pretty scared and a lot of things were going on that were outside of my control. I just didn’t know what I wanted pure and simple. I knew what I had wanted in the past intellectually speaking, but it was put on hold in a strange way that I’ve never experienced before. There was an unknown entity on the way and I was really conscious that the minute they came into being and ventured into the outside world things would change – I don’t mean in the obvious ways, I mean more in the sense that there would be a person who would eventually have thoughts and opinions that would change the decisions I was going to make. This mentally put me in some sort of freeze hold and I just couldn’t conceive of much beyond the birth. Even after she was born I spent the usual few weeks recovering and acting like a hormonal wreck and then I started to focus on getting back to university.

It was at this point that I really started to ask myself what I wanted, I found myself caving in to those invisible societal pressures that surround us as parents and even just as people. Those pressures that tell us to conform, take a normal path, provide for our family and not take risks. Despite having never wanted to follow a ‘normal’ path in my life I suddenly found myself looking into ‘normal’ graduate schemes and ‘normal’ jobs. I was convincing myself that having my daughter meant I needed to make the ‘responsible’ decisions and not do the outlandish things I’d always wanted to do. Whilst in the early stages of my pregnancy, Monkey’s Dad and me discussed things that we wanted and we both expressed a wish to travel. I said I wanted to finish my degree and give myself the option of further study, but I said that travel was definitely a part of my future. He seemed to need something more than this and I just couldn’t give it to him. Now, the reasons he decided to leave are way more complex than I can do justice to in a blog post. And I don’t think it would be fair to him to claim that this is all there is to it. But I think a small part of it was that I was too busy trying to control everything, whilst he was too busy trying to force me to commit to things I just wasn’t ready to commit to. We were both panicking and we didn’t know each other well enough and he didn’t give me or himself the chance to find out what we wanted, together as a family. Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant he’d gone. I often wondered what would have happened if we’d just given ourselves the time to get used to the new situation we were in; instead of trying to force each other to be the people we thought we needed the other person to be….

Since that point I have changed and developed so much as a person I’m partly unrecognisable. I’ve gone through such a lot having my daughter on my own and coming to terms with the effect that will have on both out lives. As I said, I really ended up convincing myself that I needed to do the ‘normal’ thing for the sake of my daughter. It was only as I got further down those paths, and truly started looking at things like the NHS graduate scheme or civil service as a realistic option that I knew it was never going to make me happy – and that would make Monkey unhappy. It was this realisation that made me really start thinking about what I actually wanted – and that’s to travel. I know without a doubt that if I get to the end of my life without travelling, without living in another country and possibly without learning another language then it will be my biggest regret. So to allow that to happen whilst knowing that would be a big crime against myself.

A while ago I did a post about how big my safety net should be. In this post I discussed giving myself a back up plan that involved completing a Masters at the same time as saving to do a RTW trip, so that if travel didn’t happen I would have other options to fall back on. Options that I actually wanted to take, such as postgrad study. Since writing that post though, I’ve realised that actually, I just want to go. I don’t want any other distraction; I just want to save up as much as I can and head off into the unknown with my wee Monkey. This trip and travelling has somehow evolved into so much more than ‘just’ a trip. I know that thought is probably echoed in the minds of countless other travellers or wannabe travellers. So much so, it’s become clichéd – but it’s clichéd because it rings so true for so many people. For me this trip is about finally starting my life. That probably sounds strange, but I’m a late starter in life – my own potential and personal development has been delayed and diverted time and time again. Mostly due to circumstances out of my control, particularly as a child and teenager. My 20s were spent coming to terms with this, and it’s only been since starting college and going back to university that I’ve become the person I always knew I could be. Having my daughter has finalised that in a way nothing else could. Making these steps to travel and jump out into the deep end, as a single parent is really the first step in what I feel is my ‘true’ life, the life I’m meant to have. So there’s a lot riding on it. It’s not that I don’t want the postgrad stuff anymore, it’s that I’m acutely aware they will be there when I get back, I can do those at any time, anywhere in the world. But it’s travelling that will help me to be who I need to be emotionally; it’s travelling that will let my daughter be the person she can be….

Another thing I’ve slowly admitted to myself is that I don’t want to put monkey into the daily grind that is the school system. I know there are some amazing teachers out there; my sister is one of them. But there’s also some terrible teachers out there and the school system is there to cater for the middle ground; it’s there to create an obedient workforce who behave themselves, turn up on time, don’t question authority and basically live life with a set of blinkers on. The world does not need any more of those people, that I do know – if it’s to survive, if we’re to survive as a species we need the mad, creative, wild and inappropriate types. I know too many people who had every last bit of creativity and individualism drained or pummelled out of them at school, to be OK with signing my child up for that. I really want to do something that probably lies in between home schooling and unschooling – (although as with most of the other unschoolers I’m not that keen on the name, as it implies no learning whatsoever which couldn’t be further from the truth). Admitting this to myself has made me realise that those are my 2 core beliefs and aspirations in my life: travel and home schooling, so the rest just needs to somehow fit around them. Or I need to make it fit around them because in the end it’s me that’s in charge of my life. No one else can do these for me. I would love to start working for myself, writing and making a living by piecing together all my skills in a way that makes me happy. Whether that’s teaching English, writing, doing photography, or a bit of all these things and maybe some other things too, I don’t know. But I’m definitely not a Monday to Friday kind of a woman. I would also love to meet someone who shares my dreams, I’d like to let go enough to fall in love again and maybe (just maybe) expand my little family, as having monkey has been the best decision I ever made. Finally realising that these are the things I truly know has given me emotional freedom that I’ve never felt before. It’s given me a purpose and something to aim at. I don’t need riches (not that I ever wanted them), I do want to have the finances to travel (obviously) and to provide my daughter and myself with a half decent standard of living but beyond that I really don’t care. I don’t want her to grow up in the consumerist mess we have in the UK, where how we view our own worth and the worth of others is somehow inextricably linked to what we own and how much money we have in the bank. I want her to know that there is so much more to life than money and possessions. Poverty is horrific but so is having all the materialistic things you ever wanted, only to realise that you’re still looking for something that can’t be bought and now you’ve not got the time to find it.

So this is where I am today, embarking on this adventure is a strange thing for me at this point in time. I’ve still got a year of my degree to complete. This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense years I ever experience but it’ll be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears that I shed and have shed over the last 7 years. The RTW trip still feels completely imaginary – because it is. It probably won’t feel in the slightest bit real until I actually book us those tickets, and maybe it won’t feel real until we step off the plane and head into our first country on the list (hopefully China). To keep myself focused on the long-term future I keep looking at this big map online and planning where we’ll go and when, I’m reading all these travel blogs and talking to my closest friends about my plans. But on the flip side, I also have to keep my feet firmly on the ground and focus on the here and now. I HAVE to get this degree; I’ve worked too hard to fall at the last hurdle. Not only that, I know I’m capable of getting a 1st. It’s where my grade point average is lying at the moment and I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say a 1st is what I want. Although saying that, I do now know that it’s not the be all and end all, any degree will be a massive achievement for anyone let alone someone in my position.

So this is my bit of emotional landscaping – making that decision to travel has just brought on an avalanche of life choices and realisations that I could never have expected. I’d love to hear if any of you have had a similar experience in the comments section! I suspect that travel and making those massive decisions takes on this huge role in nearly everyone’s life – especially if it’s something you end up turning into a lifestyle choice rather than just a holiday. I’m so excited already at the thought of the adventures to come and the experiences me and my daughter will have together – I’ll have to increase my vocabulary and powers of articulation just to put into words how I feel when we actually go!!

Travelling With Kids : Things To Do In Sydney For Free

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backpacksandbabygrows:

Things to do in Sydney for free when travelling with kids – courtesy of The Kid Bucket List

Originally posted on The Kid Bucket List:

Travelling With Kids : Things To Do In Sydney For Free

If you find yourself in Sydney for a day and want an adventure for free we have found a plethora of delights for you to explore. Whilst you will need to find your way to the spot, entry or exploration is free! Have fun!

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is a cultural marvel and houses a brilliant range of contemporary art. The venue is free to visit and children are warmly received. For a gold coin donation child visitors receive an activity book to plot their journey around the site. You can also download this for free and take it with you.

The Rocks Discovery Museum is open every day from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm and is located in a three-storey high restored 1850s sandstone warehouse in The Rocks. It is free to enter and walks you through the history of the are from pre-European occupation through to modern times. It…

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Tefl approved…. (technically)!

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approvedI have now finished my 120 hour online TEFL course! I’m of course extremely happy about this; I’m now officially qualified to teach English as a foreign language. BUT…. there’s always a but isn’t there? I say ‘technically’ in my title because doing the online course means I’ve had no actual teaching practice.

I’ve loved the course and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m criticising the TEFL qualification; however, there are some big downsides to doing the course completely online. I think I’d be incredibly nervous before teaching a lesson for starters. Also there were lots of grammar related questions/problems I had, that really needed the presence of a proper instructor to solve. Anyone who has looked even briefly at the structure of English grammar can attest to how complicated we seem to have made our system. But (yes there’s a 2nd more positive ‘but’)… I feel that I made the right choice and I will stick to my original plan. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you will know that I planned on doing the online course to familiarise myself with the grammar and to get a feel for what’s expected of me before applying to do the more formal CELTA qualification at the university I currently study. I’m glad I did it this way round. I now have a rudimentary understanding of grammar. Although I will say that if I was only planning on doing this course then jumping straight into teaching, I would need some immense organisational skills to fully prep all my lessons in advance in order to make sure I could answer any questions my students had. 

On saying that, I think preparation and advance planning and a huge amount of lesson plans and worksheets all done in advance of the lessons will be key to being a good EFL teacher. I can see why there’s so many complaints about of terrible quality of teaching. If you’re just bumming around and do the TEFL course as a thing to make money, but it’s not something you put any effort, energy or passion into, then you will be a terrible teacher. You will also end up hating your job as much as the students hate you. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but having done the course I know that it’s completely true… you only have to read some forum and blog posts to know the level of appalling teaching that’s out there and I think this is the reason why. They’ve gone into it thinking it’ll be a doss and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think you could do the online course and then build up lots of experience through voluntary work if you wanted. This could be a viable option for anyone who can’t afford the far higher price of the CELTA course. I think I’ll try and do some voluntary stuff anyway as it will help me to get over those initial jitters about standing in front of a class, and it would be nice to have experience before accepting a proper job too. The online course is pretty easy, I don’t want to belittle anyone who found it hard… by that I mean that with a bit of effort I think most people will find it manageable and would be able to complete it. The assignments start off as multiple choice quizzes on the grammar and then build up to written assignments you submit for proper marking. However, these begin as small, manageable quick pieces of work and it’s only the final 3-4 assignments that pose a challenge in any way. These last ones do require you to apply what you’ve been taught and to prepare some full lessons from start to finish. They take time and care and are worth doing well, after all this is what you’ll be doing as a teacher!

Once you’ve done the course you’ll find that along the way, you’ve had to do so much research you’ll have hopefully built up some great resource links from external websites – these will be a huge help when actually teaching. One of the best I’ve found to date is the great blog found here on WordPress called ‘tefltastic’ – http://www.tefltastic.wordpress.com there’s tons of resources, worksheets and lesson planning advice and tips along with a large amount of activity ideas. There’s also hundreds of activity worksheets available to download. Well worth a look! The tefl community is in general very helpful and inclusive – everyone has been in that starter position before, so I think that makes everyone really willing to help and create an open community of sharing when it comes to academic resources. 

Below are some good websites I’ve found during the duration of my course:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk This is a BBC/British council site offering loads of tips and lesson plan ideas along with grammar help.

http://www.teflteachertraining.com is a great blog by Ted, offering untold amounts of advice and help on all things TEFL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/ A good resource if you need some grammar explained in plain english whilst completing the course. It helps to fill in some of the gaps that are there in the TEFL course book.

http://www.onestopenglish.com Again, this is a good site for filling in some of the gaps, the TEFL course is OK but I must admit I did find some explanatory gaps in their books. Although I suppose a bit of self-study is never a bad thing either!

http://www.tefl.net A general resource and advice site

http://www.businessdictionary.com This is a great resource to use for vocabulary you might need in a business english class, providing definitions and also ideas around which to plan your business english lessons.

I’m planning on continuing to post any useful information I find including useful resource sites, so keep an eye out if you find this kind of stuff useful. I’m also hoping to get a little site started up with my own worksheets and lesson plans etc once I actually start teaching. Although this will be a couple of years down the line save for some voluntary work. It is most definitely in the pipeline though – you can hold me to it! 

I just want to end by saying that the TEFL course provided by http://www.tefl.org.uk was well worth the money. Although I found some of the instructions to be a little bit ambiguous I did get through it with a grade point average well over 90%. They also marked all my assignments in the agreed timeframe and gave me advice when I asked for it. I’m very glad I did this, and I think it will be extremely valuable when I do the CELTA to have had access to the knowledge and the lesson plans. And if you are very self driven and motivated you could definitely get along into teaching without the CELTA – but I would suggest doing a substantial amount of voluntary work if you can to get the experience and to put into practice all the theory you have been taught. Also it’s worth remembering that knowledge of the subject is only one part of what it takes to be a good teacher and that will come more easily the more you do it – however what really matters are the qualities employers and students will look for :

tefl qualities

Happy TEFL-ing guys, I can’t wait to actually get going with my travels and put my knowledge into practice!

The Glasgow Tourist Week

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3009_10151063424420064_1378110194_nI had a good friend come to stay with myself and monkey this week and she brought her 2 year old little girl with her. It’s given me a great opportunity to show them both round the city and really experience Glasgow through the eyes of a tourist. It gets a bad rep sometimes but as soon as anyone I know has visited they’ve fallen in love with it as quickly as I did. Now to be honest I do live in one of the nicest parts – the West End;  so I’m surrounded by beautiful parks and within walking distance of lots of major attractions. But I still think Glasgow is a very misunderstood and unfairly represented city. If anyone gets the chance and hasn’t been I can’t recommend it enough.

During the few days my friend and her little girl stayed with us, me (and the monkey) showed them round as many sights as we could. The days started early and finished late – the mums and toddlers were exhausted but in that good way that occurs when you’re on a packed full holiday. The weather was pretty changeable all week but that meant we got to experience a wide variety of kid friendly activities. The following is a little summary of what we did – so if you have young kids you are now hopefully armed with some info on what you can do in the city of Glasgow (rain or shine).

On the 1st day it was forecast to rain so we decided to visit a great little soft play area in the West End called Jungle In The City – it’s on a little side street at 8 Gardner Street off Dumbarton Road. Unlike the huge massive warehouse set ups it’s in a smaller building but still has all the same equipment and ball pits, and big apparatus just on a smaller scale. The bonus of this is you can view the whole room from a chair or sofa and there isn’t that horrible echoey effect either. There’s plenty of stuff available for babies (walkers, bouncy chairs, high chairs for feeding and toys etc) up to about 8-10 year olds depending on height. Also during the week it’s only £4.95 for all day play and a kids packed lunch (soup or sandwich, raisins, yogurt. crisps and a juice). The adult food is also simple and cheap but tasty. I can’t recommend this place enough to let the kids let off steam on a rainy day. A great time is always had by the kids.

After soft play fun we decided to head down Dumbarton Road and have a wander round Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is a real family museum with a large range of activities for everyone and it also boasts a great art collection including the Glasgow Boys collection and the Dali piece Christ of St John The Cross which is truly stunning. But for the kids there’s a lot of interactive stuff for older children and for toddlers there’s all the animals and dinosaur life size figures that both girls loved just wondering round and looking at, along with the fashion items and all the Rennie Mackintosh furniture. At around 1pm there’s an organ player that comes on each day and does a 30 minute show too. After a good run round all the exhibits the girls wanted to see we headed down for a quick look in the gift shop before heading home. It was absolutely pouring with rain when we left so we did end up getting side tracked and nipping into a great New York restaurant called Tribeca (also on Dumbarton Road) to wait for the rain to at least calm down before we headed on – this place does all the real american diner stuff and cocktails and everything in-between; it also has truly American size portions and the great service we hear comes as standard across the pond.

On our 2nd day it was a much nicer day so we headed off and walked to the Transport Museum situated on the River Clyde in a new sparkly building. I love this place – it’s filled to the rafters with every vehicle you can think of. Old fashioned trams, trains, cars, prams, bikes, motorbikes, horse and carriages. If you can name it then it’s probably in there. They also have an historical cobbled street all set up with the horse and carriages on and loads of little interactive shops. More for older kids admittedly but the girls loved running in and out of them – there’s cobblers, a bridle/saddler shop, a pawn shop all that kind of stuff with lots of interactive screens giving loads of information about the history and the time. After we’d exhausted all the stuff the girls wanted to look at and had climbed on the trains and trams we were allowed on we headed out the back door where there’s the magnificent spectacle that is the Tall Ship. It’s free to go on and like the museum has information and general activities for the kids to look at and play with. Most people would probably assume it was for older kids but the girls really did have a nice time running up and down the length of the ship, looking at the ropes and barrels and a replica mast and all the other stuff there. There was also a mini soft play area again and they had lots of fun running in and out of the tunnels and generally going mad. We had a cup of tea in the little cafe too to get some energy back. The ship is fully set up with lifts to every level – I had the monkey in her brilliant back carrier (made by the awesome Madame Googoo) but my friend had her pushchair and we were able to access all the areas and get about very easily. There was also baby change facilities on the ship and in the museum.

Once we’d done all this I decided that they couldn’t come all the way up and not experience the Willow Tea Rooms in town – a real Glasgow institution designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and serving up some great tea and traditional Scottish food, alongside everyday stuff. We went to the one on Buchanan Street as it’s a little bigger and easier with all the kids stuff like the pram etc. Now it’s not overly toddler friendly; you have to get up a big flight of stairs but we folded the pram up and got up there. They do have high chairs and also provide colouring for the kids, I think people maybe don’t expect you to take little kids in so there may have been some sideways glances from elderly people who were wanting a quiet cup of tea (I may have imagined this though!). Either way we just ignored them and enjoyed our tea, tried to stop my monkey from grabbing things off the table etc etc. The only minor complaint I would have is that despite having the high chairs and colouring they insist on serving the kids food and drink in glasses and porcelain plates so it’s a bit nerve wracking in that respect. Still, I’m glad I was able to take them there as I really love the decor and the tea is great.

The sun was still beaming down afterwards so we headed home via the gorgeous Kelvingrove Park (the number 4a bus goes from outside Central station and up Woodlands road where you can get off and access the park through one of the many entrances). We took the kids to go on the swings and slides – there’s a great playground here for kids of all ages and even a skate park. If the weather is nice then Kelvingrove Park is a must; they have also just renovated the band stand and opened it up so I expect more events will be taking place. The other weekend I took monkey to Glasgow Mela; a free event all weekend that filled the park with all kinds of multicultural music, dance, food and drink. It was a really great weekend so it’s worth keeping on eye out for what’s happening.

This pretty much concludes what we managed to fit in over a couple of days. This is just a taster too – I didn’t manage to take them to the Botanics which is another lovely spot, Glasgow Green is also nice and the People’s Palace is there which is a great thing for older kids – telling them all about the history of the working classes in Glasgow; introducing a lot of sociological concepts and themes at an early age which is great in my opinion. Glasgow is definitely a city with a complex and often fraught history.

I hope I’ve maybe convinced some people to come and visit and given an idea of just some of the child friendly activities around – I haven’t mentioned that apart from Jungle In the City and of course the Willow tea room, all these activities were free so perfect if you’re on a strict budget! I think my friend was definitely taken by the city as she was very quickly saying she could easily live here – I think people are always surprised by how much they like Glasgow if they’ve never been.

Taking a holistic approach…

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Holistic-health

I wanted to add to my slightly bonkers previous post and say why I’m trying to transform myself into a carefree ‘hippie’; over the last couple of years since having a baby I’ve really had the chance to assess my life from every angle. I’ve always known the conclusions that I’ve come to; it’s just not an easy thing to implement necessarily (for anyone!).

Nearly every news site or ‘health and diet’ site on the internet will always have these so called ’10 easy steps to a happier healthier you’ – but the crucial thing is, is it’s never actually that easy. As an anxious type of person I’ve always known doing things like yoga and meditation would help me significantly to get a handle on this, but I’ve never quite had the motivation to do it. Or I’ve had the motivation but after 1 or 2 classes I’ve felt so self-conscious I’ve not gone back. I’ve never really been a gym bunny, but I did play a huge amount of sports in primary and high school. The problem when you leave school is that you really have to go and search out these clubs and sports as an adult. I think if I’d gone to university straight after school I probably would have joined the university teams in the same sports I did at school. However, this wasn’t the case so it all just fell to the wayside.

Before I knew it, my 20s had gone by and I was suddenly a ‘proper’ adult who used to be fit and healthy who was getting used to the idea that I no longer was. Having a baby really changed things – I had a home birth booked so I suddenly had an added incentive to really get into all the mindfulness and meditation and relaxation stuff. Even though the home birth never happened all that practice did stick with me. And now of course I have another incentive to be fit and healthy and have a good decent diet. Longevity suddenly becomes of the upmost importance; I mean it always was important – don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying without a child people don’t care how long they live. It just really rams it home in an indescribable way, that you want to be there for as much of their lives as possible. I gave up smoking as soon as I found out I was pregnant and I’m lucky enough that I’ve just never had the urge to start again …

So this brings me to now – I think deciding to travel and really assess what I want out of my life has made me decide that this dream and my path to achieving it should really be a holistic approach I take. I should take this opportunity to really take stock of my life and change it in the ways I want to – if I’m fit and healthy and fuelling myself with good decent food, I’m more likely to be happy a and healthy and therefore positive. I think the yoga and meditation speaks for itself in terms of the benefits. I really want the little monkey to be able to just follow by example – I don’t want to be that annoying parent who constantly says ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Had two of those and it’s supremely irritating! I want her right from the start to just be naturally living a healthy and active life – without it being a big ‘thing’ – it’s just how we live.

Of course building my fitness and stamina will help no end in achieving all the things I want to achieve over the next couple of years; the final year of my degree will be one of the most highly pressured things I’ve done so far for starters. And travelling and trying to work abroad too, being fit and healthy will hopefully keep any medical care we need to a minimum – always a bonus when abroad.

So – there’s some slightly more rational reasons for my ‘dress like a hippie, become a hippie’ plan of action!

Just as an afterthought to – I’ve been really looking into nice and cheap or even free ways to do all this, so I thought I’d share what I’ve managed to do and for how much money. One of the things I’ve discovered that I didn’t really know is that local community centres actually have a lot of stuff on for people within the community (obviously) for little or no cost. So it’s my local centre that has got funding to buy the badminton equipment and pay for someone to come in and teach once a week for 12 weeks. Anyone can go along for free, but because it’s a morning class it’s pretty quiet so I’m getting lots of one on one training which is great. Once the course is over I think the centre is hoping people will just keep going in and using the equipment and space for free. The same centre has a boxercise class on a Friday for £3 – I’m there anyway on a Friday doing voluntary work and the class starts when I finish so it seems a poor effort if I can’t stay and do that – it’s pretty intensive though so will see how I get on. I’m going to the 1st one next week.

I’ve always had a gym membership through uni – when you’re a student I can’t recommend it enough as it’s a fraction of the cost. Now I said earlier I’m really not a fan of the solo workout stuff; but my gym has a pool so I’m going to try and go swimming once or twice a week. They also do drop in classes – a lot are off in June due to renovation work taking place but they start up again in July so I will look at what I can go to there. My aim is to do 1 class a day Monday – Friday and then I’ve been doing 15 minute weights workouts to a DVD at home in the evening just to target certain muscle groups. My choice has been Davina McCalls 15 minute workout DVD – I love the little bitesize target workouts, as my attention span isn’t great for that stuff. But this way I can shove the DVD in and it’s done before I realise.

I’ve also managed to find a cheap yoga class I can do – all the ones at the gym are on in the evening but as a single parent I can never get the regular weekly babysitting needed to keep up constant attendance so I end up getting demotivated as I tend to only make 50% of the classes. I’ve found a local one that gives a discount to students but if you go to the early morning class at 8.30am it’s even bigger and the class only costs £4 so I’m thinking of trying that out next week.

I walk around a lot as a non driver (for now) so whenever I walk I make sure I’m doing it at a good speed. Monkey’s nursery is a 15 minute walk away so when she goes I do an hours total walking (30 minute round trip to take her and again to pick her up). This never seems like much but it does count – and all free!

These are just the things I’ve found since I started looking – there’s a drop in meditation class on at the Buddhist centre too (I think it’s just a small donation to attend (£1.50 or similar) so I may go along and see if I can join them. So that adds up to £8.50 a week for a really good range of exercise – If I compare it to things I used to buy, that’s only just over the cost of one pack of cigarettes or a coffee each day in the university canteen Monday – Friday. So I feel like this is an OK cost as long as I try and keep other costs down (so I don’t buy coffee when I’m out ever for example) – also it probably has immeasurable value in terms of what I’m getting out of it!

 

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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hippie-pic

I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?

 

Verbally challenged!

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frustration

I finally finished my TEFL section on verbs!!!! This probably shouldn’t warrant so many exclamation marks but F*@! Me that was difficult. OK, so the verb section is much more complicated than the noun section (kinda obvious when you look at how complicated the English system of verbs actually is); but there were some glaring gaps in the teaching and the odd question was completely ambiguous. I mean, I sat looking at one question for about 30 minutes and I’m still not sure what it was asking of me… This was the section on the present participle of verbs. In the exercise book I’m told that one way in which verbs can inflect is by having an ‘–ing’ on the end, and that we often use these verbs to describe an ongoing action. There are various examples given: ‘I’m watching a TV program’, ‘they are building a new hotel in my street’, ‘I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen’. I’m then told that all the verbs have 2 things in common, firstly, unsurprisingly, they all have an –ing on the end and secondly they all have an auxiliary verb in front of them. This auxiliary verb is always the verb ‘to be’.

So far so good. This is all the information I’m given about present participles. When we get to the exercises at the end of the whole section I am asked the following:

“Write in the present participle of the verbs in the order they appear in the passage. Only write the participle, for example: 1. going 2. reading

I’m then given a passage and there are two boxes after the passage to fill my answers into – giving the clue that only two verbs are required. This is the passage:

“The three of us were sitting around the dinner table during lunch break. “I like Wendy McMinn,” I ventured. I was hoping that revealing my own secret would encourage Michael to start opening up about who he liked in the class.”

Now I happen to think that the instruction given to me is incredibly ambiguous. I initially take it to mean that I should write any verbs that appear in that passage in their present participle form. However I quickly realise this can’t be the case as I’m only given 2 boxes to fill out. I can immediately spot the verbs ‘sitting’, ‘liking’, ‘hoping’, ‘revealing’, and ‘opening’ – although I think maybe in this sentence ‘opening’ isn’t a verb but I’m still not sure on that one.

This is the major downside of an online course – there’s no one to ask. I was sent a snappy, friendly message from ‘Tim the Tutor’ when I electronically handed over my £215; that informed me the grammar section was a self taught section but he’d be around to answer any questions on the next bit. So basically “don’t email me stupid questions about grammar”. I looked on the TEFL.org forum – no luck for this particular question.

So despite what the question says I start to think that it is asking me to identify the actual present particples of the verbs that are used in that sentence in that form, rather than what I think it actually asks which is to write the verbs, as they appear, in their present participle form. By the way, at this point I have genuinely wrung my hands through my hair and possibly growled at my computer. So if the request is the latter then I think ‘sitting’ and ‘hoping’ are the verbs that are already in their present participle form, so I put these down.

There’s 9 more of these….

The next one has me even more flummoxed:


“Yeah, we know,” replied Michael. Both he and Pete were grinning wildly. “Speaking of whom …” He was gesturing behind me and as I turned I could see that Wendy and her gang of friends were wandering past, carrying trays. I caught her eye and she smiled ever so slightly before turning away.”

What do I start with? Grinning? Knowing? Gesturing? Wandering? Carrying? Turning?

There’s only 4 boxes – the other problem with these exercises is if you get the first one wrong, you basically get them all wrong because it has a knock on effect. I think I started with ‘grinning’ and I got all these wrong…

The rest of the test isn’t too bad – comparatively – and I eventually get through about 12 exercises on various forms of verbs in about 2 hours. I hand it in and find out that although I got the ‘grinning’, ‘gesturing ‘ section wrong I actually did OK on the bit that had me pulling my hair out. However I did incredibly badly on transitive and intransitive verbs – still, I managed an overall 90% as I got full marks for nearly everything else. Present participles frustrate the hell out of me but intransitive and transitive just plain don’t like me…. More work needed there then!

Anyway, I’m just happy I’ve done that section – I have learned a big lesson though… it’s maybe not a great idea to do some intense verbal workout just before bed – I lay there wide awake until about 3am, totally pumped up with all that new knowledge flying round my head and the frustrations of the TEFL instructions. You’d have thought an English language course would be able to articulate in a less ambiguous way wouldn’t you?! I’m still annoyed actually!

On a side note – any help or advice from some Verb Masters would be very gratefully received!

Who knew verbs could be so exhausting? And paradoxically insomnia inducing.

Just as a little positive but unrelated end note before I sign off. I found a lovely blog today that I think will prove extremely helpful over the next couple of years so I wanted to share the love – I suspect any well seasoned bloggers/travellers will have heard of them already but if not take a look!

http://www.goatsontheroad.com

Thanks again for reading!