I stumbled upon a blog about an American family who moved to Mexico (www.revolutionfromhome.com)
at the beginning of their journey, and it was a source of encouragement and insight into how it is possible, even with parasitic bouts and tired, resistant children, and the joys and growth all involved shared. It was possible with kids!
But of course, the seed was planted a lot longer ago..
It started with a conversation… Tim and I had about living overseas with kids. I’d always been fond of the idea, especially as I’d spent a year living in Beijing as 21 year old. I arrived green, as part of an Australian government initiative that sends young Aussies across Asia-Pacific to immerse themselves in local culture, share some Australisms and impart their professional knowledge. What a 21 year old thinks they know professionally and what they do, is oceans apart. I had much free time that involved cruising the Foreign Students College making friends with folk from all parts of the globe. Many students were from Russia (pop across a big long border) and Columbia (I met one wealthy kid whose parents realised that it was safer getting educated in China rather than hijacked for ransom in their own town). Even though I had an arsenal of contacts in this strange new world if I needed them, it was still like landing on the moon. It was 2001, and few local Chinese spoke English. I was soon lured into local Primary schools to teach conversational English. Visions of delivering my final uni thesis presentation in broken stutters still fresh in my mind. I think the only thing I achieved in these classes was convincing one 6 year old kid who had chosen the English name of Tomato, that it was a winner as it never ceased to have me in fits of giggles.
Maybe the coconut never falls far from the palm. Once I was out of nest, the poop not even dry, my mum set off on an intrepid backpacker adventure even though she was nearing fifty, from Kathmandu to London inside an old Bedford truck. Once there, she stayed eights years, doing itinerant work between gathering new stamps in her passport and regular visits to her Bedouin lover in Jordan.
And so after years of watering the idea from our Umina suburbian backyard with its dog and two babies later, my dearest Tim decided,
Ok, I’d give it a crack
Green light go, we rented our beach shack to a beautiful young family, escaping city living with dreams of having a pooch and more chicks in their brood.
We were lucky to know of a reputable NGO, a young team of dedicated individuals trying to implement international best practice in social welfare. Supporting over 150 students, they provide income support, training, health care and education to children and their families. Importantly, they are trying to keep the family unit strong and together. Also, they understand intrinsically the role that Westerners should play in skills sharing and ultimately handing over management to the Khmers. We are self funded volunteers and loving the nature of this work. We were able to offer our skills, as artist, all-round handy man, yoga devotee and educator. I have also been approached by local expats to run yoga classes, so a little in the can will help.
There is always a lot of conjecture over children’s education. As the next wave of knock kneed kids reach the playground, more theories pop up about how kids learn, how they can learn better, faster, quicker, even though the brain still remains somewhat of a black box. Personally, I was shaped strongly by my education, and my adult years have been somewhat a period of unschooling. So after recognising the whole disruption to our Grade 1 son’s schooling the move would cause, we decided it was still valuable. If anything, we were heartened by this ideal that maybe he would actually gain more through life experience rather than sight words.
That being said, I came armed with helpful hints from his teachers, and again, idealistic visions of being a cool grammar teacher (yup I am a foxy moron). It hasn’t quite gone to plan. We probably average 10 minutes a day, with Quinn honing his debating skills on why he can’t sit down, I try for calm without resorting to bribery and fail on both counts. If there are jobs going for illiterate lawyers, he’s sure to do well.
So we made it, fumbling our way through and grateful to have this opportunity. We are going to milk it and give it a real hard shake!