Friday, August 19, 2016

A long overdue update

I've had a long absence from my blog.

It would be easy to make up excuses or avoid the elephant in the room of what has been happening, but I don't think that's the best thing to do.

I've been struggling with depression.

Talking about it isn't easy, as it's a personal struggle.  Opening up to people is hard for me and leaves me vulnerable and open to judgement and criticism from others. 

Before you read any further, form any opinions about me, or have a a desire to offer any advice, I'm going to provide a list of statements that aren't helpful:

1. "You just have to snap out of it." (usually said with a tone of condescension)
2. "It's all in your head." (How is that supposed to make a person feel better?)
3. "Well, my situation was worse........" (One upping doesn't make a person dealing with a rough time feel any better.)
4. "You should...." (I didn't ask for advice.  I'm trying to open up and would really appreciate you listening and acknowledging my reality.)

A few days ago, I came across a post on Facebook that really resonated with me.  It's the story of a woman who wanted to prepare her daughter for middle school.
“I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate. When she finished, I calmly asked her to put all the toothpaste back in the tube,” Gardner explains. Of course, her daughter looked at her like it was an impossible task, because it is. Her daughter began to say things like But I can’t! and It won’t be like before!
That’s when mom dropped some serious knowledge, with some words her daughter will probably never forget:

“You will remember this plate of toothpaste for the rest of your life. Your words have the power of life or death. As you go into middle school, you are about to see just how much weight your words carry. You are going to have the opportunity to use your words to hurt, demean, slander and wound others. You are also going to have the opportunity to use your words to heal, encourage, inspire and love others. You will occasionally make the wrong choice; I can think of three times this week I have used my own words carelessly and caused harm. Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back.”
Some of the things I've heard from people close to me in the past year have really affected me.  Hurtful comments and hard to stomach truths have shattered my self esteem and self worth into a million little pieces, and I've been working to pick up them up one by one and glue them back together again.  I had fallen into a pattern of eating comfort food, sleeping, and watching TV to help deal with the pain.  While some people escape their reality through drugs and alcohol, for me it is through food and television.

Despite these challenges, I feel like I'm in the best place I could be given the circumstances.  I have a wonderful group of friends here that I know I can depend on for anything. My students are wonderful and easygoing, and if I'm not feeling well we either cancel the class or reschedule it.  With my health insurance I've been able to get affordable treatment with antidepressants and therapy to work through these challenges.  All in all I find the expat community here is so wonderful; we have the common bond of deciding to leave our home countries in search for something else, and we understand the struggles that we go through and appreciate living a lifestyle outside of the mainstream.

Getting that out of the way, here are the highlights month by month since my last update.


I made my last payment for my student loans from getting my Masters degree.  It is such a good feeling being debt free and finally being able to start focusing on saving for my future.  I managed to get $42,000 in loans paid off in 10 years, and it's a sense of accomplishment that not many understand unless you're in the same position.

Regarding travelling, I got Global Entry and TSA Precheck.  This allows me to bypass the long security lines at airports in the United States, and I can also go through an expedited line when entering the United States at most airports.  It's good for 5 years, and it will certainly take out one of the hassles of travel.

I also took a vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando with my dad.  He and my mom have been my rock and support no matter what.  He worked two full time jobs when I was growing up to make ends meet, and his hard work ethic is something that has always been with me because of him.  I'm finally in a position that I can start giving back to him, so for his birthday I bought his ticket to Universal Studios.  I hadn't been there in almost 20 years, so it was a great experience.  I think my favorite part was exploring the Springfield area of the park complete with Krusty Burger and Moe's Tavern.  My dad enjoyed the Harry Potter area, and it was cool seeing kids getting so excited about something and using their magic wands to activate things in the park.  It turns out a friend from high school was there with her husband and daughter, and we were able to catch up for a bit.

A Krusty Burger with fries


March is always a month of new beginnings in Chile.  Summer is coming to an end, and kids go back to school.  People return from their vacation and begin to settle into their work routine again.

For me, the new beginning meant taking a critical look at my living space.  Since I've lived in the same apartment for 5 years now, it has been easy to just keep things the way they have been.  I'd been holding onto things I'm not really using more out of laziness than anything else, but I decided it was time for a change.

I got rid of a dresser that I was only half using as well as my bulky propane heater in favor of an energy efficient tower heater.  I also upgraded my old bed that I had had for 5 years for a new one that opens up and has storage inside, which has been great for organizing my living space. 

Last but not least, I got a desk and a computer chair!  It's so nice to have a space to sit to do work (that isn't my kitchen table) as well as put my office materials away and keep them organized.


There were some really strong rainstorms, some meetings with friends to play Apples to Apples and Setters of Catan, and a weekend trip to Viña to have a change of scenery.

Little did I know what would transpire during that weekend in Viña.

At breakfast on that Saturday morning I got to talking to two guys from Liverpool.  They told me that they were going to Santiago the next day for the day, and it turns out they were going to the Coldplay concert.  After a bit of conversation, one of them told me that they had an extra ticket since his girlfriend was pregnant and unable to fly, and he offered it to me!  

So Sunday I helped the two of them get a bus ticket back to Santiago with me, and they left their bags at my place while they hiked up Cerro San Cristobal.  Once they got back we got some Peruvian food and then walked to the concert.  It was at the National Stadium, just about 4 blocks from my apartment.

The concert was really cool.  The special effects and visuals were all really well thought out and nicely planned.  At one point of the concert, they moved to a mini stage about 20 feet away from where we were standing.  It was awesome to get to see them up close.

We had to leave before the concert was over, because James and Paul were then catching an overnight bus to Pucón that same night.  We said our goodbyes and have been connected on Facebook ever since, and it will just be a matter of time before we get to meet up again.


A friend of mine lost her husband to cancer in May.  Although I never met him, I knew that he was a great person from what Kari told me about him.  This left me thinking about life and to be grateful for each and every day that I have.

I also came to the realization that some activities that I had been involved in weren't contributing to my happiness.  After giving them a sincere effort I felt like I had to at least take a break for a while and focus on me.


The weather started getting colder as winter made its appearance, and I became a member of a business networking alliance in Santiago.  We started meeting once a month with the same group of people with the goal of helping each other grow and expand our businesses.  It is unique in that there is only one person from any given sector, and I have met some very interesting people.

Some of my friends from back in Jersey were in Peru, and we were able to meet up in Lima.  It was so great connecting with people from back home and getting to show them around a bit.  Even though we only got to spend an afternoon together, it was so refreshing to get to spend time with other people that enjoy traveling as much as I do.  I also enjoyed the food as well as the cat park.


July is the middle of winter in Chile, but it really wasn't that cold.  Some of my students were on vacation, which gave me more free time than I usually have.  I told myself that I was going to use that time to be productive and get my living space organized, but I wasn't really too successful.

The IATEFL Conference took place in Santiago, and it was great.  There were some really amazing presenters, and they always get me thinking about my teaching.  I caught up with other teachers I hadn't seen since last year in Concepción, and I also gave a presentation.  While I enjoy the conference each year, this year I found myself only being able to take in so much information before feeling worn out and overwhelmed.

At the end of July I made a weekend trip down to Concepción to catch up with some friends.  While I didn't get to see everyone I had hoped to, it was nice getting out of Santiago and doing something different.


This month I started teaching classes via Skype.  One of my students wanted to continue classes after leaving Santiago and moving to London, and it was flattering that she wanted to continue specifically with me.  Teaching online classes is quite different than teaching in person, but I'm adjusting to the change.

My health has suffered a bit with the smog, and I had a nasty cough and sore throat for a little over a week.  I've also been dealing with some back pain, but luckily I've found a great chiropractor that speaks English.

There was a nice event in Ñuñoa last weekend.  They organized a food truck event in Plaza Ñuñoa, and it was great.  There were food trucks with burgers and fries, kebabs, schwarmas, baked goods, crepes, and more.  There was music playing, face painting, and a light, festive atmosphere.  The weather was unseasonably warm the day I went, and I had a good time catching up with friends.

I've made strides in choosing my friendships carefully, and I'm getting better of listening to my intuition.  I've started mapping out my professional and personal goals for the next few years, and it has helped me to see the steps I need to take to reach them.  I have my work cut out for me, but I'm feeling positive about what the rest of this year holds.


  1. Thanks for the update, and well done!

    This is not related to your update, but to your profession: have you read the book Peak by Anders Ericsson? I am now 80% through it, and love it so much that I want to recommend it to everyone interested in learning. I think Ericsson's concept of 'deliberate practice' may be particularly relevant to TEFL practitioners.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I haven't read it, but I'll put it on my list.

  2. Glad to see you're back! Was getting worried. I totally relate to the depression and the need for food and television as a means to deal with it. I spend the entire summer binge watching on The Flash, Jane the Virgin, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to name a few. Wishing you the best.