One week down…

My first week is almost done and I haven’t stopped for breath.

I arrived in a North Carolina in the early hours of Tuesday morning and after a twenty six hour day, three flights and three long layovers, too much airport food and not enough sleep, I had never been so happy to see a bed in my life.  Luckily, it was comfortable.

We hit the ground running with teacher orientation starting at 8am sharp on Tuesday morning.   It was an interesting day: filling in social security forms, setting up bank accounts and cell phones and discovering the costs of medical care in the USA. Even insured, a trip to doctors will cost $35 and if I break my leg and have to go the emergency room, it will cost me $250 for the privilege.  I think I’ll make do with just the one leg…

There’s been so much information to take in that I’m not sure how much of it has stuck.  I have remembered that using your card in a shop as debit and credit does not mean the same as it does in the UK and that half-terms are a thing my teacher self will look back on fondly since they don’t have them here.  As far as schools go, I have discovered that my days will be full: no morning recess, no staff room at lunchtime since we eat in the cafeteria with the kids, lots of paperwork and not a lot of holidays.  I have learned that between the cost of a car, and the cost of the doctors, and the cost of furnishing an apartment and a classroom, I won’t have many pennies left.  Or rather, I won’t have many cents left!

Being gluten free and almost dairy free has been an adventure.  Are those eggs dairy free or are they mixed with milk? I would ask.  No, no dairy, I just make them with butter.

Adventures have been plentiful, especially since leaving orientation and arriving at hotel no. 2. Take the electrics, for instance.  We have a dodgy bathroom light and a plug socket a little less than secure in the wall.  We also have a coffee percolator (I miss kettles already) but getting some hot water for a drink has proved to be a dangerous feat.  I plug the percolator in and sparks fly, quite literally.  But I’m ok, the burn isn’t worth the $70 medical fee.  I’m developing a taste for iced tea anyway. Walls are not especially thick at hotel no. 2 either, but it saves having to watch TV I guess.

Amid all the stresses of the first week in the States, there have been so many great moments, though.  I have met so many wonderful people.  Teacher orientation was a blast: I danced and drank and narrated a classroom nature programme and learned so much about how lucky we are to be educators.  It might be hard work, but it’s worth it.  I didn’t actually want it to end.  What I did want during those few days was to move to Jamaica after meeting the best, most fun-loving ladies from there, though.  Maybe after I’m done in the States…

I have an apartment now, too, which isn’t bad going to say I’ve only been in the country six days.  Once all the checks and official stuff clears, I should be moving in next week.  Which, to be honest, can’t come soon enough.  I do not like living out of suitcase.  I’m longing for my own kitchen, my own bathroom, my own place to call home.  I may be having a little too much fun furniture shopping, though.

There’s a lot more adventures to come and this next week will be just as busy as the first.  On my to do list?  Get social security number, start work, move into apartment, furnish apartment, get gas and electricity and cable and Internet, find a doctor and get the mandatory TB test (can’t wait for that one), get s car and a driving licence, and begin to plan and resource my classroom and get ready for Meet the Teacher night.

I’m tired just thinking about it!

I haven’t missed home too much just yet.  I may have had a little wobble when someone told me they don’t sell chocolate covered rice cakes here, but I’m managing it now.  The heat has been a challenge.  To use a phrase I heard from one of the locals, it’s hotter than hell.  I have gotten used to being coated in a constant layer of sweat and even my nail varnish is melting. I’m budgeting to bulk-buy deodorant and ensuring I keep hydrated by drinking gallons of sweet tea.  Although, given the cost of the dentist here, maybe I ought to watch that.

I’ll be honest, it’s been hard.  There’s a lot to do and lots of rules to follow and things to figure out and the cultural differences are more plentiful than it first seems.  But all us teachers are in it together and you know what they say, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

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