There’s something magical about chance encounters, random conversations, and connecting with people you may never see again. I don’t know whether it is me that is different or those around me when I travel. It’s probably a bit of both, but striking up conversations with random folk feels so much easier in a new place. After living in Ireland, a country known for enjoying “the chat”, I moved to Toronto, Canada. Both cities have a piece of my heart, but the reverse culture shock in Toronto where conversing with strangers is, well, strange was tough to re-adjust to. I don’t believe this is isolated to Toronto…but I’ll have to live in a few more cities to confirm my hypothesis!
With the transformation of this blog going forward, I am incorporating stories of people I meet and businesses I love from home and abroad. Thehope is that my connections may become your connections. Whether you are travelling to a new place, searching for a unique item, or reading and following along, they’ll all be here for you.
I love the idea of creating a global community or network. It makes life seem simpler, cozier, friendlier. That stranger on the subway or the other side of the world turns into someone you’ll relate to in an instant, or network with to create a world-shifting NGO, or any of the other millions of possibilities creating relationships brings. We’re already closer than we may think. There are often links in common along the way – a friend knows a brother or you worked at the same company just months apart. I even heard a story once where someone had moved into a woman’s former home and lived there for years before they met, “by chance”. Doesn’t that give you shivers?!
My goal is to bring the dots closer for you to connect, to create the space for it to happen. So come in, you’re welcome to stay a while and have a peak around the place. Who knows who you’ll meet!
If you’ve previously visited my travel blog, la tourà l’étranger, you’ll notice some changes. The first is the appellation of my musings. This blog began as a personal project with two goals: update friends and family back home while living abroad, and document my experiences for nostalgia’s sake when I’m old and wrinkly.
La tour à l’étranger, roughly translated from French, means The Tower Abroad or The Foreign Tower. It was a nod to two physical attributes – my height and location. It also followed the format of “theme” and “identifier” most blog monikers apply. Some of my favourite travel blogs are great examples of this format: Legal Nomads, The Bucket List Family, Nomadic Matt, and The Restless Worker. Picture day at school almost always sealed my vantage point in the centre of the back row. “Giant”, “tall”, and “big” weren’t cutting it to use in a blog title, however “tower” luckily began with a T in both French and English. Coincidentally, Tara, in at least one of its linguistic derivations, means “tower”. Either my parents are psychic or the universe has a funny way of manifesting itself. The “foreign/abroad” element is self-explanatory. Lastly, the title was in French as a nod to my profession as a French teacher and fascination with language and linguistics. Unfortunately, there was one glaring problem – most of the site’s visitors don’t speak French! The title held no meaning to its Anglophone audience. It was confusing, easily forgettable, and often misspelled. Not a great combination for making an impression.
Connecting the Dots
Two years after this personal project began, life, travel, and this site have morphed into the next chapter. Welcome to Connecting the Dots. One of my favourite things to do, whether it’s with words, travel, or people, is to find, create, and maintain connections. In language classes I teach my students to be Language Detectives, identifying clues that aid them in recognizing both meaning and grammar. They connect world history and personal experiences to spelling and structure, becoming autonomous learners, expert problem-solvers, and independent thinkers instead of robotic regurgitators of sounds and sticks. In social settings, friends and family can attest to the giddy enthusiasm with which I recount how so-and-so from one part of my life is connected to another familiar so-and-so. Another genuine thrill is connecting those around me. It creates a cozy space, an intimate space, with the potential to take care of and help each other. It can break down barriers, build understanding, and lead to unlimited opportunities. It can support healthy bodies, minds, and hearts. At its core, it is community. Living, working, and travelling abroad exponentially magnifies the possibilities to connect words, places, and people, especially with the use of the internet. You can see why I’m so addicted to foreign lands.
Change & The 4 “P”s
As with language and words, when there is a change to the structure, there is a change to meaning. Replace “-ed” with “-ing” and you are actively learning, instead of having once learned. And so, this cozy nook in the interweb is moving with new direction and purpose, built on four components:
People: to connect people and businesses around the world that I interact with and support
Places: to connect faraway traditions, history, and landscapes, to you at home
Pictures: to connect unfamiliar perspectives and moments to your experiences
Parlance: to connect words to their past histories, present use, and to other ways of communicating
1,2,3…You and Me
Literally anything is possible through the practice of finding, creating, and maintaining connections (read The Brain That Changes Itself, it’ll blow your mind!). I think that’s why I have such a passion for it.
Something I’m grateful to witness often in my job is the delight children have for the simple bits in life. Disguised as a thrilling pastime, there is an exercise that requires a pencil, a paper, and some patience to help children learn to count. When an image reveals itself from a bunch of seemingly random dots, the reaction of pure joy and amazement is priceless. And learning how to count? A bonus.
The dialogue you create contributes to and builds this space into something I am unable to do as a single “dot”. I like to think we’re 1 degree of separation apart instead of 6; a small world after all, if you will. Thank you for visiting, and… for connecting the dots!
Almost 24 hours of travel, 2 planes, 5 bags, and 1 new helpful Aussie friend later, I arrived on Jeju Island on August 6th, which thankfully was a lot less hot than anticipated. I don’t know about you, but personally, I am a sweater. There’s no way around it. If it’s hot, those little beads can’t wait to leak through to cool me down…and threaten to drown those around me. I travelled through Southeast Asia two summers ago and I swear Niagara Falls 2.0 sprung out of my body the second I walked out of the gloriously (over) air-conditioned doors of the places we stayed. Bodily cooling systems aside, the island is absolutely beautiful and it’s no wonder people flock here to honeymoon and vacation. How spoiled am I to call this my new home!
Upon arrival at Gimpo Airport, I was greeted by my new boss, her husband, and a woman from HR. It was a good thing I alone, after everyone else. My luggage took up most of the back of the school vehicle. Some colleagues had shipped their belongings, but I lugged it all with me through the airports. At the residence I met a few of the girls, back from a night swim, and received a lovely welcome note on my door!
Jetlag didn’t hit until Day 2 so I spent the first night unpacking and organizing my new abode. I will have two places of residence this year: the teacher don residence and the dorm where the students stay. As teacher dons we have overnight shifts in the dorm every other week. I have yet to see the dorms, but I hear they’re similar to the teachers’ residence. My new apartment has two bathrooms (!), a queen-sized bed, a living area, and oodles of shelving and storage. Each don’s apartment furnishings vary but all have the same layout. I think our residence will be used as a dorm once the population of the school expands further, hence the two bathrooms.
Our rooms also came with welcome packages which included items such as: brownies, butter, milk, cereal, Jeju oranges, hangers, and TP.
The next morning I attended PYP training for teachers so I could learn more about the IB program and met another group of fresh faces to the school. Everyone was friendly and a few even asked how the wedding was. I caught up with some logistics (setting up a work laptop) and settled into the day.
In the evening the teachers and staff at Branksome attended a Welcome Dinner at the Hyatt Resort in the Cliff Garden. My inner self rejoiced as it was only hot for a small fraction of our evening outside. No one wants to be the sticky one when they’re dressed up and meeting new colleagues. There were a variety of local (black pork) and Western (pizza!) finger foods to fill our bellies and lots of vino to keep us hydrated. After an initial flurry of group paparazziing (I’m not the only one!), we explored the beach and paths nearby.
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty wonderful first 24 hours on the island. It’s safe to say I’m looking forward to what’s next.