Child’s Play

The first few months as an EFM are incredibly exciting.  I thought non-stop about the places Tex and I might go, the challenges we might face, and even the possibility of raising a family abroad.  We started sending each other links to FS blogs almost daily.  We bought books on embassy life and security clearances.  We even read them and compared perspectives.

I felt prepared when we got to Falls Church for our short tour.  I knew that I would meet a lot of new friends (which I did), that I probably wouldn’t find a job (which I didn’t), and that I’d probably start learning a new language (which I did).  I took a lot of FLO (Family Liaison Office) classes about finding jobs, moving our stuff, and finding our stuff after our movers lose it.

The one thing we knew we would struggle with is my employment.  I heard the following suggestions mostly from strangers because they envied that I ‘didn’t have to work.’

–          “You should start a new hobby.” I ruled this out because collecting is expensive and I’m not what you might call “crafty.”

–          “You should learn a new language.” (duh)

–          “You should buy a camera and just start taking pictures.” What does that even mean?

–          “You should get telework.” Yup, please point me in the direction of the international telework for previous event planners with advanced degrees in American history. I’m ready.

–          “You should teach English” ok.

–          “You should have kids.”  I’m not kidding.  More than one person told me I should procreate after meeting me for the first time. This was my favorite suggestion.

I’m not satisfied with hobbies and sitting at home.  Some cities (not Taipei, but let’s say Khartoum) you aren’t allowed to stroll around taking photos.  We don’t have kids and we’re certainly not going to have them because mommy is bored.  So, I want a job.  I want to work.  I’m not a super career-minded person.  I don’t want a high stress position and therefore I know that it won’t be a high-paying position.  However, I want to work.

Due to the recent Congressional sequester, among other problems, EFM work is difficult to find to say the least.  In the short time I’ve been here I’ve had three full interviews.  The first two were at AIT (American Institute in Taiwan).  I didn’t get the first and am still waiting to hear back on the second.  The third was on the market.*

*Many posts don’t have a relationship with the local government that allows for Americans to work on the local market.  In Taiwan I’m lucky enough to try to find work outside of AIT.



After submitting several applications to local Taiwan schools I got an interview for a full time position to teach 4-5 year old students English. Part of the interview was a demo teach for 30 minutes.  This is the story of how I ruined the day of 15 young children and how they ruined mine.

The first part of the interview went well.  We talked about the age groups I like, my serious lack of experience, and how the school operates.  There was also a conversation about legality, work permits, etc.  Heavy stuff.  I spent some time explaining that I’ve never stood in front of a group of children and tried to get them to do what I say.  I explained that several times in fact.  I asked for clear advice on how to keep the students’ attention.  They still insisted that I “demo teach” or “herd cats.”

The children spoke MUCH better English than I expected.  “Hello Teacher, nice to meet you!” “My name is…”  Most of them shouted.  Being obnoxious is a cross-cultural trait as it turns out.  One girl perpetually had her finger so deep in her nose I worried what she was going to bring out of it.

My plan was to play “picnic at the park” and we would look at fruits and snacks and explain what they are.  This quickly turned into “dump the bucket and hope for the best” which quickly degraded into absolute f’ing pandemonium.  They just grabbed and crawled all over each other to get a piece of fruit.  I desperately looked at the people judging my stellar “teaching” skills while I attempted to keep fingers out of my eyes and plastic durian fruit from hitting my face.

I frantically asked my interviewer “what do I do now?” He responded “you need to get their attention.” I got their attention…for 4 seconds.  I explained to my interviewer that I don’t think a game would be a good idea – that I’d like to see how that plays out when someone else does it first.  I suggested that we draw pictures of all the things we see in the park.

This involved 10 minutes of chair stacking and table moving.  Jeez.  At least it was time that I wasn’t “teaching.”

After the children were seated and drawing they were much more manageable.  We talked about animals, families, bugs, trees, etc.  All kinds of things we might see at a park.  During this time one kid touched my stomach three times to get my attention.  WEIRD.  One girl just … stared. I’m reminded of this helpful link:

Anyway, it ended – eventually.   It felt like purgatory.

As my interviewer escorted me from the class I asked, “Is this how it usually goes?” He said, “pretty much.” Huh… glad I don’t have kids learning English in Taiwan from someone like me.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get the job.

I have another interview soon…

I believe the expression is: ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.’



  1. RACH
    Sep 9, 2013

    You KNOW I need you to get me some of that plastic durian!

    The great thing about ruining a five-year-old’s day is that they won’t actually remember it, but it will leave a scar for the rest of their lives. Well done!

  2. Jess
    Sep 29, 2013

    Oh man, You crack me up lady… Miss you a ton!
    Since I’ve been in Guate I’ve contemplated running local tours for Americans like food tours, starting an export business, or just walking around and asking restaurants if I can have a free meal if they’ll let me correct the English mistakes on their menu… nothing has panned out yet though. Let me know if you discover the magic-find-a-job-trick!

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