Roughly 1 year ago today, the PashbyMauls were packing up all of our household items in Vicenza, Italy, shipping them to various parts of the world, and graciously letting go of as many things as we could. This past year marked our biggest life transition since we were married and began Life Together. Since our move to Uzbekistan, Drew has been the one to keep up our blog, even if less frequent then when we were in Italy. Considering that the last day of school for teachers was Friday, now seems the perfect time for me to resume blogging. I’d like to give you a picture of our year from June 2015-June 2016.
1 Year of Travel: Of course, this is probably one of the most significant parts of our life because it’s one of the main reasons we want to live and work as expats. We enjoyed travel to:
- June-July 2015: Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts and Maine (the last 2 were girls weekends without Drew.)
- August 2015: MOVE to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
- October 2015: Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
- November 2015: Seoul, South Korea for the Association of Music in International Schools Conference.
- December 2015: Michigan, Georgia (state not the country).
- January 2016: 5-day New Years cruise with Drew’s extended paternal family from Tampa, FL to Costa Maya and Cozamel Mexico. (This marked Alicia’s first trip to Mexico!)
- February 2016: Navoi, Uzbekistan for a friend’s birthday celebration.
- March 2016: Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand, Uzbekistan with Mike, our ever faithful travel partner, who is now known in Casa di Maul as “the one who came to Uzbekistan.”
One note about travel: we’ve found very quickly that flying from Tashkent to the US is a very long, very expensive journey. We’ve decided to skip the States this summer and take refuge in various friend’s flats in Europe and enjoy vacations together.
1 Year of Moving and Housing adventures: We certainly didn’t have the easiest transition when it came to our housing search. This can be partially blamed on the fact that we had romanticized my beautiful flat and city life that I had while living in Kiev from 2009-2013. I lived in a gorgeous top floor apartment overlooking St. Sofia’s cathedral. While we were dating, Drew used to come to Kiev for weekend getaways and we really enjoyed being in the middle of everything. Because of our idealistic opinions, we ended up looking more at flats than houses. From the beginning, this was a challenge because many people were not interested in renting to tenants with cats. We finally settled into a newly renovated 60 m2 apartment and were happy to live in a small space and ultimately try to live a more minimalist lifestyle. Our enjoyment of Flat #1 dissolved very soon as the reality of carrying bikes up and down the stairs (when we were brave enough to ride in traffic), the upstairs neighbors with the children who ran around like elephants and played the piano while we were trying to have quiet time, and the shower that was not installed properly and could never drain fully and was therefore leaking onto the neighbor underneath us, was enough of a perfect storm for us to begin another housing search. We lived on floor four of our Soviet style block apartment building for 6 months, from August 2015-January 2016.
Enter house #2: For 3 short months, all was right with the world as we found a beautiful European-style 1-bedroom 1-story house with a small office/guest room space for Drew to study in, and a lovely spacious kitchen which we loved entertaining in, and a beautiful, almost palatial great room/living room. The floors were natural gorgeous hard wood and tile, the walls were surprisingly neutral, and we had a garden for the cat to run around in that was protected by a wall high enough to ensure that he did not get into the street. The garden also had trees from Crimea, so I felt my Ukraine connection there. Finally, we were able to put up all of our artwork and family pictures. (We couldn’t do this in the flat because the wallpaper was new and we didn’t want to mess it up since we figured out pretty quickly that we would not stay there long.) We were so thrilled with our increased quality of life that we decided we would go ahead and stay in Tashkent for 3 full years instead of 2! Unfortunately, at the beginning of May, our landlord informed us that he wanted to sell the house and we would need to move out. The month of May was crazy enough with the term coming to an end, but it became even worse with yet another housing search. We lived in our gorgeous European style house from February-May 2016.
Enter House #3: By now, we have come to understand realty in Tashkent a little better and worked with 4 different realtors to find a house. The process was just as frustrating as ever, but we were so happy to have found the house we currently live in. It is a small four-room house with a beautiful garden and filtered pool in the backyard. Not everyone uses filters here, so we were very happy to have it! The house also has plum, persimmon, and apricot trees. We are especially glad to have the extended yard space in the back and the pool, as well as hardwood floors throughout the house and neutral walls. We will finish hanging our artwork when we return to Tashkent in August. The house predates the earthquake and has an old-world charm to it, as does the new neighborhood. We are so happy to have found the house and get settled there. The poetic irony of this house is that we had seen it in August 2015 when we first arrived but didn’t want to take it because it was over our budget, and we were afraid of additional pool maintenance costs. We also felt that it was too far from the school for commuting. Now that we’ve been here 10 months, we realize that we are close the the ring road, so there is basically a straight-shot to get to the school by taxi. And our initial hesitation towards a pool evaporated in the 40-degree (that’s 100-degree) weather. Finally, our landlady agreed to drop the price to within our budget. We moved into this pleasant house on 31 May 2016 and we plan to stay until June 2018, when our contracts are finished!
1 Year of Professional Development: I had so much PD this year that I am not bothering to do anything in the summer! Half of these opportunities were funded personally, and half by the school. This year saw me study the following things:
- July 2015: Conversational Solfege Level 1 Certificate at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. This was a life-altering workshop and it can be assumed that I have drunk the koolaide and would like to go all the way with FAME training in the future.
- November 2015: I attended the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) conference in Seoul, South Korea.
- January-March 2016: I took and online course in order to renew my teaching certificate for the State of MI. It was called Reading Diagnostics and it was a lot of work! One of the requirements was to work with a reading needs ELL student to complete assignments each week. I could write an entire blog post about how ridiculous it is to require underpaid teachers in the State of MI to take yet another graduate level course they doesn’t actually have a lot to do with their subject discipline, but there’s no point in harboring bitterness, and I am very glad to have my Professional Certificate valid until 2021. Why bother keeping up a certificate in MI, you ask? Well, most international schools will be expecting an up-to-date teaching credential, even if I have never taught in MI, so it’s within my best interest to keep it valid!
- Some exciting news for the next school year is that I will be moving up in ages. I’m currently teaching Preschool-Grade 1, ages 3-11, in the IBO PYP. Next year I’ll be teaching Grades 2-8, ages 7-14, in the IBO PYP and MYP. Because of this change, I needed to take yet another online course: Arts in the MYP.
A year of role reversals: For the first 2 years of Life Together, Drew had the full time job in our family. Our move to Tashkent showed a vocational 180 as I became the full time worker. We moved from the full time job of 9-5, leaving work at work, to a different kind of full time: 7:30-4:30+, extra weekend events, extra weekend and weeknight planning and marking, it’s inevitable that work will be brought home. This was initially quite the strain on our still newly married life. We made it work by hiring a housekeeper to help us with our house cleaning tasks, and by cooking a lot of things in the slow-cooker, and by in general “keeping on.” One things for sure, life is a constant transition, especially in this expat lifestyle, and we certainly had enough transitions for one year!
A year of remembering Russian: when we got off the plane in Tashkent in August, I had no idea what people were saying. Since I had studied Russian for 3 years, this was very upsetting. Even worse was when Drew would ask me to translate and I would really have no idea. It took 2 weeks for my ears to get adjusted and I’ve found a wonderful teacher who I study with every week. I would put myself at an intermediate level, but my dear teacher, bless her heart, thinks I’m more advanced than that. As for Drew, he studied enough to get by but has put his Russian language acquisition on hold as he was swamped with his classes for his Masters this term.
A year of looking forward: the PashbyMauls are always getting excited about our next trip. Some days, the only thing keeping us going was the knowledge that we would be spending 51 days in Europe together. Now that we’re here, we’ll put looking forward on hold and enjoy every single moment, glass of wine, and fresh European meal, with gratitude and pleasure.