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Expatriate in Kuala Lumpur – a woman's walkabout – Elizabeth Goodhue

When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. – Sandra Cisneros

Month

September 2016

This was my e-mail to nobody


Giving up

This morning I was at a giving up stage, so I wrote this email to nobody.

Honestly, I am not a good fit for my job as a Subject Matter Expert. After a year, I still do not know enough about ESL or e-learning experience to do the job well. I asked my supervisor and she concurred. As a result, now I am basically an editor and copy-paster.

Transparency

The difficult part is coming to work every day feeling a bit worthless, which is one of the reasons I left teaching, to be honest. So in the age of non-transparency (seems to be a buzz-word these days) I am revealing myself at a weak moment, which is not an easy thing to do.

As far as I can see, I have three options:

  1. Stick it out here while I am making money, and work hard to establish myself as a writer. Based on all of the reading I have done about becoming a freelance writer, the advice is to write for content mills or anyone who will hire me, and then establish clients. I actually have found steady work reviewing children’s books for a guy I found on Upwork (a site more refined than Craig’s list as it is geared toward freelancers). I like the work and he likes my reviews. I also have another possible client. I have taken a brief, not very helpful travel writing class so that I can write for a blog called Pink Pangea. I am also trying to establish myself on sites (that don’t pay) to build my resume. Slowly, I am building my writing portfolio on WordPress and have found someone to help me with that.
  1. Run away to a far-off land with my 5,000 dollars and see what happens
  1. Come home, work at DD and regroup there.

I have just answered my question. (this marks the end of my e-mail to nobody)

In the making

While this email was in the making, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.

“I’m not going to quit, I’m going home. And you have to understand that for me, going home did not mean returning to my family’s farm. For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself. And that’s how I pushed through it.”

Searching for home

I have been searching for home for a long time, which is probably why the words of Homer and Sandra Cisneros swirl around my head like a broken record. But two writers, C.P. Cavafy and Elizabeth Gilbert have helped me to understand what home is. My search for home has been one of yearning. I thought I was yearning for family, friends, a wood stove, a screech from the owl in the woods, love. But home is a destination. It is where we want to go in our hearts, and when we find it, we feel rich and full, no matter where it is or what state it is in. As you set out for Ithaka, says Cavafy, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.

Ithaka BY C. P. CAVAFY  TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

 

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

 

 

 

 

I Want to Ride My Bicycle


I want to Ride my Bicycle – Queen  bukit-tabor-3

When I was tricycle-riding age, I took to the road. I rode my tricycle to the top of my driveway and let her rip. I sped so fast that I had to lift my feet above the pedals to keep them from getting thwacked. It was a thrill. Perhaps my first one. Then I hit the loose sand at the bottom of the driveway with such a force that I flew off my bike and got the wind knocked right out of me.bukit-tabur-5

When I was 55, I took to the road again. I left my career and home of 24 years and flew to Mexico to teach. One week after my year in Mexico ended, Learning Port offered me a job writing storyboards for e-learning modules. I flew halfway around the world to learn a new trade.

Was flying down the driveway on my tricycle an act of bravery, or an act of impulsivity? Was hopping on the plane to Mexico an act of bravery or an escape?  Was ending my career as a teacher and coming to Kuala Lumpur to try e-learning a good choice? The answers are yes and no. Yes, because I was in a rut, I only have 30 years of living left in me, and it has been quite a ride. Regardless, these acts propelled me to make the conscious decision to become a writer.bukit-tabur1

As I settle into my second year in Malaysia, I have not found my comfort zone. Like the arduous climbing hikes I have been on lately, there have been peaks and valleys, which often leave me depleted. I look at the next year  as a time to focus on learning how to write for a living. It will be a time for me to practice, experiment with different genres and employers, network, and do what I love.

I can see the bottom of the driveway, but like so many years ago when I sat on my tricycle seat at the top of the driveway, I cannot see the loose sand at the bottom Even if I could, I do not know if it will knock the breath out of me. What I do know is that falling off my bike at the end of the road is part of my learning curve. Maybe this time, I will wear a helmet.

bukit-tabur-4bukit-tabur-7

 

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