04 August 2009

FLASHBACK: The Best Laid Plans... (part 2)

Note: This is a continuing story; the first part can be found here.

By 1999, Dan and I were still nursing our dream of living in Europe “some day”. We returned to Washington to our 70 hour a week jobs, and the pressure of “real” life. But whenever we could, we escaped to Europe.

We went nearly every year to Ireland, where we have close friends living in a village in County Galway. Ireland was our spiritual home. We loved the people and the countryside and even the weather. When we dreamed of living in Europe, it was a rural life that we envisioned—a thatched cottage overlooking the sea, with the smell of turf fires and the distant lowing of cattle. The fact that we were both “city kids” didn’t deter us in the least.

We often went to France, where we could use the French we had learned at The Castle. On one of those trips, we stayed for two weeks in an old house with a painter from whom I took classes every morning. Dan drove to a nearby town and took French lessons. We loved the rhythm of life—Regis, the painter, got up early every morning and walked to the bakery to buy his/our daily bread. He cooked for us and regaled us with stories of his village. He even had a cat to warm my lap.

One day in January of 1999, Dan had an accident on his bicycle and shattered his leg. My athlete husband spent a year learning to walk again without crutches. It was a year of surgery, hospitals, physical therapy, and alternating hope and despair. But hidden in the darkness of that year was a gift for us: it blasted us out of our routines and made us realize that “someday” had come: if we wanted to live in Europe, it was time to do it. Or else let it go. In the words of one of our friends, it was time to fish or cut bait. So we fished.

We began the process: Dan took early retirement, and got a certification to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults. His doctors finally allowed him to run again. He began teaching ESL to Washington’s immigrant population. He loved it. He blossomed as an independent teacher I gave my consulting firm one year’s notice, and we began researching our options.

We had always assumed that when we went to Europe, we would live in Ireland. We had friends to help us settle in, we both had Irish roots (and Irish passports!) Since neither of us has the temperament to totally “retire”, we knew that we wanted some work that we could do in Europe. Dan had found the answer for us: teach English! We also wanted to experience Europe not as tourists. That meant that we wanted to work and get to know the place we lived as people who lived there. So, with teaching in mind, we began to explore places in Ireland with language schools.

When I left my consulting firm in 2000, we found a house-sitter for our house, and I went to Dublin for a month to study and earn a certification to teach ESL. Dan joined me there, and we spent four months living in Dublin and teaching English. No, not to the Irish, but to people from all over the world who came to Ireland to learn English. I began to see myself as a part of a vast army of native speakers who are teaching the language of Shakespeare, Joyce, and Agatha Christie to people all over the world.

To be continued... click here for part 3


JustJo said...

THIS is the story I've been waiting for years
to hear ... It's wonderful reading the "how" of
what lead you to be where you are now... And
obviously totally happy with it ...

Grace said...

an accident on his bike caused a shattered leg? yikes! that's terrible! but it seems to have led to some exciting experiences, and i'm looking forward to reading about them! (i've always wanted to live in ireland too.)

Kate said...

JO, what a sweet thing to say. I'm showing this to Dan. Thanks!

GRACE, it WAS terrible. His femur was so shattered that they couldn't find room for all the screws they needed. They had to tie some of the pieces back on. >>shudder<< I'm glad it's behind us.

eatlivetravelwrite said...

Can't wait to read the rest...

Maggie B said...

The cycling injury sounds horrendous, but it led to such a new & exciting life for you both.
Isn't there a word for that? Serendipity or something?? LOL.
Before we finally decided on France we looked around County Wexford, Ireland. In fact we might be living there now if we hadn't been "gazumped" on the house we were about to purchase.
C'est la vie.

The Gypsy Chef said...

Love this story. Even better that it's true.
Isn't it interesting how one horrid accident can lead to so much happiness and adventure?
I too have an Irish passport and look forward to utilizing it.

A Canadian Foodie said...

I can't wait to hear how you ended up in Belgium...
But, for now, teaching English is what I thought I would do, too. Or teaching other things. As that is what I do. I teach. Without even meaning to. And, Vanja, from Easter Europe has the savvy necessary to get things done there. I draw and used to paint, too. Maybe you knew that? I don't recall if I told you. Staying at a house in France for two weeks with a painter and painting with him would be truly a dream. Cooking dinners at night. Painting by daylight. In the countryside. Paradise. I, too, will always be working through my retirement. Volunteering or teaching.