Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taking Up Juggling Again

Back in the U.S., my life involved constantly balancing the many parts of it -- working a full-time job; scheduling drop-offs, pick-ups, and carpools; getting the kid to his extracurricular activities and overseeing his homework; getting household chores and errands done, etc. And, on top of all that, trying to find time for myself, for my husband and me, and for all three of us as a family. Luckily, I was able to work from home most days of the week, which was a godsend and saved me from many, many hours of commuting time.

After arriving here in July, I had more free time than I knew what to do with, though that was short-lived as I was called in by the school to substitute-teach soon after the school year began and much of my free time was replaced by getting us settled and completing household chores, which always take a lot longer and more effort to do here. We got into a nice routine in the months after. My husband handled most of the school drop-offs and pick-ups since both of them now are at the same school, except Wednesdays, when my son had his swim classes and my husband had weekly school/faculty meetings.

When this semester started, our schedule changed a bit as my son's swim class changed to Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but I continued to pick him up after school on Wednesday afternoons. In February, I began tutoring four high-school girls (from a British international school near us) in English for two hours after school on Thursdays. So on those days, my husband would drop me off (after picking me up at home if I wasn't subbing that day) to tutor after our son's swim class and pick me up two hours later. Shortly after I began tutoring, my husband also began tutoring a student at our school in IB Biology for two hours after school on Tuesdays. So now I was picking up my son after school, taking him to swimming, and bringing him home on Tuesdays, as well as picking him up on Wednesdays, and my husband was doing the same on Thursdays. Things were getting a bit tricky! This kind of schedule was a bit hard to manage even back at home, when we had a car and could get from one place to another fairly quickly, but here, with no car and just one scooter and one bike, it seemed impossible at times and could be downright exhausting, especially with climbing temperatures again.

But being the professionals that we are, this proved to be so easy that we decided to take on even more! At the beginning of this month, I accepted another tutoring job on Wednesdays after school -- an elementary student at our school. So now when I pick up my son on Wednesdays, I bring his homework, which he works on while I'm tutoring (it's a pretty good idea because my third-grade tutee sees that my first-grader reads and does math at higher levels than he does, which motivates him...a little).  Luckily, this arrangement will end soon and Wednesdays will be back to being simple again in a couple of weeks.

But then -- are you ready for this? -- I got a call last week to sub again for the same special-education teacher that I did at the beginning of the school year. And as the week went on, I was approached with the possibility of subbing for him for the rest of the school year! It's really a pretty sad story -- this particular teacher has been at this school for almost a decade, but was asked to leave at the end of this school year, in part due to his deteriorating health, which had been declining rapidly the past two months. He had been looking extremely frail and unhealthy, and went to the hospital this past week (which I'm surprised he did because he doesn't believe in modern medicine and had been trying to "cure" himself with alternative medicine for most of this school year, even though he has no idea what's ailing him).

As if all this wasn't enough already, another twist was added to the week when the elementary school decided to close on Thursday and Friday, while the middle and high schools remained open, after pollution from an abandoned landfill (where illegal dumping continued to occur) fire in another province reached our area, causing the air to be so smoky and oppressive at times that it was difficult to breathe while outside. The fire began on Sunday, and as it polluted the air in our area on Monday, the Parent Association arranged for the air to be tested, after which this decision was made. However, I'm not sure why the middle and high schools remained open as the air quality was deemed acceptable for healthy adults only.

So just as I began my sub position at the school and was still trying to figure out a fairly crazy schedule, we were forced to look for childcare for my son for two days. This was a new situation for us -- between my husband and my son always having been on the same school calendar and my being able to work from home, we had actually never had to worry much about childcare coverage until now. Luckily, one of our friends generously offered to watch him both days. My son completely lucked out too, because his first day with our friend was her oldest son's birthday, so they all got to spend the day having a ton of fun at a play area at one of the malls, lunching at the mall, and getting treated to ice cream.

But it's not all fun and games with school cancellations here. Unlike in the U.S., when school is canceled here, the students still have to complete, on their own, all the schoolwork they would've done had they been in school. The first-grade teachers sent home a thick packet of work for the students to complete, while some upper elementary teachers posted the work online for the students.

Needless to say, I was completely exhausted after last week. And there's yet another routine to learn this week as all swim classes and practices are canceled until further notice while the pool water is being tested for toxins. Hopefully, everything will return to normal before the school year ends!

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