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Sunday, February 27, 2011

After jetlag comes.... calm

I claimed to not have been affected by jetlag. Well, I spoke too soon! Holy moly! After the high I’d experienced on Wednesday and not being able to sleep that night (for my body-clock not knowing what day it was or what time it was supposed to be working on AS WELL as the excitement), Thursday was bound to be a day of confusion. And, me being me, I wanted everything to feel good and okay and fine and dandy from the word ‘go’, and seeing as though I wasn’t in that particular frame of mind – I pushed myself through the jetlag to get to that settled peace of mind… So I could continue… whatever it was I’d started when I was Ireland… huummmm….

I couldn’t click a switch from one life to another WITHOUT being affected by the changes that were happening. I can see now, on reflection, how I was passing through the motions. The days were unfolding and the ups and downs naturally came to pass. But, when it was happening (on Thursday) I wanted way too much than my frazzled, tired and confused mind was able to handle. I wanted to be teaching straight away and understanding the ins and outs of the company. I wanted my body already to feel fine with eating so many different foods at different times of the day and I wanted to sleep properly. I wanted to walk into a supermarket and know what I was buying and I wanted to be speaking Chinese… I wanted to be on top of everything, but my brain wasn’t allowing any of this. It wasn’t functioning at all… It was mush! It was overwhelmed with everything. The switch wasn’t clicking and I was almost unable to cope with this fact. Probably a good thing that I wasn’t teaching just yet… whaahaa….

But, this was only one day and this frenzied state didn’t last. Not when I realized there never would be switch to click and there would only ever be a ‘flow’. So, I managed to stay on top of it. After work I went for dinner with Helen, the teacher from New Zealand (who is fluent in Chinese!!!). We found common ground and I was able to put everything into perspective, effortlessly. And suddenly I had such clarity about what this Chinese experience is offering me and the future prospects can appear to be as big I want them to be. I’d only been in the country 2 days at that stage and, jetlag aside, I was calming and more determined that ever before to continue unfolding my life, as I had been doing, in Ireland.

Before arriving, I’d feared that leaving Ireland meant ‘things’ would stop. By ‘things’ I mean: writing, learning, connecting with people, reading and simply loving life as I’d jump in and out of bed every evening and morning in a happy state. I anticipated there to be a chance that all of these things would be ‘taken’ from me, by the act of up-rooting myself from a place that offered me so much potential to continue growing as a writer and instead committing myself to a contract and being an English teacher again. But since Thursday night I realized it’s coming together perfectly. I’m in a place surrounded by such good people. I feel like I’ve landed myself in a family – but it’s a company. I’ve placed myself amongst friends, who all look out for each other. I may be sitting in an office, but I’m in China. I’m here to teach, I aim to bring something extra into the classroom and to develop and express that other aspect of myself again.

I’m here to grow and it’s not only through teaching. I’m here to write and I’m here to set-up a new life as well as continue with what the ‘other’ life gave me… I’m here to become even more independent and I have the chosen the perfect Chinese city in which to do so. The pace of life here is easy. There are places where I can go, to be inspired. I’m already walking a gorgeous route every morning to work (everybody else gets a cab…but how can I observe and absorb life, if I’m sitting behind the glass window, staring at their ways, instead of WALKING with their ways?) There are coffee-shops I can treat myself to, on my days off, to write – just like I did in Ireland, in Rome, in India, in Australia, in Thailand... There’s a small community of Westerners, who aren’t working for the company, but who I’ll be introduced to by the other teachers. I’m in the office 40 hours a week, but if I’m not in the classroom and if I’ve done all my lesson plans and prepared my classes, I get time to be a writer.. Most of the staff-members already know about how much I need to write. I don’t know how this happened…!!! (I’ve already been asked to write pieces for other foreign teachers, who are considering moving to Jinzhou or China, to work for the same company - they loved my writing and are gutted I don’t speak Chinese… as that would mean I’d be able to write for them…!!)

It’s so strange… This doesn’t feel like anything I imagined it would. It feels like so much more. After 2 days, others were surprised by how familiar it feels to have me here and this was confirmation of my exact feelings. A group of Chinese teachers and office staff, with a few Western guys… The sleep will return, the grogginess will fade, the Chinese will start happily occupying me, the food will start to feel more familiar and the teaching will come naturally… I’m now gelling with everything and I’m so sure that aspects of my life will never ever leave me, no matter where I may be… Yes!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Indian Intensity & Chinese Ease

I'm able to free-up so much of my mind, because I haven't needed to get used to this Asian way of life. I haven't been going through the same extreme of emotions or adjustments, as I went through during my first 2 weeks in India. I've been comparing it constantly that land of magic, in just about every way. Why? Because the last place I travelled to was that amazing country. So the impressions are still very much fresh in my mind. Here, there’s no honking of the horns, no crazy trafficking, no dirty streets and no stares (or maybe there are stares but I don't feel them). I don't feel like an outsider, I'm not afraid or wary of making eye contact and I don't feel ashamed when I say I'm not married at the age of 27. Speaking of religion is something that I don't feel uneasy about, because they just don't ask! It's all so very easy. And sooo convenient! I don’t know if this makes me happy or not! But I guess it's not about being happy or sad for fitting-in or standing-out. It's about feeling ease, no matter how others perceive you and no matter what part of the world you’re in.

I already have learnt why India led me to Ireland and why Ireland led me to China. India took such a toll on every aspect of who I was and it forced me to almost forget myself (just for trying to cope with the intensity of the impressions). And this in turn, forced me to find myself all over again. And what I found was leading me to Ireland and writing the book. India led me to awaken the story inside that needed to find an expression. And Ireland has led me to China, where I feel at ease already (within such a short space of time) and so I know that all this space and freedom of suddenly living in Asia, gives me extra life and energy to bring out the teacher again and to continue the process of the book publishing! I'd never be able to continue the book being in a country that's impressions are all-consuming and staying on top of those impressions, turns out to be a full-time job in itself. Wouw... China is like, normal life... almost – with enough opportunities, magic and inspiration to write, to teach and to simply be ‘still’ in my travels.

Feb 23rd: First Full day in Jinzhou

My first full day in China. Can I say how it started? Well, I woke up after 12 hours of sleep – unaffected by jetlag. And the first thing I had to get my head around: was yesterday a dream? Was I still really on the other side of the world, the place on the globe I'd been looking at for so long? So near to Beijing? Once I realized that I really WAS alive and experiencing this, the second thing that came to mind: Australia. I had the exact same feeling as when I was in Oz in January of last year; I was staying with my Trish and Ed (aunt and uncle) and I'll never forget the strongest sense of peace and quiet I was feeling every morning when waking-up. I loved that soooo much! And on this first morning of waking up in Jinzhou city, I felt the same sense of peace. Wow. What a start!

First-off: to the office. I felt so at ease... which was almost freaking me out. So I forced myself to stop questioning this ease and instead I relished in the feeling and was so grateful for that fact that I'd made it! I was in China... Yes yes yes... The impressions would continue and I'd be putting myself in this Chinese world, in whatever way it would take me!

I stepped outside the apartment – by the name of Manhattan (!!!!) - with my workmate and housemate Matt. Gorgeous weather was what hit me first. It wasn't too hot of course (around 0 degrees). But it's a crispy freshness that doesn't feel bitter at all. The air is so light and even if it's cloudy, they aren't sitting on top of your shoulders (I'm beginning to think that the condensed formation of the clouds and the heavy feeling it can provide, is only felt in Ireland...). This climate feels so lovely! Anyhow, 10 minutes in the cab and we arrived at the office/school. And what a great set-up! I was introduced to all of the staff (around 25 in total, including 6 Western teachers) and got a guided tour of the school. It's a private English school, so it's not a 'standard' set-up. To describe it best: it resembles an office building, with bright, colourful, spacious rooms – that serve as classrooms. It's modern, with facilities that probably Ireland doesn't even have in their classrooms!

But that's only bricks and water I suppose. Because what's most important is what happens INSIDE the building and the people that come and go each day. And, so far, I'm delighted with my colleagues! I have 6 Western teachers to work with and the Chinese teachers (who are the Western teachers' assistants) are the cutest and nicest people ever. It's all such early days, but I instantly felt like I'd known these people for alot longer than a day...

For the first week I won't be teaching – just observing classes. This is so good, because it's been giving me a chance to get my head around just being 'me' in China! So I'm in the office everyday and writing my way from one stage to the next, just to get my bearings and to gear myself up for teaching to start.

Throughout my first day, I was like a kid to be honest. I probably did everybody's head in...whaahaaa! But I couldn't contain myself. It was like I'd been locked away from travelling for so long and suddenly I was being let set free again in the amazing Asian world and I didn't want to 'keep a lid on my excitement'. Why should I? Next week, this excitement could be gone; I know I'll feel more settled. Also, I know it's impossible to sustain such a level of excitement. So when these days DO come-up and the events in ones life DO give life to such a passion – then it's a shame to dampen that excitement. We can never know how long it will last or when and if it will come again. I just reckon it's important to savour the feelings that come from the experiences we're encountering. And this note probably sums up my first day in China... Just letting go!!!!

Feb 22nd: Reaching Jinzhou - 28 hours later

When I arrived in Jinzhou, my first impressions were (contrary to what I’ve been told about this very “small” Chinese city that holds 800.000 people): pretty and impressive with new buildings, new apartment blocks and new bridges (with frozen 'streaming' water – something I’ve never seen before in my life). The city is quiet (by Asian standards), it's clean (again, by Asian standards), it's smells fresh (... Asian standards..) and it’s really like a spread-out mini Chinatown! The thing I loved the most was the bright neon lights in Chinese script and not a word written in English! Finally, finally, finally I thought: I’m in ASIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By the way, when I went to the toilet and I had the choice of a western or non-western (hole in the ground) toilet, it totally hit home where I was… and what did I choose?? NON-WESTERN!!!!

I got to the apartment at around 7pm (this was still on Tuesday). Feeling like my head was in space and my brain was fried and frazzled, I opened the door to my new home and the first greeting was from a gorgeous dog (not too sure of the exact breed… could be a type of sheepdog) by the name of Cooper. Then I met my flat-mate, an American guy Matt, who is also Coopers’ ‘Dad’. I instantly had a home-life to fall into that would happen in the huge, clean and spacious apartment, with my own room (king-size bed and door wardrobe!) and private bathroom... How brilliant…

Before getting too settled into my new home though, I was taken by Apple and Lydia to the most high-class restaurant in the city. Well… this place was amazing! We ate in a PRIVATE SUITE, with massive double-doors and in the background there was a classical pianist playing live music… My first Chinese meal… I couldn’t believe it. I was told to sit at the top of the table. Then in walked around 3 or 4 waitresses, all holding a different dish, they placed them on a moving-platter in the centre of the table, so we could pick and choose whatever we wanted… I was so glad at this stage to have had some use of chopsticks in the past… So I didn’t feel like too much of an amateur! The 2 girls were so intrigued and interested. They were speaking Chinese between themselves, almost constantly, and I can only imagine how they were observing and evaluating my ‘eating techniques’ and my reactions to their food - which were all good… (Except for the pork and the grizzly bony chicken pieces) This was my welcome dinner from the company and, even in my frazzled state, I managed to savour it.

I got back an hour later and some of the other English teachers came by our ‘pad’ to welcome me. I met British Mike, American Lauren and British John (he isn’t actually a teacher for our company (which is called English First), but teaches at the city university). I felt so relaxed, straight away. Within 15 minutes of chatting with them, I knew this was the perfect place for me right now. This made me feel so relieved, and with this sense of relief came a buzz of excitement for what this lifestyle will offer me. Then, the jetlag subsided and all I wanted was to get more and more familiar with this Chinese life. I wanted to get ‘out there’!!!! Hearing of how things work here, I know that this convenience and ease on the job - that I didn’t experience in India but WILL be experiencing here - will free up so much of my time and give me all the energy to focus fully on this Chinese experience AS WELL as what I focusing on at home. It’s amazing. Also the group I’ve fallen into… are sooooo likeminded (it’s almost freaky). Lauren is a writer, Mike is a therapist back in England (just taking a few years out of London to experience a different life), Matt and Mike both play the guitar and sing (not that I do, but being surrounded by that type of music will definitely suite me!) And they are all into art and learning to speak Chinese!

Within an hour, I got so many snippets of the amazement that awaits and I desperately wanted it to start. But I had to take my time… I first needed sleep and to get some of my energy back… And because I was feeling so excited, yet calm with discovering this is the right environment for me, I was able to sleep amazingly… What a ‘day’ this was.. and it lasted for I don’t know how many hours ;)

Feb 22nd: Beijing - Shenyang - Jinzhou

After a 10 hour flight, during which I didn’t sleep, I wrote my heart out, I finished reading a book, I ate some bad meals, walked up and down the aisle asking the airhostesses for water and tea (just to prevent dehydration) and nearly experienced an explosion in my head because of the pressure caused when we slowly started descending – all because my ears wouldn’t pop (what a painful experience by the way, nearly causing me to be sick in the toilet!), we landed in Beijing and it was a crazy race to catch my connecting flight.

There was me, thinking Heathrow was village on its own… But it’s nothing compared to Beijing Airport; this particular one felt to be a CITY on its own. I couldn’t believe the size of it: high ceilings, sparkling floors and glass walls everywhere. There was so much space, you’d never realize the amount of people that find themselves lost – but I can actually start to imagine, after having only an hour to sample the vastness of Beijing International Airport.

So, in the space of 60 minutes, I had to hop on a bus from the plane to the terminal, then go through customs with a declaration form before walking 15 minutes to the train, picking up my luggage, dropping the bags at the check-in desk, getting myself through security again and walking another 15 minutes to the gate AND THIS ALL TOOK PLACE WITHIN THE SAME TERMINAL! It was massive and I can’t say how pleased I was to catch that last flight!

I actually met a girl from England, who was on the same flight to Beijing. We didn’t start talking to each other until we were both searching for someone who in the same boat. The ‘boat’ being: totally lost and in search for domestic connecting flights in Beijing Airport. In between our stress and confusion, we eventually found out that we were both starting work for the same company! The only difference being: based in different locations. She was off the Xian, I was off to Shenyang. I think she said her name was Melanie. We helped each other getting to where we needed to be, which was nice.

I reached my final destination 18 hours after leaving Dublin + 8 hours of time difference, 3 flights, 3 bad meals and zero hours sleep later… I was welcomed with open arms by 2 Chinese members of staff, by the name of Apple and Lydia. A big hug and a kiss on the cheek is what I got and 5 minutes later the last leg of the journey started: a 3 hour car drive to Jinzhou… Nearly there!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feb 21st - The Flight

The lights are dimming and the people are settling into their seats, reclining their chairs and letting the not-so-good-plane-food relax them into sleep-mode; this airbus 737 is bringing us through different timezones and it's letting this particular night be shorter than what our bodyclocks are accustomed to (as we're flying towards the sun, instead of away). I'm in the air, in full flight and I feel amazing – and quite warm too (usually night-flights can be pretty cold, but this particular one is actually urging me to take off some layers... hahah... how cosy it is!)

Saying goodbye to the family this morning, was so different. I actually felt more luck than sadness... Why? Because not everyone has a family who totally understands just how important it can be, to do certain things in life; even if they themselves feel some degree of loss, throughout the process of expressing understanding and offering support. It's amazing really.

As well, every other time I've had to say goodbye, I've not been able to be so... what's the word... so CERTAIN and so CAPABLE of speaking from the heart. Usually I'd be fighting back the tears and unable to speak, for fear of showing too much weakness. But now, there were no tears.. I'd already shed them on Saturday! Wouw.. how cool is that!

This meant the last 'coffee-stop' I had with Mam, Eileen and Sean, just before checking-in and going through the departure gates, was one I'll never forget. I didn't feel there was a massive big 'thing' that needed to be done. Even though it's indefinite when we'll be seeing each other again, it was all SOOO fine! I said what I wanted to say, I did all I wanted to do and I didn't feel bad either for NOT crying... Yes!!!! This was the best 'goodbye' I've ever experienced in my whole life!

Having said that, it doesn't mean I won't miss them. It just means that I know my place within the family so much more than ever before and I know that our connection is strong, and always will be. It's like missing those I love, is a special kind of 'missing'' it's one I feel lucky to experience. Because the fact that I have such people to miss, means I'm blessed. No matter what happens.

Fantastic. I was ready for take-off. A bmi flight from Dublin to London and still savouring the Irish accents around me as much as poss. Once I landed in Heathrow and made my way through to terminal 3 – the Irish people were vanishing and the mingling started. Every nation suddenly has at least a 50 people to represent their country. Heathrow, everytime, seems to blow my mind. It's like this village, with different roads, alleyways, estates, communities, activities, methods of transport (to, from and THROUGH the 'village). There's a constant stream of people and commerce. Millions of people passing through each day and the list of flights departing is ENDLESS... Man it's crazy... I could sit here and analyze it, forever. But I won't. I'll keep moving this piece of writing forward, up until now: 9pm GMT or 5am GMT +8 (which is the timezone we're flying towards).

So, after a long walk from one end of “Heathrow-village” to the other, I finally found my gate. And that's when it started happening: the majority of people around me were Chinese, I was in the minority with just a handful of Brits around me. I'd alreayd left Europe and landed myself in Asia – and I hadn't even boarded the plane yet. I was buzzing with excitement and already smelling the food, tasting the tea, hearing the language and adoring the chinese children.

I can't wait to get there now, even though I'm loving this flight. 10 hours in total. O yeah, I must have sounded like a right wolly, when I first sat down in seat 39D. I turned to the guy behind me and asked how long the flight is...! and shocked when I heard it was so long...haha... How prepared am !!!

Okay. This is it for now. Trying to get some sleep on planes has never been without struggle. But maybe this night will be different. See you when I'm on the ground... on Asian soil! Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feb 21st - Last days Ireland

After my last post – Saturday afternoon (the 19th) – I moved myself through the motions and, emotionally, I was leaving Ireland. I was finished writing and for the first time in my whole life, I cried tears for leaving this place. I couldn't believe it... I felt a sudden panic and still wanted to do so much! I had this massive weight in my chest and it was only lightened when I shed so many tears. Tears representing alot, but most of all representing GOODNESS. So, I didn't care and I let them fall.

My mam saved the day. We went for coffee and I unloaded my 'stuff' by putting into perspective what I had to do and why I was doing all of 'this'. One cup of Irish milky tea and a pair of understanding ears were enough to make me feel totally ready for the world. And it happened in the perfect place; O Briens coffeeshop. This is a place where I've sat for many hours, writing my heart out. Every minute I spent there, with a cappucino for company, by the writing I was doing, I'd transport myself to another place where I'd experience boundless magic and dreams, just by using my imagination. It was always amazing. Such fun I can have...all by myself!

Anyhow. Saturday night we had a 'get together' with the family. Nibbles, drinks, cards and some good oul' craic. That night I dreamt I was having interviews for teaching jobs in Belgium. But none of the schools would take me on. Eventually the recruitment agency told me to go to China. She said I'd be sure to get a job there... I asked will it give me opportunities. She said there are never any guarantees, but I'll never know unless I give it a try. I woke and knew for sure it was all systems go! Yes, yes yes!

Sunday. I thought the alcohol would've frazzled my brain. But it didn't and I got myself moving. The emotions had gone, there were no nerves and I was so calm yet excited, all at once. At times I'd wonder though, why this step would feel to be bigger than the step I made from Australia to India (a year ago). Surely that one was more challenging and daunting that this step I'm taking from Ireland to China? Hummm... I've done all this before, haven't I?! I've been teaching, I've been to Asia, I've left my home country. None of the steps are bigger than any of my previous steps!!!! So I don't know why I've been questioning it all so much. Force of habit I guess...

Or... maybe it's because now, I've stepped AWAY from travels for a while and so, stepping back INTO travelling, is new again. Moving from Ozzie-land to India, was done when I was in travelmode and surrounded by travellers. Then it's a normal step to make. That's why this move differs. Most of the people in my surroundings, they hear of what I'm doing and are 'in awe'. They find it hard to comprehend HOW and WHY I'd put myself through this, alone. So, of course, by only being surrounded by people who seem to think China is way-off the 'league of normalcy', I'll constantly be putting this whole step into prepective, for myself. Hence the reason for my reflections to be somewhat deeper, more full of wonder and fuelled with motivation. It's all in aid of keeping myself 'flowing' and stopping myself from being influenced by the doubts others may have or the apprehension they themselves would experience, if they were to make a similar move.

And... it's paid-off! Haha... I'm sitting on the plane right now. I'm off to Beijing. 2 hours ago, we left Heathrow. I was just diving into a book I got from my auntie Bridgy. That's when I started to feel this bubble inside; it was getting bigger and bigger and I needed to vent.. So the laptop appeared and I started to tap.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

... Nope... let's leave them open!

Well, it's happened. Such a turn of events. This means that my leaving will bring up different 'stuff' too. I realize now, that I don't need to close the door behind me when I leave on Monday. I can and will and already AM counting my blessings for how these past 6 months have planned out. Ireland brought out the writer in me. The dream I had, when leaving India, was to 'establish myself as a writer'. I wanted soooo badly to create foundations of a writer. And I've done it; I've put into practise that I CAN sit behind a computer screen for months on end, producing something I (personally) can only consider as being a special creation. Yes yes yes... It's happened!!! And I've actually gone further than I thought I would. I've learnt things I pressumed I already knew... Man oh man... I've 'healed' my past issues all over again and I feel more free than ever before. I've opened this door, the foundations are in place and I won't be closing it simply because I'm leaving.

The world and the coincidences that have been guiding me throughout this whole process, only mean that I'm on the right track and that I've given more of myself to carving this path, than I ever felt I was capable of giving.

Like every other place I've been to, I've always left the door open. But Ireland was always the only one I closed tightly everytime I boarded a plane – it was almost for fear of what could happen if I left it open. Because an open door always means there's still opportunities that can draw a person back to that certain place. I know now the opporutinities Ireland offers me, in terms of living the life I dream of. Ireland offers me the foundations of self-expression and writing. That's it. And why would I want to close the door to something that feels so brilliant!

On occasion, over the past weeks, I've been wondering if I'm turning my back on my book and on the writing I do. Am I stopping things from happening, by leaving? If I were to close the door, then yes I'd be turning away. But I'm leaving it open and this is a huge adjustment.

And what happened yesterday (Friday) was proof that the opportunities are still coming my way.. I did another radio interview on Thursday for the same radio station. And to cut an extremely long story short and to avoid getting into a detailed description of the coincidences that accured yesterday after noon, I'll 'cut to the chase' and update on what came from this second interview. Yesterday evening I got a call from an agent in Dublin, who has only just started up his new business and is looking for writers!!!! We chatted on the phone, I then sent him my first 2 chapters and we'll be keeping in touch! I couldn't believe it... I even asked him if it would be a problem that I'm moving to China on Monday, and it's not an issue! Now, the only issue is; does he like what he reads and does he therefore want to take me on... That's always the question of course!!! hahaha... And time will reveal all!

I couldn't believe it though, that up until one of my very last days of being in Ireland, the process is still ongoing... I'm making it happen, it's all working and when I get to China there's nothing stopping me from working my ass off, to get the book 'out there' and to be a happy teacher at the same time! There's no reason for this NOT to work.

I feel so ready now. I feel so sure that this is the only direction in which I can head, at this moment in time.. To China. We STILL can never know what will come of the decisions we make, but to be certain that it's all in aid of so much more (whatever that may be) is more information than I can process for the moment!! haha....

Closing doors???

It's so strange. For months, I had this 'thing' in my mind; Everything would be 'done and dusted', at the same time as leaving Ireland. But, now that it's approaching, it's not working like that at all!

The last time I set-off on a big journey, which was to Australia nearly 2 years ago... I approached it so as to leave everything behind. I wanted to close the doors to that chapter of my life. I wanted to leave it all behind and start a fresh. I guess, when I first came back here, 6 months ago, I had the same mindset and figured I'd feel the same once the time came to leave. Now though... it's here, and everything is so different than I expected.

My time in Ireland turned out to nothing I'd expected it to be. I expected to be gone within a few weeks of arriving... I never expected to have done what I've done, to have learnt what I've learnt, to have connected with Ireland and to see it as a beautiful place. I never expected this country to be the perfect environment for me to write my first (??!!!) book... Never in a million years did I think I'd be proud to say: I'm Irish and it's an amazingly special place to be. This has taken me by such surprise...

So the time to leave is approaching and the old me is getting frustrated for NOT feeling the need to close the door to the place that offers me my roots. I realized during the week: I'm willingly leaving the door to Ireland open, it's not being closed – which has always been the case whenever I'd venture-off for a longer period of time.

I can almost compare what I experienced here in Ireland (the amount I've learnt and how I've established a deeper connection with the person I am) to my experience in India! Wow...where did that come from!!!! 6 months in India: I went there on a 'mission' of some kind and I started teaching. I had an openmind and little expectations. I didn't even know if I'd last more than a month (especially when taking the different opnions from other travellers into account)... But I loved every minute. By placing myself in the Indian world, I was learning so much about life, about how I view the world and how I can find my place within it. If the visa hadn't been the reason to leave, then I would have stayed. But now, I'm so glad the visa limitations forced me to leave.

I left India and the door was (and still is) very much open. I will always want and need to return. I knew this when I boarded that plane on the 19th of July that left Mumbai and flew to Rome. Then, taking a chance on love, is what I played my hand at. And how grateful I am to have taken that step, otherwise I'd never have placed myself in Ireland, 3 weeks after leaving magical India.

I always remember meeting an Irish girl in the ashram. She was from Dublin and on a yoga vacation for 4 weeks. I was blown away, when she told me how much she loved her life in Ireland. Really, I was speechless. It was a combination of not understanding how and why she would feel like this AS WELL as envy. I wanted that same feeling too! How brilliant I thought it would be to speak such proud and sincere words, when you're travelling one of the most impressionable countries in the world! I felt so envious, but at the same time, I felt physically sick, just thinking of ever coming back to Ireland! Wouw... Who would have thought that only 4 weeks after meeting this Irish girl would a new chapter start and I'd be in Ireland and working (unintentionally) on developing a sense of wonder for Ireland. Who'd have thought that 6 precious months of my life would give me this everlasting sense of pride for my roots...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flowing to China

Last week I picked-up my visa from the embassey in Dublin. I had a few doubts whether or not it would go through without any problems – even though I had all the official forms sent over from the school so as I'd get a working visa. But still, I was waiting until I had my passport back in my hands WITH the visa in it, until I totally believed it was happening.

It was so cool, to pick it up personally. I'd actually had a dream a few weeks ago where I was holding my passport in my hands, with one page saying: CHINESE VISA! So, when it was handed over to me last week, my dream had come true. Brilliant! Now I was (and still am) so sure that nothing is going to stop me. I'm on my way!

My flight is booked for Monday, the 21st. So... only 5 days? Something along those lines. Not that I'm counting really. It won't make it come any faster. And I don't want to wish away my last week in Ireland.

Man, it's so strange, making the shift from mainly focusing on writing, doing articles, approaching agencies and 'establishing myself as a writer', to suddenly being an English teacher again.

This time next week, I'll have worked my first day. I'll have been in the classroom again, in front of the kids... It's so hard to imagine. I've waited so long for this move, and the way it all happened has been too effortless almost for this step back into teaching NOT to be the right thing to do.

I suppose it's only normal for there to be some doubts as to whether or not teaching will fill me with the same sense of satisfaction as the writing has been doing. And that's the biggest thing I'm facing: I wonder if the fact that I'm 'out there', independently travelling, experiencing a different culture and making things happen in a new country, will make up for what I feel I might be 'losing'? By 'losing' I mean to say: no longer giving 90% of my time and energy to the search for a home for the manuscript/book/baby.

Hummm... This is question I won't know the answer to, until I'm there. But to prevent this move to feel as if I'm turning my back on my book - as I turn and face a new chapter of my life - I've been trying to set up as much as I can, before I leave (i.e. by writing a proposal and rewriting my synopsis/summary/personal biography). This will hopefully let the move to China flow, as it should do. I'm not putting a full-stop behind what I'm doing now. I'm taking this process with me (and I suppose that's the beauty of modern technology: being able to contact the whole world, regardless of where we are). My book will be flying with me on Monday afternoon (not literally, or maybe just backed-up on my pendrive and harddrive!). I might be relocating, but the work still needs to be ongoing. I've come this far, and I'm not about to 'abandon' the search for my books' home. No matter where I may be.

Is this the key that will let me feel safe and offer me reassurance that I'm always on the right track – even if my focus is shifting from the bookworld to world of travel and teaching? It could very well be.

Wondering about how it will unfold, excites me so much. There are lots of questions going round in my head right now. But to list them all here and now, is a bit much. So instead, I'll trust that the answers will come, as I head towards China. How do I get myself prepared though? Because I feel like I should be running around getting things sorted. I should be doing 'this' and 'that'.. But I don't know what 'this' and 'that' are! I've realized there'll be no 'big bang', there'll be no explosion and I'll flow to China, even if it just to find the answer to the only question I'm going to 'expose' here (not for NOT wanting to SHARE, but more for NOT wanting to BORE you!).

It's the question: Can I still gain satisfaction and experience amazement when I'm teaching the little kids to speak English, after having done the most important work of my life (by writing a book)? Well, the answer is already in the question! Because there never will be another piece of work that I'll write again, that will be of such importance to me (personally) and fill me with so much joy, amazement, energy and love for life than the book I've written. So... this answer then leads to just one more question: Will I be able to feel comfortable and at ease knowing that I'm going back to something I've already done in the past, instead of moving forward, with my book, so I can continue unfolding a life of writing?

The answer: The only way I'll feel comfortable and at ease is by continuing the process of the publishing and by approaching teaching in China as a chapter that's IN AID of being a writer. This is just one small change – going to China. So small that it will most definitely lead to new opportunities, contacts and lifestyle. As long as I know that teaching English is a stepping stone for inspiration and it's to put into practice the dream I have in sight: merging travels with writing – as I flow through the world and learn from every experience. That's all it's about.

So... I'll leave this post for what it is now... (because I can feel myself getting totally carried away here... but I'm containing myself!) And I'll 'prepare' all that I have to. But I don't really know what! What a great feeling...

By the way, I'm only writing like this because I'm so calm right now. And probably just on the day before I leave (Sunday) I'll be running around like a headless chicken not knowing what to do first and last! Hahaha... It's so typical isn't it: the work only gets done when the pressure is on!

Oh well... I might just try avoid being a temporary headless chicken... and opt for being an airhead... no... I'll choose to be something that's grounded and level-headed... Yes.. See if it works!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Calling all authors: I'm ready!!!!!!!!!!!!

A week that has revolved around what...? Around getting my act into gear! That’s what...

I’ve been working on a proposal for the book. What’s that? Well, it’s what will get
me through the door of the agent. Up until last week, I was only sending off an introductory letter and synopsis (which is a summary of the book) to the agents (that are legit!) But it wasn’t really doing the book justice. Well, not in my eyes anyhow.

So, I’ve spent 3 full days working on this proposal. I had no idea just how big this would be. Nearly 20 hours of sweat has dripped into this laptop and it’s turned into a 4000 word project! I’ve been doing hours of market research about treatment for eating disorders and have been gathering statistics and using every ounce of ME so the agents will want to read my book. I’ve even suggested a sequel to this first (man, getting so far ahead of myself right now... I haven’t even got the first one on the shelf and I’m already speaking of a second book!!!)... As well, I’ve been gathering key selling points, creating the ‘blurb’ (which is what will be written on the back of the book) and have been making myself out to be something more interesting than I may be – how cheeky of me...!!! I’ve been searching for convincing words to tell them why I’m the person to write about this specific topic, why this book differs from all the rest, what others can be compared to mine and what’s good or bad about the link between these suggested 'other books'.

Man o man o man... I hadn’t a clue the work that would be involved in getting the proposal together... And the importance of what it could mean is HHHHUUUUGGGGEEEE!!!!!!

A good proposal or an outstanding proposal can be the difference between getting published or not. If the agent doesn’t like the first 3 lines of the proposal, you’re on the scrap heap and they won’t consider reading your 4000 word project, let alone the 105.000 words in the book... Man o man o man... When the first 3 lines of the proposal ARE more striking than the 200 other proposals that have been delivered in the space of just one week, they’ll agree to read the manuscript. BUT then it’s still not a question mark whether or not they’ll take you on and represent you to the publisher! Man o man o man...

How can I ever stress the importance of what I’m doing...? I don’t think I can. And at the moment, it’s frustrating me to be perfectly honest. I feel so much is riding on this proposal and I want to speak to somebody soooooooooooooooo badly who’s done the same thing! Man, I just want someone to say: “Niamh, yeah, I’ve been there and it’s tough and I totally understand how important this is”. People around me, will never understand what I go through when I sit for hours behind the computer screen absorbed in doing my book justice, by writing a ‘simple’ proposal. Because actually I’m sitting in a world that has the potential of offering my book a lifeline...

Man o man o man. I’ve got so much rage today! I don’t know... It’s p-ing me off a little! Is this me shouting silently for help? Could very well be...
I’ve worked my ass off to get this proposal as good as can be and I’ll never know if it’s good enough for the 600 agents that I’m approaching at the moment!

Right.... breathe Niamh. This is where it will happen: an author will come falling out of the sky and offer me some kind words of advice. And that will ease the frustration and the desire I have to control this whole book world in the exact manner I want!

Whhhaaaa... the control freak has now officially been let loose! Where’s the trust and safety in the unknown? Wait, wait, wait... Is the frustration subsiding and is excitement returning? Yeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh................There it is... It’s appearing: the road ahead that’s clear and white... it’s a canvas and I can paint on it whatever I like! Or the world will start painting it for me and the winding road will lead to the agent, then the publisher and eventually.... the SHELF!

Okay... calm and focused again...

How can those around me ever understand what I’m doing? It’s impossible. They haven’t written a book, and even if they HAD written a book, then STILL they wouldn’t understand what’s riding on the proposal that I’m working on so as to get my foot in the door of the agent. Because up until the beginning of the week, I HADN’T A CLUE EITHER! (Yes, I knew it was important, but suddenly its alarming significance is something that’s swamping me!)

Right, I can see what’s happening. This post is helping me so much! Thank you for reading... hahha... even if it’s causing your stress levels to rise too!

My reason for sweating over it is because it’s the bridge between my book and the agent! Hallelujah! That’s why I’m so desperate for somebody to give me a pat on the back and wholeheartedly MEAN it when they say: “Niamh, I understand your sudden despair”.

Okay, I feel much better now... Calm and focussed again. I’m gonna finish the proposal and the agents will all be blown away! The next time I see you here, I’ll have flabbergasted them all and this sweating right now, will have been over... nothing...

RELAX and BREATHE.....................

Saturday, February 5, 2011

An Agent vanished...

In the end, I didn’t fall for the scam. I realized before accepting their offer, that it wasn’t legit. But, my god, I can only say how sick I felt to suddenly find out that my ‘baby’ was in the hands of a conman. I felt violated, deceived and it was like I was losing something! Wow man... How could I have let this happen? I was terrified he was going to ‘steal’ my book...

This is where the process of publishing gets complicated: Copyright. The seal that protects the writers work from being stolen or copied by someone else. Apparently, the book you’ve spent months sweating over, even if it hasn’t been published, is protected against theft, without having to go through any procedure (I find this law so confusing and so vague, by the way). But on Tuesday night I was so paranoid. I couldn’t sleep and was having nightmares. When I woke my up from the sound of my screams (yes, yes, I know, I can be the biggest drama queen there is!) I decided to follow advice I’d been given a few months ago which was to post a full copy of the manuscript to myself. According to what I’ve heard, it has to be in a stamped, sealed and dated envelope and isn’t allowed to be opened once it arrives home. It then serves as proof as my OWN WORK, should this proof be needed in the future, for whatever reason. So, this is what I did on Wednesday – just to feel like my baby was safe again...

It wasn’t until afterwards; I continued questioning... Would this ****** of dude, who is scamming 100s of first time writers, seriously sit down and read my script and then... steal it..?? One out of hundreds? Do I really think I’m THAT important? What a joke! Okay, I do love my book, yes. And it needs to be published, yes. But do I honestly think that my story stands out to such an extent, that this American guy, or any of his conning associates, would pick me to steal from? I realized that all the emails I’d received, would have been automated and nobody would have even opened my manuscript. It took the rational minds and words of a few other people, who I’ve since spoken to, for me to see that nobody would have looked at it. However, when it was happening, I did all I could do, to protect my work...

What a drama! But you know what? A day later, I wasn’t too deflated about the whole thing. Yes, I was disappointed at first, but then I was just happy for there to be so much information available, about the case that's being filed against this Mr Robert Fletcher. Websites are almost dedicated to him, all in aid of warning and protecting first-timers (and naive beings) like myself. I didn’t let it get me down and I had to get right back in the game. I found out the right sources for the professional and legit agencies. I found blogs and websites that are set-up to protect writers from fraud and I even reported this incident to the investigator of the Attorney General, in Florida. And they replied saying that there are 400 victims (and the amount is rising daily) and there’s a case against Mr Fletcher for Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices.

I learnt so much, through this ordeal. And right now, I’m so grateful for how this has planned out. It’s all apart of the process and a person must learn to grow, in whatever direction that may be. So, at the moment, the legit and professional agencies are being bombarded by my book proposal. I have to stay positive. This is only the beginning of the either long and winding or the short and straight road that will lead towards the printed book - or maybe it's a long and straight or short and winding, or average and bumpy.. Who knows! The description of possbile directions this process could take, are endless... meaning I haven't a clue how things are going to go! But it can only be good... Yes.. How exciting!

An Agent appeared...

The most recent development in the book-publishing process is one that first sent me so high I was flying, then brought me down so I was diving, and now, I’m I've risen again and find myself in between the 2 extremes – which is where I should be!

On Saturday (the 29th) I got an email from an American agency, who I approached 2 weeks ago with my full manuscript. The email was automated. However, it said they were willing to represent me! Meaning: they believed in my book, they saw its’ potential and would happily approach publishers for me! Wow, wow and one more wow! Yes, yes and one more yes!

The next step in the book-publishing process was about to get underway!! This agency, known as the WL Writers Literary Agency, would do all the work for me. They would arrange an editor, set-up a publishing deal, take care of the publicity and marketing! And I would excitedly fly to China knowing my book was being looked after and reaching the right people and audience... Right!!!! Right...??? Or maybe I was wrong...???

Still, Saturday night (the 29th). I was ecstatic by what this next step could mean. All I had to do was give them a simple ‘yes’, sign the contract and pay a small amount to have my script professionally edited. Even though I was so excited, I took a few days before making a definite decision. I had to weigh-up the pros and cons of going with this agency: they were based in America, I wouldn't get to meet anybody, they worked fast, they only sent automated mass emails to all of their newest writers. So, ultimately I wondered: did I want to go with an agent who didn’t personally put any effort into getting to know the writer, before deciding to represent their book...?? Hummm...

Monday, I still hadn’t made a decision. Tuesday, I felt it was time to take action. Would I say yes? Would I got for it, and trust these people I’d never spoken to or seen before, to bring my book to the publishers and eventually get it on the shelves? I figured I had nothing to loose at this stage and I needed to take this option, even though it happened so effortlessly or maybe, BECAUSE it happened so effortlessly...

Being so new to this book world means everything I do and every decision I make is one that will hold an element of risk...

Tuesday evening, I’d made up my mind: yes, I’m gonna go for this agent! WL Writers Literary Agency was the one to bring me all the way to America... or if not me, personally and physically, then my book! Yes!

So... still Tuesday evening. I set-out to do some more research before signing the contract. First I was reading some articles on agencies in general, written by professionals. I was starting to feel uneasy, as I realized that the way in which this particular agency set to work, wasn’t living up to what’s required from a professional agency. Oh no, I didn’t want this to be true... I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable going into ‘business’ with the only agency that had accepted my book! I felt it was my only chance but it was starting to look and feel a little bleak, the more I researched. As the alarm bells started going off, I jumped online and searched for more information. All I was seeing were big black words of warning, in capital letters... SCAM, FRAUD, CONMEN, RUN...

NO NO NO! As I jumped into several websites and skimmed across some of the pages, all I was reading was forums between first-time writers (like me) and well established writers who have been in this bookworld for many years... From the first-timers came a cry for help... They had just submitted their whole manuscript and were realizing they were being taken for a ride (again, that's me!). From the better established writers came advice and confirmation that this agency (WL Writers Literary Agency) is indeed a fraud and was never seriously going to represent the writer in question. It was an agency only scamming first timers to pay a fee for their representation, but they would never deliver the goods.

Wouldn’t anybody who’s only starting on the road to getting a book published seriously jump at the chance of paying a certain amount of money to have the script edited, if it means that the writer has an agent? If the writer has been told just how slim the chances are of being accepted by an agent, before being turned down at least 100 times, then wouldn’t such an effortless and easy option seem like the perfect solution and offer hope that the book really will get published? Some writers would jump at the chance and others would be more sceptical and question the ease of this agency’s acceptance of the script. And this one, who is currently sitting here typing this.. Did she jump? ALMOST... Did she question? EVENTUALLY... Is she now sceptical? Not really... Perhaps more alert 