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At the Mercy of Circumstance: Quarantined Abroad with Four Young Children
Written by: Courtney Bailey
Last Updated: February 8, 2021
Wait! THIS was NOT what I signed up for!
I had prepped and planned for months for this. It took me nearly two years to book my online TEFL course with the International TEFL Academy and take the leap of faith and move with my kiddos across the world.
The plan was to jet-set with my children from the United States to Turkey, enroll them in a Turkish school so that they could take advantage of a fully immersive experience, and then spend our weekends ferrying to Greece or driving to Bulgaria or Georgia or Azerbaijan to soak up as much culture as possible.
The plan was to watch my children flourish by making small talk with their peers, our neighbors, metro patrons, patisserie owners and mini-market attendants - in Turkish!
The idea was to encourage my kiddos to develop a deep appreciation and knowledge in Turkic languages, become well-versed and cultured in Turkish history, make friends internationally and become self-sufficient in another country
What actually happened was that they attended school in person for just three months when virtually the entire globe contracted Covid-19 and the world shut down… and just like that, our expectation was no longer our reality.
Posh school uniforms and playing through broken Turkish on the school patio quickly faded into a memory as virtual lessons from our flat filled our days! We fought for devices and space to teach and learn.
We spent days upon days indoors, gazing out at the ships and vessels on the Aegean Sea, the tall minarets that scratched the clouds and the lifeless streets below. At the strictest point of the lockdown, children were restricted from outdoor play, save for private patios and balconies.
We bought puzzles, practiced yoga, created homemade games and tried our hardest to contain our frustrations with one another when our space felt too cramped for the five of us.
Still, I have to commend my children on their ingenuity and cleverness to engage with one another in meaningful ways and to make the most of this unexpected situation, even though it was not our ideal.
The truth is, my children seemed just fine! Kids are somehow amazingly resilient and perhaps adjust to unforeseen circumstances better than adults. I, on the other-hand, struggled a great deal and I had to keep reminding myself that ‘things are as they are, we suffer because we imagined different’.
Of course, I had imagined differently! I had romanticized living abroad for all of my adult life and I felt that the Coronavirus had essentially robbed us of the experience I had dreamt about in my head. I was at the mercy of circumstance. I felt guilty for my disappointment and this took a toll on my confidence and my mental health.
Some time had passed when I decided to take a cue from my children, and I came to the realization that it was not the experience I had dreamt about, but it is still OUR experience and it is what we make it! I could have a moment of pity or a moment of power and still make the most of this opportunity! I chose the latter! I accepted the things that were out of my hands and that I could not change, and I consciously made the effort to choose positivity and work to find the silver lining in our new situation.
After all, my children were watching me. I had to remember that this is one of life’s teachable moments. I had to choose to be a good example and show my children how to respond, rather than react, to life’s inevitable disappointments, with dignity and grace.
I came into this situation somewhat naïve, expecting little adversity, but through this experience, I learned that I cannot always expect high notes, as high notes do not always make beautiful music. Sometimes low notes and dramatic pauses are equally as important and make for beautiful contributions to the overall experience.
The blessing: I got to spend A LOT of time with my children, watching them learn and grow! They showed me how to truly make lemonade out of lemons. Additionally, I became extremely adept with online teaching – something that was once extremely intimidating to me.
The lesson: This is not a full stop. It’s merely a comma, and I still have control over the way the rest of the story unfolds.
Courtney Bailey is 36 years old and originally from, San Diego, California. She is a mother of four, school-aged children. Courtney worked as a middle school Spanish teacher before taking a leap of faith to jet-set with her kids to teach English as a foreign language in Izmir, Turkey.
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