Chapter 4


Planning an overseas move is no small task. For me, it was not just going to be the move, but I would also have to obtain skills and certifications to be qualified to get a job teaching English, at least if I wanted to do it effectively. My proficiency at CNC machining was not going to help me in the next arena. It had been a few decades since I was an honors student in my English classes before quitting school.

Emmy had recommended that I take a course for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). In fact, she spoke highly of the particular certification she possessed, which was the CELTA, the easier-to-pronounce acronym for Certificate for English Language Teaching to Adults, a program conducted by Cambridge University. It is considered a gold standard of TEFL certifications. 

I looked into it and found the cost to be much more than other TEFL courses. In Chicago, it was offered for $3,000. While I could probably have afforded the tuition, the required time (four weeks) in class was another matter. 

Living in Chicago is not cheap, and I couldn’t see myself taking a month off of work and still paying all of my living expenses. But doing a bit more research led me to find the exact same course being offered in Thailand for half the price. Problem solved. I would just move first and get my training there. 

Before I could enroll in the course, however, I had to pass a type of entrance exam and interview. This part of the process intimidated me. I have always been quite comfortable with my proficiency in my native tongue, but the thought of taking a test to prove it after so many years was a bit unnerving. So I put it off. For months. Because I am a natural-born procrastinator. 

Most of my life has been spent putting things off until the last moment possible. Homework, chores, oil changes, hair cuts, preparation for meetings or speaking assignments. I recall the first time I was scheduled to give the Public Talk (Sunday sermon) at the church. A 45-minute discourse from a basic outline replete with Bible verses to choose from.

Many speakers (always men) used the scriptures to their advantage by inviting the audience to turn to the scripture and then read along while the speaker read from his own copy of the Bible. The bits of time allotted for finding the correct page, then the easy part of reading the verse, all added up. If a speaker could spend 30 minutes doing that, he was only left with fifteen minutes of actual speaking that he had to come up with. It made for an exhaustingly mind-numbing lecture.

My favorite speakers minimized the number of scriptures we would turn to, and instead came up with illustrations or stories to make the points that the outline demanded. The Bible verses were used sparingly and only to reinforce the argument. The stories made sense and were many times wonderful to listen to. I chose to emulate these speakers as I grew up in the religion. 

So for my first assigned sermon, I looked over the outline and thought of stories to illustrate the points and selected the scriptures I would use far in advance of t…. no, I didn’t. I waited until the night before. Because it wasn’t until then that I was motivated enough to sit down and do it. I crammed all night into the early morning daylight to finish writing my speech. Then I rehearsed it, first in my living room, then I dressed and drove to the church where I delivered the speech twice more to empty seats before the first members of the congregation began filing in. 

It was in this manner that I treated my CELTA application. I waited and waited until I was about to lose my opportunity to join the January 2017 class beginning in Chiang Mai. I answered the questions on the online test, and waited to be rejected. No such luck.. I did an online interview with Monica, one of the trainers. And I guess I did well enough to be accepted into the course, though she did recommend that I take a weekend grammar refresher course at the Bangkok campus of International House Thailand before starting classes in Chiang Mai. 

Procrastination also was how I approached the logistics of my moving. I did purchase my flight to Bangkok not long after returning from my Singapore/Thailand/Vietnam excursion in May 2016. This was two-fold. Better prices, and it forced me to act. Just not as quickly as many others would. 

Knowing I needed to pare down my extensive belongings in the two-bedroom apartment I was now renting, I still ended up waiting until November to start doing anything. The summer had been beautiful and I was actively enjoying my last one in the States. Chicago is nothing short of amazing in the warmer months and I took full advantage of being there. 

I engaged in many activities that I had been putting off in the past. I did many bicycle rides, both solo and in groups, including the World Naked Bike Ride. I experimented with marijuana for the first time in my life. I visited several restaurants that had been on my list, plus many of my favorites that I would dearly miss after I left town. I was interviewed in Chicago’s WGN radio studios at 1 o’clock in one morning about my experiences with the Mealsharing group.

Finally rebooking that trip to Boston, I spent my last Labor Day weekend in Beantown and camping in Maine. My new roommate accompanied me on a quick weekend trip to Nashville in October to visit an old friend who had invited me several times. 

My girlfriend had moved back to California near the end of summer, and I gave her my luggage to take all of her things back with her. This presented me with a bit of a conundrum, and also a reasonable? excuse for me not to start packing myself. I did purchase a new 45-liter Osprey backpack for my New England trip, but I lacked a large suitcase for which to take the bulk of my items I would need in Thailand. 

Which leads me to another story from my life I want to tell.