Saturday, September 18, 2010


Somewhere between Donnersbach and Raumberg
The other day I was looking for photos to include on my other blog Practical Hedonism, which is all about achieving balance and leading a productive and fulfilling life.  In other words, it's about everything my life is not right now.

Looking through the photos of my two years in Austria as a Fulbright teaching assistant, I see pictures of me as a happy girl.  I had broken free from the unhappy life I'd been leading in Louisiana.  I was fulfilling the dream I'd had since college of living in Europe.  I took more than a 50% pay cut to do it, and I adjusted my cost of living to my income.  Not a difficult thing to do when you don't have to worry about health care insurance, and the food is not only organic but affordable.  Entertainment came in the form of free public festivals and hiking through the mountains, although sometimes I splurged on a blues concert.  And I was teaching.  It's what I do best.

For two years I taught English and American culture to German-speaking high school students.  I planned to stay for a year.  I extended to two.  After the second year I never thought I'd come back to the United States, but bureaucracy intervened.  Try as I might, I could not secure a job that would support my Austrian residency.

So I came back to the American South.  My living expenses increased:  my rent and utilities were more than 3x what I was paying in Austria.  I now had to have a car and that meant loan payments, gas, and insurance.  In order to avoid food with hormones and chemicals I have to pay premium prices.  But I was teaching!  It's what I do best.

But in this case, my best isn't enough to save my job from budget cuts

The only reason I came back to this toxic environment was because I had a job in a financial crisis.  I thought I could save enough money to go back to Austria at least four months a year and in the meantime maybe find a job overseas that would support my residency.  Now those plans are stepped up.  I've calculated what I will make between now and January 21, 2011.  My paycheck for September (due Tuesday) is already spent.  I have scheduled all the doctor's visits I need to ensure that I will hit the unemployment line healthy.

I realize that in all likelihood I will not be teaching in the near future.  I'll apply this fall for academic jobs that begin in August 2011.  I'm working on getting certified to teach in Austria.  But in the meantime it looks like I'm gonna have to go "back to school" to learn a practical skill like tax preparation.  I just hope I can shift my best efforts to the other side of the classroom! 

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