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Why leave this cozy haven, with its beautiful view of Fishtail Mountain, just to seek the outdoors? Bright fuchsia flowers wave playfully just outside my window, infusing my soul with the wonders of natural Nepal. Today I ask Hari, my guest house owner, how to get to the lake – the sparkling blue lake I’d seen in so many pictures, the lake that is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the lake that looks like someone plopped a chunk of Switzerland down right in the middle of Nepal.
I follow the winding road west, walking past narrow, colorful hotels and one-story cement homes. Women work in their muddy front yards, taking pick-axes to the soil in bare feet and bright skirts. Every other storefront seems to be home to a trekking company that offers bus tickets, organized tours, hiking, biking, boating, motorcycle rentals…absolute heaven for adventure travelers and outdoorsy types. The street is choked with rooftop restaurants, souvenir shops, merchants selling precious linens and silks, and signs boasting everything from lakeside seating to live music. Backpackers, Westerners, and large groups of Chinese tourists dodge racing motorbikes and taxi cat calls.
I must be close, since every other sign I pass seems to point toward the lake, but each alleyway leads me astray. Fishtail Mountain is my guiding star, standing steadfast above the intricate nets of tangled electrical wiring that somehow powers the city (well, kind of). A glance toward the sky fills my vision with a decidedly Nepalese triumvirate  – impossibly high mountain peaks, rat’s nests of wires, and the remnants of brightly colored, tattered flags. The flags and the wires are strewn across the horizon and serve to remind the viewer that no matter how pristine those peaks, no matter how much English is written and spoken everywhere, no matter how many dread-locked Dutch guys you see, you are still very much in Nepal. I’ve been walking for way too long with no lake in sight, so I decide to take the next left no matter what. I spy a shock of bubbling blue peaking through a hole in a distant fence, and I move toward it. The metal fence that stretches along this path finally offers a checkered view of Lake Fewa. The mountains are not snow-capped, but green, and it’s a bit hazy out, and I can’t get as close to the shore as I’d like, but there it is – the reason to build a town.
The undulating earth hugs the lake in a crescent embrace, shielding it from the impossible peaks beyond. The entire town of Pokhara seems to fall under the protection of this half-moon, which  towers over the hustle and bustle with a calming, fatherly presence. I press my face against the fence like a five-year old at a baseball game, wondering how the hell I can get closer to the majesty. The poser of the question is a bespectacled Nepalese student with the eager air of a salesclerk who works on commission. But four-eyes is one eager beaver, and sidles up to continue a conversation I don’t want to begin. There is nothing more isolating than longing for connection while traveling only to have the first person you speak with try to pull one over on you.
I drown my sorrows in a plate of yak cheese balls at a lone table in the Monsoon restaurant while the staff watches cricket on a rickety television set. This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing.
I’m awoken from a deep sleep – the kind that only severe, flight-around-the-world jetlag can create. One hundred monks have gathered in the temple next door, their sole task to rouse me from my sleep as if today, of all days, will be the most special of my life.
It is 5:13am, and the air in Taipei is no cooler at this hour than it’s been at the sweltering peak of high noon. I lie on the hard hostel bed listening to the harmonic chanting, deep and rich and straining to reach God. I’m absolutely certain at the time that this will remain one of the most beautiful, sacred moments of my life. So how, after being awoken to the glorious, mysterious, unexpected chanting of Buddhist monks outside my window, could the rest of my time in Taiwan be so friggin’ awful? I had signed a year-long contract to teach English at a private primary school in Chang hua, a sleepy suburb in the central coast on the western side of the island, about 100 miles southwest of Taipei. My experience was a massive travel fail, and after having some time to consider why I hated it there so much, I’ve come up with these 5 questions I wish I would’ve asked myself before signing that contract. I had enjoyed my previous experience as a theatre teacher in Miami and working one-on-one with ESL students in Miami and Los Angeles.
But pronunciation is one very small part of teaching English, and I had failed to account for all the friggin’ grammar I’d be responsible for imparting to beginning Taiwanese students.
When the glitz and glamor of teaching English in Taiwan wore off, and it was really just teaching English, I realized what a big mistake I had made.
I thought about the money I’d make, the people I’d meet, and all the wonderful places I’d get to go. The first day I arrived at my school, all of the teachers and staff were gathered for a weekly meeting where they discussed problems with students, upcoming events, and so on. When I got there, and only after I got my teaching schedule, I realized that my 40+ hours were spread out between 8am and 9pm, 6-7 days per week. There were breaks in between classes, yes, but for me finishing a class at 4pm and having to return to teach again at 6pm felt like I was working the entire day, almost like an on-call nurse. I was saturated with the school – the school was Taiwan, it was my entire experience of Taiwan besides a few brief but fascinating days in Taipei.

I found myself thinking “What’s the point of being here when I’m stuck in a classroom all the time? Ok, the getting-paid-more part may or may not have been true, but it sure felt true at the time.
I also had no idea that people were still doing things like working in rice fields and living off the land.
Here’s the most embarrassing part – I had no idea that menus and signs would be written entirely in Chinese characters. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a Shanghai restaurant and was met with a giant menu board written entirely in Chinese. I could say “Hello,” “thank you,” and “I speak Chinese very badly” about 7 different ways, but I couldn’t decipher a single character.
I really, really wish I would’ve asked myself this question before teaching English in Taiwan!
I wasn’t going to Taiwan because I was passionate about teaching English, or because I was particularly interested in Taiwanese culture. Not only was I confused and directionless (a common hazard of being 29 going on 30), I had the brilliant idea to get involved with someone back home right before I left. This genius decision resulted in hour after hour of tearful phone calls as he begged me to come home and marry him and have babies and forget Taiwan once and for all.
Culture shock + lack of passion + cute guy proposing marriage = get me out of Taiwan, stat.
The other teachers I worked with were absolutely wonderful human beings; well traveled, open minded, and incredibly patient with me as I wallowed in misery on their forest green couch for weeks on end. They even let me live on that same couch after I’d decided to leave the school, and never once complained (at least not to my face) that I was being the biggest Debby Downer ever (which I absolutely was).
And there were great morning workouts with Zoe, a fellow teacher who’d just graduated military school and volunteered to be my personal trainer at 6am each day.
It was perfectly ok for the Chinese teachers to hit the kids, and to shame them in front of the others students if they misbehaved. Finally, a tale circulated about the worst punishment of all – being placed inside a large metal can or box that was 2-3 feet above the student’s head, making it impossible for them to climb out but easy for other students and teachers to peer in and taunt them. Depending on the transgression, a kid could be imprisoned in the box-of-shame for hours on end. The other teachers were fine with it because they knew something I didn’t – that there is relativism to right and wrong, and that the kids undergoing these punishments were no more traumatized than you were when you had your name written on the board in 4th grade. For some reason, my second journey to Asia has been the incredible eye-opening experience I’d hoped the first time would be. I’ve even eaten bone-in fish, fresh crab eggs, and shrimp with the eyeballs in-tact and enjoyed every bite of it! Don’t expect it to be just like home, because it won’t be – that’s the greatest part about teaching English abroad, and it’s the part I completely missed. Go there, dammit.Sign up for travel juiciness delivered straight to your inbox and get your FREE travel guide, 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY - for solo female travelers only!
When we receive a teacher candidate from Reach To Teach, we really stand up and take notice because we know that Reach To Teach sends us good quality teachers. We’re strong believers in making sure that we match great teachers with great schools, and that is probably the number one reason why we have a 99% contract completion record. Make sure you check out some of our teacher testimonials to learn what our teachers say about our services. We are the only agency that spends on average three to six hours on the phone with every single one of our teachers, before they even step foot in your school! We offer a full range of teachers, from fresh university graduates that are looking for a good school to start their teaching career, to teachers that have a few years of ESL experience under their belts, as well as certified and seasoned educators. We look forward to receiving your English language school application and helping you fill positions with ESL teachers that will be a valuable addition to your school. To learn more about our teacher recruitment services, please complete our quick and easy School Recruitment Request Form. Teacher TestimonialsClaire Bamford - 2016 - Teaching in ShanghaiCarrie, I am in love with Shanghai.
I am already bombarded by nature in all her glory from the welcome confines of my humbly-upholstered chair. Exquisite visions of mountain peaks hold fast to my right, while a lush rooftop garden rustles to my left. But it’s my first day in town, and whether I like it or not, the city of Pokhara begins to beckon.
I never take a map on the first day, and only ask for directions in the most general sense. I’ve booked this hotel because of it’s proximity to the lake, which Hari promises to be just a five minute walk away. Restaurants and bars begin to replace the hotels, and shop owners call to me to come look at their souvenirs. It is warm and sunny, and while I’m tempted to sample one of the many yak-themed dishes offered on every restaurant sign (yak cheese balls! I continue walking north along Lakeside Drive, hoping there will be an obvious opening and I’ll be lead to the placid promised land.
The front yard of each home is made of water instead of earth, and hundreds of fish wriggle inside homemade nets, creating a row of miniature fish farms.
It is positively idyllic, with rolling hills and rocky peaks serving as the perfectly-shaped backdrop to an enormous, shiny blue pond.

I want to sink into the view, to tumble into the painting and lose myself until I become one with the vision. I’m starting to hate that question more than I hate people who chew gum with their mouths open (YOU LOOK LIKE A COW. The meal is steaming and delicious, but it’s not enough to temper the utter isolation that suddenly permeates my heart.
It is a dull thud wrapped inside a dream, a deep, melodic moaning that begins in my belly and rises steadily, gently into my waking consciousness.
I found the course really challenging, even frustrating, and I had to force myself to muscle through each module. I adored working on pronunciation and intonation – a throw back to my years as a theatre baby.
A classroom is a classroom, and you’ll be in it, many hours per day, doing the job you’ve been hired to do. I’d been swept up in the idea of teaching overseas – hell, in the idea of just going overseas. God bless all teachers everywhere, and God bless that moment for revealing to me that I did not, could not, under any circumstances, remain where I was.
Nothing could have prepared me for the intense culture shock I experienced the second I landed in Shanghai. Somehow, I really imagined that most everyone I encountered would speak at least some English (why did I think that?!). I had expected some kind of modernized, Westernized society to have sprung up across Asia, making the entire continent feel like a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Chicago.
I had expected everything to be accompanied by pinyin, the romanized version of simplified Chinese.
I dreamed of studying French in Paris, or backpacking Europe, but I was under the impression that it’d be way too expensive. There was Hank, who at 4 years old had the scratchy, sultry voice of a has-been Las Vegas lounge singer. Doing planks and pushups next to elderly Taiwanese practicing Tai Chi was always invigorating, even in the oppressive heat. I’m not interested in making judgments, and I really think it’s impossible for a Western mind to understand the nuances of morality as experienced in another culture. Regardless of what recruiters will tell you, I think it’s almost always easier to find a job once you’re in-country anyway – you just have to time it right. Of course the food is different, and the language is different, and the values are different, and the people are different. Have I ever been to the country I’ll be working in and am I suuuure I want to live there for an entire year?
We specialize in providing our schools and teaching institutions with one-of-a-kind services that are tailor made for your school and hiring needs.
We put a lot of time and effort into recruiting the right teachers for our programs, and we’re proud of the one-on-one services that we offer to each and every teacher we accept into our program. Unlike other agencies, our teachers enjoy our support throughout their year abroad, beginning with when they are accepted into our program and ending only when they return home.
We’ve gained a reputation in the ESL industry for being honest, professional and trustworthy. I mean, I don’t have a particularly bad feeling about him, but I also have no intention of hiring him to be my guide or going to eat dahl bat with his mother. And little Cindy Lou, who fell into fits of delicious giggles every time I practiced my numbers in Chinese. I couldn’t find anything I liked to eat after being served soup with what I swear-to-God was some animal’s penis floating in it. That’s why we’re able to offer our teachers such a great list of schools, educational institutions, and ministries of education to choose from! Our talented recruitment staff are all former ESL teachers that understand the ESL industry.
They send us the same teachers over and over again, and they rarely bother to check and see if their teachers meet our job requirements. Furthermore, we are the only recruiting agency that organizes monthly events for our teachers so that we can help teachers establish an immediate support network with other teachers in their area. My contract is up in February but I decided to re-sign with my school as I'm not ready to leave Shanghai just yet. These are just a few of the reasons why we have such an excellent reputation in the ESL industry. Beautiful, mysterious, and iconized in American films, Vietnam is increasingly modern, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.
What this means for you is that the teachers you get from us have already been in direct contact with someone who understands the ins and outs of living and working abroad.
Our teachers often return to us for a second or third placement because they know they are being placed with a great school that will genuinely care for them.

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