Archives for posts with tag: identity

  1. Go home, you won’t miss anything interesting, you will probably want to miss what happens and anything really good will be retold in better, elaborated and more exciting detail the next day.
  2. Nothing really interesting happens when you’re not there anyway.
  3. Being a drama queen is a young woman’s game. It is relief not to be arguing, crying or kissing a frog. These days I can sit back, happily sipping strong alcohol and watching it all unfold.
  4. Hangovers are much worse, the only real cure is to drink every day.
  5. Friends are beginning to get real illnesses and warn you not to be unhealthy. You try not to drink every day.
  6. Finally give up smoking, miss it like a favourite pair of shoes because I’m still convinced it makes me cool and a bit of my personality is missing without a cigarette in my hand.
  7. Change is infinitely more possible than you imagine, nothing is stuck, you are not trapped and there is a multi coloured world of wonder to explore if you just get up, walk to the edge and jump.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be alone. It really isn’t as bad as you imagine and it is infinitely preferable to being stuck with an idiot for the rest of your life.
  9. Friends matter. Old friends matter. There is no one else like the people who have known you for a long time. People who have seen you fuck up, forgiven you, held your hair when you were sick and will pretend to forget your fashion errors from the 90s.
  10. You never feel like a grown up, you just get more lines on your face and more grey in your hair.
  11. All diets work, every single one no matter how ridiculous the instructions. It’s sticking to them that`s the problem.
  12. Also a problem is that one last delicious full fat meal on a Sunday before the diet starts on a Monday.
  13. Every Sunday.
  14. Anyway being too thin makes you look older, a bit of flab keeps you young.
  15. The world is full of beautiful and wonderful things to see and experience. Find them, look at them. I wish I had invested more time and money seeing waterfalls, mountains, oceans, cities and jungles.
  16. You won’t always wash your make up off before you sleep, you won’t always go to the gym, you will sometimes eat too much, talk too much, cry too much, laugh in the wrong place and kiss the wrong people.
  17. If you are not still doing these things at least once a month, you should be.
  18. A smile is a universal language. No matter what you are able to say or understand, a smile can take you pretty far.
  19. Pear shape is an offensive term. Everyone’s shape is differently wonderful and bodies have no need for fruit based labels.
  20. Don’t be afraid of dirt and mess. Life is grubby, enjoy it.
  21. You can’t control anyone else, what they do, what they say, how they think or how they act. All you can control is your reaction to them.
  22. Equally, no one can really control you. Refuse to submit, refuse to be manipulated, take your own path, make your own map.
  23. Whenever you can, replace fear, frustration, and disappointment with love. It brings amazing results.
  24. Sleep is fantastic but you can mange with less of it than you think.
  25. Women: if he tells you he is a bastard, chances are he really is a bastard and you won’t change him.
  26. Men: telling her you are a bastard doesn’t make it ok to act like one.
  27. Wear an amazing coat, and the rest of life usually falls in to place.
  28. Banana skins are the most slippery substance in the world.
  29. I am proud to call myself a feminist. This doesn’t mean I hate men I just don’t enjoy being oppressed by them.
  30. Have a voice, don’t be afraid to use it. Be loud, be proud. If anyone doesn’t like it fuck them. Refuse to be silenced.
  31. Your past might create you but it doesn’t define you. The possibilities for reinvention are endless. You just need the right script and costume.
  32. Being yourself is a lot harder than it sounds but it really is the only way to be.
  33. Never cut your own fringe.
  34. Try to avoid regret and guilt these are empty emotions.
  35. You might regret cutting your own fringe though.
  36. Embrace imperfection. Life is not symmetry and straight lines.
  37. Don’t open the door for me because I have a vagina; open it because it’s good manners. Good manners have nothing to do with your genitals.
  38. Sometimes it is just about the journey. The destination only matters when you get there.
  39. Everyone looks good in black eyeliner.
  40. Know when to leave and get going…

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I already own too many owl related items. I have no particular affinity to owls, I don’t even really like owls but the story of how I came to own these owlish items is a good argument for believing in the concept of karma and the dangers of social networking.

A colleague and Facebook friend was telling me the story of why she had also ended up with a collection of owl memorabilia. It is a familiar enough tale, the boyfriend’s grandmother buys you an owl ornament, and you are too effusive in your thanks and from that moment on, constant owl related gifts. Every birthday and Christmas, “We know you love owls so we bought you this owl oven glove/ owl key ring/ owl socks/ owl pencil sharpener etc etc.”

Even after she moved to Brazil the owl goods continued to arrive, winging their way through the crazy Brazilian postal service and import tax to arrive at her door. She was packing to leave as she told me this story, struggling to decide if she should spend money transporting the owl collection back to the UK.

And here is where I step in, foolishly laughing my arse off enjoying the familiar story of the over enthusiastic response bringing an avalanche of unwanted gifts from family members. The people who are confused about what to buy you so they hook on to the one thing you said you liked once and continue you to buy it for you for 20 years. My family gave me gifts like purple lace gloves or black nail varnish even as I hit 30. This doubly offended me, I wasn’t even a Goth when was I was 18, I never wore purple lace gloves or black nail varnish but somehow remained the perpetual teenage rebel in their eyes.

OK, maybe I did wear lace gloves once but it was the 80s… Anyway back to the owls.

I found the story so funny that I thought it would be hysterical to post owl pictures on her Facebook page, in the hope that I could cement her family’s purchasing beliefs about her owl fetish. This interchange of owls was funny until something else started to happen.

Seeing the owls on my Facebook timeline people began to think that I liked owls! The owl legacy I had tried to palm off on to my friend was coming back to bite me on the arse. People started to post owl pictures to my own Facebook page. Then they started to get me owl gifts. One of the most terrifying of all was the owl painting a friend gave me. Although knowing him, I am sure that he was fully aware of the escalating owl frenzy and was taking the piss. I got owl earrings, at least two pairs, owl bags and purses, owl ornaments and more. Karma.

I have been in Brazil for two years, I arrived with one suitcase and one bag to an empty space which has filled quickly with the possessions which make my home. Forgive the obvious metaphor but there were not only empty spaces in my apartment but many more inside me and Brazil has filled then better than I could have ever imagined.

It is my time to pack again, I have moved many many times in my life. Despite not travelling far I would move house often, rarely staying anywhere for too long. I have never really been fixed to one place; I grew up in two homes moving constantly back and forth. I find it hard to put down lasting roots, but it also has made it easy to embrace change.

As I consider what to take with me on my next move (I’m off to Japan by the way) I remember previous times I packed, my mother helping me. We would pull the hidden boxes out from the top of the wardrobe.”I probably need to throw most of this away I would say and inside the box would be birthday gifts my dear mother had given me over the years. One of them was even an owl, Oscar the owl, presented to me by dearest mother for my performance in the school play.

So what of our possessions, our wall of protection from the world, our short hand of presentation. This is me, this is what I like, this is who I am. What do I select and discard as I pack once again to move on? As I chose what is important to me, what best represents me as I embark on another new adventure.

I don’t think I will bring the owls.

This is my favourite owl joke.

Q: Which is the most popular owl?

A: Teat.

…Teat owl

…Tea towel

…Sorry.

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Graffiti outside Pablo Neruda's house in Santiago. A man who would not be told what to do.

Graffiti outside Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago. A man who would not be told what to do.

One of my more annoying traits is my childlike response to being told what to do. When advised not to do something my immediate response is to do the opposite. Nothing is more likely to bring out the teenager in me than well meaning advice. My usual reply would be “Don’t tell me what to do!” possibly with the addition of a sexual swearword…

As you can imagine this policy is not always the most productive. Well meaning advice is given for a reason, it is well meant and it is often thoughtful, kind and considerate. So to have a blanket refusal to act upon friends gently offered and sensible suggestions has often resulted in poor choices.

However, this does mean I can empathise with 14-year-old boys who refuse to remove their hooded tops in class. Although being an (almost) 40-year-old woman myself perhaps it’s time to grow up and stop rebelling? Strangely, despite my refusal to listen to others, I spend much of my working day telling people what to do and trying to sound like I am not telling them what to do. It is a fine line and one that I sometimes fall off.

This morning I was talking to a friend in England about a meal I had had and as I recounted the dishes a memory returned to me. Before I moved to Brazil I never travelled. I only listened to others stories of their travels and the food they tasted. I had one holiday in 10 years, a singles holiday to Crete; I don’t want to tell you what to do but NEVER GO ON A SINGLES HOLIDAY TO CRETE. It was not fun. There is an underlying air of sadness on singles holidays, which permeates everything. In particular, I remember looking over at the group of singles, as I downed vodka on my balcony to block out the experience. They were looking wistfully at the pool whilst drinking afternoon tea (provided free as part of the single’s package!). In the pool was a beautiful young Greek couple cavorting madly. The expression on the singles faces was doglike, that expression a dog has when you are eating and the dog looks mournfully at your plate like it’s starving. I had to quickly drink more vodka before I threw myself in the pool and attempted to drown myself under the lovemaking couple‘s contortions.

Whenever friends went away, which they seemed to do far more frequently than me I would ask them in detail about their travels and about the food they had. I loved to hear about it but I only lived vicariously through their experiences. I am sure than many of them told me what to do ‘You should go on holiday Luci.’ Or ‘Stop spending all your money on stupid crap you don’t need and go on holiday Luci’ or ‘Stop asking me questions about my holiday Luci I have been talking about it for 3 HOURS!’ I ignored them, because I won’t be told what to do and I continued to holiday in my own flat, avoid singles holidays and ask friends endless questions about what they ate. Till finally I realised that some of the advice was useful, that perhaps spending all my money on crap and never leaving Hove wasn’t the best life plan and I came to Brazil.

Even as I planned to leave, more advice ‘You’ll hate living in a big city’ or ‘You can’t runaway from your problems’ or ‘You’ll need to learn Spanish’ most of this advice was wrong. I love the big city, my problems are far more manageable with 5000 miles between us and I needed to learn Portuguese anyway.

This week, I have been working with another teacher watching his lessons and planning together. We have a tricky group, it is hard or them to follow instructions. As I watched his lesson I could see that the giving of instructions, telling the children what to do was at the heart of everything that could make the lesson work. If they didn’t know what to do they wouldn’t learn, they could feel stupid, they would lose interest and the lesson would be wasted. The art of giving of instructions, of telling someone what to do, has to be clear, make sense and be delivered without being patronising or demanding. Once we know what to do we can be so much more successful.

So, back to me, yes we had been off that very important topic for at least a paragraph. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do and even if I listen to instructions or let people tell me what to do I am still not convinced about the right course. I have an innate mistrust of what people say. Above all else I find it hard to trust my own instincts and judgements. I make mistakes; I have made errors many times. But to come back to a reoccurring theme, errors and mistake can lead you to new adventures and new beauty. I love mistakes in language; they create wonderful perfect descriptive phrases. I need to celebrate mistakes in my choices too.

So, we listen for instructive advice, ignore it, worry over it and dismiss it or follow it. Today it feels like a set of instructions to follow or ignore would give me a clearer idea of what to next, knowing what not to do can be as helpful as knowing what to do.

Please, dear friends, continue to instruct and advise me and I will try to ignore the teenage wail, which erupts at the thought of being told what to do and listen to my inner adult. Or I will ignore you, stamp my foot, make some bad decisions, laugh, cry, avoid singles holidays and see where I end up.

One of the familiar sights of Brighton beach

One of the familiar sights of Brighton beach

As my time in Sao Paulo draws nearer to its end I see the city transform before me. The once sinister and confusing cacophony metamorphosed in to friendly bars and smiling faces. Light seeps in to the darker places, infusing them with safety and normality. What once seemed so different, so other, is now mine, my own familiar world. No longer inhabited only by strangers, now friends and familiar faces.

On Friday I went out later than usual and on my own, travelling across the city in a taxi. A simple and common enough task in my old Brighton life. In that world I would zigzag the city throughout the night seeking out friends and entertainment until the sun rose and I found my way home. But not here, not in Sao Paulo. It was, in part, a conscious decision. The new lifestyle, the new me. But it was also fear of the unknown. I was afraid of so many things in this wonderful crazy city. Where I was going, how would I get there, would they rob me, shoot me, crash in to me. Danger lurked in every unfamiliar corner.

But on Friday as my taxi zoomed the busy streets and I remembered how I once was so afraid, afraid  that it was dangerous to drive, afraid that I would be in an accident, attacked, lost, sold in to slavery, missing, murdered, remembered the doom scenarios constantly filling my gringo mind. Now, as the taxi made its way to a new part of this world I didn’t know, I realised, I was comfortable, and maybe that was why it was time to go.

When I arrived in Brazil almost 2 years ago I relished the unfamiliarity and challenge, I thrived on not understanding the rules or language. Now I contemplate a return to my familiar world in England I feel so sad to let it go. I have become addicted to unfamiliarity, obsessed with not understanding, proud of survival.

In my moments of homesickness I longed for the familiarity of home. The normal tastes of English food, sitting at the bar in a pub, my beloved and beautiful Brighton beach on a windy day, the friends who had known me for more than 10 years, they who had already forgiven me for foolish acts in my 20s and loved me in my 30s. On those days I craved familiarity. Sought to recreate a little piece of England in my flat, eating roast potatoes, drinking tea, British TV blaring, sending messages home, connecting to the familiar.

I have grown to love São Paulo. When I flew in from my last trip to Nicaragua I felt like I was coming home. I was coming home, home to my familiar life. I wasn’t lost or confused, I knew the route the taxi would take, I knew what to do, what to say. But a small piece of me is saddened by the loss of mystery. Of course I will never be a true Paulista, a Brazilian, totally immersed, but I can see how it would be easy to stay, I can see how I could adapt, that this could be home.

So I have decided to leave, I’m still not sure yet where I will end up next. I have been given a very dangerous gift. The gift of choice. I have a whole world to choose from. Safer now in the knowledge that I am able to make a home in amongst unfamiliarity. That I even enjoy the confusion and struggle of the new place.

I want my classroom too, to be a space filled exploration, discovery and unfamiliarity. I don’t want my classes to know what to expect when they enter the room. I want them to be occasionally surprised, shocked, confused and excited by the lessons. And I want this for myself too. I am most afraid of returning to the UK and returning to my old apathy, sunk in to a life of frustration and laziness. The electric shock of unfamiliarity Brazil gave me has bought me back to life. I think I need the unfamiliar to continue to feel alive.

My favorite Brazilian flavour

My favorite Brazilian flavour

I have a question, when you ask for the bill across a crowded restaurant what do you do? Do you mine an action to indicate to staff that you have finished and want to pay? What is this action? I have spent 15 years miming an elaborate version of my signature, signing my name with a grandiose gesture. I recently discovered that not everyone mimes signing their name, in fact many other people are adding up the bill in their mime, or mime the action of the staff writing out the bill. This has generated drunken debate and discussion, as we argue, should it be adding the bill or signing? There seems to be a gender divide, males preferring the adding gesture and females the flourish of their name. This is very revealing of the differences between men and women…

Whatever you are miming, a symbolically phallic column of numbers or a soft undulating signature, the understanding is still same, I have finished and I want to pay. People understand. There is a universal communication.

After 16 months in Brazil I have become skilled at communicating without much language. In my previous existence I was a language ninja, using it to weave webs, taking pleasure in its vowels and consonants. Drawing people in, telling stories, listening to stories, sharing stories, laughing. Endlessly debating, bantering, charming and talking, talking, talking. Now I smile, I touch your arm and search my brain for the memory of a single word to reply with. Am I still English in these smiles and gestures? Do I continue to signify my nationality in these movements, the way I signify my gender in the dancing signature I mime to the waiter? My ‘otherness’ is apparent in Brazil. I stand out as not Brazilian. Maybe American, maybe European. I feel reduced by this sometimes, becoming a place instead of a person not I’m not just British, I’m Luci. A friend of mine confuses people here by stating he is not from England, he is from Liverpool, resulting in a Colombian colleague confusedly consulting a map. I am drawn to my gringo friends, not because I don’t like the other nationalities surrounding me but with them I communicate with ease, with word play and shared cultural references. But even amongst the Europeans there is difference, my Spanish and Belgium friends describing themselves as being ‘mainland’ to my ‘island’ mentality. I am forced to unpick my edges and look at how I am constructed and hope to find there is enough of a commonality to connect me to most people I meet.

How far is the ability to communicate effectively a product of our culture or personal history? If we all spoke the same language would we still misunderstand one another? My school is international but the language of instruction is English. English, the language of imperialism, the language of colonalization. They mainly speak English or Portuguese, imposed languages from Europe on this beautiful Latin American country. And when I tell one of my pupils, stop speaking Portuguese, you have to speak English, and he is actually from Lebanon and tells the class the loudest noise he ever heard was a bomb exploding, then the plethora of communications and experience that exist in my classroom are bought sharply in to focus. I am uncomfortable controlling language, no pleasure for me in finding a misused apostrophe or a grammatical gaff. I revel in mistakes, contradictions and language rule breaks. I care only for communication, understanding and connection

I am surrounded by second, third, fourth, fifth language users and they use the English language better than me, taking familiar phrases and energising them with fresh life, and making me laugh in the delighted newness of a familiar word. One colleague described another’s ‘purity’ in his approach to teaching, another using ‘snooked’ to describe taking something in a sneaky way. My friend who loves people and asks them questions about life, love, family and friends was described as ‘luring’ someone out. Someone saying swimming trousers rather than swimming trunks, making me laugh at the perfect symmetry of the unfamiliar combination.

I am in this rich linguistic world, surrounded by professional language users, adults and children. Their skill amazes and humbles me as they switch between languages, cultures and communications. I feel as though I am standing in the centre of this whirlwind of words, most of them buffering me around from here to there, constantly turning my head to catch what is said, to understand. In amongst all this, there is usually a smile on my face, because I get to be here, to hear here, to hear all this and every time I say Tudo Bem? And get an answer and I’m a tiny part of another place, I feel pride.

I was blown here on the jet stream of a thousand conversations, woke up in my Brazilian castle on top of the world. In 6 months I will be saying t’chau t’chau to my temporary adopted home, and goodbye to all the warm wonderful people I have met. This makes me sad but the gifts they have given me in every tiny communication, in every gesture word or deed, these are gifts for life.

When I see the Brazilian finger wave, the gesture I love, which seems to mean, ‘no no, no way’ or someone slap the palms of their hands on the back of each other to say ‘no thanks, I don’t want that.’ When I see someone in swimming trousers and laugh at the words, or when I hear the lilting melody of Brazilian Portuguese with its x and chi. When I lift my imaginary pen to mime signing the bill. I will take you with me wherever I go, I will continue to try to understand.

The Sao Paulo Metro

I have no sense of direction. If I needed to go right guaranteed I would go left. Despite instructions, or directions I often end going the wrong way. I have been saved many times by the GPS on my iPhone. But slowly, I am starting to find my way. The longer I live in the complex city of Sao Paulo I can feel the map in my mind start to gradually piece together. Streets building on streets, not so lost, finding ways to link the parts of the city together. I have never really known where I was going. Too busy looking around me, too busy talking or thinking to take notice of my surroundings. I relied on friends to take me where I needed to go.

This is true for more than just travel. I have never really known where I was going, and even when I looked at a map, made a plan I would make a wrong turn and end up somewhere else. I envy people with a good sense of direction, the ones who know where they are going the ones that travel the straight line. Someone gave us advice on managing in Brazil. They said ‘There are no straight lines in Brazil’ to manage here you have to be prepared to change routes, go in a different direction, try another way.

Is it important to know where you are going? In teaching we are told to always share the learning objectives. This means sharing with our pupils at the start of the lesson what we will be doing and what they will be learning during the lesson. This is one of the things you have to do to get an  ‘excellent’ from the teaching gods, OFSTED. And yet this constant sharing of what is going to happen and checking if it has happened can be stale and boring. Where is the mystery? Where is the adventure? A friend is an early years teacher and she told me about ‘stunning starts’, how at the start of a unit they would try and generate interest and enthusiasm in the pupils. For example; they hid a letter from the big bad wolf in the sand pit, the pupils found it and this led them to excitedly exploring the story of the three little pigs. I tried to this with my own pupils. I was planning a unit on the supernatural, looking at fiction and non-fiction texts, we started with a Halloween party, apple bobbing, games, sweets and fun. These were disaffected pupils I had to hook them in or they would be lost, disengaged from the topic.

I was arguing with a teacher the other day, he was advocating never sharing learning objectives but he’s a music teacher, a rebel who never wants to do as he’s told. I disagreed with him. Despite my own lack of direction I can see the benefit of showing the students that I knew where I was taking them. I need to create a balance between mystery and surprise and the sense of security that comes from knowing where you are going and why. The issue I have with any of these teaching strategies is the wholesale application of them with no sense of the individuals or the long-term processes that happen in classrooms. OFSTED are concerned with a snap shot, a single glimpse in to a lifetimes work. The direction I have led my students down in the past, I know they haven’t seen the route until they are far along it, finally realising after they’ve passed through the classroom the direction they are taking.

As I get older I watch the people around me, some of whom had a certainty about the direction they were going, who had looked at the map, planned their route with precision. Then all of a sudden they came upon unexpected roads, dead ends or sheer drops. I watch them come to terms with the different direction their lives have taken. Having a good sense of direction might not always take you where you want to go, in fact it could led you off course, make you miss something beautiful. We have to try to take risky decisions, a path through the forest, a different corner, a U-turn in the road. I jumped out of my life in the UK, in teaching, in my career, to this unknown entity of Brazil, and what riches I have found. My lack of sense of direction, my right turn instead of left led me here. I still don’t have a map but I can’t wait to see where I go next.

A carefully constructed first impression

I like to imagine I come sweeping in to a room sophisticated yet humble, an enigmatic smile followed by a warm greeting. The reality of my first impression is probably the sound of my overly loud voice followed by a large body stumbling drunkenly in to the room and making an inappropriate joke before apologising. Or, the horror, people meet me and the only adjective they can find is ‘Oh she’s nice.

Now I am an ex pat, an international teacher, in a transient world the possibilities for reinvention are limitless. First you have the opportunity, on arrival in your new job, school, country, to present an improved version of yourself to the world. Then each year people leave and new people arrive, you can readjust that version, cut off the corners, smooth down the edges. Not only that but my online worlds like Twitter and Facebook also allowed me to create the better version of myself, funnier, kinder, wittier. So underneath all this possibility for presentation can you hide the real you? Will those true traits come seeping out anyway? Oozing through the carefully crafted persona? Infiltrating the well-designed Luci 2.0?

I don’t consciously want to deceive people as to my true nature but like to make a good first impression. As I went to meet a group of new teachers, I thought carefully about what to wear. What image did I want to present of myself in those first few seconds? Serious? Sexy? Cool, sophisticated woman of the world. Would it matter? Would Luci still peep out from behind the layers, saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m an idiot”? I strive to be true to myself, I am not looking to significantly change. I believe that in essence I am a good being, and the people I want in my life will find me as I find them.

In teaching we have to consider first impressions. In that first meeting with a new class you can set down the boundaries, which last for the whole year. But a mistake at the start can take the whole year to undo. I struggled at the beginning of my teaching career, to find Ms Willis and balance her with Luci. Who was the teacher version of me? I knew Miss had to still be me but that I couldn’t be exactly the same as I was in RL, the swearing and drinking had to stop for a start…

I am comfortable now, after 15 years, can easily swap between the personas. Know who I am in the classroom better than I know how to be outside it. I am comfortable with the presentation of Miss; I’m just not always sure who Luci is.

So as I meet another group of new people, armed with my list of goals for the year, still using my Brazilian adventure to try and wipe off some of the stains on my character, can I succeed? Do I even want to? The endless battle between wanting to change and then the comfort of slipping in to easy interactions with people who have known you for years. I struggled with being back in UK as I could feel the ease in which my old life would return. Would all the Brazilian polish be lost as the safety of the familiar wrapped around me?

I want to take this opportunity to make a good first impression but I also want to find away to clean up. I don’t need dramatic change but I want to be different. The life I have now allows for reinvention but maybe I can use it for a quick tidy up. Chuck out a few of those bad thoughts, bad habits, laziness and doom that have haunted the recesses of my personality. This is an opportunity to change habits and expectations. If people have no preconceptions of you then it is easier to polish up and be a slightly improved version.  I will run an update, some of the bugs will be fixed, until the next update is needed.

The joy of writing comes, for me, mainly from the pleasure of exploring my thoughts. As I write my ideas and opinions solidify and harden in to fully formed passionate beliefs. Sometimes, I am not aware how strongly I felt about things until I write them down and share them.

As I have been writing these posts a pattern in my thinking is emerging. In making this move away from my safe and familiar environment it has made me question the construction of my identity. It has not only been this move to Brazil that has allowed me to consider the building blocks of my personality but also the presentation of my self which I share on the internet. The mediums I now use, to connect and communicate with home, offer insights in to how I construct the truth of my identity.

Of course, we all present many selves, a subtle shifting of our representation depending on our audience. I wrote previously about the melding of together of mine. Some of you reading this know me by many names, some by only one. As I continue to feel less afraid to share, and less compartmentalised, I am more wiling to open up each separate drawer in my mind and let you see inside. I didn´t know, when I stepped in to this shiny new life in grubby grimy Sao Paulo, I would find a stronger identity and more than that, a sense of relief and acceptance of who I was. Perhaps it is getting older, as I edge to the farthest corner of my 30s my confidence in who I am grows. Is it the fresh start created by coming here to Brazil? By moving have I managed to shrug off some of the layers of negativity and confusion which draped over me in Brighton?

As you move away from something you become more connected to it. By leaving behind my beloved Brighton, the UK, my home. By discarding my possessions I was able to make a stronger simpler connection to the things, people that really mattered. More surprisingly a connection to new people, people I have never met.

Before I left I used social networking a bit, I was just starting to see it´s potential. Here, in my displaced state the internet has been my biggest support. It has been the way I am able to keep hold of who I am, where I am from and where I am now. It has placed me.

Who is online Luci? This presentation of myself which I share with old and new friends. I often don´t recognise the online perception compared to the frightened little girl huddled in her 19th floor apartment confused and homesick. Despite wanting to share a true representation online we can´t help but tidy up the edges or neaten the hemlines of our personality, turn up the colours, adjust the brightness. I am guilty of googling information to make myself look more knowledgeable or checking song lyrics before replying to people. I select the best photos to share, the most interesting aspects of my life. Why wouldn´t I? Who wants to hear about me drinking tea or brushing my teeth? Or see a photo of me watching TV or writing on the laptop?

I have become close to some of my new online friends, like my Brazilian friends they have no back-story, only the internet front they have been reading. We have got to know each other through writing 140 character posts. One of these friendships has extended past the confines of the internet, so much so he wrote my ´real name´ the other day without realising. I liked this, it showed I had become more than this selected self, he had penetrated the Luci below. I had become rounded out. Perhaps some of the sheen had gone from my shiny online persona but in its place was a real human being to connect with.

What does this mean for my classroom? For my students? For me it is the recognition of the million little pieces which make up the students in my class. To remember we present all these different selves but underneath, the truthful core is always there. Look beyond the behaviour, the possible puffed up presentations protecting those frightened forming identities. Read the message in the presentations of self we share, for they are more than likely masking fear, insecurity or pain. I need to encourage, support, nurture and empower my pupils to seek the truth of their identities, to connect and to be real.

In St Albans aged 15

I have never defined myself by my location. I have never geographically identified myself. I didn’t ever view myself as ‘British’ or ‘English’. I don’t come from a place in England with a strong cultural identity. I come from a small city just outside London. Culture came from hanging on the coat tails of ‘The Big Smoke’, the capital city. I escaped to the bright lights and loud music of London as soon as I could. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I don’t consciously identify myself as being from St Albans. That means nothing, what is a person from St Albans like? A dullard, a vacuum? There is no frame of reference, even for me.

A few of my friends have stronger geographical identities. They are from places like Dublin, Liverpool, Swansea, displaced to Brighton; they feel a stronger affinity to the place they came from. Plus those places have a stronger cultural identity, a history, a collective similarity to join people together. The fact that St Alban was the first Christian martyr doesn’t bond me with people from that city the same way that, for example, people from Liverpool feel about events from their history. Does this geographical identity offer people shorthand to your personality? A shared understanding? A preconception of who you are? Those people I know who have moved share a sense of frustration at both the prejudgment and the assumptions. They don’t like it, it can be repressive.

Does this make it easier for me? That there are no expectations of who or what I am? With less cultural references to hang my identity on, do I have a blank canvas to create my own story? Do my Scouse, Irish or Welsh friends have to overcome an expectation of them based on identity assumptions? Or can they hide behind pre-conceived notions of others, popping out from behind the caricature occasionally to prove people wrong?

Since I moved away from England my sense of geographical identity has changed. In Brazil I immediately became aware of the fact that my ability to speak English did not necessarily associate me with England but it did identify me as different, other. My voice in Portuguese wasn´t necessarily a clue to my background. I could be American, sometimes I sounded Spanish and other times, as this strangled strange accent, came out of my mouth I could have been from Mars! It certainly did not identify me as being from Hertfordshire. But I am  often asked `Where are you from?` and my answer will suggest something about who I am.

I work in a school now with children from many different places. Some of them have moved several times. We were discussing the stresses this can bring, a transitory life, no ties to a ´home´ country. For some, their nationality is very important. There is a sense of pride and security in belonging to a certain tribe, an automatic connection to others.

This wide range of backgrounds brings such a rich range of knowledge and experiences to my classroom. They constantly enrich the experiences of learning. I am teaching texts I have taught many, many times in England. Here in Brazil, having to explain vocabulary, slang terms or cultural references is changing my perceptions of these tired old texts. Trying to make connections which will resonate in these children´s lives is a challenge but in doing it I can gain a sense of my own cultural identity and history. In moving away I have come to understand more about what it means to be British than 38 years living in England.

This doesn´t mean I will be putting up a union jack or getting a bulldog tattoo but I have been given an extra understanding of my place in this incredible, magical world we inhabit.

It is so diverse, each individual is crafted so carefully from the pieces of the life they have lived. We should celebrate and enjoy the difference we bring and recognise our unique identities which allow us to be separate and yet connect.

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