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If rage were a drink...

If rage were a drink…

I could map my journey through life as the distance between an angry young woman to a seething old lady. Along the way I have moments of intense rage giddy euphoria, frustration, elation, confusion, bleak black dogs, searing highs and piercing lows. You can chart some of these mood swings with the changing of the tides and passage of the moon but in general, I think, they are manifestations of a soul on fire.

I am proud to be a passionate person. I intend to remain passionate for a long as I can, embracing my raging fist shaking nature, continuing to fight and battle and believe that I can make a difference because, who wouldn’t?

Why wouldn’t you want to try and make the world even just a tiny bit better, to make things a little more fair, just, smooth, happy beautiful, funny or loving.  I want to always be enthusiastic about people, places, ideas, music, art, stories, words, creation, EDUCATION.

I feel so lucky to be part of education, but I wasn’t always this way. In those early days of teaching sometimes it just seemed such a thankless task. Every morning as I travelled nearer to the school I would start to feel a little sick, and the nerves and stress and fear and frustration would grow. And I would count down the days until I could have a week away from the classroom and the constant falling short, of never quite being good enough. Because if you didn’t know, most teachers exist in a fog of guilt, always thinking that they could do more, that they don’t do enough, that they did it wrong. Almost without fail when I have worked in colleague’s classrooms they would stop me on the way out to tell me what went wrong, what they missed, what they could have done better. Because we know, we really do know that we have been entrusted with a precious gift and that we owe those young people and their parents the best, but after a while the pressure of that gift weighs heavy on them, weighs them down and you see them droop or drift, survive or fall.

I was lucky. I am brave/foolhardy and in my moments of falter I would CHANGE, move to another speciality, move to another country, move to another school and I believe this has kept me strong. Plus I had my rage, my passionate burning rage and belief that I could be a voice for those without one, that I could use this loud abrasive, assertive, big voice, big body and big personality for good rather than evil.

My rage has propelled me across the world to Brazil and now Japan and here in this quiet country of bows and nods and formalities of language I can’t even begin to understand my rage continues to energise me. The more that silence is expected the louder I get, the more they think I will shut up the more I want to shout.

My now beloved Americans, with their eccentricities of language were tying me in loops when I arrived. I didn’t understand the smiles and compliments delivered with dead eyes. This along with the Japanese habit of having meetings to discuss decisions already made, being agreed as if they were being made in that exact moment. I didn’t know where to place my British pragmatism.

Now I am literally translated by my American colleague, I send him my emails scribbled in fiery fury, metaphorically scratched out in my own blood and he gently changes a few words and points out passages that will alienate and antagonise. He prepares me for meetings, acting as my language coach, I rewrite my questions and answers in advance following advice trying to make sure I get it right.

I am afraid of losing my passion and fire. I am enjoying my ‘American Language’ training, I like learning new skills. BUT I must never forget that sometimes I might choose to antagonise and challenge. Sometimes I don’t want to get more with sweetness and sugar, sometimes I want to squeeze lemon in their eyes, rub salt in their wounds, drink tequila and dance with the devil.

My first Brazilian home

I made an ignoble exit from my last home. My last look back was at a dirty duvet dangling from the balcony beneath mine, we had tried (and failed) to throw it down from the window. The contents of my kitchen were scattered on the pavement outside, waiting to be picked over by passersby. I was carrying two suitcases, packed so fast I could barely remember what was in them. And when I arrived in Brazil, what I had chosen to bring and I why I had chosen it, was a mystery to me.

Truth is I had run out of time. Time ticked away as the contents of my flat disappeared around me, like the sand trickling out of a timer, I ran out of time. Around me, the furniture was collected by friends and recycling companies, the books half packed in boxes were taken by removal men. Memories stored in another carton, cried over as I read about unrequited love, broken hearts and forgotten friends. The possessions that created my home dripped away, until it was just us left sat in an empty flat tangled up in the dirty duvet preparing for me to leave to make a new home.

There were many things it was hard to leave behind, but I when I arrived, surprisingly, I mourned the plates most. Crying over the crockery. Sobbing over the spoons I had discarded. Dreaming of the green tiled table, a Brighton boot sale bargain, also left behind, taken by a stranger to make their home. I arrived in Brazil to an empty flat. Only a bed, me, two suitcases and a trail of possessions strewn behind me across Brighton. My home, 5000 miles away.

I keep going to use a large yellow plastic bowl that I had in the UK, for some reason it is this item that my brain has decided must be in Brazil with me. A yellow plastic bowl bought from the Pound Shop. More than once I have gone to the cupboard to find this bowl only to remember, I didn’t bring it, it´s not here, someone else has it. Would a plastic yellow bowl feel like home?

So where do you start? How to create a home? What to buy to make a home? I thought about this as I negotiated with the school about how to support the new staff arriving this year. What would I want to make me feel at home? What did I wish had been in that empty flat? What makes me feel at home now?

After the shock of arrival had worn off, I was surprised how quickly I got over the loss and leaving of my possessions. I bought new plates, drank from my new mugs. What made my home, I realised, were connections. It might be different for other people but the priority for me was to connect. The first thing I wanted was an internet connection. Luddites may deride my reliance on technology, but for me it´s not the ability to play Angry Birds that was important but to connect to home, friends and family.

My darling mother struggles with technology, clinging to old ways of staying in touch, just about handling sending texts or Skyping (although I’m pretty sure she believes Mr Skype monitors our calls and cuts us off when he gets bored of our conversation). I nag her to use the internet more because I feel I have been able to have such a regular and wonderful connection with my friends, to share so much of this new life, it’s almost as good as having them with me. But for Mother, labouring over opening emails and phone calls, much of this new life is a mystery. When she does hear about it, it comes in such great waves I think it’s overwhelming; Bolivia, Argentina, Rio, Brazil…

My home is created by the network of love and care that cocoons me from the important people in my life. I needed this Internet connection to the ones I left behind, but over my time here, new magic has happened. Through Twitter I also gained a network of strangers who became supportive friends (I’ve met some of them in real life too now). In Brazil I developed a social world that has entertained me, helped me, made me laugh, hugged me when I cried and took me on amazing journeys. I also travelled alone and met new friends from around the world, and again the Internet helped me hold on to these people and I have plans to meet and travel with them again.

My home is not about cups or plates, or even that safely stored box of letters, cards, photos and memories in the UK. My home is made by people. So now, my friends laugh at me because as soon as I arrive anywhere I seek out the Wi-Fi and make sure I’m connected. I need a connection with the people I know to make my home. I share my new adventures with my old friends (and I know it must get boring and annoying ‘Luci is on holiday AGAIN!’) but I need to share it to make it real. Most of the time I’m still so shocked that I am here, that I was able to tumble out of that flat in Brighton with the dirty duvets and tables and plates. Still shocked that I wasn’t left behind too, in crumpled heap on the streets of Brighton, hoping to be collected by passersby. I have to share it; it is just me pinching myself to make sure this is really happening.

I didn’t need that Brighton flat full of things to prop me up as much as I thought. And although I still love shopping and buying and spending and I have created a new wall of possessions that I occasionally use to hide behind and fortify my castle. In leaving most of it behind I was able to focus on the real things that make my home, my connections to the people around me. Even though I see myself a solitary being at times, I have been able to recognise the importance of my connections. I appreciate you; I need you, thank you all. Without you I’d be homeless.

I flew in to a rainstorm over Sao Paulo. I was returning home after 5 weeks of travelling. I was retuning home, it was starting to feel like home. The plane was dark, we´d been delayed in Uruguay, the plane was small and it lurched in the sky. We were inside a cloud and I couldn´t see the lights of my new home, the seascape of skyscrapers I had looked at everyday for 5 months, but I was coming home and I was happy.

I flew in to 2012 too, New Years Eve tucked under a blanket over the Atlantic. I´m learning to fly but I´m not a traveller, I never have been. These moments of movement in my life are an aberration from my usual slothful existence. In the last 9 months I’ve flown 7 times, I will take 4 more flights before my first year in Brazil is over. In the 10 years before coming here, I flew once.

I flew back to the UK for Christmas, across the Atlantic Ocean. From sunny Brazil to crispy, cold Brighton. There was some turbulence. The plane was bouncing around in the sky just as I bounced my way back to my old life, excited and apprehensive. I was nervous on that journey, the seatbelt sign beeps and I tighten the mechanism around my waist and I remember the simple explanation a friend had given me for the turbulence, ´It’s nothing to worry about, it´s just warm air meeting cold´.

I repeated this mantra to myself on that and on other journeys, as I explored some of South America, in a Bolivian aircraft, juddering across the continent, ´Just warm air meeting cold´. The meeting of two opposites, two opposing forces sometimes causes turbulence. This isn´t necessarily a harbinger of doom, a warning for the faint hearted of impending death and destruction, the beginning of the end, the prediction of a crash, it´s just warm air meeting cold.

And as I reviewed the turbulence of the previous few months, the cold air of my English existence meeting the intoxicating heat of Brazil, that turbulence was also an indicator of a journey to a new horizon, a new place, a fresh chance. Turbulence, doesn’t need to be feared, in bringing chaos and uncertainty to our lives it gives stability to the solidity.

In the classroom I am learning to embrace turbulence too, to allow the warm and cold to clash, to let go of some control, to let the pupils experience their own version of hot air meeting cold. This week we have been working in groups on a film project and it has been a turbulent experience. We´ve had tears, tantrums, arguments, lost work, broken cameras, IT problems and a lot of frustration.

The bossy show off in me wants to wade in, take control, organise them, sort them out, solve the problems, make it work. They seek this from me too, comfortable in letting the adult deal with the disruptions, disagreements and disinterest. They seek from me solutions and sympathy. I had to step back, let the turbulence play out; let them bounce around the project towards a new destination.

I am 39 next month and as I creep closer to my 40s I seek a different kind of turbulence to the distractions of my 20s. I am learning to enjoy the journeys these disruptions take me on; to take pleasure in the changes. The turbulent path can be painful, dark and frightening. I keep remembering that it is just warm air meeting cold and that it is just a part of the flight to my next destination.

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