Reading bookfool's post on Five of the Most Interesting Things I've Ever Done got me thinking about what my own 5 would be. As she rightly predicted, mine are all travel-related in some way.
1. Living with a French family in Aveyron, France for one year.
After graduating high school, I went on a student exchange to France and ended up staying in a small town, Rodez, in Aveyron. In Canada, both French and English being national languages, I did study French for several years at school. But it was more in the 'memorise vocabulary and write grammar tests' style, so I could barely have a basic conversation when I arrived in France. Surrounded by non-English speakers, plus going to French school (not a language school, but a regular all-French high school) meant I was truly and thoroughly immersed. By the end of the year I was reasonably fluent and had reverse language and culture shock on returning to Canada. This sojourn in France was the beginning of my desire to travel and live abroad. Without having this experience I seriously doubt I would have ended up where I am now. Something I still believe is that to truly understand another country, it's people and culture, you must live among them for a while. As a tourist you barely scratch the surface.
2. Moving to Japan....twice! (technically three times if you count moving back here last year)
I majored in Applied Linguistics (Teaching English as a Second Language) in University primarily because it would lead to a job that I could do outside of Canada (see how the experience in France had long lasting effects!). So after I finished my degree, I ended up taking a job in Japan. I had looked at other countries but money talks, as they say, and by working in Japan I could send money home regularly to pay off the dratted student loans.
My first stay in Japan was for one year in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. I taught English to kids, from the age of 1 (yes, really!) to about 12. I was there on a Working Holiday Visa, and after the year was up I returned to Canada.
But after just over a year in Victoria, I decided to go back to Japan. This time I was hired by a school in Tokyo that focused on Business English. Over the next 4 years I taught English at many corporations all over Tokyo. Honda, Nissan, Bridgestone, Hitachi Software, NEC, glass companies, pharmaceutical companies, to name just a few.
3. Marrying H.
I met H while I was teaching a class at his company. Yes, he was my student- so scandalous!! We ended up getting married not quite 2 years later, and while I still can't speak Japanese very well (we started out speaking English and continue to do so) or claim to fully understand the culture, marrying into it definitely is a step in the right direction.
I was going to include meeting and marrying H in the Japan section above but he thought he should have his own number, and deservedly so since I wouldn't have been able to tag along otherwise when his company transferred him to England. :P
4. Living in a church.
Our flat in London was in a 100 year old church that had been converted into 20 odd flats. Ours was in the corner and came complete with a stained glass window. It was rather small but it was a fun atmosphere for the time we were in it. We then moved to a terraced townhouse in Cambridge that was over 200 years old!
5. Watching 67* plays and musicals in 3.5 years.
I could do a subset of the 5 best things about living in England (the history, the architecture, within easy travelling distance to the rest of Europe, the bookshops and meeting authors [this will get a separate post sometime soon]) but one of the best things was definitely the theatre. Before we moved to London, I had seen a handful of plays and one musical, Phantom of the Opera. I decided to make the most of the opportunity and tried to see as many shows as I could. As we were originally only to stay for 15 months, it was quite intensive at the start, but even when our stay was extended twice and we moved to Cambridge, I still went to the theatre quite often.
*67 refers to the number of times I physically went to the theatre and does include a few repeat viewings- the ones that were so good I had to see them again!