This week was spent in Vel’ky Meder, a spa town about an hour south of Bratislava. Aside from the obvious perks (yes, we did score free tickets to the spa, which featured a diving pool, outdoor thermal baths that make winter swimming worth it, and, sure enough, a waterslide), our accomodation–a private teacher’s apartment on the actual school grounds–was far more comfortable than usual, and our students, a mixture of Hungarian and Slovak speakers, turned out to be extraordinarily enthusiastic.
Yesterday, before we started handing out the certificates that our students earn for participating in the Active English Weeks program, one of my kids asked me a question. It’s a question I should be used to by now, but it still manages to throw me off:
“Amy, when are you going back to the States?”
“Uh… well, probably never.”
“What? But that’s your home!”
“Yeah, but I can’t really go back.”
“Why not?” asks one of the others.
It’s a fair question. Most Americans who come over to Europe or Asia to study or teach have a one or two year plan in mind. The ones from the UK sometimes go home for holidays. But for me, a dual-nationality Maltese-American saddled with some 100k of student loan debt, the question of going “home” becomes a question about so many other things. So instead of trying to go into the existential aspects of being a broke expat, I decided to boil the story down to one, easy “truth”:
“Well, I stole a lot of money.”
My kids’ eyes go wide, and one of the boys–the “tough guy” sitting in the back who never listens in class and thinks he’s gangsta’ because he uses his allowance to buy weed–suddenly sits up. “What? How much?”
“About a hundred thousand dollars,” I tell them with a shrug. “If I ever go back, they’ll probably arrest me.” Which, honestly, doesn’t seem so far from the truth these days.
Anyway, I leave it up to them to decide if they believe me, though it’s not the worst story I’ve heard. People don’t tend to abandon their homes unless they’ve got good reason. And hey, what kind of adventurer would I be without the shady backstory? 😉