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Reflections on Leaving Wales and Moving On

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

 

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

 

I published my last post almost a year ago! Many things have happened since and I needed some time off, especially that I haven’t really had a proper “base” to work from.

It’s the second time I am wrapping up my life for new beginnings. Hundreds of thoughts are racing through my mind, moving to another country is such a rare opportunity to rethink your actions, ideas, hopes and plans for the future. 11+ years ago I left Poland for Wales, to become a support worker in a small residential school for young people with learning disabilities. Little did I know where my life was going to take me, and that as of today I would officially be living in Bavaria, Germany.

 

 Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. April 2013

Carmarthen Fans – Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2013

When a young girl, I always dreamt about visiting the UK, possibly spending there a few months to learn the language and experience the romantic vibes of the country. Like from Jane Austen’s or Charlotte Bronte’s novels: rainy moorlands, green hillsides and purple heather blown in the wind. (Not mentioning a handsome man with shaggy hair riding a horse in the background…)

Years later, after finishing my supply English teacher post in a primary school in Poland, I started looking for possible jobs in Great Britain. An advert of a support worker position at a school run by a charity seemed a perfect solution for me, combining my two passions: education and social care. I was even more happy when, after receiving a job offer, I could choose between two locations: either close to Oxford and London, or in a rural English/Welsh border countryside. You should know by now which one was my choice.

 

 Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales, April 2014

Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2014

 

I won’t lie, the beginnings were difficult. New place, new housemates, new job, new language (with what seemed like a hundred accent variations). Now I am able to look back with a smile at some situations which seemed scary and/or embarrassing at the time. Imagine a grown-up woman who feels (and probably behaves) like a schoolgirl trying to make new friends.

But most of all, I wasn’t fully aware that people with learning disability might choose to display aggressive behaviour as their means of communication. I had to learn how to safely deal with being punched, kicked, bitten, verbally abused and spat at. And in spite of that, there was a number of students I was fond of; witnessing their even smallest steps forward made me so happy and proud. I can’t even explain how it feels seeing a boy who kept hurting himself and us, turning into a young man who could fly on a plane to Lapland! With the promotions, my responsibilities changed. I still enjoyed what I was doing though, even with some staff members being the most challenging of people I had ever met!

Without going into too much detail, as I should not be talking about certain issues, the school I worked in got closed. For someone not knowing much about social care, you don’t know about all these crazy regulations that needs to be followed, even if it often means that paperwork is more important than people. Somehow the mountain was created out of the mole hill, and because of a few potential mistakes, many of great staff lost their jobs, and students lost a great place to learn and thrive.

I went through good and bad with so many great people. I learnt a lot about how to appreciate the uniqueness of others. I made friends for life, had my heart broken, fell in love with Scottish and Welsh landscapes, hiked my legs off and found my man (though not British and without a horse, but thanks to him photos of me were published even in Nat Geo!).

 

 Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. June 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. Jun 2013

 

Closing off the school pushed me to make a decision: ‘should I stay or should I go’ – I could keep working for the company and just move within the UK. But I knew that it was time for me to leave, to explore new places. I really love travelling, but what I like the most is long-term experiences, the familiar and the foreign interwoven with each other.

It took me about a year to be where I am now, I have travelled through Europe to Norway and my beloved Lofoten, then went to USA, Poland, back to Lofoten and Wales, and finally here to German Bavaria. The most exciting part of my travels was to meet a great British couple who were travelling Europe in their van (check out their website VdubVanLife), and now we are planning together a really cool project!

 

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

 

The big unknown ahead of me, thrilling and scary at the same time, not only due to starting in a new place and learning a new language, but also because of changing my area of work quite significantly and jumping into self-employment. (I even learnt to design eBooks, check them out).

I just wish that the school would still exist and I could sometimes check in to say hello…

 

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

6 replies
  1. Rhiannon Seabury
    Rhiannon Seabury says:

    This is lovely Justyna! I’m so pleased you’re doing so well 🙂 🙂 enjoy Germany!! X

    Reply
  2. Carolyn Whippman
    Carolyn Whippman says:

    What a great story teller you are. I never knew this about you or many of the other things you mention in your story. I look at all the places you have visited and the adventures you are having and think these are the very fabrics of good living. Enjoy it all. I was only at the school for a short time but it was very magical to me and I never expected it to be so. I still remember every face I saw there even now. Xxcarolyn

    Reply
  3. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    Often wondered when you would continue this blog!
    Your life is fascinating – love your comments.
    As for popping in to see the school, all the students move on, as we all do.
    Change however small is always exciting.
    But I also miss it.
    Thank you for distinguish between the various countries in the UK – so rare even with the English.

    Reply
    • Justyna
      Justyna says:

      I know Jacqui, I have learnt so much from you about moving on and living your own life to the fullest. And yes, I always distinguish between the UK countries, Wales is closer to my heart than England. I will try to write more, now when I have a base (if I can actually afford German health insurance, but this is another story).
      Hugs!

      Reply

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