Sunday, 10 January 2016 19:00

Twelve countries later

Mary Anglberger's 12 previous homes Mary Anglberger's 12 previous homes

Twelve countries later

So I’ve lived here in Cyprus for over 5 years, teaching English, hosting Dinner Clubs and now writing for the Cyprus Weekly.

Here in Cyprus a very common question when you first meet people is ‘How did you end up here?’ A difficult question for me. Before coming here I lived in 12 other countries.

People often ask me which was my favourite - also a difficult question. I liked them all - for different reasons - because of my age at the time, the jobs I had, the friends I’d made. There is no one favourite.

So here a little tour of the highlights - and in some cases the lowlights - of all 12 countries I’ve lived in. In chronological order they are the US, the UK, Southern France, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Austria, Egypt, Costa Rica, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Latvia.

I probably should explain that in most of the countries I ended up quite haphazardly, never really planning much except for reading some inspiring travel books and checking if they had any English schools where I could work and youth hostels where I could start my stay.

The US - I started my travels in the US at the age of barely 18, where I initially went as an au-pair girl and then stayed on for 4 years to study in North Carolina and later in Colorado. 

I loved the States for their vastness. Everything seemed so big and open - the cars, people’s minds, the universities... even today I still think of going back.

The UK - I stayed in London for only a few months and I loved it because everything felt so quaint - the flat I was staying at to help an elderly children’s book writer, the shops, the streets, and yes the pubs down the street...

Southern France - there too I only stayed for a few months – in Saint Tropez none the less and I LOVED the poshness of it all. I was helping a countess - none the less! with her frequent dinner parties for guests coming from Monaco in Limousines.

It really felt like in a movie – in fact her husband looked a little like Louis de Funes - he even acted a bit like him! It was fantastic!

Belgium - I went to Belgium thanks to a French connection to babysit - and I loved Brussels not for its chocolates but for its nightclubs! My host family lived near the African neighbourhood and ALL I remember about my year in Bruxelles, are the fun nights out in the African bars and clubs.

In fact it was in Bruxelles I decided I wanted to go to Africa. I loved the people’s cheerfulness!

Burkina Faso - I had chosen Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) in West Africa because it was French speaking and because I was able to find a volunteer job there. I ended up staying almost 7 years and loved many things about it - the friendly people, the food, the rich culture.

In fact it was there I started teaching English. I taught the staff of an NGO with various ‘rural offices’ around the country and later students at an International school in the capital Ouagadougou.

Austria - true, Austria is my own country so I loved it for that. But during the 4 years when I thought I’d settle down, I loved it for all the skiing I got to do. I was the assistant manager in a family-run hotel in the ski resort of Obergurgl, Tyrol and got to go skiing literally every single day.

Egypt - I only stayed in Egypt for a few months. I had decided to get a Cambridge teaching certificate instead of settling in Austria and found a 2-month course in Cairo. I’ve always loved the Arab world and I loved Cairo for its chaos.

Costa Rica - Costa Rica was another ‘only a few months country’ and it’s hard to remember what I loved about it, apart from my Spanish program’s host mother, because I fell very ill with dengue fever (which is similar to malaria). 2 weeks in intensive care had me so weakened and terrified of any new mosquito bites, that I did not stay long once I had recovered.

Russia - my stay in Russia was also cut short. Unfortunately - because I loved Moscow for absolutely everything: Its size, its shabbiness right next to its glamour, its people who were much friendlier than expected, the language and my job for a big language school.

My stay had been cut short by an emergency call from the Austrian hotel owners asking me to pleeease come back. So I left Moscow with a heavy heart, promising to return. But my ‘rescue season’ at the hotel was so generously compensated, that I went off travelling again.

Mongolia - yet another few months stay, but this time by choice. After volunteering in a school in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, I had actually been offered a good job but... apart from once again a wonderful host family, there was not much I liked about Mongolia.

Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan finally was a long term stay again - almost two years. I loved Almaty for its views of the mountains all around, its distinct seasons, the many restaurants and some of the best friends I’d made throughout my travels. But eventually they left and so did I.

Latvia - Latvia was my last home before coming to Cyprus. I spent 2 great years in Riga - a beautiful city! I loved its architecture, the many parks, the river flowing right through the centre. And I loved teaching the hard working students.

In fact it’s one of my students, who gave me the idea of coming to Cyprus. So here I am - 5 years later, still wondering where the next journey will take me.

This was given as a speech at a Limassol Toastmasters Club  meeting and the video of it can be watched here

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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