Teaching Traveling: Here’s a story you don’t often hear: A teacher from the Bahamas, gearing up to teach abroad in Asia! Welcome to Clarissa Bolisay Dillet. Tell us a bit about your background, Clarissa.
Clarissa: My parents are from The Philippines, but I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas. I got my degree in Elementary Education at Barry University in Florida. I’ve been teaching on and off ever since. I took some time off when my daughter was born in 2003.
I went back to teaching for 5 years, and now I’m currently the Education Officer at the local zoo in Nassau. Working at Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre has allowed me to focus on conservation and animal welfare, which has made me so much more aware of the importance of teaching children about the environment and our role in respecting our planet.
I start my teaching job as a kindergarten teacher in Beijing, China in August 2014. I’m 43 years old.
TT: Amazing! Tell us more about your travels leading up to this big move.
C: In 1998, I travelled to SE Asia and Australia for 6 weeks. I fell madly in love with Asian culture and always dreamed of going back. Countries I visited were Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.
I funded my trip by working during the day teaching, then bar tending at night. This paid for my ticket to Singapore, which was my home base during my travels. I then entered a sculpture competition and won $2,500, which was my spending money for 6 weeks.
TT: What a story! How did you find this travel opportunity?
C: For the past few years, I’ve been very restless. I knew I needed a change, so I searched the Internet for teaching opportunities abroad. I applied to Thailand, Vietnam, Beijing, Tanzania, Central and South America. Beijing answered me first, and this is where I’ll be for 2 years.
TT: Wow. How will you pay for your China travel?
C: My school will pay for my ticket and housing. We had a few yard sales to fund my husband’s ticket. We’re pretty much starting from scratch. Cost of living is very high in The Bahamas, so we were living pay cheque to pay cheque. The move to Asia will allow us to save money.
TT: Fascinating. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
C: Back in 1998, I remembered going to Jogjakarta, Indonesia to visit Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple. On the ride back from Borobudor, I spotted a naked, homeless lady, lying on the sidewalk. People were stepping over her, like she was a piece of garbage. I will forever regret not getting out of the taxi to give her my sarong to cover up.
TT: So intense. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
C: My trip in 1998 made me realize that there’s so much to do and so much to see. But marriage, a mortgage and becoming a mother made me put those dreams on hold. Now, many years later, the feeling of wanting to travel and experience different cultures is still a desire of mine. At 43 years old, I figured if I don’t do this now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.
TT: So true. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
C: Traveling has definitely impacted me. I’m more open-minded and willing to try new things now.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
C: If you want to to see the world, do it! Teaching is the best profession to travel and experience new things! Some of my best friends are teachers who moved to The Bahamas to teach for a few years.
They’ve since moved back home, but their experience, teaching in The Bahamas has left a lasting impression on them.
TT: So awesome. Thanks so much, Clarissa! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?