About Den Den

Where I was born and grew up:  Malta  

What I did there:  Part-time EFL Teacher  

Where I am living at the moment:  Zurich, Switzerland  

What I do here:  Part-time EFL Teacher 

Where I am moving to next:  (Hopefully) Australia  

Where I dream of living:   Japan  


I can recall quite clearly the period when I got itchy feet, that is, when I started teaching English to foreigners who came to my home country, Malta, for a bit of sunshine. I guess before that, in my university years especially, I thought of the world as something far too big, and my tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean as a comfortable little haven where I didn’t need to be ambitious. I was as yet oblivious to the fact that life would catch up on me eventually.  

But then an endless sea of people from all over the globe started streaming through my classroom doors. Each person brought with him a whiff of a distant land; a story about winter in his home town; a local recipe which was a particular favourite of his; a picture; a souvenir; a description of an unusual festival; an easy word to remember in his language. Whiff added to whiff accumulated over time, building up first into a light breeze, then a wind which, becoming stronger and stronger, turned into a hurricane that encircled me, never to let me go.  

Suddenly my country, with its security and predictability (which in my heart of hearts I was thankful to have grown up in) became as stifling to me as the hot summer winds which periodically blew from over the Sahara.
Rooms on the fourth floor of my school were all equipped with a large world map framed and hung facing the white board. While my students were busy completing their tasks, I would often stare at it, following the lines and curves of the different continents, noting that my country wasn’t even big enough to be visible on that map. .( If you don’t know where Malta is, look at a map of the Mediterranean, or rather squint, right below Sicily. You will see a tiny island in the shape of a fish.) More often than not, my eyes would linger on one particular continent, the one which I loved more than any other, and with which my travel dreams were populated. I stared and dreamt of Asia.  

When I started dreaming about seeing the world, I had just finished my first degree and had started my Masters, which meant that for the next few years I’d have bills to pay and very little left to splash out on plane tickets. Dreaming was all I could do for a while. I knew that I wanted much more than to just go to another country for a week or two, do the typical touristy things and go home bragging that I’d been here or there. I wanted to experience the real culture, and, to some extent or other, become part of it. I knew that the only way I’d be able to stay long enough to get that kind of experience was by getting a job in the country I wanted to explore and settling there for a while. I promised myself that as soon as I finished my Masters and saved enough money to be able to have a comfortable start in my country of choice, I’d go for it.  

Unfortunately, I discovered very soon when I started looking for a teaching jobs in Asia that one’s qualifications and years of experience do not count as much as one’s nationality. Because I did not possess a passport with one of the 7 nationalities considered native speakers of English (British, Irish, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, South African) the dozens of applications I sent to Shanghainese and Japanese schools were ignored. I couldn’t even try to apply for South Korean or Indonesian teaching positions, as the immigration office in these countries strictly limits visa issuing to the above-mentioned nationalities.  

 In the end, I ended up finding the love of my life among the rooms of my language school and moved to Zurich, Switzerland at the beginning of September 2009. I am now in the process of applying for a permanent Australian residence visa and am planning the move to Down Under in the middle of 2011. Even if I wasn’t lucky enough to hit the destiny jackpot and have one of those nationalities which allow you to hop from country to country unobstructed and work as you do so, I am not giving up my dream of travelling (and living) in different countries around the world until I find a place to call home.  


2 Responses “About Den Den” →
  1. I would just like to say that I have exactly the same mind set as you – and it has been brilliant to stumble across your website this morning.

    I am currently living and working in Seoul for a year. Before this I was in China for six months and after this I will go on an 11 month trip volunteering in Vietnam, Cambodia and India. And then after that hopefully I’ll be hitting South America.

    I completely agree with your thoughts and ideas about traveling (much to my Mother’s dismay) and don’t want my traveling experience to be a one year trip which I remember fondly whilst sitting at my office desk in five years time. There is so much out there too explore and I want to do it all at an easy pace so that when I leave I can speak a bit of the language, stay in touch with the great local friends I made, know a bit about the culture and history of the country and have the recipes for all the best dishes stuffed in my back pocket.

    I tried writing a blog in the past but by no means came close to articulating my thoughts about the places I’ve been, food I’ve tasted or people I’ve met in the way that you do. You have such a talent for this and an ability to inspire even the most cynical of people.

    Also, I am not one for self indulgent, meaningless blogs that go on about how people have “found themselves” through traveling or now have some sort of new spiritual meaning in their lives because they stood on top of a mountain. Instead, your blog is down to earth and factual, but still carries a sense of adventure and inspiration that all good writing should have.

    Well done. I will make sure to follow your blog from now!

  2. Great blog. Very interesting and as an Istanbul resident, I loved the recent posts about this great city. Keep up the great work and I will continue to check back in.


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