I don’t wish to catastrophise but…
One of the things that is currently consuming me with near existentialist angst/ self-consciousness is the tedious issue of what to wear when teaching. In Vietnam it became apparent that as a short and ahem, ‘curvaceous’ western woman it was nigh on impossible to purchase clothes that fitted me when out there. I also suffered from the heat, so whilst I sweated away in backpacker garb, I stood alongside immaculately turned out cool and composed colleagues. I felt a mess a lot of the time. Lest you think I exaggerate, I had a nightmare trip to a store when a student really, really wanted to buy me an item of clothing, and they got to XXXXL sizes of tops and they wouldn’t even fit over my head. Vietnamese are seriously petite. Fortunately, on the whole, my Vietnamese colleagues were also very polite, so although I felt like an ogre alongside them and excruciatingly badly dressed most of the time I got away with it. I also wore open-toed sandals throughout, and even then my poor little feet suffered in the hot and humid temperatures. Here is me looking a wreck alongside my better presented colleagues. You know what, I actually feel a bit nostalgic looking at this, they were so kind my Vietnamese co-teachers, so generous, I hope I am as lucky again in Cambodia…. oh well, enough of such reminiscences.
The awful truth is that my CWF hosts have taken the precaution of sending me a suitable dress booklet. It is daunting. The demure costumes illustrated for women are really not me at all. I want to be culturally sensitive and appropriate, but I also want to be comfortable. I have read before that feet (particularly pointing with feet) is incredibly rude, but although I of course noticed that my teacher colleagues all wore closed toe shoes, none of the students did, so I figured my sandals were OK. I still think probably they were, because concessions were made for me because I wasn’t expected to know any better, and frankly they were so delighted to have a native English speaker at their disposal I could get away with quite a bit their local staff might not be able to, even if it was unintentional. I hope that’s true, I hate to think I was just irredeemably rude the whole time I was there. Still, too late to change that, let’s focus on next time out TEFLing. Next time meaning this time. This time in Cambodia, it seems the requirement to dress appropriately for the role of teacher is being taken rather more seriously. Oh crap.
I have a terrible time with my hobbit feet, and am really fussy about what I’ll wear. Annoyingly, I’d invested in some sandals for this trip already – though I will still use them. Rummaging in my wardrobe I have found some closed toe hush puppies which are just the thing looks wise but are gonna be hot. I’ve also recently got some closed toe keen sandals which I LOVE and will probably be my main shoes out in Cambodia. What I don’t know is whether they are OK to wear because they have enclosed toes, or whether they wouldn’t be considered smart enough. Aaargh, I do resent this constant ‘what to wear’ angst. Of course I don’t want to cause offence, but equally I was sort of hoping that as a volunteer, whilst I will take my professional role seriously as a teacher, would mean there was some degree of informality in e.g. dress codes. I have always found office wear a complete nightmare. Inexplicably, no designer has yet embraced my body shape as their muse when coming up with clothing collections. Short people for ‘petite’ ranges are supposed to be flat chested. If you are more amply proportioned you have to be tall. I always end up swamped by clothes that are big enough to accommodate my assets, it’s no wonder I lack body confidence. Still, not to worry, I’ve got a few weeks to go before departure date, if I lose 30% of my body weight in advance of then I might find something to wear. In the meantime, here are my current footwear options. It’s going to be very annoying lugging loads of pairs of shoes with me, I was hoping to just travel with one. Oh well.
See if you can guess which are my preferred pairs.
Actually, now I’ve posed in them I do have to concede they may have a point in finding my toes offensive. Broken bones, bunions, raggedy nails and all. Maybe I’ll have a pedicure before I go. Probably not though, it’s never happened before, so can’t see any likelihood of it happening in the future. They are runners feet though, albeit a slow runner’s. That is why they take such a battering perhaps? Faster runners don’t spend so long on the trails hammering them, me, I’m out there longer. This is what comes of being more hobbit than hare…
So there you are, dress code for teaching in Cambodia and the terror of choosing suitable footwear. It remains to be seen to what extent it may be either enforced or enforceable, but I suppose I should at least show willing. Now I just need to check out my angst readings with respect of the rest of my wardrobe. It’s not fair. Why am I not a perfect 8? I’d settle for a perfect 10 to be honest. Actually, you know what, I’d settle for just being me if I could get some clothes that fitted properly. That however, is an impossible quest. Hope over experience is one thing, delusional believes another thing entirely!