Adapting to life under Covid-19
The global pandemic has proved fatal for over a million people, caused a severe headache for millions more and provided a windfall for a fortunate few, such as providers of food delivery services and manufacturers of face masks.
Like most of the world’s population, I’m in the middle of these three groups, which means that like many others I’ve lost my source of income. For the last couple of decades I’ve worked as a travel writer, but now that international tourism has ground to a halt, most of my clients (guidebooks, inflight magazines and travel websites) have either suspended or terminated their publications.
In an effort to recover from this setback, I’ve been trying to put my language skills to good use by taking on editing and proofreading jobs, as well as going back to teaching. I was fortunate to be born in an English-speaking country (the UK), and teaching English has enabled me to live and work in some extremely diverse countries, such as Sudan, Venezuela, Spain and Thailand. In over four decades living far from my homeland, I’ve become a firm believer in the notion that ‘travel broadens the mind’.
So now I spend my days doing small editing jobs and planning for a weekly class with my Thai student Pear, who is preparing to take an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. She hopes to go and study a higher degree in marketing in the UK, for which she needs a Band 7 score. Given the huge difference between the Thai and English languages, this presents a considerable challenge.
We spend each class practising past IELTS exam papers in listening, reading, speaking and writing in order to take Pear’s command of the language up to the required level. Fortunately, she’s a very capable and motivated young lady, so I’m optimistic that she’ll be successful.
Of course we’re lucky to be able to meet for our classes, given the fact that students and teachers worldwide are forced to communicate through Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. While such uses of technology are admirable, I’m sure that most teachers and students would agree that a real class setting is a more effective way to learn.
Fortunately, Thailand has not been as badly affected by the pandemic as most countries, and with hardly any deaths and new cases during recent months, we don’t have to worry too much about social distancing. At the same time, it’s sad to see that my homeland, England, as well as the rest of Europe, is experiencing a second wave of infections.
Maybe going back to the basics of the English language is not a bad thing, since trying to explain the subtle and complex rules of English, as well as all the maddening exceptions to these rules, is making me appreciate how rich our language is. And if one day I am able to return to travel writing, perhaps this diversion will have sharpened my creative writing skills.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.