Globetrotting teacher calls Mathews home … sometimes

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Aug 07, 2019 - 02:05 PM

Photo: Liz and Jim Haske and their children, Amelia and Bryce, spend each school year in a foreign country, returning to their home in New Point during the summer. They are shown here on Gozo Island in Malta.

Liz and Jim Haske and their children, Amelia and Bryce, spend each school year in a foreign country, returning to their home in New Point during the summer. They are shown here on Gozo Island in Malta.

International teacher Liz Haske of New Point (and other points around the globe) did her student teaching semester years ago in Rome and loved it. She returned home to Iowa, graduated from Iowa State University, and got a job stateside.

After teaching just one year in the U.S., Haske got the itch to go abroad again, and in 2002 decided to sign up for a job at a school in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar so she could get that itch out of her system. Instead, she did a second year, met her future husband, an international teacher named Jim, and the urge to travel became a lifestyle.

On July 23, Liz and Jim Haske and their children Amelia, 8, and Bryce, 6, flew off to Zambia on the African continent for Liz Haske’s 18th year as an international teacher. It’s the only life her children have ever known.

Finding love abroad

Haske said she and her husband felt “a pretty instant connection” when they met as part of the strong American expatriate community in Qatar. They were there to work and had been warned not to look for romance. But it found them.

“They told Jim he wouldn’t find his dream girl in Qatar because there was no social scene or dating scene,” she said. “It was very much a make-your-own-fun place.”

By the time the year was up, the two had decided to look for their next school together, and they moved to China, where they worked for two years.

“It was a great place to get engaged,” said Haske. “I bought the most beautiful dress for $200 at a Chinese wedding market.”

The couple planned their wedding online while still in China, then flew home the summer of 2006 to get married in Richmond, where Jim’s mother is from. 

Syria and other places

Their next destination was Syria, where their stay was short-lived because of political unrest and the removal of all U.S. citizens. Because they received their full salary anyway, they were able to take a three-month vacation in South America before heading off yet another destination. During their teaching careers, they’ve spent the most time in Indonesia, where they ended up living for six years. Both of their children were born there. Another four years was spent in the eastern European nation of Bulgaria, just north of Greece and west of Turkey.

Teaching in other countries

Since they always work for private international schools, the Haskes don’t have to learn the language of the nations where they live. They teach their classes in English—an elementary school curriculum for Liz and middle school social studies and history for Jim. Ever since their assignment in China, where the school they taught for provided them with an apartment that was so small Jim could touch both walls of the living quarters with his arms spread out, they apply only to the better schools in the countries where they would like to live. The pay is good, said Haske, and housing, insurance and transportation to and from the other country are all provided.

The students at international schools are frequently the children of diplomats, corporate personnel assigned to the country, non-governmental organizations, and others who speak English. The school where the couple taught in Bulgaria had 60 different nationalities represented among the students, said Haske, while the school in Lusaka, Zambia, where they are now, has 40.

The Haskes have never visited the countries they’re interested in before taking the job. Instead, they arrive in a new land with no preconceptions—with everything new and exciting and waiting to be explored. Haske thinks that Zambia, with its natural environment, mild winters, and opportunities for gardening and fresh food, may be the hidden gem they’ve been searching for—the country where they can put down roots and stay until at least their older child graduates from high school.

“We expect to be there a long time if it’s as good in reality as it is in my mind,” she said. “The children are at an age when stability is important, and they need to feel rooted. This school could be everything we wanted.”

Of course, the New Point home the Haskes bought online at an internet café in South America in 2009 has provided some of that stability for the children. After spending seven summers in guestrooms and on people’s couches, they decided they needed someplace to call home when school was out. They chose Mathews because they have family members on Gwynn’s Island, and they return every summer to spend their time kayaking and running around barefoot.

“We love this area and are so glad for our kids to spend summers in Mathews,” said Haske. “It’s so natural. There’s so much beauty.”

But far off places are always calling. Haske said she’s glad that her children are able to get a top-rate international education at the best schools and that their best friends are from all over the world.

“There are so many different perspectives, and they have an appreciation for diversity,” said Haske. “Packing your life and moving to a different country is just what we do.”