Having spent two incredible months in California, I now leave for Shenzhen where I will continue my teaching journey; a return to Asia after two years in Africa. Flying to Hong Kong this week with a renewed sense of wonder after leaving Ethiopia in the midst of a storm which still clouds the great Rift Valley, I am excited about the year ahead, including the cultures I will experience, the people I will meet, and of course, the food I will sample. While it will undoubtedly be different from my five previous years teaching in Korea, I remain motivated by the dynamic prospects of Asia, embracing its colorful past and promising future; challenging me while allowing growth, bringing a transformed outlook through a lens from yet another part of the world. I am grateful for these continued opportunities which my teaching profession allows, moving from a university in Africa to a university in Asia, complete with different methodologies and pedagogies, but with the same inspiration found in the students I work with.
For all the traveling that I am able to do, it is my respites at home in California which oftentimes brings the most joy. During these past two months I have been mixing pleasure with work, going to the beach on some days while visiting the Chinese Consulate on others. Getting a Work Visa for China/Hong Kong is certainly no easy task, even when compared with those lovely immigration officials I had the pleasure of meeting in Ethiopia. Yet it is the experience of scanning Passport pages which juxtaposes nicely with visiting local micro breweries, giving me a sense of where I will be going in comparison to where I am at. And while both Hong Kong and Shenzhen have a flourishing craft beer scene, I doubt I can ride my bicycle along a sun-drenched beach to get there, silhouetted by the sea circled by the circus sands.
As Summer transitioned to Fall (or at least to the extent there are seasons in Southern California), I continued to enjoy the wealth of physical proximity provided by my hometown of Huntington Beach, taking the train down to San Diego, sailing with my parents to Catalina Island, and of course, visiting Baja California, Mexico on a number of occasions. Locally, it was daily bicycle rides which took me around town as my earphones played the Grateful Dead, providing both a physical as well as mental escape from this seemingly never-ending transition I find myself in. So it is now, as I board a 15-hour flight to Hong Kong when I grow weary of escapes, tired of moving, and for the briefest of moments, wishing to settle down to a time when I don’t have to pack and repack suitcases for weather I have never before experienced. But those feelings are fleeting like the clouds I will fly above over the Pacific, as I land in a culture which will swallow me whole, reminding me once again why I teach abroad instead of domestically. America is the greatest country on Earth, but it took me living overseas to realize that; redefining my definitions of things which living back home are difficult to discover.
For those family and friends I was able to see while home, be it over dinner or drink, I thank you for taking the time to visit with me as I transition from this land to that. Similarly, for those who have kept in contact via telephone or email, again, thanks for sharing a conversation with me, as I can guarantee my stories are more interesting than the latest Facebook post about a baby, kittens or even a baby surrounded by kittens. And following, as I move abroad again, I hope that I am able to keep in touch with those who have traveled vicariously along this path with me, from the clouded peaks of Jiri San to the dirt paths of Ambo and now to the food markets of Hong Kong. It may be long trans-Atlantic flights which get me here, but it is the evening walks around my neighborhood which crowd my memory bank like a Sunday morning Sunrise.
Two months in Southern California should be anyone’s idea of a great vacation, and when coupled with time spent with loving family, it admittedly makes it hard to leave. In fact, the most difficult part about living and teaching overseas is the tumult of these next few weeks, as I once again move from home to wherever is next, leaving here and moving there, goodbyes and hellos determined by cultural hugs and bows. Yet the experiences I will get including new perspectives and insights, will hopefully go to remind me once again that the world is the classroom upon which I both teach and learn, paths across oceans, not down freeways, with my next off-ramp being a a return to Asia…