California has been my home since birth, although for nearly the past decade, I have been teaching abroad, on both the Asian as well as the African continent. Yet at the end of every semester, during the Winter and Summer breaks, I usually make my way back to the Golden State, flying across that vast Pacific Ocean, going from my professional reality in Shenzhen to my personal reality in California.
Growing up in Southern California, I don’t know if I appreciated it as much then as I do now, as it took me living and teaching in a rural Ethiopian landscape to fully value the beauty of the California coastline. But years later, those sounds of waves playing upon the sand remind me of the home from which I came, their echoes shaped differently each year by the countries which I visit. Similarly, my return to the classroom at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is influenced by my experiences from California, not only teaching English but also the inherent culture which encompasses language. Just as I speak differently than someone from London, likewise, I speak differently than someone from New York, and following, the lifestyle of California is unique in its own respects, mirroring the culture of the Golden State which often proceeds at a seemingly more informed and laid-back pace than perhaps anywhere on Earth.
On this particular trip home, I had the opportunity to visit San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles; interestingly all named in Spanish, reflecting the rich and complex history which has shaped California. Part of Mexico until 1848, California has always painted itself outside the lines of traditional “Americanism”, challenging the status quo while remaining true to its own identity. It is this personification of my home state which has likewise instilled in me a desire to handle things differently, using creative approaches to the cross-cultural dilemmas I encounter around the globe while at the same time finding sustainable solutions with those I meet from different countries.
In a number of respects too, California is similar to Shenzhen, acting as a local leader in a national economy and a global leader in technological innovation while being geographically situated to welcome the world through its advantageous location. Because of these parallels, my two years living and teaching in Shenzhen have gone rather well, able to adapt to the cultural differences while at the same time cognizant of the contrasting realities which I encounter daily.
While traversing these global peaks and valleys, California remains in my heart regardless of where I go, my visions of sunsets in Asia tinted by the hues of those I have witnessed growing up along the Southern California coastline, reflecting my dreams upon the Pacific which now acts as a widening gap between work and home. It is these collections of memories which push me forward to continue experiencing the world, while at the same time reminding me of that place I am so Grateful to call home…