…life will reward you with a new hello.” ~ Paolo Coelho
I first saw this quote handwritten on a place mat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This place mat, colorful and inviting, lured me to a table in the second-floor reading nook of Sister Srey Cafe. Outside an adjacent window, the mid-morning sun was reaching its bright golden fingers through the foliage shading Siem Reap River. Thus perched, I sat staring at two thick slices of toast, my mind slowly emerging from food-poisoning-induced delirium.
In the hours it took me to force the toast down — a feat which under normal circumstances requires two minutes at most — I pondered all of the goodbyes I had said to make this trip possible. I counted the hellos that were my supposed reward. The jury was out as to whether it was a fair trade. But then again, no one ever said anything about fairness being a part of this deal.
That was two years ago. Fast forward to the present: I am camping out with six other Fulbrighters in Chengi airport in Singapore which is perhaps the best airport in which to have a ten-hour layover. As yet another trans-Pacific adventure is well underway, I reflect on the good-byes behind me, as well as the hellos that surely lie in wait.
The koi pond where we es
The last few days in the U.S. were a hectic frenzy of packing, organizing, shopping, and making endless decisions. To bring or not to bring? To buy here or hope they have there? To keep for upon my return or to donate to Goodwill? It was quite the achievement to not only pack for a year abroad (see previous post) but to also sell what I could of my worldly possessions (including my car… I miss you already Stella!!) and pack the rest of what I own in a closet under the stairs in my old bedroom-turned-music-studio.
My Closet of Worldly Possessions
Besides combating the unavoidable task of dealing with Stuff, I have also had to say good bye to friends, family, and the familiar comfort of living in a place that I know and love. This process started back in May, when I graduated from the University of Tampa. Good byes came hard and fast, and sometimes I didn’t realize until later that casual conversations with friends and co-workers turned out to be the last time I would see many people.
And so I said good bye to my beautiful campus. I said good bye to the easygoing freedom that having a car in Florida offered. I said good bye to the professors who have helped shape who I am and made many opportunities possible through their recommendations and unwavering support. I said good bye to my roommate, who I have continued to talk to throughout the summer as if we were still sitting around our kitchen table and talking until the wee hours of the morning. I said good bye to my Uncle Daves, who played a role more important than they know in my college experience. Overall, I said good bye to a very happy, productive, and memorable time of my life.
As my eyes and mind turned to the West, across the Pacific, I thought of other good byes (some tongue-in-cheek) that have happened now that I am halfway across the world, such as:
– good bye to dairy and my beloved cheese.
– good bye to not worrying if mosquito bites will give me a debilitating disease.
– good bye to making silly puns and getting a reaction, even if it is an eye roll.
– good bye to the easy complacency that comes with being fluent in the local language.
– good bye to drinking straight from the tap.
– good bye to going about my business without attracting the curiosity of every passerby.
…You get the idea. Although I draw upon my previous experience living in Thailand, I know that living and teaching in Indonesia will be a whole new experience. As my AFS mentors reminded us constantly in Thailand: it is not better or worse, just different. How I decide to perceive and live with these differences will be a determining factor for the kind of experience I am about to have. Now some words of wisdom from the ever-helpful ETA Guidebook:
&Bringing a positive attitude into the classroom, working with others instead of against them, and making an effort to understand each day as a new experience will translate beneficially into your teaching assistantship and your school community. You are already equipped with everything you need to thrive at your site. After all, you were chosen to embark on this journey for a reason. So, get excited! You’re already well on your way.”
Yes! I am on my way. It has been quite the ride to get to this point, but I am merely in the Preface of this new installment of the adventures of Kelly. I am so excited for this next chapter and can’t wait to launch into Indonesia with open eyes, mind, and heart.