November 25, 2016

Signing Off, and Thank You



This is the first entry I have written in months. That by itself should tell me something. I am not necessarily any busier now than I was in Albania, nor do I have less to say than I did back then. Thailand is just as interesting an experience, and my personal growth continues at the usual rate. At least I hope it does. Briefly, there is nothing to keep me from matching the pace I had set for myself nearly four years ago.

So why the lull?

I don't know who gave me the original idea, but it wasn't mine. I suspect it was my mother, who once told me that I am a writer, and thus must write. Whatever the impulse, I started this blog as a form of therapy. I felt at the time, and still do, that it must be that type that takes a very public form. Maybe I perceived that there was a value in being vulnerable, that if I just went ahead and admitted my insecurities, struggles, cockups, and growing pains then I would save all of you from pointing them out for me. So that's a big part of it.

Now, make no mistake; there were certainly life lessons, insights, and experiences that I wanted to share with you, and I had (briefly) also entertained the idea that these might end up having some sort of commercial value. But the main reason I sat down in front of my computer and pounded these out was simply me. Most writers, I imagine, write because it is the only way for them to stay ahead of the thoughts, fears, or wild fancies that would otherwise overwhelm their waking and sleeping hours.

That's just not me at the moment.

The years 2011 through...well...right about now were transitional. Single again, looking for different work, remembering what it means to be a friend and to give of my time without expectation of it being requited in some way, moving to another country for the first time and knowing what it means to have a loved one willing to help me make my first steps there, creating another life and learning (poorly) another language to add to the list of others I am also able to speak (poorly), making my own work, finding love again, finding another job, and (at last) finding myself in yet another country and doing the work of instructional leadership that I'm really pretty good at.

My probation period is over, my evaluation sterling, and my time set for the foreseeable future. I feel like I can finally breathe. For however long this lasts, I don't need this right now. I want to write, and I want to want it. This just isn't the venue.

Because, honestly, I like writing. I truly do. I think I'm pretty good at it. I think I have things to say, and I enjoy it when others take the time to read them. The time will likely come when I will write here again, either in this blog or somewhere else if enough time has passed that blogs are no longer a "thing". There's other types of writing to do first, and I want to take some time to figure out what that might be. Maybe I'll finally get around to the sequel to the first novel I have yet to try and seriously market (do note its presence on this page, reader) that one of my best friends demands of me.

I'm doing alright. I'm hanging in there. I'm staying the course. All of that. And all of that may change, in large or small ways. Life has certainly imparted the lesson that these changes may be sudden and catastrophic. When that happens maybe I will once again write about my life in order to have it make some kind of sense, because I will be completely at sea and unable to think of anything different to do. I hope not. I hope that the bumps that lie ahead are spaced a little farther apart.

If they're not, or if they turn into mountains, it is a comfort to know that I am possessed of those same tools used by so many before me to face and sometimes conquer their demons: just 26 letters and a few pieces of punctuation, these humble little symbols with which you can start wars, broker peace, break hearts and heal those broken, fall in love, recall yourself to hope, and save a life.

Even your own.

Goodbye, my friend.


September 20, 2016

Albania: The (Short) Return.

It seems like I am always coming across some post on one of the many many platforms espousing the value of travel and how it "changes" you. They seem to be mostly targeted at younger millennials (insert angry comment here) or others who haven't yet had the opportunity to be dramatically altered by events in his or her own town.

One of the things I've heard about it is that it makes it hard to see your own country the same way again. I'm not sure that's accurate; I think it makes it out to be much bigger than it needs to be. Sometimes travel is just travel. Living in a new country might cause that kind of sea change, but I'm not sure how long that lasts, as even after only three weeks I felt myself getting into the rhythms of American living, for good or ill.

I think it takes a while before you start "living" in a country, as opposed to feeling like a visitor, and thus still a resident of wherever it is you came from. I've lived in Thailand for two months now, and that's not enough to make an appreciable difference. Of course, on this latest return I wasn't visiting America, but rather Albania, which became a home and still is in some important ways.

I was there for some necessary, if unheralded, work. You can READ ABOUT IT HERE. I was only there for a short time, but it was as if I had never left. There was nothing strange to me about the half-finished buildings (still half-finished), the food (still don't like byrek), or being stared at as I walked down the street (I still wave when it becomes too obvious and obnoxious). I was even able to speak in the same child-level Albanian of which I was previously capable.

So...possibilities. First, maybe it just hasn't been long enough. The next visit will be many more months away, so perhaps that time will be sufficient for me to feel odd again. Second, perhaps Albania has become enough of a real home to me that returning is now second-nature. The third is that perhaps all things are becoming second nature. That third possibility is intriguing. I remember when I packed for Thailand and took off; it seemed much less a big deal, despite the fact that I was going to a job, one in which I would be responsible for much more than my own performance, but that of dozens of others.

When I came back to Thailand from Albania there was no period of readjustment, just a going with the flow, even being able to laugh at (on the inside) the taxi driver who complained about the long distance he had to drive from the airport to my apartment.

Maybe I am just getting better at being in new places. I suppose I won't have a clearer idea of this until the next country. 

If I am, though, then perhaps I am one step closer to being able to call myself a "citizen of the world" (overused phrase, that).

That would be cool...

August 10, 2016

Two Weeks In (Near) Bangkok: Building Another Life

As I write this, the staff at my new workplace just finished the student/parent orientation for the upcoming school year. It was an event filled with ceremony, and one in which I came to better understand the role I am to play this year. Two days before, I had been asked to speak to the gathering about the vision of the school as it began its second year in which it would have a full complement of students, Grades 10 through 12. I found (and find) it more than a little ironic that the director with all of 14 days of experience at the school, 14 days of living in Thailand itself, was called upon to forward this notion of the future.

Regardless, I was honored by the choice, and determined to make a good go of it. So I wrote down talking points, as I find that reading word for word makes one sound like they are reading word for word. I used my new BlackBerry, a gift from a friend who always knows what I am going to need right before I am going to need it.

But I am all thumbs sometimes, and as I was walking up I must have hit the wrong button, for my phone decided to go all cattywampus on me. I had to make a quick decision: spend a few awkward seconds in front of 600 people trying to get my notes back, or just wing it, using what I remembered from taking the notes in the first place. I chose the latter, and it went just fine. In fact, it probably went a lot better than it would have had I followed the talking points I had so painstakingly taken down.

Sometimes you just know how to do something. And even though it makes me nervous every time, I have come to realize that I can speak off the cuff with the best of them. I just needed to trust that I knew enough, was good enough, that I had reached a level of professional competence that allowed me to do what was once hard.

It gets me to thinking about my time here so far, a duration still shorter in length than many vacations I have taken, but one long enough to know that the discombobulation I had experienced in Albania wasn't going to happen here. Part of this is that I dove right into my job; as the only director in the country for the first week I saw that there were needs, particularly in hiring and professional development, and took the initiative to address them. That's another thing I might not have done were I an earlier version of myself.

I think the other part of it comes from my past experience. Many expatriates live in one other country and call it good, happy to take their enriched lives and apply what they learned and how they grew to their home country. There was a very good chance I would have joined them, which would have been fine, all things considered.

But I didn't, and me ending up in Thailand was, I came to understand later, the result of a very strange situation coupled with a fortuitously timed decision on my part to check in with a school that had previously shown interest in me. I tend not to belief in fate, per se, but this was certainly a fortunate intersection, at least so far.

Long story short, this isn't my first rodeo. Much like with the speech, I seem to have acquired more of an ease with creating a life in different places, even though I am seeing it for the first time.

It makes me wonder about the time I return to the United States for longer than a few weeks. At what point will I settle into a new, old, routine, and cease to see my homeland with new eyes?