Most people consider January 1st the New Year, but teachers think in academic years. The first day of school is our first day of the year. The two month summer is a sort of reprieve from time itself. As we head into another year, we get ready for it in expat fashion. Two fifty pound bags per family member, car seats, baby backpack carriers, and lists of all kinds all over the place. Lists of American items not to forget, lists of teaching beginning-of-year ideas, lists of logistics.
In preparation and throughout the year, I think about what the family needs for the following year, ordering enough on Amazon to warrant buying some of their stock shares. As a result, as soon as I get “home” I start packing. First order of business, books. It is hard to get good English books abroad, so I order them as I learn of books that I need. I end up with a surplus no doubt, but the book lover in me anticipates coming home to a giant stack of beautiful books. Next and with slightly less excitement, I pack over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, seasonal clothes, makeups, lotions, health foods, three pairs of running shoes, birthday and Christmas gifts. All of this adds up pretty quickly in weight. I have been nearly packed for our departure since we arrived.
This will be our 11th year teaching overseas, 12th year teaching. No matter the year, I still sit on a mixture of nervous and excited. It is a similar feeling I have before a race. It is because I care so much about the outcome.
Living overseas has taught me to be more flexible and open-minded. One must roll with the punches, choose your stresses, and be open to learning from another culture. I have intentionally and unintentionally adopted parts of every country I have lived in and even some from places I have visited. There is this sort of internal filter that keeps the things I respect about my culture and replace other parts with philosophy’s from another. I changed a lot after Thailand. There was plenty to learn in the land of smiles–mi pen lai, ka (no problem, a favorite and deeply ingrained saying in Thailand). I see this happening rather seamlessly with my children, too. Personally, it has made me a better teacher, parent, person. I don’t have plans of stopping working in foreign lands any time soon. I am looking forward to another year stretching myself outside of my comfort zone.
Before children, my husband and I lived in New Zealand and Kazakhstan. We moved to Thailand and there started our family. Last year, when we moved to Bosnian and Herzegovina, it was the first time we had moved as a family. New job, new country, new caregiver for my daughter, new teachers for my son, new house. As you would imagine, it was stressful. I am looking forward to having some familiarity going back to Sarajevo this year. However, we do this for newness and there is still plenty that will feel novel and exciting to the human experience. I have my list of places to explore in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those lists. They are everywhere.
So, we are on our final goodbyes. We used to do them as one big hurrah, but now we like to make it more personal, saying goodbye one by one. We have said goodbye to some good friends that have a son the same age as ours. We have said good by to my in-laws. We have said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, cousins. We have seen fellow international teachers that do the same thing we do, most likely seeing them abroad this coming year, so it is a quasi-goodbye. We are getting ready to go camping this weekend with my dad, his wife, and my sister and her family. That will be goodbye until next year. I can feel it, the wheels will be picking up soon for another year abroad.