Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dozens of Goodbyes

July began with my one-year anniversary in Hong Kong and is ending with the conclusion of my first full-time job. It’s been an emotional time and I think I summed it up decently in my final weekly newsletter, sent to my students’ parents: 

Hello everyone, 
For my last newsletter, I'd just like to write a huge thank you to the many students, parents, grandparents and helpers I've gotten to know during my time at this school. I'm not usually one to get overly sentimental, but I have really been blessed to get to know all of you. During these last two weeks, I've been quite humbled by having received so many well-wishes for my future.  
From my first day here until now, I have learned just as much if not more from my students as they have learned from me. Watching so many kids transform from babies into inquisitive, clever children is something very few people get to see and I will never forget this experience. It's also confirmed my belief, from the Beatles, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!  
I wish each and every one of my students all the very best as they grow up.  
Mr. Ben 

I really haven't had an experience like this before—saying my goodbyes and thank yous to so many people at the end of a life chapter. And by so many, I mean 150 students and their families plus nearly twenty colleagues. The closest was probably graduating university but that grand finale had been known by everyone involved from the get go and the majority of my friends were leaving with me. Announcing to the students and parents that I was leaving was probably the hardest step in the process but bidding adieu to the tight-knit colleague group was nearly as tough. After spending so many hours with certain people, you develop quite an attachment. 

In these last two weeks, with the end in sight, I felt what an impact these kids had on me and vice versa (I hope/think?) and that was something that really brought into focus the fact that teaching could be a career path for me. Of course, I'll need a lot more training to develop teaching skills beyond what I have now. But more than ever before, working in education seems like a pretty solid way to pass the weekday hours and try to make a difference. 

As I posted earlier, I start at the primary school on August 20th. I’m looking forward to (and also a bit nervous about) broadening my teaching experience and comparing this to my year teaching toddlers. During the next three weeks, I’ll spend half the time lounging around in Hong Kong and half the time travelling to both Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Guilin, China. Expect many photos and blog posts to come from these two trips.

Monday, July 2, 2012

One Year Later

This Wednesday marks my first Asia-versary. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned a metric butt-load* about many things. For example, teaching, small children, teaching small children, Hong Kong, Asia in general, Chinese culture, travelling, Cantonese, having a fulltime job, being in a relationship, self-reliance, etc. But for this post, I’d like to make a brief timeline of the last fifty-two weeks. I’ve always been a big fan of timelines, way before Facebook I might add (for hipster credit). Here it goes, with older posts linked. 

July 3-4, 2011: Travelled from Seattle to Hong Kong via planes, trains, boats and automobiles. Definitely the longest and most anxious days of my life. The journey went: Bainbridge Island house->BI Ferry Terminal->Seattle Ferry Terminal->SeaTac Airport->San Francisco Airport->Hong Kong Airport->Kowloon MTR Station->Roommate Ben’s Chan Uk Village flat. A 30-hour journey from totally familiar to completely foreign. 

July 16: First day teaching. Not just in HK but first day teaching any class period. It wasn’t supposed to be until the 18th, but my predecessor decided to ditch a bit early so I showed up and got a whirlwind introduction to the kids, parents and fellow teachers. Another nerve-wracking day for sure. Thankfully, I’d been trained about the job during the previous week so I at least had an idea of what to do. 

August 26: Flew alone to Taipei, Taiwan for my first trip outside HK as well as my first vacation alone. Good times and good memories, particularly seeing a Taiwanese professional baseball game. 

October 16: Began dating my gorgeous girlfriend, changing my life infinitely for the better ☺. Our first date was on the serene Lamma Island. 

December 18: Journeyed back across the Pacific to Seattle. For two weeks, I spent time with good friends and family in both the Seattle area and the Napa Valley. Being home made Hong Kong feel like a strange but wonderful dream. 

January 23, 2012: Went to Puerto Princesa, Philippines with four good friends, all connected to my school in HK. Possibly the best vacation of my life, this consisted of four near perfect days on an idyllic tropical island. I can still taste the delicious fruit smoothies and milkshakes. 

March 4: Moved into a new flat in Tai Wai. Took some cash and a bit of work to get it all set up, but once the place came together, I settled comfortably into my first solo apartment. 

April 3: Took a trip to Bangkok, Thailand with my girlfriend. It was far too short of a stay but I enjoyed seeing another world class city nearby. Some sweet golden temples they have there. 

(upcoming) July 28: Final day of work at my school. It’s hard to describe a day that hasn’t happened yet, but I expect an ocean of bittersweetness. More details in a post yet to come. 

So there’s a year. No gooey reflection necessary. I’ve had a great time and I’m optimistic about what the future might hold!

*'Metric butt-load' is a specific unit of measurement established by my great chum, Taylor Hagbo. It's quantity should be self-evident.