Just a few weeks ago, our school’s social networking coordinator asked me to write about my summer. She was hoping to publish a piece about my adventures on our district Facebook page. Well, it was published! It’s such a beautiful feeling to read my work online, knowing that it’s reaching even a select few people. Thanks to all of you who have read my writing from the beginning.
Here’s the piece:
The spring before I graduated from college, I did my student teaching overseas in Auckland, New Zealand. I worked at Elim Christian College (college is the equivalent of high school in New Zealand) for nine weeks and taught both English and English as a Second Language classes. While there, I formed incredible relationships with many of the teachers and staff. This past summer, they had a need for a teacher who could work with students learning English as a Second Language, so they rung me up and asked if I was interested.
Of course I was interested! Getting paid to go to New Zealand?! I can live with that! I worked with two groups from Hong Kong for a total of three weeks. The first group had quite basic English, so I primarily focused on having the students practice speaking out loud, something daunting for even native English speakers. As for the second group (of twenty-three boys, mind you), their English was much more proficient. We were able to focus primarily on topical lessons based on their interests about New Zealand. One day we went rock climbing on the wall in the school’s gym. Another day I taught the boys the rules to rugby (after an all-nighter of learning them myself) and played a full game as a group. The boys wanted to know all about the culture, and I was honored to be able to learn alongside them.
In between the two Hong Kong groups, I had three weeks off from teaching. Rather than staying in a city that I can’t drive in, have no car to do so anyway, and have only friends who have full-time jobs, I decided to travel as much as possible. After the first week of teaching, I hopped on a plane to Cairns, Australia and explored what it had to offer. The highlight of that trip was diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I pet a sea turtle, saw sharks, found an octopus hiding in a reef, and met incredibly adventurous and like-minded people along the way.
From Cairns I flew back to Auckland for a night to attend a rugby game. At this point I had not learned the rules to rugby and had basically no idea what was going on. However, being surrounded by a group of spirited Kiwis made me feel emotionally invested in the game regardless of my inability to understand what was happening.
The very next morning, I jumped on a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand on the tip of the South Island. That first day, I went rock climbing and explored the Shipping Container Mall that has been built since the earthquake in Christchurch just a few years ago. Though much of the city is rebuilt, the Shipping Container Mall will most likely remain that way rather than moving to a new building. Early the next morning, my friends and I set off for Wanaka, a destination about an hour from Queenstown and with beautiful views along the way. We spent our days snowboarding at Cardrona and soaking in all the panoramic mountain shots our rides up and down the mountain brought.
After a short drive to Queenstown, I flew over to Nadi, Fiji for some more scuba diving. Here I was able to complete my Advanced Open Water Diving Certification and explore some shipwrecks. The island vibe in Fiji caught me off guard; everything moved so slowly there! Times were all relative, but everyone was kind and outgoing. Fiji’s culture is quite different from that of Australia and New Zealand, more Westernized countries, so I thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to a new way of life.
Upon arriving home from New Zealand after my three weeks of teaching and three weeks of exploration, I had twelve hours to pull my life together for part two of my summer adventures. My incredible parents picked me up at the airport, rushed me home, fed me, and helped me organize myself to transition from winter in New Zealand with some scuba diving in Australia and Fiji to the mountains of Nepal. In a flurry of dirty and clean laundry, I rushed off to the airport with my parents and set off on the last leg of my journey. My long layover in Qatar gave me time to explore a part of the world I’ve never seen before and get my glasses fogged up from the sheer heat and humidity.
The penultimate adventure of my summer (and my life!) was trekking to the Base Camp of Mount Everest. I hiked during the off season, so I was one of ten people all heading to EBC with the same itinerary. They were, however, all members of different groups from various companies; I completed my hike with just my guide. At first I was nervous about being the only person in my group, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise once I was certain my guide wasn’t a creeper! We spent hours playing cards and talking about our cultures; a piece of my heart remains in Nepal after this experience. Due to the fact that we were able to go at our own pace, we were the first ones to Base Camp. From there, we had the entire place to ourselves for over two hours, an experience very few people can ever claim to have! I was at the bottom of the top of the world.
This life-changing summer brought such healthy perspective to my worldview. I am such a small part of this world, and I want to see all of it. Rather than worrying about day-to-day concerns, I want to be future-minded, always seeking to see more and understand where it is we live. People all over the globe learn and live differently; as a teacher, it was such a privilege to see how five different countries operate.
Now I am back working at Kearsarge Regional Middle School for my second year of teaching English Language Arts in the eighth grade. My summer of adventures has brought a whole different presence to my classroom, one I am trying to instill in my students. Life is an adventure! We began our school year creating bucket lists, and we plan to attempt to check off at least one item this year. The atmosphere in our class has shifted to being world-focused, and I hope this appreciation can trickle through the entire school.