I’ve moved around many times in my life and each time it was not only a physical event transporting material but leaving what had become a comfort zone.
I’ve grown comfortable in Dagang despite my early and still whiny disses that it’s smack in the middle of nowheresville. It’s as great a place as any one has to create home. It’s been warm and welcoming to me and my family with relatives easily depended upon for any non- or emergent emergency, with friends adding color and vibrancy to life.
Despite my apprehensions about Chinese education, I feel I’m the luckiest in the world to have started teaching here. In another country, maybe there would be rowdy, disrespectful students that would make me cower, fold up and head for the door. Unlike my friend Daniel, I wouldn’t know how to manage misbehavior. I sometimes can’t even handle it when my children are too naughty but that’s another matter.
Here in China, the students are reserved and obedient maybe to a fault that compromises and makes almost non-existent their initiative and curiosity. Get them loosened up however and sparks fly which makes every day going to the university a joy seeing students leaving their shells. You encounter surprises from people you least expect. You are privy to deep insights from young minds and you see the genius in everyone.
Comfort zone. The university treats me well. Can’t complain except my husband thinks I’m underpaid but who can be underpaid with the opportunity and privilege of coming in contact with minds the way teachers do in class? I don’t do lectures. I engage them in conversation and you’re paying me to be inquisitive and chatty.
Discomfort zone. I’m not comfortable teaching my children academic stuff. It fills me with dread to go over workbooks so I stopped except for the Star Wars ones. So this journey around the world will thrust me into an uneasy zone facing my fear 24-7. I’m not comfortable teaching this age although it’s ironic I often identify more with their age then my own. I once tried teaching my son’s kindergarten class for five minutes and I never want to do that ever again. In fairness, they hardly knew English. My husband can’t understand my abhorrence for kiddie curriculum since he wrongly thinks it should be too easy for me.
Comfort zone. We have a nice, right-sized apartment on the second floor of a typical elevator-less five story building which is walking distance to the supermarket, park, mall and everything one could need but I still have to go to TEDA 45 minutes away for Japanese sesame salad dressing and dental floss. Every night, we can walk to the park and have our menu of sports equipment to choose from to bring: bike, ball, skateboard, rollerblade, scooter or plain feet. I can dance with the line dancers and not be ashamed to be out of tempo doing my own steps.
Discomfort zone: We’d have no safety net of family around us. We’d be living in our car, tents, budget inns, airbnb and who knows what. We are resettling in a big question mark. When Jimmy, my three year old going on four, whimpers that he wants to go home at the end of the day, would he accept anywhere as home? I hope so for all of us. Home is wherever we are together.