I'm not really sure why my heart is so happy to be here. Perhaps it is the promise of a new year. Or maybe the knowledge that I am so much more comfortable and capable of navigating myself in this strange world. Perhaps it is the freshness of a clean slate, an island full of possibilities, and a stack of goals to keep me happily occupied.
Deep down though, I suppose I know the heart of the matter cuts much deeper. Last year was a year of turmoil for me. I flipped my world upside down when I quit my steady, well-paying, awful job to move half way across the world to a poor island country where I knew pretty much nothing and no one and would be fairly poor myself.
I had to throw off every doubt and fear and shackle that ever tied me down to the life I thought I was supposed to live and seriously re-evaluate what I, myself, truly wanted out of my life. It wasn't easy. I worried about being able to support myself living outside of the U.S. and what my parents and friends would think. I worried about losing relationships with people I loved back home and I wondered if it was too late for me to try to live abroad at this point in my life. I worried a lot, but never voiced those worries to anyone, because I already felt crazy enough and didn't need anyone else to help convince me that this might be a bad idea. Instead, I kicked all those petty little fears to the curb in pursuit of the one thing I had always known that I really wanted to do, and I did it. I jumped in. It was like climbing out of my safe little above-ground swimming pool at home (which I would never swim in alone at night because of the completely absurd fear that a shark might eat me) and diving head first into a rolling ocean (where the possibility of being eaten by a shark is very real!). That was some tough stuff. I spent the semester just trying to keep my head afloat as I learned how to tread water in this new culture. But I relished every moment of every struggle because I knew that if I could make it out of the rough waters, I could make it anywhere I wanted to go.
And I learned sooo much.
First of all, I learned that being poor sucks. But not near as much as being rich and hating your job.
Second of all, being poor isn't so bad. You learn what things are really important to you in life. For example, air conditioning is not a necessity, but the occasional girls night with a bottle of wine should never be undervalued. And having a car to get around is nice, but learning the value of your own two feet is even better.
I overcame stereotypes I didn't even know that I had, and helped others to overcome them in me.
I learned how to budget, somewhat, and how to bargain a lot.
And I realized that you'll never get anything you don't ask for; the door will never open unless you knock.
Ok I'll knock it off now with all the cheesy metaphors.
What I'm really trying to say is, my heart is light because it knows its place in the world right now. I know that this is where I am supposed to be. And I have returned to this island with a new sense of purpose. Last semester I was treading water, this semester, I intend to fly.
So let's take a look at those goals I was talking about early.
Now if I've learned anything about goals, its that you have to be specific. You can't just set a goal and hope it will get accomplished. That's like blowing a dandelion seed into the wind and hoping it will float down somewhere it can grow. Just doesn't always work. Nope, if you are going to set a goal, you need to have a plan of action to make it happen. Which, I suppose, is partially why I'm posting these goals. If I throw them out there to you in the cyber world they become real, no longer just ideas swimming around in my head. Now I've got some accountability.
So without further ado...the goals, and the action plans.
1. Start running again.
a. wake up earlier and dedicate a half hour each day to going on a run.
(I just found out my schedule consists of mostly afternoon classes, so that will make this goal considerably easier.
Plus, this goal has the added benefit of helping me get to know the winding streets of Santiago a little better.)
2. Run in the Samana 5K.
Samana, you may remember, is a beach town about 4 hours away. I definitely plan a return visit, so combining my
running goal with the 5K race held there seemed like a no brainer.
3. Become involved in community service.
There is so much need here in the D.R. that I almost feel ashamed that I haven't become involved in anything yet. The
problem is just scheduling and finding the right place for my time and few small talents. Even if it's just something
little, I feel I have a lot to give and I can't leave this island without making a difference in some way.
3. Climb to the top of Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the D.R.
a. Research, plan a weekend, make arrangements, invite friends, and just do it.
4. Travel more on the island.
a. Visit Haiti
b. Visit Bahia de las Aguilas (ranked as one of the top beaches in the world)
c. Visit Constanza
d. Visit Laguna Du Du
5. Finish my Advanced Spanish Grammar book
a. Dedicate time each week to completing a chapter in order to help me brush up on the trickier parts of Spanish
6. Learn how to sing a song in Capoeira.
What? I didn't tell you I was taking Capoeira classes? Ok well I'll get to that in another blog post, but for now, just know
that its a Brazilian martial arts class and its seriously challenging my rhythm and coordination capabilities.
7. Decide where I want to go from here.
a. Ok, so this one is a little trickier. The big decision, I think, is whether or not I want to go to grad school.
If so, should I become a full time student or try to take classes while I continue to work. And if I continue to work, do I want to do so in the U.S. in my previous field of teaching Spanish, or do I want to stay here longer. And then, if I decide to go to grad school, what should my degree be? ESL? Linguistics? or maybe I should switch gears completely and hit up the Biology, or International Business routes. Heck ,maybe I should be doing something with Writing since I seem to be doing that all the time.
If not, do I want to return to teaching in the U.S., or do I want to try my luck at some other venture. Who knows? The doors are wide open here. I was hoping with a little time and a little more research, the answers would be revealed, but I've learned not to place too much faith in just hoping things will figure themselves out. If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. So feel free to throw me a line if you have any comments or suggestions, and I'll keep digging into my options.
So with the semester stretching before me, and with CIEE's annual kick-off dinner at Camp David Ranch Hotel on the top of the mountain, its hard not to be happy about the start of the new year in Santiago.