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My life is not an adventure, it’s a JOURNEY

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Time well needed and well spent. One of the things that I thought about is a phrase that so many people have said to me since I decided to temporarily leave the country. ” Wow, your life is an adventure” or ” You are going on an adventure!”  I honestly cringe when people say that to me. Now I know exactly why…….

“Living life in another country is no walk in the park.” 

When you are visiting another country it’s all fun and games. It’s exploring, relaxing,  and eating good food. It’s all about finding the beauty in a place with a limited amount of time to do it. It’s about making connections with yourself and what’s familiar and unfamiliar to you. Ahhh, now that’s the life! That’s the dream some people must imagine my life to be like. NOPE! Not exactly. It’s a little more intense…..

  • Like walking around hungry for hours because I can’t find a restuarant to eat at that I can actually understand what’s on the menu. Can I have SOME English, pictures, ANYTHING! I’m hungry!

  • Not having a good day? Too bad, the stares don’t stop, the sad attempts to have basic conversations in English don’t stop, the jaw dropping expressions don’t stop, the questions don’t stop!

  • Have banking needs? Good luck getting English assistance and don’t be in a rush to send money home, it’s going to take time. Lots of time.

  • When are my clothes gonna dry?? In southeast Asia, most people don’t have dryers in thier homes. I’m apart of the “most” group, so that means sometimes waiting countless hours and days for clothes to dry in the humidity and in the cold.

  • Mold has completly taken over my life! Moisture is such a big problem due to humidity and climate that you just have to surrender to the Gods!!

  • I don’t remember what life was like without google translate! I use it to talk to people in the stores, read my mail, read street signs, read posters on the street, and the list goes on! It has become a way of life.

  • Grocery shopping is like “Pick and Pray!” Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.  When in doubt, leave without!

I must admit that the major struggle comes with the language barrier. I have found that even if you know the language there is still a barrier if you are not a native. Some things just simply can’t be translated. Everyone’s experience living abroad is different based on the country you live in and the individual situation.

“THE JOURNEY”

I view life in general as a journey. What I am doing by living abroad is apart of my destiny. It goes far beyond the “adventure” of it all. Sure, I expereince some adventures along the way but there is a method to my madness. An order in which things have happened and will happen. Each step is calculated, considered, and contoured to directly influence myself and others. I want to be responsible for conducting a life that I can be proud of. A life that will inspire those around me. Each day is different, each expereince is motivating, each cycle changes. It’s a series of ups and downs, ins and outs. Through the happy times, the sad times, and the devestating times I find strength. I’m choosing to live life on my own terms. To navigate the path that God has given me, as he leads and guides me along the way. I’m loving every minute of it! I couldn’t always say that, so I’m grateful I can today. This journey, with some adventures, is the best of life as I know it. I stand proud and accept the challenge!

 

The unspoken truth about HOMESICKNESS

It’s a hot sunny day in China and I’m preparing to meet up with some friends to do some sightseeing. It’s so exciting living in another country and exploring the jewels of a city that you only learned of a few months prior to arriving. The sounds, the smells, the people, the energy feels incredible! We walk around this oil painting village which is quite charming. Viewing the art and negotiating prices becomes the highlight of the day. Something happens and it changes my whole perception in an instant! We walk around a corner and immediately things felt wrong. I hear barking and clucking. I see animals, long tables, and blood. Then, I see an animal get slaughtered! I take off running and screaming and suddenly what is a normal everyday occurrence for this culture is a trigger for homesickness. Although I’ve lived in this place for at least 8 months at this point, it’s still not home. Those sounds, smells, and people that were just so exciting are not exciting anymore. Matter of fact I’m irritated and annoyed. I notice the stares and a little girl relieving herself on the corner. I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat. I’m thirsty but I know I can’t drink the water. Now I want a burger from Wendy’s. I want to go to my favorite store and shop for jewelry. I want to walk in the store and ask for something I want, anything and be understood in English! I want to go home!!

It’s cloudy here. Not much sun since I arrived. It’s cold but I’m happy because I arrived in Japan right before Cherry Blossom season! As I walk down the street I smile because it’s so clean. It’s so green and beautiful here. Things are very organized. I go for my breakfast and notice that on my tray there is a place for everything thing. I think I’m gonna like it here. As I move into my apartment a few weeks later I really notice how quiet it is. Where is everybody? Why is it so quiet? I walk down the street and no one even makes eye contact with me. I want to say hi to someone, anyone, and it’s like I’m invisible! The people I have had interaction with are nice enough but is it genuine? I realize that there is not much written English around. Nothing looks familiar in the grocery stores. What am I going to eat? I go to McDonald’s often because it’s the only thing I recognize. This city is missing energy. The energy that makes you feel alive. This feeling is different from the homesickness I felt in China. Now I feel homesick and alone.

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What living abroad has taught me.

When I made the decision to live and teach abroad I was looking to fully emerge in the culture in which I was living, travel, and experience the world hands on! I had never set foot outside of the good ole USA and this was my opportunity to embrace all the world had to offer me. Naturally, I had some expectations and some fears of what this would actually be like. I knew what I wanted to get out of this but the reality of what it gave me was what I wasn’t prepared for. These lessons have helped redefine me as a person. They have increased my knowledge and built my character. Living abroad has taught me….

I AM THE SPOKESPERSON FOR AMERICA ESPECIALLY BLACK AMERICA

I have often heard celebrities say they are not role models. I respectively disagree with this statement. I believe you don’t chose to be a role model. If you are in a position for people to look up to you and value your actions and opinions, then you may be a role model for them. It’s a matter of personal view, not personal choice. When I moved to China I realized that people watched me. Not just Chinese and Asian people but everyone that wasn’t from America. They made judgments and reassurances about Americans based on MY behavior. They asked questions about being “Black in America” and wanted confirmation on their preconceived ideas. I understood very quickly that I had influence in the groups I entertained and with the people I befriended. I can say that this is true today as I am here in Japan. Now I don’t have all the answers, and I am not AMERICA. I am however a representation of that which I came from, whether I like it or not.

TO APPRECIATE THE COMFORTS OF HOME

First of all home sickness is real! Whew, it hits you at times when you least expect it. You’re fine one day and the next day you feel like you’re not going to make it! I have realized that many aspects of home sickness is simply just missing the comforts of home. Oh how I took for granted SO many things! Just being able to walk into a store and ask somebody for help with the things I need, or walking into a restaurant to order dinner from a menu. When you are used to a certain way of life, everything that is not ordinary challenges you. You quickly began to appreciate the comforts of the place you call home.

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TO VALUE CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MY OWN

I have always been obsessed with culture! I find it so intriguing how people all over the world do things so differently. I find it amazing what things different people value and traditions they keep. Culture is undeniably one of the most fascinating social behaviors on this planet! I value every experience of culture that I have and can learn while I am living abroad. As I learn about other cultures, I also take pride in appreciating my own.

THE PRIVILEGE OF KNOWING HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH

You know, I never thought I would be as proud as I am now to be able to fluently speak English! When you see so many people around the world going through great lengths to learn this oh so complicated language, you realize how important it is. When I travel, I see how countries cater to the English language. People realize that although they are perfectly fine in their country speaking their native language, they understand the power that the English language gives them outside and within their country. Hats off to all those that seek to learn English and become fluent. Especially those that have taught themselves! English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I definitely feel privileged.

HOW PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD VIEW AMERICANS

WOW! I had no idea! Some of the comments I have received and conversations I have been in about people’s views of Americans have been unbelievable! Here are just a few of the comments I have received:

“You Americans are so optimistic!”

“You’re from America, ahhh BANG, BANG!”

“We just sit around and wait for the next mass shooting to happen there!”

“I am so scared to go to America!”

“I’m surprised at how nice you are!”

Although some of these comments are not surprising, it is however surprising to hear them from people. I have learned so much about how people see Americans. Things I would have never known before.

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HOW TO LIVE IN THE MOMENT

I have experienced some breathtaking situations. Some moments that caused me to take a step back and really think about what is happening around me at that particular time. Sometimes I get lost behind my camera and I find myself putting it away and reminding myself to take in this moment! To breath that air, to capture that feeling, and to embrace that experience. I have especially found this with meeting people along this journey. It’s hard for me at times because I tend to have a hard time saying “goodbye” and understanding that I may only have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful person I met for a very short time. This causes me to really take in each moment and cherish it. To not think about the past or the future, but to only consider the present.

HOW MUCH AMERICAN CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MUSIC CULTURE EFFECTS THE WORLD

American music is everywhere!! Everyone also expects you to want to hear American music. I have been in restaurants that have changed the music to HARD CORE rap, and OLD SCHOOL R&B when I walk in the door. Almost all stores I go in here in Japan are already playing American music. I have a friend who is from South Africa who tells me about how the American music culture affects the culture in her hometown. They refer to hairstyles by music celebrity names, like “I want isidabrats” (thick braids like Da Brat) and “I want Isisnoopy” (refers to cornrows like Snoop Dog). I have found in general that American culture is copied and highly sought after. Everyone is truly watching the U.S.A.!!

HOW TO LOVE MYSELF

I have watched so many people trying to be like someone else. These days, I’m just interested in learning how to make myself happy and doing what I am purposed to do. Traveling alone and living abroad alone has taught me to really love myself and enjoy my own company.

HOW TO SURVIVE

I can’t even begin to explain the survival of living in another country in which you don’t speak the language. Somehow, I have learned how to maneuver and get things done! I have found that there is always another way to do something. There is always a yes to that no! I’ve become clever with communicating and patient with processes. All in all I have learned to survive. I have learned that I am a survivor!