The Adventure Begins
When something inside of you whispers, speaks, yells to you…listen. For us, the nagging voice was one that said we should teach overseas. It’s a funny voice to hear for two people who hadn’t done much, if any, travel and who never really desired to do so. We were content with our lives in every way. We had a great little house on a perfect little street, surrounded by the best neighbors and friends you could find. Our jobs were good, we’d been doing them for about 10 years, and most of all, we were happy.
The first whisper came from my cousin. We ran into her at a birthday party and she was telling us about her years abroad in China, working for an American newspaper. Somewhere in our conversation, she casually mentioned that there were opportunities for teachers overseas, teaching in English, in their subject areas, in the types of international schools where her kids went. The thought was interesting, but it didn’t really apply to us. We were planning on staying at our jobs until retirement, dutifully paying off our house, and raising our children in the gentle and familiar arms of the community that we loved.
The second whisper came as unexpectedly as the first, and about 3 years later. On a summer afternoon as the kids were napping, a friend of mine, who used to live across the street from us, stopped by unannounced. I happened to be cleaning out the fridge. It was the kind of deep clean that rarely happens but involves taking everything out, piling it haphazardly around the kitchen so I can soak, scrub, and scrape every drawer, shelf and crevice, until it feels fresh again. As I apologized for the state of my kitchen, I carried on with the cleaning and she told me all about her experience as an expat-wife in China, and the work she did there at an international school. If the first whisper was a seed placed in the dirt, the second whisper was a perfectly timed rain shower. That often-forgotten-about seed, suddenly grew roots.
The next year brought with it anti-teacher, anti-student legislation that we felt was important enough to fight for. We listened to speakers, joined coalitions, marched, chanted, and rallied for public education, a cause that we were and still are deeply passionate about. One Saturday, as we stood with our young children on the lawn of the state capital, cheering and chanting in our red shirts, with thousands of other teachers, for simple things that we knew had already slipped away, that seed began to sprout. That quiet whisper became a voice, and for the first time, we spoke it out loud to each other. We love teaching. We knew we would always be teachers and that working with and for kids would always be our calling. But it finally dawned on us, that it didn’t have to be in The States.
I contacted a friend, who had been an international teacher for abour 5 years, and learned all about the process of taking those first steps. We signed up with an organization that connects international schools and prospective teachers, and that was it. The quiet voice was now an enthusiastic cheerleader, and that tiny seed was a full-grown plant, starting to grow fruit.
We attended the job fair for international teachers on a very cold and snowy February weekend in Boston. On Friday morning, during the 2-hour meet and greet, we secured 6 interviews: Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Barcelona, Riga and Luzern. By Saturday afternoon, we had done 8 interviews, 6 first-interviews and 2 follow-up. More importantly, we had 2 job offers: Cairo, Egypt and Riga, Latvia. Cairo was on the heels of a revolution and Latvia was a country that we didn’t know existed and had to locate with the help of Google. We had 3 hours to make our decision. At that moment, that voice inside us that had grown to a yell, was suddenly gone. We panicked. Our great idea suddenly seemed like the stupidest decision we ever made. As we told the kids where we were going, they sobbed and begged us to change our minds, affirming that we were making a terrible decision. Nonetheless, no to Cairo, yes to Latvia and on to the celebratory dinner at the hotel restaurant on Saturday night.
In the next 5 months, we sold our house, sold both cars, quit our jobs, donated our belongings and said our many many goodbyes. We boarded the plane, full of curiosity, nerves and brand-new suitcases and passports. We were moving to a tiny little country in Eastern Europe, across the sea from Sweden and Finland, a Baltic State, sandwiched between Lithuania and Estonia, nope, not part of Russia, but close by, yes in the EU, yes they belong to NATO, yes they have their own language…our new home.