Friday, 30 December 2016

Goodbye 2016

   
 
The silhouette of the wooden crucifix atop the adobe church floats in the brilliant blue of the Southern California sky. I am walking on Hermosa Street in the desert oasis that is Palm Springs, California. It’s late December 2016 and I have worked in two different countries this year, China and Pakistan. One I endured out of a sense of obligation and one I left out of fear for my own safety.


I shield my eyes from the intense rays of the desert sun to focus on the cross atop what I now make out as a Lutheran Church. It’s fitting that this sign post of religion seems so prominent today. I have spent the past few years out of the US. I have been a teacher and a software trainer but the undercurrent of my travels has always been that of a somewhat zig-zagging spiritual quest. From meditating in ashrams in South India to exploring Buddhist temples tucked away in China, my external life has served as a way to insert myself into places that feed my inner curiosity for the Truth, if there really is such a thing. 

I am back now to an incredibly polarized America. An America that touts itself as one nation under God but is also a nation that has just elected a man who demonstrates a shocking lack of morals and a lack of compassion for a large swath of the US population.

It’s a homecoming that I never expected and, in my forthcoming blog posts, I will share my experiences and lessons learned on my travels - about being a 50-something American woman immersed in various cultures and on travel as a way of reinventing oneself.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Layer by layer

http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/
Returning to the USA from teaching abroad, I feel like an archaeologist who has been out on a dig arriving back to her tent with a collection of artifacts. The shards of pottery and bone fragments that make up a life will be examined carefully. A pattern will most likely emerge that has grown all too familiar. This time though, I will handle much more gently those shards and fragments that bring me a sense of well-being and purpose.

 Maybe I had to go away for a few years to sort all this out. Like an archaeologist sections off a large excavation site, I feel I have just swept away the dust from this unearthed section of my life. Now it’s time to appreciate the pieces individually and consider their origins. Another journey of discovery, to be sure; but, this time I don’t have to travel half way around the world to begin.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Salaam Alaikum: Notes from an American Teacher In Pakistan

Asian geckos
Salaam Alaikum (Let peace be with you). The morning call to prayers from the loud speaker of a nearby mosque awakens me from a deep sleep. Elvis, my house lizard, is motionless on the wall beneath the bamboo shade that protects my desk from the early morning rays of the intense Pakistani sun. He has had a busy night eating the ants and other insects that wander into my house in search of a random crumb or two. He is most likely unaware that his scientific name is Hemidactylus frenatus or the common house gecko. I am used to his 'tchak tchak tchak' chirp, always three times in unison, from having lived in South India for two years. The house geckos kept the house free of insects, especially mosquitoes. I am now in north eastern Pakistan, teaching mathematics at an international school and having Elvis as my housemate is a welcome event.

Elvis first introduced himself on Day One as I, dripping with sweat, dragged my suitcases into the front door of my home for the next two years. I saw a dull grey streak careening up the wall near the front stairwell. With a 'tchak tchak tchak’ chirp, I knew that I would not be the only occupant of my new home here in the shady tree-lined streets of Lahore and felt a sense of relief at the familiar call.

My school day in Lahore is hectic, as most high school teachers can attest to. My international students are polite, inquisitive and full of energy. I have picked up a copy of the school yearbook to find pictures of my students to make learning their names easier. I have 80 students over the course of a school day so learning unfamiliar Urdu and Korean names is my biggest challenge right now. Six weeks into the school year and it is becoming easier, but I still have a lot of memorizing to do. Days are passing quickly and I look forward to the solitude of my house each evening, with the 'tchak tchak tchak’ that welcomes me.

Yesterday, Elvis scampered behind the bamboo shades, his go-to place in my home office as I came into the room with an armful of math tests to grade. It was 7 pm and his day was just beginning. With a 'tchak tchak tchak’ he disappeared into his bamboo bunker. I opened the first test booklet and glanced at the bright yellow wall near my desk as a movement caught my eye. It was a miniature Elvis zig-zagging toward the bamboo window shade; its 'tchak tchak tchak’ much fainter than that of big Elvis. Could it be that Elvis had spawned a miniature version of himself while I was away at school? Would there be enough ants for both of them? Yes, no worries there.

I have named the spawn of Elvis, Bambina, since I am the mother of two grown daughters and I wouldn’t know what to do with a Bambino. Elvis is staying Elvis since I couldn’t bare changing his (her?) name. My biggest fear is that they will find my daily routines dull compared to the nonstop activity of their busy existence that I relish watching each evening.

Salaam Alaikum. I awake once more to the call to prayers drifting in with first rays of the morning sun. Elvis and Bambina have moved to a new home behind the Japan Airlines calendar that hangs over my desk. The golden Buddha adorning the month of August is the door to their secluded abode. It has more room and light than the small dark corner behind the bamboo blinds.

A bright new home, a view of life from a different vantage point with many as yet unknown people to meet. Salaam Alaikum, Elvis and Bambina. Let our journey begin

Thursday, 8 September 2016

An Adventure in Driving

I am fortunate to have a vehicle issued to me by my employer and drive myself to work and back every day. Mornings are fairly easy since I get out the door at around 6:30 am. The trip after school can be harrowing at times depending on if the traffic lights are working or not. I go slow and since we drive on the left in Pakistan not the right like I am used to, I really have to think when turning or making quick decisions.- like not hitting the cyclists or camel moving along in the shoulder area. (I really did see a camel two days ago on the way to work.) We don't have camels in Boulder, CO so I was rubber-necking to check out its colorful harness.

Sunday mornings are quiet on the roads here and some of my co-workers suggested practicing my driving skills before the city begins waking up. I did last Sunday and after almost 30 minutes of feeling very cocky and sure of myself, was promptly pulled over by two traffic policeman for failing to stop at a light that had just started working. I was able to talk my way out of a ticket since I am obviously a newbie when it comes to driving here, but it shook me up enough to head home and lay low for the rest of the day. I will most likely curtail my trips into the city or hire a driver when traffic is bad. It's all an adventure and driving in Lahore is adding up to be own of my best adventures yet.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sipping Chai in Lahore, Pakistan

photo credit https://www.tripoto.com/places-to-visit/pakistan/lahore
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan (photo www.tripoto.com)
Another new place, another new culture. After a year in Shanghai, China, I am now living and teaching in Lahore, Pakistan. I have been here for a little over a month and am settling in to life as a maths teacher and single woman exploring life in a Muslim country. More to follow, just a much needed update.