Alyssa’s Expat Life—Bottom of the Bottle Musings About Strength

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As many of my fellow writers, I have written most of my best work in my mind before it actually makes the way to the computer screen. This blog was written during my walk home from a two-day 18-hour teaching shift at Always. I waited until I had showered and was well into this bottle of wine to add the Hemingway-esque vibe that I feel it needed today. I’m not sure if it’s the wine or the euphoria of finally being done with the weekend that’s talking, but today I feel like Superwoman.

As most everyone knows, I was raised and adopted by my grandparents because my biological parents checked out of my childhood. My dad (grandpa) was a saint who loved me unconditionally. My mom (grandma) made it her mission, as she did with her own children, to let me know that I’d never amount to anything and I was never good enough, smart enough, strong enough, whatever. And, for a long time into my childhood this message was debilitating. I stayed in a relationship for beyond too long of a time out of fear, not love. The thought of abandonment by friends or boyfriends throughout life brought me to my knees. And, that’s life. People walk in, and people walk out. It was a hard lesson to learn, and I still fight my outlook on it quite frequently.

In order to avoid it altogether, I’ve been single for two and a half years. I’ve gained an independence I’ve never known. I got comfortable. So, what do I do? I move to China! Who in their right minds leaves a great full-time job, an awesome apartment, her dog who means everything to her and her friends to move around the world to do a job she has absolutely no experience doing? This girl.

When people asked me, “Why are you moving to China?” My answer always was, “Why not?” It was the best answer I could give. After being here for three weeks, it’s still the only answer I have. I’m settling in to life here and taking pause that I’m having an experience that not many people have, yet taking joy that it’s temporary—at least the teaching part.

I love teaching the “Interchange” classes, or the older kids. The Sticker kids aren’t all holy terrors or ones who give you blank stares when you’ve repeated a word 900 times. Some actually are surprisingly knowledgeable and know more of two languages than I certainly do. I’m really surprised at the amount of games that the teachers want you to play with them. They aren’t even educational. They most consist of bowling or running around like Mario Bros. How is this teaching them English? I think it’s a waste of time and a waste of their parents’ money. I’m all for games, but I think they would be best served in a learning capacity. That’s my two cents, but what do I know? I have zero experience.

I’m also surprised when the teachers ask me if I have any suggestions. I point blank say, “Uh, you know I have zero experience with children, right?” I can’t believe I was hired, but then again I was hired to teach the older kids. This 180 they did giving me little kids is frankly their problem. So, I run around, laugh, act a fool (OK, I do this with adults, too) and this weekend I successfully taught 18 classes in two days, even filling in for a sick coworker on a class totally foreign to me (well, they all are, but even more foreign) and I think I did a pretty good job.

I successfully found a place to get fruits, vegetables and household supplies and wasn’t laughed at this time as they are getting used to me. I brought a bag, paid for my things and was on my way. I even got a few genuine smiles in the store from the people who regularly work there. My neighborhood now is easy to navigate—a far cry from the first night when I got lost and had to show my address to two total strangers who gladly helped me.

So many people have told me how brave and strong I am when referring to moving here. Some days I feel like I suppose I am; most days I feel normal, like it’s just another day to get through. But, I am doing something that not many would have the guts to venture out to do in life. I don’t know if that makes me brave or stupid.

I am leaning toward ending my time in China after my 180-day residency is up. My travel will be over and I will have had my fill of teaching children to last a lifetime. Of course it’s not written in stone, but I think I will have accomplished what I set out to do. I hope that my existing friends and family are proud of me, and I’m doing my best to make something of myself and not be a failure.

One of my best friends recently told me that God only lives in the present. You can not dwell on the past or worry about the future. God doesn’t have time for all of that! So, I’m concentrating on living in the here and now, even though planning these upcoming vacations is pretty exciting!

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I love the aspect of managing the entire product, not just being pigeonholed into one area of the creative process. Using my love of writing, editing and research as a catapult, I work with you in creating social media strategies.


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