Monday, October 20, 2008

What if?

Today I did something I haven’t done in a while. Today, I cried.

It started out as a good day. I taught my first class: Class 3 (third grade). They’re probably my favorite age, because they’re the best behaved of all. I handled it well, but afterwards, I was filled with dread. What if I’m not a good teacher?

“You are a good teacher,” Monsieur Kofi assured me. “You’re only going to get better at teaching with practice. I started out just like you. By the time you leave here in July, teaching will be so easy for you. Don’t worry. You did great.”

I felt better after he said that, but something was still bothering me. I wasn’t sure what it was until I sat in the staff room after lunch break, surrounded by four or five of the other teachers who were carrying on a conversation in Twi. I sat in the midst of them, staring out the window at a group of boys running around the playground, completely unable to understand their conversation.

That’s when it hit me... I’m all alone. I live with the nuns, who are so welcoming and very kind to me, but I’m not one of them. I’m there for the students, who adore me, but I’m not one of them. I work with the other teachers, who are friendly and helpful, but even still, I’m not one of them yet. I’m the guest, the foreigner, the stranger.

Then I made the grave mistake of asking myself “What if...?” What would my life be like if I had taken another path? I started to imagine myself in other situations. What if I had gotten the job I applied for in Japan? What would my life in Japan be like? Would I have friends there? Would I be as lonely as I am now? But I didn’t just stop with Japan. I wondered if I’d be this lonely had I ran away to Europe, instead, or New Zealand, or South America. What if I had gone straight to grad school?

There was, however, one “what if” that comforted me somewhat... what if I had found a job and stayed in California? I knew the answer to that: If I were still in California right now, I’d be very frustrated and want to be somewhere else. I’d want to be here, doing what I’m doing.

But I never expected to be so lonely here.

I didn’t cry until I was safely inside my room. When I had finished crying, I indulged in the one comfort I brought from America: John Mayer. Listening to his music has a way of making me feel better.

The only way to cure my loneliness is to make new friends and find a community of my own. Before I can do this, two things must happen: I need to get a new cell phone, and I need to learn how to use the public transportation system by myself. Until then, I’m basically stuck at the convent, destined to be lonely.

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