America – The Return

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

This quote, which is the motto of “Life” magazine, is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. I recently watched ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ for the first time–which is where I heard the quote–and loved it. It reminded me of why I decided to uproot myself and move to China over a year ago. I have a strong thirst for adventure that seems only to grow the more experiences I have.

I recently passed my anniversary of starting this blog and in doing so, I’ve gotten a fresh perspective of my life over the past year. The challenges faced, friends met, experiences had, and wisdom gained yet again have culminated to create the person I am today. And in doing so, I have, for the first clear time, discovered my purpose in life. I will be a world traveler.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been different from those around me. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends and I never quite knew why. But now I know myself much better and although I’m still socially awkward at times, I’ve learned to open up in a way that doesn’t make others uncomfortable. Still, I see things differently from most people I know and this allows me to have a unique perspective that I often share with others in their times of need. When I say I want to be a world traveler, what I mean is that I want to travel all over while helping people and making their lives a little better–a little happier.

Many argue over whether or not one person can change the world, but to me, that argument is meaningless as it doesn’t help anyone. So instead of trying to change the world, I will work to benefit the lives of individuals. Because that, I know I can do. For now, I’ll stay here at my school and teach children English, music, art, and gym so that they can grow up to be more successful in an increasingly interconnected world.

Now, I know it’s been a long time yet again since my last entry and as usual, I’ve been through so much. I finished my contract for my first year here and took 6 weeks off to heal my ankle, which I badly sprained doing parkour in the gym at my school, and to go back to America and visit my friends and family.

I first visited my brother and his family just outside Seattle and shortly after arriving, my new camera arrived from Amazon. This is something I’ve wanted for several years, but never bought. But now that I have it, I want to change the focus of this blog. Rather than writing long stories of things I’ve done out here, I will focus more on photography and let my pictures tell the tale. I took over 5000 pictures during the 5 weeks I spent in America and saved just over 600 of the best. Of those, I’ve picked the best ones to share with you all over the next two posts.

So, without further ado, here are the first pictures from my trip. I’ll share the rest from the other trips in subsequent posts.

 

 

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Ahh The Difficulties We Face

So this has been an interesting week. Work has been going swimmingly and I have no complaints there. Plus, since my birthday is today, I went ahead and bought myself a set of podpoi, (look it up on youtube) which arrived earlier than expected. Those who know me well know that poi spinning has become a passion of mine over the past year and a half. These new poi are just incredible and I’ll work on getting a video up before too long.

Another big thing that has happened is the death of my computer that I bought when I started college back in 2008. It’s been through a lot in its life and the harddrive crashed… again. I troubleshooted and performed open heart surgery on it twice hoping that resetting everything might fix the problem, but it was to no avail.

I keep almost everything backed up on my external hd, so I didn’t lose much data fortunately. But as I sat in my apartment looking at that blank screen after spending an hour and a half troubleshooting, a wave of loneliness blanketed my silent apartment. The 9000 miles between my family and I suddenly felt so far.

I still had my phone for email and audio calls on Skype. But without my computer, I could no longer video chat or access Facebook, WordPress, Rosetta Stone, or my full music library. So keeping in touch and keeping myself busy would become much more difficult. Plus I couldn’t download new episodes of Game of Thrones or The Colbert Report—something that helps me clear my head at night.

So I sat there for a moment searching for the motivation to do something other than going to sleep (It was like 8pm). Since I didn’t have the energy to make dinner, I resolved to go to my favorite bakery instead.

After buying what resembled pizza and a pastry, I returned to my moped to head home. As I rode through the busy streets, the crisp, clean air felt refreshing thanks to the recent rainshorms. Also, I realized was surrounded by people and that I am definitely not alone here. So I decided not to go home just yet.

I rode around, exploring new areas and caught glimpses of the Hefei nightlife. I passed shop after shop of people trying to make a living and find their place in the world. This started to put my first-world problems into their proper perspective.

Feeling brave, I decided to venture further Northwest than I’d ever ridden before. I experienced new sights, sounds, and smells in this city while becoming more and more oblivious to where I actually was. Nevertheless, I trusted my strong sense of direction that hadn’t let me down since I first arrived in China.

After about 20 minutes of being in new territory I decided it was time to start finding my way back. I always keep a keen eye on my battery gauge when I ride, which was half full when I left, giving me about 12 miles before empty. I know from experience that its not particularly accurate , so as it approached the red zone I started to get a little worried. Plus my phone was disconnected, so calling for help would be an adventure on its own.

So I took what I thought would be a more direct route back home. I rode for another 15 minutes or so without recognizing anything before my worries started to grow. By now my batteries were very low and my top speed was just over 20 kph (about 12 mph). Still, I trusted my instincts and pressed on through the traffic.

I went from street to street, past light after light until I finally came upon a familiar sight. I found the road I take to work, less than a mile from home.  I rode for another minute or so before my enging started cutting out so I focused on conserving energy. I made it nearly to my apartment building before I had to push it the rest of the way. Whew!

After carrying my dead batteries and food up to my apartment, I relaxed and ate dinner while listening to Dire Straits on my phone. Although I still felt disconnected from everyone, I knew now that its not that big of a deal and I’ll manage.

So that all happened almost a week ago and since then I have gotten a VPN to work on my phone so I actually can access facebook and obviously WordPress. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of free time this week, but its allowed me to read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and expand my abilities with my guitar and podpoi. It will be a while before I’ll have the money for the computer I want, but until then, my phone will suffice.

On another note, today is my 23rd birthday and I had an awesome time singing Karaoke with my coworkers last night. But that’s a story for my next post. Thanks for reading guys!

Until next time, cheers!

A New Beginning

You can see my brother, Connor, on the left side of the picture. This was one of our last hikes together before I left to China.

You can see my brother, Connor, on the left side of the picture. This was one of our last hikes together before I left to China.

Well world, as many of us are already acutely aware, we as a species are at a crossroads. Its difficult to find a time in history when the future has been so uncertain and I think many of us can agree that the stakes have never been higher. Sure, I could go on and name everything that we should and shouldn’t be doing to secure what many would call the best possible future. I could systematically state who is to blame for the problems we face, as has been done repeatedly in the past. But I’m not going to do that.

What I’m going to do in this blog is share many of the experiences that I’ve had in life so far as well as experiences yet to come with hopes that the insights and wisdom that I gain might give you another perspective. I strongly believe that for us to change the paradigm in which we currently live, first we must change our perspectives and our expectations. Whatever it is you may take from my posts on this blog, I simply hope that it affects you in a positive way.

Ever since I can remember, I have had a desire to explore and experience as much as I can in life. I’ve adventured all over the Western United States and I’ve had a few adventures on the East Coast as well. But while each of those experiences emblazoned new memories and lessons within me, they didn’t quite satisfy my thirst for adventure.

But that all recently changed.

Now as I sit in my 12th floor apartment in Hefei, Anhui, China, I feel, for the first time, what I want to do with my life.

It all started back in December 2012 when I was living in my 1976 Dodge van parked in my brother’s driveway outside of Chico, California. I was job hunting on Craigslist among the many posts, when I came across one for an infant-preschool teaching job in China. Despite many of my friends and family members assuring me that it must be a scam, I followed my instinct and sent in my resume and cover letter Dec. 9th.

While I don’t have any formal teaching training, what I do have is almost 23 years of being around kids. You see, I am the 7th child out of a family of 7 boys and 2 girls and I now have 6 nieces and 4 nephews. The experiences I’ve had with them, plus some volunteer work I did at a local elementary school during college is about the extent of my teaching experience.

I had nearly given up hope on the position until I received an email Jan. 27th from Kate Troidl, the English Education Director with Romp N’ Roll China asking to schedule an interview. I hastily replied and we chose a date after I had gotten Skype to work on my computer. A few days later we had our interview when she offered me the position.

Fast forward to Feb. 20th. After two exhaustive trips to San Francisco with my brother, Connor, and painful work getting my passport and Chinese visa, I was packed and ready to head out. I said my goodbyes to my family and friends and began the greatest adventure of my life thus far.

As I sat in the Sacramento airport, worrying about everything that could go wrong during my trip, I was reminded of something a wise man once said, “A coward dies a thousand deaths.” I realized that worrying about my luggage being too heavy, getting lost or anything else that could go wrong wouldn’t help anyone and the best course for me to take is to simply relax and welcome life with open arms.

After 40 hours of traveling, and no major issues, I had arrived in Beijing and received a warm welcome from my first 3 friends in China, who picked me up from the airport–Dylan, Kelly, and Laura–two of my fellow Romp N’ Roll instructors and my new trainer.

After 6 hours of sleeping like a rock on a bed that might as well have been a rock in my hotel room, I awoke with new vitality as the scale of my decision began to sink in. My training in Beijing, while very intensive, was thoroughly enjoyable. Each day I felt like a tidal wave of culture and information crashed over me to the point where my mind and body was so numb that I would do absolutely nothing after work.

Each day did get easier as I became more accustomed to my new life. Outside of work, I made several great memories with the other Americans that worked in the center.

After about a week and a half of training in Beijing, Laura, my trainer, and I hopped on another plane to Hefei, the city that would be my home for the next year. It was there that she would help me finish my training and integrate with my new Chinese co-teachers.

I’m going to cut off my story right their for now and pick it up in my next entry for the sake of writing a blog and not a novel. This is my first blog I’ve ever written, so please feel free to comment with any questions, advice, or anything else you feel like saying!

Thanks for reading,

Josh