“What if I should fall right through the center of the earth… oh, and come out the other side, where people walk upside down.”
-Alice in Wonderland
In April, 2015, my beloved partner, Ellen, died suddenly and unexpectedly after a brief illness. As a result, at age 57 I was forced to ask myself “Now what do I do with my life?” I had two teaching credentials but was unable to secure long-term employment where I lived, in Marin County, CA. I had been vaguely aware of the notion of teaching English abroad but because of my Ellen’s inability to move overseas, I never explored the possibility. With her untimely death, leaving America was now an option. It helps me to know that Ellen would approve of what I’m doing. She loved to travel and years ago, lived for brief periods of time in different countries. We always loved to go overseas and often wondered if, at some point, we could make a home together somewhere else. Given that it appears the “inmates are taking over the asylum” it may turn out to be a very propitious time to say adieu to America.
In the summer of 2015, I was offered a job teaching English in Beijing by the Swiss-based company, English First. After going through the lengthy hiring and vetting process, I obtained my Z-Visa in March, 2016. My initial contract is for one year with an option to stay for a second year. Technically, after age 60 I will no longer be able to continue teaching in China, as work visas are not issued to foreigners over that age. Hopefully, I will be able to continue to teach overseas elsewhere, at that time.
I am scheduled to depart for Beijing in early April, 2016. I have limited experiences overseas and never traveled to Asia. Nor have I ever been away from the US for more than three weeks. I am hopeful that a lifetime of experience, wisdom and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity will allow me to keep a healthy perspective as I acclimate myself to a culture vastly different than the one I grew up in. I am confident that I will be able to endure the potential crushing isolation that is common when surrounded by a society were very few people speak the same language.
I am now in the last four weeks of living in the very familiar world I have grown up in. I am processing the enormity of change that is about to sweep me along as I say my fond-farewells and shutting down and closing out my 58 years of life in America. Most of my possessions will be put into storage and for the first time since I left home for college, all that I have that defines me, will be in a handful of suitcases. The only remembrances of my life will be in the drawings and inkwork of my deceased partner, that I am bringing with me. My new home will be resplendent with her artwork everywhere, to remind me of her.
This blog will be written for the benefit of my friends and family. I plan to update it daily, if possible. I view this effort as part travelogue, information update as well as personal therapy since writing will help ease any isolation I experience. At times this blog may go off on tangents, rants and observations that may offend some readers. Therapy isn’t always a pretty process. If you don’t like what I have to say, switch channels! In the meantime: “Goodbye America, I promise not to let the door hit me on my way out!”
Ellen and Brian