Sometimes I marvel at my good fortune. Today, I found my way around my new city, only getting lost a time or two, and then only for a couple of minutes. I learned a couple new words in Lao. I drank coffee. Then, when it seemed that the only thing that could perfectly top off the day would be to fall asleep, I talked to a roomful of about 70 second graders in Indiana.
I thought about complaining that the internet connection was poor, meaning that we typed most of our questions and answers to one another instead of seeing faces. Then I remembered that until only recently, a journey such as mine was truly isolating. The very thought of instantaneous communication between one person going through a bedtime ritual with another person, one who is finishing up a morning routine at that exact time, was unthinkable. I occasionally mention that it would be liberating to untie myself from technology, but then my decisions to move around the globe would be much more difficult to justify.
We discussed food, transportation, and the shocking lack of video games in my life. I talked about how much rice I now consume, and I confessed to eating ice cream quite frequently, okay daily, to cope with the heat. Also, because it's delicious, and I'm supporting the economy.
What is more important than these topics, and what I hope my students will learn, is the fact that there was any communication at all. I don't only mean communication between a teacher and her students who happen to miss each other, but between people who are living differently. How can I expect everyone to value what is unknown and strange to them unless I tell them how rewarding it is to feel a little displaced sometimes? The benefits of throwing yourself into a different way of life far outweigh the time it takes to feel normal again. I fear the people who assume that their way of life is the only way of life.
It was comforting to hear their voices, even for a few moments. I was so thankful that they had so many questions, because it meant that they are trying to understand. They are trying to imagine life in a context other than what is familar to them. To hear curiosity buzzing around them gave me hope that people will continue to communicate across borders. And when there is ice cream on both sides, I don't really see why there would be any holdup.