I became a teacher for a number of reasons. 1. I needed a job. 2. I got hired at a school.

warm teaching fuzzies

I graduated college and need to start a career right as the US economy was taking a fantastic nose dive. Starbucks and Safeway wouldn’t hire me. So through a series of events that only made me believe harder in Jesus as my homeboy, I was hired to teach Latin at a classical Christian middle school. Fun fact – didn’t know Latin! Lol God, you are so funny.

During my interview, when my future boss asked me “So, you don’t know Latin, you’ve never taught before, what makes you think you can do this?” I literally said “Well, I love kids and languages and Jesus. I’m sure this will all work itself out.”

Man, I miss badass, charm my way into any situation, “who needs sleep, anyway?” 24 year old Rachel.

I started teaching, and guess what? It did work out. Mostly because no matter how hard it was, no matter how difficult any element of it was or those first few years when 18 hour days, 6 days a week were the normal just to keep up, kids were and are the highlight of my life. I had NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING EVER for a long time, but we made memories. I still keep in touch with a lot of them via facebook and instagram, and they’re awesome people.

One of my favorite inventions during teaching was the “wall of awesome,” which was just a poster I made once a year, by my desk, upon which I would write whatever insane thing someone said, or a particularly cute card from a kid, or a love note confiscated. One of my favorite quotes was from during a 7th grade Latin class, and this kid who I had purposefully sat very far away from me, because he was just too much, had raised his hand during my lesson, and despite me ignoring it for a few minutes, because he was infamous for never having anything on topic to ask, he kept it up there a while longer. Finally, I called on him. He looked at me, confused.

“Nathan,” I said. “What is it? Really?” I gestured to his hand in the air, which he looked at, confused, and slowly took down.

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, I was just thinking with my hand in the air again.”

I just about died.

Lately, a few highlights have been:

“Teacher, you’re as precious as a reindeer.” Context: was helping them draw triangles. I have no idea where this came from.

“You know what time it is? Time for Hug of the DAAAAY Miss Cupcake!” – we have invented this game where I am named after a different kind of food or animal every day.

“You have poop hair just like me. I wish it was unicorn hair. Also we need horns and wings.”

(after being asked if I knew the song “Bohemian Rhapsody.”) “Of course you know what Queen is. You’re old.”

“Do you think we could have a snack together one day?”

“You smell like cake.” (I have been told this MULTIPLE TIMES OVER THE YEARS. It’s my aura. Cake aura.)

Feb 26 – Day 16 – Things fall apart

Part of the reason I started this blog-a-day journey was to hold myself accountable to the workouts I’d signed up for at this hardcore gym. There was meanie trainer, who basically made me feel like I couldn’t do it, there were some personal goals I had set for myself, and I just needed a bit of an overhaul on my general fitness plan. Which mostly consists of elliptical while watching “Luther” on Netflix and now I think everyone is a serial killer.

It’s been about three weeks of consistent training, and I’ve made some friends at the gym, and although I can’t see it yet on my body or on the scale, I feel stronger already. Which is great. I didn’t necessarily commit to a lifestyle overhaul to feel unnoticeably strong. But I’ll take it. However, today was one of those days when I was in some kind of pain, yet felt I had to push through and make it to my workout, because I’d already paid, and I had to prove people wrong.

It hurt though. I had to dig deep. Especially on that end-of-the-night two minute group plank. But I did it all. And then on the walk home, started to feel some pain . . . walk it off, champ, walk it off. The inner athlete forgets she hasn’t been this active in almost 20 years and pipes in.

The walk home, which involves just one big hill, was miserable. I stopped in Marketplace to pick up some goods, bent over to get some bacon, and it was over. My lower back and right leg seized up in a kind of pain I haven’t felt ever before. I started doing the fish out of water, open mouth, silent cry in the meat aisle, clutching at my back.

And I felt it. I felt the “truly old” feeling I’d been dreading. Thirty-five this year. It doesn’t seem possible. I didn’t ever make a single plan for this part of my life that didn’t involve a husband and kids and my many “rescue animal” schemes. Now my back hurt, and walking hurt, in a way that made me truly panic. Because you can’t live in Hong Kong and not walk. You cannot. I live six flights of stairs up. I climb up and down 20 flights of stairs just to get to work in the morning.

I got home at about a crawl, and lots of tears, some meds, a prayer from the bestie and several ice packs later, I woke up the next day and I was feeling better. I had to sit down awkwardly to get dressed and undressed, and nothing felt comfortable.

It’s odd to me, absolutely backwards, how I will work through pain, tears, blood and sweat, to spite someone else, or to prove someone else wrong, even a complete stranger, to show them I can do the thing they say I can’t. And I find it much harder to do something well and finish to the end simply because I know I should.

I need intrinsic motivation – the desire to do something good for me, for me. I wonder if they sell it on Amazon.

Feb 27 – Day 17 – I wonder if it matters

I made this goal for myself nearly five years ago, this whole “write a blog every day for a month” goal. I can’t remember where I was, what I was thinking, my inspiration behind this goal. But as I plow through it, I wonder if it’s about discipline.

I like accomplishing things – I like to make a to-do list, with a bunch of super easy, possibly already almost completed items at the top. And then some important ones that are also doable. And some dreams. And then cross off a bunch, get distracted, forget about it, notice it again next Saturday when I wake up fresh to possibilities and think “I should make a to-do list.”

So this “blog a day” thing is a discipline. It’s get something done every day. And everyone and anyone reading this is my accountability partner. Would you notice if I didn’t complete this goal? No. But the threat that you might makes me work for it. I have found my carrot on a stick.

That is possibly not the right metaphor.

…i need to finish this baby, too!

But does it really matter if I finish or not? Would anyone be mad at me? Would anything fall apart? Would anyone notice?

I sat here thinking about that for a while, and realized that I would know. I would be mad at me. I would fall apart a little bit. And I need to start taking myself and my opinion of myself a bit more seriously. It should be enough that it matters to me. So here we go. Here we keep going.

Feb 28 – Day 18 – The Thing About Hong Kong Is . . .

People often ask me what’s changed about my life since moving to Hong Kong. Only everything, but I was thinking today of what some of the most major things are, good and bad. Insert short list.

hongey kongey
  • I don’t miss driving. It actually gives me anxiety now, when I go home to California and have to drive anywhere, espeically if it’s the least bit unfamiliar, or there is weather. I am much happier now walking anywhere, using public transport, or tuning out in the back of a taxi. I really don’t miss finding places to park.
  • I miss driving. I miss buying heavy items, items in bulk, and being able to get them home. I miss the radio, windows down, sun tanning my left arm. I miss having a bunch of random items in my trunk, specifically costumes, snacks, a sweatshirt and a change of shoes. I miss being in charge on the road, and long trips, and just getting and going somewhere.
  • I am out of touch with pop culture and news. I haven’t lived with a tv in my house since 2012, and we don’t get magazines here, and I deleted my Twitter account because it was causing me a lot of anxiety. I have no idea about anything celebrity, the bare minimum of politics, don’t watch any current TV, see about two movies a year in the theater. And it’s okay. Pretty great, even.
  • I’ve given up even more personal space. In Brazil, you learned that it just didn’t exist to the same degree that it did the States – Brazilians love to touch you, hold your arm, give hugs and kisses, lean in close. That was different, that was done in love. Here there are just way too many people, and you have to stand close, walk close, sit close, live close. Sometimes it is painful. Especially when people sneeze or cough or hawk. Which is all the freaking time.
  • I eat internationally. I never had Thai, Vietnamese food or Korean food, or even a lot of sushi or anything growing up. I liked fried wontons and fried rice, but that was it for Chinese. And now I find myself saying things like “I really need a curry or some xiao long bao today. Like stat.”
  • I don’t shop. Partly because I don’t fit into the clothes here. Part of that is also I just don’t have the space for anything new! My bedroom is a twin bed that touches three out of four walls in my room, with some drawers beneath it. I’ve got a wardrobe that’s about three feet wide and six feet tall. One skinny shelving unit. And that is IT. For EVERYTHING I OWN. So I just choose to own less.
  • I take a lot more pictures. I think how shameless Asian people are about taking photos helps encourage me, but it’s also how I remember all the crazy and beautiful things I get to see, and share them with people back home. The 16 hour difference makes it much harder to keep in touch than the 4-6 hours from Brazil, so I feel like instagram is a lifeline.
  • I live in a forced efficiency now. When I leave my house at 7:10 every morning, I have to have everything with me I will need until at least 12 hours later. Charging cables, earphones, money, food for the entire day, water bottle, grocery bags, gym clothes, shoes, umbrella, sweater, etc. And I will carry this all until I get back home. I have to know all the things I want to do and how I will get there.
  • I’m a better person for having lived in a hard place. It’s made me more patient, more resilient, more self-sufficient. I’m more adventurous, but smarter about it than I used to be. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Thanks, Hongkers.