The long, halogen lights hang at odd angles like the miscellaneous items in a horder’s house. A child in red plaid screams about “APPLES!” and attempts a jump kick. My face feels like it has cried forever. My eyes are currently dry. My head feels like the lights, without order. It’s been an hour since I have seen Ruby. An hour since I held her in my arms and she held me in her arms. An hour into ten plus months away from her, from my family, from everything I know.
I feel empty. I don’t want to leave. “Are you excited?” “No.”
To clarify what is going on, for those in the not know, my partner and I had planned to go to China, to teach, to live together in Jiaxing, a city with a lego factory, some famous candy and 30 minutes from Shanghai. But my partner, Ruby, realized that teaching isn’t her passion. Why waste a year doing something that doesn’t fulfill you? Working towards where don’t necessarily want to be, doing something that doesn’t ignite your soul? And so, with a lot of thought put into it, as she always does, she decided not to come. I am happy for her. I am so happy she has found a great job. A place to live. I do not resent her decision at all. She is so brave, in her actions and her words. Meticulous in constructing her thoughts into sentences. She is so strong. She inspires and teaches me and tells me, to take an extra second, think.
I am in constant, unfiltered awe of her. I could go on, but that is a different, more personal (and infinitely more smooshy) letter.
So I am here, alone, at the Vancouver Airport awaiting a flight to Hong Kong, then Shanghai and then a car ride to Jiaxing. My reasoning for going is because, well, it was too late not to go. I am a certified teacher who landed a great job at British Columbian Offshore High School. Kids who graduate from this school graduate with a Dogwood Diploma, a B.C. recognized secondary degree. If I didn’t show up, they wouldn’t be able to replace me. They tried. They really tried. B.C. is having a teacher renaissance and there are numerous positions opening up in Vancouver and beyond. So why go to China to teach? Why suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Visa stipulations and being stared at and photographed without your permission, when you can teach in beautiful B.C., with sit down toilets aplenty and foods from all over the planet. Oh yeah, and the whole nature and clean air thing. So yeah, no one able to fill my vacancy.
I could still have just not gone. Sorry folks, but I can’t come. Here’s a lesson for you kiddies, it’s called abandonment. Like I have just done, the world will do to you time and time again. Get use to it. It will be the greatest lesson you could ever learn and this is the best way to teach you it…. So I could have bit my thumb and jumped ship. That means 4 classes full of English students do not graduate on time. As an educator, as a human, as a creature with a beating heart, I could not do that. I could not leave them hanging. I could not abandon them. They need me. And if it’s bad, I leave. If it’s bad, I come home. If this feeling of ache, of internal avalanches and a mind full of doom and gloom and Charlie Brown adult voices accompanied by the mournful, humming of Tom Wait doesn’t pass, I don’t ask, I don’t plead, I leave. My sanity is more important than any job. My emotional well-being is essential to my teaching, to my personal hygiene and to my will power that forces me every morning to put on pants and not slip into a rat onesie. If I am not stable, am not a rock, do not eat three meals a day and drink the right amount of liquids, I am sporadic, I am despicable, I am sputtering and rambling, I am climbing unsafe ladders and eating unrefrigerated meats.
Where is the rhyme and reason behind all this? Behind this journey? Behind a piece of luggage that is a few kilograms over? Behind these random tubes of light? I hope to find out or at least convince myself of some form of divine reason, which would involve first convincing myself that there is a divine anything.
I am now in Hong Kong airport, the random bulbs have been replaced with a domed ceiling comprised of grey, nacho chip, shaped tiles. I am hungry. I have an hour until I board my final flight to Shanghai. None of my items are lost yet. My only travel damage is a cracked computer that seems to still be functioning. Superficial damage. I have superficial damages and I still function as well. My CPU is overheating and could use some more RAM, but it’s still puttering onwards. The setting sun through Hong Kong’s haze looks like the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now. Instead of war machines, 747s and mountains.
I love you all. I will keep you updated with words.
Thank you to all of you who saw me before I left. You are all so special to me.
If you are ever in the neighborhood, don’t be shy, come on by!
Love, appreciating moments, your China bound friend/lover/family member…
Ira J Cooper