It would be easy to become tangled in the disappointments. The coronavirus pandemic has altered the teach abroad experience this year, and we are all learning to make the most of changing circumstances. It is necessary to acknowlege that many of the experiences we have all planned and waited for may look a little different this year. It is just as important to remember that they are small sacrifies, essential sacrfices. The missed vacations and cancelled holidays should be mourned, but they are the choices we all must make to heal our aching world. Instead of tallying the things we are missing, let us count the memories we are making.
My vacation this break involved my face being photoshopped into a swimming pool. A friend knew how badly I wanted to travel, and this was the best he could do to fix the fact that I couldn't. It helped, but I still looked longingly at the glamorous photos of my hotel room even after requesting a refund.
COVID cases spiked the week before I was set to travel, I assume due to the upcoming holiday and the fact that everyone else was also travelling. I had planned a weeklong trip to Chiang Mai that I waited until the last minute to cancel. Ultimately, after provinces began imposing restrictions on interprovincial travel and my school made it clear that they would be uncomfortable with me going, I knew I had accept that I would not be able to go. As disappointing as it was to make that choice, I believe that it was the right one. This only means that I will have to travel in Thailand another time, and there will be more time. It is such a small loss considering the pain that our global community is facing right now.
Instead of a vacation, I was granted the gift of time. For the first time in my adult life, I have had enough available time to remember what boredom feels like. This did not last long, as I have filled the last month with every bit of learning and relaxation that I could manage. In isolation, I used this time to learn several new skills, including salsa dancing and some American Sign Language, things I've always wanted to learn and never had time for. I am on my 10th book since break began and have been able to read about topics I am curious about simply because I am curious about them. I have figured out how to modify the exercises in my cardio kickboxing workouts to avoid kicking the walls of my small apartment and maintained a daily meditation practice in my routine.
The start of school has been postponed. I miss the purposefullness of going to class everyday, but I am utilizing all of the planning time.
Like every year, but maybe a little more so this year, committing to a teach abroad program requires patience and adaptability. Despite the changes, I would not trade the experience. I am still having opportunities that I could not have even imagined a year ago. Realistically, there will be days when you wish the circumstances were different. There will be more days that you would not want to be anywhere else.