teaching abroad

Priorities: Family Comes First Part II – Living Abroad

I am over the ocean again.  The return flight.  Was I ready to depart?  No.  There is still a need.  There is unfinished business.  My heart aches.

We now face a huge consequence of the decision to teach abroad.  We’ve observed other families deal with living in a foreign country: managing familial relations from afar.  Sure, there’s Skype.  Sure, we have a Vonage phone number allowing family members to make US calls to reach us.  Sure, there’s a direct 8 hour flight to Chicago.  However, suddenly it feels insurmountably far away.

A price is paid to live abroad.  You miss moments with grown children and grandchildren.  You aren’t with aging parents.  You miss being there when your help is needed.

It’s moments like this that cause you to question all your decisions leading to this point.  You suddenly revisit all the pros and cons you evaluated when you took the job across the ocean.  You question whether the pros still outweigh the cons. You are unsure.

The miles pass below me in the plane as I return to my family and job in Europe.  I will land and immediately travel directly to the school where I will greet my 9th graders.  Moving on I will face the 8th graders and then my IB Bio and IB ESS students.  It’s a full day, on no sleep. 

I had no time to even think of schoolwork while I was away.  I barely had time to scan emails and attend to urgent matters such as the Internal Travel payment due for the South Africa trip.

However, the plans are ready for my students.  They’ve been reworked in the plane.  A twinge of excitement resides in anticipation for the lab that should await the high school students.  There’s an eagerness to know how the students faired in my absence.  A hope lingers that progress was made. 

My husband and children have reported that “all is well” with them and I am eager to see and embrace them.

Once again, I am caught between three worlds. 

The one I left behind:  Will all be OK? I could have stayed longer.  I wanted to stay longer.  I will return in July.

The one that lies ahead.: My teenagers are anticipating graduation day, summer plans, and the next year.  My husband is considering changes at work. 

The parallel world of my work: The part of my life that I will face first as I’m heading there directly.  I will find out how the Science Fair went and what students learned in my absence.

The next few days will be a time of reflection for me as I settle back into my expat routine of teaching third culture students.  We’re anticipating the end of the school year – only 3 weeks left.  And I have to decide, is this where I truly belong?