One week before our departure from Boston, I woke up at 4:36 am and wasn’t able to fall back asleep because of the nervous chatter rushing through my mind: “Where did I leave the masking tape?” “Oh shoot, we forgot to sort through that bin in the back of the closet!” and “Will my students care if I don’t write any comments on the papers I return to them?”
Any move is hectic, but closing out the school year while preparing to move to another country where I’ll start teaching in less than a month has felt particularly insane. These last two weeks has been a surreal blur of goodbyes, consolidating, grading, and vacuum-packing (by far the most fun of those activities).
I have been sad to be leaving this home-- Boston, Fenway High School, and 48 Green Street-- and I’m bubbling with excitement about the adventure ahead, yet I feel like I haven’t had much time to deeply feel either of these emotions, since there is still so much to be done before we leave. My mind has felt like a swarm of bees, where each bee is a mundane but insistent task demanding my attention.
The few times recently when my mind has felt still and clear have been moments with the people I care about most here. Two weeks ago, a dear colleague at school gathered together many of the students I have taught over the past four years and many of my fellow teachers for a farewell celebration. After the mad rush for pizza and soda, my students and colleagues sat in a loose circle and took turns sharing words of appreciation for my time with them.
I don’t love being the center of attention, but I’m a sucker for ritual, and it felt so necessary to pause and reflect before leaving this school where I learned how to be a teacher and a full-fledged adult. Looking around that circle of students and colleagues, I felt incredibly lucky to have had a fulfilling job built on loving relationships.
Over the last two weeks I have felt the same sense of gratitude on a more personal level at my college reunion, at our farewell party in our half-packed apartment, and during our final (for now) stay with Dinesh’s family in New Jersey. We have good people in our lives, and it’s not easy to leave them behind.
Still, the excitement about our life ahead propels me forward, and I can’t wait to make a new home here!
Living room before and after:
At our goodbye party, I felt like I had reached a tipping point in my feelings about leaving. After months of updating our transition spreadsheet, reading blogs from past teachers, and the painstaking process of going through all of the possessions Leaf and I have accumulated in our time in Boston, I just wanted to hop on the plane with my passport and some clothes and get on with it.
That’s how I feel when the excitement is winning, which is most of the time. But sometimes, I feel anxiety at the magnitude and number of unknowns ahead. I don’t know when we’ll come back to live in the US. Each time I say goodbye to a friend, I’m not sure when I’ll get to hug them again. Are we forgetting to pack something? We already missed the window on our rabies booster, so if I get on the bad side of a feral animal in our first few days, I might die without ever playing the new Pokemon RPG coming out on Switch next year.
But, then I remember that if we stay abroad, it will be for a very good reason. I remember that great distances can be covered by airplanes or video chats. And I just probably won’t get rabies. But I will get wet in the monsoon, and mold will grow on some of my stuff, and I’ll have to huff and puff to walk home every day at 7,000 feet above sea level until my red blood cells make their necessary adjustments.
As we approached liftoff, the packing became more frantic, the farewells more dense, and the feelings more real. By now, I’ve gotten several attempts at answering the frequently asked questions, so let me share some of those in no particular order:
Are you excited?
Are you teaching English?
I’m teaching math, engineering, and computer science in English.
What ages are you teaching?
6th and 7th grade for math, 8th grade engineering, and probably a mix of high-school ages for CS.
Where in India will you be?
If India’s like a diamond (make diamond shape with hands), we’ll be up here (point below the midpoint of the upper-right edge).
Which is near Dehradun.
Which is north of Delhi. So we’re up in the foothills of the Himalayas.
What kinds of students will you have?
(meta-answer) I’ve tried answering this by talking about the stats we’ve seen about nationalities and mother tongues, post-graduation plans, or standardized testing results, but they all feel so incomplete. What I know for sure is that it’s a private school with a significant tuition cost that offers a lot of financial aid, that most students have roots in or connections to India or South Asia, and that I think the wilderness immersion and music and arts education are major and unique attractors for parents. Also, the boarding program starts in 6th grade. But beyond that, I don’t really know yet.
Do you know where you’re going to be living?
The school gives us housing near the main campus. We’re going to be in a compound with a few other staff about a 20-minute walk uphill from the main campus.
Are you going to keep a blog?
Yeah! We’ll do our best to make time to post updates, but we don’t want to spend all our free time writing back to friends and family back home. So, we’ll try to figure out what balance looks like in that regard.
How long will you be there?
Our contract is for two years, but we’d like to stay longer as long as we’re happy and healthy, and so are our families back home.
When will you be back to visit?
We have one large winter break and one large summer break, and right now our plan is to spend the winter break around India, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Over the summer break, we’ll be back in Boston for Leaf’s sister’s graduation and our students’ graduations, and we’ll spend the rest of the time with family and friends. That’ll be mostly the month of June and a few days before and after.
Can you speak the language?
I can speak English..! But not Hindi. There’s a language school nearby and we get subsidized classes, so we’re both planning to put some serious effort into learning Hindi. The local language is Garhwali, and we’ll hopefully pick some of that in daily life.
That’s all for now! I’m writing this from our hotel in Delhi after a very smooth first 12 hours in India. The masala chai so far has been top notch.