Moments of Awakening

by ISR Guest Author

If you’ve ever had a moment of sudden inspiration, insight, or comprehension, you experienced what is commonly referred to as a moment of awakening. For me, such moments are far more frequent overseas as compared to ‘back home’ where life was mostly on auto pilot. There’s a lot to be said for the newness of everything when you go international.

Early in my overseas career a very memorable moment of awakening didn’t actually occur on foreign soil. Rather, it took place during my first trip home following 2 straight years in Thailand. For whatever reason, ‘back home’ just no longer felt like home. Friends and family were there but it felt like I no longer belonged. I was homesick for Thailand. Something in me had profoundly changed during those first 2 years overseas.

A memorable moment I’ll always remember struck in Kinshasa, DR Congo. While slowly navigating down a rutted road with the AC struggling against a hot, humid, rainy morning, I noted the many pedestrians headed for work with umbrellas overhead, pant legs rolled up and shoes safely guarded in plastic bags. The dirt shoulder of the road had turned into a muddy quagmire. That’s when it hit me how truly fortunate I was in so many ways. I let a lot of ‘stuff’ go that day.

There’s been other unforgettable moments of awareness for me along the path of international education, but now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what profound, self-realization moments other international educators have had living and teaching in far off lands. This should be enlightening.


ISR Guest Author

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10 thoughts on “Moments of Awakening

  1. I taught in China, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua for fifteen years. Most of the families at our schools lived in gated communities, but we weren’t paid very well, so we lived like the locals. I couldn’t afford a car, so I walked everywhere. I loved the three kilometer journey from the school to my home in Managua. I often stopped to eat at a “restaurant” on my way home. There would be two or three plastic tables set up on the sidewalk, and the female owner would be cooking the meals on a make shift barbecue. It consisted of a car wheel welded to four legs made of rebar. It was so primitive, but the food was great, and the people were friendly. I loved it!


  2. My moment came when I was in Taiwan. I realized that every year I spent overseas was costing me money through a state retirement and though Social Security. Eventually that retirement comes due. Overseas living is great, but you pay though lost revenue is a state retirement system. The question is….Is is worth it?


    1. Yup. If had’ve know that my pension in Canada (CPP) would be frozen becase I am non-resident (not contributing anymore due to NR rules, not by choice BTW) and now it is almost worthless, really, I would likley not have stayed overseas for the last 23 years. Oh well. At least I have real estate in Canada for my pension.


  3. When you are working in a rural setting and the local police man pulls out his service revolver to start the race during the sports day that you have just arrived the day before for.


  4. My biggest moment of insight was when I was working in Cairo. I had dysentery BAD. It lasted for two months. I realized then that the toilet hose is vastly superior to toilet paper.

    Now when I go home I feel uncivilized.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. was working as a school college counselor in Kuwait and we had caught a student assistant in our office who had previously stolen and sold my colleague’s computer. He confessed and we met with the parents and the admin. to decide what to do. We didn’t want to expel him because it was a first offence and he was a great student but the director said we had to make an example. A week later I noticed him back in class and I went to the school owner who told me that he was from one of the 5 top families and 3was therefore immune. It was then that I fully appreciated the saying, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally agree with the “back home not feel like home” part. Somehow in the host country we might not speak the same language but gradually we find our common language through living there. Meanwhile we speak the same language with friends and family back home but after all this time we realize we might not have the exact same language.

    I guess to many people, they are lucky to have a home that they belong to, whereas I grew up in a multicultural immigration background that makes it hard for me to really define home, but my lucky part is I get to explore many different worlds, and perhaps one of them will be what I eventually call home.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was teaching in Bwiam, The Gambia and proctoring my first exam. I caught a girl cheating and was upset. She looked up at me and smiled, which upset me even more. I later learned that Gambians show embarrassment by smiling and I realized that I was no longer in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a similar moment. I was at an IS in China. I don’t remember what he had done but I asked to speak to one of my students outside the classroom, a Korean boy. As I spoke to him about his behavior, he stared at the ground. I could only see the top of his head. I asked him to look me in the eye when I spoke to him. I later learned that I was basically asking him to show me disrespect. By showing me the top of his head, he was acknowledging his behavior had been wrong and he was showing me respect.

      Liked by 1 person

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