Sunday, July 8, 2012

Follow Your Dreams - A Lesson on Synchronicity

Synchronicity (n.)
- a philosophical concept of a meaningful coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events

When I really think about it, our lives are wonderfully synchronistic. The impetus behind major life changes can sometimes be traced back to the meaningful coincidence when the inception of an idea first occurred. Sometimes these ideas grow in unique and inexplicable ways, even taking years before they actually manifest into something real.

In 1998, I was a freshman in college, and it was the first time I had ever heard about through-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). At the time I found the notion of a six-month hike intriguing, but improbable. A couple of year later, a friend of mine from Georgia also talked about the AT. We even did a day-hike up Blood Mountain which was part of this legendary footpath. The wheels were starting to spin and upon graduating, the once improbable, became possible. The following year, in spring of 2003, I set out to through-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

A little over five months later, I neared the end of my AT through-hike. Throughout the journey, I met an eclectic group of people from all walks of life. Their unconventional outlooks inspired me to consider a road less traveled. I decided to pursue another dream of living abroad and learning another language. Just days before I finished the hike, I found myself at a hiker-hostel reading an article in Backpacker Magazine. The article was about the biodiversity in Costa Rica and some of the eco-friendly hiking trails the country had to offer. I remember thinking to myself, "Costa Rica would be a cool place to live." I worked a couple of seasonal jobs to save money, and one year later, in the fall of 2004, I booked a plane ticket and traveled to Costa Rica on a whim. It was a true leap of faith.

After moving to Costa Rica, several other synchronistic events occurred. I became a long-term volunteer with Habitat for Humanity International. Thus, I came into contact with many incoming volunteers. The first volunteer who I met was a former English teacher in Japan. He spoke highly of life in Japan and the money that could be made teaching English. A different volunteer, who came as an intern to complete a study on the effects of housing, also had international teaching experience. Several years back she was a WorldTeach volunteer in Ecuador. I met yet another teacher when I traveled north to Nicaragua for a week in order to renew my tourist visa. I found myself in a small beach town called San Juan del Sur where I met an American girl out on the beach. She was a volunteer teacher at an orphanage called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. Still, my chance meetings with international teachers continued. Before leaving Costa Rica, I went hiking with my father in one of Costa Rica's most pristine national parks, Corcovado. The ranger station where we stayed was practically deserted because it was the start of the rainy season. However, there was a Canadian couple who stayed the night. They were vacationing in Costa Rica after having just completed a year teaching English in Busan, South Korea. They had a lot of wonderful things to say about Korea and planned to return for another year of teaching. Suffice to say, as my time in Costa Rica drew to a close, I had decided on my next professional adventure - teaching English abroad.

My financial situation dictated that I look for teaching positions that paid well. Thus, I focused primarily on East Asia. Per the strong recommendation of the Canadian couple I had met hiking in Corcovado, I focused my search on teaching positions in South Korea. It wasn't long before I found a position in the city of Daegu. In 2006, I moved across the Pacific and taught English in Korea for three years. Eventually, my wanderlust prevailed and I decided to move on. After such a positive experience volunteering in Costa Rica, I wanted to explore international teaching opportunities as a volunteer. When I began my search, I contacted the volunteer whom I'd met in Costa Rica to get more information about the WorldTeach organization.

WorldTeach is a non-profit organization that places teachers in educational capacities in developing countries. A month after leaving South Korea, I applied and accepted a teaching placement with WorldTeach in 2010. This opportunity led me to the country of Namibia in Southern Africa. My commitment in Namibia was for only one year. It wasn't before long before I started thinking about my next possible teaching job. But I already had one place in mind - Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) is an organization that cares for orphaned and abandoned children. Currently, NPH operates 9 homes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Since the end of 2004, I had followed the NPH website and would periodically check the site for potential volunteer opportunities. A few months after I returned from Namibia, in early 2011, I came across a job posting for an English teacher at the NPH home in the Dominican Republic. It had been over six years since meeting that girl in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua who first told me about the orphanage. To this day, I'm convinced that if I had never met her, I would not have moved to the Dominican Republic to teach English at NPH's school.

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