My first semester teaching in India is in the books. In a few hours I’ll be headed back to San Diego for the holidays. Visions of tacos dance in my head.
Christmas Eve will mark the five-month anniversary of my arrival in Chennai. It will also be the one-year anniversary of the day I accepted the position. [Insert pithy comment about how quickly time passes here.]
Time, in it’s basic sense, is a measurement of distance traveled. The past year has been a long, cathartic journey for me, while the past five months feels like such a short, intense blip of a memory already. Five months from now I’ll be wrapping up the end of the school year here. I hope it goes as well as the past five months have gone.
Reading the last sentence is strange for me. I know that the past five months have been really challenging — some of those challenges have appeared in the entries of this blog. I haven’t forgotten how much I’ve given up to be here. If anything, finishing the semester has helped me see some of the challenges I faced a little more clearly. One example: I am teaching three different preps this year, and I’ve only taught two readings — a poem and an essay — that I’ve taught previously. When I recognized that I felt an intense no wonder I’m so tired jump out of me.
The past five months have forced me to grow in ways that I imagined before I got here but couldn’t have really understood or specifically anticipated at any point over the last twelve months. I’m reminded of Socrates, who talks in “The Meno” about the different ways of knowing. He uses knowing how to get to a city called Larissa as an example. He says you can learn from hearing the directions and experiences from someone who has been there, or you can go yourself. Both ways represent a certain type of knowing, but in my opinion, the differences are so great that there are hardly any similarities between the theoretical and experiential knowledge. When I started my own journey I expected to be challenged personally and professionally, and yet when I finally arrived I was often surprised to feel so completely unprepared despite thinking about it constantly for months and months. But then there were other times, such as when I’ve driving through the chaos called traffic on my way home from school, when I think “This place is a piece of cake.”
Maybe it is a piece of cake, Indian style. It’s a bigger piece than I imagined. And it doesn’t come when I expected it. And it tastes different. It’s good though. Really good.