Monday, April 3, 2017

Wait, you're spending 11 months where?

"Wait, you're spending 11 months where?"

Last summer, I got this reaction a lot when I would try to explain what I was going to do with the next eleven months of my life. Traveling almost eight thousand miles to a place I had never even heard of to teach English. Yes, it does sound insane even to this adventure addict knucklehead. 

When I got off the plane, I felt like I had walked into another dimension. Everything was so different, so beautiful, and so scary. I didn't know the language or customs, so I walked around like a rigid board, terrified I was going to say or do something offensive to the Taiwanese. However, a couple of days later, I knew for real that taking this gap year would be one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences of my life. 

The tropical rainforests, delicious food, and warm, friendly people have made Taiwan seem like a second home. Every other week it seems like I’m being invited to someone’s home to share a meal or participate in a new holiday. However, the thing that has definitely made this year the best is the children I get to work with. When I enter the schools each morning, I am bombarded by their smiles, hugs, and high-fives. Even the shy ones will dash up to yell “good morning” as they rush off to breakfast. They bring that joy to class with an attitude pumped for English games and the time passes so fast I can hardly believe the week has flown by, let alone another day. 

Outside of class time, we match up for races, basketball and cards. Over all the action, they always attempt to teach me a rainbow of words. Since we cannot really speak each other's language, we communicate using broken English, lyrical Chinese, lots of hand gestures and body movement. Half the time, we don’t quite get the point across, but that is where the universal language of silly smiles and laughter comes into good use. They've taught me many lessons - the most important is that the zone outside your comfort zone is the most fun place to be. Hopefully, we'll both learn more from each other in the remaining months!

Reese Austin is from North Carolina. The oldest of seven, an aspiring teacher, and a southern belle at heart, she loves children of all ages. In her spare time, she enjoys water-sports, photography, hiking, and ENOing. Her vision for the future is to help bring an end to global human trafficking and continue to spread the message of God's love.

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