Tuesday, November 16, 2010


*edited because I still click the wrong buttons using my netbook all the time. I've only had it for a year.

Today I begin trying to process this year through my blog.  One thing that has helped me immensely this year, though it is challenging to do, has been thinking "This is water." every day.

The late David Foster Wallace in a graduation speech in 2005 at Kenyon College said, "
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"   

 The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

I love his entire speech, and this part in particular, because I have tried to keep the entire year in my mind as I struggle against the day to day grind here.  While there are moments I will remember forever, both good and bad, more than anything this year has been a marathon, not a series of sprints.  It is a marathon in which I did not run a good time, when I did not know if I could make it, when I watched friends drop out along the way, and yet I still kept going for some unknown reason. Throughout it all, I have tried to at least once every day look up from whatever I am doing, whatever I am worried about, and just appreciate where I am and what I am doing.

I am now past the 26th mile. While I at times have faltered, I have made it.  I will stop pushing the marathon metaphor since it is stretched as it is.  To return to the story from David Foster Wallace, as long as I lived in the US and only left for short amounts of time, it was very hard to see the water.  That is one thing which living abroad has taught me, what I like about the US and what I don't miss at all, while at the same time giving me an appreciation and at least a superficial understanding of a new culture. This has com over time, in fits and starts.

There have been no eureka moments, but rather gradual realizations. A couple of times I have appreciated a specific moment, but I can't honestly say there were many moments where I was overjoyed that I was here right now doing this above all the other things I could have been doing.  However, I am glad that I made it this far.  I have successfully navigated living abroad and working in a foreign country as a teacher, both things I had never done before.  Becoming an adult abroad has been trying, but as rewarding as people kept telling me it would be in April and May in my lowest moments.

I am excited to return home in three weeks.  I miss my friends and family (not to mention the library).  Still, I would not have wished I was doing anything else this past year. As I say good bye to friends, both Costa Rican and with World Teach, and my students over the next couple of weeks, I remember so much about this crazy year.  The importance of saying "This is water," is one of thing I will remember.

Costa Rica, I can't say I loved every moment, but I love this country and I will be back.

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