They say, “The grass is always greener…” and ain’t it the truth?
Jeju Island, a beautiful volcanic paradise sitting peacefully (for now) in the Yellow Sea, was my home for two years. During that time, I met amazing, inspiring, interesting people; explored breathtaking beauty; lived an active lifestyle; and learned to appreciate a culture I had grossly underestimated before my arrival.
So why did I leave? Well, I hate to admit it, but it was the lack of long-term dating opportunities. When you’re a single woman quickly approaching (then surpassing) the 40-year milestone, your dating pool is already pretty small. Place yourself on a tiny island off the coast of Korea and that pool shrinks to a pond.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s possible to find love in even the most unlikely places, but after two years of near celibacy, I was ready for some better odds. I was thinking Spain or Costa Rica, Morocco or Turkey, someplace in Europe or Latin America. Bangladesh was never on the list until this opportunity arose.
But even though dating options were my main reason for leaving Jeju, they didn’t weigh heavily in my decision to come to Bangladesh. Obviously. Because here in Jessore, for someone like me, there’s no dating pool, no pond … not even a puddle. Yep, Jeju now seems like a dating Mecca compared to Jessore. But let’s be honest, Jessore makes lots of things look better by comparison. (I kinda feel like I just told a “yo momma” joke.)
As you can surely tell by my recent posts, this transition hasn’t been easy for me. When the locals ask me how I like their country, I answer with an unconvincing, “It’s great.”
But you know what? At least one aspect of living here is great, and I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the patch of green grass on this side of the fence.
When I left Korea, I wished for two things in my next teaching position: Effortless lesson planning and motivated learners. The former eludes me, but the latter appears each day in my classroom with beaming smiles and sincere enthusiasm. It’s fantastic! My students are eager to learn. They want more time in English class. They want me to know how much they appreciate their time with me.
Recently, the resort’s investors came to the village for a tour of the project site and stopped by my classroom for a brief visit. After they left, one student raised his hand. With a furrowed brow and concerned, regretful eyes, he said, “Ma’am. I want to say nice things about you, but no time.”
At moments like this, any discomfort and isolation I feel are replaced with feelings of connection and gratitude. And really, that’s why I’m here, right? That’s why I took this opportunity … to challenge myself and help others. The challenging part is clear. Sometimes the helping part is more ambiguous. Sometimes I feel like I should and could be doing so much more to help people than this. But I remind myself that this is an amazing opportunity for these villagers (and me) and that empowering my students to help themselves is much more valuable than anything else I could be doing.
Perhaps the grass over here is greener than I thought?