I can't find my customs form, even though I saw it a week ago and specifically put it somewhere safe so I wouldn't have this problem. I know I'll probably find it tucked away in some obscure corner of my suitcase when I'm unpacking, but after shuffling things around in my suitcase so many times today to evenly distribute the weight, I'm done. I'll just fill out another one tomorrow before flying home.
The saying goes: "Home is where the heart is." And for my whole life, I've been saying: "My heart belongs to New England." Because it does. My family, my house, my doctors, my best friends, and the experiences I am built out of are all in New England. And there is something about the woods and the roads and rocks and lakes just sets my soul on fire. I've been looking forward to breathing clean and fres New England air for a while now (and even more so after spending two and a half days in Beijing).
But as I sit here in my empty apartment, on my flat-board bed in the heart of Weihai, China, I realize that not all of my heart belongs to New England anymore. Truth is, half of my heart resides here, within the halls of my teaching building, in the walls of my classroom and in the hands of every one of my 60 students.
I came to China to see the world; to prove to myself that I am capable of overcoming the limits cancer had put on me and to see if I'm really meant to teach. I came to China for myself and with the thought that I might be able to change a couple of lives.
And then I lived in China. And I fell in love with the people and the culture and my job and my students. And I learned so much from being here. I learned how to work hard in order to be a good teacher and how to sacrifice everything I had to be even better. I learned how to give more of myself than ever so that I could better their lives. I learned what it felt like to have bad days and how to push through them. I learned how to revel in small victories and how to recognize the rewards of being a teacher. I don't know if I changed many lives, although I like to think I did. Without a doubt, though, my life has been changed in every way possible. I learned how to love unconditionally; for I love my students in a way that I never understood, nor thought I was capable of. It's like I discovered a whole new chamber of my heart that I didn't know existed and it has now been filled over capacity with love for my kids.
That's the kind of love that my students have shown me here. No matter who I put in Chinese chair, sent to the teacher or punished, at the end of the day, all of my students still loved me. They didn't see my faults or flaws or imperfections. They didn't judge me for my scars or even ask questions. They didn't know my background or my story. They just loved me; and they loved me in a way I've never been loved before. Simple, pure and honest. And although I don't feel like I'm worthy of that kind of love, it has motivated me to be that kind of person that is. And that is what I am walking away with from this experience:
I want to be the kind of person who is worthy of the unconditional love that my students have shown me.