My two months in Aktau brought a question into perfect focus, “WHERE do i want to be?”
It sure wasn’t Aktau. but why? What did i need from a place?
So, yeah, i was teaching in Aktau. It all happened suddenly and i’m still not entirely sure how. A Russian guy who was starting his own language school contacted me. The American who’d screwed over the first school had been planning to partner up with the Russian guy and defect to this new school with all of the first school’s students. But like i said last time, instead he fled the country and left the Russian guy in a lurch too.
So the guy asked me if i’d fill in as the native teacher till they found someone else. As with many things in Aktau, one week turned into two, then eight. Eight hours a week turned into ten into thirty. I gave them a month’s notice that i was leaving, but in the end they were still scrambling and asked me to stay longer. “ostavaĭsya! Ne hodi!”
I can’t believe i actually considered it. It would have been a nightmare, but i had to fight through my overly-helpful Midwestern tendencies Even though i was REALLY over Aktau, i was still sorta sad to leave. I grew attached to my students.
Most of the fun in Aktau involved my students and, believe it or not, some of the more fun times we had were bowling. I don’t think our students particularly loved bowling, any more than we did, but there really wasn’t much else to do. I’m a terrible bowler, but (same as in America,) i just focus on the most ridiculous way to throw the ball. Hitting the pins is a bonus.
I’m still not sure why my students liked me so much. I’m really not sure if i was a great teacher or not, but i think they primarily kept coming back because they though i was funny. On my last day they took me out to dinner and then we all walked on the beach. A number of students took me aside and said they thought i was kind and positive and that they’d miss me, a lot. “Any future teacher will be measured against you.” I nearly cried.
I hate leaving people. The worst part of traveling is not being able to take anyone with me. I suck at saying goodbye. Honestly i’d be most happy if the folks i love would just agree to follow me around the world.
Annoyingly, people seem to have lives and other things to do with their time. I’ve been chatting folks whenever i can, a little obsessively, not knowing when i’ll get to see someone again. It’s always bittersweet to connect with people on-line, but i’ll take it over losing contact with them entirely. Traveling is amazing, and sometimes it’s lonely.
It’s also hard on my writing. The combination of stress and lack of structure and additional time commitments kills my ability to focus and produce. I did manage to get twenty stories in the mail last month, and even rewrote a few things, but i desperately need to finish the final polish on my last novel, just so i can call it done and move on. I currently have in the queue: a four issue comic i’ve only finish one issue of, a new YA novel i’ve been thinking about for half a year, but have only written 4000 words, and a good fifteen short stories that either need to be rewritten or finished. I also have about five shorts that are plotted out but need to be written. Aside from all that, i want to get back into finishing a new short every week or two and to maintain everything in the mail. My last book has been circulating the agents for the last few months. I’m hoping to have the YA novel circulating along with it within the next six. Sometime soon i’ll have to ask one of my comic-published friends how best to get the comic script around. I suspect i should be hitting up my artist friends to see if we can get a package together to pitch to comic publishers.
So anyway, Aktau. It wasn’t a bad place. It definitely wasn’t right for me, but i met some lovely people and experienced things i never would have experienced otherwise. More importantly, it gave me important clues as to what i DO want. When i’ve thought of places to be before, it was always focused on people. I moved to Eugene for people. Every day i feel it calling me back.
So, people are important, probably the most important thing in the world, but Aktau taught me to care about WHERE i live. I figured out things like: i really care about trees and climate and beautiful places. I love mountains and ocean. I love having variety in my food and potential to do different things.
All things considered, i have no regrets. Aktau taught me a lot.
Aktau, in spite of everything i’ll miss you. Thanks for helping me on the path toward figuring out what i want.
Next: Turkey! Istanbul! Samsun! The Black Sea!
If you haven't visited New Mexico, give it a try when you're back on the continent. No ocean but some lovely mountains, and an interesting variety of cultures.