Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid

Day 20: The trait I possess that most equipped me for life abroad. OR  The trait I possess that held me back the most. Or both.

The post where Kelli reveals her inner-most insecurities.

I hate looking stupid.  I hate looking like a tourist.

I hate doing things for the first time by myself.

There.  I said it.  I am not brave.  I am not adventurous.  I never wanted the life I’m living.

Even after all these countries, all the moves, I am still not brave.  I’m also not a planner/researcher.  For every move before Bahrain, I hardly knew where the country I was going was located, much less the city (China, I knew- Shanghai, I still have to look for on the map).  I took in what our new faculty coordinators told me and happily got on a plane in August, bound for wherever.  To this day, I only have a relative idea of where other cities and countries are in relation to Shanghai.  I have a basic grasp of the countries in the GCC.  I prefer other people to say, “Hey, let’s go to…” and I say, “Okay.”  And then they make all the arrangements and itineraries and I happily go where they tell me.  The in-laws are great for this- they want to come visit us and they know what they want to see.  I got to see the Great Wall, Beijing, and the Terra-cotta Warriors because that’s what they wanted to see.

Wait, you might thinking- without your in-laws visiting you in Shanghai, you would have not seen the Great Wall?  Of China?  That Great Wall?  Are you serious?

Unfortunately, I am.  I’m telling you- if I have to plan it, it usually won’t get planned.  I get nervous to go places without a guide.  I don’t like driving off into the great unknown without someone who already knows it.  Most of my adventurers have been had because someone else instigated them.  Or someone invited us along.  Or someone planned it.  Or the school told me I was going.  I have done very little in the way of making my life exciting.

In the rice fields of Yangshou

I researched Bahrain, but only to see what life would be like for a young family, for a toddler.  Let me tell you, there is a lot to do on this island for kids… if you don’t work.  If you do, it’s a little more limited but still, there are oodles of indoor play areas, lessons, and crafty things for little kids to do.  I was so excited because Guatemala was slightly limited in these areas, at least for someone who didn’t speak Spanish and was scared to drive anywhere lest I be lost or shot.  But we still haven’t done many of them.  The Ladybug just got signed up for her first music class… because it’s in the neighborhood.  It doesn’t require me to figure out where to go on my own.  I don’t need directions.

I am also infamous for saying I want to do something and then slowly backing out.  I never visited Tikal while we were in Guatemala because the night we were set to leave I wasn’t feeling 100% and couldn’t fathom spending a night on a bus, bumping up and down mountains at break-necks speeds.  So I missed Tikal.  I stayed home.  The RS went- he said it was amazing.  The pictures looked amazing.  I was mad at myself later.

Guiding our raft down the river

I tried to back out of a trip to Yangshou with my friend, J during our last few weeks in Shanghai.  She wouldn’t let me.  We went, we stayed in a miserable, dirty hotel room above a bar.  There were cockroaches the size of my fist and, I swear our room was directly over the drum kit.  J is a traveler, a partier, a meet-new-friends-everywhere-she-goes-er.  I am not.  We had a good time.  We went on a bike tour of the area, which was totally cool and not something I would have done on my own.  We went on an hours-long boat ride to see the Elephant Rock.  We pushed our own raft down the river, stopping at a cafe in the middle of the river.  We saw water buffalo doing whatever it is that water buffalo do.  I’m glad she made me go.

Semuc Champay

S came to visit us in Guatemala and insisted we do fun stuff.  That meant driving eight hours to
 Semuc Champay (we thought it would take three).  She wanted to be a tourist.  We stayed in a hostel which required that we climb a ladder.  We did the tourist-adventure trip which involved swimming in a cave, holding a candle, rope-swinging out into the river, and watching other people jump off of a way-too-high bridge.  Then we climbed the waterfalls of Semuc, took some gorgeous pictures, and headed home.  I’m glad she made me go.

I need to be braver.  I need to embrace this life and take full advantage of it, especially if we’re really thinking of moving home in the next ten years.  I need to stop being afraid of looking like a tourist- I am a tourist.  I should do the things that tourists do.  I am lucky because I get to see both sides of the coin- what life is really like in these countries but I should take advantage of seeing the things that are meant to be seen… by tourists.  What good is it to say, “Yeah, I lived in ____, but I never quite got around to seeing ____… because I was scared.”

Everybody has a water buffalo… mine is fast but yours is slow…


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