I think this post will serve as well as any as a sort of introduction to who I am (if you don’t already know), and what I’m doing. Well, I’m Quinn, and I’ve made the decision to leave my pleasant, stable job as a high school English teacher to move to Myanmar, a developing country on the other side of the planet. What a wild sentence to type. Though by now I’ve had a fair chunk of time to let the idea sink in (I accepted the position at the tail end of 2016, but decided not to say anything until recently), it still seems like a hypothetical. It still seems like an exercise in daydreaming wanderlust I might have when my mind wanders away from a long meeting or dull night at home. It doesn’t seem real, even though I’ve got my contract, passport, and paperwork in hand. It still seems like a terrifying mix of the greatest decision and biggest mistake I could make rolled into one enormous leap of uncertainty.
Unfortunately, an obvious side side-effect of being separated from those you care about by the entirety of planet Earth is that it’s going to be difficult to keep in touch with everyone that I’d like to. I don’t want to lose the relationships I’ve built and dissipate into the ethereal form of “that guy I haven’t heard from in awhile.” So, that brings us to this site. I want to share my experiences with those that are interested. I want to, as much as I can through a blog, act as a window into another culture, lifestyle, and way of life. I want to stay in touch.
I haven’t left yet, though, so in order to satiate some of the questions and curiosities of my friends and family, I thought I’d start with the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of my life’s next adventure.
Well, I’m sure if you’re reading this you already know this one, but let’s get you caught up just in case.
I’m Quinn, and for the last four years I’ve taught high school English in Wisconsin. While I won’t lie and say that it’s been all peaches and cream, it’s been a generally positive experience and I’m thankful for my time doing what I do with a great group of people. I’ll be leaving behind a family that I couldn’t possibly love any more and a close group of friends that I couldn’t possibly improve upon.
This part should be pretty obvious by now, but I’m moving abroad. I’ll be living and teaching in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar from 2017-2019. I initially connected with the head of school through the University of Northern Iowa’s International Recruitment Service, which is an absolutely fantastic resource for any other teacher that might be reading this with an interest in moving overseas.
The reaction I’ve most commonly gotten when I tell people where I’m moving is something the along the lines of “Myan-what now? Where’s that?”
Myanmar is a relatively small country in Southeast Asia (roughly the size of Texas) nestled snugly between Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh with an interesting and tumultuous history that I’m not going to go into terrible detail about here.
The particular school I’ll be working at is called the Ayeyarwaddy International School (you can visit the school website here). While all of the students are local, all of their classes are taught exclusively in English, meaning by the time they get to me they’re largely fluent.
Myanmar is definitely outside of my comfort zone, but, as the wisdom of bro-talk can attest, you really do only live once, and it seems like a proper shame to not make the most of it.
I’ll be leaving in the back half of July 2017, so let’s hang out before then. Once I’m gone, I’ll be gone for two years. The plan is to come back once or twice a year for a visit, but I’ll be trying to stay there and really immerse myself as much as possible.
Ah, this really is the question, isn’t it? The short answer is, of course, a simple sense of wanderlust. The long answer is a more complex word stew equal parts professional growth and personal discovery.
Back when I was choosing my major in college, I landed on English because of my deep belief it’s important to get into the minds of other people and consider points of view other than our own. Writing and literature are fantastic lenses through which we can learn about and understand how people from very different places and times are both vastly different, yet fundamentally similar to us. However, as fantastic a resource as books, journals, and poetry may be, they simply can’t compare to actually experiencing and immersing one’s self in another culture, place, or way of life. Though I love Wisconsin deeply, where I’ve spent the majority of my life, I believe that it is my duty as a well-rounded citizen of the world to expand my experiences beyond the people and culture in my immediate vicinity. If I can hope to instill the same sense of global awareness and anti-ethnocentrism in my students, I believe spending time abroad is a must- both as an opportunity to contribute to the students and community of my host school and as a chance to learn from them in return.
I’ll admit that Myanmar was not on my list of ideal destinations when I decided I wanted to move abroad. Note that I didn’t say it was low on my list, I said that it wasn’t on my list at all, because I didn’t know a darned thing about the country. Now that I do, I couldn’t be happier to be going there.
Myanmar is a country that’s intriguing to me for quite a few reasons. First, it’s going to be incredibly interesting to live in a country largely untouched by Western influences until the last few years. When I set out to find a job I did want to make sure it was somewhere with as different of a culture and lifestyle as possible from the US (otherwise, what’s the point?), and I think I hit the jackpot with Myanmar.
As a lover of history, I’m also excited to experience the wealth of historical sights in Myanmar. These largely come in two flavors. Before control was released following WWII, Myanmar (then Burma) was a victim of fairly harsh British imperialization. This being the case, rich local culture is dotted with British influences. As is the local cuisine and architecture. In addition, Myanmar is known for its innumerable Buddhist sites. In Mandalay alone, the town I’ll be living in, can be found wonders such as the Shwenandaw Monastery, the Kuthodaw Pagoda, the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, and more.
Also, I think this whole thing is going to be pretty damned fun.