By Sarah Schrock
On the eve of our independence, reflecting upon the nature of our personal freedoms as Americans is an exercise in gratitude. One of the freedoms that’s easy take to granted is our ability to dream and travel. As Americans, our passports can get us almost anywhere in the world, thanks to our nation’s strong commitment to international stability and relative wealth. This is a freedom not afforded to the majority of the world’s peoples.
Pursuing the American dream typically means working hard, rising in economic status and achieving success. It is a deeply held value in the American psyche and I would argue it’s a defining character of our culture, made possible by the protection of personal freedoms bestowed in our constitution and sacrifices of our military. We are encouraged at a small age to dream big, reach for the stars, and not be afraid to fall along the way. We gain courage, wisdom and insight — enriching our lives and making the nation progress, richer with knowledge.
One American dream is about to become a reality for Twisp resident Kelly Wiest, who is embarking on a long sought-after dream. After years of fantasizing about teaching and living abroad, she finally put in the hard work necessary to research and apply for positions overseas. She began interviewing via Skype in December and finally after weeks of overseas conversations, Kelly landed a job with the American School of Bombay, in Mumbai, India where she will teach fifth grade for two years. She leaves July 15.
Kelly is thrilled to experience an entirely new environment and working opportunity. Mumbai is India’s largest city with nearly 13 million people. With cities of that scale, no one really knows how many people actually live there. The city is a paradox. It hosts some of the world’s most advanced technological innovations, architectural and engineering masterpieces, ancient and rich cultural practices, alongside and the world’s largest slums, destitute poverty, overcrowded trains, and unhygienic open sewers. It’s the world’s best and worst living conditions all packed together on an island.
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a series of islands that were connected by the British through massive landfills. Each sector has its own character. Kelly will be living in a flat (that’s “apartment” in American English) amidst a busy commercial street life with cafes, restaurants and modern amenities. Quite a culture shock and change from the tranquil surrounding of her home near the Methow River on Bridge Street. It will be an invigorating change — not like jumping into the river on hot day invigorating, but more like all senses — smell, touch, sound and taste will be aroused in a way that only exposure to new and unfamiliar sensations can elicit.
The American School of Bombay (ASB) provides education for K-12 students from around the world. The ASB is part of an international network of schools that serve the educational needs of foreign diplomats, aid workers and business people stationed overseas. The ASB, like many international schools, uses the International Baccalaureate Program as a platform of education. Because the Methow Valley School District adopted this program over the past few years, our teachers are credentialed and it opened the door for Kelly to pursue her dream.
While the teaching position will demand a lot of her time, Kelly is looking forward to practicing yoga, eating new foods, meeting all kinds of foreigners and exploring the city and beyond. As a central hub of international travel, Mumbai is a convenient and affordable launch pad for travel to China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Despite the excitement, the dream comes will mixed emotions — fear, regret, anxiety, insecurity and guilt. The most difficult part of her decision was reconciling her dream as a mom. Her son, Jackson, 9 years old, will stay behind while his mom gets settled in her new job and place. No doubt, he’ll be well taken care of by his dad, Kevin Van Bueren, and family in Mazama who support Kelly’s decision. Jackson will join his mom around the holiday season and continue fourth grade at ASB. And while Jackson is excited for the adventure too, both parties know how much they will miss one another. With two weeks left in the valley before take-off, the rest of the summer will be filled with goodbyes and gratitude to this place which as made her dream a reality.
I leave her with the words of someone far more inspiring than myself:
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” — Pope John XXIII