Like a captain frantically seeking port in a storm, I haul myself through the turbulent ocean of people, trying to avoid being stranded – or trampled – in the dustiest city in the world: Beijing, capital of both China and smog. It is the summer of 2012, and Shanghai isn’t to be home for much longer. Unsettled, I turn to my ever-present book for comfort.
Little did I know that real adulthood would feel like those gentle pretend waves on a Gulf beach.
But unlike their lazy predictability, adulthood caught me by surprise.
The mountain footpath I walked daily to small huts made of hay and mud to teach the children felt literally narrow, but it also felt figuratively narrow: like the thin ribbon of numbers, art, and language that connected us.
I enjoyed every minute of their attention while learning to include them by listening to their views.
They say the best books tell you what you already know, resonating with your own thoughts and emotions.
As I read, it is as if the tempest of my thoughts is spelled out on paper.
Pulling into the schoolyard, the car was swarmed like a fish school rising to food by about sixty little kids—it felt like 300— dressed in what would be rags in the US.
My brother and I were introduced as their new English and math teachers from America.
Questions I would have once felt trivial now intrigued me.
Their almost giddy love of class rekindled my own love of learning.