Friday, June 17, 2011

Following Your Dreams - A Lesson on Synchronicity

Synchronicity (n.) - a philosophical concept of a meaningful coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events 

When I really think about it, it's fascinating how synchronistic our lives are. The impetus behind major life changes can sometimes be traced back to the meaningful coincidence when the inception of an idea first occurred.  Sometimes, these ideas grow in unique and inexplicable ways, even taking years before they actually manifest into something real.

I was a freshman in college the first time I had ever heard about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT).  At the time, I found the notion of a six-month hike intriguing, but improbable.  A couple of years later, a friend of mine from Georgia also talked about the AT.  We even did a day-hike up Blood Mountain which was part of this legendary footpath.  The wheels were starting to spin, and upon graduating, the once improbable, became possible.  The following year, I set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia

A little over five months later, I neared the end of my AT thru-hike.  Throughout the journey, I met an eclectic group of people from all walks of life.  Their unconventional outlooks inspired me to consider a road less traveled.  I decided to pursue another dream of living abroad and learning a foreign language.  Just days before I finished the hike, I found myself at a hiker-hostel reading an article in Backpacker Magazine.  The article was about the biodiversity in Costa Rica and some of the eco-friendly hiking trails the country had to offer.  I remember thinking to myself, “Costa Rica would be a cool place to live.”  I worked a couple of seasonal jobs to save money, and one year later, I booked a plane ticket and traveled to Costa Rica on a whim.  It was a true leap of faith.

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
After moving to Costa Rica, several other synchronistic events occurred.  I found a long-term volunteer position doing volunteer coordination with Habitat for Humanity International.  Thus, I came into contact with many incoming volunteers.  The first volunteer I met was a former English teacher in Japan.  He spoke highly of life in Japan and the money that could be made teaching English.  A different volunteer, who came as an intern to complete a housing study, also had international teaching experience.  Several years back she was a WorldTeach volunteer in Ecuador.  I met yet another teacher when I traveled north to Nicaragua for a week in order to renew my tourist visa.  I found myself in a small beach town called San Juan del Sur where I met an American girl out on the beach.  She was a volunteer teacher at an orphanage called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.  Still, my chance meetings with international teachers continued.  Before leaving Costa Rica, I went hiking with my father in one of Costa Rica's most pristine national parks, Corcovado.  The ranger station where we stayed was practically deserted because it was the start of the rainy season.  However, there was a Canadian couple who stayed the night.  They were vacationing in Costa Rica after having just completed a year teaching English in Busan, South Korea.  They had a lot of wonderful things to say about Korea and planned to return for another year of teaching.  Suffice to say, as my time in Costa Rica drew to a close, I had decided on my next professional adventure - teaching English abroad.

Daegu, South Korea
My financial situation dictated that I look for teaching positions that paid well.  Thus, I focused primarily on East Asia.  Per the strong recommendation of the Canadian couple I had met hiking in Corcovado, I focused my search on teaching positions in South Korea.  It wasn't long before I found a position and moved to Korea where I taught English for three years.  Eventually, my wanderlust prevailed and I decided to move on.  After such a positive experience volunteering in Costa Rica, I wanted to explore international teaching opportunities as a volunteer.  When I began my search, I contacted the volunteer whom I'd met in Costa Rica to get more information about the WorldTeach organization.

Etosha National Park, Namibia
WorldTeach is a non-profit organization that places teachers in educational capacities in developing countries.  A month after leaving South Korea, I applied and accepted a teaching placement with WorldTeach.  This opportunity led me to the country of Namibia in Southern Africa.  My commitment in Namibia was for only one year.  It wasn't long before I started thinking about my next possible teaching job.  But I already had one organization in mind - Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, Dominican Republic
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) is an organization that cares for orphaned and abandoned children.  Currently, NPH operates 9 homes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  Ever since meeting that volunteer teacher in Nicaragua, I had followed the NPH website and would periodically check the site for potential volunteer opportunities.  A few months after I returned from Namibia, I came across a job posting for an English teacher at the NPH home in the Dominican Republic.  It had been over six years since meeting that girl in San Juan del Sur, who first told me about the orphanage.  To this day, I’m convinced that if I had never met her, I would not be on my way to the orphanage to write the next chapter in my life.

~ Sigue tus sueños