How Much Does 5 Years Change a Person?

Flower shop in Madrid, Spain.

Came across a letter I had written at the beginning of 2015 to a friend.  I don't even remember writing it, so it was a treat to rediscover it.

This was about two months into my work as a volunteer math teacher on the tiny island of Ta'u, American Samoa. So much has changed, but it looks like a lot hasn't. Enjoy.


Ta’u is quite the enchanting island. Rather than the constant hum and bustle of city life—traffic, police sirens, students coming home from parties—I get to enjoy the constant roar of the breaking waves outside my window. After a tiring day of teaching kids who are not always eager to learn but are nevertheless dear to my heart, I come home to my little house with its tin roof and cheery yellow ceiling. I admire the view of the ocean and the palm trees as I eat dinner. 

Whenever I want, I go down to the white beach and swim in the crystal-clear water. There’s a lot of time for reflection. Granted, it’s not paradise. Cockroaches, xenophobia, centipedes, isolation are some of the problems I deal with.  But I am needed here, and I am appreciated here, and I am satisfied, for now.

I think what I’m embracing in my decision to come here, to Moscow, to wherever life brings me is this uncertainty without which life would be less risky but more boring. Maybe someday I will come upon someone who will convince me that predictability is preferable. Maybe I won’t. 

I don’t know where I’m flying. I don’t know where I’m sailing. I’m navigating it solo, but I am meeting so many interesting people along the way, the web of these connections is interweaving the globe. Some connections are stronger than others, but if I am a bird, I have no cage. If I am a ship, I haven’t dropped my anchor. The only certainty in life is its uncertainty, but therein the magic lies.

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