Archive for May, 2010
I’ve accumulated quite a few good ones in my day.
This past weekend in NYC visiting Katelyn, we were enjoying an evening in Manhattan, strolling around, chatting and people watching. Eventually we decided to go into Walgreen’s to get a drink. I walked through the door, and I unexpectedly registered recognition as I saw my friend Lucy from Harvard (who actually lives in Boston) standing at the register.
(a picture of Lucy and I from senior year)
After excited hugs and laughter, Lucy informed me that it was Harvard Alumni night at the bar around the corner, making this an even funnier coincidence. It sounded almost too comical to be real, but needless to say, Katelyn and I stopped by the bar and I saw some friends and some other familiar faces.
It’s always funny to look back and consider all the factors that led to the chance encounter at Walgreen’s. What if we turned right instead of left out of the subway? Or what if we spent a few extra minutes listening to the drumming group in the park? There are so many seemingly unimportant decisions whose consequences that piece together perfectly into a random, fun story.
In my first attempt at a blog when I first moved to Madagascar, I shared a small world story so that others could share that “wow” feeling that so often accompanies less-than-traditional coincidences and run-ins. I wrote this back on January 6, 2009: “this story is just a little crazy but worth writing about, but mainly for those from PA. i was on the main avenue of town around new years where there were carnival games and tons of people, but i was at a booth and i look to my left and i saw a springford sting sweatshirt, hailing from collegeville, pa written on the back. not only was i stunned to see collegeville, pa on a sweatshirt halfway around the world, but katie u., one of my friends from high school played for sting!! unfortunately my lack of french kept me from talking to the guy and my slow hands kept me from taking a picture, but i told katie that the shirt said ‘sarah’ and #21, apparently one of her old teammates ironically enough, so she emailed sarah, and sarah apparently left it at a goodwill at some point, so i will leave it up to all of you to decide how the heck it got to anatananarivo, madagascar on a guy standing next to me.”
How about this one?
While hiding away from the political revolution in Madagascar, there was another American named Sawyer who by chance had connected with our group and was staying with us to avoid the drama and violence downtown. I didn’t get to know him very well because it wasn’t long after he arrived that I left Madagascar.
(photo as I was walking out the door to leave Madagascar, Sawyer is the one on the right.)
Fast forward to Senegal about 2 months later. I was visiting a Peace Corps volunteer for the first time in her home village on the coast to explore more of the country. Our plan for my only night in the area was to meet some other Americans for dinner who worked with her on environmental projects. When she mentioned what organization they came from, I recognized the name. I casually mentioned that I knew someone who worked for that organization in Madagascar (Yes, Sawyer). My friend then proceeded to inform me that the guy she was referring to was originally stationed in Madagascar. I guess you can imagine where this is going, but basically, it turned out to be the same person. He still had no idea I had figured this out, so I decided to surprise him. When he finally arrived at the restaurant and saw me sitting at the table, I laughed as I watched his eyes twitch with recognition then light up with laughter looking at me from across the restaurant. Needless to say it was fun to reminisce and marvel over the fact that we went from hiding in the same house from a coup in Madagascar to a small village in eastern Senegal without ever communicating in between or really even knowing what happened to each other after Madagascar.
Now am I a magnet of coincidence or am I a victim/beneficiary of the artistry of fate? I doubt I’ll ever know, nor do I need to, because I always enjoy my small world stories.
Over the last few months my life has felt more and more guided by the alignment of the stars than actual planning. Once again, a coincidental (and serendipitous) sequence of events have led to my imminent return to China in June.
Fun fact: China’s name in Chinese is ‘zhong guo’ which literally translates to “Middle Kingdom”
The 6-week program is for Chinese teachers whose first language is English (description fits me to a T!), and is funded by Fulbright. I’m one of (only) 10 participants. We spend 3 weeks in Beijing and 3 weeks in Chengdu, each day receiving intensive language instruction and attending seminars and lectures on teaching techniques. All of us will be signing a language pledge for the duration of the program requiring us to speak only Chinese and we will be participating in other cultural seminars and events. We also create actual lesson plans during the program, so it will put me in a good position to start off the school year in the fall.
The program’s deadline was long past by the time I had started teaching. I didn’t even know the program existed. However, due to unforeseen conflicts, one of the participants had to unexpectedly back out– and here’s where fate intervened! The coordinator of the program happened to know the high school Chinese teacher at my school, who upon hearing the situation of the new vacancy told the coordinator about me. Within 3 days, I applied, interviewed and was retroactively accepted to the program.
Coincidence? Fate? Luck? Who knows. All I know is that I’m going back to China in less than 2 months and I’m very excited.