September 21st, 2017
I believe, that “I vacationed in”, “took a trip to”, or “summered abroad” really becomes “I lived in” the minute you need a job. It could be three years or three weeks, but at that point, as many young adventurers figure out, the vacation ends with the patronage or savings. A punch to the gut at first, realizing “oh, I have to eat next week” can wipe away the whimsy quickly. Many will never experience this. Short trips and healthy bank accounts are a shield against this kind of exposure to the daily life of a local.
While it is easy to envy those with the funds to jet set without care, they too have something to envy. There is no appreciate, no immersion quite like a job. It is where many of us learned to socialize with other adults, and the same goes for a different country. You may proudly renounce your status of “tourist” and make friends that have a chance of lasting beyond the week. You become a part of the economy and community and it is a feeling so unlike that of a visitor.
Beyond that, like any job, there’s the opportunity for memories and stories beyond what monuments you have seen.
In just such a case, I lucked out with a job teaching chess to kids after school in Dublin, since I had some teaching experience back in the US. (A beauty pageant sentiment I know, but while I’m at it, I used to buy them rewards at my own expense like stickers or lollipops and if I had one wish it would be world peace.)
Anyway, one of my responsibilities was to collect payment from all the parents for the program, about 500 Euro each for 8 weeks of lessons.
At the end of that particularly exhausting class (40+ primary school aged children, enough said), after waiting an hour for this child’s parents who were running late, I left in a hurry to get home.
About halfway, feet away from my apartment, I realized I left my backpack at the school lunch tables right in the entrance of the school. About 15k Euro in checks and cash. Obviously doomed, I turned around and ran back not out of hope but rather, desperation and panic.
Fired for sure, maybe not responsible for the checks but for sure the third in paper money. You know, doomed.
I flashed through the entrance and saw my backpack on the table, wide open. Again, doomed.
I go over just to grab the bag.
“At least they left that”
Inside I found every last check and dollar to the cent.
Missing, though, was every lollipop I had. Like 4 bags worth.
I have never been happier with this world than when those kids chose 2 Euros in lollipops over maybe 5k in cash alone.
Not dumb. Just, what do I want? Someone else’s money? or ROOT BEER LOLLIPOPS.
Perhaps this would have happened anywhere I had been in the world. Maybe it isn’t specific to my time in Ireland. But even then, how reassuring to know that kids are kids, wherever you go. Because of that, the experience, the thought, the memory, I am so thankful for being broke in a foreign land.
Alex Brenner – When he is not helping international students as ACEI’s Communications Officer, Alex puts his writing chops to work as a script doctor for Hollywood screenwriters and guest blogs for ACEI-Global. Alex has a BA in English from UCLA and has been fortunate to have travelled to many corners of the world as a child and an adult.