It’s coming to a close, this chapter. I began boxing up our things this morning; I slowly prioritised our wedding decorations and the Christmas decorations I totally forgot to put out this year, making them into small packages for a life on the move. Again.
I’ve written that phrase more in the last four years than anyone else I know. I’m moving abroad. Again. In February, which seems to be my month of international transition. Again. To a different continent. Again. I have no idea where I will be physically in three month’s time, much less six months or next Christmas. Again.
This time is the same, and it is different. We’re in the process to move to China. To teach. This time, it’s ‘we.’ My new husband and I are in the process, gathering bizzarely-phrased visa documents and wading through the abject tedium of a TEFL course.
As long as we don’t get cholera from our water here in east East London, we’re golden. I’ll be sure to wear my pomander on my petticoat to ward off The Plague as well.
The transition is opaque this time. More opaque than usual, for me. By this time four years ago, I had known for more than a month and a half that I would be leaving for Chile in February 2011.
I knew what was coming, and I didn’t. The adventure in Patagonia was distant, but the flight was booked. A clear date (I thought; as it turned out the flight had to be delayed for an eardrum-puncturing infection that cost $450 and made me arrive in Santiago February 25th instead. The incredible mishaps of my flight to South America here.) I had at least the illusion of clarity about my move abroad. I didn’t know which region of Chile I’d be in, but I’d requested Magallanes. I had an idea.
In 2011, it was the same deal.
Hah. I just realised I misspelled my future hometown in Korea. It’s Suwon, not ‘Sewon.’ I knew it would be February. I knew where I would be. I even knew my school’s name. It is difficult to Google things in South Korea, but I had a general idea where I’d be.
The transition was long to Korea. I left on one day and arrived two days later over the International Date Line. I endured chintzy magic tricks from the flight crew on Asiana Air Lines in that hour where the tenuous grip on reality slips closest to breaking…hour 13 on a trans-Pacific flight. I got in a cab in the freezing Korean winter with four other newbs, two of whom had never set foot in another country before. We set out for Suwon, across Seoul’s impressive girth. I later found out that a bus drops travellers off directly outside my school in Yeongtong. What I would’ve given to not be jet-lagged, lost, and full of pee after four hours of carsickness when I met my coworkers and students.
But I knew where I would be. The next year, I knew where we would be in three month’s time.
We were heading away from Korea, into India. And I knew that in the end of 2013 I’d be somewhere, doing graduate school things. I knew that it would be a year of moving around and having no fixed place to call ours and living on three continents (four? India sure felt like a separate world, much less tectonic cluster).
And this year? No idea. There are less than three weeks until we have to move out of our tiny front room of a studio apartment. The date my visa expires is rather abruptly in the calendar I keep online. It’s been there for more than a year…waiting for this sudden transition.
Tomorrow at midnight, 2014 will be the past. This transition is coming. It’s practically here.
We haven’t bought a ticket. Even to leave the country. We haven’t a clue where we will be, although there is some vague indication that it might be the southern part of China. Shenzhen, maybe. But we’re not really sure. No way of knowing what our living situation might be, what city we might be in, or even if Russell can process his visa in the US or not. No indication of when we will go to China except maybe mid-late February. If we go at all. We have a vague Plan C: Get to Vietnam and meet in Ho Chi Min City.
The illusion of certainty was a lot stronger in 2010, 2011, and 2012. But it was just that…an illusion. Nothing could have prepared me for what adventures lay ahead in Chile, Korea, India, and England. I clung to the idea that by having a booked flight and a general idea of what I’d be doing, I’d figured it all out. I was able to be comfortable in the false certainty. But once I arrived in each of those places, the illusion faded away.
This time, there is no illusion to begin with. 2015 will bring at least two moves abroad. Again. This is all I need to know.