Teaching Abroad, Violence At Home
This morning, I woke up angry. I woke up angry for a lot of reasons.
I woke up angry because yesterday marked the worst mass shooting in my country's history. I woke up angry because almost 60 people died. Dead. Gone. Their stories are over.
I woke up angry because I feel like my government doesn't do enough to protect its people. Folks over here in the Czech Republic like to describe their government as corrupt. But for most of my adult students, they remember one mass shooting in their 40 year (give or take) long span on this earth. One mass shooting in their lifetime. And eight people died. Their government took care of their safety, and nothing even close has happened since.
Who's government is corrupt here?
I woke up angry because sometimes it's hard waking up knowing that I have to travel around this city. I am technically a traveling teacher, meaning that my students normally stay in their homes and offices and I come to them. Prague has become home for me, but at times it's still incredibly unfamiliar and uncomfortable. This morning, I was feeling the pull to stay inside more than ever. But I have commitments to my students, and I truly do cherish my time with them. This morning was just a bit harder than most.
This was the first time since moving over here that I have felt so much anger. During my freshman year of college, I was pretty angry. I liked saying things like "smash the patriarchy" and I wore a lot more black than I do now.
Nowadays, I don't feel all too much anger. Not to that extent anyway. But today, it was there. The raw emotion of anger that so many of us have sat with at many points in our life was filling my heart and my mind.
This morning, I missed the comfort of home. I texted my boyfriend in a huff saying, "I just want to drive to my parent's house, lay on their couch, and cuddle with my dog." He responded, "Rough day? Or are you just tired?" All of it, man. The worst mass shooting in United States' history just happened. Tom Petty died. It's cold, it's rainy, and at that moment, I just wanted to be at home.
Alas, I left my apartment and began my long day of commuting to different homes and offices. My first lesson was with a new family that I recently started working with. A three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy, a beautiful flat, and two loving parents.
As I was walking to their house in the pouring rain after traveling on both a tram and a train, I told myself that I needed to calm down. Kids can detect this type of negative energy and it wasn't fair to bring my personal feelings, no matter how hidden I kept them, into their day.
So there I was, walking in the rain, taking deep breaths, and telling myself to let the anger go. At least for the next hour.
So I did. When I walked in their home, I was greeted by the world's happiest three-year-old who was pretending to be a mermaid, and by the silliest one-year-old wobbling towards me with the biggest smile on his face. I played with the kids and spoke to them in English while the mom made lunch. She offered me puréed vegetable soup and the three-year-old, excited to have a guest for lunch, generously sprinkled on multiple different toppings for me. The four of us sat at their kitchen table and repeated words like "fork", "knife", "carrot", "potato". If I told you that that moment is what turned my day from angry and upset to humbled and grateful, would you believe me?
I was having such a nice time, eating homemade food, chatting with these kids and their kind mom, and feeling my heart skip a beat and my eyes light up every time they understood a word in English.
My day turned around after that because that's how life goes. You wake up angry that an American pulled a gun on 20,000 people, but then you float through the day and you gain gratitude for the small blessings the Universe has lined up for you, while all the while not letting go of the sadness from those delicate lives lost.
I left their warm home feeling calm. I carried on to my next job, with an hour and ten minute commute ahead of me. In this lesson with a middle-aged man, sitting in his very nice office, we discussed gun control. We discussed gun control in the Czech Republic, and we discussed gun control in the United States. We discussed laws and policies and regulations. We discussed how these shootings affect each of us.
I left that lesson feeling a lot of ways: bummed that this is even a topic of conversation; however, grateful that I can sit in an office with a man who I only met a few weeks ago who speaks a completely different language than me on a daily basis, and the two of us talk about how we were both feeling, as an American and as a Czech, as a man and as a woman, as an established career man and as a just-out-of-college-decided-to-move-to-a-foreign-country woman, in the wake of these attacks on humanity.
These are the moments that fulfill my life over here. These are the moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life, when I am older and wiser and established in a career, and my young, free-spirited days of living abroad are over. On the days where I feel that I have lost so much faith in humanity, these people from a completely different culture and lifestyle pick me up and give me a breath of fresh air. Each of these humans, aged one-years-old to forty-something years old did this for me today without even realizing it. For them, it was their bi-weekly English lesson. But for me, my entire day shifted. I am grateful.
Now, as I end this post, I want to say a few words about gun violence. As you can see it is heavy on my heart. Being abroad and having these horrific events happen at home is so tough. My best friend, who is living in Amman, Jordan, texted me this morning and said, "Hearing about Las Vegas from across the world is so strange. America, man." I agree Cass, it is so strange.
It's a different feeling than hearing this type of news at home. I feel distanced, yet so much more invested and passionate. I am responsible for explaining this to those who don't understand. I am the American they ask their questions to. Around here, I am surrounded by people who grew up much differently than me. They didn't grow up with the fear of a mass shooting in public. There were no Columbine shootings, Sandy Hook shootings, Virginia Tech shootings, Charleston church shootings, no - there was none of that in their childhood. Hearing about shootings is perplexing to people in the Czech Republic, as well as to my roommate from Scotland. There have been horrific happenings in Europe, but to shoot someone, and to easily, legally obtain the weapons to so readily do it, is the most bizarre concept for these people. And I get it. Because, I feel the same way. I will not get into politics, not today in this post, at least. But I will say this: when there has been a hazard to Americans at anytime in the past, we change policy. A fire happens? We enforce stricter fire code. A bombing on an airplane happens? Extra security is enforced in the airports and we take our shoes off, our belts off, our jewelry off, all to ensure our safety. Shootings in the U.S. have been happening for years, and now more than ever is the time to discuss how to make them stop. The number of deaths is getting out of hand.
This time around, no one I love was involved. My greatest fear is that change doesn't happen soon enough, and my life is altered forever because of the stubbornness and lobbying of a corrupt, money-hungry government.
I understand this post was a lot. But this is traveling. This is my life abroad. This is being an American expat in the wake of the rest of the world questioning the integrity and policies of my nation back home. This is the reality of it all. I hope you all understand my ranting and my story. I hope something in you is inspired to initiate change in gun policy before it is too late.
Light and love to each of you, truly. Even if you sat here and rolled your eyes through this entire post, I still send you a lot of love and light. No matter your opinion on how this world can become a better and safer place, I know in the end you are making your decisions based out of love. Somehow, somewhere. And that is enough for me.