29: Moving to Hong Kong

29: Moving to Hong Kong

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Moving to Hong Kong

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.

~Author Unknown

“I’m ready to change our lives,” I told my husband Dave. “We’ve only got a few years left till we both retire from teaching. Let’s do something exciting.”

Our youngest son was a high school senior enrolled in a study abroad college program for the coming fall.

“We could plan our own overseas adventure,” I suggested. “We’ve never traveled outside of North America.”

I’d just had the two most challenging years of my career. My classes had been packed with nearly forty students, many with severe behavioral challenges. This was the first time in my life I hadn’t looked forward to going to work every morning. I knew Dave was a little disillusioned, too. He’d applied for an administrative position for which he was perfectly suited, but they’d hired someone younger.

“We’re not too old for new jobs,” I said. “We’re talented and experienced.”

The next month, I saw an advertisement posted by an international school in Hong Kong. “Should we apply?” I asked Dave.

“Let’s go for it,” he said.

I emailed our résumés. Around 2 A.M. we were jolted out of our sleep by the phone ringing.

“I’m calling from Hong Kong,” said an administrative assistant. She’d forgotten about the time difference with Canada and wanted to know if we’d be prepared to do a phone interview with the school headmaster.

We had a lengthy middle-of-the-night conversation right then. “We’d appreciate you signing contracts within two weeks,” the headmaster requested at the end of it.

“I’m so excited I’ll never fall back to sleep,” I said to Dave. “We’ll be moving to one of the biggest cities in the world,” he said, “and I’ve heard it’s easy and cheap to travel to lots of places from Hong Kong.”

“Will most people speak Mandarin or Cantonese?” I wondered. “Just think of the interesting new things we’ll get to teach. And our students and colleagues will come from so many different countries. Doesn’t it seem too good to be true?”

It was. One month later, the SARS epidemic hit Hong Kong.

“What are we going to do?” I asked Dave. “The news reports sound so scary and they’ve closed all the schools.”

“I talked to our Hong Kong headmaster today,” he said. “Some teachers they hired for next year have broken their contracts. He hopes we won’t.”

“But do you think we should?” I wondered. “Everyone keeps asking me if we still plan to go. My parents are worried.”

“Mine are, too,” admitted Dave, “and someone at work today told me we were just plain stupid to go to Hong Kong in the middle of a deadly epidemic.”

I was practical. “We really can’t turn back now. We’ve already rented out our house and resigned from our jobs here. We’ll just have to hope the schools in Hong Kong reopen in time.”

We stuck to our plan. The SARS epidemic was over before we left Canada to live and work in Hong Kong. During our school holidays, we traveled to nearly fifty fascinating destinations. We grew to love the people and places of Hong Kong.

When I’m asked about how the experience changed our lives I say, “We learned we could live happily in a small apartment with few possessions. We managed without a car, walked many miles, ate healthy Asian cuisine and got into terrific shape. Dave and I grew closer, because without our extended families nearby we had to depend on each other. Our children were able to visit several times and we had some great family adventures in Asia together. Teaching our hardworking and gifted Hong Kong students turned out to be the most rewarding professional experience of our careers.”

We are retired and back home in Canada now. Our years in Hong Kong enriched our lives and expanded our horizons immeasurably.

~MaryLou Driedger

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