Year In Review Of A Traveling Teacher – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Today is my birthday.

I didn’t know what to write for today’s post. Other than my recent illness and the crisis of faith that came with it, the three weeks of quarantine were quiet and uneventful.

Nothing new presented itself to me to share, neither new adventures nor new lessons.

The week since quarantine ended has been crazy busy. Sure, I planned for the return from quarantine.

However, I’ve found that, no matter how much post-quarantine preparation and planning I do, I can never be quite ready for the madness that’s unleashed when it’s over.

My schedule goes haywire with makeup lessons for my kids on top of my regular lessons. So basically over the last week, my teaching hours have almost doubled.

Of course, as the head teacher for children at my school, I still have administrative work to do.

It doesn’t matter that I’ll have full-time working hours for the next month and a half while makeup lessons last; I still need to get my administrative work done.

Meanwhile, I also need to keep on top of this blog and somehow find work-life balance in the madness.

In summary, I came through the three weeks of quarantine with no inspiration for what to write today.

I thought perhaps I should sit down and reflect on my life. However, I do that at the end of the calendar year. I did it in early December, in fact.

My birthday comes close enough after the start of the year that I felt there was no value to me in doing that exercise again.

But I finally realised that my end-of-year reflections were for future planning purposes – what went well, what didn’t go so well, what I want to accomplish this year and what I need to change or put in place to make that happen.

My birthday reflections were an entirely different exercise. I’ll come to why in a minute.

So what did the last one year of my life look like? What did my birthday reflections turn up? Actually, it turns out that I packed in quite a bit over the past twelve months.

I started off the year with a wonderful outpouring of love from my colleagues at Chochur Muran.

A couple of weeks later, I drove on an ice road for the first time in my life and I went beyond the wall (you’ll get that if you know anything at all about Game of Thrones) to visit the Lena Pillars.

Atop the Lena Pillars in -42°C

In March, I went hiking and tree-kicking at Tekhtyur while others snowboarded.

Looking for a tree to kick in snow halfway to my knees

In April, I went dog sledding for the first time ever and had a whale of a time. I also performed with my old band (I think we’ve disbanded…tee hee!) at a cafe, and received rave reviews.

Dog sledding is an amazing experience!

In May, I marched in my first ever parade and went on two hikes.

I missed the ice breaking on the Lena River on that second hike but I went back a few days later and saw the ice drift, again for the first time ever.

Don’t underestimate the awesome wonder of watching tonnes of ice drift past your feet

June was particularly eventful. I went on my first camping trip in Yakutia, tackled a rope course, attended my first Yhyakh – where I played khomus in public for the first time, incidentally – and spent a week teaching in a village.

Yhyakh opening ceremony selfie

In July, I went on two more camping trips – one here in Yakutia kayaking down on the Amga River, the other hiking around Lake Baikal in southwestern Siberia – and visited an ice field that never melts, even in the middle of a blazing hot summer.

You’ll never regret kayaking and camping in Amga

In August, I completed my second circumnavigation around the world then spent a couple of weeks hopping from Colorado (hail storm, axe throwing, baseball game and two hikes!) to New York to Jamaica.

Sure, it was kind of overcast and drizzly but who knew a hailstorm was coming?

In September, I happily (so happily!) returned to Yakutsk, where I took on a new position at work, and still managed to squeeze in my first ever berry picking trip to the forest (I’ve since made jam with those berries…twice!) plus one last hike before autumn expired.

Oh, thank God! I was so happy to be back!

October was pretty quiet because I fought what I thought was the flu for most of the month; I subsequently realised it may have been a mild case of bronchitis.

I was back in the saddle in November for a weekend in the countryside watching (and helping a little…a very little!) with ice harvesting, exploring a few shallow caves and making snow angels.

I just missed seeing the aurora borealis on that trip. I also made my third television appearance since I moved here.

Ice harvesting is real, people!

December was quiet, too, although I did manage to teach a few phrases of basic patois to some of my colleagues and I helped choreograph a reggae dance performance (my first time choreographing anything!) for our company’s Christmas and New Year’s party.

Our team totally won the New Year’s party competition. I mean, we spoke patois and had matching shirts!

Finally, I ended December and started January in the middle of a dream: the fulfillment of my yearlong desire to visit the coldest inhabited place on Earth during the winter. Not only that, but I also rode on a reindeer-drawn sled before that dream was over.

So much joy and gratitude in this moment

In between all of those wonderful experiences, God blessed me with love lessons, too.

I admit, those were hard to swallow. I forced them down nonetheless and ended my year a step or two closer to being able to love the unloveable.

Look at all that! My heart is full thinking back on it all.

This is the stuff that life is made of: precious memories that are worth more than any possession I could buy and any amount of money.

My year overflowed with everyday blessings that I often took for granted; with rich new experiences; with invaluable lessons; and with spiritual growth.

Looking back on it all, despite my stumble during my quarantine illness, I have nothing but gratitude to God.

Four years ago, He rescued me from myself and my bad decisions and since the second He got me out, my life has been overflowing with the richness of joy and happiness.

I pray for more of the same in the twelve months to come.

And those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:10 (NIV)