"OMG! You're doing what?" "That's so cool!" "I've always wanted to do that." "South Korea?" Those are some of the reactions I've gotten when I first told friends and family that I was moving to South Korea to teach English. Now if you know me, you'll probably know and understand why I'm doing this. If you don't know me (or you just want to hear the story), I'd love to tell you all about it.
On December 5, 1999, my mom died of pancreatic cancer. Her death affected me greatly. My parents divorced when I was 5, and I was an only child so we were very close. I started questioning my life. What if I only had one year left to live? What would I be doing differently? The number one thing on my list was traveling to Europe. I had always thought that I would travel once I got married. And then I questioning why I was waiting. What IF I only had a year left to live? Would I be living my life differently? Absolutely. So I decided to wait no more and booked a trip to Europe. That decision changed my life forever.
Once I got started traveling, I became hooked. I have now traveled to more than 40 countries, and I have loved every minute of it. With all this traveling, I really wanted to truly experience what it would be like to live in another country, instead of just being a tourist. I felt God leading me to teach overseas about 10 years ago, and I looked into it but it just never panned out. It wasn't the right timing. It wasn't God's timing. But God never took the desire away, so I just kept it on the back burner of my mind. Also, I was only interested in teaching in Europe. There were many jobs available in Asia, but I did NOT want to teach in Asia. Had no desire whatsoever.
Fast forward to 2010. A friend and I took a trip to China with GEEO. (GEEO is a fabulous travel organization just for teachers. I highly recommend them!) China was like nothing like any other country I had ever been to. While in China, I wasn't sure exactly what to think. It was SO different from Europe and America. So different. We were there for 25 days, and I fell in love with it the longer I was there. The food, the music, the people, the food....oh yes, the food was amazing. Not the Chinese food we eat here in America. After I got home, I grew to miss China more and more which really surprised me. I really wanted to experience other Asian countries, so in 2012 I took 2 more trips with GEEO to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. This trip made me love Asia even more.
Another big thing that happened to me that changed my perspective on life was a major car accident that happened in 2012. I was with a friend, and I was backing out of my driveway in my Mini Cooper. Someone didn't see me backing up and hit my car, which made my car spin around several times. I don't remember any of it. I hit my head and went unconscious. They had to put a neck brace on me and get me out of my car on a backboard through the passenger door window. I woke up in the hospital with a major concussion, not remembering anything. To this day, I still don't remember anything. My car was totaled, and I was out of work for a month. I was lucky. You never know what tomorrow will bring. You never know how many days you have left on this earth.
Enter 2013. Friends of mine suggested that I look into teaching in China. I said I wasn't interested because I have a house and 3 dogs. I would miss my dogs way too much. Well God didn't agree with me. He kept whispering into my ear about teaching overseas. And he kept whispering. One of those friends sent me an email a couple of weeks later about teaching English in China with Disney, saying she knew I wasn't interested but thought she would send it to me anyway. God used those friends and that email to get the ball rolling. With everything that has happened in my life, I really try to "Carpe Diem" and seize the day, truly experiencing everything life has to offer. I did not want to look back on my life with regrets. That's a big thing for me. I think that came from my mom's death and my car accident.
With God's nudging, I started researching different opportunities to teach overseas. There are SO many different options that it gets overwhelming. Many organizations want you to pay up front and go to job fairs around the country, with those jobs only offered as 2-year contracts. I didn't want to leave for 2 years, and I didn't really want to go to a job fair in Cleveland. So I kept researching and eventually found Greenheart Travel, which has different programs including the program I chose - teaching English in South Korea with EPIK. The government in South Korea pays for people to come teach English to the students there since they want all of their children to know English. Now I have not actually traveled to South Korea. I've only been to the Seoul airport, which is extremely nice. I've heard South Korea is wonderful, and they pamper their teachers. I will be happy to be pampered! My studio apartment and my health insurance will be paid for, and I've heard great experiences from other people who have taught with EPIK. I can't wait!
I will be gone for a year, and I know my house and my dogs will be OK. I have a dear friend that I've known since junior high that has stayed in my house and loved on my dogs for the past couple of years when I've traveled. She and her son love my dogs almost as much as I do (she will even call to come see them because she misses them). I feel confident in my decision, and I KNOW that this is all part of God's plan for my life. I know that if I didn't go, then I wouldn't be following God's will for my life. How can I argue with that?
So I still haven't answered the question about the title of my blog, The Elephant Hat. Strange name, I know. When I was considering teaching overseas, I talked to a good friend about it and asked her to pray for me. She has a gift of prophecy and could actually picture me wearing a safari type hat (I actually bought one of those in Vietnam and still have it), taking pictures, and riding an elephant (if you've been to Thailand or anywhere in Asia, you know that it's not surprising to see people riding elephants). After hearing this vision, this was all the confirmation I needed. I knew without a doubt that God was leading, guiding, and directing me in this process. What an amazing feeling to know that I am doing exactly what God is calling me to do! So...when thinking of a name for my blog, a friend came up with the name when I told her about my friend's vision. The name was so unique that it stuck in my mind, and The Elephant Hat was born.
I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me through this amazing journey. I know it will be a year of learning, discovery, adventure, and excitement. I know it will be a year that I will never forget. I hope you will join me in this journey!