“I believe that life is chaotic, a jumble of accidents, ambitions, misconceptions, bold intentions, lazy happenstances, and unintended consequences, yet I also believe that there are connections that illuminate our world, revealing its endless mystery and wonder.” – David Moranis
This week, I’m frantically trying to finish a few papers for the end of the first year in the Masters Program but writing this blog post is also on the top of my to-do-list. It’s a special post for my incredibly special weekend in San Diego. There are three separate parts to this story in which I will explain further.
About 6 months ago, I went to Santa Barbara for a quidditch tournament. The night before the tournament, I headed out to by myself to have a relaxing night of reading and for dinner. If you’re a frequent follower of my adventures, you may remember this post as The Layover in Santa Barbara from my post in November. You may want to read that first before continuing on in this post. If not, I’ll give you a short recap:
During dinner that night, a wonderful couple sitting at the table next to me started up a conversation with me over a cup of cappuccino. They live on a sail boat, and were traveling from the North to their final destination- Mexico. Three hours of incredible conversations later, we exchanged contacts and parted ways.
Since then, we’ve been in touch through email here and there but this past week, they reached out and said they were still docked in San Diego! So of course, I had to go see them.
We spent the afternoon on their beautiful boat, Stacy and Robert prepared a delicious healthy lunch and we simply chatted for a few hours. We exchanged travel stories, had discussions about cultures, and were left in awe with the reunion. Boat living is a whole different world, they have a strong community at that specific dock with the people they’ve met on other boats and they’re constantly in touch with other people they’ve met on their journey. I felt honored to be one of the lucky passerby’s they have kept in contact with.
Throughout the afternoon, I gazed out at the skyline of San Diego downtown whilst listening to the music of the oceans waves, and wondered: “how did I get there?”
Later that afternoon, I got in my car and drove to Green Flash Brewing Company for my next adventure for the day. I was meeting with my 6th grade teacher from Hong Kong.
It has been 13 years since I’ve seen my teacher. He was a veteran teacher at HKIS having taught for 18 years. Thankfully, I was his student during his final year in Hong Kong. He was my homeroom as well as science teacher.
Mr. Wetjen has always left a powerful impression in my HKIS education. He was funny, kind, caring, and loving. Middle school is a strange time for most kids- an age in which we were trying to discover our morals, passions and personality in the midst of high social pressures. But I always felt comfortable in Mr. Wetjen’s classroom and I definitely was sad going on to 7th grade knowing that he wouldn’t be around for me to reach out to anymore. Fun Fact: he had two class birds we would see every day. When he left, a close friend and I each took one. I can’t express what my feelings were at that time, but I’m sure I took Kenny- the bird- as a memory to him.
13 years later, after reconnecting on Facebook as many do, and following updates every couple months on our lives- I realized he lived in San Diego! So of course, I had to see him. We spent over three hours conversing, laughing, and reminiscing over delicious craft beers. It was incredibly surreal. He had the same energy and the same curiosity for life as I remembered him to have.
Three hours of chatting and a few beers later, I’m proud to say- we were closing out the brewery for the night. Talking to him now, for obvious reasons, is different than 6th grade Joanne talking to him but I felt just as comfortable as I did in the past. It was like nothing has changed.
I’m one that has always believed in the power of teachers in students lives. I’m in contact with many of my teachers growing up, and I know that throughout our lives, we will see each other again. We spend so much time during our teenage years at school, bringing frustration for our teachers when we don’t listen or don’t finish our homework- and yet, they still come to work day in and day out because they want to see us succeed and grow into influential individuals making a difference in the world.
I know for certain that Mr. Wetjen have left a powerful impact on hundreds of his past students the same way he impacted me. And he continues to do so with his many current students. Those shared connections and experiences from Hong Kong- no matter where we are in the world now, or what we’re doing, will always bring us back together.
Intermission: I stayed in Hostelling International Point Loma in San Diego Saturday night. It was my first time there, and it definitely did not disappoint. Located in a quaint neighborhood, they serve pancakes every morning for breakfast and offer free coffee/tea all day. The hostel is very clean, beds are incredible comfortable, and they even have a hammock for those always necessary lounging moments.
HI-Point Loma was the perfect spot to spend Sunday morning relaxing and writing whilst guests played ping pong (to the left of the photo), some sat by the fire pit (middle of the photo) and read on the hammock (to the right of the photo).
Finally, the last part of my powerful weekend of connections ended with going to a Tahitian family reunion. I have no photos of this particular event but it was a large dinner with more than 30 attendees to celebrate two big birthdays- 40 and 70 years old. I connected with the mother of this big family through my mother a few weeks ago in another family friends wedding. Merely minutes after we met, I was invited to this family reunion because in her words, “I am family now!” A month ago, I had never met anyone from Tahiti- and now I was surrounded by a whole family of individuals who grew up there. To me, that was very special.
Aside from trying to understand French all night, the great food and conversations with all these people I had just met, it was an emotional night for me. The family had four kids, and 8 grandkids- with the 9th on its way in a few months. Being apart of this dinner, watching the kids interact with one another, with their uncles and aunts and family friends- made me emotionally nostalgic for my own extended family in Toronto.
These large dinners can be quite overwhelming and exhausting by the end of the night with the overstimulating of things happening but moreover, it’s incredibly inspiring to witness a family’s love for one another- and for them to extend the same love to someone who they’ve just met – aka me. I only hope that I can build a life and family that will extend the same kindness to the world, a family that will build friendships and relationships on the bases of love.
With that said, I better get back to the grind of finals. For now, I urge you all to step out of your comfort zone, perhaps chat up some strangers next to you at the dinner table or at the bar, reach out to your old teachers- take them out for beers to get to really know them as an individual, and lastly, say yes. Say yes to new adventures, say yes to events even if you don’t know anyone, and say yes if it means building a new connection.