I have always wanted to travel internationally. The cultures, ethnic food, and historical locations have been a magnet drawing the vane of my imagination since I can remember. Once, back in college, I was this close to spending a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland. Through a series of unfortunate events, my passport was packed away in a keepsake box, and a few years later I entered the field of education and worked to open up worlds of possibilities for my students through teaching literature. Looking back now, it seems almost serendipitous that I would find myself drawn to San Antonio, AFIA, and the chance to dig out that old passport and dust it off.
We had been gathered together by Mr. Rockstroh sometime in late November. It was the holiday season for the school, and there were quite a few announcements that needed to be made. Admittedly, my mind was wandering towards lessons and planning and grading, as it’s wont to do, when something stuck. “We’re sending one facilitator and one student to Amsterdam to participate in programs with the Anne Frank House. How cool is that?” How cool indeed! Immediately, the fire of memory and expectation sparked inside me.
Reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, the prose Anne wrote that elicited such youthful earnestness and a timeless evocation of wisdom and worldly understanding spoke to me and helped me find an escape during a time when I struggled with self-identity and angst. The beauty of the diary’s words helped me to see the beauty in the world, in myself. Now, as an adult, Mr. Rockstroh’s announcement sparked the desire for the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and to learn in order to bring that beauty back and use it as a mirror for my students to look into to see their beauty and potential.
The decision wouldn’t be made quickly, but we would be receiving information to follow. An anxious Christmas break ensued and a return to classes in January was full of anxiety as I waited to hear how the facilitator would be selected to attend. The application and selection process had commenced for the student, but still no word had been given on the facilitator selection. I checked my email messages every day and casually inquired about it in passing conversation as I didn’t want to pester or seem overly eager. Then one morning my email dinged “Facilitator Application – Amsterdam Trip” from Dr. Etienne. Without hesitation I opened it and devoured the contents. We would be writing an essay explaining why we would like to attend. I both simultaneously groaned and cheered.
There are three internal voices that speak up when I really want for something: the “I’m going to get it no matter what” competitor’s voice that makes me seem too ambitious at times; the “I am not good enough to make this happen so why should I even try for it” self-conscious voice that talks me out of achieving as much as I could; and the “Carrie, don’t listen to either of them – just do your best and speak from your heart” voice that echoes the soft intonation and kind encouragement of my mom. Ultimately, I listened to my heart because you can never go wrong making that decision.
So now, I am a week away from stepping on a plane that will whisk me across the world to Amsterdam, to exploration, to growth, to discovery. In the days to come I will have to pack, unpack, and evaluate everything: clothes, preconceptions, learning, language, emotion, and things I can’t even think of yet. I don’t know how to feel except as a bundle of excitement and hope. I am the proverbial wide-eyed and slack-jawed child staring at presents wrapped in the colors of joy, reflecting back the twinkling lights of promise, and I am beyond thrilled to bring you along on this journey.