TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome to Gareth, a remarkable teacher-traveler from Boston who has taught for extended periods in Latin America and now with the Peace Corps in China!
Gareth, tell us about your background.
Gareth: My name is Gareth Lindwall and I became a teacher during a year abroad volunteer gig in Honduras. When I returned, I worked as a Kindergarten teacher in a two-way English-Spanish immersion school in Boston for several years, and after earning a Masters in Teaching, became an ELL (English Language Learners) teacher in Newton. I’m 34 and I love to immerse myself in new cultures and subcultures. I joined the Peace Corps and will live in China for the next two years.
TT: Amazing! Tell us more about your travels.
G: One summer I found a volunteer teaching position on Craigslist (of all places!) at a school in Chimbote, Peru. Then I decided I wanted to try to make my summers more lucrative so I signed up for TEFL certification course San Jose, Costa Rica. I love studying Spanish so I did a homestay and attended classes in Antigua, Guatemala and Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
With my family (and I mean my WHOLE family) I have also traveled to Dublin and Gallway in Ireland, as well as British Colombia, Canada.
My mother’s best friend is very active in a non-profit group in El Salvador; during two winter vacations I have gone south and worked with local teachers and students. My best friend from college married a man she met while studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, so I’ve visited them there as well.
TT: So inspirational how you’ve delved so deeply into so many parts of the world. How did you find your current Peace Corps stint in China?
G: The Peace Corps is currently in 77 countries with about 8,600 volunteers, and the China program specifically is currently growing rapidly. It is open to USA citizens over the age of 18 who (this is based on their three goals) want an opportunity to help developing countries meet their need for trained men and women, want to increase understanding of Americans on the part of others, and increase the American understanding of others.
TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?
G: I have a mortgage. I saved up a $3000 “nest egg” for my condo from my teaching salary (I’m single so this is much easier for me), then I found an incredible property management company to look after my condo after renting it out on Craigslist. My parents always impressed upon me ‘living within my means’ so I thankfully have no credit card debt. The Peace Corps takes care of the rest: student loan deferment, health insurance, round trip flight, monthly living allowance, and resettlement allowance.
TT: Impressive! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
G: It was still the beginning of the school year when I had a very powerful conversation that felt like it picked me up by the ankles, shook me up and down, and plopped me back on the ground: I was personally thanked for the atomic bomb. Yikes! The ‘thanker’ was a Chinese person who attributed the end of the WWII Japanese occupation of China to the US bombing of Japan. Since that conversation I have always maintained an awareness that relations between Japan and China are disharmonic in certain aspects and that I’m living in a collectivist society where the line between individual and group is draw quite differently than in the USA.
TT: What a powerful story. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your career in general?
G: I study Mandarin in China. It’s a language that no one in my Chinese hometown actually speaks except my tutor when she is teaching me. The people around me speak a local dialect referred to as Chongqinghua: “Chongqing speech.” This has given me profound respect for my students who have to learn Standard Edited American English who speak Spanish as home and listen to Ebonics on the street.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
G: Travel makes me happy. I’m a happy person because I’m living my dream of teaching and traveling around the world. My everyday life is full of little adventures, and misadventures!
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
G: Dream up your impossible dream-– really go all out. Then tell EVERYONE you know about your dream. People will come out of the woodwork to help you.
TT: Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story with us, Gareth! Readers, what questions and comments do you have for Gareth? Do stop by her sparkling new blog, “Cultural Chimes,” for fascinating insights on education and life in China.