After the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election, some friends have asked me how I escaped America, just a year ago to teach abroad, only to return again to experience this abrupt shift in ethics and values.
In 2014, I was still living in Portland, Ore., a small city known to many through the television show Portlandia's hit singles, "The Dream of the 90s" and its prequel, "The Dream of the 1890s". Portland's quirky attitude and DIY sensibility were national news, and hordes of folks wanted to tap into that creative root. But the things that set Portland of the 2000s apart, which Portlandia was based upon, would slowly die on the vine as investors looked to capitalize on this trending market.
The city was on the verge of a major population boom with costs of houses and rentals skyrocketing, and an impending displacement of an already growing homeless population, which seemed to double or triple following the cost hikes.
As I watched friends and read about others moving away from a city we all loved for its social acceptance of day-drinking, lively literary scene, abundance of James Beard award-winning restaurants, vegan strip club options, beer and cider breweries, and robust music scene, because a new socio-economic class voraciously consumed occupancies, creating unfathomable bidding wars and subsequently diluting the city of its Portlandian charm.
Portland, Ore. has never been a static place. Cultures and ideas changed from decade to decade. This, for many, was part of its appeal. For me, it was no longer the city that I moved to in 2008, which made for an easy exit to see the world. I quit my jobs as an adjunct instructor at two local colleges, and accepted a teaching position at a language center in Tokyo, Japan—a year-long contract. During this year I was promoted from teacher to principal; traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Belgium, Slovenia, and Germany; learned how to mostly successfully navigate a city of 38 million people; and understood the importance of being a quieter, calmer, and more respectful person. In short, it was a magical year.
In September, I returned to Portland—hopeful. But during these past fews week, the bad news has seemed endless. Today, I was asked again:
Hi Craig, I'm sure you're getting lots of these questions after the election, but how did you find your position in Japan? I have a few friends looking to leave USA and teach abroad. Thanks!
So how did I escape and what advice would I tell myself a year ago? Over the next few posts, I will recount my experience of finding a job overseas and answer any questions that I can (so send them to firstname.lastname@example.org).
I realize for many this no longer feels like an America Dream but a Nightmare. If you need a year to reset, time abroad might be your solution. Sadly, the Internet is not entirely to blame.