Are you prepared to go unexpected places?

You know how it goes: “If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be such and such, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years.”

I know the feeling. Very well. This notion of unexpected outcomes came to the forefront of my mind this week because I found myself saying that above line nearly verbatim. Mine goes like this:

“In 2002, if someone told me that in fifteen years that I would be a drama teacher in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years. I would have thought they were experiencing severe mental delusions.”

You see, in 2002, I was living in Vietnam, teaching English at the college level to Vietnamese students studying to be English teachers. I was a frustrated, wannabee, writer who never wrote. I was immersed in Vietnamese culture and language, and I had even contemplated (for a few seconds) going on for a PHD in Vietnamese history. I had never acted in my life. I had never been involved in any drama productions. The extent of my dramatic experiences involved writing a play which I read to my mother when I was twelve, and writing a couple small skits which were performed in some low-key settings. Oh, I did act as Forrest Gump in a skit, so I take that acting bit back.

But I had nothing in my background that would have indicated that I was destined to be a drama teacher.

And I had nothing in my background that indicated that I would ever end up in Saudi Arabia.

So therefore, the combination of those two–teaching drama in Saudi Arabia–would have seemed too implausible to even ponder.

However, as I sit in Jeddah on the heels of my first week of teaching theatre at the American school, I am quite taken back at the loops and rabbit-chasing trails my life has gone down in the past fifteen years in order to arrive at this point. And to think it all happened because that frustrated writer sitting in Vietnam became inspired by a group of students in Malaysia.

I’ve told this story before, but I still like it. I moved to Malaysia in 2006 to teach history. (Yes, that’s a whole different story of how I suddenly switched from English to history!) As the drama director at the school was leaving, I volunteered to start a drama-writing group where I would collaborate with a group of students and we would write and produce a play for the next school year.

That was the genesis of it all. The interesting point in my mind is this: what was the impetus for me wanting to write and produce a drama with students? I don’t actually know the answer to this. It’s something that just popped in my mind, and instead of dismissing it, which I can’t believe I didn’t, I embraced and proposed it to the school. That was the crucial moment. For some reason, I stepped in to try something that I had never tried before. If I had not jumped in at that moment, I am fairly certain I wouldn’t be teaching drama in Saudi Arabia. If I had not jumped in, someone else would have eventually filled the drama void at our school and I would have sat in the audience enjoying the shows, never fully understanding how much I loved theatre.

I know now that I wasn’t meant to observe theatre. I was meant to create it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The only advice I have as I look back on my journey is that if you get an itch or an urge that you should jump in and try something, don’t delay. You never know where it might lead you. It could make you change careers in mid-stream and send you to far off lands to do things you never would have imagined but now couldn’t ever live without.

Where might you be in 15 years? I hope the answer surprises you.

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Ten Months in the Making: A New Beginning

It was in December 2016 that I accepted an offer to teach drama in Saudi Arabia.

Ten months later, in September of 2017, I am finally set to have my first class. Tomorrow.

This is a huge shift in many ways. I had a terrific position in Malaysia, a position which had few limits on creativity, and that time period fueled my love for writing, my love for drama, my love for all things theatrical.

However, it was time to move on, so when I signed on to this new adventure, I knew there would be a lot of waiting and work in the between time.

Now all of that is over, and like any good thespian, the butterflies are flitting their wings against my insides. Nervousness is a good thing. I teach my students to expect nervousness, to want it, to need it, to embrace it. It signifies change and risk-taking. Before the curtain goes up, you pace around in a death stare, pale-faced, jittery, mumbling lines and vocal exercises in a desperate attempt to keep you focused.

As the moment arises, you step out in character, playing a role, connecting a concept with people. Delving in below the surface and expressing a glimpse of the desires and struggles you went through to get to this point. And the lights crowd the stage, and the magic comes alive.

Acting or teaching acting. There’s not a lot of differences when it comes to preparation and implementation. It’s all smiles from there.

Tomorrow is the day when the curtain rises on my time in Saudi Arabia. I’m ready. Not perfectly prepared. But ready.

And when the students arrive and we start the process of developing our passion for drama, I will finally reach a 10-month goal which, at times, felt like would never come.

I’m excited. On with the show.

Hamas, PA could be next pawns in Saudi-Iranian proxy war. Those Pennsylvanians!

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/04/15/hamas-pa-could-be-next-pawns-in-saudi-iranian-proxy-war/

It seems that the Ayatollah of Iran and the King of Saudi Arabia has chosen an obscure town in Western Pennsylvania as the site of a proxy war between the two regimes.

Hamas, PA – south of Tidioutte on the banks of the Allegheny River, might seem like an unlikely location for the two Middle Eastern nations to take out their frustrations on each other.

But what is little known outside the realm of large OPEC nations is that Hamas, PA is the site of Edward Drake’s original oil well back in 1857 – the one that didn’t work. It was two years before he struck black gold near the small town of Titusville, thus making Western PA (at the time) the crude oil producing capital of the world.

Put into this context, it now looks like Hamas, PA would be the perfect historical location in which to continue the conflict between these staunchly opposed groups – the Sunni Arabs and the Iranian Shiite.

It is not clear exactly how Hamas, PA will be used, though it has been rumored that certain nuclear isotopes left over from the Kerry-Iranian talks might have something to do with it.

People around the Western PA town do not seem to be too concerned with the proxy war. Though the three local Harley Hog owners have pledged their support and help for which ever side pays mercenaries better. A local reporter caught up with the three Harley Hoodlums at the local watering hole. All three were mum on the subject, but one did add, “We know yinz are coming, so we been redin’ up the town in preparation. Even Jed’s been practicing lamb chops on the grill.”

Whether the proxy war leads to long and entangled conflict in Hamas, PA remains to be seen, but the local folk haven’t had this much excitement since last year’s Red Neck Winter Follies.

(Writer’s Note: In the event that the Fox News’ headline was referring to Hamas, the radical Palestinian group, and PA (the Palestinian Authority), rather than Hamas, Pennsylvania, then we apologize for the confusion. UPDATE: The residents of Hamas, PA have requested clarification from Fox News about the intent of their article, but they have yet to reply. Everyone remains at the water hole awaiting word.)