Our first year on the field, we lived in Southern China and had the privilege of interacting with Chinese college students who also happen to be some of the world’s most amazing humans. I can still see my class full of English majors sitting in class eagerly soaking up their time with me, their favorite (and only) foreign teacher.
Knitting was a popular pastime with the girls, and they would keep their hands busy and warm during class by constantly working on their latest project. Since the outdoor temperature hovered around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and we did not have the luxury of indoor heat, I’m still not sure if the knitting was a hobby or a necessity. Perhaps it was both!
Anyway, I decided it looked like a worthwhile pursuit and joined in. A student accompanied me to the market to buy yarn and knitting needles and I began my new scarf! I spent countless hours on it, but in the end, it looked more like an oblong doll blanket than a scarf anyone would actually wear.
Not being one to easily admit defeat, I decided to try my hand at crochet a few years later. That little yarn project ended just as poorly. Every time I picked up my project, my throat started hurting and my nose started running. It took me until halfway through the baby blanket I was carefully knotting into existence to figure out I was allergic to the yarn I had purchased in the market. Combine the allergy with the weird numbness accumulating in my fingers when I held the crochet needle for too long and my second attempt at a crafty, yet productive hobby failed as well!
Finding a hobby on the field can be a major challenge, unless you live in Southern China and you’re blessed with uncanny knitting skills. For the rest of us, we might have to flounder around a bit until we land on something that works. Eventually, after finding joy in creating homemade birthday cakes for my kids and surprising my teammates with fresh baked goodies, I found that baking served as both an entertaining distraction and a welcome challenge. Hunting for ingredients was part of the fun, as well as giving local friends lessons on how to bake cookies.
Although I would never claim to be that great at it, photography gradually became a hobby as well. It started as a way to take note of my surroundings as I explored a new neighborhood in the city, but I discovered I enjoyed the hunt for the perfect shot.
After I gave birth to my second child far away from familiar and available American professional photography, I realized I needed to hone my skills so I could capture all the beautiful moments of baby’s first year. It’s fun to see how much I improved from that realization to four years later when my daughter was born. I treasure the hundreds of baby photos I captured of her throughout her first year of life.
I shy away from calling baking or photography my hobbies because I’m not really that great at either. I dabble for fun and take joy in my humble creations. My current season of being a working mom with three kids involved in extracurricular activities leaves me little time or energy for either of the hobbies that granted me an escape during my time as a stay-at-home mom, but I’m thankful I created so many fun memories for myself and my kids when I had the chance. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll try my hand at knitting again!
Are you a skilled professional or a happy dabbler when it comes to your hobby? Have you had any luck experimenting with a new skill or craft since you’ve moved overseas? Is there a hobby you wish you could try your hand at? Share with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!