Beep. Bobeep. Beep. Bobeep.
The sound of Skype ringing yanked me from sleep. I scrambled out of bed, disturbing A unintentionally, and ran to the next room.
My little brother’s pixelated face materialized on the screen. He grinned at my sleep tousled hair and bewildered look.
“Did I just wake you up?”
I nodded, still looking for my voice.
He laughed. “Sleepy head, I’ve been up for an hour and a half already!”
Who is this person, I thought, and since when did my little brother get up so early?
Since he moved to the remote island of Chuuk, Micronesia, that’s when.
Words started flowing between us, interrupted and overlapped by the slow internet connection, but nothing could decrease the excitement of hearing about his new life and perspectives on his first time living abroad. It’d been over two months since I’d last seen B on Skype and almost as long since I’d heard his voice. He looked and sounded good. Better than good. This person before me had become more mature, more confident than I remembered, and happier, if that was possible. B has always been one of the happiest people I have ever known, and life on the tiny island seems to be adding to that.
“Everything is just go with the flow here,” he said. “So, we just really can’t stress about anything. If something works, great. If not, well we figure out something else to do.”
Some days, he says, the printer works and he can print off materials for his classes. Some mornings he has internet and water pressure, some mornings he has neither. Some days his students make it to Chuuk from the even more remote islands. And some days, they don’t. It’s day to day for him, and that works just fine.
We swapped stories about teaching adventures and differences in schools compared to our own schooling before our thoughts turn homeward.
“I tried to call Mum,” he said, “but, she didn’t answer.”
“She’s in Nebraska for Labor Day,” I said.
Since moving to Micronesia, B has become quite the communicator. My mum often jokes that she talks to him more now that he lives half a world away than when he lived just across town. I think this might be true, simply because he has more time and less to do on Chuuk.
“Ahh,” he said. “Well, I’m glad we get to talk.”
As we chatted. I couldn’t help but think about my mum. The day B flew out for his adventure Mum wrote on Facebook, with much joking, that she must have done something wrong (totally not true!) because now both of her children live half a world away. Truthfully, both B and I are abroad because it seemed like to normal, natural thing to do upon finishing college. It is what Mum did right after finishing university. She lived in Morocco for two years doing Peace Corps and we grew up listening to her stories. Now we have both followed in her footsteps, only we all took different paths to get there.
As my brother and I said goodbye and made plans to talk again before I leave Korea, I couldn’t help but be proud of the person he has become. I miss him dearly and will miss him so much when I return to the US a full eight months before he does, but he is taking a path that will change his whole life forever. His life on Chuuk will be hard and frustrating at times, to be sure, but the experiences he will take away from Chuuk will end up being the stories he tells his children and the tales that inspire them to see the world, much as Mum inspired us.