For years I have wanted to study abroad. I yearn to learn to speak a foreign language fluently from the natives, adopt their cultural habits, and become one of the local crowd. I imagine myself chatting with my new neighbors over tea, forming a bond, and proving that not all American travelers fit our boorish reputation. And when I have finally returned home, my new friends will tell everyone about their cool American friend.
Unfortunately, my study abroad days are behind me. But now I can live vicariously through Casey Scieszka’s journal describing her multi-national travels as a young college graduate.
Casey and Steven meet each other in Morocco during a semester abroad. They bond over their love of foreign travel and decide to spend six months teaching English in China after graduation. Now, you might be thinking (and rightly so), “What are they thinking—a year stuck abroad with someone you just met?” But this book has a decidedly playful tone.
In China, Casey and Stephen learn:
• how to live together (and how to enjoy time apart),
• the joys of haggling using a loud voice and lots of hand waving as a substitute for foreign language mastery,
• how to teach English to milk-throwing first graders when you have no plan and no prior experience,
• and much, much more!
Their adventure continues when Casey is awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study religious education in Mali, with a tour of Asia, France, and Morocco on the way. Throughout their travels, Casey journals cultural missteps, small triumphs, and poignant moments with honesty and humor. Hundreds of Steven’s quirky drawings pepper the book, adding comic-book appeal.
While the entire experience sounds pretty fabulous, Casey is honest about the dark moments, too: the weary battle against a mysterious illness that drags on and on; the inevitable strain of isolation on Casey and Steven’s relationship; and the terror of being jailed in a foreign land. But the joyful times far outweigh the miserable ones.
This book definitely helped this armchair tourist satisfy her wanderlust. And I predict it will leave every reader with a spirit of adventure and a longing for the freedom to act on it.