Almost three years ago, after a dear friend’s wedding, a Japanese friend asked if I would like to join her in this salsa bar in London Bridge. It was this Peruvian place that I had been a couple of times before. It was there I had met the person who would change my life forever. Although it took me another 6 months to realise that.
Living in Tokyo, having been here for two years, my students still ask me how I became an English teacher. Well, let’s start from the very beginning.
Born in Hong Kong, I was sent to a boarding school in North Wales when I was 14. It was a bit of a shock moving from Hong Kong to a seaside retirement town even though I was one of those rare village girls who has never lived in an apartment block. Came UCAS time, undecided about which subject in science I wanted to do, I applied to all the universities that offered the broad natural science course. Cambridge was one of them. “Don’t be ridiculous!” I said to mum when she encouraged me to apply there. To this day, I still think I was very lucky to have made it. Perhaps it was a cultural diversity quota thing? I still remembered that grey winter day I went for my interview. I saw the others, a few of them, were accompanied by their mums. It was not until that moment that I thought I had gotten pretty far. A village girl from Hong Kong. Not bad! Today I still couldn’t tell if I had heard it right when my professor who interviewed me said to me, ‘See you in October!’
Cambridge was where I had met a lot of my wonderful friends. After that, I was about to start a PhD in Cold Spring Harbour the same year that 9/11 happened. I don’t know how my life would have been liked if I had gone that way. I remembered it was James Watson who surprised me a bit when he just kept on talking about a certain gorgeous Russian tennis star during out little chat. I wasn’t sure if that place was really for me. So London it was and it happened to be where my love was.
I ended up doing a PhD in London on the geneticist’s classic favourite, Drosophila. I had some good and bad time but I gradually realised tackling one problem at a time and for a long time might not be my thing. Some bad things happened. One day, I walked out of the lab and decided never look back. It turned out to be how I had missed the 7/7 London attack as I decided to stay home instead of turning up at the lab not far from where the bus had exploded!
I was in pretty bad states. Depression is a funny thing, you really don’t know it when you are in it. That’s when I started dancing salsa.
I was lucky to get a job in science publishing and for having worked for one of hardest working and fair women I had ever met. Before I took that job, I thought I would never work under another female boss, but she was worth it every bit. Agency work was fun but something was missing in me. I was getting tired of the city.
It was then I had to make the decision to quit and follow my heart. That was how I ended up living in Japan and started my life as a teacher. I never would have imagined how much I would enjoy getting to know my students. But science is always in my heart. I am still the same curious person who always ask too many questions.