Since the end of August I have found myself in a land so vast and diverse, that from the moment I landed here I couldn’t possibly know what to expect. Here, ancient tradition and modernity collide and often even the most well-travelled of us are left in utter bewilderment on a daily basis. This is not always a bad thing.
I am not here as a tourist, but as a teacher. With this in mind I find myself constantly searching for my home comforts and trying to create a home away from home with Matt. Things that make our lives easier and more convenient at home, simply don’t exist here, which is all part of the adventure we chose to have. But, sometimes it can be hard and frustrating and you feel like screaming. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the time I am so excited to be here and it’s an adventure that I am very happy to share with the person that I love. I have no doubt that when we’re old and grey we’ll look back on this period in our life and smile, and maybe we’ll even miss the craziness of it all! It would be easy to write blog post after blog post about how amazing everything is, but it’s not always amazing, sometimes it’s difficult. This weekend we were visited by two friends from Scotland who are living in Chongqing and are also teachers. It was great to have an honest talk about how we are all coping with this huge culture shock and it was comforting to hear that we are not the only ones who have those ‘China is such a little bitch’ moments.
We left our London lives behind in search of a life with more meaning and adventure. If I am completely honest, I’m not sure I have found teaching at this university all that meaningful. I feel that most of my students don’t really want to be in my class and I feel like I am there just to tick a box. Foreign teacher – check! This is nothing against my students, I think they’re all great and some of them I will really miss when I leave. I have tried not to take their disinterest personally, but sometimes that can be difficult when you try so hard to make your lessons interesting. The problem is they all have so much pressure on them to succeed in their ‘chosen’ subject, constantly being pushed to be better and to study harder, ‘knowledge is power’ and all that. Despite this, I do enjoy teaching and I know that when my time here is finished I would love to teach in a different country as I know it would be a completely different experience to the one I am having in China.
What I have discovered more than anything in my two and a half months living in China is, appreciation. Appreciation for my parents who have encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy and to live the life I want to, whether that’s choosing to study a degree I would enjoy, rather than what opportunities it led to or quitting my job and buying a one way ticket to Argentina or leaving a great job in London and deciding to move to China. I speak to my students here about their dream jobs and what they want to do with their lives, and sadly the majority of them will never get to live their dream, maybe because their parents don’t agree or maybe because it will not provide them a good enough income. It honestly makes me so sad when I see the passion in their eyes for something, something they will probably never get the opportunity to enjoy or do.
Appreciation for my friends who I miss so much. It’s always going to be hard to be half way across the world and not see your friends regularly, something I have done many times before. However, this time it seems particular hard as it’s the year we are all turning 30 and some of us are getting married. Missing out on these special events is hard for me and I hope all my friends know that if I could fly back home for those moments, I would in a heartbeat. I am the only female foreign teacher here and although I am not one for ‘girly chats’ I really appreciate my girls taking time to Skype me, as does Matt, so he doesn’t have to endure too many conversations about whether I should cut my hair or grow it, or the fact I can’t find tampons anywhere in Nanchong.
I hope you don’t read this blog post and think that I am moaning about being here, that is not what I’m doing. I am just being honest. With social media it’s so easy to make out that everything is perfect, and sometimes it’s not. I have absolutely no regrets about coming to China to live, teach and travel. Matt and I have seen some truly spectacular places, met incredible people, overcome the daily challenges of living in China and have become closer because of it.
We have definitely found adventure and we have more to come, and I can’t wait!