WE’RE BACK on the same soil! After little over three months of long-distance communication and separate living spaces I’m more than happy to report that Ian & I are together in Nanjing, finally under one roof. The 32 game CBA season has come to a close (for the Dragons), my long winter break from work has elapsed…the waiting is over. (Ceeelebrate good times, c’mon!) What now, right? It’s a question that has been lingering in the air like smoke after fire. Ian’s employment has ceased, he’s a free man with a small agenda, while I am still signed-on to teach English to 700 easily bored and sleepyhead Chinese freshman.
As much as I’ve enjoyed educating students in China I’m beginning to see clearly the downsides to my employment situation and how, unfortunately, there appear to be more cons than pros. My employer has not treated me kindly, leaving me in the dark without information about my job, and refusing to help me with problems that can easily be solved by the school. I’ve felt isolated on campus, exhaling steam in an unheated classroom during the heart of winter to students who don’t have to try hard; they go through the motions, or sleep, because my class doesn’t affect their GPA. There is no accountability in my job, no supervision, and no direction. My emotional connection to the maritime university is long gone.
I came here with very good intentions to work and make a difference, to challenge myself with teaching, and frankly to have fun. Another reason was to live and learn about the Chinese way of life. It’s been six months, and although that may not seem like a long time to be somewhere new, it feels like much longer. Living in China is not for everyone; it can be a harsh place to call home. I’ve been looking on the bright side of things, even when there is no sunshine through the smog, but sooner or later I was bound to catch a case of the China Blues. The bleak, gray, industrial setting of urban China, the muddy building sites at every intersection, and the lack of personal and social hygiene standards has been weighing heavily on my happiness recently, leaving me in a sad sack frame of mind. I can’t help but cringe when I see people gob on the sidewalks, in restaurants, in my classroom, men urinate openly on the streets in broad daylight, children poo over trash cans in public buildings. I’m elbowed while climbing onto the bus and cut in front of while standing in line on a regular basis.
Yes, this is China, not the U.S. I’m used to seeing unusual and disturbing things and saying to myself “TIC” (or Ian’s latest “MIC”, “Made in China”). We’ve both been taking it all in, slowly adapting, making friends, laughing, smiling, yelling, and grimacing all the while. It’s been an eye-opening and crazy time so far. Nanjing is a great city, don’t get me wrong. But, the question of the hour is clear: shall we stay or shall we go? Life is short, so the saying goes, and this life is OURS to create.
After serious thought, weighing the options of living/working in China or elsewhere in the world, we have decided to (drum roll please…) GO GO GO! We’re leaving Nanjing at the end of the month and heading off on a 4-week adventure around southeast Asia before taking an unexpected trip home in April. Happiness is priority in this picture; it trumps one OK job in China. We’re choosing to travel, soak up some sunshine, and follow our hearts.
Where are we going, you ask? During the month of March, we’ll travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Penang Island (M), Songkhla (Thailand), and Bangkok (T). Our main method of transportation will be chugging down the railroad tracks by train, sometimes even overnight. By day we’ll be touring the sites and beaches, snapping pictures and going at our own pace. By night we’ll be checking out the city life and sleeping in budget friendly hostels (except for a sweet resort deal in KL we got from travelzoo.com). Reconnecting with some friends along the way is also on the to-do list. We’ve never traveled like this together. In the ‘seize the day’ mentality, I see this as an opportunity to take a long vacation that we may never have again. How could we pass it up? Ian’s been carefully scribbling down information on his travel calendar, I’ve been selling/donating our household goods to other expats in the area, and we’ve both begun counting down the days.
The future is uncertain. Depending on many factors, we could be staying in the States or returning to a distant part of the globe. Until then, we’ll be sharing our adventures, challenging the unknown, and growing together wherever the road takes us. On on we go!