I moved to China!
Long time, no post. A little has changed, I am writing this from my bed, in the 2-bed flat I live in, on the 26th floor of a building, just outside a little community where I teach called Yihai, in Fengtai district, Beijing.
Last time I wrote I was working as a chef in the midlands of England, a lot has changed since then. Whilst I was in Ecuador in 2012 staying at a really cool veggie eco-community (find out more here and here), I met another volunteer called Marion. Fast forward to the end of last June, and she posted on Facebook she had accepted a teaching job in China, but had to drop out, and they needed a replacement asap. I sent her an email, skyped China, and within 5 days of hearing about the job I’d accepted it. On August 30th I left London Gatwick on a new adventure to Asia, a previously unexplored continent to me.
Two and a bit months later, and I have learnt a lot. I’m rather ashamed to admit I knew very little about China when I accepted the job, and not much more when I arrived here. The weeks running up to leaving England were manic, I had previously arranged holidays and people to say goodbye to and most importantly my best friend got married two days before my flight, I went straight from her house to the airport. But, I just about fitted it all in, didn’t forget anything too vital and made it to China in one piece.
I am an English teacher here. I work at a primary school in the south-west of Beijing, and live in a flat just 15 minutes away. At the school there are 9 other ESL teachers, some part-time, I live with one, the incredible Jayne. All-in-all, they keep me sane and are making this trip 100x better. I mainly teach Grade 4, 9-10 year olds, and have 230 or so who I see for 3 1-hour lessons a week, then 2 evenings a week I teach 2-hour Kindy classes, where the children are 5 years old.
I am slowly learning to love China, that’s not to say I didn’t like it at first, because I did. Maybe it was the lack of knowledge before I left, or maybe the culture was just a little bit more different, but I didn’t fall in love with it on arrival, like I did with Ecuador and Canada. But as I explore Beijing more, and plan future trips around the country, I’m looking forward to learning more about this great, cultured, stunningly beautiful country.
Teaching however, I am already in love with. My Mum is a teacher and has been since I was 7, I decided not long after she became a teacher I wanted to be one too, but over time I lost that dream, and decided of all careers teaching was the least appealing to me. I don’t know exactly why, I guess the rose-tinted glasses were firmly pulled from my grasp – I realised the evenings are spent marking, the weekends planning and the oh-so-fabulous long holidays are spent back in school preparing for the next term, or next year. Maybe that isn’t the case with every teacher, but it was for my Mum, and I knew she wouldn’t settle for anything but the best. A trait I seem to have inherited. Make no mistakes, I took this job to travel, I couldn’t afford to travel but I yearned to explore a new country, a new city so much I couldn’t focus on anything back in England. So I took a teaching job – just for the travel.
Teaching has become my favourite part of this trip. This is the first time I’ve had a job I don’t dread going to – that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed previous jobs, but not like this. The kids are teach are just amazing, they are so funny and eager to learn and kind to one another and ridiculously cute. Before each class begins they are teaching me Chinese (I’ve recently mastered 1-10!), they ask me questions about my life in England and hang onto every word of the reply, they laugh at me in the lunch hall because I hold my chopsticks too close to the food, meaning I’m not very wise, and they soak up knowledge like sponges, making my job so much easier. I may not have fallen in love with China yet, but I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the children I teach, and with teaching itself.
Besides the obvious chop-stick problems, being in China as a vegan, even a vegetarian, hasn’t been without it’s problems, more about that coming very soon.
But for now, a picture of me on National Day, one of the most important days in the Chinese calendar. Another teacher, Toni, and I planned the perfect day trip to a park with some rides and lots to see and do. Unfortunately the rides were shut, it was raining, desserted and smelt very strongly of sewage, but we still have a great time! Toni hadn’t used a film camera for about a decade, and never a SLR, but I wanted to capture me on the day so I passed my 35mm over and I think she did a pretty good job!