Last week, at lunch, a friend of mine asked a questioned in a way that no one else had, despite months of planning, saving, and talking about it.
I wish I had a good answer for her, but the truth is that I’m not sure what attracted me to China. I’m not of Chinese descent, nor have I ever studied the language or the culture before last year. I wasn’t even one of those kids that was obsessed with Kung-Fu movies when I was young. And yet, there is something inexplicable that has drawn me towards it.
I can’t even remember how I learned that teaching English in China was an option. All I remember is one day stumbling upon a TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) website with job offers in China. I looked through job after job with excited butterflies in my stomach imagining how much fun it would be. But it was just an idea (a far-fetched one at that), and the excitement was the same type you have when you imagine you just won the lottery.
After all, if I was being realistic there are many reasons why we could NEVER move to China:
- We own a house
- We have 2 cats
- We have student loans and other regular bills to pay
- We can barely afford taking 2 weeks off, how could we take off 6-months or even a year?
Of course, I didn’t always think like this. When I was younger I prided myself on being one of those people who could sell everything I owned, hop on a plane and trust that I would end up somewhere great. I did a fair bit of traveling during and after college and (older) people would inevitable say, “It’s good you’re doing it now when you’re young and free.” I remember thinking at that time that they were lame and traveling was so easy ANYONE could do it at ANYTIME.
But now I’m 33, and I’ve lived in the same town for 9 years, I realize that it is much harder than it used to be. It’s like my feet have slowly been sinking into mud over the years and it gets harder and harder to pull them out. The mud is my possessions and my comfy life mixed with excuses and societies notions of growing older and ‘getting a real job.’ That is some sticky, messy mud that’s hard to drag yourself out of.
But Pandora’s box had been opened and we all know it can never be closed. In a vain attempt to distract myself I started taking weekend Mandarin language classes (which only ended up fueling my desire more) and then I stumbled upon a 10-day Beijing and Shanghai trip that was priced too good to pass up. ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘I’ll go to China for 10 days and then I’ll get it out of my system and forget the whole thing.’
The trip just whet our appetite for more (figuratively and literally; we loved the food), and soon after coming back we made a definite decision: we were going to move to China to teach English.
It started over 2 years ago, and now, here we are, only 2 months away from our departure. It sounds so neat and tidy when I say it like that, and yet, it never had been. (I’ll describe some of our obstacles in later blog posts.)
So Why China?