So here I am on the eve of the new school year. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already. Where did the time go? I expected to be in China for one year, but for 5?! It boggles the mind.
Of course after such a long time you get accustomed to things. I remember my first semester laughing at “silly” names like Suchun and Super. Now I hear names like Pantheon, Mec and Seven and I don’t even bat an eyelash or think they’re strange until another foreigner brings it up.
5 years ago I was standing in front of my first class, nervous as all hell, with no clue how to teach or what to say. Now I’m confident, know pretty much every student at my school, and have notebooks filled with successful lesson plans.
5 years ago I ate most meals at the cafeteria where you could point to the food. Now I go out and talk to the shop owners, who ask me about my day and my summer, and chat with other friends as I wait for my food. (Or I cook for myself.)
5 years ago, aside from the other foreign teachers, I didn’t have any friends. I spent a lot of time in my apartment with my ex. Now I have friends all over, both foreign and chinese, in Lin’an and other cities, and even on days that I plan to stay in, and not change out of my pajamas, I get dragged outside for something.
5 years ago the little shops seemed dirty, I didn’t know how to get what I wanted and I tried to avoid all the shops except the brightly lit ones. Now I happily slurp down noodles at dingy little shacks because I know they’re the best noodles in town, and I’m not afraid to go to dim cement hovels to buy a bottle of water or pack of gum.
5 years ago we found one place in town that sold pizza. We would make a special trip just to get a few mouthfuls of cheese. Now there are 2 Pizza Huts, but my craving for cheese has diminished and I don’t go there.
5 years. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same as well. I decided a few years ago that this will be my last year in Lin’an. My favorite students will be graduating in June, which is a perfect poetic time for me to leave as well. There is one thing that I love, and it is change. At some point the comforting aspects of “home” begin to stifle me and it’s time to go out and have new experiences in new places. (Ah, the vagabond life of a wanderlust.) And just to clarify, though I’ll be leaving Lin’an, and my school, I’ll be staying in China. I just want to make another corner of this country my home.
So I gotta make this year count. I’ll be setting some goals for myself again this semester (though not a goddamn f^%$*g test) and hopefully I’ll go on some new adventures. I might be ready to leave Lin’an, but I don’t want to leave it with regrets.
Onto year 5!