Grandpa, is that you? Welcome to Beijing…
Wow, I’ve been here 5 months now and this is my first real post?!?!? That’s unacceptable! I need to do this more often. Per request from my friend, Tor (who openly informed me that she likes to stalk me from time to time;), I’ve decided to put a lil more effort into trying to decipher my overwhelming cogitations and produce something worthwhile to read.
So six years ago, I was studying abroad in Grenoble, France. I blame the time spent here for my xenophile addiction and also for the succeeding choices made. 5 years ago, I was about to graduate from a university in Michigan and it seemed that the world was in the palm of my hands. 4 years ago, I had made my big move to Chicago and was getting used to working full time at a real adult job. Still in Chicago 3 years ago. 2 years ago, I had just moved to Korea to teach English at a public elementary school. A year ago, I returned from having lived my first whole year abroad and I realized how much I loved it. I had experienced so much in one year and left impressions on the people I had met as well as me on them. When I had returned home to Michigan, I didn’t have a chance to readjust to the life I once knew, for my beloved Grandfather was in the hospital fighting for his life. I knew I had made the right choice to return home when I walked into that hospital room after transiting for the past few days and saw the biggest toothless grin from my favorite person in the whole wide world. At one point, when he was still conscious of what was going on, he proudly boasted to the familiar doctor that I had been living and working in Korea for the past year. This had made me so happy. What later was to come, tested each of our patience and strength. The following weeks were some of the hardest of my life. Tears. There were many tears. Tears of frustration, tears of sadness, tears of pain, tears of anger, tears when I thought no more tears could even exist, there’d be a tear. I had spent every day in that gawdforsaken hospital and in the end, a piece of me disappeared along with my Grandfather. Despite how hard it was, I know that he still lives inside me for he had made me the person I am today. I can be grateful for the fact that my family grew closer than ever. At that time, I had broken down so much, that only could I rebuild myself, now stronger. Anyways, this isn’t supposed to be a sob story, for he is totally fine now… he is frolicking in fluffy green pastures barefoot with Grandmother.
It does make it harder to be here in China, since this is where my family is originally from. Some days when my heart aches the most, I swear, I see my Grandfather everywhere. Any old, wrinkly, handsome Chinese man I see, I must do a double take and even then, my heart sinks a little.
Contrarily, arriving in China has been easier than arriving in Korea. Despite always getting asked if I’m Korean, I’ve been so lucky from the start. I moved here having automatic friends. Our company placed their newly arrived foreign staff together in one apartment and we got to know each other rather quickly. My best friend here, Lauran, sleeps in the room over. She’s from England and has been a great friend and roommate so far. Also having bi-monthly foreign teacher meetings at the headquarters gives us a chance to meet and socialize with the other 30some foreigners. Everyone that I’ve met has only been overly sweet and welcoming. In Korea, I got plopped in a small village, 1.5 hours north of Seoul near the DMZ and from what I could tell, there were no other foreigners within an hour radius and I hated Korean food. Granted, things changed for the better but it was a rough first couple months. I eventually came to love Korean food and with time, found some amazing friends. I started to do more and do Seoul more and travel more. Now, when I think of Korea, it only makes my heart warm and tingly.
My experience in China has already been so different from Korea. I was accustomed to Chinese food even before I came; I’m living in the city as opposed to a village; I’ve been taking Mandarin classes so I can communicate way better than I could in Korea; and I’ve been working a more fulfilling job.
So I came to Beijing initially to teach. I thought I’d be teaching Wed-Sun for a total of 32.5 hours of work (20 teaching hours) but instead I work in the headquarters doing curriculum development Tue-Fri and teaching on Sat’s, a total of 40 hours/week plus almost an hour transit on Beijing’s overcrowded rush hour subway system. Actually, I prefer this type of work since I think it’s more on the track for what I want to do in the future. Believe me, it has been a rough transition but it’s been such a grand learning experience. I’m grateful for every part of it. I get to work on improving Chinese students’ English development while learning Mandarin myself. Recently, I started to mentor an Irish college intern and show him the ropes, give him projects, boss him around;) Also I am more autonomous and always busy. Korea was easy, lesson plans all provided, worked 8:30-4:30 with only 20 teaching hours and a simple life in the countryside. I spent most my days online watching youtube, browsing Facebook, you know, anything to keep me busy while”desk warming”. I probably should’ve spent my time studying Korean or Taekwondo or something but I didn’t.
Another thing I like about being in China is being able to get on with my Chinese colleagues. I’ll very often go to lunch with them and am very close to a lot of the people around the office. They are so sweet and always sharing their snacks and practicing Chinese with me. They have all been so kind to me and treat me like family. It’s nice. I feel way more included and welcomed than when I worked in Korea. Granted, in Korea, they were all polite but I would always eat lunch by myself and/or sat next to my Korean colleagues while they spoke to each other in Korean. Not many of them would even make an effort to talk to me and I just figured that they didn’t speak any English. There was one girl that invited me to her family’s home for a weekend and we were pretty close but I haven’t been able to get a hold of her after leaving Korea.
Since arriving in Beijing 5 months ago, I have yet actually traveled anywhere outside of Beijing. I need to start planning in advance b/c if not, I’ll end up going nowhere again like for Spring Festival. A pretty big travel plan in the works is India and Nepal in October with my bff, Katie from back home. Where is my home? Katie did once write me a farewell letter as boarded the plane for Korea, stating that home is where the heart is and mine would be sprinkled all around the world. I’m looking forward to this trip so much and if I’m really lucky, I can get it as paid vacation and then work a couple weeks and finish my contract by the end of October, then take a month off to travel with my auntie and cousin to Cambodia and hopefully my mother will join (still working on that). Well, it’s 11:11, so I’ll make a wish and go to bed early for once. Sweet dreams, world :)
<3 your favorite ABC (as the Chinese call me short for American-born Chinese)