My epic China Experience slowly bones to an end. This is my last week of teaching my students. 15 classes of my little monsters are saying goodbye to me, some crying, some looking pretty happy not to see me again :-). I made friends with my students and the whole staff of Biangao High School so this week has been super emotional for me- I haven’t cried yet though (tough girl!). I started packing my stuff this morning (what I hate doing) and I found a lot of gifts and souvenirs I received from Chinese people while I was on my road: bracelets, hats, postcards and so on. Unfortunately, I can’t take them all with me but it was nice to see them again as it brought so many good memories back to me. I still remember myself on my first day in China (11/08/2012) and how excited, little scared and ready to take this country I was back then :).
Now, after 10 months of staying in China it is the time to make a conclusion and think how this experience/ adventure has changed my life. Without a doubt, there were lots of amazing and unforgettable moments such as Chinese wedding (boring but memorable), my first teaching session, Chinese New Year, my Beijing/ Xi’an/ Shanghai trips, climbing up the Great Wall of China and the Hallelujah Floating Mountains in Zhangjiajie. Nevertheless, I also struggled a lot with Chinese body shape stereotype (skinny and flat) which was kind of difficult to deal with, especially when all people around point at you with their fingers saying you are fat (but obviously I’m not). There were many great things I experienced here such as different cuisine (my favourite baozi/ jiaozi), absolutely different from European way of celebrating various events, extraordinary hospitality and nice weather conditions (except the winter- it was a nightmare!). But also there were things I didn’t like about China and Chinese such as being noisy, lack of good manners, childish behavior and being inflexible with everything. It’s too much to write about what I liked and didn’t like here, but you can read about it in my previous “20 things I hate about China” and “Things I love about the People’s Republic of China” notes.
What will I always associate China with?
Drums, bell towers, fireworks, eating all the time, new technology, Terracotta Warriors, car horns, heavy traffic, slow buses, many people, stunning mountains, busy fruit and vegetables markets, spitting, air pollution, smog, smoke, screaming “Hello! Nice to meet you!”, baozi, jiaozi, RMB, many phrases I’ve been using all the time such as “太貴了” (it’s too expensive), “我沒有錢，我是一個窮教師” (I have no money, I’m only a poor teacher), “我不知道” (I don’t know), noodles, red color, inflexibility, visa problems, spicy food, hot pot, 1 yuan taxi drive, copying (those are the first ones coming to my mind).
Living and working in China for 10 months was a good lesson for me. At the beginning, everything was absolutely new to me: the language, the smells, the favours and the people. It was my first Asian country I have ever been to so I guess this is the reason. I adapted quickly to the new environment though and tried to be one of them but it unfortunately didn’t work out. I did my best to be treated like one of Chinese but it never happened. They always paid for me in a restaurant, took me to the best places in the town only and cancelled my classes so I can have some rest (I didn’t need it at all). For some reason they always felt worse and it’s been so silly for me…
I’ve learnt many things here.
Rule no. 1 never be too friendly with people- I have been always extremely nice and outgoing to people but Chinese never kept the secrets and always told everyone about my plans, fears, concerns and all school was gossiping.
Rule no. 2 my privacy goes first- never speak too much with people and don’t trust them :) as they easily cross the “private sphere”.
I have learnt spoken (basic) Chinese language, I know how to cook traditional Chinese dishes, sing Chinese songs and I’m definitely more productive teacher when it comes to dynamic class preparation. I feel tougher than ever, smarter and better organised than before. I am more experienced as a traveller/ backpacker, know how to interact with locals and work effectively. Watching Chinese being so domestic and close with their families made me think more about my relations with my family members and I tried to be closer with some of them but it hasn’t worked out yet. I discovered that “What doesn’t kill me, always makes me stronger” and “A friend in need is a friend indeed” and I will always remember it when traveling.
Amazing landscapes, moments of laugh when lost in translations, hours and hours spent on the train, thousand of baozi eaten for breakfast, million pictures taken in 13 visited by myself provinces- I will miss it a lot.
So to those who made my stay in the land of the Heavenly Dragon and the Rising Sun successful, adventurous and unforgettable I want to say thank you. There were many people who truly cared about me and made me happy who I would like to offer my love. I promise to never forget it and stay humble.
Zàijiàn Zhōngguó! Goodbye China and stay well! Might get back here sooner than I think.