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My life in China
My life in China
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel. However this was not meant to be on any grand scale. Eventually my four children become adults & I became single again. Always there was the thought of travel...but how could I do this on limited funds?
I kept myself busy with any interesting activity that came my way. But the urge to downsize was strong. This continued for a few years till I only had things that I felt were necessary for daily life. Through all this I realized that lots of things were only "stuff" & were in no way going to make me feel content. Much of this "stuff" was necessary when I had mine & other children living with me, but they had now moved on.
While attending a wedding I chatted with a woman whom I vaguely knew. She needed a ride home as she had sold her car. As she lived in my area I offered to help out. On the way home I asked her why had she sold her car.
"I am going to China to teach English".
"How wonderful" I replied.
"You can do it too" she said
"But unlike you I'm not a teacher" I informed her.
She gave me an agent’s contact details to whom I promptly sent off an enquiry. Back came the answer.
"Can you be in China by the 3rd of Jan 03?"
It was the 3rd of Dec 02.
I could not believe it was this easy, but I moved into high gear & got organised. With my credit card I bought a 1 way ticket to Shanghai. Xmas gave me a chance to say goodbye to family & friends & on the evening of 2nd of Jan 03 I was on my way to China.
I knew nothing about China. I had read several books set in China, but as I was to find out they taught me very little. I had no idea about the language, culture or how to use chop sticks. My inability to use chop sticks proved to be quite embarrassing as my first meal upon arrival was with the headmaster & staff to welcome me.
I gave little thought to what I was actually going to do when I arrived at my school as I had been in Sales & Marketing for many years & a toastmaster so speaking or teaching was not an issue for me.
The agent had neglected to tell me where I was going exactly, only that someone would meet me at the airport. I went outside to the waiting area where many people were standing around holding names, some not clearly visible as they were distracted chatting. I walked around & inspected all the names. No-one wanted to meet me.
What now I thought? I saw a policeman nearby so I asked him if he spoke English. "Yes I do". Wonderful relief. I told him my dilemma. He asked for the agents details, got out his mobile phone & called him.
"Someone will arrive to pick you up in 2 hours" he told me.
I later discovered that the agent had forgotten to tell the school I was arriving. It was a 2 hour drive to the school.
Exactly two hours later two young guys came racing towards me. "Are you Jeanie?" Relief all round with lots of apologies. So began my adventurous life in China.
Before my 1st year contract was over I knew that I didn't want to return home. China is such a huge, diverse, interesting country & I wanted to see more of it & by moving to another area I could see much more than I would just by travelling. I am not a very good tourist. I was very sad to leave my first school as I loved it there.
I made the decision to relocate somewhere to the south of China where maybe the winters were warmer. Once you know how the system works it's very easy to get a job.
Seven years later I have had many different teaching experiences. Kindergarten (not my favourite) a privately owned primary school, private tuition, primary middle, secondary schools, English training college for mature students & company staff.
I realise I don't have an ear for languages tho I have learnt many Chinese words. I can manage to do most things, but always when in a dilemma someone appears at my side asking if I want some help. My body language skills are very good. My English skills have improved big time. I had never realised how bad they were.
Over seven years later the journey continues. Every day something unexpected happens. I experience something new or see something happen that is so common here, but would never be accepted in our culture. Just because it's different does that make it wrong? I have happily adopted the Chinese eating habits that would be frowned upon in western culture. But can't quite bring myself to eat with my mouth open. :) I watch as the Chinese Govt tries so hard to catch up with the rest of the world while still retaining Chinese characteristics. Western culture is being accepted here very rapidly as the children have to learn English at school & Western companies like KFC, McDonald's, Starbucks & Walmart establish their businesses here in all major cities. I feel very sad when a Chinese child tells me their favorite food is hamburgers.
Things are changing rapidly in China & it's so interesting to be on the sidelines watching it all happen. The laws are getting stricter for teachers now so I'm pleased I came when I did. It's now sometimes necessary to have a degree. I have no official qualifications, but I now have experience which makes me very employable. But age is becoming an issue. Chinese women retire at 56yrs so some Government officials have trouble accepting that a western woman in her 60's is still wanting to work & is very capable of doing so. Headmasters love me, but Government officials don't always see it that way. However Chinese have a wonderful ability to color the truth so I am still here tho at present working for myself.
My wonderful life here in China continues....who knows what tomorrow will bring.
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