Today I have lived in China for 10 months.
China isn’t one of those countries I imagined myself traveling to when I was younger. It’s weird for me to think about my idea of travel when I was in high school and college, and now it’s weird for me to think of life before knowing China. It sucks you in. Before I left, of course, I couldn’t wait to be in a new country and travel and meet new people and have so many stories. But it has become even more. China hits you in a funny way and it has dug it’s way deep into me.
It’s hard to explain China. You don’t need me to tell you this, but China is huge. Each city is vastly different, yet the heart is the same. You go from the southern mountains in Yangshuo to the big city in Shanghai out to the Great Wall in the north and you’ll meet all kinds of people, hear all sorts of dialects and try many types of food.
You’ll almost get robbed on West Street, get tricked into buying calligraphy in Beijing, get proposed to on the streets Hengyang. People will stare and take pictures of you everywhere and call out “waiguoren” when they see you. You’ll eat duck blood and pig intestines and chicken feet and watch eels get skinned at outdoor markets.
But I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. Because China is also Nan Hua University and my students, cooking hot pot and singing at KTV with them. China is my dumpling expert crew (the American friends I came here with) who made the strange days in China much easier. China is the Chinese food I’ve learned to eat everyday and love, it’s new foreign friends and Chinese circle and learning to accept squatty pottys and carrying toilet paper with you everywhere. It’s older ladies dancing on the street every night and forgetting what American dollars are because you use yuan so much. (We just exchanged most of our RMB to US dollars and it looks so weird hahaha)
I can’t sum up 10 months in China without going on forever about it.
These last two weeks has been bittersweet – I had my final classes and my students performed some great speeches and songs and movie dubbing. One of my classes threw a party for me where we played lots of games and they wrote me so many sweet notes. I’ve spent a lot of time with some of my close Chinese friends, enjoying the last few days I have with them for now.
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I also found a little kitten on the street and was able to find a home for her (my friend Sissi adopted her!) We went to dinner together and Sissi put the kitten on the table, it was so funny.
During my last classes I brought my guitar and played a Chinese song I’ve been learning (it’s my favorite song by my Chinese idol Zhang Jie called Ni Zhan) and my students shared it on their QQs and Wechats and Instagrams haha
 I told my students I loved them and hope they had a good summer – they asked if I would teach them next year and I told them I’m not sure and they were all like “Noooo! We want you to be our teacher again!” “You’re not tired of me after a year?” I asked them. And they laughed and said “Of course not.”
To be honest, I know I’m not the best ESL teacher. It was my first year and I had very little training and experience in this job. Some lessons were trial and error, trying to see what worked well and what made the students excited about speaking English. So hearing my students say that was so sweet. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to know 200 beautiful young Chinese people. Not only do they make my time in China so much easier (I’ve got several students I always call whenever I have translation problems or need to talk to a taxi driver or anything like that), but I love them and their unique personalities so much. If you want to come to China, I highly recommend you teach here -my experience here would be so different if I were just traveling. Get to know the people!
The University took all the foreign teachers to dinner last week so you can see the whole gang here: Max, Pete, Brittany, Drew, Helen, Sunny, Mr. Yuan, Mr. He, Robert, Lauren, and me
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China is different for everyone. I’ve read lots of blogs and watched a lot of videos from other foreigners living in China, and we share many of the same experiences and joys and trials here. But everyone learns something different, meets new people, reacts in different ways to the Chinese culture around them, has a different takeaway when they go back home.
When people ask how is China I’m not sure what to say..do you want the 2 minute answer or the 2 hour answer? I’m so sorry in advance for the “this one time in China” stories. And in the same way, I know my friends and family have been living their lives in America, and there are things that have happened there that is hard to explain, or they have to fill me in on because I missed it while I was away. I can’t wait to see everyone again!
It’s strange for me to think about going back home for 2 months – to not be a foreigner anymore, to actually be able to understand stranger’s conversations and read menus at restaurants 😉 There’s lots of things I’m looking forward to at home – Mexican food and Walmart and American malls and Chick-fil-a and Texas BBQ. I’m ready to see my dogs and cats and watch all the movies I missed while I’ve been abroad.
 But I know a piece of me will still be 13 hours ahead.  I am not who I was before I came to China, and I’m forever thankful for this year of growing and learning, the chance to love and be loved in a new country.
Comin for ya soon MERICA,
Rachel