When we first decided to come to China we were completely unsure of how long we’d stay. As our departure date grew closer and the nerves kicked in I started thinking less about how long we’d be away for and more about how quickly I could come home should it all go horribly wrong once we arrived. Saying goodbye to my family for an unknown amount of time, but knowing that it would be several months was one of the least favourite things I have ever had to do and even once we arrived in China I spent most of our time in Beijing feeling pretty overwhelmed and quietly thinking that we only had 6 months on our visas so may well be home before we knew it.
Fast forward 4 months, that have passed at absolute lightening speed, and it’s a bit of a different story. With our visas expiring in around 6 weeks time, Joe and I are now in the process of extending them for 30 days to then tackle the boringly laborious process of securing work visas so we can stay out here for a further 12 months. So the UK is not getting us back as permanent residents until at least September 2016. We’ve been lucky enough to secure jobs at one of the universities here for the next academic year so will be trading 1-2-1 tutoring and kindergarten kids for classes of 45+ students of university age. Whilst part of me feels pretty sick at the thought of attempting to sound like I know what I am talking about in front of that many people, particularly those old enough to form very unflattering opinions of their teacher, I am really excited. As well as allowing me to teach more than just colours, numbers 1-10 and shapes for a living, this role has some serious extra perks. I will be going from having just one day off a week to only working for 2-3 days. And best of all, we get all the perks of paid university holidays so have months, not weeks off over the course of the year to tick off that adventure list I last wrote about.
Securing these jobs obviously played a huge factor in our decision to stay out here longer than our original maximum term of 12 months. However, almost as soon as we got to Chengdu and settled into our own apartment with our simple-minded cats we knew that we were likely to stay out here a little longer. For me, even though I miss my family and friends a lot and have definitely suffered the odd moment of homesickness in the last couple of weeks, I am more than happy to delay going back to the UK and real life for another year. Despite keeping everything crossed that moving to a different continent would grant me some sort of epiphany about what the heck I want to do with my life, it turns out I still don’t have a clue…unless my dream of owning a coffee shop in Edinburgh and imparting my mediocre crafting skills on paying customers counts as a life plan. However, what being out here has taught me is that ditching a job and sort-of-grown-up lifestyle in London, that may have seen me on a sensible life path but as it turns out made me actually a bit mental, was definitely the right thing to do. 4 months of breathing space has made me a lot happier, more relaxed and essentially turned me into someone people are hopefully more fond of spending time around. So not to sound like an insufferable hippy but if you keep thinking ‘What if?’ and dreaming about making a big change, do it! It makes life immeasurably more fun!
A part from turning into someone who spouts terrible life advice in the style of women’s magazines, I’m also very aware that I need to make the most of the next year and the rather large amount of free time I am soon going to be having. Whilst I do currently get a lot of free afternoons I tend to spend them lounging around my flat, doing the occasional bit of studying, avoiding lesson planning until the very last minute and morosely counting down the hours until I have to hop on my bike and head to work. I absolutely cannot wait to no longer have the dreaded evening shifts hanging over my days but am well aware that I will no longer have any excuse to shelve productivity for Netflix.
My number one priority is to improve my Chinese as much as possible. Our university classes wrap up in 2 short weeks and as our new jobs mean we won’t be re-enrolling next semester I’ll be attending private classes instead. Whilst I won’t be in the classroom for nearly as many hours a week I’m optimistic that 3 hours of 1-2-1 classes will be a huge boost for my Chinese and will really improve my pronunciation and tones which, judging by the blank looks I get from a lot of the locals, are definitely lacking at the moment! Outside of my lessons I need to be a lot stricter with myself when it comes to self study. In a flashback to my youth and Higher exam revision I will be creating a lovely study timetable for myself…which much like in my school days I am sure I will completely ignore but hopefully it will at least serve some purpose by guilting me into doing my flashcards and listening to some ChinesePod podcasts each day.
Aside from mastering the language I’m looking forward to getting out on our bikes and exploring a lot more of the countryside around the city. Having yet to survive a winter here, I absolutely want to make the most of all the sun and hot weather we are treated to over the summer and autumn months before it all gets a bit grey and miserable. And also try to come back home a little less hideously unfit as I was before I left!
Although I won’t be back longterm for a while yet, I am heading back to the UK next February to catch up with everyone and most importantly, give my nephew a huge squeeze. An 8 month countdown does seem like a horribly long one sometimes but considering how fast the last 4 months have gone I am pretty sure it’s going to feel like no time at all until I am back in Aberdeen, probably in the snow, eating my bodyweight in butteries, pasta, pesto, cheese and bacon, every type of bread I can get my hands on and chocolate.