Monday, February 2, 2009


On the way home from the grocery store just now, I decided that today was the day to writing a closing post for my "Year in China" blog... a task I have put off for the past seven months!

Scott and I moved to Alexandria, Virginia last month; he found a wonderful internship at the Charles Koch Foundation and I am now working part-time at Banana Republic while looking for a regular job. We have a great little apartment that's an easy bus and metro commute into D.C. The fact that we live in a mostly Mexican neighborhood doesn't phase either of us, because we're certainly used to being in the minority!

Although I am really enjoying my new life in Washington, D.C., I often find myself wondering how I will be able to create memories to top the ones from my year abroad. How does it get any better than...

spending a day swimming from beach to beach in Southern Thailand, through crystal clear water and rainbow coral reefs;

being serenaded with your favorite Chinese song by students in the middle of class;

riding the night train on vacation with your friends;

looking down at a breathtakingly spectacular tropical bay from the crest of a hill in the middle of a Thai jungle;

petting a panda bear eating bamboo in rural Sichuan province;

throwing a graduation party for fifteen sweet, excited Chinese college students;

having a spicy Sichuan meal and Qingdao beer with good friends;

attending a Chinese wedding with your father in Guangzhou;

singing "God Is A Girl," "Take Me To Your Heart," and "I Will Always Love You" in a private KTV room;

watching a National Day fireworks display from the top of the tallest building in Hong Kong;

being greeted by fifty seventeen-year-olds shouting "WE LOVE YOU!!!!" at the beginning of each class period;

finding a Western-style restaurant with the best spaghetti in Zhanjiang;

lying on a beautiful beach in Hong Kong;

spending three weeks traveling a foreign country with your boyfriend;

staying up all night stealing plants from your school's garden;

traveling five hours by bus just to get Papa John's pizza...

And so many more special times.

It's difficult to write something significant enough to sum up my truly life-changing year in Zhanjiang. Living there was both the most challenging and the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Sitting here by my computer in February 2009, I look back on June 2007- July 2008 with a smile... because how do I describe what it was like to teach English in Zhanjiang?

The most challenging months of my entire life began on September 1, 2007, the day Scott and I arrived in Zhanjiang. It seemed that the two of us were completely on our own, living in a country whose people viewed me as someone from outer space, and vice versa! Not only did I have to adjust to the local culture, but I also had to figure out how to teach 125 students to speak English while being given no usable textbook or curriculum. Imagine how I felt standing up in front of all those expectant young faces, trusting in my ability to help them "master English!"

I didn't realize it in those first few months, but it was my ability to overcome these overwhelmingly difficult initial problems that made my experience in Zhanjiang so memorable. I am proud of the quality with which I taught my students. Looking back, I feel that I was genuinely able to make a difference in their lives. I keep in touch with many of the students, who repeatedly express how much they miss me and what a wonderful time we had together.

On the culture side, I learned to appreciate most things Chinese and to laugh off the rest. Much of this laughing was done with the unique friends I made over the course of the year. We were certainly an eclectic group, hailing from the United States, Canda, China, Uzbekistan, Cameroon and Wales. Although Zhanjiang did not exactly offer a multitute of entertainment options, our group managed to have a pretty good time. Our roof parties, Saturday dinners at the Sichuan and Inner Mongolian restaurants, excursions to Wal-Mart, and holiday trips were always spontaneous and always a blast. The best part was that we could share experiences and laugh about the randomness of daily ZJ life.

I am so grateful to have had such an incredibly special experience... and one that really changed me. I know that I will have many more wonderful and exciting times in my life, but I will carry these memories and friendships with me always.



patrick sun said...

i am patrick .....

patrick sun said...

your life is so wonderful!