Published: August 9th 2007June 17th 2007
Massive Construction in China
Pictured here is just one construction site out of the hundreds throughout China. It is said that 25% of the world's construction cranes are in China.
It's hard to believe that 8 months have passed since I left the United States and moved to China. A year abroad seemed so daunting as I counted down the days to my departure last summer. Each day seemed precious. I drove all over the city with my dog, McKinley, in tow (he sure does love car rides). I went to the Rhythm and Booms, the huge fireworks and music extravaganza with my Dad (it was delayed only one day this year, due to tornado warnings). I held a job for a single day before I decided I'd rather spend my last summer at home, well, at home. We had the family over for grill-outs on the side deck overlooking the waterfalls and ponds. There was only one minor dramatic incident whilst building the second pond in which Dad accidentally crushed his finger between two boulders (I might add, the firstborn came to the rescue and drove her wailing and sniffling father to urgent care. Only I suppose it was more of a cursing and muttering than a wailing and sniffling). And, of course, there were my weekly lunches with one of my grandmas, who is no longer with us. On
View of the mountains
Glimpse out of the window as we wind our way up the treacherous mountain roads
the plane ride over here, I was reminiscing about all of those little moments from what now seems like a previous life and wondering if I'd be strong enough to live a year on this side of the globe on my own. At that time, I was too short-sighted to realize that the life I have here would create even more memories and would teach me more than I ever learned in 17 years of in-house education. I would learn how to stand on my own two feet. Overnight, it seems, I would become an adult.
I think the big defining moment came when my grandmother passed away. It was that tie to my childhood that was suddenly, and unexpectedly, severed that made me realize that even when I do return to my native country, everythingwill be different. A year is a short time in which to learn everything and experience everything I set out to accomplish over here, but such a long time in terms of what will have changed back home. Even after 3 months, during my 2005 stint in China, I didn't recognize my hometown when I came home. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that life
Climbing the moutain
It was a hot and humid day, but the cool mountain breeze made it bearable.
really does go on in my absence way over there on the other side of the earth. It feels as though it should stand still, but of course it doesn't. After my grandma passed away, I realized I had a choice. I could sob and cry and rage against the world, or I could take some time to reflect on the joyful moments I shared with her and move on, forever keeping her in my heart. It was truly a conscious decision I made at the point. I wanted to be a child, crying over my loss and secluded in my apartment, but that wasn't an option. My grandma would have been disappointed in me. To be honest, I don't think that I could have remained as composed as I did even last year. My year in China has taught me so much more than the latest Chinese slang or how to work under stressful conditions. It has made me realize that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. Even though my first instinct was to mourn, after a couple days my concern became about how my family was handling the news. I wanted to send them funny
thoughts and make them smile. I wanted them to remember all the happy times, not the sad ones. I was able to realize at that moment that this year has changed me. I have become a more positive and easygoing person. So many things that used to bother me, just don't anymore. It was a couple weeks ago when I suddenly felt a jolt go through me and in that moment, I felt that I'd become an adult.
I came to China with the aim to improve my Chinese, but also to do some networking in the job market. The time is slowly ticking away to the end of my contract in 4 months' time, in October. Originally, I wanted to work in the international adoption field. While that remains an option, I've also discovered that I geniunely like teaching. (The 3-month summer hiatus isn't a bad perk, either). I was sitting in our weekly teachers' meeting when it hit me that I had a job. A real, full-time, 40 hours a week, people counting on me type of job. Previously, I'd done the bare minimum to get by and focused on my Chinese. Now, I take more pride
in my work and really attempt to make each lesson interesting and motivational to my students. I care about their individual progress and I hope to really help them in their desire to better their English. Somehow, sometime, in the last 8 months I've made a home for myself here in Beijing. I have my own apartment, a job and a social life. I have foreign friends, Chinese friends, student friends and teacher friends. Every time I step outside my door is another opportunity to learn something. I can't imagine ever having doubted my decision to live abroad this year. It truly has been one of the best decisions of my life.
On a lighter note, this past Friday several other teachers and I trekked about 2 hours outside of the city to climb Miaofeng Mountain. (Yes, you read that correctly. I voluntarily got out of bed at 7 AM to go climb a mountain. It must be something in the water). The drive outside of the city was great-- I always enjoy seeing the sights of the city rushing past (or crawling past, depending on whether we leave during rush hour). The great strides Beijing is going through
for the Olympics are obvious. Construction cranes dot the skyline in every direction, workmen in hardhats litter the sidewalks and posters with Olympic slogans are draped across every surface. Taxi drivers chant along with English-learning tapes as they cart their passengers to and fro and English learning schools are popping up in every available building. It is such an exciting time to be living in China.
The quiet serenity and lush green of the mountain was in stark contrast to the active, busy city. It was so nice to get away from all the hubbub for a day and appreciate some of the natural beauty China has to offer. Miaofeng Mountain is one of China's sacred mountains; the devoted trek up the mountain to pray in the various Buddhist temples at the summit. There were no other foreigners in sight, which was also a difference from the city limits. I was enjoying the sound of the birds and the breeze ruffling the branches of the trees along the path until I found out that the climb to the top would take about 2 hours. Suddenly, the birds' chirping grated on my nerves and the tree branches seemed to find
At the top
Upon reaching the summit, we discovered it was possible to drive all the way up to take in the view, thus rendering our 2-hour sweat soaked climb unneccessary
a way to poke into my eyeballs at every turn. While I do relish being outside, I've never been what you could call the 'hiking type'. However, I was able to appreciate the view from the top (or as much of the view as we could see; smog is an omnipresent force near the large cities in China, even 2 hours outside the city limits). I was happy that I'd forced myself to do something outside of my comfort zone, but I don't forsee climbing any more mountains in the near future.
In other news, my parents and brother arrive in China this Thursday evening. We will enjoy a whirlwind tour of Beijing, made all the more enjoyable by the 6 AM wakeup call! I'll be sure to update after the tour.
Thanks for reading.
There are more photos below