Why I Live In China

I realized today that though I've been along for this bloggin' adventure the whole way, some have not and they may be a little unclear as to my current motivations and reasons for living in a country that can often be rather crazy and confusing. So…

People come to China for a bazillion reasons. Some of the more popular are: 1] To experience a new culture (developed over 4,000 years and destroyed in about 50). 2] To learn Chinese (what an insane task that is!). 3] To travel and see a world different than anything they've known before. 4] To get away from life. 5] To donate time and knowledge doing good in a developing nation.

When I boarded that small airplane in Penticton, BC, last January I admit that these were all on my mind (all but that last one … I can be culturally-centric, but I don't think I ever believed I was doing the Chinese a favour by coming here). That was my first eight months. By the end of my eight months I had had enough. I was China'd out and was extremely excited to get out of the country, with an option to possibly return a year later and study Chinese – but long after I'd gotten a much-needed dose of Western culture and sensibilities.

That's when I made the easiest hard decision of my life. I stayed on.

I stayed for Maggie. I had finally, after quite literally eight months of avoiding it, confessed my love to the girl I had endlessly talked to, taught, learned from and – frankly – drooled over my entire time in China. I realized that I couldn't leave and always wonder if she was the one I was meant to be with (I'm 50/50 on that fate crap.. but meh.).

Turns out my gut was right, as I've spent the last eight months blistfully in love. Maggie and I are made for each other. We're great together. We have ups and downs, as ya do, but I've never felt more positive about a future with anyone. It's that future that has made me choose to do whatever needs to be done to make it work. Right now that means staying in China. To move to Canada involves a lot of very complicated things, the least of which not being the fact that we need to get married.

I wouldn't be with Maggie if I didn't think that was in the cards, but marriage is a tricky thing for me, and I don't want to just jump blindly (as I'm prone to with matters of the heart). As such, I've tried to take my available options and mould them around the things I can't change. So, what does China give me? A great resource for Chinese language practice (hense I'm learning Chinese) and a part time job that more than sustains myself and Maggie, which in turn gives me time. Time I'm using to finish my degree via distance education.

Number [4] in my list was "get away from life". That is a common reason people come here. It's easy to disappear in China, no one knows you, Chinese people treat you like you are some sort of English-speaking prophet (aka. profit), and you can generally live quite comfortably not going forward or backwards in life. This is not me though. I've never taken a step backwards when it comes to my life and would someone please explain this to my grandmother, as she seems to think I'm living a college student life with no responsibilities.

Though often used to support the irresponsible, ESL is not in and of itself an irresponsible career path. There are a hundred options for an experienced ESL teacher. One course I could choose is to finish my degree and then move to Hong Kong, where I could make upwards of $4,500 CAN per month to start. Not at all a bad wage. The other is use the experience as a stepping stone to illustrate international exposure, and cultural awareness to a company looking for a communcations manager.

Like all things, it's what you make of it and it would be unlike me not to make the most out of everything I do. Anyway, all of this is to give some outline, for those that might not know, why I live in China. My previous post may have passed the opinion that I was tired and just wanted to go home – and of course I have those days, but I know exactly how I'd feel back home, like I wasn't moving forward. My way forward wont always be in China, but it is for now.

PS: A new vBlog is up!!! Go check it out.

6 Responses

  1. Hehe…yes, I’d say that the “blood pumper in my chest” might have something to do with it. It’s funny, for a long time I was very adamant in having people understand that Alan was not the reason I came here – and quite honestly, he wasn’t. I had studied abroad here and more than anything just wanted to come back – NZ has some weird mysticism for me or something lol. But since then, I must be honest in saying that, yes, it has developed into something deeper than that and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Alan wasn’t a big part of my being here – but then, I’d go anywhere to be with him. I really appreciate your honesty in the last post…and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that being one of the main reasons you are in China. Firstly, if there’s one thing I have realized about living in China, it’s that it’s complicated – for as challenging and downright awful as it can be at times, there’s this strange sense of accomplishment in putting yourself through those challenges. But most importantly, you are happy – and it sounds like Maggie is a huge part of that happiness, so OF COURSE you would stay there =)

    I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that living abroad adds excitement to my life. When I feel down or bored sometimes I think, “Man, I’m in freaking New Zealand! How cool is that?!” It’s about doing something different; being unique; and even keeping my life interesting. I just get so frustrated though when I am constantly confronted by one of two things by friends and family:

    1) “I’m so jealous! I wish I could do what you’re doing!” – you can!!! Money, jobs, time, whatever – these things are not obstacles if this is something you really want to do.

    2) (and maybe you’ve experienced this one) “But what if you get married? Where will you live? Where will you get married?” and an entire flood of questions attempting to force me to think about the logistics of being in love with someone who hails from a different hemisphere than you do. It’s frustrating to me that people sometimes can’t just be happy for you! lol. I have no idea when/if/where/on what side of the world I will get married! lol. I guess, like most things, it comes down to the fact that people usually can’t understand things that are different from their own way of thinking.

    I’m so happy that you are happy doing what you’re doing and living with Maggie. I’m also kind of skeptical of “fate,” but you have to admit, it’s uncanny when you finally find that person that you realize fits you so perfectly – from what I gather, it’s rare and worth hanging on to!


  2. Hey, I really envy you! I’ve been searching for a while, but haven’t found anyone that I really have deep feelings for, except, maybe my Intensive Reading teacher. But, as of yet, she’s not responding to any of my advances (which have all been very subtle so far), and I get the feeling it’s not going to happen. Sigh.

  3. Vanessa: Yeah, I also get really sick and tired of that “I’m SO jealous” comment and say/think the same as you – constantly referencing the fact that I am NOT a ‘beautiful and unique snowflake.’ So if I can do it, anyone can. Now I think I’ve sorta just written it down as something people say when they don’t really know what else to say. The truth is, as you said, if they really wanted to, they would – but it’s outside their comfort zone.

    As for being open about why I’m here. I feel no shame in it. When I made the decision to stay I had to sacrifice a well-planned and anticipated trip to Australia. I had to give up something to stay, and at first that conflicted strongly with the sensibilities you’re talking about – not wanting to say you’d do all of it for love. I think this comes from us continually being shown that love will let us down.

    I’ve decided to buck that caution. At the time I didn’t know if two weeks later Maggie and I would realize we had nothing substantial and I would have been the fool for passing up an excellent life opportunity for something so wishy-washy as love. So be it.

    As we both must know, having jumped into the the unknown of international living, if we didn’t take a chance (calculated or not), we’d not have anything we’ve achieved thus far – nor would we have the confidence to obtain the things that we will in the future.

    I used to be so worried about how people percieved my life, until I realized that there’s not a person out there that doesn’t – in some aspect – have a load of crazier problems than me. We’ve all got baggage eh? With that in mind, I don’t worry to much about how my decisions are looked at (a main reason I am comfortable blogging pretty openly). I still look for the approval of my parents, and like the respect of others, but if it’s not there – I am certain I can continue without it. Wants and needs I guess.

    Chris: In my experience (I hate when people use that line) it’s always happened when I totally didn’t expect it. Whenever I’ve been looking for that special someone, I’ve always ended up convincing myself a not-so-special someone was her… and that never ended well. Don’t lose hope brother… she’s out there, or in your Intensive Reading Class… (I laugh just thinking about how that class is performed – do you quickly lower your head, staring intently at the words… willing them to be understood?).

  4. Ryan…excellent, excellent post!

    I’m really glad i discovered your blog. It’s been interesting reading the archives and following your adventures in China. And you are quite the good writer. I’m telling ya, you’ve got the raw materials (and tons of talent) for a novel here! 😉

    My 2 cents: Sometimes you just have to “jump off the cliff” and figure it out as you go. My motto is: Move forward, shift gears as needed.

    I would rather be a “doer” and try something out, than wrestle the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” triplets!

    Here’s a quote I really dig, it sums up my thoughts:

    “contemplation often makes life miserable. we should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.”

    {Nicolas Chamfort}

    Chin up!


  5. Hey Derek, thanks for the comment. Great quote, and solid advice, especially that “stop watching ourselves live” thing… I mean, it might be interesting as a 15 minute spot in some 60 minutes special, but uncondensed… and unlived, it’s sorta boring eh?

    As for the book thing… if I could figure out how to turn my drivel into a book… I’d gladly give it a go… but as of present, the how to escapes me 🙂 Maybe in the future… published novelist is on the list of life accomplishments. 😉

  6. As Katherine Hepburn’s mom told her, “Do what you want to do in life and at least one person will then be happy.” I admire you for taking the plunge. Yes, it was risky but the future human gene pool appreciates it.

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