Back in 2013 I made what was considered by my standards a ” spur of the moment” driven by my yearning to travel , I quit my job and moved to China for 6 months, to do what so many others had dared to do before me…Teach English as Foreign Language or TEFL as it’s better known.
It was without a doubt the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, and I have years of blog posts I can (and WILL) still write about my time there, but since I’ve been back for nearly 2 years now (whaaaat?!), when I think about my time in China, it’s mostly with regret…
Because there are so many things I should have done:
1. Learn Mandarin
I know right?You’re thinking how could I have spent 6 months in a country and not speak even learn the local lingo? Did I mention…It’s one of the most difficult languages on EARTH?!!! My extent of Mandarin was limited to ” how much is it?” , “It’s too expensive”, ” I want it”, ” I don’t want it”, and the very useful ” take-away please”. I retrospect I should have taken up the many offers of free Mandarin lessons…
2. Learn how to cook Chinese food
I have kind of an affair with food…and since most Chinese take away restaurants have adapted their meals to suit the more delicate palates of the Western world, I just can’t seem to find my favorite dishes anywhere. Apart from the dumpling party I attended (that’s a real thing by the way! ), I have never helped prepare a proper Chinese meal.
3. Spent more time exploring outside my village
Yangshuo is little village well known throughout China for it’s beautiful scenery, mainly because of the fact that it’s surrounded by these magnificent karst mountains. There is so much to do; rock climbing, river rafting, many cultural little villages outside the main village… A part from a few trips by bicycle to the countryside to cool off in the Yulong river, and a school trip to the caves I had barely explored outside my little town. Unless you count being a regular at the local bar exploring…I always thought there would be more time.
4. I wish I had explored more of China
I spent the majority of my time in Yangshuo, and only in my last 2 weeks, before I was due to head home, did I hastily plan to travel to Beijing & Xi’an, to at least some of the sights of my China “must see” travel list. These included seeing the Forbidden City & The Great Wall of China in Beijing. Pandas,which I had originally hoped to see in Chengdu, but ended up seeing the back half of one, sticking out of it’s shaded hiding place in the very sad Beijing Zoo. And the Terracotta army in Xi’an. But in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a whole lot, if you look at how massive China is, and what it has to offer in it’s 23 provinces.
5. Made more Chinese friends
I had befriended some of my students, but did I actively make plans to get to know each one of them better? Did I keep in touch after returning to my “normal” life back home…Sadly,no. I mingled with other expats, hung out at the expat bars..and although for someone from South Africa, who’s never set foot out of Africa, it was great to make so many new international friends from all over the world, many of whom I’m still in contact with. But I do find it shameful, that I had dared to spend so much time in another country, and that I left without having at least one close local friend.
I had originally gone to escape my 9-5 job, my dull and routine filled life, and to experience a different way of living in a place so far out of my comfort zone, I’d never be able to go back. And 2 years down the line, being back in a 9-5 job, more than anything else…I wish I’d stayed.