With about 5 weeks left in China, I’ll be doing a little more reflecting on day-to-day life in our little mountain town. If everyday topics like this interest you, check out these earlier posts: food in China, housing & toilets, Christmas in small-town China, traditional street markets, and teaching English in China. We’re still not sure what we’re doing next semester (sorry to those anxiously awaiting news!) but will be sure to post here as soon as we decide.
1. FREE TIME!!!
This is, without a doubt, the number one thing that I will miss about living in China. To get just a vague idea of how much time we have off, check out Where We’ve Been – this has all been without asking for ANY vacation time. It simply comes from a lot of national holidays and school testing days. Even when we have a normal workweek, we aren’t actually working very many hours and have tons of free time. I am scheduled to teach seventeen 45-minute classes per week (a total of about 13 contact hours), but these are cancelled quite frequently. Thomas’s school is more demanding and he teaches twenty 45-minutes classes per week (about 15 contact hours) with very few cancellations. Of course, our classes are not consecutive, so we do spend a decent bit of time sitting around the office. Still, when you consider America’s 40-hour work weeks and lack of lengthy holidays, we are living the dream, my friends!
2. Trying new things.
In whatever place you’re living and whatever your work situation is, you can always try new things. Whenever we do “settle down” again, we have every intention of trying more new things. However… living in a foreign country definitely forces you to try new things constantly. From being invited to our schools’ talent shows, to learning how to drive a moped so we could get to class, to squat toilets, to eating frog and drinking hot corn juice, every day brings new opportunities. Every time we go to the grocery store we see something new and wacky, and even if we don’t try it (no thank you, live alligators!) we learn something new about Chinese culture.
3. The cutest babies you’ve ever seen.
Ok, I don’t know what it is, but Asian babies are seriously ADORABLE. They have the chubbiest cheeks and always look confused. Add to that the super chunky clothes and the way they ride around in baskets on their grandparents’ backs and I’m constantly on the verge of stealing one to smuggle back with us to America!!
4. How cheap (some) food is.
I do think it’s a little misleading when people online talk about how cheap food in China is. A lot of it totally is, but there’s also a decent chunk of average-priced items and a small chunk of expensive imports. The main thing that I notice being really cheap is produce. I can stock up like crazy on veggies and not even hit $10. (The flip side of this is that a lot of it is seasonal, so you’re options are definitely more limited). Eating out is also generally a lot cheaper than it would be in America, so we try to go to a new restaurant once a week!
5. Noodles, dumplings, & self-serve hot pot.
My three favorite authentic Chinese foods. Read more about our experiences with food in China here.
6. Sinan’s gorgeous mountains!
Our town is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains. Even though we see them every day when we cross the river or look out our schools’ windows, they’ll never get old!
7. High-speed trains.
In general, I’ll just miss travelling and the accessibility of public transport (although I won’t miss trying to translate how to get there or buying tickets!). Specifically, though, I will miss high-speed trains! They are definitely my favorite way to travel. They’re still slower than planes, but you don’t need to get there super early, the seats are spacious, you can walk around as much as you like, and you get treated to China’s breathtaking landscapes the whole trip.
8. Talking about the people around you.
Not in a mean way!!! Almost no one in Sinan speaks English, and the ones that do generally can’t keep up with how fast Tommy and I talk naturally to each other. We’ve basically gotten used to living inside a kind of language bubble, where we can say anything about anyone around us without them knowing what we’re saying. The best part of this is probably being able to read hilariously mistranslated or just plain weird English shirts, which are super popular in Sinan. Even English teachers at our schools have admitted they don’t read what the shirts say, they just think the English looks cool.
9. Driving a moped.
I didn’t drive for the first three months we were in China because I was too scared of the crazy drivers, but finally Tommy made me learn so that he wouldn’t have to drive me everywhere. And now I love it! Chinese traffic looks nuts when you first arrive, but after a while you get a hang of the unspoken rules. Just watch the person in front of you closely, honk a lot, and keep a hand on the break at all times. The best thing about the moped is that you can swerve in and out of traffic instead of getting stuck like cars!
10. Being ~*celebrities*~.
Many people in Sinan have NEVER seen a foreigner in their entire lives, and they’re not shy about making that known through shouts, points, stares, and not-so-stealthy pictures. This does get old in some cases, but it’s pretty fun to see how excited kids get when they see you. They love to practice “HELLO!” and “HOW ARE YOU?” even if they’re on a balcony five stories above you or you’re on the opposite side of the street. We’ve been in countless selfies and even get asked to sign autographs! One time I signed a basketball – I don’t play basketball, watch basketball, or even like basketball. That’s just how cool foreigners are.