Last week I wrote 10 things I’ll miss about living in China, so to keep it balanced I figured I should also talk about things I WON’T miss about living in China. This post could easily be renamed, “Things in China that drive Emily Absolutely Crazy,” but that’s mostly because it’s nearing the end of the school year and I’m ready to go home! Overall, Tommy and I agree that moving to China was 100% the right decision for us, and we’ve had an absolutely incredible year. So please, don’t take this post as me being a Negative Nigel (I really do enjoy China) – but do keep these less-than-awesome factors in mind in case you’re considering taking the leap yourself or are simply getting a little jealous after hearing about our 13-hour workweeks!
Thanks to the magical powers of the internet, we can video chat, call, or text our friends as often as we want! We’re so thankful to have communication (literally) at our fingertips, but as awesome as this is, it just isn’t the same as physically being with family and friends. Being a 16+ hour plane ride away for the past 9 months means that we’ve missed out on lots of family events and hang-outs with friends. We love hearing about them and looking at photos, but we can’t wait to see everyone and make some memories in person this summer!
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!
“You’re going to Harbin? It’s very, very cold there!!!” We heard variations of this (and advice on what to wear) over and over again leading up to our trip. Tommy and I just brushed it off. “Oh, we’re from Minnesota. It’s very cold there, too.” Little did we know… Harbin seriously is next level cold. Our faces constantly hurt. We layered up like chubby Chinese babies for even the shortest journeys outside. Our fingers and toes were always a little numb. And yet, it was completely worth it – because we got to explore the magic that is the world’s largest ice and snow festival! In addition to this, Harbin has a unique Russian culture due to its proximity to the border which was really interesting to experience.
Xi’an is an ancient city in central China famous for its terra cotta warriors, Muslim Quarter, and historic wall that still surrounds the original citadel. We saw all this and more (read here), but what really stands out in my memory from this part of our trip occurred not in Xi’an itself but in a small town a short train ride away. There we completed “the world’s most dangerous hike” (a dubious, but catchy title) at Huashan (Mount Hua) and found ourselves stranded on top of the mountain with a night train to catch!
This post is mostly photos because I’m saving the rambling storytelling for Xi’an Part 2, our adventures on Mount Hua (to be posted Saturday!). In short, though, Xi’an is a really unique city that has preserved its ancient history in the core of the city. Modernity rises up around its (literal) 14th century walls, but inside well-preserved buildings from eras past remain intact without the distraction of skyscrapers. Its unique history can also be seen in its Muslim culture, which is the long-standing result of 7th century Persian and Afghani merchants marrying Chinese women. And of course, Xi’an is home to the famous terra cotta warriors! We had an amazing time exploring this vibrant city and learning more about its distinct culture and history. Explore with us through our photos!