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!
After the hustle and bustle of Hanoi (not to mention Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul before that!), the small towns of central Vietnam signaled a welcome transition into the more relaxed part of our month-long trip. We didn’t have long in either city, but really enjoyed their quieter nature. With that being said, this post will be short, sweet, and picture-heavy!
After our brief stop in Taiwan, we moved on to country #5 on our month long trip – Vietnam! This marked our entry to Southeast Asia, aka backpacker’s paradise. We instantly understood why so many budget travelers flock to the area. Everything is super cheap, the streets are bustling, and the culture is completely unique.
We had a few days in Hanoi, and we will always remember it for two things: coffee and motorcycles. (Tommy would also add banh mih sandwiches to the list!) They’re everywhere, in every variety imaginable!!! Hanoi was one of the first places we really wandered around, just trying local specialties and absorbing the culture, instead of focusing on the most famous attractions we could visit. Of course, we did check out a few of the main sights as well, but quite honestly our afternoons spent wandering from cafe to cafe were one of our favorite parts of the whole trip. Keep reading to experience this vibrant, crazy city with us!
After Xi’an and Harbin, it was finally time for us to leave China! After spending the past 5 months in the same country, we’d forgotten how disorienting it is to deal with new language, currency, and cultural norms. We were a little embarrassed to not even be able to say “hello,” “sorry,” or “thank you.” Still, we were excited to dig into the new culture and explore as much as we could in our limited time. While the city of Seoul was amazing, the highlight for us was definitely our day trip to the Joint Security Area (JSA). This is part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea. We learned so much about the politics between North and South, and came away feeling like we had just visited a part of current history – who knows how long the JSA and DMZ will be present, and what the future holds for the formerly unified country? Keep reading to hear more about this eye-opening experience, and to find out what else we did in Seoul!