After living and teaching English in Spain for a year, I was looking for a change. Luckily, a friend of mine who was looking for a job at home found a link to a teaching job in Beijing and before I knew it I had applied and had an interview with Aihua.
After speaking with Rob during the interview, any fears I had about moving half way round the world had evaporated and I booked my ticket to a place I knew next to nothing about, except for what I knew from Jackie Chan films, and there isn’t any mention of ‘squatties’ in those.
Arriving in Beijing on a warm and humid August afternoon, I was tired and worried that I would land and there wouldn’t be anyone at the airport to meet me. However, once I saw the westerner with the blond hair I knew everything was fine. The first week is a blur of training and getting set up with what you need to survive life in Beijing. The school have a great support staff to help us with any issues we have for day to day living in Beijing, which is great because at times Beijing can be a minefield!
Beijing is nothing like I expected. I was expecting a city that would be smothered in smog, with overcrowded subway lines. However, Beijing is so much more than that. Don’t get me wrong smog is a problem in the city, but not to the extent that is depicted in the media. During the clear days, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and there is always something to do. From visiting parks, and old temples, to camping on the Great Wall and going to punk gigs, Beijing is a city that keeps on giving.
Just when you thought you have seen everything, someone discovers another hidden gem, or a quirky place that has you running to on your day off. Personally, my favourite place in Gulou. You could spend hours walking through the hutongs, or just relaxing in one of the roof top bars around the lake.
In order to survive life in this vibrant city, learning some basic Chinese is a must.
The school offers some great free classes, or there’s lots of private tutors around the city if you don’t fancy getting up early in the morning. Chinese is a language completely different to any language I’ve attempted to learn before. It’s difficult, but has a charm about it that you only discover when you spend hours of hair pulling trying to discover which tone is which.
But what has made this experience so special is the people you get to meet. People from every walk of life with different views of the world. It makes for some very interesting conversation on a daily basis. I have been in Beijing for nearly a year now, and making the decision to stay for another year has been one of the easiest things I have ever done.
I miss home every day, but this city, and teaching some amazing kids has made it all worthwhile. Plus, getting the packages full of taytos and crunchies from Mammy makes home feel a little closer.