My year in China, by Lucille Van Niekerk

A month into my Chinese adventure I wrote a piece about my experiences at the time. I am coming to the end of my year contract and guess what, I am staying. It would generally be a safe assumption to make that for most people when they start something new and like it they experience the ‘honeymoon’ phase and everything is just beautiful and great. A year later, my relationship with China has progressed and I am more in love with the place than when I started. I am more surprised than anybody that this has happened. I have lived in many countries and I seriously would not have put China on my bucket list but this place and it’s people have seriously cast a spell on me.

I truly feel after a year I am only just beginning my adventure as there is so much to do and experience. The affinity and affection I felt for the people I arrived with still exists and has grown exponentially. The group I started with turned out to be the nicest bunch of people I have had the privilege to meet and work with. The older foreign teachers also fall into this category.

I have worked at the same center for a year now out of choice. My work days consist of working with people I genuinely like, laughing so much my insides jiggle. The Chinese staff are wonderful people who are so kind and thoughtful who randomly buy you gifts and do little things because they know you like it. I have taught the same kids for a year and really love them. They have become so accustomed to my hugs that they have just resigned themselves to the fact that I am strange that way.

I have progressed with my Chinese from pointing to saying words now. Okay, so the pronunciation still leaves a lot to be desired but I can write in Chinese and feel like a real little artist. This is huge for me I am not at all gifted artistically. My English has experienced a wonderful fusion of different accents. I speak with a South African accent fused with Yorkshire and Irish and I attempt the Southern drawl. I have been asked to desist with this as I have caused my American colleagues to develop Angina as a result. An example of the Yorkshire, Irish is the following, You have nought (nothing) to worry about. It will be good ‘craic ‘for ye – loads of fun for you.

If you are considering coming to China I truly would wish for you that you have as wonderful adventure as I have. If you have never travelled or lived in a foreign country before I’d like you to keep the following in mind.

Most people don’t like hearing this but a lot depends on you as a person. How willing you are to go out and experience the place and embrace it’s people and culture. You could go to the most beautiful place on planet earth but if your mind set is rigid and you look for things to complain about and moan you will miss the beauty of the place and deny yourself the wonderful adventure.

It’s easy to get into the negative mind set when you faced with something so different but I dare you to laugh and find something humorous in it instead of negative. My relationship with squat toilets is still not a good one and I never think it will ever progress to a loving one but I’ve accepted it’s a way of life here.

Just pack your bag and come. Have no fear, be open minded and watch China weave it’s magic on you.

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