The Old Must Go for the New to Come

In January 2010, I crammed 25 years of my life into two little 50 lbs bags and headed out on a China-bound plane to educate the young and inquisitive minds of Dalian on all things American. But why? Why leave a coveted associate producer position at CBS (and six years of journalism training to boot) and head off to a lowly English teaching position in China? Why? Because, frankly, I've learned getting what you think you want out of life isn't always what it's cracked up to be. What follows are the tales of my trials and triumphs (like overcoming my fear of the dreaded squatty potty) and the lessons I've learned along the way...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Goodbye, My Friend

It’s been quite a while since my last post and I suppose much has occurred in the interval. I’ve witnessed live chickens get ripped apart and devoured by wild leopards, gone on an epic search for a panda, seen a UFO, gone out with a former track gold medalist, and listened to bad American country sung by Filipinos in a German pavilion at a Chinese beer festival…but perhaps, I’ll bore you with those quotidian tales another day. Right now, I’m far more preoccupied anticipating the fast-approaching departure of a fellow teacher. Tonight is her last night in Dalian. And while she is not the first teacher that I’ve had to say goodbye to here, she is the first real friend that I’m truly going to miss.         

Although, living, working and playing together on a nearly 24/7 basis, one would assume our little commune of Jayland teachers would’ve become incredibly tight-knit, I’ve only actually gotten close to a select few coworkers and this particular coworker is one of them. I attribute much of that to the fact that we were both inducted as newbies into the Jayland family on the very same day, and likewise equally subjected to all the initial quirks that expat life in the enigmatic Middle Kingdom has to offer.

Eight months ago, we both arrived in Dalian International Airport on the same deathly cold January night—a mix of exhaustion, excitement and bewilderment. Then we both sat dazed and confused as we struggled to stay awake through 10 days straight of orientation and training all while still under a cloud of jet-lag and culture shock. Then, of course, there was the apartment registration, the passport registration, and the poking, prodding, and pricking of a makeshift health clinic as we were herded through different rooms (including a room where we along with like 20+ other people were required to take our own urine samples…in our own designated test tube.) Fun times. From there began our adventures in teaching, traveling and Five Color City (a seedy section of Kaifaqu that can be best described as a carnival on crack.) And while, we certainly didn’t spend every waking hour together and we definitely had our differences in activities and tastes, I always felt this sense of sisterhood among us—which is probably due in part to her endearing tendency of calling everybody “sister.” She was the fun, pretty, pleasant, easy-going younger sister in our dysfunctional hodgepodge of a staff. And while she has always been a relatively quiet presence among our boisterous bunch, she was a much-needed presence. A balance. Now, it seems like that balance is about to be thrown totally off.

Truthfully, I don’t really care for change all that much. I know that sounds ironic and maybe even downright hypocritical as I chose to move thousands of miles away from everything that is truly familiar to me. Perhaps, I should rephrase that and say I don’t much care for change I can’t control.  I suppose that’s not unique. Most people don’t. But I think even in the midst of big changes, we are still always grasping for remnants of normalcy. Moving to China was life-altering, but in the midst of it, I found normalcy in the routine of my work and in the bonds of friendships…Friendships that I had expected to last, at least, the length of my contract. But life rarely ever quite lives up to our expectations…for better or worse.  Then again, who’s to say that the friendships I’ve formed with my coworkers have to stop here in China? With the advent of Facebook, Skype and G-Chat, it’s definitely a lot harder to lose touch with people (even, if you try!)  However, I am a realist and don’t really subscribe to the whole “No goodbyes, only see you later” school of thought, because let’s be real, sporadic wallposts and picture comments just to say “What’s up” and “Happy Birthday" hardly constitute a friendship. But it is what it is…And for now, this is indeed goodbye…So goodbye, Sister. (We never did get to go on that Chinese double-date, did we.) You will be missed more than you know. :o(

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