Retrospective Musings

2014 went by fast. In fact, so did 2013. I’ve lived in China for nearly four years, and my travels in this vast country have become a little muddled. I remember what I did, but sometimes I forget when. I suppose that’s how life often is – a series of experiences interwoven together to form your life story, not a strict compilation of dates and facts.

This might be my last year in China, which is a sad thought. Certainly I’ve had my share of good and bad times here, but Huangdao has become my home. And it’s never easy leaving home. It probably doesn’t help that I have an oceanfront view and a new apartment, courtesy of the university. I’m pretty sure I won’t be staying in any place in America overlooking the ocean, or even a body of water, for that matter.

I remember when I first came here, and everything was new. I couldn’t understand one word (apart from “ni hao”), I felt like a minor celebrity as people bombarded me with pictures, and I couldn’t stand the excessive honking in the street. Now I can understand a little more (probably a 5-year-old’s level), I disregard the foreigner-enamored photographers, and I barely hear the noise anymore. No, I haven’t gone deaf yet.

I remember my first year teaching at China University of Petroleum (CUP), which was hardly memorable. In fact, I try to forget it. I was practically the same age as my students, and I had no pedagogical training at all. I felt pretty confident in my English ability, but less sure of my teaching ability. Thankfully an older couple, who were teaching veterans, gave me some helpful advice. Even so, I often felt inadequate standing up in front of my students, and I was always afraid I would finish the lesson way before the bell rang. Or that the lesson would tank catastrophically. I don’t think any of my lessons were too disastrous, but I’m sure my students got tired of “20 Questions” pretty fast.

Honestly, I thought my first year here would be my last. It was a great year traveling around the country (somewhat less productive studying Chinese) and meeting Chinese people from various provinces. And then my friend convinced me to stay another year. After my first year teaching, I thought that I had had enough of teaching. But I came back the next year, and now another fall semester is nearly over.

But as I said before, this might be my last. It’s time to go back to America, get a job, and settle down (whatever that means exactly). Sometimes I have these dreams of getting the perfect job back home, but then I realize I’ll be fortunate to get any job remotely related to my university degree. People still need writers, but they don’t like to pay them much. I’ve enjoyed teaching here, but it’s a lot easier being a university professor in China than one in America. I have the experience now, but not a teaching degree. And for some people, only the degree matters.

So I suppose this new year will be one of beginnings and endings. Looking for a job in America and finishing my job at CUP. Leaving my oceanfront apartment and finding some liveable flat back home. Saying goodbye to my friends and rebuilding a social network back home. Parting with my sturdy Trinx bike and finding a used car back in the States.

Of course, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that life is unpredictable. I plan to leave this time, but things can change. If this is the last year, I’m sure I’ll leave it with fond memories of this vast, frenetic country and its people, some of whom have been my good friends.

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