******** Wer ob der sommerlichen Hitze und Schwüle sein Hirn nicht noch weiter anstrengen möchte, möge nicht verzweifeln. HIER gibt es die deutsche Version des Posts *******************
The same story year after year. Just like past winter I did not take my muse with me to China after the holidays and therefore haven’t written anything in ages. Since my last blogpost about my Bicycle horror story there were of course a bazilion of things that have happened. In the meantime, I have finished my contract and therefore the chapter „Beijing“ for now. As you can read I also finally have had time to smash some thoughts in the keyboard. You are welcome!
The story with the bicycle and the lawsuit ironically ended up having a very happy end. After a “form A38”-esque bureaucratic obstacle course (are there any Asterix and Obelix fans among my English speaking readers that will get this reference?) from court to finance department back to court to see my lawyer to bank back to finance department back to bank and so on. In the end I finally did get back the deposit of roughly 36.000 Euros that I had paid to the civil court of China and somehow I ended up with an additional 1500€ on my bank account. A gift of the plaintiff? A compensation by the Chinese government? Hah, good one. The mystery was quickly solved: in fact the Renminbi, the chinese national currency, has gotten a lot stronger during the three months the civil court was holding my deposit. So when I got back the significant sum – that my deposit certainly was – there was a little pleasant surprise to be found after exchanging the money back to Euros. I’m just going to claim that this is the epitome of good Karma finally striking back. Suck it, Mr. Zhu! That is all that I still want to say about this ordeal. At the end of the day I am left with a good story, the revelation that with enough positive vibes and support you can overcome even a Chinese lawsuit including a travel ban. Thank you, next!
Other than that, I have done fair bit of traveling since Christmas and to be fair, each trip probably deserves its own blogpost – and who knows, maybe I shall be kissed by my muse again during the next few weeks back home in Austria. But until then just a quick but honorable mention of the absolutely amazing, childhood dream fulfilling and highly rewarding trips of the last few months:
The first big gig of 2019 for Chinese New Year took me to Cambodia. Featuring the most chill and amazeballs travel companion one could imagine, the girl with the many nicknames: Franzi aka Francik aka Srhanzeska aka Franny. Not to forget our extraordinarily handsome host, Alejandro who was kind enough to let us crash on his couch and made sure to show us the expat scene and nightlife of Phnom Penh. Then there were the touching and deeply impressive visits to the so-called Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum (formerly known as the S21 prison, from which there are only a handful known survivors). And as a stark contrast, the breathtaking temples of Ang Kor in Siem Reap, where we got to see the sun rise and set in one day. (writing these lines I’m getting goosebumps and have the feeling this certainly needs a delayed post…)
A couple a months later I spent our school’s ’spring break‘ with Julian in Malaysia, mostly on the beautiful island of Borneo (and of course – being the travel hub for South East Asia – a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur). The pictures Julian took actually speak for themselves but all the wild animal encounters, including Proboscis Monkeys, a submarine elephant and a extremely depressing Orang-Utan sighting in a palm oil plantation also go in the category ‚childhood dream‘. At the same time they were very eye opening regarding our consume-driven society today. I would like to say this needs a few more words as well.
The following couple of months were full of Volleyball, farwell-, birthday-, summer- and other parties (there was some work involved as well, work hard, play hard and such) And just as suddenly as the whole adventure in China began, it already came to an end. With the 2018-2019 academic year ending, so did my contract with the British School of Bejing. Naturally, at the end of such an adventure – which the two years in China certainly were – one should take some time to reflect. As I briefly mentioned in my last blog post, you intake so many different experiences in any given chapter of your life but in the end the outcome of that experience-equation is what matters. A few of these experiences I have briefly touched upon in previous blog posts but I would like to give a short summary and personal reflection here as well.
(Disclaimer: That this is a purely subjective and personal depiction is implied by the word reflection. I do realize, that there are millions of people out there that have had very different and unique experiences during their X years as an expat in China. The following are just my own impressions of the last two years of the Middle Kingdom)
Things I am going to miss about China:
For someone who likes to refer to themselves as a social butterfly, China and specifically Beijing are a true paradise. The amount of leisure activities, travel destinations, restaurants from all over the world, historic and natural sights, and night life seem just infinite. There are so many great and lovely people that I have had the chance to meet over the last two years but over the last half year especially my l beloved volleyball girls and boys made life in Beijing very fun and entertaining (shoutout to my Panthers squad!). What goes without saying are the many colleagues who became really dear friends, whom I had the chance to learn a lot from professionally as well as personally and who it was always a blast to be with in- as well as outside of work. You guys know who you are and I genuinely hope our paths will cross again! I already miss all of you!
That creates a good bridge to the second aspect I am going to miss a lot: my job at BSB! It is going to be very unlikely that I am going to find an overall package, as good as the one offered here, anytime soon. Even though it was a lot of work and I had to work school days of 10 hours regularly, I am very happy with the overall experience. Sometimes it was not easy to walk that thin line between satisfying the needs of the German curriculum and (especially) the German parents and the demands of the British school, that we were still a part of. However, once I had found a good balance it was very rewarding. And let’s be honest: It’s hard to top working with 10 students and having your personal teaching assistant. On top of that, and I am not going into details, the financial aspect definitely helped as well. Realistically it probably doesn’t get much better than this.
Chinese culture! Historically as well as geographically, China offers one of the richest cultures and some of the most diverse landscapes on our planet which make it an extremely interesting destination to visit and live in. Not even speaking of all the different local cuisines that offer so many outstandingly delicious and unique dishes. May it be the dancing Qigong groups of elderly Chinese women or the street Musicians or the Hutongs, theres always something to hear or see. As a naturally curious person one never fails to find wonder and surprise within the many facets of Chinese culture, tradition and nature.
Things I am NOT going to miss about China:
Chinese culture! Or should I say anticulture? The constant spitting and snotting everywhere or the terrible traffic situation in Beijing and especially the proximity to the communist government are certainly some of the things I won’t be missing at all. Ever since my personal experience with the Chinese justice system, thinking about Chinese authorities handling things the „Chinese way“ makes me a little bit sick . Not only that they can and will easily screw over helping hands, especially when they are foreigners, but also the constant surveillance and concepts like the infamous ‚Social Credit System‘ – which has been running silently for a couple of years now – are utterly against my principles.
Another aspect of that (Anti)culture is language. Many times over the course of the last few weeks traveling I had been asked whether or not I spoke Mandarin after having lived in China for two years. Shamefully I have to admit that I am limited to “survival” Chinese skills even after such a long time. Admittedly, to a great extent that is my own fault for not being more pro-active in my Chinese learning or not taking classes from the very beginning. However, I my defense: Chinese is not exactly the easiest language just to pick up by being immersed in it. Of course the more specific your everyday problems become, the bigger the language barrier gets and quite frankly that barrier sits quite high in China to begin with. Furthermore, I want to say Chinese people are not the most forgiving for not knowing Chinese. I was lucky enough to have had many good friends or colleagues around me who were able to support me with Chinese translations of all kinds. (Special shoutout to Kasia and her outstanding Chinese skills who got me out of many pickles!)
And then there was a tiny little App called “WeChat” that you might have heard of. I was actually considering to write that I „miss WeChat” and to be fair, I am actually still using it so it might be a bit hypocritical to talk bad about the favorite tool of anyone living in China. After all, pretty much everything runs through WeChat at one point or another. Paying back your friends, order food, make appointments, tickets to the movies, paying in the restaurant, activating your Mobike, top-up on your phone bill etc. etc. Convenient, isn’t it? As convenient as it may be – one has to be aware that, by using WeChat for all these services, one becomes a digital slave of the Chinese government who certainly are having a huge slice of the personal data cake that we are creating constantly. Who does not appreciate this “infringement” (as some would call it), is probably better off avoiding China.
What insights am I taking away from this experience in China?
The knowledge! By now the knowledge is an appreciated meme among friends and admittedly I probably use it in a way too inflationary way but I still want to say I have gained some. I am proud to claim that I have improved as a person over the last two years. Even if I still have to overcome that “inner demon of lazyness” that – among other things – has prevented me from writing this blog, starting to meditate and becoming an Adonis in the gym, I still believe I have developed professionally and personally. A lot of that development is certainly connected to the so-called ‚growth mindset‘ which is being taught and lived by the curriculum as well as many colleagues at BSB for instance. It is the sort of mindset where mistakes, set-backs and downswings are part of your life but it remains important to learn from those lessons and find your way in your own pace.
Those downswings take me to the next point. Especially the story with the bike and the lawsuit have showed me that one does not need to be scared of absolutely anything or anyone as long as you have the right people around you and have a positive mindset. What’s the point in being afraid of certain things, worrying about something and spreading bad vibes throughout the day? The answer is easy: There is none besides spreading this disease of negativity. I don’t actually remember the last time I was thinking “Oh no, but what if…” (except for in love, I’m still an idiot overthinking everything when it comes to that). Life is full of “what if’s” and one should strive to learn to deal with them in a healthy way.
Many infinitely rewarding friendships! As mentioned above, I had the chance to make countless great friend- and relationships with many amazing people of whom I have learned so many things over the last two years. This very well may be THE most valuable thing to take away from these sort of adventures and quite possibly the explanation for why I am going to continue doing what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. I can highly recommend anyone to leave their comfort zone. Regardless your age, your occupation or your family situation. I strongly believe it is those new experiences (and there will be good and bad ones) that keep us mentally healthy and that give us the opportunity to grow.
It is safe to say: The last two years in Beijing were a unique experience with all its Up’s and Down’s that I am very grateful to have had! Huge thank you at this point to all the people that have made it possible (feeling a bit like the Academy Awards here). Special shoutout to Kasia, without whom China wouldn’t even have been anywhere on my screen off possibilites. Also to Joe and especially Silke, who have helped me to find a job in Beijing at have supported me throughout. Of course to my parents who have been there at any given point when I needed them. And to each and every one of you who have supported me physically or mentally!
So far so good. And for those of you who are actually still reading: What have I been doing since the end of June? Some of you might have seen my posts on various social media platforms of my adventures in Australia. I spent three weeks traveling and discovering the continent down under in a speed itinerary. From Perth via Melbourne and Cairns to Sydney. The trip was filled with plenty of reunions and one more childhood dream off the list in shape of the Great Barrier Reef. After that it was time for the fourth continent this year: North America. After two short but nonetheless very refreshing pit stops on Hawaii and in California the destination for the next couple of weeks was the naturally beautiful state of West Virginia (mountain momma)! Located there – in the Summit Bechtel Reserve – was the 24th World Scout Jamboree. The biggest peaceful gathering of youth in the world. Roughly 45.000 people from 150+ different countries gathered there “to unlock a new world” (Which happened to be the official theme of this Jamboree). This special event definitely deserves its own blog post which you hopefully are going to get to read very, very soon!
Until then, smooches on the belly and Zaijian!