Posted: Sat 31st Jan 2015 17:02
I remember the moment I got THE email that read: Is this for you? If not, do pass it on!
I had only been saying the week before how much I'd love to go and work in an international school and now, here it was, the call for someone to come and work in TEDA International School in Tianjin, China.
I consulted with my family immediately. Both my husband and 6 year old daughter, were totally up for the idea. We did lots of research and googled images to see where we'd be living. I watched Imogen Heap's 'XiXi She Knows' video on repeat from when she'd worked in Hang Zhou for a few weeks to carry out a fabulous music project. I was scared but it felt right and I cried every time I watched the video as it was so beautiful.
A couple of friends were initially upset with us. My Dad told me horror stories every day about what was going on in China! Many friends said they wished they could have this opportunity to make this change and that we should go for it - my husband was in a new job that he didn't like and my part-time teaching job was only for a term. Our daughter, although settled in her lovely village school also yearned for adventure. She is superbly confident and open to new things, change and was excited beyond belief.
Then one day, I met with a friend who was really sad we were going. I went home and announced that we couldn't possible go - people needed us. The pollution would be bad for my breathing. The Grandparents would miss out on their grandchild growing up. I'd had the interview with the school and told them YES! But I wrote and said that we had changed our mind - really sorry.
And here was the defining moment. When I calmly told my daughter one day after school that we had decided not to go after all, she immediately burst into tears. 'But we are SUPPOSED to go to China' she insisted. 'And I wanted to try Chinese sweets...' she added!
This threw me. I had known deep down all this time that were were going to go - I wasn't sure what I was playing at but it must have been the fear of the unknown.
We then decided to DO it (if the school would have me!) I wrote to them and they said a resounding yes!
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of pure excitement, more research, talking to one of my best friends who had lived there years ago (she was another massive reason why we ended up going!). We made our trips to the Chinese Embassy in London, we had several goodbye parties, our upset friends transformed into 'happy for us' friends and my Dad toned down his horror stories (kind of!). Once everyone accepted that we were going, they were behind us all the way! We had quite a few leaving parties, gatherings and meals. It felt strange as we didn't know how long we were saying goodbye for. We had talked about staying there from one year, to five!
The company where my husband was working was a little surprised to hear that he was already going to leave... but they wished him well (apart from one sour commenter!) and that was that.
Moving was already changing us. We had to think differently. We gave away most of our big belongings such as beds, sofas, wardrobes and chairs. We had a limit on what we could take and wanted to travel light. We didn't give returning a second thought. We put 40 boxes in our friend's barn and slimmed down our possessions by about the same.
We let our daughter take one full case of toys and books and I crammed in as much of her stuff in as possible in other suitcases. We were told that we could buy every thing there so to forget bringing towels and toiletries (unless we had favourite brands). I was glad we listened to this advice.
We were advised to get our inoculations (with hindsight now, we didn't need them!) and we spent £400 on getting our medicals done - again, pretty pointless as we had official medicals not long after we arrived in China.
That moment when were were seated on the plane, with our 6-year old, we all held hands and breathed deeply. We just couldn't believe it! It all happened so terrifically fast. We knew when we got to China that we'd be met at Beijing airport and taken to a hotel in the Tianjin Economic Development Area. And that I would start work three weeks after our arrival.
When we landed at Beijing, and started to make our way down the aisle to get off the plane, our daughter piped up cheerily, 'Ah China! The perfect place to be!'
It was her amazingly positive attitude that essentially guided us to move and to move joyously. It was so hot and humid when we arrived. We had a long journey to our hotel and we had no idea on what to expect. My husband told me a few weeks later that when we got to our hotel, he thought what have we done! And wanted to turn back!
We loved learning Chinese and also finding out little things such as every evening, hundreds of people of all ages would gather in a large stadium and exercise together and be together... moving and being happy. This blew me away and I wish it would happen here more!
We could walk down the street and discover someone suddenly practising Tai Qi moves or doing some press-ups on equipment. We made friends with everyone from the humble street cleaners to people working in the government. We ate tonnes of watermelon. We loved the food (nothing like Chinese take-away here in the UK)
I fell pregnant two months after arriving and we decided to stay just for nine months in the end. But our lives had changed forever. Our daughter turned seven and a month before we were due to come home, asked if we could stay there.
But we came home, had a baby, moved to the seaside in Kent, and my husband started University. We now believe that anything can happen and we are pretty certain that we will travel again. I miss my life in China desperately sometimes but am equally happy to be here. It feels most days as if we dreamt the whole experience.
Change is good, no matter what form it takes. You don't need to move half way around the world to gain new perspective on life, but for those who feel a passion to do so, I would like to say - do it!
You can read all about our experiences and life in China on my blog here: chinaleaf.littleguru.co.uk
Are you thinking of having an adventure and moving to a different part of the world? If you want to know more about 'how we did it' do feel free to contact me! firstname.lastname@example.org
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