pre-departure

I haven’t even left yet, and already some good has come from my trip.

When I first started looking into the possibility of going to China, the first logical step was to look at the website for the agency I would be working with. This was made difficult by the Chinese characters that dominated the page when I looked at it. There was a button that said “English,” which I promptly clicked, only to be led to a page with links to blank pages. Not as informative as I had hoped.

My mind went to a friend I had taken a class with first semester–Yishen. Yishen was from China, and though we weren’t close friends (only having worked together on class projects and the like), we had exchanged phone numbers to coordinate group work, and I still had his.  I sent him a message asking if he would be a translator for me, and he agreed.

After he told me what the website said (good news, I wasn’t signing up for any big surprises), I asked what his plans were for the summer. “Well,” he said, ” I am hoping to work at a summer camp here. Somewhere with horses.” He only had a student visa, so legally he couldn’t work for money, which made his options pretty slim. I racked my brain and thought back to the summer camp I frequented growing up. Though they didn’t have horses, I was pretty sure they had dealt with foreign students in similar situations, so I told Yishen that I would email the camp and see what we could arrange.

They were more than willing to speak with him about working at the camp, and in the end he decided that was his best option. When school ended, he and I travelled up north and I brought him up to the camp. Of course it was raining, so I couldn’t give the tour of my favorite places as a camper, but the benefit of the 4ish hour car ride was being able to quiz Yishen on everything I could think to ask about China and the differences between China and the US. Each time there was an extended silence I would come up with a new question, or make some sort of observation (i.e. ‘there’s a lake over there.’) to break the silence and help keep me awake. Of course I later learned that prolonged silence isn’t something looked at as bad in the Chinese culture, and that nervous small talk was certainly a western trait. Whoops.

So far it sounds like he’s having a blast going between the two camps, and he plans on coming to stay with my family and I over the 4th of July. I don’t think he knows what he’s getting himself into. 🙂 I think it’s really great that through trying to get my whole summer plan figured out, I was able to help a friend figure out his plan as well. If I had never been asked to work in China, I wouldn’t have seen Yishen or gotten the chance to ask him what his plans for the summer were, so there’s no way telling what he, or I, would have ended up spending our summers doing.

31 days!

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how it all happened

I bet you’re wondering how in the world I came upon this phenomenal opportunity. It was quite by chance. See, I was looking for summer jobs, and I thought nannying might be an ok way to spend a summer. I had been hoping to nanny for my cousin’s children, but last summer I passed up on a chance to nanny for their friends (because I wanted one more summer at home before school), and my cousins interpreted that as me not wanting to move to the city (about 4 hours from home) to nanny. If they hadn’t hired a different nanny you wouldn’t be reading this right now, and I would be spending every week day watching after two rambunctious–albeit cute– little boys.

Since I had missed out on that job, I started looking for alternate nannying positions online, on a site that connects nannies with prospective families. On this site, I was contacted by a representative of an agency in China, wondering if I would consider working in China. I had to think long and hard about it (NOT!), but I replied ‘yes!’ and the whole thing has snowballed from there. What was initially going to be a summer job turned into a 6-12 month cultural exchange experience, in which I will be moving in with a family in South-Eastern China (near Hong Kong) and tutoring their children in english while receiving mandarin lessons and the culture shock of a lifetime.

I’ve done a lot of research on many aspects of Chinese life and how different it is from my western perspective, but I feel like the depth of this knowledge really won’t set in until I’m actually there living it myself. There are a lot of different levels of knowledge, and the highest level can only come from experiencing something yourself. Though you won’t all be there with me (but you’re absolutely welcome to visit! :)), I hope to tell a great story on my blog that will follow my journey over this next period of my life, and tell it with enough detail that you can live vicariously through my posts. I also plan on posting many pictures, which should help with that as well! All the photography on my blog will be done by me as well, so if it’s bad, I apologize in advance, but if it’s good, let me know if you want prints! 😉

Another bump in the whole ‘sharing my experience’ thing: NO FACEBOOK. It will be interesting to take such a long hiatus from the ensnaring world of always knowing what everyone on my friend list is ‘doing,’ but I think it will be good to curb that addiction and I may never go back!

33 days and counting!

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