As more fresh foreign teachers arrived from their home countries our staff steadily grew bigger and, thanks to everybody’s combined effort, we managed to grow as a family and experience life in China together. We made jokes, debated and traded ideas at work, explored tourist attractions, grabbed dinner and drinks on a frequent basis, and participated in a wide-range of cultural exchange activities. Sure, it wasn’t always cloud nine, and I definitely encountered a few knuckleheads along the way, but I can’t stress enough how spending my first several years with a great group of people made my overall experience as an ESL Teacher in China all the more enjoyable.
Today, about five years later, I can proudly look back on my journey and know that I’ve explored many of China’s top attractions and regions, including Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, Rainbow Mountains, Shaolin Temple, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and the list goes on. I’ve also managed to travel to nearby countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand, with plenty of more to go. Interacting with different cultures, learning new languages, meeting people from around the globe, discovering new attractions, and laying eyes on some of the most breathtaking man-made landmarks and natural scenery across new territories has brought about some the best experiences ever in my life.
Looking back on it, my one and a half year stint doing MMA from 2014-2015 is probably the best time frame that I’ve had in China; after all, outside of traveling and hanging out with my girlfriend, I was having fun learning a completely new hobby while making new friends and challenging my mind and body 2x a week. I became more optimistic, more confident walking the streets, more focused and attentive, healthier, and I took pleasure knowing that I had a fun activity to look forward to on a weekly basis. Learning and practicing MMA was one of the best things I’ve ever done while living abroad.
I bought my first E-bike just 8 months after I arrived in China and it completely changed my life. It was 1900rmb, or a little over $300, required no gas, and it could get me pretty much anywhere in the city that I needed to be at anytime. To charge the E-bike, all I had to do was bring it up into my apartment via elevator and plug it up in my kitchen. If I ran out of power while out and about, there were charging stations that can give my E-bike enough juice to get home for an insanely small fee. What’s more, I didn’t even need to have a license to buy one! How awesome is that!?
The series quickly became one of my go-to shows to play when I needed a good laugh or to leave on when working on a project and trying to fall asleep. Since then, I’ve probably seen every episode of Seinfeld at least 5 times, seriously. Additionally, the show is home to my all-time favorite TV character, George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander. The series’ “short, stocky, slow-witted bald man” has made me laugh more times than any other TV personality in history. What’s your favorite TV show to watch over and over again?
In 2014, I got a small tattoo dedicated to Capoeira on my arm at China Ink: Suzhou. I know that no matter where I end up in the world, I can always find Capoeira and know that it will bring with it the energy I’d need face any obstacles that life may bring. Salve!
We got in a few good games over a period of about 3 hours and plenty of great aerobic exercise. And that’s what was missing in my life: Aerobic exercise! I’d rarely hit the bikes or treadmills at the gym, and even though Capoeira had me drenched in sweat after each class, playing basketball gave me a more constant stream of high intensity exercise for a longer period of time, which I felt was more of the power boost I needed. I ended up playing more basketball in the following months and even met and made new friends. My overall mood had also improved and life at work became much more easier to deal with! Take it from me, getting some adequate aerobic exercise—cycling, swimming, running, football—is one of the top ways to keep sane when teaching English abroad!
I’ve watched and re-watched Black-led series from the US such as Atlanta, Power, Luke Cage, Blackish, Roots, Empire, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Chappelle’s Show, along with movies such as Think Like a Man Too, The Best Man: Wedding, and Ride Along. From them I’d get plenty of characters, situations, themes, and story arcs covering the African-American experience in the States, which includes everything from afro-identity, history, biographies, political perspectives, and economic issues, to slang, hip-hop culture, relationships, family drama, celebrity gossip, and urban and pop-culture references. The programs I’ve connected with the most, though, have to be the BET and Soul Train Awards shows. I’d download the shows from Youtube, upload them to my PS3, watch them on my flat screen, and feel like I never left home. What a great way to stay connected!
My goal as an expat in China has always been to submerse myself into Chinese lifestyle, traditions, and customs as much as I can in order to truly achieve the rich and fulfilling cultural experience I initially set out for. With that, my wide array of discussions, interactions, and adventures with my Chinese girlfriend over the years has allowed me to do just that more than anything or anyone else I can think of. Living abroad in China has truly been an incredible journey largely thanks to her! Thanks for keeping me sane!
Over the years, for instance, via social media, I’ve watched my cousin attain personal growth, popularity, and wealth as a health and fitness coach. I’ve followed another cousin as she published her first novel and won numerous awards. I’ve also learned that my oldest brother, a successful financial consultant, has decided to go the independent route and start his own business. Additionally, I’ve seen plenty of my friends become entrepreneurs, join blossoming relationships, get married, and have babies. Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to chat with family and friends as much as I’d like, catching up with their success stories via social media has done a wonderful job keeping me sane while living abroad.
With this newfound ‘fame’ it wasn’t long before I decided to expand my website to cover more of my travel adventures and experiences as an ESL Teacher in Southeast Asia. Later, I ‘d even start to plan various ways to turn my blog into a profitable business, which I am looking forward to doing in the future. Blogging was and is an excellent way to stay sane as an ESL Teacher in China. I can capture my experiences, share them with family, friends, and strangers, and inspire others to take the same leap of faith that I did by traveling abroad to work as an ESL Teacher. And thus, I welcome you to explore more of Don’s ESL Adventure!