So, in the beginning of April I decided that I would renew my contract for a second year. A lot of thought went into this decision and until about January I was on the fence about what to do.
I decided that renewing my contract would be beneficial in a few ways. If I worked for one more year, I could possibly be debt free if I choose with a small savings. Or I would have a small amount of credit card debt and a sizeable savings depending on what I do next. I realized I did not want to return home at the end of June with a small savings and in the same predicament as when I left Korea, jobless and unsure of what to do in life.
I also have not done a lot of things I wanted to while being here in China. I have not traveled much as I have wanted to since I had to pay for the dentist and doctors visits and I am taking care of my health. So, if I left after my first contract I wouldn’t get to see anything. I really want to see inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang Province (Eastern Turkistan). I have always been interested in Asian culture, but I’ve always found Central Asia to be most fascinating. So I need to be near it to explore it!
I’m sure my family will miss me, but I’ve always known I might not live in America as an adult. Renewing my contract here means I have to give up a lot of things I believe in to pursue my interests (a post for another day). Teaching in China is similar in some ways to Korea and at the same time very different! I’m still learning how to be a better teacher and how to utilize a classroom with no resources. I like to think of each job I take on as a character builder.
People might ask are you staying for the money? Compared to a local salary I make a good salary here in China, especially as someone from one of the 7 English Speaking countries. But with this company I don’t get a pay raise for staying another year. I could switch somewhere else and make more money, but I would probably lose my vacation time. Which I am really excited about, although I may not be able to do all I want to do.
I’m staying for the life-style. I work 20 hours a week and I do not need to deskwarm. Once my classes are done I can go home. I don’t work weekends, unless a school day gets cancelled for a holiday and is rescheduled on a Saturday or Sunday. (Why is that a thing?) Sometimes I am required to be present for activities, which is fine. I normally know a week in advance. My vacation is mine. I couldn’t go anywhere for winter vacation, because my passport was with immigration for a month. But my holidays are why I am here. I get 6-7 weeks off from January to the 1st week of March (depending on the exam time table). Luckily, for the days I don’t work in winter I recieve half pay. And I get from the end of June – August off to do what I want. I won’t recieve a paycheck for the months of July and August, but the vacation time is worth it.
I’ve come to realize my renewal gives me time to learn some Mandarin, improve my Tibetan and travel locally. I may try and travel to one country in the summer, but it may be an impossibility with my budget. I also want a new camera so I have to weigh my priorities.
One of the other important factors for this decision was being in a place I can pursue my interests. I have been really lucky to meet the amazing members at Himalaya Toastmaster, as well as, other foreigners who have similar interests to me. When I was in Korea, most people didn’t share many interests with me and sometimes that made it hard to share things and conversations. I also have had the chance to start learning Tibetan and helping others with their English as a language exchange, which has been a fun experience with different individuals.
It is a privilege for me to be here, so close to Tibet. I am lucky enough to have met people who want to show me their hometowns on the Tibetan Plateau. For me, my closest friends back home introduced me to a few phrases and words in Tibetan and to Tibetan culture. I feel like as long as I am here, I need to see as much of it as I can and share it with them. I sometimes wonder what can I bring all of you from your homeland when I come back to visit? A photo? Videos? Trinkets? Dried cheese and yak jerky? Medicine? It is something I need to ask you one by one.