Breaking Routines

When we first moved to China, 11 months ago, I was terrified about falling into a routine and yet I desperately needed a break from the constant motion and change of travel. As humans we crave routine. Our brains are always searching for routines because it is easier. After all, a well worn road is easier to drive on than a dirt path. Yet, by pushing ourselves out of a routine, we create more paths and can go to more places than before. 

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve fallen into a routine and that’s OK. 

I’ve gotten comfortable with teaching 6 classes a day. I’ve gotten comfortable with eating dinner at the nearby cafeteria restaurant where they always greet me with a friendly nihao and ask me if I want the eggplant, and, with a blush, I say I do. I’ve gotten comfortable with the subway system where I can easily navigate to anywhere in the city. I’ve gotten comfortable with riding a bus even though I have to know how to say my destination in Chinese. I’ve even started to get comfortable with buying street food.

Yet, in just 3 weeks, this routine will change dramatically. In just 3 weeks, my visa expires, Martin’s visa expires, and our lease is up. In 3 weeks, we will leave China. 

Our next step has been in the making for many months mostly because moving to a foreign country is complicated. 

Throughout my time teaching English in China, I’ve discovered how much I love languages. I’m intrigued by how people learn a new language and how to help people learn a new language. Furthermore, I’m fascinated by the fact that learning Chinese requires different language learning skills than learning Spanish. Because of this interest and because I love to teach, I’d really like to go back to school and get a Master’s degree and maybe a Doctorate in Applied Linguistics. I’d love to teach in a university where I can study how we learn while also teaching others about how we learn. 

But going back to school is expensive. So, I need to work another year – this will allow me to save some money and do some research about scholarships and grants (a time consuming and soul sucking process).

Then the question was: do I continue working at a training center teaching adults or do I find a job teaching at a university teaching college students? Clearly, teaching at a university is more aligned with my long-term goal.

In September, I’ll start working at a technical college in Shenzhen. The hours are better, the pay is comparable, and I’ll get to teach my own material. Unfortunately, the class sizes are larger and students are generally less motivated. I will miss my current students deeply. They are the best part of my job and many of them I consider friends. I’m excited about staying in Shenzhen because of the friends we’ve made here.

While my new job starts in September, my current job ends in 3 weeks. And we can’t stay in China (the visa process is the bane of my existence…). 

Why not spend the summer in Europe?!

I cannot begin to express how excited I am to spend three months in Europe. 

We’ll fly from Hong Kong to Amsterdam and then from there we’ll visit as many people and places that we can afford. Martin’s parents and siblings and their families are descending upon Sweden in June; we’ll be there too. My cousin and her family are going to Bulgaria in July; we’ll be there too. My parents are going to Spain in August; we’ll be there too. Plus, we have friends and family who live in London, Edinburgh, The Netherlands, France, and Latvia. We hope to visit them all.

Our travel plans for the summer are sketched out but not planned out. I’m sick of being so structured. In my current job every detail is planned, including the words I will say, every day. I’m ready to just go with the flow and see where life (and our meager budget) takes us. 

I remember a saying from the vipassana meditation course I attended nearly 2 years ago: 

With patience and persistence you are bound to be successful. 

I see this saying as being applicable to both times of routine and times of change. I have a daily routine in China where I’ve gotten comfortable with my life. I must have patience and persistence to not get bored or restless with it. Conversely, in 3 weeks, my life will change greatly; I won’t know where I’ll sleep, what I’ll do, or who I’ll meet. I’ll need to have patience and persistence to not get overwhelmed or anxious about it. 

Such is life. And this one is mine.

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1 Response

  1. Terry says:

    Well done. It looks like we’ll be flying over/under each other; I’m spending 3 weeks in the British Isles in Sept. I bet you two had no idea where you’d end up all those plane, bus, train, jitney and bike rides ago. Now stop reading this and get back to planning your Summer….