There’s but one month left until I move and I find my heart and belongings scattered. I’ve bought a plane ticket, created a packing list, informed School of Rock of my last day, and started selling excess possessions I cannot bring to China nor keep in the US. What was before not completely believable is daily more obvious and inevitable – one month from today I will be waking up in Guangzhou, in the apartment I’m sharing with Ruiwen.
For those of you who do not know, Ruiwen is one of my Chinese exchange sisters. She lived with my family in San Ramon in the 11th grade for the entire school year (2011-2012). She fit in with our family perfectly and has visited us twice since then, once when we lived in Arizona (2014) and again this past winter (2017) with her boyfriend Ouyang after studying at Columbia University as an exchange student for a semester. She is incredibly smart and very goofy. She is passionate about travel and is always up for adventure and trying new things. One of the most remarkable things about our relationship is how truly sisterly it is – we are definitely good friends but more than friends we are really family. We can live and travel together easily, making our imminent housing situation ideal.
I visited Ruiwen in Guangzhou during December 2016 for two weeks, fresh out of studying abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea for one semester. I had been to Guangzhou in 2011 for three days to visit a childhood friend Michelle but really got to know the city a bit during this second trip. Since I have wanted to live in China for so long I was at that point “shopping” for a goal city to move to and fell in love with Guangzhou. There are gorgeous tall buildings (but then again, what city in China doesn’t?), a temperate climate, a prominent river winding through the city, an amazing public library, and DIM SUM. FYI Dim Sum is from Guangzhou.
A little more about Guangzhou – depending on your criteria, it is either the most populous or third most populous city in China. The 2017 census put its urban population at 19.8 million but the greater population at 44.5 million!! Wowza. If you’ve never left the US it’s basically impossible to fathom, considering New York City has a mere population of 8.5 million. The language spoken in Guangzhou is Cantonese. Yes, I know, I have taken 10 years of Mandarin, not Cantonese. The relative ridiculousness of this is not lost on me – however, Mandarin is still taught in school, so my ability to communicate will not be totally hindered. Eavesdropping and listening comprehension will take huge blows for sure, but I hope to be able to speak Cantonese by this time next year. No, I don’t hope, I will!
I have already been reminded of the open-mindedness and flexibility required of spending time in China. I signed a contract with my employer that is good from September 1, 2018 – July 30, 2019, and thought I had selected a school to teach at. I was just informed after a further inquiry that I actually have another interview with that school I will have to complete after I’ve arrived in China.
Are you familiar with Myers-Briggs? It’s that semi-pseudoscientific way of categorizing people’s personalities by a four-letter combination representing different scales of temperament. The last letter in a Myers-Briggs type is either a P or J, P standing for perceiving and J standing for judging. Perceiving, in this case, indicates someone who is plan-adverse and does best in a more spontaneous, loosey-goosey situation. Judging people are more reliant on schedules and definite courses of action. I am one of the more J people in my friend group, I hate not knowing what is happening! I keep a tight schedule, and then heavily procrastinate within that tight schedule. One of the best things about China for my personal growth is being forced to let go of my expectations and plans and ideas about what will happen and just let China do its thing around me. It is easy to feel existentially insignificant looking at the stars, in China, it is impossible to cling to one’s ego and perception as somehow totally true.
There remain a few major things to do before moving: sell my car and computer (I bought a new laptop to take), get a VPN, cancel my subscriptions, pack, say goodbye to friends and family. I won’t have easy access to any social media or websites I use frequently in the US except for Reddit. I’ll have to shift from using Spotify and my physical music collection for my daily music diet to services like QQ Music, which have a vastly different selection of tunes. I’m bringing some instruments but transitioning from teaching music every day for many hours to teaching English and just playing music for fun will be jarring. When I studied abroad in Korea, I dreamt of School of Rock weekly. I’m sure it will be the same when I move this time.
If you have any suggestions of essential desert island books/records you think I’d enjoy, please comment them below! I’m making a digital stockpile.