Our kids (and others) are constantly asking us questions. Not just questions about what our plans are (which have slowly become clearer and more solidified) but questions about China in general. And over and over again, B and I have had to say, “We know nothing about China!” They ask us questions about pets and Girl Scouts, food and travel. And always, we give them the same answer. Hopefully in two years we’ll be experts, but right now. . . not so much.
Initially, we didn’t know too much. As time has passed, we’ve found out a bit more. B will be teaching economics for two years at, what we understand, is an exclusive high school for Chinese (and international students) who plan to attend college in the United States. Starting in the tenth grade, instruction is in English. B doesn’t need to learn Chinese. Ideally we all learn some and hopefully the kids pick up a lot.
Most ex-patriots live northeast of Beijing near the American embassy. That’s where the western stores are, etc. We won’t be there. This is both annoying and exciting. We’ll be west of downtown Beijing. It would be great to be closer to more American stuff (and people), but it will also help us experience a truer Beijing, I hope. The building where our church congregation meets won’t be quite as far as the ex-pat community, but is more on the eastern side of Beijing and will be at least an hour away via subway.
B’s school provides housing. We found out about a month ago that we’re getting a 4 bedroom apartment. Woo-hoo! This is a huge blessing. I think that anything bigger than 2 bedrooms is hard to come by in China. Before we knew about the 4 bedroom apartment, we’d thought about striking out on our own and trying to find a 3 bedroom apartment to rent. Even then, we had decided we wanted to live near B’s school. I’d rather have his commute be shorter so he’s home with us more than have us live closer to the church for a 1 or 2 times a week commute.
We’ll be in China for two school years. August 2014-June 2016. Just under two years. Initially, we thought we might fly back to the states that middle summer but it’s the most expensive time to travel, and B’s school only covers B’s airplane ticket home once a year, not all of ours. Instead, I think we’ll take that time that B has off from work to travel a little around Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.).
Even with all the stress from the logistics and all the worrying because this is such a huge move, it’s still pretty exciting. I’m excited to go to the Great Wall of China. This is something I’ve always thought would be really cool to see, but I never imagined I’d actually get to see it. Even in my wildest dreams, any travel abroad I thought about was mostly in Europe.
I’m sort of treating this whole adventure as just that, an adventure. It helps deal with the craziness of moving to China for two years to think of it as an adventure. A vacation of sorts. Thinking of it that way also helps me realize we don’t need to take nearly as many of our belongings as I keep thinking we’ll need. It’ll be a great opportunity for our kids (and hopefully B and I) to pick up on some Chinese which I suspect will be very beneficial for our futures.
We won’t be living in the Ex-patriot, American/western neighborhood. While this is a little scary, I’m happy about it. I want to experience China. Beijing. I don’t want to experience a mini-America in China. Although I realize even the American neighborhood is probably nothing like America.
We won’t be nearly as adventurous in China as we are in the United States. We bypassed several vaccines that were recommended (not required) do to questioning the need for it (in Beijing), or the side-effects of it, so there are certain provinces we won’t visit. And we’re going to stick to big cities. This would probably happen anyway because the bigger the city, the better off a bunch of non-Chinese speakers will be.
We do plan to travel around Asia some. Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam. B is hoping we can fit in Australia or New Zealand. We’ll see… We recently saw The Hangover Part II on TV and that has me pretty convinced to avoid Thailand (at least Bangkok) for now. I never pictured myself a world traveler, and these two years might be it for us, but it sure is going to be an exciting adventure, no matter how scary it is as well.
I realize that on my first post where I list upcoming topics for this blog, excitement is listed second. Let’s be realistic here for a minute, I think the excitement lasted about half a second and was quickly replaced by fear and terror. And while I spent the first several weeks feeling a little freaked out and overwhelmed, there was always a little bit of excitement in the background. But really, for those first few weeks, terror and panic ruled.
Things to worry about:
Air Quality. Wearing masks because the pollution is so bad there are days you shouldn’t go outside. Everyone made sure to tell us about this.
None of us speak Mandarin. In fact, none of us have any experience with any Asian languages. This includes fear over Chinese characters being everywhere and our inability to read them.
Where will we live? Housing is included with his position, but 1-2 bedroom apartments and there are 6 of us. They allow for a housing allowance, but how are we going to swing that from here and what can we afford?
There are six of us. This seems so much more manageable if I don’t have to worry about losing four kids everywhere I go.
Two years!!!! It sounds a lot better if you think of it as two school years which is technically only 21 months or so.
It’s exactly 12 hours ahead of us in Ohio right now.
The flight is … I don’t even want to figure out how long. It’s so far away. It’s next to North Korea. It’s a communist country. I could go on and on.
We probably won’t have a clothes dryer. We might not have an oven. Etc.
How will we get around? We won’t have a car. We don’t fit in a taxi, plus the drivers don’t speak English. The bus signs are only written in characters. We need a driver like Ranjit on How I Met Your Mother. The subway it is.
Really, just a lot of questions and unknowns. It didn’t help that everyone we told then launched into all of their own concerns or questions that we couldn’t answer.