My, my, how time flies! Doesn’t it seem like it was just a few months ago that I was blathering on about how I had no idea what to do with myself? (Umm, well, probably because it was just a few months ago. But, whatever. You’re not like keeping track of this stuff with your day calendar or anything, are you?)
You see, my current teaching gig in China ends at the end of June.
I could stay here another semester if I want.
Or I could move on to a new country and a new adventure. (And, yes, by “new adventure” I mean “new couch.” So I best find a new country that believes in the importance of a good couch. And I should warn any potential new countries out there that they have a lot to live up to – my current couch in China is quite The Couch. I’ve mentioned my couch before, right? Just in case I haven’t or in case you’ve forgotten about The Couch, I’m including a picture below so as to refresh your memory. Yep. I think we can all agree: The Couch.)
One moment, I convince myself I’m going to stick it out for another semester. I happily congratulate myself for finally putting on my Big Girl Decision Making Pants, and then march out to buy some Big Girl Housewarming Presents – like the Tupperware containers below. (After all, nothing says “welcome to your new home” like a plastic container with the word “screw” on top. Am I right or am I right?)
But then the next moment, I find myself applying for jobs in Kazakhstan. (Don’t look at me like that. I’m sure Kazakhstan is lovely in the winter! Besides, I’ve heard great things about their Tupperware!)
Usually when faced with a Big Girl Decision such as this one, I try to adopt a rational approach. I jot down lists of reasons for each option. I weigh all the pros and cons. I hem, and I haw. I write long, whiney blog posts about how hard it is to make decisions.
And then after hours of careful consideration and list-making, I make my decision.
Mind you, this Big Girl Decision is not based on any of that careful consideration or list-making.
Instead it’s usually based on a half a pitcher of margaritas and my online horoscope.
But, hey, at least there was some kind of rational thought involved in my Big Girl Decision-making process… you know, before the margaritas got involved.
So to help me make up my mind (well, at least until the tequila makes up my mind for me), I’ve compiled a list of all the reasons I should hang around in China (and one reason why I should go because, hey, I can’t just hand this decision to the tequila).
Reasons To Stay Put
1. To get in shape financiallySo, you know how I kind of took that year “off” from employment? Remember how I spent the year working odd jobs and not actually getting paid in any cash-money?
Uh, yeah. So does my bank account.
You see, as awesome as it was to travel around and volunteer and meet all kinds of cool people, it was also kind of, ahem, expensive.
Like a lot more expensive than you’d think considering I didn’t actually do any of those expensive things that other people do when they travel around and volunteer and meet all kinds of cool people. I went on two group tours during the entire year that I was traveling. (Not that I have anything against group tours, per se. Okay, maybe I do a little bit… especially now, seeing as the two tours that I went on resulted in my being accosted by monkeys and my almost being blown up by landmines.) I didn’t pay for any of the volunteer programs I participated in. Heck, for most of the year, I didn’t even have to pay rent.
But somehow my expenses added up. By the time the year was over, my savings were also kind of, well, over.My current job doesn’t pay me loads, but life in China is pretty cheap. (Especially in my neighborhood where nightlife consists of grilled meat on a stick and a bottle of cheap, room temperature beer.)
I have to admit, it’s nice to have a steady paycheck again.
It’s nice to not have to worry about whether or not I’ll have enough money for the month.
It’s nice to be able to buy myself something pretty… or, you know, buy myself something Tupperware.
And it’s nice to know I have a little extra cash for a rainy day. (And, yes, by “rainy day” I mean margaritas. What did you think I meant?)
2. To get in shape physicallySo, yeah, back to my year “off” from employment — remember that?
Well, I also kind of took a year off from other things: like exercising… and eating like a reasonable human being.
As I might have mentioned before, the past year was kind of fattening – like a whole-new-pants-size kind of fattening.
Since moving to China, I’ve been getting myself back into a regular fitness routine. Luckily, what my neighborhood lacks in nightlife, it makes up for in parks and places to exercise. I’ve been walking and biking a lot, and I even started running again.
Now that I have a kitchen and can make my own meals, I’ve also been getting back into a reasonable-human-being-eating-routine. (Except when there are dumplings involved – there’s really no way one can be reasonable in the face of dumplings. It’s just the way things are.)
Given more time, more running and more reasonable eating (and, admittedly, fewer dumplings), I might be able lose the weight I gained last year. Heck, I might even be able to fit into my old pants again. Or, hey, I might get so skinny that I can just stop wearing pants altogether – you know, like the celebrities do!
3. To have more time to travel in ChinaThe thing about China is that it’s big – like really big.
And it’s full of really cool places – like a lot them.
So far in the past three months that I’ve been here, I’ve managed to see three of those really cool places: Shanghai, Beijing and, umm, Wuxi (Home to China’s Third Largest Freshwater Lake! And me! That’s about as cool as it gets, people.)
If I stay another semester, that means I’d be in China until mid-January.
That’s like seven months or something!
Do you know how many really cool places I could see in seven months?
Probably at least three or four! (What? Were you expecting me to say more than that? Who do you think I am — some kind of Travel Superwoman? Just because the little cartoon character of me looks like a superhero, doesn’t mean I am one. And, I’ll have you know that cape is not for flying purposes. Trust me. Some lessons you learn the hard way.)
4. To have more time to do other stuffSettling in to a new country takes time – time to figure out which buses take you where you need to go and which restaurants to eat in and which grocery stores to shop at.
It’s taken me three months, but I finally feel settled. I know which bus takes me to the train station and which bus takes me to the mall. I know which restaurant in the nearby village sells the best Kung Pao chicken. I know where to stock up on the essentials: milk, eggs, frozen dumplings and, of course, red wine.
Granted, I still have no idea where to find dental floss. Instead, I can only find these floss toothpicky things, which are just as dangerous as they look. The one and only time I tried to use them, I got the floss part stuck in between my teeth and had to walk around with the sharp pointy toothpick part sticking out of my mouth for twenty minutes until I could wrench it out. I swear I almost lost my eyeteeth… and an eyeball or two.
I know the ropes (if not the floss).
Now I can use my time to do other stuff – non-settling stuff.
What kind of stuff?
Well, you know.
Okay, I don’t know what kind of stuff, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I could spend more time working on my blog. I could finally start doing some freelance writing. I could learn how to communicate in Mandarin (rather than communicating through complicated hand gestures and pained facial expressions). I could take up knitting or kickboxing or teaching mice how to swordfight with those floss toothpicky things (because, Lord knows, I won’t be using them to floss my teeth!).
5. To have a homeMy friend, Natalia, came to visit me last weekend for a few days on her way through China. She has spent the last six months backpacking through Southeast Asia, sleeping in hostels and eating street food.
When she saw my kitchen, she twirled around and clapped her hands with joy as if she had arrived in some magical land and my stove was some kind of fire-breathing unicorn. (Sadly, it’s not.)
I knew how she felt.
I felt the same way when I first got here.
And I still do.
I love having a kitchen again.
I love having big weekend breakfasts with pancakes that I make myself. (And I’d be willing make them for you too if you come to visit me!).
I love having houseguests. (Did I mention I make pancakes for my houseguests? And they’re covered in fresh fruit. And maple syrup — the real kind. And served with bacon. And they look like this.)
(Think about it.)I also love having my place to myself so I can lounge around in a tattered sarong and ratty slippers on a Sunday… or Saturday… or during my lunch break from work (because, hey, one of the joys of home-ownership or temporary-home-having-ship should really be the joy of not having to wear pants — even if you’re not the celebrity type).
I love having a couch.
And, while I love traveling, I think I super duper love having a home even more.
I realize this makes me lame.
But I’m cool with that.
Reason to go:
1. To challenge myselfI have to admit, life is pretty easy here.
Like way easier than I thought it would be.
I get by surprisingly well despite my atrocious Mandarin skills.
I’ve made some friends.
My local supermarket sells good, reasonably priced, French wine (that tastes like wine and not turpentine and rancid meat) and at least two different kinds of cheese.
My commute is a quick 5-minute bike ride across campus.
My students are usually pleasant (if frustratingly more preoccupied with their cell phones and their hairstyles than, say, homework or, umm, showing up to class.)
My workload is manageable.
My colleagues are friendly.
About the biggest challenge I’ve had all month was that whole floss toothpick issue.
Oh, and there’s my couch. (Have I mentioned my couch?)
Yep, life is easy.
Maybe too easy.
Don’t get me wrong. I like easy. Heck, I love easy. If easy were a human person, we’d totally get married. (Because I have a feeling easy would really be into me, too.)
So, yeah, easy and I are good.
Which is kind of bad.You see, as much as I love me some easy, it’s difficult that inspires me. Difficult fires me up and gets me going in the morning. Difficult makes me cry… but it also gets me off the couch. Difficult inspires me to write.
Difficult says, “You can’t do this.”
And then I do it.
Just to prove difficult wrong. (Because I’m like that. Just ask my mom.)
I know if I do stay another semester, I’m going to have to muster up a little more difficult to keep me inspired and on my toes.
I could start studying Chinese — like for serious this time.
I could train to run another marathon. (Or, uh, half-marathon. I mean, there’s no need to get all crazy with this difficult thing.)
I could do some volunteering.
I could learn how to cook something besides pancakes. (But, uhh, why? When combined with bacon, fresh fruit and maple syrup, pancakes are pretty much the world’s most perfect food!)
I could finally write that book I keep on telling myself I’m going to write.
Or I could move on to a new country and a new challenge.
Obviously, I’m going to have to give this decision some more careful consideration. (And, yes, by “consideration” I mean margaritas. What did you think I meant?)