I cried my eyes out at Heathrow airport. I had suddenly decided that I didn’t want to leave England anymore!
I’d signed onto the loveTEFL course back in November, and on the whole enjoyed the online training course as it gave me butterflies about what I would be doing for living in the next few months. I was excited up until the day before I flew; then the nerves set in. What if I instantly knew it wasn’t for me? What if I was a rubbish teacher? What if I couldn’t cope without cutlery for 6 months?!
I somehow parted ways with my parents and fears and boarded the plane from Heathrow to Beijing. Luckily I’d found 3 others from the loveTEFL group who were also on my flight, so I wasn’t totally alone. 9 and a half hours later, we touched down at Beijing airport and were met by staff members and other interns who put us all on a coach to our accommodation for the next week. The first thing I remember doing when we got there was SLEEP; hardly glamorous, but we’ve got to start somewhere! Later that afternoon, a group of us (I don’t really remember how we met, I was still pretty delirious at this point) wandered across the road and into a restaurant. As the 8 of us sat around the table, we ordered our food by pointing at pictures of it from the menus, were laughed at by our (lack of) chopstick skills, and used the kettle the wrong way- don’t ask- but on the whole it was great first impression of China. I sort of expected some things to be ‘Westernised’, but thankfully they hadn’t been. There were only chopsticks to use, the locals spoke to us in Chinese unless we stated we only knew English, and everything on the whole just felt a lot more authentic than I’d thought…. I was happy about this!
Our week in Beijing consisted of Mandarin lessons, Tai Chi, teacher-training sessions, and sight-seeing like climbing the Great Wall. The first week was intially difficult for me as I felt really homesick which I hadn’t really expected.But everyone was in the same position so it was never too lonely there and I soon made really good friends who I hope I see again on my travels!
A bar we went to most nights was called Lakers, and was hailed as ‘the regular’ after spending just one week there. Next to Lakers was Caffe Benne, serving good coffee, waffles, and free wifi, all of which made a perfect combination when getting in touch with home. Even though it’s great when you start to find familiarity in a foreign country, I still think it’s important to constantly venture outside of your comfort zone. Obviously this is within reason, but I loved the freedom of just being able to go wherever I wanted without anyone telling me otherwise. One of my favourite moments has to be climbing the Great Wall (this was with the entire TEFL group, not just me, that would be weird); despite being certain that my toes were going to drop off because they were so frozen, when we reached the top the view was just amazing and you felt such a sense of achievement! Some of us got the metro one night to the Night Market, where one of the most popular stalls was live animals on a stick (before they fried them)… among the selection were seahorses, tarantulas, grasshoppers, starfish, cockroaches and scorpions… the latter of which I tried! They covered it in chilli powder and despite being convinced that it would come back to life in my mouth, it had a nice crunch to it and I would eat it again!
One of the weirder things I have had to get used to is having our photos taken. We visited the Birds Nest and a lady ran up to two of us and got her husband to take a photo with us. Not long after that, an entire family came over to us for a photo, with their children running across the ice to get in the photo too! I just take it as a novelty and I suppose alongside being a tourist we are tourist attractions ourselves! They also like to ask lots of questions too, mostly about where we come from and how old we are but also what our favourite Chinese food is. China has been a rollercoaster so far but I didn’t expect anything less; it hasn’t been adapting TO China that has been tricky, but adapting myself to China instead, if that makes any sense at all. Anyway I’m sure I’ll have lots to babble on about in the next post so stay tuned 🙂