I've been having technical issues recently - it may be time for a new laptop - and that is why the posting schedule has been yet again thrown off. Sorry!
Five months of living in Guangzhou. Seven months remain. How does Guangzhou compare to the other places I have lived and taught?
Well, Korea in general is easier in a few ways than China in general, as far as just living there goes. In Korea, an expat teacher feels s/he can pretty much do whatever s/he wants all the time. This is largely true, within reason, but the problem is that so very many expat teachers -- so very many twentysomethings the world over, of course -- lose their focus on that "within reason" part. In China, I don't have the same sense of abandon that I can do whatever I want and that everything will be conveniently somehow available. Many, many things are here, sure, in terms of food, fashion, transport, technology, etc. But, I do have to put forth what I perceive as more effort as opposed to the ease of daily life. It is also so much easier to become functionally literate in Korean, and being unable to read everything around me is really, really, really annoying -- almost as annoying as being unable to find an affordable literacy/reading/writing class here. Living in Mexico is on a whole other planet from the Asian bewildering-days experiences. I mean, living in Mexico is not even exotic or particularly "different" from my Southwest U.S. heritage, geography-climate-food-wise -- plus, Spanish is easy, being in North America is easy, eating is cheap and delicious and easy, and basically everything except cockroaches is easy there. But, you don't get paid enough money to live or do anything much, so you definitely finding yourself wanting to head back to Asia.
Job-wise, I much much much prefer my current gig to all of my other ESL teaching jobs, mainly for the reasons of hours worked per week, the materials and curriculum provided, and the fabulous adult students as compared to the cat-herding atmosphere of teaching five or six or seven classes of Korean kids and 'tweens all day. I loathed the split shifts in Mexico and the only problem here is that we have had a very recent development in which they have changed all the foreign teachers from five to six-day schedules for the summer (and possibly beyond). Needless to say, we are livid at having our "weekends" (two days off in a row) taken away. My 26 hours of work are now spread across six days, so I've got time to organize my life and do things, but can't take weekend trips for three months -- or possibly more -- which is so lame.
Food is easy and cheap here. Not quite as cheap as Mexico, more vegetable options than Korea (and far less seaweed, thank you very much! said the allergic-to-seaweed-lady), not much English on menus, lots of pictures though, and in Guangzhou, plenty of Western, Indian, and other foreign restaurants including multiple expat-filled pubs and taverns.
But am I planning to stay in Guangzhou past this year? No. One might wonder why, since I seem to like the job and whatnot. Yesterday, it hit me quite strongly while I was running, the reason why I won't be here forever. As I ran through my neighborhood of tall, gray, skyscrapers, "Useless Desires" came on my running play list and Patty Griffin sang that wonderful line of hers, "The sky turns to fire/against the telephone wire..." I looked around me and realized that in the gray Guangzhou rainy season haze and the utter lack of expansive view, I haven't seen that sight in ages! For that alone, I will hie myself to a good ol' open space to wander and ramble again in my lifetime.