Living in the Land of DGAF (don't give a f*ck)
How we get down in Wenzhou, China
Holy Toledo- where to begin? I suppose I should start around January of 2013.
I had received my “CONGRATULATIONS! You are going to graduate!” e-mail and was overcome with excitement. I had gotten my letters of recommendations in my pocket, graduate programs chosen, and GRE knocked out of the park (well, sort of). I called my parents to hear them tell me how amazing I was and to inflate my already substantial ego. All went according to plan until the end of the conversation when they hit me with the question- “So, you’re really ready to go to school for two more years?”
No. No I was not. I was counting down the tests, essays, internship hours and TA tutor sessions I had left until I got to wear my hat and robe, flip my disgusting puke colored tassel to the left side of my head, and clutch for dear life my newly acquired Bachelors Degree with the promise of nothing but solid happiness ahead. Don’t get me wrong- I LOVED college (like, seriously, I cry that it’s over on a weekly basis). But was I ready for graduate school? Eh, not so much.
Thus, the conversation of ‘what should Brecken do for the next year of her life’ began. Ideas were tossed around, the main one being to move back in with the parents in Arizona, get a job, save money for graduate school… you know how the story goes. Come mid-February, my mother suggested I move abroad for a year (I swear she loves me). I decided to play with this idea, and by the next weekend I had decided that was the answer! I began to look into programs and applying like a mad woman. After researching I settled on Japan, Thailand, or China.
After four program applications, three interviews, and three acceptances- I had a decision to make. Where in the world shall I go? My Mom’s favorite thing to do is to make lists. We then embarked on a three hour skype session making a ‘pros and cons’ list for each program- AYC was the clear winner. I happily sent in my requests for my placement, my confirmation e-mail, and before I knew it, the ball was rolling. I just forgot one small detail- I had never even looked China up on wikipedia. This silly detail made my moving across the globe quite the adventure.
Speed past my late paperwork and visa debacle, I arrived in Wenzhou, China on September 13th after a fun filled summer of living with my parents, nanny-ing, and constant melt downs. I boarded my third and final flight to Wenzhou to realize that I was the only foreigner on the flight. I hadn’t slept for 24 hours and was quite delirious at this point. After my flight being 3 hours delayed, I landed in Wenzhou to find that my school coordinator had left (it was 2 am) because she was informed that my flight had been canceled. Thus, my first experience outside of airports in China was in a taxi that spoke no English, my two obnoxiously huge suitcases in the open trunk, flying down the free-way as he was constantly laying on the horn. I was scared sh*tless.
I finally arrived at my school where my coordinator and school principal greeted me with their sleepy eyes but incredible excitement. The next few days they let me adjust from the jet lag and begin my residency process. I live in the teacher section of the student dorms- therefore my door is fair game for knocking. The first 3 days I had countless students come knock on my door to simply look at me, take pictures, giggle and run away. At first I was very confused, and then I realized that I was essentially a mini-celebrity around not only my campus, but also the whole neighborhood! I had never had attention like this before. At first it was terrifying and I kept checking if my dress was tucked in my underwear, but after a few weeks it became part of the daily routine.
The first few months of my time in China were nothing short of the strangest months of my life. Something new happened every day, I jumped over obstacles I never even thought I could jump over, I went with the flow and before I knew it I was loving life. The cultural differences seemed less and less strange (I was even getting used to the spitting, babies pooping on the street, and the whole ‘no queue’ mentality). And hey! Mom! Look at me, I’m ordering my food in Mandarin!
Living in China is the closest thing to the absolute opposite of western culture as you can get. Did I mention I don’t have a washing machine? And my room is an icicle because my heater doesn’t go above 25 degrees Celsius? Despite the lack of luxuries I am used to, this is hands down the most valuable experience I have ever come across in my twenty-three years on the planet. I have learned so much about myself, gained an immense amount of awareness of the world, and met some absolutely remarkable people (foreigners and Chinese alike). After officially being here for six months, I have come to one certain conclusion about the world: No matter where you go, people are just people. As anti-climatic as that sounds, this realization made me extremely happy. No matter the language barrier, cultural differences, opposite fashion sense- we are all just people living in different places on the planet. This made me realize I truly have the ability to go anywhere, see as many different cultures as my wallet allows me, and still be able to connect to people on any continent.
I have gotten the opportunity to travel all over China, Thailand and Cambodia. I have also been to Macao and Hong Kong. I have so many more places to go to on my list; I have only put a dent in my travel plans. Living and teaching in China has made this all possible.
So thank you AYC, for truly giving me this opportunity of a lifetime- this is only the beginning of my journey.