In December 2018 I took a short term teaching gig at a high school in Beijing teaching English. The job was good and the students were engaging however it was quite a long way away from my accommodation. I took because the money was good and I had already secured a new job in for March.
The campus was old. Like 1862 old, the bricks for the buildings were castle like and the trees were planted nicely around the campus. It was built by American missionaries over 150 years ago.
I’d wake up in the morning and put on layers of clothing and walk to the station then after a 30 minute subway commute, I’d get off in eastern Beijing and walk or on cold days take a DI DI (China’s Uber) to the school. Some days the cold would be brutal. I’d run from the subway station to the McDonald’s grab a coffee and order the DIDID car from the app.
I’m not going to lie, the commute and the cold weather took it’s toll on my psyche. I though about bailing early on the job, but of course I did not do that.
I grew up in the US where school lunches were crap. The infamous square pizza, French fries drenched in grease, chocolate milk, were my favourites! I was too cool to take my lunch to school and hated preparing it the night before. So I ate the horrible foods provided by the state of North Carolina.
The lunch at this school was very different. Potatoes glazed in butter, delicious pork braised Chinese style, salty green veggies, rice, tea, yogurt all prepared fresh! Yes, prepared fresh, nothing frozen or pre-made or canned. It was restaurant quality food, buffet style. Amazing!
My job was about to end so I decided to take a train to and meet a friend. She didn’t live close about 10 hours away but I was able to get a soft bed, so it wasn’t so bad. Soft beds are a nice bunk and they give you a nice blanket as well. It’s well worth the price.
I packed everything I own into my large roller suitcase and $30 oversized REI duffle and headed to the station. The Beijing rail station is dated and in bad need of an upgrade. It’s not properly heated and there aren’t enough seating for everyone.
It was around 4:30AM when I got on the train. I found my bed and immediately fell asleep.
My friend picked me up from the train station. She was wearing a big white coat that made her look like an Eskimo. We ate some food at a small restaurant. It was very cheap food like $2 dollars or something. We talked. She told me about her new teaching job. Afterwards we found her car. It was new and nice. She put on some bad Chinese singer for music. It took an hour to get to her city. She booked me a hotel there. It was also nice. First we stopped for some snacks at the grocery store. She bought me some fruit and other Chinese snack foods, something that tasted like peanut brittle from the US. It was cold outside so we didn’t do much. We stayed at the hotel and lounged around. It was good to not do anything since I was working a lot at the high school job before. I liked it. I’ll call my friend Liz for this writing. Liz was nice and I like her but I didn’t know if I loved her. We had fun together sometimes and that was enough for us at the moment. We ate dinner at a very busy Chinese restaurant, families were everywhere with their kids. It was very loud and busy. We order chicken soup and it was very good. We talked some more. She smiled good at me. Afterwards we went to an arcade and played some games. I lost at trying to win a teddy bear.
After a few nights I left for Shanghai to get a flight to the US. The flight was kind of pricey but I needed some time away from China. I made it to Shanghai by train. It was a long ride as well, like 8 hours or something. I booked a soft bed again so it was quite nice. An old couple was given the bed next to mine. They couldn’t afford it but they were too old to ride in the cars with no seats. The were nice but I couldn’t speak Chinese. I made it to Shanghai. My bags were very heavy because I had everything and vowed to get rid of some of my belongings. I checked into a hotel. I got a good price online. I had a day before my flight left.
I woke up the next day and went to get some cash from the ATM. Afterwards, I found a Starbucks. I like to go to Starbucks and hangout and get a coffee. I like to see the people that go there, especially in Asia. That day in Shanghai there were a few Western businessmen. They dressed well and looked like smart Silicon Valley types. I imagined their homes in California. They drove Porsche automobiles and had ex-wives to pay off, two kids in private schools. they had bills to pay to just a lot high than the rest of us. Some Chinese woman walked in with yoga pants on she bought a pastry and coffee to go. I sat and thought about past few years, I had lived in Korea, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and China. I had about $1000 bucks in the bank to show for it. Everywhere I looked reminded me I was losing the game. Friends driving Rang Rovers to my 8 year-old computer. I needed a way to make cash somehow on my own. These were my thoughts at Starbucks.
I made my way to an art museum but after I got I found out it was closed. But there was a park nearby and the weather was good. I looked a the Chinese people at the park most of them kids and old people. It was good to be there I liked it. The sun was out. No complaints. After wards I found a mall nearby. I went in looking for a place to eat and found and at a burger, no bread because I can’t eat wheat. I say a few college kids from the US getting food. After wards I went to search for a book store. Which I found. It wasn’t much but they had a few art books that were decent.
I made it back to my hotel room and took a nap. I awoke later on and bought some dinner at a horrible Chinese restaurant.
The next day I headed for the airport early. The subway ride was a long one to the airport and its never easy when you have heavy bags. I made it to the airport and man came up to me. He was Chinese and tried to sell me a brand new iPhone for $200 dollars. I checked out the serial number and it was legit. I decided to buy it and sell it in the states. I finally got my bags checked and headed to my gate. Shanghai airport was busy with people. I found the Starbucks and got an Americano.
I found my gate. The airport was massive with very high ceilings. Birds would be very comfortable flying around in it. It was time to board and I found my seat. I had been on many flights before so I was used to flying long distances. The jet lag was always tough o get used to though. It was something like 10 hours to San Francisco airport. We landed and I was very tired from the flight and Jet lag. It was gruelling. It was morning in California.