Right now we're enjoying three days off. I was hoping to do a bit of travelling with Ross but reluctantly agreed with him that I should take it easy, stay at home and get over this latest cough and cold. After this brief break, we have just three more weeks of school before the long winter break, punctuated by the Chinese New Year. The Lunar New Year is the really big holiday. The school will close down for more than forty days.
The end of this semester is the end of my first year of teaching in China. But it won't be my last; the school asked me to renew my contract and I've agreed to stay for another year. It's good to feel wanted! Just as a funny aside though -- I recently went to a one day teachers' symposium in nearby Jinan and several representatives of other universities were interested in hiring me away from my school, without even knowing anything about me! English teachers are in demand!
This is the time of year for Lists -- best of, worst of, so here are some of ours:
Top Five Things (things that is, not people) I miss about Canada:
A lot of these "I miss" lists compiled by ex-pats include things like, western-style toilets, or orderly queues, but I don't mind the absence of those things as much as I do certain retail experiences. "People I miss" would be a whole other list and a longer one.
- Going to Canadian Tire or Home Hardware on the weekend with Ross. That was our version of "date night." There is nothing comparable here. There is no "do it yourself" culture for doing home repairs.
- In China, there are TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) stores and there are drug stores (pharmacies, that is) and there are stores like sell cosmetics and facial masks (Watson's, for example) but I have never seen a store where you can go and buy vitamins, emery boards, light bulbs, chocolate, a birthday card, AND get your prescription filled. In other words, no Shoppers' Drug Mart, no London Drugs.
- Cobb's Bakery. Bread here is often sweet and the flour is very soft. It doesn't have that nice chewiness. It tends to break apart if you spread peanut butter or cream cheese on it. Also I haven't seen any multi-grain bread here.
- Tim Horton's. Of course. There are no drive-thru's here, either. I don't know if this is because of pollution concerns, or what, but it is not possible to pick up a cup of coffee to go when setting out on a road trip. Not around here, anyway. There are plenty of coffee shops, including many independent little cafes.
- Favorite news programs. We can see some things on the internet, but I couldn't follow, say, the U.S. mid-term elections as they were happening because I was in class. It is morning here when it's evening back in North America, of course.
Top Five Things I don't miss about Canada:
- Cooking. I sometimes get a vague itch to bake something or cook something, but it passes. We make our own breakfasts, but lunch and dinner is almost always eaten out or carried in. Think of the time I save. Really, this experience has caused me to seriously re-evaluate my own talents as a cook.
- Driving. I thought Ross would really miss having his own car, but he doesn't seem to mind. Taxis here are so plentiful and cheap, and we have our bus passes and our bicycles.
- Bills. We have no mortgage or rent to pay. Prices for every day things are low here, and eating out is amazingly inexpensive, depending on where you go.
- Routine. We're still learning about campus life and life in China in general. Most every day there is a little revelation or adventure of some sort. If we'd stayed at home, we'd be doing the same-old, same-old.
- Lack of perspective. Canada, and our government, have a very good global reputation. I see and hear more media figures saying nice things about Canada outside of the country than inside.
So, as a year-end stocktaking, I'm very glad I made the late-life career change that I did, and especially happy that my husband entered into the adventure with me so whole-heartedly.