China. The spontaneous decision that changed my life for the better.
As Confucius so rightly said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” This couldn’t be truer, with the past year of my life spent living and working in a rural Chinese village.
Who would I be now, if I hadn’t spent hours trying to relate the Chinese characters to my English written map, lost in the Chinese underground? Or my days negotiating bargains at the overly crowded bustling marketplaces? What would I be doing now, if making a speech to 8000 staff and students at my school didn’t encourage me to be more confident, and to carry on educating others and travelling the world? Who would I be now if I hadn’t forced myself to try weird and wonderful foods, even when I knew I would feel guilty when I saw a donkey next?
It just so happens that the next donkey I saw was at the Great Wall of China. Appearing through the haze and the moist fog, I will never forget seeing miles upon miles of the historical wall before me, and conquering one of my life’s ambitions.
China is a diverse and almost indescribable country with every single province offering something amazing. I was lucky enough to experience the vast differences between the majority of them.
Xi’an, typically famous for the Terracotta Warriors, yet also home to a mixture of religions and architecture like I had never witnessed before. With the city walls separating the traditional from the modern; its curled rooftops and blankets of red and gold at one glance, and ultra modern vast high rises at another. My mind was blown by the warmth emanating from the locals here, and their sheer delight at taking a photo with me, the ‘foreigner’.
Shanxi province, I discovered, is home to booming fireworks filling the air at all times of the day and for any celebration you can think of! In Guangxi Province, I floated down stream with steep, green mountains surrounding me on the Yangzi River; I even tried spear fishing on a bamboo raft which for me was a difficult task due to my phobia of fish! Finally, I headed north to Beijing- the city with more smog than you can ever imagine.
Yet with all of the time I spent in China, I did not waste a single second. Whether it was riding through the rice fields in rural villages, to hand making noodles in a local’s home- I learnt so much from every single day, that I will truly treasure forever.
I can only put into words my experience of a year in China, but China inspired me into seeing that you can live as minimal as possible and still be the happiest and most grateful person you can ever hope to be. You can enjoy a wealthier, more lavish lifestyle in larger cities or become ‘famous’ by getting lost in traditional village farming areas.
China inspired me to appreciate the world for what it is, with rain or shine, come rich or poor, and that every single person truly can learn from one another. It inspired my confidence, my integration with all kinds of cultures and backgrounds, and also introduced me to my soul mate- something which I could never have expected upon my landing in this fascinating and historically astounding country.
Love appears when you least expect it- and mine appeared in more ways than one. No regrets can ever be had when I think about China- the country which changed my life in incredible ways.
About the author: My name is Billie Jago and I have been working as a TEFL Teacher around the world for the past 3 years, most recently in China. I have a passion for travelling, and teaching others about my amazing experiences.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.