I was fortunate to spend the 2012-2013 school year teaching in China. It was an incredible experience. If you happen to spend any in-person time with me, you’ve probably heard me say, “In China…” or “Chinese people…” I tend to talk about China all the time. I’m okay with that, though, because that time abroad grew my faith in incredible ways. Since being back, there are quite a few things I miss dearly.
1) My Students – They are wonderful. I love how sweet Chinese students can be. They smile and enjoy saying, “Hello, teacher.”
2) Sweet Friends – I’m so thankful for the amazing people I was able to befriend. I learned a lot about how to give freely and show love to those in my life. They were such a great example to me.
3) Dumplings – Tomato and egg dumplings are my favorite. They’re wonderful. Enough said.
4) Being told to “have a rest”
5) Every outing being an adventure
6) Hosting Couchsurfers – This lovely couple from Poland stayed with me for a weekend. We had some fantastic political conversations. I hope to visit them in Poland one day.
7) Quick and cheap train travel – Aside from the 32 hour train ride from Beijing to Xiamen, most of the train rides were quick and painless. I loved how easy it was to get around with public transportation. The above selfie was taken on a bullet train ride from Shijiazhuang to Beijing. It was the fastest, cleanest ride of my life, so I had to document the occasion.
8) Seeing bicycles everywhere!
9) Climbing mountains to find views like this
10) This campus – My apartment building was the one on the right. It doesn’t always look this beautiful, but I managed to snap this photo on a gorgeous day.
11) Having to walk everywhere – It was easy to stay in good shape when I was required to walk. I enjoyed seeing people out and about as I walked to the store or to grab a bite to eat.
12) Getting to wear costumes like this – A couple friends and I had the privilege of being cast to do a special on foreigners performing at Kangxi Ceremony. It was somewhat like a reality show. We got to wear this amazing costumes, which was the best part!
13) Being called “teacher” all the time
14) Being told I’m beautiful – Even though I know a lot of it was just common courtesy because I am white, it still made me feel good.
15) Seeing God show up in amazing ways – He still does show up in big ways, but there was a closeness I felt when I would seek Him to do things only He could do. He certainly delivered during many occasions.
16) Quick trips to Beijing for the weekend
17) Meeting people in hostels and in the most random places
18) Being told I have a “colorful life.” – It was a compliment…I think.
19) Eating on this street – The Chinese called it Xiaojie, which means small street. The foreigners call it food street.
20) Random school outings – Like the hats?
21) The excitement and openness of my college students – I had a lot of fun with them!
22) Doing Zumba-like dancing outside on Friday and Saturday nights
23) Being able to tune out conversations all around me – Since I had to listen intently to understand what people were saying (if I could understand anything at all), when I was on the bus or in a crowd, I just tuned it all out. It kept me free from the conversations you overhear, but really do not want to be hearing.
24) Favorite foreigner hot spots – The Koren place, the nice Koren place with free wifi, the wooden restaurant, the restaurant by Rosie’s house, the river bar, etc. We often didn’t know their real names, so we’d refer to them in our own ways.
25) Short working hours – I loved having practically a part-time schedule, unless I took on extra classes. Free time is a wonderful luxury.
26) Seeing people wearing shirts with their own face on them… :) A student actually gave me one of these as a gift. Another one gave me a mug with my face on it!
27) Squat toilets – Okay, so I know most people avoid these things like the plague, but hear me out for a moment. It’s way cleaner to squat than have to put your backside on a toilet seat in a public place. In public, I’d take a squatty over a western toilet any day. At home it’s another story.
28) Street food and fruit/veggie stands everywhere – It was so nice to be able to stop and buy something on the way to the bus or while hanging out outside. In the spring there’s pineapple on a stick everywhere, which is amazing!
29) Being a regular – Since eating out is quite cheap, I became a regular at a handful of restaurants. The owner or waitress would recognize me and know what I would order without even having to ask. It was neat to build those relationships.
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Emily Lofgren’s heart beats for authenticity. She craves true connection where we can be real about our struggles and find hope together. Emily became a Christian in college and since then has had a passion for writing in a way that helps others encounter life. Grab your free copy of her eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog.