After travelling the world for 16 months, we weren’t ready to go home and settle down, but we needed a bit of a break from backpacking. Making the decision to move to Yangzhou, China and sign a 1 year contract teaching English was a no-brainer for us. After backpacking through this massive country for about a month, we realized this is somewhere we could live. We love the local people, the food is outstanding and it has a perfect blend of western comforts and exotic feel.
Teaching English is ideal. Since we would be in a foreign country, the language, culture, food and way of life would be different, which would make us feel like we were still travelling; even though we would be putting down some temporary roots. Every day there would be somewhere new to explore, different customs and celebrations to take part in and new people to meet, which would keep our lives exciting!
We flew from Vancouver back to Hong Kong at the end of June, 2012. We ended up spending longer there arranging our working visas than we would have liked. Even though we had a lot of assistance from our new employers at the English school in Yangzhou, we still ran into a few bumps along the way. Long story short: we spent 10 days in Hong Kong and accomplished nothing! We did enjoy some nights out on the town, doing a lot of walking, eating amazing Indian food (which we had been craving) and just hanging out. We celebrated my birthday in style at Rocco’s, a delicious Italian restaurant with a long “happy hour” and scrumptious food.
After realizing that we were getting nowhere fast, we decided to enter China on a ‘tourist visa’ first and sort out the working visa when we arrived in Yangzhou. We took a 26 hour, overnight train from Shenzhen (border city with Hong Kong & China) to Yangzhou. Once we arrived, everything fell into place and our lives changed, in a good way.
We checked into the Yangzhou Ge Garden International Youth Hostel in the old town and since we are curious backpackers, we immediately wandered around exploring our area. We weren’t sure where our English School was, but we knew we wanted to stay in the old part of town until we found our permanent residence. After enjoying the day, we contacted our employers and arranged to meet up with them the next afternoon.
The first step was to find somewhere to live. Somewhere we could call “home” for a year or more. Yes, we’re backpackers and we’ve lived in huts, guesthouses, hostels, hotels, ashrams and done some camping, but we were looking for something a little more comfortable. What we were shown was horrendous. Bachelor suites about 35 square meters (350 square feet), with no couch, no stove, no laundry machine, the lowest ceilings we’ve seen, one tiny window, a fridge the size of an end table and the worst musty, damp smells ever! We looked at each other and thought “what have we gotten ourselves into”. We looked at 5 places that were just nowhere near habitable and were told to choose one. We finally said “I don’t think you’re understanding what we’re looking for. There are 2 of us, we want an actual bedroom, living room, dining room, bathroom and kitchen. We want windows, something to cook food on and a ceiling that we won’t hit with our heads. Is that too much to ask?!” After searching for 3 days, our complaints were answered.
We have ended up with a beautiful, fully furnished, new, clean, 88 square meter (947 square foot) apartment. We have a bedroom with a door, a kitchen with a gas stove, 3 meter (9.8 foot) high ceilings, a laundry machine and tiled floors. The best part is that we are a corner suite so we have lots of windows and tons of light floods in. Needless to say, all of our complaining and patience paid off.
We were given so much assistance when we first arrived, it was such a pleasant surprise. We had heard first hand and read online about the horror stories of teaching English abroad. People who had ended up with the worst contracts imaginable, working 40 hours a week, having no assistance from the school when it came to paying bills, finding an apartment and arranging all of the necessary working visa documents. We have been given help with finding an apartment, doing the necessary medical checks, sorting out the documents for the working visa, hooking up internet and phone, paying utility bills and obtaining medical insurance. We couldn’t be happier with all of the support we received, and continue to receive.