That means: “Goodbye, Beijing.” In the first week of April, I will be moving to Xi’an to work in one of two English First, adult teaching centers. Xi’an, of course, is famous for the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which I first visited at the end of October, when Nancy and Sophie were here.
In mid-January, EF solicited Beijing teachers to see if any were interested in moving to Xi’an to teach there. I was immediately interested because of my previous visit: “Xian and the Terracotta warriors.” If you’re a regular reader of my blog you may recall that I had indicated, in my New Year’s Day posting that I was going to Harbin at the end of January during the week long Spring Festival. Once I was made aware of the Xi’an opportunity, I decided to cancel my Harbin trip and book a stay in Xi’an so I could meet with the staff of both Xi’an centers to see if I would be a good fit. The answer was a resounding “yes” for either center, both of which are in the high-tech district, outside the old wall that defines the city-center. As of this posting, I still haven’t been informed as to which one I will be assigned to. However, I will be moving there on or about April 4 and EF will put me up in a hotel for a period of time, to look for a new place to live.
Which brings me to the reason I decided to leave Beijing. Xi’an is known as a “second tier city.” There are four that are called “first tier” with the metric, being size and per capita GDP: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which is the smallest with a population of “only” 13 million. There are over twenty, second tier cities in China; Xi’an’s population is around 8 million people. So although it may be an “afterthought” city here, its population puts it on par with New York.
Here’s my point: a second tier city’s cost of living is considerably less than first tier cities. Makes sense; Atlanta or Seattle costs a lot less than NYC or LA. Although I have a lovely, two-bedroom, two bath apartment in one of the nicest buildings in Wudaokou, I pay far more for this apartment than anyone I know. Having said that, It’s small and the kitchen is just about useless. From what I’ve seen, kitchens are most definitely NOT “the heart of the home” in China, unlike in America. If you know me you know I love to cook and hang out in my kitchen. So I’d be thrilled to move into a home where the kitchen is emphasized and also get a lot more living space for a lot less money. I can easily get three or four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a large, functional kitchen (they do exist) for far less than what I pay here. I may even consider renting a house if it’s not too far from either office. All things being equal (and they really are in this case) a move to Xi’an makes sense, given my lifestyle priorities. Besides, a change of scenery never hurts.
I loved my year in Beijing (I arrived here last April 8) and aside from the traffic and poor air quality, it’s been a remarkably positive experience. I am happy to say that the expected dreadful air days, typical of winter months here, largely failed to materialize, with New Year’s Day, by far the worst single day. I have no complaints about living in this city of about 22 million people. I still marvel at the ease of how I transitioned so quickly to a completely different culture without even going through the “shock” that is quite typical of moving to another country, especially one where English isn’t spoken by most of the population.
I will greatly miss my friends, colleagues and students at the Wudaokou English First center (WDK.) I had a fantastic time learning about China, experiencing China and teaching ESL, thanks to the wonderful people there. I want to give special recognition to my manager, Winnie for her tremendous support for my professional development, her helping me in a thousand different ways and the way she treated the teachers. She’s the kind of manager we all wish we could have. I only hope I don’t end up with a case of “seller’s remorse” in deciding to leave the warm embrace of the WDK office.
If my plan to obtain more spacious accommodations bears fruit, I will have a standing invitation to all of my friends at WDK to visit and stay with me (just not all at once). There are plenty of reasons to visit Xi’an and I hope people here (and, oh yes, friends and family back in America) take advantage of their “connection” there.
I want to post at least once more before I leave Beijing. Perhaps something amusing for the locals such as a “top ten” things I liked and liked least about Beijing. In the meantime, I have some packing to do. I have far more stuff than the four suitcases I arrived with a year ago. Ugh! No one likes moving!