Tuesday, 26 August 2008

My First Post: An Unintentional Autobiography

Hello, this is my first time blogging so I thought it would be appropriate to introduce myself first with a completely unplanned autobiography (I really can ramble, I apologise).

My name is Christopher Egginton, I am 23, and come from Manchester in Great Britain. I am currently living and working in China as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.

I finished my music degree almost two years ago and left feeling quite confused about what I should do with my life. Did I really want to commit to finding work in the music industry? My answer was, "I don't think so". Although I do have a love for playing, composing, producing and listening to music, I started having my doubts about pursuing this over-competitive career path. So what should I do after finishing my degree? This is where China comes in.

To explain this I need to go back in time to August 2003. It was the day of the A-level results and I had found out that I got a place onto my chosen course at The University of Hull (Creative Music Technology) hours before even receiving my grades. After being accepted into the university it was my job to post a cheque which would reserve a place in the halls of residence. I completely forgot to post it. Two weeks before the first semester was to begin I received a phone call asking me where my money was and that the halls of residence were now full. They gave me two choices for accommodation: a large house sharing with 30 people, or a smaller one with 10. I have no idea why, but I chose the latter. To cut a long and boring story short, I found that I was sharing with a more interesting demographic than the average student would usually find in their first year accommodation. Three of these people weren't even from the UK at all. John, real name Yang Yi came from Beijing, and Mona and Clarinda came from Hong Kong. I became very good friends with them in no time and after a few months they invited me to visit their homes in the summer holiday. This was an invitation I couldn't resisit as I had always dreamed of going to China but found it to be impossible due to a lack of bravery and money. Having Chinese friends there to do the hard work of communicating for me was all I needed to make the impossible possible. I instantly accepted. I always knew my friend Richard would also be very interested in visiting China so I asked if he would like to join me on this trip, he instantly said yes too.

In August 2004 Richard and I travelled to Beijing to meet John. We stayed and toured the city seeing all of the major tourist points (and probably all of the minor tourist points too) for one week. Then we left BJ together to see Mona and Clarinda in Hong Kong for another week. It was a short but unforgettable time. In the back of my mind I knew I would surely come back again in the future.

Due to lack of money and university commitments it wasn't until three years later (2007) that I managed to make my way back. Richard -- who travelled with me in 2004 -- had a strong desire to return to China. He took the partially crazy step of finding a teaching job off the internet and left the UK to the city of Dalian right after finishing university. I couldn't imagine doing such a thing and took the much less daunting step of saving up some money and travelling out to see him when I had the required funds. The job I found to raise this money came from Woolworths. A shop I loved as a child but would most certainly dislike as an adult. It was an interesting experience working in retail, it has given me much sympathy for the shop assistants of this world. I met some great people there and had a memorable time, but I can't say I wasn't happy to leave. It took me considerably longer to save up the money for the trip than I originally thought, mainly because I couldn't stop spending what I was making on such things as iPods, TV's and Nintendo Wii's. I don't regret any of this because I was enjoying having spending money for the first time in years. It was late March when I knew I had finally enough cash to make the voyage to the the PRC, so I booked my ticket and left for Shanghai at the end of April.

Shanghai is a fabulous city and most certainly the entertainment capital of China. After one week spent gazing at the sights from The Bund with Richard, we left for the city where he was now living and teaching, Hangzhou, capital of the Zhejiang Province. The city is very close to SH and can be reached within an hour and a half by taking the bullet train, which as you can guess is pretty fast. Hangzhou is kind of a toned down version of Shanghai with less of everything really, but famous throughout China for it's West Lake which can be a beautiful sight if the pollution is having a day off.

I had the opportunity to see what it was like to teach children English as a second language while I stayed with Richard. He taught at a primary school and as I watched a few of his classes I thought, "I'd like to try that." We stayed in HZ for most of my holiday but managed to get a short break to Xi An to see the Terracotta Army (my photos of which are lost forever).

After getting over the initial culture shock of being in China I found myself feeling quite at home. Hangzhou really is a liveable city with everything a person could need, and at a more affordable price. An extra factor can be added to this feeling too: it felt exciting to be in this place. Nothing seemed "normal" to me, even going to the supermarket or taking the bus was an intensely interesting experience because everything was just so.....foreign! I really was on a different planet (from the looks given to me by some of the locals I think they thought I was from a different one too), and I liked it.

After nearly two months away and a £200 phone bill later, I came back home to England and spent at least one week contemplating my next move. It wasn't long until I realised that the experience of living and working in China would be something I couldn't and shouldn't miss out on. Even if things went all wrong for me I knew I would only regret turning down such an option later in life.

I told my parents the news and booked the ticket to Shanghai once more. In September 2007 I started teaching tiny children at a Kindergarten in Hangzhou which was great fun, and an experience I certainly won't forget (albeit an incredibly tiring one considering I would be teaching 5 year olds up to 7pm each week night). While I lived in the city I also met my current girlfriend Kimi. If in some way I was meant to come here, surely it must have been for her. I couldn't have imagined such a thing would ever have happened in my time here.

The company I worked for on the other hand wasn't quite the legitimate enterprise I had hoped for and after seeing many of the other foreign teachers get treated unfairly I decided not to renew my contract. A change was in order, so I moved to the city of Wenzhou where my girlfriend lives and decided I would like to try teaching adults this time. Now I am working for a privately run school called "Web International English"where I teach English to many people my age and above (and sometimes below too). I am still loving every minute of being in China and each day comes with a new experience.

I hope to stay in China for a while longer while I try and decide what course my life should take next....


大眼睛熊 said...

Hey babe,it's such a bi..g and good writing,i think my written english just improved a lot~ :D
I'm glad u came to china,and i know u love it here a lot! I love u being here too!!

Mabel Poon said...

Hi Chris,

Wow! It's a great blog and I'm so happy to know that u're enjoying your new life there.

Janine said...

Hi! :)
Finally started reading your blog and it's great, you write really well and it's so clear how much you love being out there.

I wish I'd been as brave as you to give it a try!

Right, let's look at the next installment.

Chris said...

I didn't think I could add comments to my own blog before!

Thank you for all of your nice comments. :0)

Angry American said...

Ni hao Chris.

I've always wanted to visit Asia and, more recently, China. I preactice chi gung (qi gong) energy healing and have been studying Taoism to learn more about it's origin. I just wish I had the money to spend some time there and train with a true chi gung master. :(

Chris said...

Hello Angry American, thank you for reading my blog. I hope you can come to China sometime. I find it difficult in the bigger cities to see the spiritualism that once played such a huge part in China. I will have to have a look and see where things like qi gong are still a part of life for many people...there must be somewhere.