I think I’ve been avoiding this topic too long. I’ve been missing China a lot lately so therefore it felt extremely hard to start writing about it. But I’ve avoided it long enough. It’s time for me to take a travel down my memory lane to Jinan, China.
Lets start with how I got there. I was flying as a Cabin Crew Member in Helsinki and my seasonal contract was coming to an end. I wanted to keep flying but they were only offering internal flights in Finland as an option. I wasn’t extremely keen on it so I started to look for jobs that would take my mind off the fact that I wasn’t flying. At the time I was studying Chinese in a local school in Helsinki and my Canadian friend on Messenger was always raving about China and how he missed being in China as a teacher. So one day I decided to randomly ask does he think I would be able to go to teach English in China (Me: No Uni degree, not a native English speaker, no teaching experience etc.). He said sure, I laughed. He asked for my CV, I sent it as a joke. Next week I was getting interview requests from China and the joke started to suddenly feel a lot more realistic. So I decided to make the craziest little choice of moving to Jinan for a year.
I did no research Jinan, except that it’s a big city in Shandong. I chose Jinan because Hubei’s choice had no real toilet in the apartment, only a squatting one. So safe to say I kinda just took a big leap of faith. Now knowing what I know and how the schools were quite ruthlessly taking advantage of foreigners etc. I would recommend preparing yourself. But as you now know, I’m not the planner type. And I didn’t know Mr Merry back then. I was about to meet him. What I knew was that I didn’t necessary like Chinese men so I decided to have a year of “finding myself”. Get healthy, take care of my own needs, no men, no drama: just being, learning Chinese and learning to love myself. What I didn’t know is that foreign women are a rarity in China and I was soon about to be surrounded by all kinds of hot (and not) men. Party on.
Where did I work? Who did I teach?
I got work in a school called Optimum English, OE as we used to call it. It was a private English learning school where kids and adults would come after school and weekends. The school doesn’t actually exist anymore but there’s plenty of similar schools around. We weren’t the cheapest choice of an English school around in Jinan so our clientele was fairly interesting and ranged a lot. I was lucky to get a lot of the adult students and older classes. This was because they lied to most businesses that I was British and a female teacher was more sellable than male teachers. The school continuously lied about me having all sorts of Uni degrees to get contracts. I was teaching from Huawei managers to Pharmaceutical Companies private English lessons. It was fairly awesome to see the insides of big companies like State Grid. At the same time I was teaching school kids Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I had classes starting from 3-4-year-olds all the way till 16-18-year-olds. It was fun to teach all kinds of lessons and I was quite free to plan my lessons how I wanted. So I did all sorts of arts, music, games etc during my lessons. At summer I organised my own Glee Club because Glee was the thing back then. And I had fun time getting the kids to sing and have fun with music. I was mainly teaching alone in the class rooms but with the smallest kids I would sometimes have assistant teachers with me to translate some things. These Chinese assistant teachers became very dear to me. They taught me Chinese, hung out with me during their free time and I learnt a lot about Chinese life through these amazing people. So overall the job was interesting and at times quite easy. Many weeks I would have 3-4 days off and I could just have fun. The weekends I was normally busy teaching but I loved my students. I had the best students! Normal Chinese schools had about 50 students per class but I was in a private school so I only had max 12 students per class.
I was earning about 600-700€s a month with no bills to pay. Sounds very little but it was the smallest but yet biggest salary of my life. I actually earned a fair amount of money (considering Chinese wages) so we had a lot of money to spend. Due to all the extra money per month, I also learnt to save money for the first time in my life. I did realise I wasn’t meant to be a teacher when teaching in China though. I didn’t enjoy the job to the fullest and I wasn’t proud of a lot of the work I did. I was quite harsh on myself and thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job (maybe I was tough on myself because I was lacking on the degree). But Mr Merry used to be so proud to be an English teacher and he always felt so good after his lessons. I felt a bit meh. So I did learn that teaching wasn’t the thing for me. I’m happy I experienced this year to be sure of that. And I’m forever grateful for this experience with OE. They did a lot of faking documents and looked after me whilst I was in China. I was very lucky to be so loved and cared by all the staff that worked in OE. So I have very fond memories of this time in Jinan.
What do I miss the most?
I miss my friends. I miss the Chinese friends and speaking Mandarin everyday. I miss walking out to the streets and finding delicious food everywhere literally sold for pennies. I miss my egg breakfast ball made in front of my apartment block. I miss the never ending KTV (karaoke) nights. I miss exploring in China and I miss mine and Mr Merrys fresh relationship. We were so in love and chose to be with each other all the time. I miss the friendly smiles amongst Chinese people and I miss the randomness of Jinan. How everyday you got to state to yourself: “Only in China”. But I also miss the friend I was to all my other friends. I was so active online and spoke to so many people in my free time. I had many friends visit me in China and I had so many plans for the future still. I think China is a way of life. You live differently in there but it’s so fascinating and exciting at the same time. There’s a lot of things you have to look through your fingers but overall I wouldn’t change a day of it. Well I guess I would change me diving too deep in the public pool and chipping my front tooth. But hey stuff happens and it was fixed on the same day. I miss the everyday easy life in China. I miss China.
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