An End to ESL Teaching in China
A few weeks ago I revealed that my time here in Nanjing is coming to an end. After over two sometimes wonderful and sometimes frustrating years here in the former capital of China, I’ll be headed home to Australia in August (exactly two months from today, actually).
But did any of you really think that was where this story ends? Would a habitual responsibility dodger such as myself really call it a day on the wanderlust lifestyle just because a job in one country didn’t work out?
Not bloody likely!
Six Months in Purgatory
It’s perhaps unfair of me to label Ben Lomond ‘purgatory’. I’m certainly excited about spending 5 or 6 months catching up with my siblings and parents, getting to know my niece and nephew, and rekindling my love for Australia.
I’m rapt to be home for the wedding of my best friend (where I’ll be best man), the second faux wedding of my other best friend, and the festive season with my family.
I’m excited for service station runs to Guyra, cinema trips to Armidale, lazy summer mornings on the porch with the family, and the excitement that is the near month long festival of Christmas in Ben Lomond.
But in some ways, five months or so in my sleepy mountain village is purgatory. I won’t be traveling, I won’t be earning consistent money and (perhaps most importantly) I won’t have the weekly social excitement and the fortnightly romantic life I’ve enjoyed here in China.
In essence (with the exception of my amazing family) I’ll be in social exile.
The Options for 2015
Come 2015, though, I’m free as a bird and you’d best believe I’m headed somewhere shiny and new. If I’m going to be away from home and missing births, deaths, and marriages; I’d like it to be in somewhere new and exotic, rather than the same old, same old.
With that in mind, I’m not yet ready to hang up the ol’ ESL teaching ‘boots’, and have narrowed my potential destinations to seven. They are…
The UAE is something akin to the ‘holy grail’ of ESL teaching gigs, offering pay equal to or even superior to that which a trained teacher could earn back in their native country.
I’ve had friends who have told tales of living in mansions (literally) and making truckloads of money in the cash-rich United Arab Emirates, and the ol’ savings account could certainly use an injection of ill-gotten oil money.
That said, the UAE loses out on the fact it’s an incredibly conservative country. There’d be precious few boozy nights out and (I imagine) a considerably less romantically diverse lifestyle in store for me in that neck of the woods.
Money vs. a social life. It’s a tough call…
My friend Anthony, the man who got me into ESL teaching when he dragged me to Korea in 2007, has long been on me about getting my ass to Turkey. He’s had five or six wonderful years in the land that isn’t quite Europe, Asia, or Africa – and he’s had nothing but rave reviews for the country.
Family friends also call the nation home, and they’ve been similarly glowing in their praise.
The opportunity to live in a historic city like Istanbul and be right on the doorstep to both Europe and Africa is tempting, especially given my lack of experience on both continents.
The downside? Teaching ESL in Turkey is still a bit of a wild west situation, and this means visa runs and the risk of being kicked out on my ass.
I’ve been somewhat fascinated with Japan and Japanese culture since watching Lost in Translation; one of my favourite movies about travel.
My visit to Fukuoka in 2009 only heightened my interest in visiting the Land of the Rising Sun, and their ESL industry is still one of the better paying in Asia.
The downside? 40 hour work weeks are a near necessity, and the cost of living is amongst the highest in Asia. That means savings are going to be hard to come by unless I give up my footloose and fancy free lifestyle.
If you’d asked me a year ago where I’d be teaching next, I’d have said Thailand. I spent three weeks in the country last Chinese New Year and absolutely loved the food, the welcoming culture, and the stunning beaches.
Friends in Thailand – both bloggers and teachers – seem to have the time of their lives. Given the new visa renewal rules have made it harder to use Thailand as a base for a digitally nomadic life, having a proper teaching visa would be a good way to secure a long term future in the country.
I’d be lying, though, if I said the recent political unrest hadn’t somewhat coloured my desire to revisit the country.
Elsewhere in China
A quick look at my bucket list shows that I’ve yet to tackle all of my objectives here in China. I’ve yet to see Xi’an’s Terra Cotta Warriors or the iconic Great Wall of China, nor have I visited every Chinese province or climbed the holy mountains.
I’ve not loved life in China, but there’s something to be said for the opportunity to experience life in Guangdong, Sichuan, or Yunnan.
A Korean Return
Korea will always be my first travel love. Behind the forty hour work weeks, the awful two week a year vacation time, and the frustrations that come with living in a rather racist country – I will always love the place that took my travel virginity.
Nights spent sipping soju and tucking into Korean BBQ, drunken weekends at the debauched Boryeong Mud Festival, late night noraebang with friends you made earlier that night, and the zany madness that is Korea…? Man, I miss it already!
Of course, the drawback is that I’m spending more of my very finite lifetime in a place I’ve already dedicated 2.5 years to.
Vietnam has been rising in my estimation a lot of late. It boasts a similar South East Asian vibe to nearby Thailand, whilst still sharing some points of commonality with China.
The teaching gig isn’t as lucrative as it might be in the UAE or Turkey, but the cultural experiences on offer are a great counter to that. The idea that I might spend 2015 alternately soaking in the beauty of Halong Bay, cruising lazily up the Mekong River, and just the opportunity to stay with locals in Vietnam are all pretty bloody tempting!
Where do you think Aussie on the Road should base itself in 2015? What country would you be most interested in learning more about?
Ultimately, the decision is down to me (and fate), but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!