Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why we are NOT returning for an additional year

Several people have been asking if we will be returning to China for an additional year and if we are not, why? There is no one single or simple answer. We've thought about it, weighed the pros and cons and decided to not return. Most of the decision had to do with the reasons of why we came in the first place.

Language exposure for the kids: This is the number one reason why we are in China. And to a great extent, the goal has been accomplished. The kids love their school, understand and speak basic Mandarin and C. is learning to read and write. If we stayed, C. would be in a Chinese school first grade classroom in September. First graders learn to read and write close to 600 characters. The process is sheer memorization, with countless hours of copying characters. C. would be at a disadvantage because, unlike his native language classmates, he would also need to learn the vocabulary along with the characters. And as his non-fluent Chinese speaking parents, we are of no help. It would necessitate in hiring a tutor so he would at least have a shot at keeping up with his classmates. We just can't justify doing this to the poor kid! Also, E. and C. would be in separate schools (E. would stay at the Kindergarten), which means different schedules, etc. As much as we would love the kids to be completely fluent in the language, we can't have it (done here) without their English and Spanish skills suffering greatly. Our plan, once we're home, is to maintain and improve as much as possible the language skills they already have, via a tutor.

Workng/teaching/living: I have a nice job and am enjoying it. But to do it for another year? No thanks. Mainly, it's not that challenging and I really don't need more experience. I was offered an opportunity in another city if I wanted to stay in China to experience something different. But that has risks. What if the assignment and living conditions are worse? Our apartment is doable, but I really don't want to "camp" for another year. We do like KMUST and Kunming. It is exciting to explore a new city, but it's also nice to return to the familiar. During a second year, a person can be involved in daily life a little bit different than what is possible during the intial year. Kunming has been a good match for us. A negative has been that we haven't been able to do a lot of traveling within China. We are located in the west and many of the popular travel destinations are on the east coast. So everything is a plane ride (and the price of four tickets add up) away. Even within Yunnan Province, distances are great between places.

Other concerns: With the Olympics fast approaching, there has been an increase in anti-Western sentiments. We are in no imminent danger, but there is a distinct change in the air. Along with that, there is now a potentially harmful virus making its rounds throughout the Kindergartens and orphanages. These are two things we can gladly do without.

All in all, living in China has been a positive experience, one we're glad we took the chance to do so. I often think that if I was 20 or 30 years younger and childless, I'd stay on in a heartbeat! There are things we will miss and things we won't. China gets into one's heart and under one's skin. We are better world citizens because of it.


Anonymous said...

We admire you and think that you have given yourselves (and us) a wonderful gift this last year. J,M, N,A and baby G

Anonymous said...

I would also like to thank you for helping us to see China through the eyes of people like us rather than through the eyes of the media. I realize that you have spent a lot of time showing us the sights as well as everyday life in China via your blog and I truly appreciate it. Someday, I hope to see more of the world, but until then, I also believe that you have helped me become more of world citizen. Thanks dear friends. M.

Carmen in Dearborn said...

It has been interesting following your adventure. Glad to know that you have gotten quite a bit from it. Look forward to visiting with you when you return.