Long-term vs. short-term happiness
My adventure in China has come to an end. Nearly 6 weeks working in Qingdao and traveling in Shanghai and Beijing, it feels great to be back home. I consider Bangkok home as I’ve been here since 2015, and I worked very hard to build the foundations of my business, make friends and a professional network, find a spiritual community, and teach English. So why did I leave?
Well, I wanted to know if “the grass was greener on the other side” basically, the way people talk about how many opportunities are in China, I had to go and see for myself. What I learned was that there are many opportunities to do business, teach English, and travel. Living as a single female expat, I have a lot of flexibility with moving, so at this point in my life business, community, friends, and money are the top priorities. Yes, money is not in the top 3 because I’m quite happy now and investing for the long-term. I know people that do make a lot of money and live in “the top 5 cities in the world” and are completely miserable because they have no life outside of work, no time for friends, and no community. See where I’m going? I would not have what I have in Bangkok if I moved to China, except more money. You know that stupid quote “Do what you love, and the money will follow” I would rephrase it as:
“Have a job where you can build your dreams, don’t settle to make money in the short-term and by not investing in relationships and your community. Rather think of building wealth and happiness for the long-term, and you will have more than anything money could buy, which is happiness.”
Happiness varies from person to person and definitely changes over time. I remember when I was in the 6th grade sitting in my English class daydreaming what my life would be as an adult, I thought I would be driving a nice car rushing to work and dropping off my kids to school, married to an ambitious man, with a nice home in a lovely neighbourhood. Thats what happiness looked like to me. Well, that dream has changed over the years I no longer have a car (junked it when I moved to Israel), I’m not married (yet), don’t own a home (honestly home ownership is an American staple to adulthood, most people either rent, live with their parents, or have their parents help with a downpayment to buy a home), right now I’m working on my long-term happiness (no judgements for those that are living the “American Dream” good for you!). I like to reflect on this memory because my daydreams has gotten a lot more ambitious, and I’ve come very far as a small-town girl from Leominster, Massachusetts.
Reading and writing has been the foundation of my thirst for adventure!
Thanks to books and authors like Sidney Sheldon, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Jackie Collins, and a plethora of writers found in my home library (there were over 1,000 books in my home) my imagination for happiness and going adventures has transformed over the years. I read about whole-wide world outside my small town and it awakened a curiosity in me to explore (cautiously, after reading so many murder mysterious, every time I date someone I suspect they are a serial killer, spy, jealous lover, or normal haha). So when I when I wrote my story last week about my experience in Qingdao, I felt like I was writing a thrilling chapter in my life, and happy that I could overcome my unfortunate situation. You know, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Collins
Before I fell in love with reading I my first love was writing. Since I was able to write, I always kept a diary, now journal, because I wanted to record everything in my life. I also scrapbooked growing up to keep visual memories, like graduation, holidays, happy moments, in my life in a book. So, if we have met or had an interesting encounter over the last 20 years, you have a passage in my diary/journal (eventually turn into an autobiography one day).
Travel stories: Bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing
I took the bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing because I like to look out windows and daydream while traveling at high speed. I’ve read about the fast trains in Asia (especially in Japan, though when I was there I didn’t get to take the MagLev) I thought it was an opportunity to travel the fast train between China’s biggest cities. A four-hour train ride, eating black grapes, and looking at the landscape I saw how heavily invested China is in it’s ambitions to industrialise itself. I saw new shiny buildings over-shadowing crumbling little homes, I saw how bridges and roads being built, and I casually looked at my phone to stay up to date about Xi Jinping “One Road, One Belt” project. To some, China’s ambitious may be a threat, but I think differently (I won’t get too political or digress). Overall, my ride was pleasant, and my hostel was in the centre of Beijing. Most importantly, I arrived when there was no smog and with one thing on my mind: to hike the Great Wall of China!
Hostel bar: Two Ukrainians and a Russian meets an American girl
It was cold and raining on my first full day in Beijing. I only left my hostel early in the morning only to buy some fruit, and spent most of my day working on my laptop. I’ve grown accustomed to staying in hostels, because they are cheap, it’s easy to meet different people from around the world, and for the reliable wifi. I’ve stayed in hostels in Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, all great but in China good wifi and washing machine are essential. That day, I was in no mood to socialise (because of the weather), but that didn’t stop a friendly onlooker from approaching me and asking me to join his two friends for a beer. I acutely remember working on designing a “hair beauty box” when, let’s call him, Nikita, approached me with a big smile on his face, he nervously introduced himself as a Brit living in Beijing and asked me typical questions like, where I’m from, what am I doing, how long I’m in China, etc. I looked with a friendly surprise on my face (thinking he is not British as he has a slight Eastern European accent, but he is quite cute), and politely invited him to sit down. I’ve been working all day and wanted a break, so I put away my laptop and as we chatted I peaked over at his friends who were across the room smiling and snickering like little school girls.
I eventually joined him and his 2 friends, let’s call them Petrov, who was Russian, and Ivan, who was Ukrainian, I politely asked them “Is it typically of your friend to talk to a girl about marriage when he first meets her?” They laugh, and said yes, as Nikita is in his 30s and oldest of his friends, he really wants to meet a nice girl to marry. I looked at Nikita straight in the eye and said, Lucky that you are in China, so many options, and given that you are in your 30s you better hurry up and get married!” We all laughed, but he explained he was not into Chinese girls (dude why are you in China?? Though he could date foreign women), he laughed it off and said “That is why I approached you!” We all laughed again and I was curious to learn more about this peculiar group. Petrov, was from St. Petersburg, and is working as a musician (I got to see pictures and a video of him playing), but educated as a lawyer back home. And Ivan, who is Ukrainian, on surface looks like an Abercrombie model, was working as an actor in Chinese movies (also got to see pictures), was educated as an English language translator and done a bit of boxing back in Kiev. Now Nikita, who had a mixed English and Ukrainian accent, was living and working in London for a few years before abruptly leaving a few months ago (I wont’ get into details but the government asked him to leave), and explained he was ready to get married, have children, and was looking for the right girl. Temporarily in Beijing, he working as an English teacher, despite being trained in finance/insurance, he lightly explained he made enough money from London, so he was just working to live on his income rather than savings.
Since leaving the US I’ve learned the rules of adulthood to own a home, get married, and have children, then retired to see the world, is VERY American. Not that it’s a bad thing. Also, people are quite blunt and honest about what they want and what they think. I do believe we Americans are very sensitive and superficial (to certain degree). People outside are not afraid to tell you what they think politically and are quite well-travelled (the ones I’ve encountered). So drinking Tsingtao beer (I went to the factory/museum!) with Nikita, Petrov, and Ivan I didn’t get any feeling that they were being dishonest, rather they are living in Beijing where they can build their dreams, like thousands of expats who flock to China.
The night didn’t end late, as I had to wake up early for my tour/hike to the Great Wall of China. So, Nikita and I went for a walk around my hostel and he invited me to travel to Ukraine with him later in the week, in which, I politely declined as I was going to travel to Bangkok. We added each other on WeChat and agreed we will meet again one day.
Traveling up the great wall with an Englishman, a New Zealander, and a Mexican
Tuesday was a beautiful, sunny, and smog-free day. I booked my tour to the Great Wall or Mutianyu, at 6:30AM. I’ve haven’t done any serious hiking since I left Israel, where I lived next to a national park, but I had my hiking boots, pants, backpack full of water, and sun hat, so I was ready! Now, on the way, I slept. After 3 hours we finally reached the entrance to The Great Wall of China. I didn’t stick with the group because they were taking the cable car up to one of the towers. And I wasn’t the only one who wanted to hike, so I was joined by a Kiwi (New Zealander) and an Englishman, to walk up about 2Km of stairs. I was completely out of shape, and huffed and puffed my way up the stairs, and reached the top after 1 hour. My Englishman and Kiwi comrades were way ahead and I figured we’d meet each other on our way back down.
When I eventually made it to the top, to be honest I thought the walls would be taller. The scenery was beautiful (I really need to invest in a good camera), but the wall just continued for miles along the green mountainous region, I get why it’s so great, but after 3 hours of walking I saw enough. I eventually made it to tower 22 (tower 24 is the end which leads to the original wall) and encountered my English and Kiwi comrades on their way back from tower 24. Happy to see them, we took pictures and walked back to get lunch. On our walk back, I learned a bit about their stories. The Englishman, is a journalist for the Guardian, we talked about the current political situation with Theresa May and Donald Trump, gave each other travel tips (I should go see the gorillas in Rwanda) and the Kiwi, shared his travel stories of hiking in Peru, the great mountains of New Zealand, and his upcoming trans-siberian trip to St. Petersburg. I shared my adventures as well, but felt a slightly dissatisfied as it’s always men that I encounter who have awesome travel stories :/ Women we need to get out there and see the world!
Finally we had lunch, and at our table there was a Persian couple, an American couple from Hawaii, two Italians, and my comrades. We had some interesting conversations about politics. It was time to go, and on the bus I began talking with my seat mate who was from Mexico. Now, I understand that Mexico has stereotypical image in the media as poor, politically corrupt, “full of rapists,” and desperate immigrants.
When I meet new people, I’m genuinely curious about their country and what it’s actually like to live their. So, my seat mate, let’s call him Pablo, is a civil engineer, from the capital, solidly middle class, loves his country and enjoys traveling. He explained to me what Mexico is really like. First, just like any country there are places that are dangerous, it’s beautiful, rich in history, and unfortunately is politically corrupt (what country isn’t to a certain extent?). Also the rich don’t care about the poor and steal money, while the poor are too afraid to leave or dream better life for themselves (there is a culture and mentality of poverty, though it doesn’t directly cause poverty). I was curious what he meant about the poor not dreaming for a better life. He explained that in Mexico, to “make it” you have to go to a private school, and from there you meet the right people so you can get a job. Ok, but in his case, he went to a public school, his parents didn’t have much money, but he studied engineering and a professor introduced him to someone that gave him a job (since then he never had to go for a job interview). For the poor, they are too afraid to challenge the rich and are afraid to move out their comfort zone. I can understand that, despite the systems that do keep people in poverty, some people who do have the opportunity to leave are afraid (would go more into it, but that’s a different subject). After an hour long discussion, I had a new perspective of Mexico and a new friend that I hope to visit one day!
My french is okay! My encounter with Québécois hostel roommates
When people ask me how many languages I speak I say English and French, though I do understand a bit of Hebrew and Thai. But, my French over the years has deteriorated, or so I thought. In 2013, I studied in an intensive French program at the université laval in Quebec, Canada. Traveling I’ve come across many French speakers, like in Shanghai the synagogue I went to was mostly French, and I could follow about 80% of the conversation. But, when I settled in my hostel I saw these Canada slippers and heard my new flatmates speaking a French I understood 100%. How? I guess my program did a great job.
They were 3 quebecqoise archaeology students from Montréal traveling and we had a polite conversation, they spoke to me in French, which I understood perfectly, and I responded back in English (I’m quite shy to speak in French). This was one of the highlights of my trip, my French is okay, as long as it’s Qubecqoise French!
What’s next: moving back to Bangkok, getting back to business, Tech events
Ok, so now that I’m back in Bangkok, I have to find work, and I am happy that I have 2 job interviews at international Kindergartens next week, I have a few orders for fresh homemade hair products, and I am preparing for Healthy Hair Asia to participate in TechSauce Global Summit 2017 this upcoming July
Glad to be bak !,
Thank you for reading!
Check out pictures from my pictures hiking the Great Wall of China