It is now exactly a week until I head off into the unknown that will be my new life for the next nine months. How am I feeling? The overwhelming answer: stressed. Not stressed about being IN China as many seem to expect, but stressed about the process I still have to go through to get there.
Let me tell you my itinerary for the next week.
Saturday: Drive to Washington, D.C. for a wedding.
Sunday: Attend said wedding.
Monday: Drive from Washington, D.C. area back to Dexter, drop off Dad and pick up documents, then immediately continue on to Chicago. So, I am effectively driving from Washington, D.C. to Chicago on this day. Plus a little extra.
Tuesday: Apply for visa at Chicago consulate, pray everything is in order and that I can get my visa by Wednesday.
Wednesday: Receive my Visa and return to Dexter.
Thursday: Fly out of Detroit Metro to Seoul, South Korea
Friday: 13 hour layover in Seoul.
Saturday: Arrive in Qingdao, register with the local police, move in to apartment.
Basically, I am a ball of stress and impending insanity. So while I am looking forward to my adventure in Qingdao, I will feel much better when this week is over.
For the next nine months, I will be an English teacher at Big Apple Preschool in Qingdao, a coastal resort city directly west of Seoul. Qingdao is renowned for its beaches and its beer, and was the home of the 2008 Olympic sailing competition.
Kirk and Sheena Gerhart started the four Big Apple preschools in Qingdao twelve years ago. Kirk is American and has been living in Qingdao for 22 years, and his wife, Sheena, is Chinese. They have three sons who are currently living in Philadelphia. I was actually introduced to this job through a friend from Grove City, Stephanie Dadd, who taught English in Beijing for a month this summer. She visited the preschool in Qingdao and met Kirk and Sheena, who were in desperate need of an English teacher for this coming year. She knew I was looking for a teaching position abroad and connected us.
Steph had nothing but good things to say about her experience in Qingdao, as did so many other people I talked to who had been there, both Chinese and American. Kirk and Sheena have been wonderful during this process, walking me through the visa application and answering all my questions. Though I speak almost nothing of the language, I feel very safe moving to this new city under their care.
Not only have I felt welcomed by my employers, but after I accepted the job, I discovered that two other Grove City College students who graduated with me, Michael McMahon and Elizabeth Gleixner, are already over in Zhucheng, a small city only an hour and a half by bus from Qingdao. We already have plans to get together in Qingdao as soon as possible. Also, Emily Larsen, a friend from Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, is starting her second year teaching in Yancheng, about a six hour bus ride from me. We’ve been talking about traveling to Japan and Thailand during the Chinese New Year. So I already have connections in China, which is far more than I ever expected.
Other than the insanity of the recent weeks, I have felt like God has been pointing me in this direction through every step of the process. Everything surrounding this opportunity has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have never felt that I am making the wrong decision. For so long, I was adamant that I would go anywhere to teach except for China, looking most seriously into South Korea. Through this process I have relearned what I’ve been taught time and again–that no matter what I think is the correct path for my life, only God truly knows the plans he has for me.
In this coming week, I am going to have to remind myself over and over of that fact.
For any of you who followed my Berlin blog, you know I was relentlessly faithful with my updates. I hope to remain as dedicated as I was two years ago, posting around once a week, even if its only a short blurb with a few pictures.
For the first time in my life I will be the teacher instead of the student. But I will always be a student when it comes to experiencing new cultures, places, and people. I can’t wait to see what Asia has in store for me, and to be able to share what I learn.