To the “Edge” and Back: 5 Years After Living in China

by gradycarter

5 years ago this week I boarded a flight in Oklahoma and would never return to my old life the same. I spent the next 5 months traveling but mostly teaching Oral English in Qinhuangdao, China for a wonderful company called ELT “Edge”. The group that I spent time with still feels like family to me, and I don’t know that I’ll ever have the chance to have that kind of a common bond with another group that unique it was also amazing that my sister Claire was in China with me. She was, is, and will continue to be one of my life’s closest confidantes.

Being on the other side of the planet in a very foreign environment with a small group of people who feel more like you can be very strong grounds for a relationship. It was an I credibly wonderful experience, but part of the wonderment came from this moments of enlightenment of the human condition. There was a lot of sadness, and there was a lot of joy. I was compelled by the honesty that people seemed to have with their core groups, and by the systematic respect for the elderly. But of course this is a nation with a far from ideal governance, and a lot of corruption – which seemed to be on display daily as I saw things like brand new European cars with government plates fly by old women pulling rickshaws.

One thing that China induced my personal growth was a constant focus on nuance in the world. Things are never as simple as we’d prefer, but postmodernism isn’t a blanket solution either. Living in a place like China affected a lot of my political and spiritual beliefs, but coming home and readjusting taught me just as much. Reentry was much harder than I thought it would’ve been.

I’m including a few pictures that I picked out to share after quickly scanning through the 1,000’s I took. If you are feeling stuck in your own life and wanting to find something more I would recommend teaching English abroad if you can take 6 months to a year (and more people actually can than think they can). Life was very simple and allowed for a lot of absorbing of the culture. As my rent and travel were paid for by the school all I had to buy on my own was food (which was amazing and dirt cheap…). Don’t be afraid of taking action to live a life of risks and uncertainty, be afraid not to.

-Grady

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