Capn's Blog

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Going to China I: Making the decision

There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction. One has to go abroad in order to find the home one has lost.
Franz Kafka, Austrian author (1883-1924)

A few weeks ago I wrote that I have been considering going to China to improve my Chinese. After a lot of deliberation, I have made my decision. I'm going!

Two natural questions are, when, and where?

Regarding the when, my plan is to study there for the first half of 2008. And about the where, well, I investigated many places within China, but have finally settled on the city of Dalian.


There are a number of reasons why I've chosen Dalian:
  • Being on a peninsula and next to the sea, Dalian isn't as polluted as many Chinese cities.
  • The sea makes the weather more moderate. It snows a few times in winter, and summer temperatures are in the high 20s.
  • Living costs are cheaper than Beijing and Shanghai.
  • I'm told the people are friendly and the crime rate is comparitively low.
  • For a language learner, Dalian doesn't have the problem of "too many" foreigners that Shanghai and Beijing has. And the language people speak on the street is close to Mandarin.
Most of the foreigners in Dalian are either from Korea, Russia or Japan. The buses run every 10 minutes or so, which sounds like their public transport system is useful, not dysfunctional like here!

This is the company that I am going with:

They act as a middle-man, doing the organising, finding accomodation and tutors, arranging social activities, and being there for advice or when something goes wrong. I wrote an email to some of the current students going through this company, and the responses were very very positive.


Leaving my family isn't something I choose to do lightly, and I couldn't do it unless I had their full support, especially from Jenny. It's funny really - she jokes about it as if she can't wait to get rid of me! Maybe it's true. Maybe it's her way of being supportive, and not holding me back. Either way, her support is a comfort. And my boys are now at an age when they are capable of doing a lot of things on their own, so the workload on Jenny, while it will be hard, won't be impossible.

I'm planning to use my computer and webcam to keep in touch with them, daily if I can.

By going, there's one thing I will certainly be missing out on. My good mate Greg says that there is a position opening soon at his company, and by the sound of it, it would be a very good match for me. Unfortunately it won't be there when I return from China. This is perhaps the one thing that made the decision about going to China difficult for me, as job satisfaction is very important to me, and I don't think an opportunity quite like that is likely to come again soon. Curiously enough, Greg, whose opinion I rate highly, is the only person I've told who hasn't been completely supportive. My family, parents, family friends and work colleagues have all been excited and approving when I've told them of my plans. I guess that for Greg, being there for your kids is the most important thing of all, and in terms of my role in the raising of my boys, there will be a cost to going. Well yes, there will be. But I think the cost won't be greater than we can accept, and I hope the benefit will outweigh it.



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