Life Update

As my time in China nears its conclusion (for now), I’ve been reflecting a lot on what this amazing, inspiring, fast-paced year has meant to me. The thing I’m most afraid of, I think, is forgetting—I don’t want to forget the feel of cycling through hutongs on my way back from class, watching hazy sunsets through my office windows, boarding a long-distance train to explore some other corner of China, and especially the faces and memories of the people who have made this experience so special.

With this in mind, I’m hoping to spend a little more time documenting my life here over this last month, both with photos and with blog posts like this one. So here’s a general update of what’s been going on since I last posted, broken up into sections because there’s so much that it’s hard to know where to start…

What I’m working on

Our Flourish classes are winding down for the term, and in the next two weeks I’ll be finished teaching. Term 2’s curriculum is focused on three skills that are really fun to teach: presentations, debate, and drama. All three of these have been hugely important to me throughout my years in school, so it’s been amazing to get to share them with my students. This term, I’ve had six fantastic classes with high English levels and confident, creative students, so I’ve gotten to challenge them a bit more than I did my classes last term, since many of those had lower English comprehension. It’s been great to have these totally different classroom environments, because fine-tuning my approach to suit different levels has undoubtedly made me a stronger teacher.

Along with teaching, I’ve also been put in charge of the Flourish textbook project this semester. This textbook is our attempt to turn our tried-and-tested curriculum into an internationally marketable enterprise education learning book, so that teachers everywhere are able to teach our course without us present. It’s an amazing book that incorporates illustrations by artists from around the world, and it’s finally almost finished. My job has been a Lead Editor of sorts, fine-tuning our teaching content, writing foreword and afterword material, and making sure all design edits are made. It’s been an incredibly rewarding project to be part of, especially as someone who is passionate about writing and books of all kinds.

What I’m reading

I’m adding in this section because I’ve been trying hard to make more time for reading lately, and having a good book to read has made coming home in the evenings after work so much more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to being back in the U.S., where actual hard copies of English books are more readily available, but for now reading on iBooks has worked well!

I’m on a sci-fi kick lately, and it all started with one particular book… since last fall, one of my coworkers has been recommending I read the Three Body Problem, a famous Chinese sci-fi novel by Liu Cixin that’s been recently translated into English. I never made time for it, but once another of my coworkers started reading it and raving about it I decided to give it a try.
Two weeks of intense reading later, I finished the whole trilogy and it has entered my sacred collection of best books I have ever read. This series is life-changingly good. It’s immensely creative and beautifully translated, and Cixin completely breaks the boundaries of traditional fiction and imagines an entirely new world. Plus, it’s been so cool for me to read sci-fi set in China (and, for a large part of it, Beijing) while living here and learning about the nation’s history. I cannot recommend these books enough.

Since then, I’ve been on a hunt for sci-fi books in a similar realm to Three Body Problem. While nothing has quite measured up, I’ve still found some good ones. Right now I’m reading Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and next on my list is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a dystopian novel set in one of my favorite cities in the world, Bangkok.

If you have any more book recommendations in this genre, please let me know! I’d especially love more sci-fi/dystopia set in Asia, but I’m open to anything.

Where I’m traveling

I’ve traveled so much this year that, for the first time in my life… I’m actually kind of tired of traveling. Blasphemy, I know.

I’ve had some pretty amazing travels since my March update, all thanks to China’s copious spring public holiday weekends. My last big international trip was to Bali in early April for Qingming Festival, where me and one of my PiA friends spent five days relaxing in Ubud, biking down volcanoes, finding hidden beaches, and getting massages on massages on massages. Bali is truly incredible (even surpasses all its hype) and I’d love to go back and spend more time on different parts of the island.

After Bali, I’ve been spending my weekends traveling elsewhere in China. Ami, my favorite travel buddy, and I went to Huangshan for the Labor Day holiday in early May. It’s one of the mountains in south-central China that inspired the Avatar world, and it was STUNNING. We mainly avoided the holiday crowds by hiking up the mountain instead of taking the cable car, which was so worth it.

Just last weekend I took my first overnight train to Pingyao, an ancient walled city in Shanxi province. Pingyao’s a great place to relax for a few days, and the whole experience was an awesome jaunt back in time. The sleeper trains were the old-fashioned 绿皮火车 “green skin train” style, which hearkens back to travel in late 20th century China when trains were the primary way an average person could cross the country. Today they’ve been made comfortable, modern, and air-conditioned, but that old thrill is still there.

Though I’ve been traveling a ton, the weekends I’ve spent in Beijing have been really special to me. This weekend my coworkers and I got together to do the 2018 Beijing Color Run, which was so much fun! My Harvard roommate of three years came to visit at the end of May, and showing her around was a blast. I’ve also spent time playing with our dogs, relaxing, reading, and just generally enjoying how familiar and comfortable Beijing life has become.

Next weekend will be my final trip of the year, a last hurrah before I leave. My PiA friend Summer and I are meeting up in Xi’an to finally see the terracotta warriors, the way we’ve been dreaming of doing since we were elementary schoolers reading Magic Tree House: Day of the Dragon King. Looking forward to it!

What’s coming next

Like I said earlier in this post, I’ve only got one month left in China. I leave Beijing on July 10th to head back to the States, where I’ll spend a few weeks at home on Long Island relaxing, visiting family in California, and getting ready for my next big step: law school!

I’ll be attending NYU School of Law this fall as one of ~5 Institute for International Law and Justice (IILJ) Scholars in the class of 2021, and I’m so excited for it. I’ve spent my life growing up in the shadow of Manhattan, and I’ve sworn to myself since I was a kid that I’d live there one day. New York will be the perfect place for me to kickstart my dream career in international law, all while reconnecting with friends and being a short train ride away from my family.

I’m going to miss China like crazy. Living here has been the most incredible challenge, and I have grown to love this country and this city as a second home. It’s going to be hard to give up this lifestyle of adventuring and experiencing and buckle down for more school, but China has not seen the last of me. I have every intention of returning one day soon—in the meantime, though, I’ve got one more month to soak in as many memories as I can.

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