My name is Marte-Lize Botes, I am a South-African citizen who dreamt of a career and life in China ever since I was a little girl. This all became a reality back in February of 2017, I found a job, booked a plane ticket and took on the adventure all by myself. It was scary to say the least, I was unsure of so many things not to mention that I could not even understand nor speak Chinese in the beginning. Being in a new and different country for the first time was exiting and I was ready to get started and experience all the wonderful things that come with it.
I am a qualified teacher with my honours in Learning development so finding a job in china was easy because “I have done the time” if that makes any sense. I started my journey in Guangzhou, one of the bigger provinces in China. My first night was the worst night to say the least. Once I got to my hotel I was told to try and hold of from sleeping so that I could adjust to the time difference (6 hours). I took it upon myself to go out of the hotel to seek some food for the night. Once I left my hotel room I started feeling “famous” as every single Chinese person almost stopped in their tracks to stare at me. I found it really unsettling as I am not used to such behaviour. This completely scared me, so I went to the nearest convenient shop, bought a bottle of water and made it back to my hotel room.
The next day I was very surprized by meeting other foreigners in the exact same hotel over breakfast. I suddenly felt a calmness overcome my body as I immediately understood the saying “I am not alone’. To my surprize I met people from South-Africa at the same company as well as people from completely different countries. People who can understand my language, speak my language and have a chance to blow off steam in my language, that was an overwhelming feeling.
After the training period I went to my school where I was the only foreigner in the entire school, and I thought that I am the only foreigner in the city at first. For the first few months I did not really have any Chinese friends because they did not know how to approach me, and I had no clue on how to approach them nor was I aware if they could even speak or understand English. One of the girls that worked at the school decided to join me for lunch one afternoon in the school cafeteria, at first we did not really speak until I realized “She can speak English”. She made me feel so welcome and through her the other people in the school slowly but surely came to speak with me and wanted to spend time with me.
I started enjoying different activities like playing Mahjong (a Chinese game) going to a KTV lounge, eating Chinese food and experiencing the Chinese culture. I met amazing people and started to understand the way of living in China, which I would never have if I did not take the chance on myself or a new country. Being able to walk to the nearest market or take the very inexpensive subway to meet up with my friends came accustom to me as I later did not need help from anyone and I could do it by myself. I still experience different things daily as China has so much to offer, one should just be open to new experiences.
I absolutely love staying in China, I have been there for almost 3 years and I would not want it any other way. I would go so far as to say that I am in love with China, the food, the people and the culture. It is very different to what I am used too but I would take the experience any day to ensure that I grow as a teacher and as a person. I have met people in china that I will cherish until the day I die, and I have made memories that I will never forget.
I currently find myself working in Wuhan, teaching kindergarten children at the best school I have ever been associated with in China. I am a qualified teacher for ages 8-14 but I never thought that I will love my job as working with children ages 3-5. The children are adorable, and they absolutely love foreign people especially when they understand that things in my home country is nothing like the things in their home country.
I share an apartment with one of my friends I met in the hotel in my first year of teaching abroad and we have grown together since, it makes life easier when there is someone with you, to share in the excitement and different experiences. We have seen around 3 countries in these 3 years, and we have travelled almost the whole of china together which includes Thailand, Australia, Russia and iconic sceneries in China like the Beijing wall and even Shanghai Disney Land.This is not the last I have travelled or seen some extraordinary things, I have plenty of future and it all started when I took a leap and went to China.
Living in China for close to 4 years now I have realized that I have made so many memories and I have achieved so much that I never thought I would be capable of. Taking a chance on something scary is not always a bad thing, things fall into place once you have realized that it is not all that bad or find out for yourself if the stories are true about China or not. It really is a chance worth taking, and if you do not take it you will never know if you would like it or not.