Shanghai is not only China’s biggest city, it is one of the biggest cities in the world. The population is over 30 million, and so one commonly sees people everywhere. Shanghai is also extremely developed, with a metro that can take you anywhere and everyhere, and people crammed into the most modern and posh of apartment buildings. Shanghai seemed so wonderful on the surface that for the first few weeks I was extremely satisfied with my decision to live there.
Chinese people of all the age groups are currently studying English. If you happen to be a citizen of the UK, Ireland, United States, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, it’s very easy to get a job. I had the goal of teaching at a university. Though the salary at private schools were better, I felt that teaching at a college would bring more prestige to my family. I taught for two semesters at the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Foreign Language college. In order to reach the college, I needed to take a free shuttle bus from a certain metro stop. The distances were so far it took me two hours of my day to reach. I would teach for three days in a week, giving four classes of 80 minutes each. For the first few weeks of clasess, the students were rowdy and spoiled. They would speak amongst each other, write to each other on the phone, and rarely pay attention to what I said. I would only find 8 out of 40 students to be interested in my lessons. With time, as they got more used to me, I found the students to become better behaved. I found myself relating to my students more like they were my little sisters or brothers than students.
Over time, I began to lose my attraction to Shanghai as a city. Shanghai is certainly a large and modern city, but the pace of the city wasn’t fast enough for me, and unlike many other big global cities, I didn’t find the neighoborhoods of Shanghai charming. There were only a handful fo types of neighborhoods in Shanghai, and as I explored them, I didn’t feel like I was discovering anything new. There was also some truth to the stereotype that China isn’t a particularly free country. I had to go to a lot of efforts to see my favorite websites in China, and I had trouble teaching the things I wanted to. For example, once I wanted to compare the Indian and Chinese forms of government. Due to the fact that my worksheet discussion questions made a lot of mention to the idea of democracy, while I was giving that particular class, a supervising teacher suddenly appeared to make sure I didn’t say the wrong things. I started to live in China only because I was able to help my students. I felt a lot of pressure to teach them to think in the right way and help them in life. It gave my lessons a certain type of meaning, as though I were not living in Shanghai for myself, but for them.
While I was in Shanghai, my goals and life position changed. I had previously arranged my enitre life with the goal of writing my books, and yet I had done next to nothing of writing while I taught in the college. After about a half of year of little writing productivity, I felt more and more pressure to start working on my magnus opus. It was for this reason that after my year in Shanghai, I immediately went to Russia, in search for a job that would help me to live there but with the freedom to write again. Despite my desire to return to a nomadic way of living, I still felt a certain charm and sense of giving back to my teaching. I am still on the path to finding a way where I can write books of value while also giving back to those around me.