The Sometimes Forgotten Beauty of Traveling Abroad
It's been awhile since my last blog entry, and that's because I was away in China and Japan on a 3 week business trip. Although I wasn't teaching during this trip, I did have the chance to stop into a few universities where people were learning English, and visit the teacher training program my university is running in Deqing China. This trip really reminded me of some of the wonderful things you can experience when you go abroad to teach. In this blog entry I'll be sharing what I think are some possibly forgotten benefits to traveling and teaching abroad.
1. Trying new DELICIOUS food
I hadn't really been to China before this trip and I wasn't sure about the food there. Sure I'd had lots of Western Chinese food in Canada, but I knew the food would be different there. After being in China I have a new found love for Chinese food. The food that I had was amazing! Whether it was from a street vendor or at a nice restaurant the food was great. Chinese food gets a bad rap for being oily and unhealthy, but this is simply not the truth. There are tons of healthy options, and it makes me feel like North Americans are really the ones with the unhealthy food.
After China I traveled for a couple weeks in Japan, and here is the lesson I learned in Japan...try everything! Japanese food is amazing and so diverse. You'll never find fresher sashimi or more amazing noodle dishes (well maybe in Italy) than in Japan. It seems that in Japan each region specialized in one dish (similar to China actually), and if you travel to Japan find out what that dish is where you are staying and eat as much of it as you can because you'll never find the same thing back home.
2. Seeing foreign Nature
I think this is something people take for granted when they travel. We often get caught up in sightseeing in museums or famous landmarks, but the nature around this world we live in is so diverse and beautiful that it shouldn't be missed. If you go to Shanghai, Yu Garden shouldn't be missed. Or if you go to Japan, you can find beautifully well-manicured gardens every where with flowers, plants and trees you can't find anywhere else. In Osaka, I really enjoyed walking the grounds of Osaka Castle and checking out the apricot groves.
I'm not at all a fashionable guy, but I find it amazing to check out the different fashion that people wear around the world. After visiting Japan, I can honestly say that no one dresses like the Japanese, especially the younger generations. They are fearless in their clothing choices and will wear whatever they feel like. After living in Asia for a few years, the funny thing is, all that clothing that at the time I thought was ridiculous eventually becomes the mainstream fashion in North America. When I went to Korea in 2007, I couldn't believe that all the guys were wearing skinny jeans. Back home this was not happening at all, then by the time I returned to Canada in 2010 everyone was wearing slim and skinny jeans; girls and guys.
4. Meeting wonderful people
Although I didn't get to interact with as many students as I would have if I was teaching, the students I meet on this trip were wonderful. It's so nice to see so may students so dedicated to learning English or learning to become better teachers. In my everyday travels I also had the chance to meet so many nice people. In China, I was amazed by how friendly and hospitable everyone was that I dealt with. After my business meetings in China, I was treated to amazing meals and had the chance to really get to know the people I was promoting my university's programs to. In Japan, everyone was also so helpful. A man I met on the plane for 30 minutes, offered to give me a tour all around Osaka. When looking a little lost in Kyoto, another guy who was driving on a motorcycle saw me, stopped his bike and came over to help me with directions. Finally, when trying to figure out the subway, a woman came over to help me, showed me how to use the machine and actually paid for my subway fare. People in Japan have got to be the politest and nicest I've encountered in this world.
5. Witnessing people Learn
As a teacher, watching someone learn something new, and really understand it to the point where they have mastered this new knowledge or skill, is the best part of teacher. For me it's always been so rewarded to help someone through teaching and then be thanked for it. I wasn't teaching on this trip, but when I observed classes, I could see this happening all around me. I could see the gratitude students felt towards their teacher for helping them. Whether you plan to teach abroad or at home, English or Math, children or adults, this is something that makes all your hard work worth it.
So these are 5 things people sometimes forget about when they travel or teach abroad. My advice for anyone going abroad for any reason, is take the time to absorb everything around you. I think people get so obsessed with getting to that next landmark to take a selfie with, that they miss the real beauty around them. Please tell me what you think about this entry and post your own thoughts and pictures in the comment section below.