Next Stop: Zhongshan, China

I think the title explains it all, but here are the highlights in case you don’t want to read through the duration of this blog post. (TL;DR)

  • ·      In August, Jordan and I are going to Zhongshan, China with the International Language Program
  • ·      Yes, that is the same program that we volunteered with when we met in Moscow, Russia
  • ·      We will be in China from August until December, working as Head Teachers- essentially we are supervising all of the other teachers and helping them with any problems they have while abroad
  • ·      We are freaking excited to go to China, and will happily accept any and all recommendations on places to visit while abroad

Now for the long version:

Hello friends who chose to stick it out with me,

Long time no see. I will, of course address all of those bullet points in greater detail in a moment, but here’s my long-winded introduction to the China story. If you would like to skip this intro, I will bold where the relevant news begins, and you can pick up there.
So here’s the deal. I haven’t posted on this blog nearly as much as I should have. I ought to admit that my lack of activity on this blog hasn’t been due to a lack of adventures and travel. No, I’m afraid that my absence can be fully attributed to laziness.
I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to write during short vacations. By the end of the day, I come home from whatever fun adventure we went on, and pass out from exhaustion. Prime example: our trip to Banff, Canada. We were there for over a week, which in my mind, seemed like plenty of time to write about our daily stories. I started writing each evening when we returned to the hotel. And each evening I would get distracted or fall asleep at the computer. For some reason or another, my heart wasn’t in it- lack of sleep may have been a contributing factor…
This is the same story as to why our honeymoon in Puerto Rico wasn’t thoroughly documented. It also is why I didn’t write about any of our weekend trips to different cities. Sometimes I suck at getting the energy to write. You would think that as an English major, specializing in creative writing, that I would always be amped to post travel stories on this blog.
Fast forward to now. This semester I have tapped into my creative side like never before. By May, I will have written 200 pages of my novel that I started writing in January. This is a major accomplishment for me, and I am kind of proud of myself- okay, I’m really proud of myself. So here’s the deal. Now that I have unleashed the writing beast, I am ready to pump out some compelling travel related content on this blog. Because, let’s be real, a couple pages of content isn’t nearly as strenuous as a full-blown novel.

Thus begins the part that you all came here for: Jordan and I are getting ready to move to Zhongshan, China! Around this time three years ago, I was submitting my paperwork for ILP to go to Moscow, Russia. I was nervous and scared, but also incredibly excited. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? It’s freaking Russia. Who would have guessed that on that trip, I would meet my best friend, and now husband while abroad? I have to say, it makes for a pretty awesome story when people ask how we met.
Of course, after I left ILP’s information meeting, I was full of travel excitement. Seriously, I was ready to quit school and travel to every location that ILP offered. My original dream plan was to go to Russia in the fall, and China in the spring. Of course, my plans changed and I didn’t go to China.
After learning more about some people’s experiences in China, I developed a few unwarranted fears regarding life there. I became terrified of the prospect of living there. Here’s the deal, I am germaphobic, I have misophonia (where I HATE the sound of people eating), and I am scared to death of squatty toilets. The combination of those aspects made me vow to never move to China, where all of my fears would be put to their limits.
So back in October, when Jordan and I started talking about the possibility of doing another trip with ILP, I was very against the prospect of venturing into Asia. Our plan was to go to Ukraine, where we would have a very similar experience that we had in Russia, but this time we would be married and be the head teachers. We both had set in our minds that we didn’t want to do anything else.
After submitting the paperwork, and doing our interviews, we talked with Casey, one of the directors of the program, and learned that Ukraine wouldn’t be a great fit for Jordan and I. We wouldn’t see each other often, which was the primary reason we wanted to go. When Casey started explaining the different schools in China and the different travel opportunities that were available, I suddenly lost all of my former inhibitions regarding the country. While we listened to what Casey had to say, I remembered how excited I was to go to China when I first heard about ILP. Suddenly I couldn’t remember all of the many reasons that I had concocted for why it wouldn’t be a good decision for me. Jordan, who also had some inhibitions, was put at ease as well. We looked at each other, and knew what the other was thinking. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true. 

We told the director that we would think about it and tell him our decision after doing some further research. Jordan and I spent next 48 hours doing hardcore research about different locations in China and the level of safety in the country. Let me stop here and address the elephant in the room. Now, you might be thinking, “But Madison, didn’t you just say you wanted to go to Ukraine? Plus, you guys lived in scary Russia. Of course China is safer than those scary countries.” Having lived in Eastern Europe, we knew what to expect in regards to safety and travel in Ukraine. We knew it would be similar to Russia, so that didn’t scare us. When it came to China, though, we were entering new territory. We really had no clue what to expect. And yes, China is a bit safer than Russia. You would be correct as far as that goes. Regardless, we wanted to know as much as possible regarding our concerns before we committed to the change. After much research and a lot of discussion and prayer, we made the decision to switch to China.
Now, Jordan and I are SO excited to go abroad and embrace the unknown. I’m even ready to embrace the scary squatty toilets, metaphorically, of course. Seriously, if any of you have advice for how to relieve yourself without a western toilet, PLEASE tell me. I am in need of all the help I can get. I am still scared. Jordan and I are excited to experience a culture that we have no familiarity with. Most of our travel experience has been through Europe, so going into Asia sounds like a thrilling opportunity. We are anxious to try the food, and experience local customs. We want to learn more about the long and incredible history that surrounds that part of the world. Most of all, we are excited to try something new, to explore the unknown (to us, of course) and to branch out to understand more about the world as a whole, and not just the parts that agree with western culture.

From August to December, Jordan and I will be taking in the amazing culture that is China. We will be living in Zhongshan, which is in southern China, across the bay from Hong Kong. While there we will get to go see the Great Wall (of course), Beijing, Shanghai, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, the “Avatar Mountains” in Zhangjiajie (don’t even ask me how to pronounce that yet – I may have spelled it wrong too), the beautiful rice fields and whimsical green mountains of Yangshuo, the pandas in Chengdu (yes, the ones you see all of those cute videos of on Facebook), and dozens of other amazing locations.
We are so excited for the opportunity we have to go to China together and to spend a few months abroad traveling. When we got married, we made it a goal to take another trip with ILP. On a larger scale, we made it a goal to take a trip together every year. I think this one will be pretty nice.
Like I said before, we are open to suggestions of your favorite places to visit and things to see and do while in China, so please send those suggestions our way. So that’s the story, my friends! Thanks for sticking it out with us, and I can’t wait to share more with you about our upcoming journey.

Until Next Time,

Madison & Jordan

This is a closeup of the city we will be living in, Zhongshan, in relation to Hong Kong

Here is a larger perspective of where we will be, compared to the rest of China. We are where that little pin is


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