Published on:
July 11, 2018

by: Guest

Teacher Guest Post: The End of the School Year & Rediscovering A Love For My New City

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but the longer you spend in a new country, the less it starts
to feel new or exciting. During exam season, this is especially true. For the last few weeks, I have
done nothing but prepare my students for tests, conducted the tests and then marked said tests. I
am pleased to report that almost all of my students completed their exams with the grades I
predicted, but that does mean I have spent more time at my desks than anywhere else. In many
ways, I was stuck inside my school routine and did not have time to think about anything else, let
alone plan exciting things to do during my free time.

In many ways, this cycle of school-home-bed did nothing for my mood. I am not unhappy in
China (I think coming here was probably one of the best decisions I ever made) but I soon
stopped appreciating the reasons why I came here. Perhaps it was good to devote so much time
and energy to my students, especially since I saw the results of my efforts reflected in their final
grades, but teaching was not the only reason why I decided to spend an extended period of time
in East Asia.

Shenzhen has an interesting history. Although the city itself is predominately modern – most of the
city was constructed within the last fifteen years or so – it has a unique underlying culture which
you really have to seek out as it’s not displayed quite so prominently as other Chinese cities. A
product of the SEZ (Special Economic Zone) policy, Shenzhen has developed at a rapid rate
which has focused on fast growth rather than the preservation of its history. In many ways, this
makes the remaining local villages and temples an even more exciting find. I came back to China,
as spending three weeks exploring these fascinating history stretching back far longer than most
other cultures, was simply not enough for me. In many ways, I had forgotten about my own
interests in favour of focusing on work and now that summer is here, I have time to focus on my
own interests again.

I also took time to reacquaint myself with what my friends and I have dubbed as ‘park culture’ in
Shenzhen. Despite parks being regularly utilised in our home countries, I don’t feel that anywhere
else does it quite like China. The park is truly the centre of the community. There are people
dancing, singing or playing checkers in large groups at all hours of the day. But, in the evenings
this place really comes to life. It is finally cool enough to step outside and actually enjoy it, so you
can find people from all across the city coming to the local parks to reconnect with people from
the local area. You can see people watching movies on a projector, or racing on their bikes. It
really feels like even in a city of twelve million people, everyone really knows everyone. My
favourite park in my local area is Bao’an State Park. This year makes the forty year anniversary of
Shenzhen and the park literally lights up to mark the occasion. I love exploring it in the early
evening.

It is those small pockets of history and natural beauty which set Shenzhen apart. It was
something I had forgotten almost entirely about in the mad rush of the end of the school year. I
really appreciate these small things and was sad, almost shocked to realise that I hadn’t even
about them in the last six weeks. In a way, rediscovering these places made me hold a new found
love for them and appreciate them in a new way. It is something that is entirely unique to China
which I know I will miss when I eventually return home to the UK next spring. Now that school has finished and I begin a long and lazy summer of travelling and eating, I am looking forward to
spending more time discovering new parts of Shenzhen. The city is huge and I am certain I
haven’t seen even half of it yet!

Zoe is part of the February 2018 Teach China Graduate Program intake, and is currently teaching in a public school in Shenzhen.

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