Email me at anth dot swan at gmail dot com.
I traveled to Shanghai, Qi Dong, Changsha and Xiamen. In no particular order:
I taught English to the children of poor migrant workers, I taught children who'd never been to school before. I taught some Leonard Cohen, a little Neil Young, the G chord and spent a day explaining the genocide of Indigenous peoples to students who thought no one lived in North America before Columbus showed up.
I climbed two mountains, prayed at four temples, soaked in hot springs flavoured with everything from Oolong to coffee to rice wine. I drank so much tea I had to teach my Chinese friends why it's important to "not break the seal."
I broke my phone, haggled for everything, walked away from a few things I wish I had bought and bought a few things I wish I had walked away from. I unionized some volunteers against a retired Chinese Air Force Pilot. I almost got a tattoo but then chickened out when I saw the place and realized I was leaving in two days for a place with no clean water or aftercare products.
I travelled from the largest city in the world to one of the poorest villages in China in under five hours.
I snuck cigarettes between classes behind the school with my best friend who knew no English. I screened films in the mountains of Hunan. I ate rice every single day, and meat that had been sitting out in the sun since dawn that was being butchered by a chain smoker. I slept under the stars every night for two weeks because it was so fucking hot inside the classroom where my bed was. I brought three weeks of clothes instead of washing them by hand like everyone else.
I pooed in a hole, bathed with a ladle, sweat more than it is probably healthy to sweat, and ate food that ranged from disgusting to heavenly.
I rode a train that travelled 300 kilometers per hour and went from using latrines and well water to being hosted at a 5-star resort by retired government officials and their friends.
I did a lot of karaoke at a level I won't be able to experience again until I return. I played guitar in a music shop under a Shanghai highway, in the middle of a university campus at 2am, in dorms until someone yelled at me and at a talent show with a professional Disney Princess (yes really).
I started a band. We wrote some terrible songs. We called ourselves "Made in China" and thought we were hilarious. Then we opened for the Xiamen Bejing Opera Company (yes, really) which really is hilarious because we were objectively terrible.
I started a basketball team, followed by us building a basketball court. I even (just barely, and only kind of) started a cult. That one is a strange story, but my favourite.
I cursed the Great Firewall more times than I can count. I met people from Italy, South Africa, Hungary, Russia, Romania, Spain, Egypt, the UK and more. I made a few friends for life and at least one enemy (but fuck that classist buttwad)
I learned Mandarin. I learned that even if I don't feel 28, I am definitely 28. I learned that six weeks can feel like four life times and that jet lag is real and real serious. I'm irrevocably changed by what I've seen and felt in China. I'm so tired right now. I'm hoping the tightness in my throat is sadness and not some sort of Chinese super virus. I'm dying for a hamburger.
I feel like I left one home for another. But I'll return.