Tai Chi and Feeling Included

I felt better because despite my clear lack of knowledge, they helped me feel included in the activity.

I wanted to talk about an experience I had this morning. I woke up around 5:30 and went for a walk, resolved to find a group doing Tai Chi (太极拳, or Taiji quan) so I could observe and practice (I studied Tai Chi for a while when I was living in Maryland and it feels counterintuitive to be looking up Internet tutorials for Tai Chi while I’m in China). At first, I didn’t find anyone practicing when I was walking around my campus, so I decided to try again later on in the week. On my way back to my apartment, however, I found a group of three people doing Tai Chi—an older couple and a middle-aged man standing in something of a line to practice together. I stood off to the side to follow along as best as I could, and after they finished the set they were on, the middle-aged man left, and the older man gestured for me to get into line with them for the next set. It’s been years since I did Tai Chi regularly, so I was rather rusty—I was heavier on my feet than I would have liked, and I didn’t know the set they were doing—but I felt better because despite my clear lack of knowledge, they helped me feel included in the activity.

In my experience with mainstream America, such an act of inclusion is rare, especially since these people had never met me before and I was very obviously a foreigner (I imagine they also assumed I don’t speak Chinese). It has been my experience in America that society focuses so much on the individual that we don’t know our neighbors and we are automatically wary of strangers. I imagine because the group and I had a shared interest (in this case, Tai Chi), it was somewhat easier, but I wonder how many problems in the world we can solve by showing people that they belong.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Tomorrow I start teaching, so hopefully I can post later this week with how that goes. See you then! Zai jian!


Where Have I Been?

Hi, guys! I know it’s been a while since I last posted on here, and for that, I apologize. I wanted to post a short blog article to talk about what’s been going on.

Well, for starters, the month of June got super busy with getting ready for my next year in Yueyang, and then I went back to the States around the end of June. Shortly after that, I went on a trip to Alaska with my parents, which was a long but fun vacation. And then my old, beloved laptop wheezed its final wheeze, so as we speak, I’m typing this out from my tablet. I’m back in the U.S. for another month or so, and then I’ll be back in Yueyang for the next year around the end of August.

So, what does this mean for the blog? Well, I hope to post some articles about my time in Alaska, and then we’ll see how it goes from there. I’d love to keep more content coming your way, but I’m also not sure what you would find interesting. Please let me know in the comments what you want to know about! See you next time!

Why I Decided To Stay

The adventures with Carry On My Wayward Soul are far from over!

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this article are my own, and do not represent those of WorldTeach and its affiliates.

I have decided to stay in China for another year!

As I’m typing this, I have sent off a signed contract with the Hunan Institute of Science and Technology in Yueyang, just north of Changsha, and am working to extend my visa for another year. I will still be teaching English, only this time at a university level in another part of Hunan.

There are a few reasons why I decided to stay. The first one is about the language and culture. I feel like while I’ve learned a lot of Chinese while I was here in Cili, I would do best in an academic setting where the learning is structured and I can then apply the lessons in daily life. I feel like I’ve let myself down with the amount of Chinese I could have learned if I had taken classes, but if I’m taking classes at the institute as well as teaching, I hope that will change. I also feel like with a year of being in China, I have spent a lot of it dealing with culture shock; now that the culture shock has been manageable, I feel like I’d be better able to appreciate the culture of China.

I knew I wanted to stay in China, but I didn’t really want to stay in Cili. The good part about being in Cili is that I was away from the chaos of the major cities; that’s also the curse of being in Cili, as being so far away from major cities is a nuisance when I’m trying to travel. In Yueyang, I can easily take the gaotie (high-speed rail) to Changsha in half an hour, as opposed to three to four hours by bus or slow train from Cili. Also, while I feel big cities are really chaotic (in this case, Changsha falls under the category of “big city”), I need things to do to get out of my apartment like coffee shops to work in and hangout spots similar to the archery range we went to for orientation in Changsha. I did not have many options in Cili, and I hope that being in Yueyang will help me get out more and get the most out of living in China.

Also, while I’m ready to visit home after being away for so long (this is by far the longest I’ve ever been away from home), I’m honestly not ready to return to the U.S. for the long term. Ever since my month of traveling, I have been enchanted with living abroad and going on more adventures. I already have planned some adventures for the future, and I’m hoping I can bring you along with me!

This feels like such a small article compared to others I have written, but I wanted to let you know what was going on in my life and the future of the blog. Hopefully I’ll be back soon with another article! See you then! Zai jian!

Random Thoughts: Traveling as an Introvert

As an introvert, sometimes I find it difficult in my travel experiences to balance exploring everything new and keeping my energy up

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai thus far, but I feel really bad to say I haven’t really done that much; the first full day I was here (yesterday), aside from going out to eat, I met with my Airbnb host for suggestions on where to go in the city, and I stayed in my place regrouping from my stressful travel day from Tokyo to Chiang Mai (I was worried at at least one point that I would miss both of my flights). I knew I had to do this after being nearly constantly on the move in Japan, and I think part of the reason is because I am an introvert. If you’re an introvert too, welcome and well met! :waves:

As far as the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) is concerned, I’m 50-50 INFP and INFJ, but I identify the most as an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging, you can find out more about all sixteen MBTI types here; all the photos I found on Pinterest). People who are INFJ are known for being a bit self-contradictory and frequently misunderstood. Based on my going-on-twenty-five-years’ experience, I can confirm the self-contradiction part; I am a full-on introvert, but if I don’t have social interaction for a period of time, I can get a bit stir-crazy. I would love to see so much and take in all the information I can about a place, but at the same time, sometimes I just want to hole up with a book in a café and read and/or people-watch.

Let me just make this clear: this is not meant to be a complaint against traveling. I love traveling, and I thoroughly appreciate the lessons I learn and experiences I have in each new place. I can’t deny, though, that it’s hard to recharge the energy I lose from being around people when I’m constantly on the move in buses, trains, planes, and in tourist locations—places where there are naturally tons and tons of people.

Much as I loved my time in Japan and other parts of the world, I have to admit that perhaps cities like Tokyo and Kyoto generally run at a faster pace than I do. There would be times over the past two weeks when I’d be exhausted by dinnertime just from being around so many people, and there’d be so much chaos that I’d often get slightly disorientated—metro hubs like Shinjuku and Tokyo were a huge culprit for this. Maybe that’s why I loved being out in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia so much back in October of last year; while I was traveling in a group, there was so much open space and so many things to do that we could conceivably split off and do our own thing if we needed or wanted to.

I know I had to take time to recharge yesterday, but I also feel extremely ungrateful for the time I have in another country when I spend time regrouping, especially after a particularly stressful transit day. I know based on previous experience, however, that if I’m on a tight schedule to see what I want to see, I am often required to push past my need to recharge to do more and more; I know when I do that, I become more and more stressed out, and my behavior towards others runs the risk of becoming less than ideal. That’s not a person I want to be, especially when I’m traveling by myself. I have prioritized my peace of mind on this trip, especially since this is my first time traveling solo for an extended period of time.

I am not a therapist or life coach, so I can only talk about my experience, but some things that work for me are:

  • Doing what it takes to replenish my energy, whether it be writing, listening to music, or sitting by myself with a coffee and people-watching (it doesn’t help that sitting and watching people makes me kind of feel like Aragorn at The Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring :giggles:)
  • Traveling in the off-season, traveling to less populated areas as opposed to major cities like Tokyo or Paris, or otherwise spending time alone in nature (I did this in Japan by spending time at a cat cafe in Harajuku)
  • Booking private rooms in hostels or on Airbnb, cost permitting, if you’re traveling solo
  • Attending workshops, classes, and tours in subjects that interest you, so if you do interact socially with the other students/attendees, you can have some common ground to talk about
  • Spending more time in one place to get a more thorough, relaxed experience of the destination (as opposed to bouncing around from place to place and rushing to see everything)

Hopefully these help if you are an introvert and love to travel. It is possible for us to go out into the world and take in all it has to offer, while still enjoying our downtime and solitude. Good luck, fellow introverts, and safe travels!

I’m looking forward to spending more time in Chiang Mai, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere compared to the hectic pace of Japan. Is there anything you want me to talk about during my time in Thailand? Please let me know in the comments below! Thank you so much for reading! Until next time, แล้วพบกันใหม่!

Random Thoughts: In and Out of Love with THE SIMS 4

I’ve been thinking about video games and living the life I want after buying THE SIMS 4

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, which starts this coming Wednesday, I made the decision to purchase The Sims 4 to work through writer’s block and burnout. Whether or not that was a mistake is still to be decided, but either way, I’m glad I bought it—if for no other reason, then because I know more about myself as a result. It has taught me more about who I want to be, what I prioritize in life, and my relationship with video games.

I’ve noticed a common theme in the “stories” I’ve made in the game. The character I play the most is normally a young adult woman that lives in a smaller home (if not a home that would be considered a tiny house), is creative and a music lover, often achieves the maximum level of the Violin, Writing, Painting, and Gardening skills, is also highly skilled in the Cooking and Handiness skills, and often works as a writer, musician, or painter (to be fair, there aren’t many career options in the base game). I know enough of myself to discern that that’s the “fantasy me”—the person I would love to be in real life. I’ve been missing the violin here in Cili (although I hated practicing in the U.S. because I felt my playing always sounded awful, no matter how I tried), and I have been trying to grow a container garden in my apartment. I’ve even been trying to get back into watercolors, since I can’t easily find acrylics in China, but I’ve been frustrated with my paintings for this past year, so painting is not a pleasant experience anymore (but that’s another story). Also, I don’t dress like my avatar does, I don’t look like my avatar does, and I’m not as brave to publish my writing as prolifically as my avatar does. Why is that? There’s nothing stopping me in real life, much like in the game, so why do I find it easier to live the life I want in The Sims as opposed to real life?

I think part of the appeal of video games in general (and games like The Sims in particular) is because of the escapist element. We can be whoever we want to be, with the impact of failure or other people’s judgment minimized or nonexistent. Just like I can’t cast magic like the spells from The Elder Scrolls, or travel through space like in Ratchet & Clank in real life, I can’t do everything from The Sims in real life (for instance, I don’t have to worry about whether or not my neighbor is from outer space). Fantasy elements aside, however, who’s to say that I can’t be the person I’ve made in The Sims in real life? Who says I can’t hone my skill with the violin, find joy in painting again, have an amazing garden, or be a bestselling author? I think I now have more of an idea of who I want to be through playing The Sims, but now I need to summon the courage to make that happen in real life, regardless of failure or people’s judgements.

Until I have that courage, my time playing The Sims 4 is over. I’ll probably play if I’m burned out or facing writer’s block during NaNoWriMo (as I planned when I bought the game), but even then, I’ll need to be more intentional about why I’m playing. If nothing else, I need to be certain that I’m living my life in the here and now, and not through a computer screen. My goal now is to have it be so that, one day, I can be the person I wouldn’t need to play a video game to become.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening! This coming month will be chaotic with lesson plans, NaNoWriMo, and traveling for Thanksgiving, but I hope to get back into writing articles for this blog on a regular basis. I realize I’ve been putting off my articles about Inner Mongolia, so I hope to have those up later this coming week! See you then! Zai jian!

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