To Stay

23 Jun 2004

This last time that I went home for a visit was a special one. Not because of who I saw or what I did, but because of the message I bore with me that time. It was a message that was a long time in the making, slowly gaining substance and taking on a concrete form. It was a message that had to be shared with my family, and I wanted it to be done in person.

In the very beginning, when I first decided to go to China, I told people that I planned to stay for a year or two, to get a feel for the language. In reality, I knew it would be longer than a year, and likely longer than two. I had experienced life abroad in Japan, and I liked it. I knew any proficiency in Chinese would take time, but I also had a special feeling about China, even before I had ever been there. Still, I didn’t really expect anyone to understand those things. It seemed best to keep telling everyone that I planned to stay for a year or two.

Well, year two came and went, and as I expected, I was not ready to leave China. Friends back home would ask how long I intended to remain over there. I usually gave an elusive “maybe another year.” I didn’t want to say that I had no idea when I would be ready to leave. That would make it seem like I had no direction. The truth of the matter was that the longer I stayed in China, the more direction I felt I had. But again, I found it hard to explain. “Maybe another year” was an easy answer, and most people didn’t really need to know anyway.

Still, I had conflicts. I knew that my main interest was Applied Linguistics, and the program at UCLA looked appealing. I knew I could get in and do well in that program, and I wanted a Masters from an American university. But what after? It seemed logical that after I had my degree it would be time to settle back down to life in the United States, time to “get a real job.” The only problem was that I was not ready to leave my life in China behind, and that was what going for the degree seemed to represent for me.

The summer of 2003 a friend who was also teaching English visited me from another part of China. We got to talking about our lives in China and our plans for the future. What he said shocked me. “I’m staying here. I’m going to make a life for myself in China.” Up to that point, I had never seriously considered such an option. It was a possibility I would mull over for some time.

Throughout my own confusion, I had no problem giving friends vague answers, because the truth of the matter was that my own plans were still pretty vague too. I longed to share some of my thoughts with my family, but I wanted to sort everything out for myself first. The question I found to be the hardest to bear, though, was one that I really only got when I visited home. It was always asked innocently, yet in complete earnestness, and it pinched my heart every time. It was my mother’s quiet, “John, when are you coming home?”

I think it was that question, more than anything, that put definite pressure on me to adopt a real plan in lieu of a “take things as they come” philosophy. I needed to know for myself too.

I weighed the factors. What did the USA hold for me? Family. Old friends. A miserable job market. What did China hold for me? Passion in my life. Excitement. A society that would never fully accept me. The possibility of a real, promising career in the very field I was into. And a love relationship I was not willing to leave behind.

I think it’s obvious which I chose. Yet to feel good about it, I felt that I really needed my family’s full support. I knew my sisters would support me, and that my parents would tell me they wanted me to follow my dreams, but I wanted more than that. I wanted them to understand why I was doing it, and I wanted them to support me with their hearts, because I already found it so difficult to see them a little older every time I went home. The years before they’re actually old were dwindling, and I couldn’t continue my life in China and be with them at the same time. I didn’t want there to be any resentment or disappointment on anyone’s part that I had spent those years in China.

On my recent visit home I had a talk with my family. It was really hard for me to do. And they gave me the support I hoped for. I know that they’ll miss me as I do them, but they understand what I’m doing, and they would never ask me to do anything other than that which I love.

Now I am ready to confidently proceed with my life and my career in China. I still plan to go to graduate school in Applied Linguistics, but it will be in Shanghai, in Chinese. My life here is more full of promise than ever.

And when people ask me how long I’ll be in China, I know my answer.

Indefinitely.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Family will always be family. But I’m very curious, so please pardon my directness: what happens to “Old Friends” under this new arrangement?

  2. I think this really will change your perspective on China. It’s hard everytime just looking at the future and always saying just another 6 months, just another year e.g. I shouldn’t buy this for my apartment, I’ll just have to toss it when I leave. I too struggle with how long is enough and how to answer the “when are you going to come home” and get a real job. Eventually I will return for some time as I want to get a “real” career started, but only to then come back to China. I’m definitely not ready to make your commitment, but think it is a step in the right direction. Congrats on your “new” life. BTW, next time I’m in Shanghai I’m pretty sure I owe you dinner/beer.

  3. I’m glad that you feel that we gave you the support that you need. We’ll always be ready to help & support you any way that we can.

    \w/_

  4. I am looking for chance going back to China, an nice job. My parents are getting old and I am their only son.
    It’s fun to watch the CCTV4 “Kuai Le Wu Zou” program, how those foreigners in China greet their parents back home: A French girl said “Mama and Papa, I am fine in BeiJing, and hope you feel my performance interesting…”, An Japanese girl said the following with tears “Papa, Mama, I am sorry for my selfishness to leave you alone, and to be here in China, I am fine…”. I thought only Asian will feel sorry for their absence from their aging parents, or maybe only Italian as well.
    Surprised John seems to be bit like Asian on this matter.

  5. Good for you John. I’m back in Hainan now and back to the States in August, but I think I will be returning for something a lot more long term next time.

  6. I’m glad to hear that. I have not lived in JP, yet, but in my first hour in Japan I felt that same excitement you feel now. I want to do the same. In other words, I’m proud of ya’.

  7. I’ve never posted to your site before, but I have to say I admire your decision. I lived in Hong Kong for an extended period of time and never wanted to leave. Needless to say after returning to the U.S. I still miss it everyday.

  8. greg pasden Says: June 24, 2004 at 7:34 am

    John,

    Congratulations on your new & focused path. I am envious in a way because I enjoy adventure, and exploring new cultures. I guess that’s why I enjoy my life as a pilot (because I get brief opportunities to explore cultures).

    I’m hearing good things for next year (2005) for me getting an international assignment where I’ll get to fly to and from China on a regular basis. My fingers are crossed. Maybe we’ll be able to get together then.

    The love of your life is Beautiful!!! I’m very happy for you.

    Enjoy and be happy.

    Love, your cousin, Greg

  9. Jonh:

    “A society that would never fully accept me” ? that is part of the appeal of China to you ? why ?

    Funny, I feel the same way in US as an Asian person.

    Eric

  10. john, i guess you couldn’t read the words w/ your eyes, or hear them w/ your ears, until you felt the message in your heart from all of us. we will ALWAYS support you and be proud of you!

    plus, now i have a good excuse to return to china, and (i’m assuming) a free place to stay. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    i think i understand your reasons.
    i know i understand the feeling of “coming home” to someplace you’ve discovered relatively recently. and if i had as clear a picture of my dreams as you have, i would persue them equally as relentlessly.
    as for love, i am pleased that your heart has found such a beautiful (inside and out!) home.

    how could we ask for more for you?

    love and prayers always,
    your big (ok, older) sister

  11. If a tall blue eye from the North can be accepted then so can you. An old friend once said “You have to breathe, eat, live, shit, suffer and laugh with “them” before they cease being “them”.

    If there is someone who can do it, it is “that tall guy who forgot how to speak English” as we used to call you.

  12. Re: Zhang:
    “I thought only Asian will feel sorry for their absence from their aging parents, or maybe only Italian as well.”

    Funny how silly stereotypes like these exist. Are you saying that only Asians and Italians are close to their families and feel remorse in leaving them behind? I hope that you are one day able to travel more and realise that this isn’t so.

    I would have replied privately, but Zhang didn’t seem to have left any contact information.

  13. Da Xiangchang Says: June 24, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    Dude, if you carry through with this plan, you’re the most hardcore laowai who’s ever lived! I myself would only return to China permanently if I could be guaranteed an American-salaried job in China and, if things don’t work out, the same salaried job back in the States. But to do what you plan to do without the stability of either is quite admirable, brave . . . and totally insane! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m waayyyy too chickenshit to ever do such a thing. Ha, ha.

  14. Hi. I haven’t posted to your site before, but I’d like to say that this was really beautiful. I’m headed to China to teach, in about three weeks. I hope it makes me feel the way you do.

  15. Great post. It feels like I’m facing many of the same issues you were facing, John: Don’t know whether I should go back to the States for formal grad school next year (I’ve been taking some graduate level courses in China), whether should I leave my family and friends for more time (I’ve already lived abroad– in the States and in China– for five years now), etc.. People keep asking me how much longer I’m planning to stay in China. I’ve pretty much taken the same approach as you did.
    What kills me is exactly what you mention: seeing my parents a bit older every time we meet. My family and I are extremely close and I can’t help but feel guilty and depressed that I’m not spending this time with them…you know…they’re not eternal. On the other hand, I extremely passionate about Chinese and love my life in China. What to do, what to do… I hope to figure things out like it seems you did in the next year…

  16. Oh, Zhang, by the way, just for the record: I’m not Asian…nor Italian… (hint: it’s a stereotype)

  17. Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire your commitment to your life in China, but as far as the academic side of things go, I wonder if you shouldn’t give more thought to study in the US, if not at the master’s level , then surely for your doctorate (if any). For your chosen field, especially, it might make more sense, unless you plan to comletely focus on Sino-Tibetan linguistics. China will always be there, in any event.

  18. Hmmmmmmmmmm Well, John, I can understand your decision. I think when I went back last summer, I had the overwhelming feeling that most people just didn’t give a shit that I had spent so much time in China. They didn’t know the difference between Huaibei and Shanghai, and what’s more (lol, god I am doing it in my writing), they didn’t care. They were so swamped in their own lives and this is understandable. After a while, I have become cynical about human beings in generally–regardless of the nationality or culture. My life in China is rather limited–yes, it’s a different culture and language, but I never feel fully accepted and especially here in Huaibei, it’s like the same behavioral pattern towards me from my first year.
    I miss my parents, my friends, and not feeling like I am on display, but on the other hand, I have learned a lot from the challenges here, and that’s something that will stay with me always besides those Asian sexual diseases. Seriously, just do what you want and “follow your bliss” as Joseph Campbell said.

  19. yep, stereotype stinks, but it is equally wrong to say people are the same and most American living with their parents in the same house when they are married as Chinese and Italian do. Would you feel shocked if some French asked you where your child is when you are introducing your girlfriend? As Chinese, I did.
    I feel China more like Europe, especially the area I lived(ZheJiang province): When you drive few houndres miles away, people start to speak something you don’t understand and tend to shake hands instead of kiss for greetings, I don’t think North America has such cultrue diversity. Now they are trying to unify European with peaceful means, we are just bit lucky to have a successful Hitler few thousands years ago, ๐Ÿ™‚
    June, I know American are more tied under “unit” of family than European, from the tradition to tax system, why don’t you bring your parents with you to China for a while like I do?

  20. I feel very happy for you to be able to follow your dreams – and with the full support from your family and friends.

    Thank you for sharing these personal thoughts publicly – it’s a wonderful piece! The feelings about seeing your parents aged resonate. This is the main reason that I decided to try and spend more time with my family after my China experience. It’s so difficult to imagine that they are not eternal.

    John, I hope you will continue to have good and interesting experiences in China.

  21. The whole thing is nice, untill I read Zhang’s comment, like I suddenly see a fly in my egg drop and corn soup.

  22. nathaniel Says: June 24, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    john:

    i can relate very well to your situation.

    am also here in china for the job. but i got to see and communicate with my family i left behind every day/night via chat/internet. unlimited account bothways will do the trick. it’s a shrinking world anyway.

    but of course, when terrible longing for the kids and wife attacks, the trick doesn’t work much. just keep the hankies handy ๐Ÿ™

    GoodLuck in turning a new leaf.

  23. hey you,

    i don’t know if it means much, but i support you and hope you’ll always find that same energizing sense of purpose in china (or wherever you decide to be). it kind of came as no surprise to me when you first mentioned staying “indefinitely”. i think i suspected that you would stay before you ever set foot in china too.

    also, i think the solution to your family dilemma would be to have your mom and dad emmigrate out there with you. why not? i think they’d make great english teachers ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. I just sort of figured this out. I’m 20, I go to college, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to stay in China for the rest of my life. But the adventure and feeling of having to swim through and interact with and understand a new culture is fantastic. I can’t go home and stay there again. I need another culture around me to keep me sane. Maybe I’ll go to Singapore. I can keep working on my Chinese there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Hey mate,

    congrats on the decision and for sharing it. you certainly chose the place with the challenge.

  26. Half a year ago I was sure I wanted to stay in China to master Chinese and on top of that, to study engineering here. Man, did I get disappointed… But I also still have a whole life ahead of me and I realised now it’s best to finish your study before deciding to seek adventure.

    So I’ll continue my study of Chinese back in Holland and master in engineering. But even now I’m not sure if I can even commit myself to one place. I need to see more of the world. I’m interested in Asia and then China in particular, but now I still can, I’d like to see more of the world before settling like you did, John.

    But you already have a life here and it’d be a shame to throw that all away. I hope you’ll have a good life here.

  27. It took me about 5 minutes while I was in the customs line at PVG to come to that decision as well, but no one believes me, not even you! Looks like you and I are going to be laowai FFL John. I too have recently been giving very serious thought to returning to the states to get an MBA, but there have to be better alternatives (distant programs, chinese schools, etc.). Plus, once China Eastern allows me to take over their global strategic development I will be on the way to vast riches and popularity (and due to trickle-down economics, so will Song Shen). The only thing that now remains is to find a woman with a brilliant personality and a full ass.

    Also, I have actually restarted my chinese study, I feel empowered and no longer lazy.

  28. Hey,

    I don’t know you, Jon, but I love the site, and I check it out every few days. I lived in China for a year and a half, loved it for half the time, and hated it for the other. I’m now back in the states working for a big corporation and I hate that about 95% of the time. This being said, I now have insurance, savings, etc., which I could never afford in China. How are you planning on paying for your health care and travel while studying linguistics? You must have found a great job if they pay for your flights and good health care. If it wasn’t for these variables, I’d be back in China in a second. I just want to know, how are you swinging it financially?

  29. John,
    you are such a wonderful person/writer. Your writings are inspirations to a lot of young people in US and in China. Please consider publishing your blogs and your stories in books and in different languages.
    Alex in Niagara Falls NY

  30. I can see myself taying hear for a while, but it’s pretty hard for me to imagine being here when I am much much older for a few very good reason.

    The US has a healthcare, a proper pension system, social services for the elderly and a basketball season.

    China’s good tothe young but cruel to the old.

  31. In case my post maked me sound like an American, I’m not.

  32. I did find that to be true in many ways in China – “China’s good to the young but cruel to the old.” But in concrete ways, it’s untrue. You have to remember, China is built on the foundation of family and respect for the elders: those who have come before you and laid the foundation. Have you seen Chinese homes? Traditionally, generations of family live under one roof.

    As for America? Are there senior retirement homes in China? Who puts the seniors into these retirement communities and why do they live there? Questions to ask on how American society views the old.

    Anyways, back to the original topic – and to push the comments above the plateau, congratulations on the public notification, John. Those have always believed in you and your courageous attitude to live in China. With that said, nothing is permanent, so we can all expect many unexpected surprises in the future ๐Ÿ˜‰ By the way, Jim said hi after he saw you and Chris in the photos. Also, Lynn called into work today and we talked. She’s headed to Bodega Bay but wishes you well and is fully supportive of your stay in China. Wally and Lynn wish you well, John!

  33. I think all of this “Chinese live with their parents until their 40 proves they love/repect their families more” theory is bunk. Different cultures have different forms of family relations. This in no way indicates that one culture “cares” more about family members. It is a form issue that misleads people. The people of every culture I’m familar with love their families equally (assuming it is possible to quantify something like that) — they just have different ways of expressing it that are culturally dependent.

    Anyway, most of the Chinese I know would tell you that the main reason Chinese live 3 generations under one roof is economic.

    Zhang: having lived in Italy myself for several years, I can tell you that the idea that Italians love their families more than [insert other country here] is a stereotype. Most Italians would laugh at it.

    John: Congrats on your decision. I envy you in several ways, stuck here in the boondocks of the USA.

    รรยตร„

  34. I’d like to stay in Taiwan/China for an extended period of time (at least several more years) as well, but only while I’m unmarried.

    I know this New Zealander here in my town who is married to a local and has a four year old son. His son is cute, but he can barely speak any English. Indeed, because the son spends a lot more time with his mom or an amah, he almost exclusively talks in Taiwanese or Mandarin. He’s still real young, so he’ll pick up a lot more English. But if it wants to be at a native speaker level, that inevitably would require this guy bringing his family back to NZ (even if there were an international school near here, $15kUS is mighty dear.)

    While I wouldn’t mind living for several more years in assorted rural villages, the thought of my own offspring not being able to speak American English freaks me out. Call me provincial, but I want my kids to have the opportunity to go to an American school, play on the soccer team, go to Cub Scout meetings, etc.

    Are you really comfortable with having your kids go to a Chinese school and having relatively weak English?

  35. I admire your decision, John.
    I’m here, and working too. Went here for one year in ’02, got a girlfriend. I’m now back, facing a year more.
    If I didn’t had her, I could work in other countries as well, but she makes me want to be here.
    The safety here comforts me a lot. In my country in Europe people mostly will receive a “remark” for robbery, but here there’s more respect, due to the law quick and tough enforcements.
    John, would you stay here “indefinitely”, if you don’t have your beloved partner anymore ??

  36. I like the way you think.

    Like you, I’m into linguistics, and plan to live in China, and perhaps in the future, give may own children the ability to be literate in chinese, the ability I was deprived of because America seemed better in opportunities for my parents.

    I wish you Good Luck.

  37. Right after posting this entry, I had to go out of town on a business trip. I just got back and was amazed to see so many comments. Thanks, everyone, for the support!

  38. Todd,

    Old friends will always be old friends. We do our best to keep in touch, and when we happen to be on the same side of the earth, we do our darnedest to get together.

  39. Eric,

    No, “a society that would never fully accept me” is not part of the appeal of China. But I guess I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that not being fully accepted by Chinese society and having so many exciting opportunities in China are two sides of the same coin.

  40. Aaron,

    There are jobs in Shanghai that offer health insurance (or at least a salary high enough that one can afford to buy it on one’s own). They’re not very easy to come by.

  41. Wayne,

    I think worrying about the schooling problem now would be a bit premature, but even so, no, I’m not worried. I’m optimistic.

  42. Carsten,

    There are many reasons I’m staying in China. True, choosing to stay with one person restricts your options a bit, but I don’t think it changed the overall outcome by much.

  43. Well, when you say indefinitely, I take it to mean indefinitely. Maybe it’s on my mind just because I’ve finally met some foreigners who are in the dilemma of how to school their kids.

    And I agree with Prince Roy. You should definitely do your graduate study through an American graduate school. There’s a reason why so many of the elite students in China want to go abroad to study. You’d probably be able to do most of your stuff in China anyway. I met some people in Nanjing who were doing masters/Ph.D’s at American universities (Harvard, Michigan) who were in Nanjing for a year or two to do research.

  44. Maverick Says: June 29, 2004 at 6:39 am

    this is the longest list of comments I’ve ever seen in sinosplice, |o| ,hope I’m the last one.
    gei dian mian zi ba!!!

  45. Wayne,

    There are good reasons that Chinese students want to get their degrees abroad, but there are equally compelling reasons for me to get mine — in Applied Linguistics, applied specifically to Mandarin — in China. I just didn’t go into all the reasons in my post.

  46. Anonymous Says: June 30, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Living in a foreign country requires certain “sacrifices”. If you value sailing on Lake Michigan under a blue sky or taking your kids to the Cubs game more than eating delicious Chinese food for $1 or having two maids to tend all your needs, then China may not be for you. It’s an ultimate balancing test, different for everyone.

    To stay or not to stay, that’s an old question to the Chinese currently living in the US. On one side they have “safe”/dead-end corporate jobs, suburban houses with white-picket fences, 401Ks and “a society that would never fully accept me”; on the other side of the Pacific lie exciting opportunities for self-realization, a familiar culture, aging parents, and of course also the smog, the bleached buns, and an unstable society.

    Tons of Chinese internet forums beat this question to death every day, it’s interest to see the same dilemma pops up on a foreigner’s website, from the opposite side of course.

  47. I forgot to post my name and info. That wasn’t meant to be an anonymous post.

  48. John,

    Great Post. I have had the same dilema as yourself…

    Japan-1.5 years
    Korea-3.0 years
    Taipei-1.5 years
    Korea-4.0 years
    China-???not yet lived there but..will live there for a long time I know.

    You see, after awhile, your family just STOPS asking when you are coming back…I have basically told them I will come back to retire. And I found out that even when people are back home in the same city, they barely see each other as much as they did when they were younger..and “old friends” generally become not all that fun to hang around because you have become such a more worldly person than most of them who barely leave their hometowns…The world is also getting smaller, if you get a fast internet connection and a webcam, you can talk to and see your family and friends everyday if you like..and this would probably be more than if you actually LIVED back home…and with advancing technology…in 10 years it will seem like you are even that much closer…anyhow, you did good, follow your heart and your dreams and you can never go wrong!

    Peace,

    The Man

  49. John,

    “I think worrying about the schooling problem now would be a bit premature, but even so, no, I’m not worried. I’m optimistic.”

    Looks as if you are far from that step, but when the time comes you will have to give it a serious consideration. You make your choice but should leave all options open for the kids whenever possible instead of making the choice for them.

    For example, you might wish to make an effort to have your child born in the States in case he/she grows up wanting to be president or something (of course doing so deprives him/her of the right to be a chinese president, or does it? Hum, best of both worlds?). And, when and even before school age approaches, you must examine the situation carefully, critically and give him or her the best education out of this world (I also mean the best of both worlds).

    So there indeed is a lot to be optimistic about, and worried about, my friend.

  50. In this age of instant communication and jet travel, one need not view living abroad versus living in the United States as “either or”. I have lived six years in Hong Kong, and enjoyed it tremendously. My stay, however, was interspersed with trips to other parts of the world, including my native country- the USA. The telephone and internet linked me in seconds to loved ones at home. Now I am heading for a teaching adventure in Huaibei in Ainhui Province- more challenging to be sure than teaching in Hong Kong, but one that I am looking forward to embracing. If I can do it (and I am 67), you “young uns” surely can. Enjoy. Mannie

  51. It’s funny that I don’t remember ever reading this entry in the past. What you’ve written here is very touching. Good for you.

  52. John,

    I am impressed and sympathetic. I dearly long to go to China because of my current situation and because of someone in particular who is there. ๐Ÿ™‚

    With my Ph.D. in Computer Science (Information Security and Artificial Intelligence) I hope that I will be able to find a good job so that I will be able to live comfortably with that someone special and her 13-year old son. She has already assured me that her parents and family will accept me even though I am not Chinese.

    I admire you, John, for being strong and for being able to follow your heart. You are an example to me, even though we have never met. I hope to be further south than you (Guangdong province) but if I am ever in Shanghai I will try to look you up and buy you at least a beer or two if not dinner.

    Cheers

  53. I came to China in April of 2002 and lived that year in jinan, Shangdong. One day I ate something that disagreed with me and went to the hospital, they insisted I stay in the hospital for 3 days. During that time I recovered but the school where I was teaching said I should go home to America, I was too old to remain in China; I was 58 years old. Not being willing to follow their suggestion, I moved to Qingdao and got another job teaching advertising and management and remained there until the school closed their English program, it was a good 10 months there. I went to Wuxi from there to join Web International English School, I liked it so much I stayed 3 years. It was a great school and wonderful staff. But I caught a bad case of bronchitus from the pollution and moved to Xiamen for their clean air. Up until this time I was completely sold on China, intending to retire and die here. But the new school in Xiamen couldn’t manage the visa requirements forcing me to move back to Wuxi to the school I left. I’m 62 now and living in Chengdu teaching coversational English at another Web center owned by the same Wuxi franchise group. Now the question: How much longer do I want to stay in China. I’m getting old and feeling it. With no medical insurance and being too old to get any now, I feel in danger of becoming serously ill with no support from my government. I’m told that in China if you can’t afford medical care, they just let you die. And on a teacher’s pay I haven’t saved much at all. So, therefore, I think this will be the last contract for me here in China. I will return to America next spring to completely retire. It’s a scary thought. No savings, only my social security to live on in a very exensive environment. But that’s the plan. Mainly because NOW I am truly missing all things AMERICAN. I’ve been here over 5 years and I’m getting tired of it all. My decision, go home and be a poor American Senior Citizen doing a little volunteer work with high schools and live out my life there with my older sister. Yes, China is great for the young, but now I don’t have the energy to have fun. Good bye China, I’m going home.

  54. John, I’ve just come to this post through your recent track back to it in “Flawed Plan.” It’s weird, I am in almost EXACTLY the same situation as you when you wrote this. I have applied to a grad program back in the States in a field where I am really interested, but in the end, I can’t find it in my heart to leave China. Thanks for writing this.

  55. John,
    I really wish I would have read this a year ago before I came back to North America to do my master’s. I struggled and struggled with the decision for months before leaving. I talked to friends and family but ultimately left China and a strong relationship after living a year and a half in Beijing. Looking back, I just didn’t have the guts to break my deep rooted false perspective of success and achievement. I really needed someone to just slap my face and shake my foundations. I think this post might have done it. Oh well, what’s done is done but my decision has only added TNT to my fire for learning Chinese. I’m determined not to make the same mistake and I’ll be applying for my PhD in China.

    Thanks for the blog.
    Thanks for Chinesepod.
    Just thanks.

  56. I’m surprised to have found your blog. I like it. It’s different from the others I’ve read. It’s sincere.
    It comes to me at a time where I can appreciate it, embrace it.
    I don’t have family support you see, but at the time you began writing this blog, your struggles are like mine:
    What to do?
    I’m glad you found a place where you are content, even happy. It’s a good example to call on when there are so many writers without any positive cause for writing.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  57. Hi John,

    I’ve heard you a lot on Chinesepod and you seem like a really friendly and interesting guy. You’ve made some very big and difficult decisions and I respect the way that you always kept your families feelings at the forefront of your concern. Keep up the good work! I’ve been here in China about 3 years now, so I’m still pretty far behind you in the language arena, but one of these days I’ll catch up with ya! hehe

    Nate

  58. John, a moving decision on a personal level. Why do you think it will be better for your children to grow up in Shanghai rather than the United States?

    T

  59. […] 2004 I wrote a blog post called To Stay in which I shared my intention to stay in China “indefinitely.” I can’t think of […]

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