I think it is quite important to constantly test yourself mentally and physically. When you test yourself, you really feel alive. Sometimes it is essential to get out and explore while teaching abroad. You need to take a break from the office and workplace and explore yourself and the world around you. If you don’t take these necessary breaks, I imagine your life will start to feel stagnant. I mean, the exploration of unchartered territories is one of the main reasons we decide to teach abroad, right?
One weekend, I decided that I wanted to go visit Cangyan Shan, a famed mountain peak that is part of the Taihang Mountain Range. Cangyan Shan is known for being one of the places where “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” was filmed, its beautiful views, and its Buddhist Temples. I was quite unsure of how to get to this mountain range with my limited knowledge of the Chinese language. That morning, I woke up and took a taxi to the bus station by myself. I had previously asked people if they wanted to accompany me on this journey but nobody cared to join. Sometimes, it is nicer to do things on your own because you learn how to rely solely on yourself. I got to the station and with my previously printed out characters of Cang 苍 Yan 岩 Shan 山 and I attempted to buy a ticket. The lady didn’t speak any English, so she pulled out a sheet of paper that said I needed to make a transfer on the bus to get to the mountain. I said okay and started to wander around aimlessly and look for the bus I was supposed to take. A bus was leaving the station and a man jumped off and yelled at me to follow him. He looked at my ticket and motioned me to get on board. I was rather uncertain about this venture but I got on the bus and followed him anyways. Cangyan Shan or bust!
I could tell that I was the only foreigner on the bus by the curious glances I received from the passengers. After a while, my fears settled down because I was in it for the long haul. After about an hour, we got to the place where I was supposed to make a transfer to get to the mountain. I only knew this because a lady motioned for me to get off and pointed to another bus to get onto. I just said okay and packed up and got off. I saw them drive away and started wondering how I was going to get back home. I decided to deal with that obstacle when it came and boarded the bus she pointed to. It ended up being the right bus and I made it all the way to Cangyan Shan without too many hiccups.
The Learning Experience
Visiting Cangyan Shan was probably the easier part of the entire day. There was one incidence where I made quite a rookie mistake. This lady motioned me into this Buddhist praying area and I unknowingly followed her. She implied that I should get on my knees and start praying. I had no idea what I was doing until I was there and it was too late. It was slightly awkward. Afterwards, she told me to write a number on a piece of paper. My naivety was still in full throttle and I wrote down 100 like everyone else did. She held out her hand and said okay and then I realized what it was all about. She wanted me to donate ¥100 Yuan. I quickly changed my mind to ¥20 but she eventually got me to ¥30.
The Winding Road Home
The mountain was beautiful and I spent about four hours visiting all of the sights.The way home was another journey. I fell asleep on the bus and awoke to the lady telling me it was my stop. I dazedly exited the bus and then realized I had no idea where I was. I was lost for quite some time but I surprisingly kept my composure. I ended up finding a bus a while later and made it home safely.
I was terrified more than once that day but it was all worth it. I learned that I could get around and do exciting things by myself and it will all turn out okay. I feel like trips like these really teach you a lot about yourself and your capabilities. Like I said before, I think it is vital to test yourself mentally and physically, it keeps life interesting.