My trip to China was something that was very spontaneous and yet has had a lasting impact on me. I decided to take part in a volunteering programme with GotoCo and travelled on the 2nd June from Heathrow to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Beijing and finally Beijing to Guilin, landing on the 3rd June.
I was so so so nervous. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a while and taking the plunge on such a trip was a huge milestone for me personally, even if it meant that I had horrific panic attacks everyday for a week prior to leaving. I had to say goodbye to my family and boyfriend who were my comfort blanket and I took this opportunity to be independent for myself and learn what I was capable of – disallowing my mental illnesses to have control over me.
I had the weekend to get adjusted to my surroundings, meet the lovely Hargun from MA, USA who was going to be volunteering with me, and get over the jetlag before starting my 3 and a half weeks at a nursery in Yangshuo.
The nursery was slightly out of the town with stunning views. Every time I looked out the window I was blown away by the scenery – nothing like I have ever seen before. I’ve included a photo of the view from the teacher’s office, just to give you an idea.
I was lucky enough to teach a class of 10-15 children, aged 2-3 years old, that kept me on my toes all day! They were the most adorable children who put a smile on my face everyday and made being 5000 miles from home seem so easy. Obviously, the language barrier was something that made lessons hard and I would be lying if I said it was a breeze and everything I planned was a success. Sometimes things got lost in translation with the teachers so I had to change my ideas so that they could help explain to the children and we even had a day where the power went out, rendering us hopeless!
Alongside having the time of my life working with such cuties, Hargun and I frequently explored the area on bikes with dodgy brakes. The town had a road conveniently named ‘West Street’ where we went if we had got slightly tired of the staple Chinese foods and were craving a pizza and diet coke. The shops featured typical tourist souvenirs that I couldn’t help but get (I’m a sucker for overpriced tourist rubbish!) and it was where we spent a lot of our evenings.
Hargun and I also took part in a calligraphy lesson with one of teacher’s relatives from the nursery. Those couple of hours were probably one of the best moments of the trip and it happened to be the day before I left so I didn’t get the opportunity to return. Stone was so lovely, making Hargun and I personal posters about friendship, love and life.
I feel that my trip helped hugely with my anxiety. I was forced in to circumstances I would previously have avoided and yet I didn’t spontaneously combust like I thought I would (shocking, eh?) I made some great international friendships which I am so grateful for and I learnt how to travel alone through countries where I can’t speak a word of the language. Flying still isn’t my forte but at least it’s getting there! I mean who enjoys turbulence anyway!?
I thought to end this post I would include a few more photos from the trip to give you an idea of what we did. I feel super blessed to have been able to go on such a trip and I hope you enjoyed reading my first real post!