I haven’t been this excited, yet simultaneously anxious about anything since I decided to join the Peace Corps. This is the story on how I decided to move to Shanghai on the day that I moved to Washington, DC.
A little over a month ago, I decided to move to DC. My reasons were to be closer to a tight-knit group of friends and to career opportunities in international development. Upon making this decision, I let myself relished in New York and all of its glory. I once walked 50 blocks home instead of taking the subway because I wanted to soak up every bit of the City’s grimy goodness. I stopped into the Museum of City of New York (amazing, by the way) after brunch one Sunday, simply because I could. I loved every minute of my last few weeks in New York. I had severe cold feet about leaving and moving to DC.
But I still went through the motions; shipped my stuff via UPS, and got on that bus. Fortunately or unfortunately, that bus ride from DC to NY can be long, especially if you hit rush hour traffic. This gave me ample amount of time to think. I had begun to apply for jobs, and was relatively successful in securing interviews. Yet despite it all, there was something missing. I couldn’t help but feel that my skills wouldn’t be utilized to their fullest extent. I kept thinking, “There has to be a better way”.
That evening, I gchatted these thoughts to my sister, Sherry, whom is living across the world, 13-hours ahead of me, in Melbourne (god bless technology). We have plotted triple-cross-continent family vacay meet ups, numerous life plans, etc. all via gchat, and this was no exception. Sherry had lived in Shanghai for six months last year, and had been badgering me about moving to China for over a year now. Her exact words always were, “I don’t know why you are so stuck to the US. You are wasting your talent.” What does my little sister know? She was barely 21.
But on that evening of moving to DC, just days before I turned 26, I finally saw the light that my little sister was shining onto me. She had made great contacts in Shanghai, and the Chinese is all about the guan-xi (关系). It would be a shame not to take advantage of that. I speak Chinese and French, and the China-Africa relation and investment opportunities are booming. Once I began thinking, the reasons became ever more apparent.
To top it off, I thought back to a new friend that I had met just a few days before leaving New York. He was a white boy from Colorado, working for a US-China firm, and learning Chinese. I thought back on his apparent impressed looks when I translated some Chinese passages from a book for him. It then suddenly occurred to me that I never use my Chinese skill. Yet, here is this person learning this language in earnest, while I ALREADY SPEAK IT. What is wrong with this picture?
The universe always has an impressive way of putting the pieces together and connecting dots. Once I made the decision, I immediately contacted every person I know who has ever spent time in China. Naturally, the first people I contacted were my Chinese family in Cameroon. I then remember that during the initial months of being in Cameroon, I seriously thought about moving to China after the Peace Corps. Not entirely sure how that idea fell off of the wagon, but now, it has come back to full circle.
My move to Shanghai completely contradicts every reason I had for moving to DC (being with friends and idev jobs), but life is funny like that sometimes. This certainly will not be a journey filled solely with peaches and rainbows. Even just within the past few weeks, I’ve already had ample opportunities to throw in the towel. But this is a personal challenge to get back to my roots, to live in Asia as an adult, and to create a life once again in a place where I do not know a soul. I know I won’t regret this, because I have never heard of anyone, who picked up and moved to another country say that they wish they hadn’t.