作者：Gerhard Uys (Ace)
Back in 2017, whenever I heard the word ‘China’ I associated it with an enormous country with countless people and buildings and polluted air everywhere. I wanted to explore this enormous country, but I was also afraid of the unknown.
回到 2017 年，每当我听到“中国”这个词，我都会联想到一个庞大的国家，那里有数不清的人和建筑，受污染的空气弥漫各个角落。我想探访这个庞大的国家，但我也对未知充满恐惧。
Then my brave cousin took a leap of faith and headed to the country of ‘noodles and big buildings’. He was surprisingly happy in China and sent me pictures of nature and clean cities and even beautiful blue skies! After a few video calls and some impressive photos, I was convinced that I would also make China my home for a year or two or three.
In September of 2017, I arrived in the city where I found a job as an English teacher. The city was called Hefei, and located close to the middle of the enormous country. The September weather was warm and there was so much life to be seen everywhere. I looked at the bright lights, the delicious food, the hard-working people, the blue bicycles, the green, well-maintained parks and I knew that I was in the right place!
2017 年 9 月，我来到了一座城市，找到了一份英语老师的工作。这座城市叫做合肥，位于中国的中部。9 月的天气很暖，生趣盎然。看着明亮的灯光、美味的食物、辛勤工作的人们、蓝色的自行车、郁郁葱葱、精心修缮的公园，我感到自己真是来对了！
I immediately began learning Chinese, and found the language as hard and as fascinating as the culture. I had found a purpose and a goal in China – learn and explore and grow, understanding the culture and the language a little better every day.
After a few months in China I was able to buy in Chinese and even understood quite a few things people said in the streets. I found a park with ping-pong tables and went there almost every morning to play ping-pong and learn Chinese. Life was good and every day was a challenging and beautiful experience.
Teaching English in China was challenging for me at first. The students had almost no understanding of English and it was hard to maintain order when they could barely understand one word I was saying. However, I pushed through and learned some basic Chinese phrases to make my classes run smoothly. After about four months of teaching, with many tears and laughter and frustration and success, I was awarded a certificate for quality teaching. Life was turning out to be a richer and richer experience.
After about a year in Hefei and exploring the cities in Anhui province, I decided to venture to other cities in China. I took the train from Hefei to Beijing and from Beijing all the way to Sanya, the southernmost city in China. The train trip lasted more than 40 hours in total! The long trip was a great chance to meet some interesting passengers and see many rivers and houses and lakes and mountains from the comfort of my bunk bed in the train.
在合肥生活一年来，探访了安徽省其他城市，我决定走出安徽，前往中国的其他城市探险。我坐动车从合肥到北京，再一路向南，直到最南端的城市三亚。旅途长达 40 多小时！这趟旅程让我认识了一些有趣的乘客，动车的双层卧铺十分舒适，一路上河流、房屋、湖泊和山脉尽收眼底。
I arrived in Sanya and was amazed to see crystal clear water and white beaches. People were sunbathing and swimming and drinking from coconuts with happy smiles (mostly) on their suntanned faces. I thought I had taken the wrong train and gone to some remote island country, but no, I was still in China.
I returned home after a year in China, and my family and friends were surprised to hear how enjoyable my time in China was. They were inspired to visit too in the near future and see for themselves what today’s China is all about. I greeted most of my friends and family in South Africa, and after a month I was yet again on my way to China, my new home away from home.
Life in China continued to be a fruitful and blessed experience. I made more friends, improved my ping-pong and Mandarin skills daily, and felt more at ease with my unfamiliar surroundings.
I have now been in China for almost five years, and I am still happy and content to be here. I have visited more than 15 different cities in different provinces, eaten a wide variety of strange and delicious foods, made countless friends from all over the world and climbed remarkable mountains. I have swum in beautiful lakes and mountain ponds, run on beautiful tracks, and even entered a Chinese outdoor game show where I won a fridge! Looking back on it all, I have to say that often, facing your fears and exploring the unknown can turn out to be a rewarding experience indeed.