My Love, Jilin

Update: 2014-10-14
By: Adam Michael Reiter

After being a volunteering helping to improve American, I took on a new challenge and decided to live in a different country. "Where should I live?" I asked myself. I always thought about living in Brazil, Korea, or even Eastern Europe. I was ambitious, and ready to take on a new challenge. It didn’t take long to realize that China is the place to go because of its rich culture, fascinating language, and long history. I told my parents that I’m going to move to China, and they couldn’t believe their ears. "Why China?" they asked in a tone of voice that said please don’t go.

I ended up in Changchun, Northeast China. I still remember the first day I arrived as if it was yesterday. The people welcoming me at the airport, the welcoming dinners, and seeing all the sites of Changchun was truly amazing.

My first year in Jilin province, I taught Business English at a small university. After my contract I traveled around China with my entire family – my younger brother and sister, and both of my parents. The first place we visited was Changchun. I took them to Jingyue Lake (or Clear-Moon Lake), Guilin Road area, and Puyi’s palace. Next we would visit some of Chinese greatest cities, Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.

When the entire trip was finished thought Changchun was the nicest city among all of the cities they visited. They said it was a pleasant and cute city with many friendly people. Before they left China, I told them that I want to continue living in China. Once again, my parents said, "Why?" but this time they expressed interest to learn more about Jilin Province. They saw the opportunities for me here were endless and the quality of life was not much different than in America.

I decided to take a break from teaching and study the Chinese language. The first few months were terribly frustrating. But after 6 months my language skills started to improve. It’s during this second year I met my Chinese friends. I lived with two roommates near NanHu. Both didn’t speak English very well but that didn’t stop us from becoming close friends.

After studying Chinese for a year and half, I decided to take a break and travel. At this time it has been 2.5 years living in Changchun, Jilin, China. While I traveled I pondered what I should do with my life. I liked teaching, I liked living in Jilin province, and I certainty enjoyed learning. I traveled for 6 months around Asia and Europe. I seriously contemplated moving to another country or back home, but I couldn’t. I searched for new jobs in Jilin because after all my travels, I knew I couldn’t live in any other province. The culture, food, and most of all, it’s the people that keep bringing me back to Jilin province. I realized throughout my travels that the province has some of the friendliest people have ever met in the world.

I was afraid to leave Changchun because I made so many friends, not just in Changchun, but all over the province! With my few years teaching experience and my ability to speak Chinese, I obtained a job managing a school in Jilin city. I was close enough to all the cities in Jilin, for example, Songyuan, Yanji, Siping, and of course Changchun where my Chinese friends are from. I could keep in touch with those friends and get to visit them when I have time. In addition, Jilin city is a fantastic city filled with hills that graze the sky and the bright night-lights. Throughout my first year I visited Songhua Lake many times with friends. It was almost as peaceful and beautiful as Guilin, Yellowstone National Park, any lakes I have visited around the world. I worked hard at the private English/training school managing many foreign teachers, and improving my teaching skills.

My parents wanted me to get my masters degree, but I told them I’m not leaving Jilin province. Luckily, my American state offered an education master degree program online. I applied and got accepted. I decided I should take a new job because managing a school and master degree program would be too much for me to handle. At 28 years old, I was really happy with how my life was going. But there was one thing I was missing: a girlfriend.

In the fall I would live in the high school dormitory. The first couple months I primarily worked on my master degree, preparing for classes, and teaching classes.

Throughout the first few weeks of fall I frequently took walk alone the beautiful Songhua River reading Chinese and English books. When I had time I would practice my spoken Chinese with friends and teachers. Most days and nights I would spend alone. Until one day, while in the cafeteria at night and eating alone, a group of teachers came in. There’s one of them whom I didn’t talk to but we made eye contact with a sign of hello. After leaving the cafeteria that night I told myself that I needed to find a way to talk to that pretty girl in the cafeteria. It would couple weeks later when I would get the opportunity and nerves to talk to her. After our short conversation at lunch, I knew I had to see more of this girl. That weekend we had lunch together. The following weekend I would get the chance to see her again but this time would be our last time we would go without seeing each other. For past 6 months we have seen each other every day, and I hope it never ends.

This summer we are going to America to visit my friends and family. When we return, we plan to continue our life in Jilin city. This province has provided me adventures, education, friends, and now family. So what came to be a short trip to China ended with me living in China for five years. Now when my parents ask me, "why are you still living in Jilin province" They understand the wonderful gifts this province has given me are happy with my life decisions. I’m proud to be a Jilin resident and I hope to be here for many more years.

Adam Michael Reiter is an American teacher in a high school in the city of Jilin.

(Opinions of the writer in this story don't represent those of