So, apparently it's been almost exactly two years since I've posted. Sorry about that. Many things have been happening, for the most part, all good.
I finished my first contract as a teacher here and, when it came time to renew, I told my boss that if they were willing to commit to a longer-term contract, so was I. Fact is, I love this place. I love what I'm doing. Love working with these students, even if some of them can cause the occasional headache. Love the people I'm working with.
Once I committed to a longer-term contract, I committed to something else: making this my home.
After my first term in Zhangjiagang, I had already figured out that, even if I returned to America, I didn't want to return to the home I owned there. Didn't like the politics of the homeowner's association. Didn't like the proximity to the freeway, with its noise and pollution. So, during my first summer break back in America, I set about putting my house on the market. It sold almost immediately to a couple who saw it on the realtor preview day, and within $10,000 of the initial asking price. (Many kudos and thanks to my old friend and realtor Maty Novia, whose drive and vision were exceptional and invaluable in getting the house sold.)
Fast-forward half a year -- with my new contract signed, I started to entertain the idea of renting or buying a place off-campus, someplace that would give me more room than the school-provided housing. If I was going to stick around for a while, I wanted to live comfortably! After checking out more than a dozen places that met my price, space, and proximity to work requirements, I came across one that was perfect. (Maybe I'll talk about the process in another post. It really was a fascinating experience.)
So, two years later, I am now a full-fledged resident of Zhangjiagang and enjoying life here immensely.
I wish all of my friends were as happy for me as I am for myself, but that's a different story ... the story I want to address in Part 2.