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The Things We Do On The Other Side

Late nights eating Chinese BBQ, running away from tea scammers, DJing for the first time ever on New Year’s Eve, many moments in China have been surprising, unexpected and unprecedented. My name is Diego Avelar. I hail from Napa Valley, California. I came to China in 2016. I felt that moving to Asia would nurture 2 of my greatest passions; travel and art. The decision I made has not disappointed. Every day I sense the vibrance, excitement of being somewhere new, whether it is by scenery, through a new alley, or new person that smiles at me. What can I say? I guess I am a sucker for novelty. Opportunities to learn China’s broad and deep culture are all around me, and occasionally too I get to share and express my own love for art with those around me. In future blogs I wish my readers to join me along some of my travel and art experiences, combined with some flashback memories of what got me to where I am now.

And where am I now? Chongqing. “Cyberpunk City”, “Bridge City”, “Hotpot Capital.” A city within mountains, this is what drew me to Chongqing at first. I started working for Owen there in May 2020. Owen has been tremendously supportive in every dimension of my life; financial, moral, physical, relational, etc. I cannot give enough thanks to Hamed, Owen’s foreign teacher director and recruiter, who visited me at the hospital after my ligament surgery (that story is for ANOTHER blog). I appreciate every day that I get to work for Owen. I enjoy teaching children and young adults for Owen’s Rongqiao campus. What I enjoy particularly is the creative effort and cross-cultural cooperation that makes up a good chunk of my daily work life. My work definitely requires a good amount of lesson planning, but I would not like to call it all a routine, rather many of Owen’s teachers as myself will say teaching is like an “ordered chaos.” We try to find the extraordinary in the mundane, thereby inspiring curiosity. Which brings me to my next point, that my life in China has been nothing remotely close to “ordinary.”

A smile can go a long way in every day interactions. A smile and a simple “hello” can acknowledge the others’ presence. When I came to China one of the luxuries that most stood out was the friendliness all around me. I moved into a community, a large complex of apartment buildings. In as little as a few weeks many neighbors, store clerks and security guards knew me. It is very common in China to live in one of this gated communities. Often, they remind me of beach resorts because of the make-up of the ground floor; winding pathways and gorgeous gardens and cascading fountains. Generally, there is a friendly atmosphere in the community; the people in the elevator, the children that greet you out of nowhere, and the strolling elderly that pleasantly greet you once you catch their eyes.

In 2021, I celebrated my birthday in China. I feel very blessed to be spending my 31st birthday here. My family calls me from America one day before my birthday, because they are well aware of the -15HRS time difference from here. Lucky for me, my birthday will last nearly two days. I am celebrating with others around me, conversely I am getting birthday greetings from my home country. My birthday in China started at Owen’s very own headquarters (New York, New York building) in the heart of Jiefangbei. By 11 o’clock a thundering birthday chant is coming through the hallways. Hamed charges into our training auditorium with a chocolate cake with 100 strawberries. It honestly looked like one of those cakes that a 60-year-old gets, flaming with candles. I couldn’t believe it, the company that I worked for was celebrating my birthday. I went to dinner at a nice sushi bar with my Chinese best friend. The following day I celebrated my birthday at an Italian restaurant with a few expat friends and the Chinese mentors of my tattoo apprenticeship. They gifted me a handcrafted ivory dragon-tortoise, and a cosmic glazed tea set.

After 5 years of living in China I’ve been gifted with many coworkers, influential friendships and life-changing mentors. I find Chinese to be very open to socializing and networking with people from all over the world. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, Chinese are eager to learn your story and share their own. This friendliness towards strangers is so infectious that I would say pretty much every non-Chinese I’ve met in Chongqing adopts the same sentiment. We expats become extremely inclusive people, whether at the workplace, a restaurant or a bar, no one gets left on their own. So, I just love this idea of being surrounded by people striving for greatness through networking. I’ve benefited immensely from the power of networking. In the last year before my birthday, I became acquainted with 3 Traditional Chinese painting teachers and a tattoo master. I feel China has gotten me right into the channels and networks that before I could only dream of.

If you have any questions about OWEN Education or Chongqing, feel free to contact me

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