I FINALLY found out where I will be living next year: Ningbo, Zhejiang!
While not on my original list, the more I learn about Ningbo, the more excited I am to live there next year. I’ll be working at Wuxiang Middle School, right on the outskirts of downtown.
Ningbo is a medium to small sized city of 5 million just south of Shanghai and Hangzhou. It’s about an hour and a half by train to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, and about 2.5 hours to Shanghai. The interesting thing about Ningbo, is that it sits on the Yangtze River delta right near the ocean. This means that the city is covered in small canals, similar to Amsterdam, while it’s also a quick drive away from beach! Ningbo’s proximity to the ocean also means great seafood! Yum.
Ningbo is one of the oldest cities in China, dating back to the Neolithic Hemundu culture in 4800 BC. Fun fact: the Hemundu were actually one of the earliest cultures in the world to cultivate rice! Later, Ningbo served as an important trade city on the Silk Road, and then a prominent port throughout the Tang Dynasty. After the Opium War in which China’s ports were forcibly opened by the West, Ningbo served as one of the 5 treaty ports along with Shanghai, Guangzhou, Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Currently, Ningbo is famous for its political activism. Last year, Sinopec, China’s largest oil company, planned to build a new chemical plant near Ningbo. Earlier that year, three Sinopec plants were accused of leaching chemicals into the municipal water supply. In addition to this, residents were also concerned about the production of the toxic petro-chemical PX, which is used to make polyester products, paints and plastic bottles. When the plant’s construction was announced, Ningbo residents rioted in the streets, holding up smart phones and tablets while posting protest information on Chinese social media websites. Eventually, the government relented, and cancelled the project.
Ningbo is also a very popular tourist spot for those living around the Shanghai area; it even hosts a Crowne Plaza Hotel right on the water! One of the most famous sites in Ningbo is an ancient library complex that serves as the oldest library in China, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Ningbo is also famous for its Buddhist population, and it’s only a short ferry ride away from the famous Buddhist island Putuoshan. However, I am most excited to take a quick visit to Ningbo’s natural hot springs in the winter!
Having never heard of Ningbo, I was a little worried about the amount of “stuff to do”; however, after reading up on the city, I think that Ningbo is a good fit for me. Ningbo has plenty of Chinese and Western restaurants, as well as bars, cafes and clubs. Since it is a smaller city, I will be able to get to know the area very well in the year that I am there. I can also easily travel to other cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing on the weekends, or take a quick trip to the beach or the hot springs depending on the season. Since Ningbo isn’t very well-known by Western tourists, I can imagine that not much of the population speaks English well, which will be good for my Chinese. It also means that I can really make a difference teaching oral English in the classroom. However, if I ever want to hang out with other expats I will have roughly 15 other teachers in my program, as well as the British University of Nottingham down the street.
Overall, the more I read, the more excited I become. While I won’t be with some of my friends in Nanjing, I think this will be a good opportunity for me to branch out and meet more amazing people. I definitely hope to also befriend other Chinese teachers at my school, because I really enjoyed my friendships with our Chinese roommates in Xi’an. If anyone reading this has ever been to Ningbo, and has any information or advice, please let me know!
As for now, less than two weeks until I leave for China!!!