WRITER and teacher Cindy Savage could never be accused of being a procrastinator. If a decision has to be made or something needs to be done, there is no dilly-dallying, she just does it.

The American had to make a split-second decision to join her future husband in China after he was offered a job in Shanghai. Savage had only known him two months when asked to make a life-changing decision.

“I met someone who became my husband 10 years ago,” she recalls. “And he said, ‘I have a job in China.’ So we came to China.”

The vivacious and effervescent woman, like her husband, is in the education system. Although she had retired from teaching in the United States, Savage was persuaded to use her experience and expertise in the Chinese educational system.

“A good teacher can make a bad textbook interesting,” says Savage, who also writes educational text book programs. “So we really want to make sure that the teachers not only know how to teach students, but know how to teach students in China.”

Q: Could you tell me what you do as a teacher?

A: I work for a company that gets teachers from the US, Canada and the UK here. When they come to China, our company puts them into schools who need foreign teachers.

Q: What do you do as a textbook writer?

A: I have written many textbooks in the US for different schools. When I came to China, I first worked at the World Foreign Language Middle School, and I did a program on writing. It was such a successful program that the Xuhui District Bureau of Education had me train all of their middle and high school teachers in writing. So I did that.

In the middle of teaching, they asked me if I would write down the program and I agreed. So it began in Xuhui and started with Grades 4 and 10 and has expanded into Jing’an, Minhang, Putuo and many other districts.

Q: Can you elaborate on why you chose to come to Shanghai 10 years ago?

A: That is an interesting story. I had no idea I would come to China. I was working in California writing a textbook series, then I met someone who became my husband.

I met him in November and we got married in January the following year. We also came to China in January. That was very fast, because at my age, you know what you want.

My husband had a job here as a teacher, and he asked his company if they wanted more teachers, they said yes. He was on holiday between jobs at the time, and we met, got married and we came here.

Q: Do you still remember the moment your first time arrived in Shanghai?

A: Actually I remember the first word I learned in Chinese, it was dianti (lift), not nihao (hello).

I was at the airport. I thought I just needed to learn Chinese right away. I put it into the first thing I saw. That was my first word in Chinese.

The company provided an apartment which makes life so much easier to just be able to come and settle in right away. My husband had been in Shanghai for six months prior, he had some friends and he knew his way around, so I had an easy transition. This is what I tell my teachers when they come.

The first thing you need to do is to make friends, Chinese friends, because sometimes you will live in a community where many expats live — maybe they have a driver, an ayi (domestic helper); their children go to international school. Sometimes they feel like they are not even in China. I met some of these people. They have lived here maybe 10 years and they have never taken the Metro! They have never taken the bus!

These are things I recommend to people: Immediately make friends and do things with your Chinese friends. Then go take classes and learn to speak the language right away.

Q: What’s the most impressive change you have observed in Shanghai over the past 10 years?

A: When I first came here, nobody had a smart phone, so people just sat on the Metro and talked to each other. Now no one talks to each other. They just look at their phones. Walking through the subways like zombies.

That’s a big change. Technology has changed a lot in 10 years. There are some changes that are really good. I love that you can rent bicycles and go anywhere because that makes you very independent.

Q: How do you spend your weekends and holidays here?

A: I like to hike. And I like to go to a big park like Century Park (in Pudong), Gongqing Forest Park or Minhang Sports Park. I like to look at the tulips in the spring. I like to go places where there is nature.

Several Chinese friends of mine have cars, so I like to travel with them. I like Chongming Island very much. I have an organic farm with some friends in Chongming.

I like to do yoga. I am also a yoga teacher, so I like to teach yoga to my teachers.

I love Suzhou. I love Hangzhou. I love Nanjing. I have been to Tiantai Mountain, Putuo Mountain and Huangshan Mountain. There are so many beautiful places very close to Shanghai.

I also do longer trips when I can, to Kunming, Lijiang, Dali and up to Chengdu, Xi’an and Beijing. In the Spring Festival, my husband and I like to go to other Asian countries — Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Singapore, some places that are warm.

Q: Is there anything you don’t like about Shanghai? Do you have any suggestions to make it better?

A: When I first came, I would have to say that some places seemed dirty. People just didn’t think and they threw their garbage on the ground. That seemed very rude to me, but now that’s changing. More people put garbage in the can.

Maybe not a long time ago, I would have said that there’s too much smoking. Everywhere you go, smoke, smoke, smoke. Now, not so much. Things are improving.

One more thing, many people don’t obey the traffic laws here. I wish they abide by the regulations more. It’s dangerous to cross the road for a pedestrian or be cyclist, because you never know which direction people will come at you. I wish that more people would follow the traffic laws.

Q: Do you have any memorable moment in your life?

A: My husband and I went to New Zealand. He was driving. It was on the left side of the road, which was kind of exciting. We went up a mountain. Then it started raining and everyone was complaining, because the rain formed into waterfalls.

As we were driving through this one place, hundreds of waterfalls were cascading down the mountain. We stopped the car and stood outside and took in the scenery when a gigantic parrot came and landed on the car door.

I said to myself: “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be in New Zealand looking into a waterfall with this parrot here,” and then I thought I needed to have wild dreams, because things do come true.

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