In this series, writers at Hangzhou Plus interview unique personalities from around Hangzhou to see what makes our city stand out from the rest. Expat, Chinese, artist, entrepreneur — it’s through these Hangzhou Snapshots that the city comes to life. In this Snapshot, one of our writers interviewed Antonio, who is an English teacher from the US that is talented at a number of different things.
“I never would have thought ‘Oh yes, let’s go to China,’” Antonio said. “I didn’t know anything about the stories, or the history, or the language. That’s what was so exciting for me: it was literally a whole new world.”
Antonio, a former language student at Zhejiang University and current English teacher, made the move to China after a two week trip to visit his brother. After experiencing Hangzhou, he went back, quit his job, sold his things, and has been living here ever since.
What has he been doing in this ‘whole new world?’
As it turns out, a lot.
Do What You Enjoy
“It’s hobbies that turn into something I get better at,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing here in Hangzhou: just doing what I enjoy.”
We leafed through his collection of handmade postcards, fashioned from photos he’d taken. I paused at one: a bank of clouds cresting over mountains in a blazing-red sky.
“I took that one in Dali,” he said. “There are some other ones from Dali, too. I mostly take photos when traveling, but then I realized that I would just leave them on the computer. I want to share them with my family, so I thought: postcards.”
Postcards are the first step. Antonio is already honing his skills, recently on the hunt on Taobao for canvases for a friend’s art show. That is, when he’s not learning Korean, making music, teaching, writing songs, or traveling.
“Sometimes I think to myself: “What do you want to do? Focus on one!” And it’s true, I want to be the master of something, not the ‘jack of all trades.’ But…I want to be the jack of all trades, that’s also a master of all trades!”
Make the Most Out of Opportunities
For Antonio, part of the reason why he can do so much is because of the “whole new world” that China offers to expats ready to take risks.
“I think you have more opportunities to start something here, as opposed to back home,” he said. “There’s room for something, so if you come in with a high bar set, and you stay on that, you can succeed. Attitude is the most important. When I came, I was excited with open eyes. I wanted to learn all of this, I wanted to explore.”
Exploring has, in part, been navigating what he calls the “spiderweb” of connections in Hangzhou. An example of this is in his introduction to the music scene: some classmates exchanged Wechat information, a friend of a friend got a call from a bar, another bar heard and offered a slot for a band, they practiced, and then played together for almost three years.
As for making these connections?
“A lot of people ask me if I ever go to the bars, and honestly, I never go,” he said. “I still have met a lot of people and have had a lot of opportunities. It’s because I do the things that I enjoy. By doing the things that I enjoy, I meet other people that enjoy doing those same things.”
Antonio is currently focusing on photography, Korean, and song-writing.
As for advice for newcomers to Hangzhou?
“Whatever your hobby is, be passionate about it, and do it!”Hangzhou Snapshot, Life, Stories