I have booked my plane tickets home. June 24th I will touch down on that sweet, sweet, soil called New Zealand. My lungs are bursting at the anticipation of fresh air. Or maybe that’s the sweet sinus infection in me talking.
However, as I reflect on going home, and knowing I will be back in China for (at least) one year, I decided to look back on the very first thing I wrote when I came here. Before I started this WordPress I wrote occasionally to a .doc document for personal use. I figured it would be nice to have some recollections of what I was doing and learning. Reading it now has made me chuckle something amazingly, so I thought why not share with you all to see just how overwhelmed I was about China, and to show that even someone like me can figure out how to proceed from there.
So without further ado I present the first piece I wrote about China in all its un-edited glory –
22nd August 2012
What have I gotten myself into?
21, finally moving out of home, and moving all the way to China. It was hard not to cry. Held it in until I lay on the bed here in Shijiazhuang, my new home for ~10 months or so. What a sook.
Boarding the plane I was probably one of ten ‘foreigners’ out of a relatively full Airbus bound for Guangzhou. If there had been a black light illuminating the Airbus I can safely say I would’ve stood out in that rave party like nobodies business.
Walking down to my seat I was selfishly hoping there would be no-one next to me, but alas I was met with a very ancient Chinese gentlemen who proclaimed (after I whacked him with my bag/general body parts to get across and into my seat) he proclaimed ‘I know no English’.
And I being the amazing traveller know no Mandarin (I know, I know). So for a while we sat there awkwardly. He did try to teach me how to pronounce ‘Arrival Card’ in Mandarin while I sat there filling out the alien forms.
God (or whatever) loves a try-er.
But something pretty cool did happen aboard that 12-hour flight.
Air China, for the record you have the most ridiculous in flight operating system I have ever had the patience to use. Who seals their remotes into the armchair? Who does that? I sat there like a half retarded chicken, my elbow out to the side, trying to get the arrows up and down to my film and the poor gentleman beside me watched with a sadness, generational technological issues welling up behind his eyes. Looking at this sadface I ‘Chinglished’ my way into asking him to direct me to what he wanted. Our favourite gesture was the double thumbs up when he finally got to sit and watch his film. Our not so favourite gesture was a double slice across the arms when I stuffed up (for the record his remote electronics were up the creek and only wanted to arrow down for EVERYTHING, not my fault).
Next was my relatively short jump from Guangzhou to Shijiazhuang. Basically sleeping through that one I was informed by a lovely fellow that my already broken zipper was broken. We started chatting, as two strangers do, and after learning this is my first time to China he bestowed upon me my official Chinese name. Pass on the pronounciation at the moment but he did write it down on his business card. I will upload a photograph of it when I can. It’s quite a pretty script.
After a car ride from hell I arrived at the school. The school is currently under construction so it’s a wee bit of a mess. My room however on first impression sounds a little like this –
One working powerpoint, out of two that I have found in the entire place.
No hot water to speak of (which I found out just after dinner, so sad).
A bed that has a mattress most likely constructed from granite.
Scary toilet of doom, with a hole in the floor.
Mould city bitch mould mould city bitch.
However the couch is comfy, so if I somehow can’t wrangle my way out of this room at least I have something to sleep on that won’t dislocate every joint in me.
I was then taken out to lunch by the Foreign Affairs Department – two women, one Luanne and one ChinDow (pronounced not spelt like that). Official Peking Duck can be crossed of my list. Successful use of chopsticks needs a lot more work. (Edited: I later found out that Chinese will always invite you to come eat with them with no intention of actually enjoying your company if you’re stupid enough to say yes. Explains the awkwardness now).
After lunch I thought it would be a brilliant idea to get some cleaning stuff for the absolute mess of a bathroom, before I was to ever consider cleaning myself in there. So with a natural assumption in my step I went to the supermarket.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
I think that was when it really hit me that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing in China, for the next few days at least.
Trying to contact home was a mission after that debacle. First I text them to ring me, but my cellphone was then disconnected/blocked due to ‘limited funds’. Then I tried the schools Skype in their office but they had no microphone or camera so I could only type to my parents who didn’t figure it out till the very last minute. Luckily Dad rang Emily who gave them another number and they got through on my ‘home’ phone in my room. Reassurance from home definitely felt good.
Later this evening I had the loveliest phone call ever – from Lisa. She said stop panicking and that she would come pick me up. Soon enough a taxi with her in it showed up. We went back to hers where I instantly developed flat jealousy. She has the best room in Shijiazhuang I swear. She was just about to start tutoring a lovely boy, William, and even asked me to help (silly girl). William was such a delightful character though, and because he was the age group that I will be teaching in a few days time I actually started to like this idea a lot more.
In the evening Emily rang and said we should have dinner with her. Being as tired as I was I still said yes because I really wanted to physically meet her. Giving the taxi driver the instructions (well Lisa did, I sat there like the typical foreigner – stone cold silence) we ended up at ‘the best restaurant in all of Shijiazhuang’ according to Emily. She probably wasn’t far off either it was so very, very good. And I learnt the custom of ‘cheers’ing (gambe I think it sounded like) your drink for everything. It translates to ‘finish the glass’ however and after three ‘cheers’ and a plane trip round the world I was lucky enough to not plant my face in the fish while falling asleep at the table. Emily’s husband Taylor is amazing as well; their connection is just wonderful. And their daughter is so cute.
Overall for a first day experience I feel like across 24 hours I have gone from complete stranger, to someone who just might end up belonging here after all. Maybe.
Zaijian for now.
Sidenote: I’m afraid to say that the stereotype of asian drivers is well and truly….true. I think lanes are just painted on to give the road some character, not to be obeyed whatsoever.
Wow. From that (terrible) writing to now feels like a lifetime ago. Leave a comment if you found it funny, tragic, or both! I’d be happy to discuss anything.
Thanks for the read.