Friday, June 16, 2017

Life As A Foreigner (36hrs later)

After a 12hr flight from Seattle to Shenzhou with a 2hr layover for customs/inspection screening, the 2hr flight to Xiamen, 20min drive to my hotel for the 10hr layover (due to it being just for one night, I shared with a random girl from Taiwan, who showed up unannounced an hour after I checked it) where I only got 3hrs of sleep, then the 4hr flight from Xiamen to Qingdao where I met Alex and we then taxied to the train station, waited 2hrs for our route, then a 2hr ride on the bullet train from Qingdao to Zibo, where I then FINALLY was taken to my apartment.

With that said, I don't even know where to start. This has definitely been longer than a "three hour tour" (extra points to you if you know the reference), so how about I just "start at the very beginning"...

Having this been my very first time ever outside of the USA (apart from Canada, but I mean who really counts that place...), I had NO idea what to expect. I went into this grand adventure completely faced with the unknown. But, that's besides the point.. Upon finally visiting another country, I have discovered how self-entitled we as Americans are. When people of a different nationality come into the USA, we suspect them to know English, if not expect them to. They come to our country, therefore, they need and should speak OUR. On the other hand, when Americans go to a different country, we yet again expect them to speak our language and for them to know how to communicate with us. How great of a discombobulation is that! I noticed that the other White folk (little as they were, me included) expected all of the people living in China and speaking Chinese to magically be able to speak to us in our native tongue. Goodness sakes! How terribly prideful is that! I am definitely putting forth an effort to learn Chinese, so as I can at least show that I am trying (maybe not succeeding, but it's the effort that counts, right?). I so far have perfected the phrases of: "Hello, how are you?"; "Do you speak English?"; "Thank You"; "See you later!"; and "Water". It's not much, but it's better than nothing! I've noticed that people here do tend to be very helpful. When someone who is bilingual notices that I am struggling due to the language barrier, they readily jump in. That's a perk that I will be forever grateful for, especially during all my time within the airport.

Okay, now moving on to the good stuff. I wish I had a camcorder (yes, throwback.. I can't think of what we call it nowadays) recording me when I first stepped into the bathroom stall at the airport. Of course, I was trying not to have any expectations of China, but I did at least half expect a Westernized toilet, right? Wrong. It was a hole. In the ground. Literally nothing to sit on. Y'all want a squatty potty? Well, here it is, except to a whole new level! Or, I guess it would be "to a whole new lower level". I stood there staring at it for a good minute trying to figure out how to proficiently use it. I was ecstatic when I got to my flat (apartment) and saw the beautiful western toilet. It's the little things.

Does China believe in comfort, personal space, or clean air? With the comfort, I am referring to the beds. They are hard as a rock, and that's not an exaggeration. Luckily, I was given pillows, and so I laid on those. It might it slightly better. Personal space doesn't really seem to be a thing either. If you're like me and have a very large personal bubble and don't necessarily like people in it, come to China and it'll pop it. Crowds of people on buses, in elevators, standing in lines (if you could even call them lines; it's more like scads of people asserting their dominance and shoving their way in), you name it! As for the clean air, that's a blessing that I've taken for granted throughout my life. There's this thick smog-like haze covering the whole city. Oh. And it's humid. Extremely. Probably just as much, if not more than Hawaii. It'll take a minute to get adjusted.

When I moved to Utah, I thought that they weren't all too great of drivers (they very soon became we as I easily adapted to the Utah driving habits...). Now, I see it all with a very different perspective. There is basically no order or structure in the driving that occurs here in China. Sometimes, there aren't even lines on the road. There are car horns blaring nonstop, and pretty much brakes don't exist. Let's just say, I am incredibly happy that I'm not the one behind the wheel. I wouldn't even know how to attempt to get from one street to the next. Unlimited amounts of motorized bikes weave in and out through the traffic and pay absolutely zero attention to anything going on around them. Each driver, whether it be car or bike, is 100% focused on themselves and figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B most effectively and as fast as possible. One thing that is kind of cool though is that all of the stop lights have countdowns on them. You know how at crosswalks, sometimes it counts down for how long you have? Yea, in China, it's not just for the pedestrians, but for the cars on the roads to know when they can go, and then they gun it.

After nearly 36 hours of travel and wait time, I finally made it to what I will be calling home for the next two months. I have a (rock) bed, a western toilet, a washer (no dryer, because I have to let the lovely wetness of the humid air dry my clothing. Not too sure how well that'll go over...), a shower that is literally in the corner of the bathroom (no doors or separate shower floor, it's just a part of the room), and a small little stove top to boil the water. It's definitely not like back home, but "I think I'm going to like it here" (yes, another song. Don't hate). I already do! I was even introduced to some of the teachers, who are all really very sweet. They showed me around the nearly built school which isn't even fully constructed yet. I am the first foreign teacher that will be here at the school. So that'll be exciting! All the girls are such angels though. It's going to be a lot of fun!

There's still so much more to share, but that's basically the first thoughts of the "life as a foreigner"! Let's hope this foreigner lasts the whole two months (mainly referring to the fact that I'm probably going to die of starvation within the first few weeks......)!!!