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Published: November 18th 2016
Getting dropped off at Mrs. Lorraine's house...
I was extremely nervous before I left for China. In fact, I cried my eyes out as my brother dropped me off at my friend Diarra's aunt's house the day before I left. (Thank you again Mrs. Lorraine for allowing me to stay in your wonderful home, and then taking Dee and me to the airport at 5 AM the following morning!) I had been so pumped up for leaving the U.S., but when the time came to actually board the airplane, I truly wanted to back out. I've always been the type to just say "screw it" and let life take me where ever. I think I proved that when I left Georgia Southwestern and moved 16 hours away from everything and everyone I knew in small-town Americus, Georgia to go to Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland on a whim. I said "screw it" again when I applied to study abroad in Ireland for 6 weeks on the night before the study abroad application was due... I kept up the carefree trend when I applied to WorldTeach, where I sent in my application to the program on the very last day that anyone could submit applications. I don't think I
Nasty meal from Seattle.
expected to get in, but when I received the e-mail stating that the first part of my application had been approved, I was over the moon! I knew at that point that I didn't actually have to accept, but I also knew that I wasn't totally at a loss for what to do after I graduated. I could, if all else failed, just leave the country for a year and go to China if I hadn't found anything else to do after graduation. And when I didn't find anything else to do, teaching English in China really didn't seem like that bad of deal.
• Free housing
• A monthly stipend
• Weekends to myself
• The opportunity to explore a new country
• The chance to experience a new culture up close and personal
• And a lot of me time, which I need so that I can work on my writing portfolio
I mean, honestly, it didn't sound bad at all, so I commited to the program, and I was all set to leave in August, however...
When I pulled my luggage out of Mrs. Lorraine's car, and I saw the planes taking off
On the plane to China!
overhead, I wanted to ditch my luggage and hitchhike my way back from Atlanta to Warner Robins, where I knew my family was still sound asleep in their beds. After all these years of letting life take me where ever, I felt nervous. No, scratch that, I felt scared. I was about to embark on an adventure that would take me away from literally everything I knew for an entire year. I'd like to quote Bilbo Baggins here, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door. You step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." In this case, I most definitely am Frodo, and I was about to step out of my COUNTRY and be swept off to who knows where in China.
To make matters worse, I didn't know a lick of Chinese (Mandarin) before I left. I honestly didn't even know how to say "nĭ hăo"... (That means "Hello"). I had practiced the language a bit through apps on my iPhone, as well as through Mango Languages--a resource similar to Rosetta Stone that Goucher allows alumni access to--but I didn't study
My mom told me once that my grandma said if you looked out the window of a plane that the Earth would look like a patchwork quilt, and I have to agree, it does.
religiously. I kept telling myself that I'd pick the language up once I got to China, and I really wish I hadn't waited... I even tried to last-minute study on the plane rides, but that was a waste of time.
The plane rides weren't that bad either. They were long, but all-in-all, I made it! I played A LOT of Tetris on the plane, and watched Pride and Prejudice, which until then, I'd never seen before--haha. The half-a-day layover, however, well that's a different story.
Dee and I got into Beijing, and we found the area we needed to be, and Dee was able to communicate enough with the airport folks for them to let us know that due to our long layover the airport had accommodated us with a free hotel room, which was really unexpected. We even met up with a fellow WorldTeacher, Alex, in the airport, and he was also given a free room. However, Dee and I really needed to exchange some money before we left the airport, seeing as we had only about 30 yuan between the two of us. What we didn't realize, though, was that this Chinese Biker Gang was having
to wait for us so that they too could be taken to the free hotel accommodations. When we finally finished getting our money sorted out, we made our way back to the area where we were told a shuttle would be taking us to this hotel. We met back up with Alex--who was smart enough to have his money sorted out ahead of time--and along with a now pissed off looking Chinese Biker Gang, Dee, Alex, and I made our way to the shuttle. We were all exhausted after such a long plane trip, so it's understandable that the Biker Gang just wanted to get to the hotel and sleep, I mean so did we. However, once making it to the shuttle, we all had to pile inside, while all of our luggage was basically thrown on top of us... That includes the huge Harley Davidson duffel bags that the Bikers were lugging around, that I swore had to be filled with anything and everything illegal. Luckily, we made it to the hotel practically unscathed, and we didn't have to wait too long in the hotel lobby either, but we did have long enough to befriend the Bikers. They had
On my way to China.
actually just gotten back from riding Route 66, and one of them was a Biker/Photographer, which I found to be really cool! Both Dee and I were amazed when we walked into our shared hotel room to find it extremely modern. I remember her saying that it was one of the nicest hotels she'd ever stayed at in China--and she has been to China two other times. We ate a small dinner with Alex in the hotel that night, and then got to rest our weary souls in the really plush and comfortable hotel beds... (I could go on to say that most Chinese beds, like the one in my apartment, aren't soft at all... In fact, I have 4 comforters, and a mattress pad on top of my bed, and it still has nothing on a pillow-top mattress...)
The next morning we got up at around 4 AM, and made our way to the hotel lobby where we met up again with our new Biker friends who were also traveling to Changsha. I have to say that even though we had a rocky start, the Bikers ended up being really really
friendly! In fact, they ended up saving us from boarding the wrong plane, which wasn't necessarily our fault so much as it was the airport's fault. Who decides to change the boarding terminal 30 minutes before departure? Anyway, the Bikers really helped us with anything we needed help with while we waited for our plane, from buying coffee from a vending machine to helping us connect to the WiFi. This experience just goes to show, "Don't judge a person by their Harley Davidson duffels." --CURRENT DAY--
I've been in China for about THREE months, and while I know enough to get around, if someone asks more than the bare minimum, then 10 times out of 10 I won't be able to understand. For example, if I ask for a certain food that I want, "Wǒ yào bāozi " ("I want steamed buns"), and then the person asks something further, such as "Would you like a certain sauce?", or "Do you want spicy?", then I usually have no idea what's going on.
Speaking of food, the last food I had before leaving the U.S. was this chicken sandwich meal from the Seattle airport, and it was absolutely disgusting. I felt a little saddened, because I expected to not eat "American" food again until 2017 when I return home. I've included a picture of that sad excuse of a meal. >:-[ Thankfully, China does not fail when it comes to food. Check out a few of the dishes I've tried since arriving in Changsha 2 months ago! Authentic Chinese food is nothing like the Kung Pao or General Tso that most of us Americans are accustomed to. Someone asked before I came to China whether or not I thought that I'd be sick of Chinese food after a year, and honestly I thought I would be! Only because I can only stomach so much "American Chinese food". However, REAL Chinese food is... THE BEST! The variety is out of this world. Spicy? THEY GOT IT!
Sweet? They got it, too!
Savory? Check! The weirdest thing I've had since being here is bullfrog, and I actually didn't know that what I was eating was frog, I just thought it was some kind of fish... I didn't find out until after the meal was over that I'd eaten bullfrog. The one thing that I really dislike about Chinese food is that bones are left in almost every piece of meat! So pieces of chicken (and I'm not talking chicken wings) are served with the broken bones inside. Also, fish is so hard to eat here, because you have to be extra careful when eating fish or else you'll almost swallow one of those teeny tiny bones! Just about NOTHING is boneless.
Another note on food: Here in China, it's really rare to go out to dinner with a group and not share. It's not unheard of, but typically when you go out to dinner with others, you will order several dishes, and you will each eat out of those dishes simultaneously. Using your chopsticks, or if you want, your spoon/fork (and yes "they have those"), you'll pick portions of the food that you want and bring it into your bowl of rice, and bon appétit!
I said I'd post this blog back in September, but here it is, mid-November, and I'm finally deciding to publish it. I think I'll save the more important stuff for another post, because I don't want to be too long winded! Check out the view from my plane, and in the next blog, I'll post some actual pictures from China. 😊
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