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Published: April 13th 2018
The first few weeks of China... well to be honest I felt like a lost toddler in a supermarket many times. To get myself sorted, I found myself people who I consider my China family - Tim was the first addition to the family, he became like my older brother. We both come from NZ and actually met through a mutual friend via Facebook as he came from the UK to China as opposed to NZ like myself but we met up in Beijing for the TEFL course and it just so happened we were going to be working together at Disney English for the year.
When we arrived in Suzhou, we were both placed at the same hotel for three weeks. There was not one day in my first three weeks of China I did not see Tim so we pretty much were forced to help each other out (or rather him help me because at this point, still useless as a toddler). We checked into this really fancy hotel called the Orange Hotel that Disney organised for us. It was so fancy we had our own pet fish in our rooms. It was a pretty sweet life. Until
we took the subway.
Tim started to think it was time for me to learn the ropes of China about two weeks in and that I should brave the subway by myself.... well that's my reasoning behind this next adventure. Ok to be fair I can be quite slow at getting myself together so you kind of learn to deal with that and learn to be patient while I fuss about to find things. On this particular day, we had arrived at the subway station. Tim, as always, was ready with his card to go through. As always, I was not. He continues on ahead. I eventually catch up but he's already standing on the subway but I'm a little too far. In China, they don't have time for anybody to mess around. You have approximately five seconds to get on that subway and go. I was not going to make it. As I started hearing the beeps for doors closing you could just see Tim smiling this smug smile waving farewell. Needless to say I was forced to take my own subway journey which I survived but to this day am constantly reminded of that encounter every time I see Tim. Oh how times have now changed as I take on countries by myself!
After living like a Queen in a hotel, it was time to start apartment hunting. Oh my life. This was an experience and a half. This was the time I met a very close friend of mine who is now living back in America, someone I refer to as Mumma T - Tiki. She is my China mum, friend and sister all in one. She was also my colleague when I worked at Disney English. Originally I was going to flat alone but then Tim said there was an American coming to Disney and needs a flat so I said sure, I'll flat with her be nice to have some company. Little did she know what she was in for flatting with me and likewise me for her. We found a simple nice apartment at a complex in Xinghai Square. Nothing super duper special but it would do. Location was great and we had a home. So we signed the lease, paid the deposit and we were good to go.
Then China had a classic China day.
All our power turned off. Our water went cold. We literally had the world's most useless flat ever. So of course, we took the initiative and contacted our landlord. No response. Neither of us speak Chinese so it was a whole lot of okay what the devil do we do?? We asked around and found this absolutely gorgeous apartment that honestly felt like I was living like royalty. This apartment was four bedrooms with a 360 degree view on Jinji Lake (looks beautiful at a distance but up close you find dead fish and condoms floating on the water surface so it's a little deceiving to the eye....) and happened to be in the same complex we already lived in. So that same day, we packed up everything we owned - mattresses, duvets and all and made our way to that apartment. Walking. In the dark. Without any lights with all our stuff an in temperatures unknown to my body - above 30 degrees (Celsius). By the time we moved into our brand new apartment we were a sweaty hot mess ready for our first sleep in what become the party house of Suzhou for the next year.
The only thing about moving to this apartment was the addition of a new room mate. She was cool enough but another American. This meant I was very tested and tried in terms of language. I don't know how many times these two would just stare at me not having a clue what I was saying even if I was just talking about "throwing the rubbish in the bin". No, it had to be "Put the garbage in the trash". Ugh. Then we had another beautiful addition to our family; Tiki's daughter, Tyra. She was a hoot and a half but once again, American. Ratio 3:1 of USA to NZ. Through that first year I'm pretty sure half my stories were only hilarious because of my accent and the lack of understanding. Not only was I struggling with the local language, (because I was too lazy to learn Chinese) but then I had the American Horror Story at home (not that I've watched the film but it seemed fitting in this sentence).
Nonetheless, I gained a lot of American insight and slang and tastes of Chicken Chipotle sauce that it was worth every struggle we encountered.
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