Posted in 2014 (China), Blog

17/04/15: Almost There

Right so I’ve got a month left. Almost exactly, actually. I’ll leave a month from yesterday if you’re counting days and a month from the day before if you’re counting dates. I’m pretty excited.

For one thing, the internet will work again. For another, my family will be there. That’s cool too I guess.

My mom, dad, and brother came to China the week of Easter sooooo…. two weeks ago. I’m a little hazy on dates but anyways. They were here for a week and man oh man did we pack a lot in. We visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Jingshan Park on Day 1. Day 2 we flew to Xi’an in the morning and then visited the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda before we went to the Muslim Quarter for supper. Day 3 we went to the Terracotta Warriors Bros and then rode bikes on the City Wall before heading back to the Muslim Quarter for supper. Day 4 we took the train back to Beijing and… I don’t think we really did anything else that day. I don’t remember. Day 5 we went to the Beijing World Park and Pearl Market. We were going to go to the Wanfujing Night Market, but we ended up partying with 3 Australians and a Brazilian until pretty late. Day 6 we hiked the Great Wall and then went to the Night Market that night with the Australians and the Brazilian guy. Day 7 I took my family to the airport. We were super busy.

Right now, I’m sitting in the Music House waiting for the fast bus to start running from Langfang to Beijing and I think it’s running now, I’ll have to check again.

This weekend, I’m going to see Lisa tomorrow, maybe do some shopping.

Next weekend, I’ll just hang around Langfang again.

The weekend after that is the Labor holiday weekend and I’m definitely not going to Beijing for that, it will be chaos.

The next weekend, Bernard comes to Beijing.

Then I go home the Friday after.

It’s so close!

Posted in 2012 (Europe), 2014 (China), Articles, Blog

Article: 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever

So I’m scrolling through Facebook (once I finally get my VPN to connect and stay connected) when I see my cousin’s friend (with whom I am friends on FB and who is currently in Spain studying abroad, I think) has liked an article on someone’s page called 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever.

So here is my take on Russell V. J. Ward’s 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever.


 

I think for me it started long before I made a choice to go abroad, let alone visit. By the time I started high school, we had lived in three states, four cities, and I had attended school in four different districts.

Phoenix, AZ – born; Charlotte, NC – 4 years; Greensboro, NC – 1 year; Kernersville, NC – 2 years; Jamestown, NY – 4 years

My thirst for traveling abroad started with the first Harry Potter book. Even though I knew Hogwarts wasn’t real and that I couldn’t catch a train from King’s Cross Station to the magical school, I still remember thinking “I want to go there.” London was really where I wanted to go, but I’d settle for anywhere in that area (even now, my geography skills are subpar).

When I went to university, that’s when I started making plans of how to study abroad. I had a plan from freshman orientation on how to get there. And so I went. In the summer of 2012, I went on a cruise with my gramma, aunt, and cousin (Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Italy) and I didn’t want to get off that ship. Except in the fall of 2012, I studied abroad in Ireland.

Kernersville, NC – 4 years; Wilmington, NC – 4(ish) years; Maynooth, Ireland – 1/4 year

Between moving home and back to school every winter and summer break (I lived on campus and wasn’t allowed to stay) and my study abroad experience, I moved sixteen times in the span of my four-year degree. Of course, by this point the wanderlust had settled in completely, so I was home for the summer after graduation before I moved to Colorado to live with my gramma. Then, of course, I moved to China, which is where I am now.

Kernersville, NC – 4 months; Lakewood, CO – 9 months; Langfang, Hebei, China – 12 months

My contract in China will end in May (but I might end up staying until June? I’m not sure) and I’ll return back to Kernersville, NC, which is obviously where my parents live. Ten years and they’re still in the same house, I’m impressed! Of course, I’ll be heading off to Dublin, Ireland in August/September so… Anyways. Here’s the four ways:


 

1. You’re not the same person you were.
Boy howdy. If that’s not the truth, then I don’t know what is. Even my trip to Ireland, which was only a few months, was life-changing to say the least. These twelve months in China, even more so. Ward talks about how you might not realize it immediately, but I think somewhere as vastly different in culture as China is to the US makes you realize it a lot sooner. Once you’re over that culture shock, you start to think back “Remember how hard this was when I first got here?” My personal huge oh my god moment involves a lot of “Remember how frightened I was when I first got here?” Now I can navigate my way around Beijing, I’ve gotten used to the way things work in China (even if some of the practices still annoy me), and I have the courage to travel from one end of this giant country to the other — on my own. (In fact, I’m heading to Shanghai in a week and a half.)
You learned about you.
Before I spent the summer here, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. As a driven 22 year old who always had a Plan, that terrified me more than moving across the world. I thought my problem was that I liked too many things and couldn’t pick between them, but it turned out to be my strength, in a way. After a summer on my own – 100% on my own – I finally figured it out. What I want to do, what I want to be, but most importantly, who I am.

(China 2014) New friends I met in China and I in Xi’an! (Thanks to Erin for the lovely picture)

2. You can never go back home.
I think part of this is also me growing up. I hear about things from my family well after they happen now, I’m not constantly up-to-date like I was when I was just living across the country. I can’t call my mom just to chat when I’m walking somewhere and I spent my first summer without my brother for the first time since he was born. When I first studied abroad and had a taste of what it was like to live not-there, I came back and tried to go back home. It didn’t work. People had gotten so used to my absence (a mere semester!) that they forgot to include me in things later. It hurt at first, I was so used to being in that place and being surrounded by people that it was hard for me to let go and do things on my own. Plus, I missed Ireland a lot and didn’t want to return in the first place.
At some point, you realize you couldn’t go back even if you wanted to.
Admittedly, I currently want to go go go and not stay stay stay, but these are the times I realize who I miss the most and who misses me the most. (Shout-out to Katie, my bff since high school, Gagey-poop, who I miss dearly, Marcus, for constantly asking me when I’ll be back in Ireland {SEPTEMBERISH}, and my family, cause well duh.) I don’t want to go back to what I was, to where I was before. I love the people I miss, but I’m ready to go go go!

3. Your world became a whole lot bigger.
Holy moly the world is huge. But at the same time, it’s really not. Since I’ve been here in China, I meet new people every time I go to Beijing. My world is a lot bigger, but the world itself seems a lot smaller. It’s a lot more manageable now. I used to think “Gosh, I don’t know if I’ll ever visit [insert place here], it’s so far.” Now, it’s not. I can go anywhere. “I always wanted to visit” has become “I’m gonna visit…”
And there’s no turning back.
I always wanted to go go go, but I was afraid. “What if” I asked myself a lot. Now I know, the only room I have for “What if”s is “What if I don’t?” I have never regretted a single thing I’ve done in my life (no, seriously) and the only thing I regret is not having done. I was afraid and living in the What if zone too much, but now I know. The world is huge and completely, utterly manageable. I am no longer content to be in one place for very long. I wasn’t before, but even less so now.
Let’s go.
Because it’s all good.

4. Anything is possible.
Let me repeat that:
Anything is possible.
This, I think, is the truest number on this list. When I graduated college, I was so afraid. I was afraid I’d end up “stuck”: stuck in a job, stuck in a place, stuck in myself. And I did get stuck for a bit. Now, though? Now I can do anything. I wanted to move (back) to Ireland. I wanted to go back to school. Now I know I can and I will.
You proved you can live abroad – and you survived.
And I’ll do it again. The US to China culture jump was terrible. There were days I didn’t want to leave my apartment because it was just so overwhelming. Eight months in and I still get those days. But eight months in and I know this is the hardest thing I’ll ever do. And even if it’s not, I’ll survive that just as I survived this. Anything is possible and anything is survivable and there will be times in the future when I will be afraid, but I will think of this time in my life and say to myself “Well, we did that. Let’s do this.”
You did it.
Almost. I have a few months left, but when I’m done, this will be the thing that gets me through everything. I’ll be going back to school and everyone says how hard that is, but I will think of the drive and determination that brought me here and kept me here and I will pull those up and say “Okay, well. We can do this. We can do anything.”

 

Posted in 2014 (China), Articles, Blog

Article: The Sounds I Hate (but might miss anyways)

  • The Class Bell What is this? High school? Why do we need to have a bell that signals class starting, break starting, break ending, class ending, and everything in between? More importantly, why is it a fifteen-second song that still plays on the weekends and over the holidays when the students have all gone home and the school is closed?!
  • The Back-up Sounds of carts, cars, and various other motor vehicles It’s a sentence. Not just a beep beep but like an entire sentence. I imagine it says “Watch out, bitches, I’m backing up and if you don’t move, I’ll back up right over you.”
  • Car horns A taxi drives past me, it honks. Oh, but there’s three people walking ahead of me, so it honks at them, too. And those two people across the street? Honk. Oh great, here comes another taxi. IF I WANTED A RIDE, I WOULD’VE RIDDEN WITH THAT TAXI YOU CAN STILL SEE YOU DON’T NEED TO HONK AT ME
  • High-pitched screaming and squealing I live at a school inhabited by teenage girls. ‘Nuff said.
  • “Hello, teacher.” This sentence usually is uttered when I am well past the person and walking in the opposite direction or when I’m peacefully trying to eat my dinner and someone sits across from me to stare at me with big blank eyes as I try to eat my noodles. It’s usually followed by my second-least favorite sentence: “I’m sorry my English is so bad.” Then go away, I’m eating.
  • “Hello, picture?” I don’t know you, please don’t ask me for my picture that’s really weird please let me just walk through the Summer Palace/to the store/through the store/outside on the side walk/to the bus/off the bus/everywhere in peace. I have a feeling at least one-fourth of the Chinese populace have seen my picture by now, with the number of people who want to take it. They really don’t think it’s weird.
Posted in 2014 (China), Articles

Article: A List of Things I’m Really Glad I Brought with Me (and Some I Wish I’d Brought)

  • Nasal Decongestant
    • Okay so I had trouble with breathing through my nose when I was in the US but it was nothing like living near Beijing. There are days when the pollution here is so bad I can’t see the line of trees just across the road from my bedroom window. Those days, I stay inside. But when I get back from Beijing, I’m so happy I can clean out my nose and get all that black air out of there. If you’re coming to China and living in/near a city, this is a must!
  • Alka Seltzer Cold Plus
    • My family swears by this stuff when we’re getting sick and I am so happy I brought some with me. Now when I can feel the tinges of a sickness coming on, I don’t have to hear about “Chinese Traditional Medicine” from the adults, I can say “Oh, no I’ve got some medicine, thanks.” If you’ve seen Chinese Traditional Medicine, you’ll know what I’m talking about….
  • Aspirin
    • I did not bring enough with me because I can’t buy just a bottle of ibuprofen at the supermarkets here. When I can find it, it’s expensive and there’s not many tablets in the package. I now am hoarding my aspirin.
  • Sunscreen
    • Not really a problem on the super pollutiony days, but when I was in Hong Kong my ginger paleness could not handle that sun. But I left my sunscreen at home. Thankfully, I found my favorite brand in a shop by chance because all of the Chinese sunscreen has whitening agent in it. (AKA snails. There’s snails in the sunscreen.)
  • My Laptop
    • The computer supplied to me by the school is old and slow along with every other computer at this school. At least the one they gave me is in English? I guess…
  • Kraft Mac and Cheese Powder Packets
    • I’m definitely buying some Kraft Mac and Cheese before I go to Ireland because I know for a fact macaroni and cheese isn’t a thing there. I could still make stovetop mac at least because I had access to cheese, but there is a disturbing lack of cheese in China. I just want cheese!
  • Non-Chinese Tea
    • It’s so expensive here and kind of hard to find a variety of, so when I moved here I brought with me lots of Irish tea. When I leave China, I plan to buy lots of Chinese tea to bring back with me. I really have a thing for tea. Like, my apartment has no food, but it’s got tea!
  • Perseverance
    • I spent the first few weeks in China absolutely terrified. “What if I can’t get to the supermarket? What if I can’t go to the bank? What if I can’t get home from where I am?” A lot of it was self-doubt. I cried a lot. I wanted to go home. I was ready to give up. But I said I would do this, and so I would. Maybe that’s stubbornness. Maybe they’re the same thing. All that matters is seven months later and I’m still here. There’s nothing I can’t do. Well, except speak Chinese.
  • Taking “It’s Good Enough” for an Answer
    • “60 students?! for 2 hours?! Most of whom speak as much English as I speak Chinese?!” Now we do 1 hour of lecture and 1 hour of a movie in English with Chinese subtitles. I slow down how I speak and simplify my grammar and use incorrect grammar because that’s the grammar they use and are used to, so watching a movie in English will help them get used to listening to it at full speed. Plus, what the hell am I supposed to do with them for two hours (from 7-9 at night) after they’ve been in class since 8 or 9 in the morning? I feel bad for the kids when I think of my university schedule.
  • Not Taking “It’s Good Enough” for an Answer
    • I’ll be honest. I’ve always been that way. I lived on campus all four years at university and I was always the roommate to call maintenance. I bet I annoyed the shit out of them. But if I was given something and told it would work, guaranteed, I was going to take them up on that guarantee. So when I was told my apartment would be up to my foreign standards, I was going to take them up on that guarantee. (Plus, it was in the contract.) When autumn was becoming winter, my apartment was unbearably cold. (Imagine a standard 4-person dorm apartment on campus with tile floors, blank white walls, and large windows and you’ve pretty much got my apartment. Which I live in alone.) I found that using the toilet with my winter coat was still too cold. So I complained. They brought me another duvet, which helped. Then it was winter. The radiators weren’t on. So I complained. Now my radiators run and my apartment is warm.
    • Basically, people will take advantage of you if you keep your mouth shut. If you’re unhappy and were given different expectations, don’t keep your mouth shut.
Posted in 2014 (China), Articles

Article: The Book Continues, Chapter by Chapter

As I sit in the little cafe I found in the University City, I read my book and drink my tea (Earl Grey), realizing that I like the sounds of Chinese coffee shops better than their Western counterparts. This one is full of students, if rather small, but they’re all so easy to tune out. Granted, it wasn’t difficult when I was in the US, but it’s considerably easier here. And I know why: I can’t understand them.

When I first got here all the Chinese was overwhelming, but I’ve reached the point where I’ve gotten used to it. I can sit with a group of people who don’t speak English and feel only slightly out of place. Partially because the people I now sit with occasionally translate for me, but mainly because I’ve gotten used to the way Chinese sounds. Even though I still can’t understand even half of a conversation that’s happening near me, the language doesn’t really sound foreign anymore.

Before I came here, my experience with culture shock was limited to hearing about it or reading about it online. Now, I’ve lived it. And after six months here, I’m beginning to imagine how the reverse culture shock is going to go. It won’t be as bad as the initial culture shock because I’ll only be in China for a year, but I can already tell I’ll go through it, if only to the extent of jet lag and wonder at how clean even the dirtiest thing seems in comparison.

Along with these realizations is an awareness of how much I’ve changed since I’ve been here. Although China isn’t the place for me and I haven’t enjoyed being here as much as I thought I would, it’s still been a great experience. In getting a fresh start in a country where the people don’t understand me, I’ve learned who I am and who I want to become, even though I graduated from college without a boyfriend and without trying to obsessively hold on to what we are told are the “best years of your life.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret a single day, a single choice, or a single experience of my college career, but it’s over.

If I’ve learned anything from my obsessive reading, it’s that all chapters end. My college chapter has ended and so too will my Chinese chapter. And that’s okay, because the book’s not finished yet. I was terrified when I graduated because I thought I needed a plan, I needed something next, but I don’t. The book will continue, chapter by chapter, and some days I know what chapter is next and sometimes I have no freaking clue.

That’s okay. Life goes on.

Posted in 2014 (China)

13/11/14: One (Half) Year

Well it’s been six months since I got here
Cocked my head to the side and said “Can I go home?”
Five months since I branched out saying
“Gonna get that together, wait and see me”
Three months since I flew away
Got to Hong Kong, wanted to stay
Yesterday, I found a new place
but it’ll still be six months till I can go home

I hope you sang that to the tune of “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies because, even though it’s not my best fit, that was the attempt.

So, it’s been six months here in China and, can I just say, round of applause for me. This is seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. Although, it has been pointed out to me that I like challenges but easy challenges. Which is true. Except now I know what it feels like to be legitimately challenged, homesick, culture shocked, jetlagged, and all that jazz. But all those negative feelings have led to feeling of triumph, determination, and accomplishment. It may suck sometimes, but it’s going.

A recap of the last six months, in case you missed, but more because I haven’t really updated recently:

  • I’ve almost mastered chopsticks. I still struggle with noodles and fish, but the Chinese seem to struggle with the former and I don’t eat the latter much so A+ for me.
  • I got into grad school, I’ll be going to Ireland next September.
  • I’ve met some really awesome people in Beijing and Langfang, some of whom are foreigners like myself and some aren’t.
  • I started to learn the ukulele.
  • I went to Hong Kong.
  • I’ve been to Beijing enough times to know my way around the subway system really well and I know where to get good pancakes. (PANKAKS)
  • I’ve gained visible weight. Which is cool, I think the last time that happened I was going through puberty and still getting taller.
  • I’ve found a new direction in life. I mean, before I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but I absolutely knew that I don’t want to be a teacher. I had a few options, but I’ve finally settled on one. 🙂
  • I’ve made some really awesome presentations and made my students more relaxed around me. (It starts with being silly in front of them and continues on with messing with them during and outside of class.)
  • I thought of something else but I forgot it… It was funn– no I remember
  • I’ve taken a photo with approximately half the population of China.

That’s about it. It might not seem like a lot, but I’m glossing over a lot of the small things that include, but aren’t limited to: going to the supermarket alone, going to the bank alone, getting to Beijing alone, going to the movies (and successfully getting a ticket for the one English movie) alone. A lot of the things I’m most proud of I’ve done alone because I like to have my independence. I don’t want to constantly ask people to go with me if I know it’s something I can do on my own. I’ll still ask for help, of course, but I often want to know I can do it. Even if I don’t do it very often.

Speaking of doing things on my own…. I should really go to Beijing soon. I need tea and cakes and bookstores. Although I’ve been introduced to this really nice café that has cheesecake that’s only a thirty minute walk from my apartment.

As my students would say “so cool”.

 

Posted in Blog

3/11/14: Happy November!

Although October is my favorite month (mainly because it’s 31 days where I can buy more Halloween socks, which are hands-down my favorite), Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s a time to spend with my family, eating turkey and potatoes and pumpkin pie, but the appeal is the time spent with my family. I have a feeling this Thanksgiving is going to be super hard on me because I’m not at home and won’t be able to celebrate. That’s only happened one other time and I hosted a Friendsgiving that year.

My school has just added some more classes to my schedule today and I start teaching them today. It’s a good thing I can use the intro activity I used for my other classes or I’d be up the creek without a paddle today. I’ll be teaching my class of first years (18 girls, 2 boys) on Mondays 4-5:30pm, my second years (13 girls) on Tuesdays 4-5:30pm, and now the new “English Corner” classes Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 7-9pm. Since the English Corner classes are for students outside of the department I work for, the current estimated class size is 60-70 students. I have a feeling they’ll realize the class is 100% English and the class numbers will dwindle quickly. I can only hope. That’s a ridiculous class size. >.<

Other than that, I’ve taken up the ukulele. There’s a nice music shop just down by Yummy Street and the owners are really nice. I teach them English and they teach me ukulele. It’s fun to go and practice and hang out. I can definitely tell I’m learning in Chinese, though. (Carlos doesn’t speak English, but Charlotte translates for me.) Carlos will tell me the string numbers to play “sān yī èr, sì yī èr” (3 1 2, 4 1 2) and instead of saying them in English in my head, I’ll say “sān yī èr, sì yī èr”. It’s funny to me.

Posted in 2014 (China), Blog

18/07/14: On Giving In and Giving Up

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a hard time saying no and an even harder time being wrong. You know that friend who always says they did something on purpose but you know it was an accident? Or they say something wrong and realize it too late so they don’t give in to the argument? That’s me. I’m that friend. I’ve been working on it, though, so this is a story of giving in and giving up.

It started at McDonald’s, where I met the only other foreigners in this area. We ate dinner that night and I met up with them a few days later. There, we got to talking about pets and how one of the guys had 5 kittens! Of course, he offered on to me and I said no at first. Practically speaking, a kitten would be a fair amount of trouble. What would I do with it when I leave China? What about when I travel? Can I even have pets? In the end, though, I agreed to take a kitten.

I knew a kitten would be a lot of work (unlike my cat, Tigger, who had passed away a year before), but I was willing to give it a shot. Turns out, I don’t have the patience for a kitten. Or the energy. I’m more of a “cuddle while reading” kind of person (which worked well with Tigger, who was a “don’t bother me with that ‘playing’ bullshit, I’m sleeping” cat) and the kitten was more of a “play on the human, bite the human, climb the human, sleep on the couch” kind of cat.

In the end, kitty went to a new home that was a better fit. It was sad to say goodbye, but we’ll both be happier.

Posted in 2014 (China), Blog

10/07/14: Brave Girl

“Brave girl” rolls off their tongues
as easily as “nǐ hāo”.
“Brave girl” my friend translates,
pointing out again that I can’t read or speak Chinese
and yet I’m here in China.
(I know.)

“Brave girl” or “lāowái” I wonder
when I can barely say hello.
(Nǐ hāo.)
“Brave girl” I repeat as I take the bus
to a place I’ve never been.
“Brave girl” I say to myself quietly
as I wonder if I’ve missed my stop.
(I haven’t.)
“Brave girl” fails me when I want to
ask for help. Will they understand me?
(Probably not.)

And when I’ve convinced myself I’m a coward,
I make a list of what Brave Girls do.

They take the bus and not a taxi
(Taxis are easy and not an experience)
Check

They hold their heads up high and ask for “zhège”
(Saying “this” and pointing)
Check

They don’t get flustered by numbers
(Coins are okay)
Check

“Brave Girl”
That’s me.

Posted in 2014 (China), Blog

04/07/14: Let Freedom Ring

Hi everybody! Happy Independence Day!

For me, the Fourth of July will end in a mere 19 minutes ( 🙁 ) and I’m sad to miss the activities back home, but I celebrated in my own way. I’ll get to that in a bit.

So, it’s been a while. Sorry about that, I’ve been busy but not busy. In that I’ve been kind of doing the same things I’ve already done and talked about, so I didn’t feel the need to talk about them.

However, here’s a quick recap.

Summer 2014 - China - 05
I went to dinner with Jennifer and her colleagues and their kids (for a total of 13 people, including myself).
Summer 2014 - China - 09
We went to the park after and walked around the lake.
Summer 2014 - China - 26
The next day, I went to Cecille’s apartment and marvelled at the view.
Summer 2014 - China - 40
Then I went out to eat with Cecille and some of our colleagues and their children…
Summer 2014 - China - 45
…where I made a new friend.
Summer 2014 - China - 53
The next day, I met Jennifer at the library and then she helped me get a bus card and check out running shoes before we went to her apartment to get some dinner and textbooks. I tried Lychee berries and met one of Jennifer’s friends who speaks really good English.
Summer 2014 - China - 56
A couple of days later, I walked to Yummy Street because the canteen is closed and I needed to eat.
Summer 2014 - China - 61
Today, I took the bus to Walmart…
Summer 2014 - China - 70
and then I went to McDonald’s (to celebrate Independence Day) where I met TWO white guys and their two friends, none of whom were American, but all of whom spoke English. They invited me out for drinks tomorrow. I’m pretty excited.