Somehow it is already August 12...craziness! Boy, this summer has really flown by. It's so weird to think that graduation was just a few months ago and that my world has been turned upside down (for the good!) since May 20.
Here is my schedule to date:
Monday: Leave the Kennedy's and Tianjin for Beijing. Meet up with my team.
Tuesday-Thursday: Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Wuxi team orientation
Weekend: Travel to Wuxi, set up my apt. (it will take more than the weekend, but at least I'll get a start)
Between then and Sept. 1: Prepare my classroom, get situated, etc.
Sept. 1: School starts!
In honor of my 11 days so far in China, here are 11 terribly random reflections on my experience:
- Living on a day-to-day basis is strange, but oddly relaxing. Before this adventure, I found myself always getting caught up in the future, whether it was tomorrow or a month away. I have recently struggled with not having the luxury to daydream about what is ahead, but it has taught me to enjoy simply living in the present. Living in the present is good, I would highly suggest it sometime!
- Taxi rides in China are not for the weak of heart. I have quickly learned to bite my tongue and hang on for the ride. Most cabs are these little red cars with a lack of concern, or rather, complete disregard for normal driving etiquette.
- The street vendors have special hand signals to represent the numbers 1-10 on just one hand. I learned them today and suddenly I feel a bit more empowered. These are the small victories in life.
- The food here is amazing. Everything bought off of the street so far has been incredible. For lunch we had a wonderful corn relish, rice, tofu and potatoes in a sauce. Mind you, they put the relish in a little plastic grocery bag to take home (no styrofoam takeout containers), but that certainly does not put a damper on the quality. Other cuisine-related adventures include long noodles with octopus and octopus legs and also trying to pantomime the word 'spicy' to a vendor.
- American culture pops up in the strangest places. A local coffee shop owner has a picture of the four seasons of the Grand Haven lighthouse...please remember this is half away around the world from West Michigan. Our cab driver the other day played a CD of American 80's music. Chinese Walmart still has the Walmart brand.
- Here are some cultural (food-related) differences: Gum comes in bottles, not packs. The yogurt here is always drinkable and usually comes with a straw. Peanut oil is sold in larger quantities than most pop (we're talking like maybe 3-gallon jugs of just peanut oil).
- Many people ride bikes here and often the bikes have these kid seats on the back, complete with handles so they don't fall off. These kid seats are nothing like ours in the US, most seem to be more like baskets outfitted with handles. The kids who are along for the ride love to stare at us--they don't know what to make of foreigners.
- Not too far from here there is this park with lots of metal exercise equipment. It kind of reminds me of my elementary school. Our school had all these exercise stations spread throughout the property that we were supposed to use for gym class or something--I think this park is the Chinese version of my elementary school one. They both are really fun to play on and I don't think they get used for their real purpose very often.
- Today it was at least 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. No further comment.
- Air conditioning is amazing.
- I ran out of steam...insert your own story here.
A few things I'm thinking about:
- I really hope to find a kindred spirit on my team. I'm anxious about starting completely over and dealing with the high stress of getting ready for the school year.
- Expectations! I don't know what to expect. It's hard not to be frustrated by all the unknowns. I am continuing to be stretched in the area of flexibility.
- I just found out that I will be living by myself, which isn't what I would have hoped for. I hope I will be able to make my apartment my home. I didn't bring many items for decoration and comfort, but I'm sure I'll make do with what I have.
A few things I'm happy about:
- I've been here almost two weeks so I've already had time to get adjusted (in small, small ways) to China, to the time difference, etc.
- I think that I will be a good resource to my team as I've watched the process this week of what it required for the Kennedy's to get settled here.
- A great summer with the wonderful Kennedy family! Check out their blog, which gives you another glimpse of the last few weeks, at www.kennedysonline.net.