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What is it Really Like? Part 1

I have officially been in China for two weeks, which is crazy. Even though it has only been two weeks I feel like I have already learned so much. I wanted to write a blog post about some of the things I have experienced and learned so far, so I asked my family and friends if they had any questions on what life is like in China. I received a lot of questions so I decided to do two parts. The first part is now and the second part will be in a few more weeks once I have experienced and learned more. So here it goes.


1. How are you dealing with not being around friends and family?

Having only been here for two weeks it hasn't been too hard being away from friends and family. It feels as if I am just away at college, but in China not Minnesota. This is why I am planning to revisit this question in the second part of this blog post, since I haven't been here for very long. Now don't get me wrong, I miss my friends and family so much, but it doesn't feel a whole lot different from being away at school and not coming home to visit for a few weeks.

2. What is the food like?

For those who don't know I have been vegan (consuming no animal products) since last November. I wasn't sure how easily I would be able to find food I could eat while living here in China, but so far it hasn't been too difficult. Most places I can easily find vegetables and either rice or noodles. The produce here is incredibly cheap and easy to find. I haven't really come across strange or bizarre foods, just things that are slightly different than back in America. I have also realized why sticky rice is so common here. Using chopsticks is tough, but since the rice sticks together it makes it much easier to pick up.

3. Have you discovered new favorite foods?

YES! Some new favorites include, cooked cabbage and tofu skins, which both sound gross or weird but they are so good. There are numerous types of tofu here and it has been fun trying new kinds that we don’t have in the US. Typically in the US you can find pre-packaged chunks of tofu in either soft, firm or extra firm consistencies. However, here in China you can still get those options but there are tons of other options as well, hence tofu skins.

4. Do you shop at large stores like Target and Cub - stocking up for a week or two at a time - or do you stop daily at small specialty markets?

Unfortunately we do not have Target here. However, we do have Wal-Mart and we have a store called Metro, which is similar to a Sam’s Club or Costco where you can purchase in bulk. Since it is just my roommate and I in our apartment, we don’t often “stock up” much at these stores because the food tends to go bad before we can eat it all. Therefore we usually visit a local grocery store across the street for most of our produce and travel to a near by mall for any groceries we can’t easily get at our local store.

5. Could you order a "normal" pizza for delivery if you craved it?

Yes and no. Yes, I can theoretically order a Pizza Hut pizza at the Pizza Hut restaurant at one of the local malls, but I don’t have a Chinese bank account yet (have to get my residence permit first, which I am waiting to receive). Since I don’t have a bank account here I can’t order food for delivery, paying in cash when your food arrives isn’t an option here. But once I do get that all set up I can order all sorts of food to be delivered to my apartment, from pizza, noodles, and veggie dishes, to bagels, produce, and any other groceries I might want.

6. How do you get around?

Going to and from school I take a bus that is provided through the school to pick up/drop off all the staff. Otherwise I take city buses or walk. I have also taken a taxi a few times, but I find it easier to just take the bus or walk. However, all of the above can be a challenge if you don’t know where you are going so Apple Maps has been my best friend recently. It tells you what buses you could take, what stop to get off at, and how many stops are in between.

7. Are there bathrooms everywhere?

Not really. There are bathrooms in the malls or other large shopping centers. But most restaurants or stores don’t have bathrooms. Any form of public restroom can range from actual toilets to squatty potties aka a hole in the ground. Some may have toilet paper in the stall, which you don’t flush you place it in a small trash can next to the toilet, or you grab the toilet paper before you enter the stall, or the most fun… BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) aka no toilet paper.

8. Can one get along if they don't know the language?

Again, yes and no. I hardly know any Chinese, yet I can function. However, it is challenging not knowing the language. Every time my roommate and I go pretty much anywhere and try to order, pay for, or ask for anything we feel bad not knowing enough to even slightly communicate with those around us. Although we can get by, not being able to easily communicate motivates us to learn Chinese even more.

9. Air quality?

Air quality is something I am still trying to understand. Some days it looks clear outside, but the air quality is not good. Other times it looks foggy, but the air quality is not that bad. I use an app called Air Matters to check the air quality every morning. Luckily, since we are on the ocean the air quality is typically much better than cities who are farther west. I have also been told that you can determine the air quality based on how many islands you can see off the coast and how clearly you can see them.

10. What are the differences in your home?

One difference in our home is that the water from the tap is not clean water, which means we have to order big jugs of water every few weeks for drinking water. Another difference is that when we arrived our apartment was completely furnished for us by the landlord. This has proven to be both a blessing and a frustration. There are some furniture items that we would like to remove but can’t because they are the landlord’s. Ovens are not very common here in China so instead we have an electric oven that sits on top of one of our countertops. Otherwise things at our apartment are pretty typical.

11. How far do you live from school?

Every morning we take a bus to and from school. The bus stop I go to gets picked up at 6:28 in the morning. If there isn’t much traffic we arrive at school around 7 am. It is fairly similar in the afternoons, however there is typically a lot more traffic in the afternoons.

12. How well do your students speak English?

For most of my students, English is not their first language. However, many of them speak English fairly well. About 5 of them go to ELL (English Language Learner) class during the day. A large majority of the class speaks Korean partially because we are so close to Korean. We have other languages spoken in our classroom, such as, Spanish, Slovakian, Dutch, French, Chinese, and Portuguese.

13. How is your class?

My class is great! I have 22 students in my third grade class. They are a fun and rowdy group who love to talk with their friends. For the most part we don’t really have any behavior issues, which I am very grateful for, just a lot of talking. They have been very patient with me as I adjust and slowly figure things out school-wise.

14. What is different? What is the same?

This is a tough question. There are so many similarities and so many differences. I guess, just by reading through this post you can get a sense of some of those similarities and differences. Even with all of those things, it has truly been an incredible experience so far. And it’s only been a month!

*Note, this is what I have noticed, experienced, and learned in only two weeks of living here. This is also my experiences in only one part of China, so things could be completely different other places.

So, long time to talk. As you can tell from the beginning of my post, I began this blog post two weeks into me living in China and am now finally finishing it after being here for a little over a month. As you can imagine, moving to a new country, starting a new job, and teaching for the first time ever can be a little bit overwhelming.

When I first started writing this post I finished typing it all up and went to save it but our internet went down. Because if that I lost most of what I typed and had to basically completely start over. After that, life got increasingly more busy as I began teaching fully and taking on more and more responsibilities. I have also been trying to begin planing more long term in the various subjects I teach. However, I am now finally finishing this post. Hopefully it won’t be quite as long of a wait until my next post.

xx Noelle

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