A ten hour flight is amazingly long! But during such a flight interesting things happen. About an hour before landing I had to fill in an arrival form for the customs control and as I was writing the Chinese couple next to me was amazed that I am left handed.
And later when I was putting my face on the women around me were watching me carefully, examining every move I made, to “learn” they said. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable but at the same time like an expert in make up (I can tell you I’m not).
The plane landed right on time and going through customs wasn’t the hassle I expected it to be, every one was very friendly and it all went swiftly.
Finally entering Chinese territory a lot of people where standing around waiting for arrivals with name cards. There was Osmond, one of my colleagues who came to pick me up, standing in the crowd. Osmond is a charming, enthusiastic and helpful young fellow with a degree in English Education who works with the internationals and international affairs of the school, who (to my pleasant surprise) smokes like a chimney.
With a taxi bus we went to my temporary apartment where I took a shower and he entertained himself while waiting for me with the PSP (it’s annoying how good he is at Tekken and he beats me every time).
After I had freshened up we went for lunch after which we looked for apartments. We also went by the school to get a phone for me and some credit.
I was happy to find out, while I was on the internet at the school, that Andy has been placed in Shanghai and that I can access my blog! My biggest and second biggest fair disappeared just as fast I was covered with sweat again after my shower earlier today (which was extraordinary fast!).
Everything seems to go so very smooth that I have fear for Murphy’s Law now.
Then again one can not look into the future…
Day two (19/08)
Yesterday I met the son of my landlady, Lu, he speaks a bit English and when I was writing down some words he taught me he too was amazed that I’m left handed. I told him about the incident on the plane and he explained that the Chinese believe that people who are left handed are special and smart! So to all left handed people out there: here you go!
I went into the centre with Osmond today. It took two buses to get there and thankfully everyone is very helpful with giving directions, otherwise I would have probably ended up in Beijing or where ever.
Shanghai is very crowded (according to recent count there are more than 20 million people living in the city and it’s outskirts) and the traffic is so hectic that I’m amazed not having witnessed an accident. Some people completely ignore road directions and laws, while others do and everyone likes the sound of their horns.
While walking though the thick crowds I noticed that (even though there are a lot of tourists here) I’m a novelty. People are staring and take pictures of me, while sales people come up to me wanting to sell all sorts of things that I don’t need. It’s funny but at the same time it makes me feel like the alien I am.
Slowly I’m getting used to the heat, but I take every chance I can get to go inside a shop or office to enjoy the air-conditioning. Going outside means getting soaked with sweat within five minutes. All that sweat is making my skin itchy and my clothes smelly, I’ll have to figure out how to work my washing machine quickly! The fan Cyrrile gave me before I left has been to great use already (thanks lieverd)!
The currency is giving me some trouble because everything is very cheap here so I want to buy everything that catches my eye, but I have to remember I’m living here now and that I need to save some money for travelling and emergencies too.
The language is giving me a very hard time, I’m learning new words and sentences every day, but I keep forgetting them or I keep twisting them around and by doing so I say completely different things.
It’s a lot of fun learning though, because for every word Osmond teaches me he wants me to teach him a Dutch word (and of course I’m teaching him awe full things as well, to my delight). The downside of this is that he is learning much faster than I, he has a nack for languages.
The best sentence I learned today is: “wo xi huan zhe ge”, which means “I like this” (wo = I, xi huan = like, zhe ge = this).
So now I can say: “wo xi huan Shanghai!”
What also gave me great pleasure today was ruining Osmond’s taste for KFC and McDonald by telling him about the chickens and cows! Returning the favour he told me about monkey brains and cats…
This morning I talked with Andy on the phone, which was lovely, he told me he has been placed at a school here in Shanghai, about 40 km away (for Chinese standards this is very close by) and he will be here in ten days.
I hope that I’ll have my own apartment at the end of the month so I can get internet. I don’t mind so much not having it, but I want to talk with mom and dad and everyone else on skipe.
Calling home hasn’t worked on my China cell yet and calling to Holland on my own phone costs me 2,50 Euro per minute (!).
The apartment I’m in now is comfortable, with air-conditioning, shops and bus stops around the corner and the school within a ten minutes walk.
I have to admit I don’t feel like I’m in China, half way around the world. I miss Nederland and everyone back home, but it doesn’t feel like everything is very far away. Maybe that’s still to come, maybe it’s because I didn’t have a clear idea of how it would be here and maybe it hasn’t sunken in that I am actually in China.
Day three (20/08)
I wanted to go out, find a bench and draw today, but instead I’m sentenced to a day at home close to the toilet for I have been struck by a severe case of “yuk!” (maybe I ate something wrong or accidentally had a sip of the tap water, or its the heat?).
I did manage to do some grocery shopping and in my rush I forgot there is a pharmacy around the corner of the supermarket.
I wonder if I could’ve made clear what I need and if I would’ve gotten what I wanted instead of something highly exotic. I’ll give it a try later today, for now I’ll have to entertain myself with writing and going through my lesson plans and maybe adding to the ones I have.
I’m very happy that I found some universal plugs yesterday, for my laptop is very entertaining. And air-conditioning is the best human invention ever!
Also I’m happy that I brought some books and that sometimes there are American movies on tv.
Although I try to watch Chinese television, to get a feel for the language, it gets a bit boring after a while since I don’t understand what they’re talking about.
The things I miss at the moment are tampons, hair spray and brown bread.
Day four (I should come up with more imaginative titles! (21/08)
I feel a lot better today although I still haven’t eaten much. But I went to the supermarket today and bought a shit-load of fruit, bananas, grapes (which strangely enough taste like sweet apples, a really weird experience since I was so sure to be eating grapes) and some kind of fruit that looks like a mango but isn’t a mango. I just need some time to get used to the food here, which is either sweet or spicy and often soft and greasy (not in a gross way though).
It was extremely hot today so I mostly stayed indoors. My time I put to good use by re-writing my lesson plans and adding some new (I forgot how much I secretly enjoy doing this!). I almost have the whole Art & Design year planned for form one, two and three! This is good since they want me to teach English as well and this will take all my preparatory time once school starts…
A day in town with my neighbour (22/08)
Today I went into town with my neighbour Lu and I just got home, I don’t think I’ve ever walked as much as today (except for the duinenmars three times and the city per city twice but that’s different) and my legs feel as if they’re about to fall off (maybe that would be for the better since then they would stop bothering me)! We left at one o’clock and it’s now half past seven. We took two subways and a bus to get there, with the plan of finding the game Mah Jong, in and out of shops but no board games anywhere!
On the bus Lu tried to teach me to count in Chinese to everyone’s entertainment and I can hardly remember how to count to five! I do remember what bus and green tea is although I’m not sure how to spell it…
Anyway, I did find a cute little orange bag (my backpack is just too big for every day use) and a little purse, so I can leave my wallet at home when I go out (this way I can’t lose it or get tempted to buy everything I see: small purse = little money = less spending! I felt very smart when I thought that up haha). We ate some lovely dumplings at Yu Garden, not sweet or spicy, just right!
Again people wanted to take pictures with me, its still funny.
On the way home we went to a “real” supermarket, as Lu called it… I know the French supermarkets and I know they’re big, but the Chinese supermarket is something entirely different! It’s almost a city in itself and they have everything, really everything!
From television sets to clothes, from fruits to herbal medicine, from entire living room sets to school supplies, they have it!
It felt like shopping heaven and wallet hell at the same time, plus it was very busy and of course everything is in Chinese so of most things (especially foods) I had no clue what it was. I did find some hairspray and deodorant, which I forgot to bring. I was starting to get used to my own smell and even appreciate it, but there is a limit on what I can take (by the way, I found out my right armpit smells worse than my left, weird…)!
On the way to the supermarket we got a bit lost and when we did find a bus that would get us in the general direction we had to go, it wouldn’t come so we took a cab to the subway station (a distance too far to walk). The cab was a blessing since the air-conditioning was set on “snowstorm”. The cab driver was very curious about me (as a lot of the people) and wanted to know where I was from and what my job was, according to him all the teachers (no matter where they’re from, what they teach or where they teach) are rich… Well rich in ideology maybe.
A subway and a bus then took us to the supermarket and from there we took yet another bus to our neighbourhood.
All the apartment blocks are surrounded by low walls with an entrance gate, these blocks are called neighbourhoods. Lu told me that the closer the neighbourhoods are to a subway or train station the more expensive they are. Maybe that is because everything is far away and having the convenience of a station near your house is very important.
Now, after a shower and some more fruit (and cigarettes of course) I feel much more alive!
I still don’t feel like being half way around the world, I actually feel quite at home even though I miss Nederland, life is good here. Some times I feel a bit lonely or bored, but that will change once school starts. I’m very curious about how that will go and I hope that the lesson plans I’ve written are okay. I have no clue what I can expect form these kids because I don’t really know what level of art classed they have had. Oh well, we’ll see and I can always make changes!
No sleep (23/08)
I’ve been having trouble sleeping.
The first two nights here where fine, despite the jet-lag, but falling asleep has become more difficult as the days pass and it’s driving me insane. I twist and turn on the hard mattress while the heat is making me sweat. I get up several times for a cigarette and some water, until I finally drift away to wake up late in the morning.
I know it’s not the mattress or the heat that is keeping me awake. Well, initially it’s this but then, because I lay awake, my thoughts start wandering and find the deepest and darkest corners of my mind to dig up everything that worries or frightens me.
Like the unfamiliar sounds of the building. Sometimes I hear something and I’ll think
“what if it’s a burglar?” and then I’m afraid someone is in my house and from there I naturally go to monsters under my bed, all very silly.
My usual tricks to help me sleep (see “endless list of insomnia”) aren’t as effective as they normally are. Maybe I should just turn on my alarm and get up early to force myself into a healthy rhythm…
Medical circus and apartments (24/08)
All night I’ve been worried about the medical check I have to do for my visa application. Somehow I never trust doctors, not here and not in Nederland, I don’t even fully trust my huisarts!
Osmond told me that I wasn’t allowed to eat anything after eight o’clock in the morning, so I set my alarm already knowing I wouldn’t get up anyway. Fortunately one of my neighbours felt like listening to music absurdly loud, so I got up (very much against my will).
The appointment was at one o’clock and what ever I had expected it wasn’t this circus I suddenly found myself in!
First off, there is a special clinic where they only do body checks, what a great idea!
I had to fill in forms first and then I had to go get stamps (they love those things here). After paying I was led to an office where I had to put on one of those hospital shirts (I could leave on my pants) and they checked my hight and weight (I’ve shrunk!!! 1,73 cm, and I lost weight… 58 Kilo oh dear, where did I leave that bag of Lays-spicy-fish-soup-flavour crisps?). Then to the next office where my eyes, ears and nose where checked, the next office for my blood pressure, allergies, lungs and gynaecology (which consisted of feeling my stomach..?), the next for my blood, the next for an cardiogram, the next for an X-ray…. And then to the next office to hand in my form for more stamps and it was done! It went very fast and efficient and it reminded me of a fox hunt game, where you have to be the fasted to have collected everything to win… (I wonder how I did?)
Afterwards my head was spinning, that is how fast it went!
Osmond red my form and said everything looked good according to the doctors.
By now I was starving (because half a banana at half past eight isn’t quite enough to sustain me till two in the afternoon), so we went to a dumpling restaurant. Dumpling soup rulezzzz!
We then got me a Chinese cell number and went to look for apartments.
I can text outside of China and receive calls but I can’t call Nederland unless blablabla etc. (I’ll send you guys a mail asap)
The fist apartment was very nice with new furniture and a fresh paint job! The second was dinshy and old (all in all yuk!)… So I’m going for the first! It’s in a nice neighbourhood around the corner from the school (still a fifteen minute walk from door to door though). I’ll probably be moving there on the 26th this month, so you guys can expect pictures and the address soon!
I don’t think that I’ll get private internet since I’ll be at school most of my time so it’s cheaper to just do my emails and such from there.
Tomorrow will be my last day of the summer vacation and I’m looking forward to going back to work! I’m also very curious! I start my day at eight in the morning and finish at half past four. I wonder how I will fill my days since I only have 16 lesson hours (in Nederland I had 22 or so). The good thing about this arrangement is that I’ll do all my preparatory work and marking at school, so after work I’m really done. Sometimes I used to do marking till twelve at night because I would put it off till the last possible moment, now that can’t happen, no more homework!
2971 that’s the number of words up to now, thought you might want to know…
Blueberry flavour and thunderstorms (25/08)
When I went to buy cigarettes at the supermarket I also wanted to get some snacks.
Last time I bought crisps I was very happy that they have Lays crisps here and I bought the blue bag, which in Nederland is paprika flavour… Here it’s spicy fish soup flavour I found out later, it tasted fine but with a bit of a fishy after taste.
So this time I paid extra attention to the flavours which are conveniently also written in English on the package. There is no paprika flavour, but they do have a wide range of other flavours, such as: Blueberry, Lemon tea, Italian red meat, Cucumber and some other flavours I forgot about. I decided to go with Tuc cookies and I hope it’s not some fruit that I’ll find once I open the pack…
I will be trying those Blueberry crisps though, just out of curiosity, but for now I’ll stick with snacks I know.
Another thing, that I find very cool about food here, is that when you go to a restaurant and you don’t finish your meal you take it home! Wasting food here is just not done. They should do that in Nederland too, wouldn’t it be so much better and more worth your money?
Also, you can buy toilet paper in single package here, snugly wrapped in it’s own plastic, a single toilet paper roll for a single person household! Brilliant!
Around four o’clock it started to thunder, then lightning came down followed by rain,
buckets of it. The rain cleaned the misty world, while the scent of wet dust found my ten story apartment through the open windows. Colliding pressure fields produced unearthly thunder calling for the end of the world it seemed, the loudest I’ve ever heard, while lightning split open the grey sky.
What an amazing sight!
As soon as the drops began to fall the people in the streets started running for shelter, probably already knowing what was to come.
The day that I arrived, exactly a week ago at around this time, it rained and thundered like this. It looks like these thunderstorms occur every week, like clockwork.
The whole week the pressure rises until … it rains!
First day of school (26/08)
I got up at seven o’clock this morning to get ready for my first day of school. I had already decided what to wear, but this morning I kept changing my outfit because my clothes have become too big with my weight loss (eventually I did wear the first out fit thought, how typical).
I arrived half an hour early, which gave me the opportunity to observe the student’s morning exercise, unfortunately I didn’t have the change to take some pictures for you guys.
Meeting my colleagues was great! There are people here from all over the world; Australia, Canada, USA, Ireland, UK and so on. There where speeches, games, introductions and lunch.
Tonight I’m joining some of my colleagues for a quiz night in the Southern Belle, which I’m looking forward to very much, I could most definitely use a beer by now (!) and a night out will lift my spirits.
I hoped to have had some internet excess today, but I don’t have the correct codes yet, hopefully tomorrow (so I can finally put all this on my blog and check my emails).
Okay, it’s been a while, so let me see if I can recap the last days.
Quiz night was brilliant! Christa (one of my colleagues) had text me the address of the American pub, the Southern Belle, in Chinese characters so I could show it to the cabdriver. At half past seven I left my apartment and as soon as I set a foot out the door it started to rain. Finding a taxi was quite easy, I showed the driver the text message and he took out a magnifying glass to read it (oh dear….). The rain came down as a waterfall by now and obstructed the view… It’s amazing we didn’t have an accident! The cab brought me approximately where I had to go, but fortunately there where some teenagers to could send me in the right direction. Having finally found the place I was soaking wet! Only one of my colleagues was there, Kirk, with one of his friends. More people joined our quiz team later on. The very cool thing about an American pub is that they have cheese and Stella beer! I never thought I’d miss cheese so much and hadn’t realised I did so until I ate that (first) tortilla with cheese and chicken!
It was so nice to be out again, especially because everyone spoke English (it’s nice to make jokes that people understand). Even better we won the quiz! Price: a bottle of whiskey.
At about twelve o’clock Kirk set me up with a cab, both a bit tipsy at this point.
I arrived home safely (it didn’t rain and I don’t think this driver needed glasses).
The next morning I got up to go to work, it was way too early!!!
Everyone had to go to the school meeting to be introduced, after which we (the foreign teachers) left to have our own meetings and orientations.
I went on the internet for a minute, there wasn’t much time, to check my emails (78 of which only 17 where actually not spam!) and blog. If everything goes just right I’ll have internet on my laptop (at work only) on Monday, so fingers crossed!
Being back at work makes me feel so much better! It’s nice to connect with the people and to do something instead of being bored and feeling cut off from everything. I have to admit I felt lonely in the past week. Not doing anything and the heat made it almost impossible for me to sleep which effected my mood gravely. And being alone while in a bad mood is not really helping things!
Now it’s Saturday and (again if everything goes just right) I’ll see Andy today…
Another thing that has to go just right is my new apartment. I have to pay a few months in advance and getting the money has been a bit troublesome, since I was stupid enough to forget to transfer all the money from my savings account to my pay account, plus I can only withdraw 3000 yuan a day…
Me and Osmond are going to sort it out on Monday and then I’ll be able to move in!!! It’ll be nice to have my own apartment. I have been here for ten days now and I haven’t even unpacked my suitcase, haha!