I am a very visual person and when I think of an event or life change I can normally picture it. I can honestly say I couldn’t picture my last week in China since I’ve arrived here. In fact, leaving China is beginning to feel the same way as when I left the U.S. I find myself very nervous, and unsure what to expect next. I have only been here for seven weeks which is fortunately enough time to not have completely adjusted to China’s culture, but I am comfortable with it which is what makes me the most nervous about leaving.
Although I am a little on edge about leaving I have been very busy here with helping prepare for the concert and prepare for next year. Mark and I also found out that we will be coming back to this school next year to work under a two year contract! This is why I am mainly nervous about leaving rather than sad. I know I will be back and I know that going home means there will be a lot of packing and work to do before we are able to make it back to China.
I thought I would dedicate this last post to interesting things about China that I have forgotten to post because there was simply too much going on at the time. It’s a little different, but I think you’ll like this one.
If you ever come travel make sure you know your bed situation. Lucky for me, Jenna and Lianne were able to contact me ahead of time and tell me how the beds here are hard. They kept asking if I wanted a mattress pad, and I all I could think of was that I can sleep on anything. I took their advice and they got one for me before I came. The first night I arrived after meeting them, I came into the room and cried. You knew that already. What you didn’t know was that I plopped on the bed and almost bruised myself because the bed was so hard. Don’t get me wrong, I actually sleep very well on this bed and my back feels amazing every day that I wake up. But if you can’t handle hard beds then you need to buy a pretty thick mattress pad!
Basically, if you’re at a big event whether it’s social or not, expect lots of talking and pictures. At our school we have both international staff and national staff. The national staff being from China, and the international staff being from, of course, any other country besides China. So I have been able to see this in different meetings, banquets, concerts and various other events throughout my time here. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just different.
This is definitely my favorite one. When Chinese learn music they learn it either through westernized notation (which is how Americans read music), or they learn the Chinese way. This way does not involved staves, note figures, or clefs. It shows the key of the music and time signature, and then has numbers. The number 1 equals the tonic note of the key. For example in the key of D major, 1=D, 2=E, 3=F#, and so on. Some symbols are similar so if there is a line under a number that means it’s an eighth note, if there are two lines it’s a sixteenth note. They will also put a dot next to the note to hold that note its whole value plus half that value. I also learned from our co-teacher, who is Chinese, that they don’t use westernized words like forte or crescendo. They have their own words in their own language to describe those things. For me that was very different because all of those terms were brought from Europe to America, so I was used to learning different languages to understand the music I was reading. I don’t know everything about their music theory, but I definitely plan on learning more when I move here!
You wouldn’t think that shopping in other countries would be much different from the states. Here there is no Walmart or Sam’s where you can buy whatever your heart desires. We do live right across the street from a store called Tesco that is very similar, but still doesn’t have certain things you would normally need like deodorant. Advertising is also different in shopping because they still have visual advertisements, but they will also use headsets that are hooked up to large speakers and they repeatedly yell things through them. It’s very interesting, and also helps me learn some Chinese!
I don’t know if this is entirely true, but I feel like smoking hasn’t been deemed unhealthy in China yet. It is still very common for them to smoke in their apartment, elevators, restaurants, and of course everywhere outside. It is definitely a prominent smell that I encounter every day. I feel like I’m used to it by now, but it was definitely an adjustment since most places in the U.S. don’t allow smoking anymore. Luckily there are places here that won’t allow it like the subways or speed trains.
Yes, they exist. I’ve really only encountered them in public places like subways, stores (if they even have a bathroom), or restaurants. I’ve seen well maintained ones, and I’ve seen ones that could a use a little Clorox from time to time. I’ve also accidently seen other people using them because locking the door is apparently not really a thing here. I learned to bring tissues with me everywhere I go, just in case.
Saying things in English that don’t really make sense, but mean something in Chinese:
Okay, so I actually encountered this twice in two of our music classes at school. The first time was when Rachel and I were working with the 3rd grade class on their recorder song. The song displayed a jazzy feel to it, and of course Rachel had to explain it to them. She ended up singing “Doo Dit Daah,” and all of a sudden the whole class started laughing. We both were so confused as to why it was so funny. Then Rachel asked why they were laughing so hard, and one of the girls said, “that means ‘to hit your stomach’ in Chinese!” Crazy right? The next time this happened was in high school choir when I was leading their warm-up. I chose one that went down the scale and used the words “Meh-Oh.” I demonstrated for the choir and they all started laughing, and I thought I did something wrong! I asked them why they were laughing and they said, “that means ‘I don’t have’ in Chinese!” I gave up after that. Just kidding! I thought it was really funny and I said, “Well I guess we’ll just have to sing about not having anything!”
Meeting New People:
Meeting people here is so much fun because they really appreciate it when you are a foreigner and you attempt to speak Chinese. There was actually a father and his 4th grade daughter I would see every day in the elevator on the way to school and I would speak some Chinese and they would speak some English to me. Even aside from that I would use my Chinese with multiple people like taxi drivers, when I would order street food, or I try to buy something specific in a store and I have to explain myself. It is so great to see the smile on their face when a foreigner speaks Chinese to them (even if they’re laughing at me because my Chinese is bad)!
This may shock most of you, but I actually feel much safer here than I do in the U.S. I have no problem going somewhere by myself or even getting into a taxi alone in China. Whereas if I was in the U.S. I would think twice about any of that. I’m not saying I feel extremely unsafe at home or anything like that because I actually live in a very safe town. Although if I lived in the city with 6,000,000 people in it in the U.S. like I do here it would be completely different.
Okay, so I really wanted to save this part for last because it has been my FAVORITE part! The food here is so great. There are things from street food, to street side restaurants that keep the door open, to nice restaurants. I love the variety, and actually feeling and seeing that I’m in a different country. I definitely have to say street food has been my favorite. My favorite kind is called bing. It consists of a wrap, which is kind of like a crepe, with an egg, cilantro, green onions, some kind of fruit thing, brown sauce, spicy sauce, and crunchy chip things. I know that’s not extremely specific, but it’s definitely my favorite. I also love to order milk tea, bou zi which is steamed bread that is stuffed with something like meat or vegetables. They look just like “dumplings” from Kung Fu Panda. My third favorite kind of food is called Ma La Tang. Ma is this numbing spice which is so awful when you bite into it because it literally numbs your mouth. The La just means “spicy,” and Tang means soup. It’s one of my top favorites because you get to choose what goes in it! I usually get ramen noodles with cilantro, pigeon eggs, and various meats and vegetables. Of course there is so much more that I love because I love food, but if I listed all of it this post would be at least 13 pages long!
Wuxi is referenced in Kung Fu Panda:
Wuxi is the city I have been student teaching in and it is actually referenced in Kung Fu Panda as the “Wuxi Finger Hold.” Just a fun fact! There is also a lot of Kung Fu Panda for advertisements which makes it a common thing to see every day.
I am definitely going to miss this place when I leave, but it is very relieving knowing that I will be back. I can’t wait to start this new adventure with Mark and see what is in store for us!