I am finally in China!!! It was a bit of a painful process to get here and now it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I got here.
I met the other teacher (Denise) at my school in Vancouver, since she went through the same problems I did so it was great because we did manage to get to sit beside each other for the flights so I had someone with me which was pretty awesome.
We land in Beijing from Vancouver and have a four hour layover before heading to Nanning. First thing we notice is the smog is real and quite incredible. It reminded me of when we have really bad forest fires around Vernon and the smoke sits in the valley, except it’s that way all the time. The second thing we notice is the heat. We step off the plane into the tunnel and the heat hits us like a wall. It was amazing. It was 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity is overwhelming.
Anyways, we get off the plane and start trying to get through customs. I pick the wrong line and get the guy who takes forever sending people through. It takes almost an hour to get through customs. Then we have to take a ten minute train ride to get to the part of the airport to pass through security for our transfer. Once we pass through security, then we have to take a five minute bus ride back to an area we passed on the train to get to our gate. Altogether it took us two hours from landing in Beijing to getting to our transfer gate, so the four hours was whittled away pretty quickly. We both had a bit of a snooze in the Beijing airport before our flight, which was the most sleep either of us got during our travel day.
Our flight is forty minutes delayed but we get to Nanning and there are two guys from the school waiting for us to take us to our hotel. The first thing I notice is that driving in China is absolutely nuts compared to Canada. There are very little rules, and basically whatever vehicle is further ahead has right of way. Denise has travelled in Asia before, so a few days later I asked her what the rules for pedestrians were, and she said “Don’t get hit.” Alrighty then. First thing I thought of after she said that was “If you can dodge a car, you can dodge a ball.” Thanks Patches. Needless to say I have zero intentions of driving here, and have had even the desire to bike here all but drilled out of me, because I think the anxiety of trying to bike in traffic here would be too much for me. Plus public transit costs the equivalent of $.20 per bus so I’m not exactly breaking the bank to use transit.
We get to our hotel at about 10pm, and man the school is looking after us. Very nice hotel, nice sized rooms, and right in the downtown area of Nanning. We’re also told that our principal, Chris is taking us to lunch the nice day before our orientation. We go to bed and just as I’m drifting off to sleep I hear a knock at my door. Keinan, the Vice Principal is at the door to say hi. Great guy, but I probably wasn’t the nicest to him then, because I was a little perturbed and tired. Finally get off to sleep, although a very scattered and poor one at that. Slept for two or three hours at a time so I wasn’t overly well rested the next day.
The next day (Saturday) the school has one of the guys that picked us up the day before, pick us up again and take us to the restaurant. Keinan, Chris (Our Principal for the three campuses), Denise and I have a great lunch and then we head upstairs to meet the other teachers from the other two campuses. We are a pretty spread out groups with a few from BC, and then teachers from the maritimes and everywhere in between. I am definitely the most inexperienced of the teachers here but they are a great group and have been extremely helpful when I’ve needed it.
We have our orientation and some discussion in our subject groups before we go to dinner at a restaurant owned by the man who also owns our school. I get my first introduction to Baijo (I think that’s how you spell it.) It’s an alcohol that is a shot and it is a tough one. I think they said it’s 60% alcohol. I just kept thinking that the shots have to get easier, but they never do. We also get served budwesier (lol) and some absolutely incredible food. I got my first time trying Goose Liver, which was actually quite tasty. So goose liver was my first real adventurous food. On a side note, I absolutely love the food here. Some of it is a little weird, and they don’t take nearly the care in presenting it that is taken in North America but it is awesome. You are often fighting with bones and the like because they don’t really care about cutting around it, but it’s a minor inconvenience. The food is well cooked, tons of meat and rice, and tons of vegetables. If you don’t like spicy food, you’re going to have a tough time though, but the spiciness has been fabulous. Everything pretty much has a kick to it.
The next day (Sunday) we cab downtown with one of the people from the school (Jerry) and he takes us to the biggest mall in Nanning. It felt pretty much like a mall at home other than the fact it had six levels, and a freaking skating rink in the middle of it! It’s 38 degrees outside, and people are skating on the fifth floor of a shopping mall. All the brands were the same, except the brands I wouldn’t usually shop at in Canada. Armani, Swarovski etc, very high end brands. There were also the Gap, H&M and I think three Starbucks in the mall so those are okay. We then have lunch then head back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to catch the bullet train from Nanning to Liuzhou (pronounced leo-jo). The Chinese service industry is quite interesting because it’s not really focused on the ass kissing like the Canadian one is, but they refuse to allow you to do anything. It was really funny because the front desk people at our hotel also serve as the bellhops, and I’m pretty sure my luggage weighed more than the woman trying to get it onto the bell cart, but she managed to get it on there.
We get to the train station and holy crap, it’s a freaking madhouse. It’s like going through security at the airport, except nobody lines up, so you have force your way into line, you don’t take anything out of your bags as you pass security but do put them through a scanner, and they are pushing you through incredible quickly. I may not mind it as much when I don’t have 130lbs worth of luggage with me when I try to do it. It’s also close to 40 degrees again, and incredibly humid. I don’t mind when Vernon hits 38 degrees but the humidity here just kicks the crap out of you. You approach a doorway to outside and are basically in a full out sweat. There is no deciding, “eh I probably don’t need a shower today.” It’s trying to decided, “Was my two showers today enough? Probably not, I probably do need a third.”
So we catch the bullet train in to Liuzhou and then get picked up at the Train Station by two employees of the school. Seven (that’s his chosen English name) is the guy I ride with and Denise rides with Shannon. Seven is probably three or four inches shorter than me, and pretty slim, but just a bundle of energy, and pretty funny. He’s also a go-to for us at the school to get things done.
We get to where we are living and they show us our rooms. My room was bigger than advertised. I am actually just in a hotel room, but it’s a pretty significant size with room for a desk, table and couch and bed area. The school also provided a nice wardrobe for clothing storage and a small washing machine. It will be quite comfy once I get organized (which will probably only take 6 months)
That night (Sunday) we got to dinner with Seven and Shannon and her husband. Another fantastic meal. It pretty much seems to be expected that you have beer and wine at every meal here. This time our beer turns out to be Pabst Blue Ribbon, which I don’t think has ever tasted so good. (Side Question: Can a beer taste bad when it’s 40 degrees?). I also tried my second weird food: Pig’s hoof. I can’t say I was a big fan of it, as it was kind of rubbery and tough, but I can now say I’ve tried pig’s hoof. They show us around a bit, including the supermarket. Denise and I head back to our respective apartments as neither of us have really slept well to this point. Still neither of us are able to sleep passed 6 or 7am.
Now to Monday, which mercifully was a holiday here, Denise and I go to Pizza hut for lunch with Seven and Belinda (she teaches English, but in the Chinese part of the high school.) Belinda loves having us there because her husband doesn’t like pizza (huh?) so she’s happy to have some pizza buddies. As much as I’m loving the food here, pizza was fabulous. They show us around a little more and then we head back to the apartment. We were also informed the school had set up for us to go for dinner at the house of one of our students. We had some confusion about the time this was happening, (we thought it was at 7, they were there at 5:30.) so I was in my apartment just going to have a quick nap when there’s a knock at my door. Even in Liuzhou it’s still close to 40 degrees with huge humidity everyday so when I’m in my apartment, even with air conditioning, I am usually wearing very minimal clothing. I scramble to throw some pants on, not worrying about a shirt and my future student is at the door telling me they’re there to pick us up (crap). I am in the 18th floor of the building and Denise is on the 12th, but they have different elevators that service the 13th floor and above, and 12th and below. I go down to the lobby and then up the elevator to Denise’s apartment and sure enough, no answer (double crap). Denise had gone for some groceries so we found her about ten minutes later, she went and quickly changed and then we headed for dinner.
This was the mid-autumn festival which our student informs us is basically like our Thanksgiving, and is their second biggest holiday after Chinese New Year. I felt like a bit of a jerk because we’re late for a holiday dinner, when it’s pretty humbling in the first place for them to invite us for dinner on a pretty special day for them. We get there and the food is amazing. Our student’s grandmother had cooked, and there were probably eight different meat dishes and then three or four dishes of vegetables. It could have fed a small army. It was all immaculate, and they had a really nice Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and German beer for us as well. I kind of laughed at that, drinking an Australian wine and a German beer in China. We stayed for about an hour and a half, with our student translating both ways and then his parents toured us around the city for about twenty minutes before we went back to our apartment.
Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever had that easy of a time filling 2000 words. It’s been a pretty amazing time so far and that’s all before I even started teaching. Looking back at the first couple days, I can’t believe how much we actually did in that time here. I will write a post about my first week once I am finished it. The biggest surprise for me so far, is I haven’t really felt all that culture shocked. There’s definitely noticeable differences and maybe it’s just that I’m pretty flexible but I haven’t felt too out of my element, other than the fact I can’t speak the language or read it. The school has been fabulous so far and I’m having a great time right now.
I miss all of you like crazy, and wish you could all be here experiencing this with me. Tata for now.