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4 posts categorized "*Traveling around China "

Time to Fly

It's almost time for me to pack up and head home, so with that in mind I've reflected on my packing from the beginning of the year and I have a few recommendations for future teachers! Next week I will write my final blog post about this year in China, but for now, consider these hints, tips, and suggestions about packing.

  1. TISSUES - of course you can buy these anywhere once you arrive, but it's smart to have at least one pack in your purse or bag because you'll use them everywhere you go... restrooms, restaurants, even to wipe your sweat in the summer heat.
  2. A solid pair of walking shoes - without a car you'll be walking a lot and it can be difficult to find the right size, especially if your size lies outside the average.
  3. An umbrella, especially in Nanchang... I cannot emphasize this enough! I have bought and broken three umbrellas during my time here: bring a strong one!
  4. Clothes that you like - don’t be worried about standing out (as a foreigner in China you will stand out no matter what you do)! Multiple pairs of pants, a balance of work and leisure clothes... A multi-seasonal jacket is also highly recommended. Always a good idea when you’re traveling - it’s quite cold in the winter and quite hot in the summer. Be prepared for all kinds of weather and a range of temperatures.
  5. Smartphone. It seems like everyone these days has a smartphone, but if you don't - invest! APPs like WeChat are your connection to everything in China - messaging, paying, and several other things are done using a smartphone. It's much more convenient to have one!
  6. Headphones - first of all, they're useful for the long-as-can-be plane ride... additionally they're good for walking around campus or the city, getting work done at a cafe, etc. (I'm using mine right now.)
  7. Medications. Obviously you should bring any prescription medication with you, but even basic products like ibuprofen, allergy medicine, and cold medicine are good to have with you. Brands here are different, and if you're not familiar with them or the Chinese characters it can be frustrating to find what you need. If there's something that you prefer a particular brand for (deodorant, contact solution, etc.) bring it!
  8. Solid backpack. Definitely. Even as a teacher you will use it every day. You can not only carry your class materials more easily, but you can also use it to carry things from the grocery store, to hold your umbrella, and to more conveniently go about your daily life.
  9. Something to make you feel at home - a stuffed animal, a book, whatever you prefer! It's a big adjustment, so you might need something that reminds you of home every once in awhile.
  10. A willingness to learn and adapt. Join in cultural activities, learn about Chinese festivals, make an attempt to learn the language if you haven’t already - China has so much to offer, especially to someone completely unfamiliar with this country! I came here with very limited knowledge about what I was getting myself into, and I’m coming out the other side with so much more than I ever could have imagined!

People here are so friendly and willing to help when you need something, but it's important to meet them halfway. Pack thoughtfully and consider that a move to China is a big change (especially coming from a western country). I highly recommend this experience and implore you to pack your best attitude if you plan to teach here in the future!

 

A Family Visit

Sometimes I forget that I haven’t lived in China my whole life. I know this sounds silly because, of course, I’ve only been in China since October, but having my grandparents and their two friends in Nanchang for a few days threw into sharp relief just how much I have assimilated to life here in that short time.

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For instance, I did not even consider that my visitors would be unable to use chopsticks effectively. Nor did I realize that I had become accustomed to the stark language barrier. People in China don’t speak English. They speak Chinese – they all learn Mandarin, but usually they speak the dialect of their own province or city. My students speak English because they are English and translation majors currently attending college. Occasionally there is a hotel manager with English skills, or a cashier at a Western brand store that can use a little English to help you, but mostly people speak Chinese and you have to do your best to communicate when you want or need something. For me, that means learning key words and phrases during my time here, but for my grandparents it meant using body language and hoping for the best (and then relying on me and my poor Chinese skills to translate… yeah, good luck with that).

Considering the rainy weather, the language barrier, and the sudden realization that I would be subjected to a multitude of questions that I didn’t have the answer to, we had quite a good time! We visited Tengwang Pavilion across the river, which I had not previously been to. It is one of the famous sites of Nanchang, and it’s large and beautiful! The only fun fact I knew before visiting is that the structure has been rebuilt several times, so I was able to learn a lot more that day. The site of Tengwang Pavilion includes the pavilion itself filled with artifacts and information, the gardens surrounding the many structures, and a superb view of the river (on a sunnier day). We also visited the Bayi Memorial museum during the weekend, which memorializes the Nanchang Uprising led by the Chinese Communist Party on August 1, 1927. I have now been there three times, but this time I had my trusty colleague present to provide additional information, and four extra Americans to offer their comments. I learn something new every time I go, so I expect to visit at least once more before I leave this city!

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In addition to learning a bit of Chinese history during our adventures, my grandparents learned more about Chinese people, especially those who live in a smaller (hah!) city like this one and who rarely see foreigners… they want lots of pictures! For the most part I’ve gotten used to strangers approaching me on the street asking for a selfie, but it was a new experience for my four companions. It was kind of nice to deflect the attention to other people for once. When they visited my classrooms the students attempted to be a bit more discreet, but there were still a handful that approached for photos at the end of class.

It was a great opportunity for my students and my four American companions to be able to meet each other. The students listened to four voices that differ from my own, and benefitted from it in many ways. Not only did they listen to these voices, but they asked questions about daily life in America and my grandparents’ hobbies. In return, my grandparents asked a few questions of their own about the students’ daily lives and activities here in China. We were able to generate some good discussions, and I was very proud of my students who spoke confidently and clearly in a new situation. We’re all hoping that my grandparents and their friends are enjoying the rest of their travels through China. Meanwhile, the students are improving daily!

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Making New Friends

I've settled into my exciting life in China and it's been nothing but nonstop fun and adventure. 

Whenever I need a break from the daily escapades, I retreat to a cozy coffee shop on campus. This coffee shop is special because I made a great friend here. His name is 猫 and he enjoys napping and talking about Chinese culture. Pictured below is a selfie 猫 and me took together. 

Happy Friday! 

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The Road to Shanghai

The adventure for all the new China Teachers started in Shanghai.

I imagined the days spent here would give me the chance to relax, acclimate to a new country, and get to know other new teachers. This was not entirely true. Albeit, I did learn valuable skills that I could use while in China.  Such as crossing the street, in China it's more like playing frogger. Cars will drive uncomfortably close to you and somehow manage to avoid collision. Truly impressive and equally terrifying! 

Thankfully our group survived Shanghai due to the efforts of our fearless leader, Kelvin. He guided us on a wonderful Shanghai experience. One of the more notable sights was Shanghai Tower (2nd tallest building in the world). I highly recommend the views.  

 

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