My first day was absolutely unforgiving. Like, pack my bags, fire up the taxi, I’m going back home–rough. Yeah.
I can laugh it off now because I’ve fully recovered, but it didn’t help that I missed my connecting flight in Beijing because of a six hour layover in Dallas. That part wasn’t even that bad. It was when I was stranded in Beijing airport unable to connect to WiFi that things took a nose dive. I couldn’t contact my employers to find out what to do next. I couldn’t book another ticket without internet. I couldn’t understand broken English from kind but incomprehensible Chinese speakers. Finally, after three hours of sweating through my shirt, a kind Chinese-American lady who recognized me from our Dallas flight asked if I needed help. God bless her. She lent me her phone to make arrangements with LNU-MSU. Whew! When I arrived in Dalian, it was 2 a.m. My body died in bed that night. I couldn’t bear anymore after the +24 hour journey.
Then, after reaching my new apartment, I woke up five hours later to meet with administration to give me a tour of Liaoning Normal University campus. It was in that tour of campus that I realized almost no one in this city, despite Dalian’s population of 7 million, could speak a lick of English except for our little pocket of like 30 international instructors and staff. The native Chinese not only couldn’t speak English but had no use for it in their daily lives. I was in a debilitating state of helplessness. All I knew how to say was Nǐ hǎo (hello). Nothing else. Not “good bye.” Not “thank you.” Not “how much.” Not “someone shoot my face, please.”
Then, it got exponentially easier…
There’s something about allowing the emotional and physical stress of long flights and culture shock wreaking havoc on your body to help you acclimate. Let it run its course. Let the bad feelings and experiences wash over your body, your mind, and totally accept it. Resist aversion. Cry it out–if need be–but after about a day or two, your body should organically find its homeostasis. I found my balance shortly after the first day. I regained a relatively stable state of equilibrium between my new beautiful Chinese life and accepting that I had lots to learn of the language and culture. As I mentioned in my last post, I knew China would be a larger culture shock than UAE was. I had years to ask Tareq about the Middle East but didn’t have an equivalent person for China.
You know what that means? All my favorite photos I’ve taken over the past couple weeks will be shared in this post. Be prepared. You will be showered.
Connecting with nature & expats
After one week in China, I still didn’t feel quite settled into my apartment. I debated taking on a expat hiking trip to a nearby mountain, especially because it was the day before I started teaching. BUT, I know myself and know how much nature helps me zen out. I’m thankful I did this!
This mountain overlooks both sides of the peninsula.
I met fellow expats from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Britain, Russia, Palestine, America, Colombia, and Australia on this hike. I had so much fun that I’ve already scheduled another outdoor adventure for this Sunday.
I’m surrounded by such brilliant minds here. Not to mention, our faculty represent 13 different countries, which offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about their cultures.
I teach five classes of Introduction to College Composition. Lesson planning only one class sure is nice! I’m lucky that my administrators capped my classes at 20 students. Boy, that makes all the difference. So, 300 freshmen students are shared between me and two other first-year English faculty.
Campus is green, lush, and manicured. It’s so large that we have parks in the middle of our campus. One of the parks holds early morning tai chi!
Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, stands tall, watching over students who walk by.
This photo is super fresh. I snapped it just this morning during my students’ writing spree of their letters of introduction. If you were to observe the class, you’d notice how quiet, timid, and respectful they are. They’re hardworking and humble. Most of them underestimate their abilities and not just with English but with most subjects. They will also be the first to tell you that their pronunciation and grammar suffers and that they need to “enlarge their vocabulary.” Interesting word choice. I’m not sure why so many use the verb “enlarge,” but it must be a literal Chinese translation. I love their spirits!
Navigating the city of Dalian
My mentor, Woody, who I adore so much, showed me how to navigate the subway. I was absolutely terrified of the subway. That’s something I never got accustomed to when living in rural Missouri and even in the Middle East. Now? I wouldn’t go anywhere without taking the subway. It’s SO CHEAP. If somewhere is over a forty minute walk, I just take the subway. Boom. Arrived.
This was not good. I so badly wanted to enjoy this, but just no. I couldn’t wrap my head around cold noodles in cold broth with cucumbers, quail eggs, and tomatoes floating around. Had it been hot, I bet I could’ve finished it. Oh, and quail eggs? I’m a fan of those.
This Chinese pastry is dense and filling. It was filled with five types of nuts and seeds. Was it good? Absolutely. I’d definitely go for another.
Other moon cakes are filled with lotus seed or red beans. RED BEANS ARE SWEETS HERE. Watch out, westerners. You think that’s chocolate? Oh, no sir. That delicious-looking brown filling is sweetened red beans. Mmmm, tried one and decided it’s not really something I could get behind. It tasted exactly like what you’d imagine: red beans and sugar. It wasn’t yummy.
I’m a convenient 5 minute walk from LNU campus. In fact, if you look closely, you can spot LNU’s soccer field and rubberized track at the bottom left. That’s my campus–just to give you an idea how close my apartment is. It’s wonderful not having to worry about driving. Everything you need is nearby. Malls galore. Open air markets. Gyms. Restaurants. Seaside beaches.
This is probably more adorable than odd, but old Chinese ladies run the Eastern world. These old ladies will be the first to walk across an insanely busy intersection–yet all cars will come screeching to a halt to wait on them to shuffle across–and it blows my mind. These old ladies will go foraging for dandelions in the ditches and overgrown areas of the city. These old ladies will get aggressive over your recycling. Just yesterday I was taking trash and recycling from my apartment to throw out, and an old lady stopped me outside my apartment and took both of my bags. I tried to explain one is trash, that she won’t find recycling in there. She didn’t care. She didn’t understand. She needed the extra cash.
Don’t get fussy with the old Chinese ladies. Let them do what they want.
I hope you enjoyed this update. Let me know if you’d like me to write about something in particular about China. One thing I’m doing this Sunday is visiting “Panjin Red Beach.” If you can spare five seconds, look up this red beach. IT. WILL. BLOW. YOUR. MIND. I will, of course, take my GoPro to this trip and report back.