Orientation to the Real World

The last day of orientation we went and hiked up part of a mountain to get to a temple. The temple was amazing. It was huge and the colors were so vivid. It was quite the hike. There were so many stairs. The temple had 3 levels so we had to keep going up to the different levels. It was worth it though. When we reached the top we had the best views of Chongqing.

Best view of Chongqing

Best view of Chongqing

After that we had lunch and went to wait to be picked up by our schools. Ours of course was already there in the building. We talked to our boss for a while. His name is Young and he speaks almost perfect English. He’s also really a cool guy. Jared and I work together. We also live in the same building. He’s awesome and I’m glad that we got put together. It’s so nice having someone to share the craziness with. We got our pictures taken and got set up to fingerprint in the system to sign in and out.

We went to the store to buy comforters and pillows since our apartments didn’t have any. We also got basic food supplies: bread, jam, yogurt, water, orange juice, pasta, and a bowl and spoon. We waited in the hotel lobby for over an hour and finally one of the ladies came to get us. Her name is Ruby and she is adorable. I love her. It was 6:45pm at this point. Jared and I were like dead.

We had to drag all our stuff to our apartments, which were about a 15 min walk. It was rough let me tell you. We made it though and were excited to see our places. I’m on the 8th floor and Jared is on the 28th. We get into mine and it’s cute. I have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Everything is really good until I see the bathroom is a little funky.There is a squat toilet which you get used to but the shower situation is a little different. I guess they have the water from the shower go down the toilet so the toilet and shower are kind a combo pack. I wasn’t really sure where to stand since there isn’t that much space but I’m about to test it out, now that I’ve cleaned it. There’s a little space on the side of the toilet and next to the sink which I think is where I’m supposed to shower. I don’t know. It’s weird. The whole bathroom floor is really the shower since is all gets wet and then goes down the toilet. Just something to get used to I guess.

And the other thing is ITS COLD. There isn’t really heat. I have a small AC/heater unit in my bedroom that can be closed off with sliding doors but that’s it and its really cold in the whole little place even with that. Oh boy. I didn’t have internet either so when I was left by myself I was kinda upset and I wanted to come home. It was my first time by myself in China and I was having issues. I didn’t know what to do. I got in bed and my bed was as hard as a rock. I think a tree or the floor would be more comfortable. I woke up at 5:45 and thought it was 6:45 fml but I got ready and did stuff and went to work early so I could use the wifi from the hotel to call my mom. That’s all I needed. I felt much better after that and after being at work and from a very good valentine’s day. I don’t feel like leaving or crying anymore. Can’t complain about sucky things anymore. Heat, a real shower and a bed all things that aren’t easy to live without and I can’t wait to have them about. I think it was rough at first and there a def things that I have to get used to but I think it’s gonna be an exciting adventure!

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Valentine’s Day

Then because it was Valentine’s Day (Happy Valentine’s Day) photo 4 (6)and the Lantern Festival, which is part of Chinese New Year our boss invited us to his house. Young is our immediate boss but not the actual boss. He is really nice and speaks almost perfect English. He is the one who picked me up at the airport. We went to his house which was about 30 mins from work and it was during rush hour.

His wife is so adorable and so nice. His whole family was. His mom, dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and his wife’s cousin were all there. They don’t speak English, except his wife speaks a pretty good amount. We had a ton of finger foods like starbucks coffee egg roll which is really a coffee roll cookie, cookies that we can get in the states in the round tin cans, cashews, beef jerky, and tea. Young even got his Xbox live up and we played a few games where your body is the controller. We had so much fun!

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Come dinner time, we had red wine and orange juice along with a table full of food. There was beef and celery, pork and peppers, duck soup, a cold noodle salad, whole shrimp with the heads and shells on, and some mushroom plate. Then dumplings were brought out, yumm, and then the dessert dumplings made with rice and sesame seed and sugar centers. We ate soo much food. My stomach hurt it was so full. I was literally going into a food coma. I almost fell asleep at the table.

 

Just as we finished though, fireworks started. They were coming from the middle of Young’s complex. We were on the 28th floor and they exploded like 500 feet from us. So illegal in the US but awesome. It was like our own personal fireworks show. It was the perfect ending to Valentine’s Day, actually a great valentine’s day.

The only thing that would have made it better was to have my valentine with me in china sharing that experience. When he brought us home we stopped at a store to buy something to make our beds more comfortable like a bed pad. We ended up getting another fluffy comforter which works ok.

Everyday struggles

It’s cold in Chongqing. It’s been in the high 30s and 40s but I wasn’t expecting it to be this cold. I didn’t bring the right clothes. It is just like the month of February in Alicante Spain. It’s a humid cold so it gets right down to your bones. I’m getting a cold and a cough. I finally just went out and bought a coat at the superstore for 139 yuan. It’s red and its long and it’s got red fur around the collar of the hood. It looks good and I blend in more with the Chinese. I got a lot of stuff today actually.

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I went to the store with Jared, the guy I work with and who lives in my building, and we go so many things we needed. We got the coats and I bought leggings and gloves. Then after that we went to the cleaning supplies and bought dish soap, multi-purpose cleaner, sponge mops, a cutting board and a knife, a cup, and stick on hooks for the walls. Then we bought stuff for dinner tonight. We are going to make dinner and watch a movie since there isn’t much else we can do without internet or much money. We got chicken, broccoli, green beans, peanut oil, and some seasoning. Plus after we came back from the store, we went out and explored our little area a little more.

I was looking for a bigger purse or be able to carry things when I go to work and stuff. I found this inside market that has everything and I bought a brown bag and a pot for real cheap! I also found another grocery store much closer to my apartment and we found lots of little shops and the expensive shopping avenue. We went into a pharmacy and found contact solution. Thank God. I somehow forgot to bring a big one with me.

Successfully did laundry for the first time. It was hard because everything is in the Chinese characters. I just kinda winged it with the washer settings and how much laundry detergent powder to use. It came out fine so that’s good. Jared and I got a clothes line and I hung mine up in my living room where my clothes are currently drying as we speak. Anddd it just fell down. I tied it to my chairs and then put the rest of my clothes up on this little rack in my bathroom.

We tried street food for the first time. It was really pretty good. It was spicy but good. And we only paid 15 yuan for it. That’s like less than a $1.50 each for dinner. Woah. We paid a lot more for the food we cooked ourselves. Umm yea def not gonna be cooking a lot. Way too much work anyway to get everything you need and then to actually cook it. Finally, I got my Chinese sim card to work after my mom called Verizon to unlock it. Still waiting on getting internet though.

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Ni hǎo! I’m in China!

I finally made it to CHINA!

I got picked up at the airport and came straight to my hotel where I showered and went straight to my orientation. It’s hard to listen to people talk all day when you want to explore but the information they tell you is all really important. They talk about teaching, housing, food, culture etc. They gave us all a keychain and I got a pink horse for Chinese New Year and the year of the horse. I got it in a game we played to learn Chinese. Lunch was ok. Not the greatest but I found some stuff to eat. The afternoon session was awful because jet lag started kicking in and these 2 teachers were giving fake lessons. Then we went to dinner. Wow what can I say, I may starve to death. I do not like hotpots.

Cow IntestineI don’t mind the spiciness but there is a spice on a lot of things here that I just do not like. I ate cow intestine and it was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. The texture was awful but that spice was on it is what made it taste so bad. And I had to chew it and swallow it because it’s not allowed to spit it out. 😦 The rest of the stuff was not that great but I did get rice and this sweet bread bun that was good. So I didn’t eat that much. I can’t even believe I ate cow intestine. That’s crazy!

We are learning Chinese in our survival Chinese class. I don’t know much but I’m learning really quick. I actually really like Chinese. It’s a hard language but it’s also fun to learn and the people here love to teach us stuff. I really want to learn as much as I can while I’m here. It will be a very useful skill and it’s fun to know languages because then you can converse with so many more people.

We went to the old part of town and it was amazing! That is why I came to China.

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There were so many streets with all kinds of food from cotton candy, honey art on a stick, nuts, different types of chicken and Indian bread with fruit inside. There was so much to see and I even bought postcards thanks to my 2 survival Chinese classes. I know numbers and hand signs. The food was much better the last few days. We had broccoli, green beans, rice, duck soup, pizza, ice cream, sweat and sour pork, potato sticks, corn puffs and so much more. I don’t think I’ll starve anymore. There is a lot of good food here. Hotpots are just not for me.

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We went to a tea house today and learned tea art and incense art. It was very interesting. We had lots of tea and I really like it because it’s so good. They don’t use tea bags but tea leaves and there is a very specific way one must make tea. The girls dressed in what looked like traditional Chinese dresses and were very proper. The incense was also very interesting. They make a symbol with the incense and then burn it. It is supposed to be very good for you. Many things are good for your health in China.

 

So far I’m really enjoying China. I love the people in my program, everyone is so nice and we have a good time. The Chinese friends we have made are awesome too. They are so nice and do way more for us then they should. I can’t wait to meet the people I’ll be working with. I’m going to be working in the same building as orientation and with one other participant, Jared. He knows some Chinese so he’ll be the go to. So we saw our office, yes we have an office, and I found out I’ll be getting a custom made work outfit. That’s so cool! We think Jared is getting something too but we aren’t sure. In few days we’ll see our apartments and really get settled in. It’s going to be an exciting adventure.

Zài jiàn!

Winter Storms

I hate winter. That’s all there is to it. Its cold and there are snow storms. It messes everything up. So wouldn’t you know that it messed up my travel plans yet AGAIN! I was doing great until I got on the plane from Frankfurt to Helsinki.

I wrote this on the plane from New Jersey to Frankfurt before all the craziness:

For the next 6 months I’ll be 7,100 miles away in China having the most amazing experience and opportunities. I’m over my being sad stage and IM EXCITED! China? Wow, how did this happen? I don’t even know. Ahh pandas and lanterns and learning Chinese and seeing things that are thousands of years old is incredible! Well I really need to get some shut eye. This flight is actually pretty short for flying to Europe. I’ll have all day and night tomorrow to write. Hasta pronto!
I can’t sleep. Most likely because it’s 10:30 at night for me and I kinda slept for 2.5 hours already. I’m still thinking about my guy haha I cried again too. I really don’t know why. I mean I get that I won’t be seeing him and my mom for 6 months but it’s not like I can’t talk to them right? Right. Plus I’m going on this exciting adventure to China. Who can say they’ve been to China? Let alone lived there for 6 months? Not that many people. I’ll get to see so many amazing things and learn Chinese and try REAL Chinese food and make new friends. I think once I get there it’ll be amazing. It’s always a rough journey when you move abroad. There’s all the excitement but there’s all that god what did I get myself into and what if I hate it and I miss home. Once you get past all that you can enjoy your time abroad. I should be a pro at this but I got used to life in the states again and I actually have someone who makes me really happy. It’s only 6 months and when I get home they’ll still be there. Time to enjoy CHINA

AND This is what happened after I landed in Frankfurt:

 I had the day from hell. It was awful. It started out pretty good. I found free wifi which is not heard of in airports. I’ve never seen it before and I’ve been in a lot of airports. I went and got a cappuccino and a croissant which were so delicious. I forgot I had to go through customs. So I went through customs and the guys there were nice. They have to ask you questions and stuff so we were talking about my weird way to get to china and what I’ll be doing there. We came to the conclusion that they might need English teachers there. After that I walked forever and finally found my gate 10 minutes before boarding. Who knew this airport was so big? Obviously, not me. It was late though 😦

I get on the plane and  it’s as supposed to a little under 2 hours. When we get to Helsinki, the pilot says wed not have enough gas to stay wait to land and Helsinki isn’t letting many planes land so we had to go to Stockholm. The weather of course was not good in Helsinki. It was white out conditions. We stayed in Stockholm for like 2 hours and then tried again. We ended up in this circling pattern above Helsinki for an hour waiting for the ok to land. When we finally landed after 6.5 hours on this flipping plane, I missed my flight. I did sit next to this very nice German guy who I made friends with. He actually went with me to get my luggage and to the Finnair counter. He was so nice! I had this man on my first flight put my carry on in the overhead compartment for me. I can’t even believe the nice people I’ve met. And people say chivalry is dead! Anyway, the lady at the counter was going to make my buy a new flight because  it wasn’t the same airline but she called the manager because it was due to the weather and she said ok we’ll let you change. BUT I still had to pay 200 euros or 280$ to change. What could I do? I paid the lady.

By this point I’ve not slept and  it’s 6pm. I haven’t eaten anything since the croissant at 9am. And I’m stressed. After I book a hotel room at the airport service for airport hotels, I wait for them to get me. I went to the bus stop and cried! I was so upset. Who wouldn’t be? It was a long 48 hours at this point and with no food or sleep I’m surprised I was even still standing. I met this guy who works for Ford  in the UK and he really was nice and took pity on me. I had stopped crying by now and we started talking. He told me his story, he missed his flight due to the weather as well but he was flying with the same company so he was fine. He even got a hotel and dinner covered. When I told him my story he asked me when the last time I ate was, I didn’t even know, and he offered to buy me dinner. Of course I accepted! What a nice guy! I got cheeseburger with french fries which was AMAZING! I went upstairs to my room and took a hot shower, got in bed and immediately PASSED OUT! I was so tired.

Jet lag, of course, woke me up at 6:15am. I tried to go back to sleep but it didn’t work. So I got breakfast and I’m in my room packing and getting ready for the day! There’s some sort of shopping center near by and I have nothing to do until 3pm. At which time I will be going to the airport for my 5:45 flight which I am already checked into with my luggage checked as well. I will not miss this flight! Today is going to be a good day. No missed flights and I will make it to China. Just a day later than expected. It’s actually better this way anyway. My original flights worked out this way as well but as we all know that didn’t work out but… it did. Next time I post, for the love of God, I will be in China! I can’t wait!

The Troubles and Struggles

Where to begin? Traveling always has its ups and down. Let’s start with saying goodbye. I went out to Rochester and said goodbye to my old professors and my friends. I went out to Connecticut to say goodbye to my best friend. I went to family friends houses, out to eat, and to the job I was leaving to say my goodbyes to basically everyone I know. The hardest of my goodbyes have begun. First, there is a guy who I really didn’t want to say goodbye to. He took the day off to spend my last day with me and when he finally left, it was time to say the goodbye that neither one of us wanted to.  It was by far the hardest one yet. The hardest of goodbyes has yet to happen though… My mom and I are very close and she is the best mom. She always supports me and puts on  a brave face when I leave home. Tomorrow we’ll say this goodbye and there will be hugs and tears.

Next we have my visa. I sent out the paperwork to a Chinese Visa agency that my program uses about a month ago. I bought my flights thinking there was plenty of time. My school in China and the local government took until last week to get the final paperwork to the visa agency. Unfortunately for me, Chinese New Year was last week and the Embassy was closed for a week. I had to rush my visa so it would get to my house. The best they could do was have it arrive the day I was to leave, which was a scary thought.

Today was the day I was supposed to leave and today did not go as planned. Of course, being winter in upstate New York, there was a snow storm. This caused planes to be grounded and my visa to get stuck in New Jersey and did not arrive this morning at 8:30am when it was supposed to. Therefore, I had to cancel my flight and wait to find out when I would be receiving my passport and visa so I could get a new flight. Fortunately, I had a 26 hour layover in Helsinki, Finland that I could still make my last flight into China. I found out that my passport would be arriving around 1pm and it did. Thank the Lord!

I went to my travel agent and she looked for new flights for tomorrow. And of course, there were no open flights out of Syracuse tomorrow because things had been delayed due to the weather. So what to do now? Well we looked at flights out of Rochester and Albany and the times of the flights didn’t leave any time for error. All the flights ended going out of Newark, New Jersey to Frankfurt, Germany to my last pit-stop in Helsinki, Finland. So what’s a girl to do? I choose the cheapest and easiest option… Driving to Newark to catch my 6pm flight to Germany.

All day I haven’t known whether to cry or throw up. I’ve been a mix of emotions. I prepared myself to leave today and now that it hasn’t happened, I have to go through the whole process all over again. With my flights changed, I have 2 days worth of straight traveling and flying which will give me plenty of time to stay nervous and excited. I can’t wait to see China and to get away from the snow. 6 months is going to fly by and I can’t wait to see what this experience will bring.