First Week in China
My first week in China has been an interesting one, I decided to share with you, wonderful audience members, my experiences so far to try to prepare you a little for the rollercoaster that can be the first week.
After obtaining a Chinese visa, (which is a story in and of itself), I found myself purchasing a ticket to fly to Chengdu to teach at a university. I often do things that scare me—flying to Taiwan for a year was one, eating intestine another, and finally, accepting a job in China.
China has always fascinated me, vexed me perhaps, and scared me just a little. And, as is usually the case with travel, I was a little frightened again because I knew how many things can be very good and how many things can be very bad. I knew there was an amount of good days and bad days. I knew there was a number of good happenings and bad happenings.
Of course, these happenings and days tend to intertwine—the bad is always an experience, a learning opportunity, a challenge, and the good can sometimes be quite boring.
The trouble is, you never know what these happenings are—you have no idea how to prepare. You know something is coming, especially when you take off on that plane, but you are left very inept when it comes to defense. Some people hate it, others thrive on it.
Thus, my first happening. I took off from America and asked the gate agent specifically—“Do I have to check my bags when I get to Beijing?” See, what happened before was exactly that. When I was flying back to America, I had a superfluous amount of luggage that I had to rip off the belts and re-check in Beijing.
Now that I’m going to Chengdu, I have a stop in Detroit and Beijing that I suspect I will have to do something with my luggage in. “No, of course not, see?” The gate agent points to a spot on my luggage tag. “It’s all the way checked through! Just relax on your flight!” Golden! Great! You should have seen the glow surrounding me—perfect, a relaxing flight!
This is not the case. The case is you ALWAYS have to re-check your luggage when you enter China. I knew it is always a kind of surprise whether or not your bags show up at your final destination and this was the kind of surprise I was halfway expecting, dreading, and it definitely happened.
I was without luggage in China for two weeks. I didn’t have a phone and I don’t know nearly enough mandarin to fight my way through the Chinese luggage claims, so I had friends from America and China calling the airports daily. Meanwhile, my luggage was having its vacation in Beijing!
I remember a scene vividly during my first week of arrival—my apartment in China is magnificent. It is so large, clean, and bright. The school provides you with a place to stay and, might I say, they’ve done an incredible job doing so.
I have three toilets in my apartment. I have a western toilet, eastern toilet, and urinal. I remembered in Taiwan you could not flush the toilet paper. I asked the campus helper if I could flush the toilet paper and I think he was a bit confused with my question. “Sure, of course! Do what you feel comfortable with!”
No, again, this is not the case. Perhaps you can flush toilet paper here, maybe not in my apartment. Definitely not in the western toilet in my apartment, nor the urinal, (not that I use the urinal). One flush, fine. Two flushes, ok. Three flushes, we have a clog. Four flushes, this is bad news.
My neighbor below me visits for the first time and asks if everything is ok. I spill—I have no luggage, I’m handwashing clothes, and my toilets clogged, I have no internet at this point, etc, etc. Of all the things that could go wrong, he insisted, I do need to have a working bathroom so he gifted me a plunger.
I was manually flushing at this point, broke down, and decided to start using the eastern style toilet. I’m not very adept at these and felt like a toddler learning how to use the bathroom again. Though, after a bad bout of yogurt 5 minutes before my first class, I definitely learned how to efficiently use the eastern style toilet because that is the ONLY style my school employs!
As you can see, good happenings and bad happenings are often intertwined. Only through some ‘bad’ experiences will we make friends, learn important lessons, share wild stories, and be a bit challenged—out of our comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to try those things you are afraid of; you’ll always be the better for it!