I have now been in China for a full year! I’ve had some of the most amazing times of my life as well as some of the worst times.. All squeezed into one whirlwind of a year.
My first year here, I had no internet access in my home, so keeping you updated on the blog has been a major strain. I could only access a weak signal of unrestricted Wi-Fi from the corner of the shared bathroom in the apartment. This was fine for things like checking my Whatsapp messages, glancing over Facebook updates and the occasional Tweet – however uploading photos and videos to the internet was a joke. So as a result, the blog was neglected.
Now, I have moved into a new apartment and have a reasonable internet connection of my own! No more hijacking the neighbours from my bathroom (sounds creepy right?). It’s definitely made a change to my online life!
So, where to start with telling you about my year in China.. Well, the beginning would be a good place.
I always wanted to go to Japan on holiday. This came from my realisation that everything I thought was cool for a very long time, originated in Japan. So I figured, Japan must be an interesting place for me to visit and that I’d enjoy learning the Japanese culture and maybe even the language too. However, at the time me and my friend were planning to book tickets, there was a terrible earthquake in Japan followed by a tsunami and many other problems relating to the damage caused. This was not the Japan I had dreamt of visiting, so I decided I would not book the ticket there this time. I still really wanted to go to somewhere in Asia as it was still a place I’d never been to before. China was selected as it sounded culturally interesting and relatively unknown. The only thing I had heard about China before was ‘they all eat dogs there and there are a lot of factories’. Very stereotypical. I wanted to change this impression and I did.
I still really want to go visit Japan by the way! This will happen another time, I’m sure of it.
So, I came to mainland China for the first time last summer on a holiday to Beijing and Shanghai. This was a life changing experience! That time, I didn’t particularly enjoy Shanghai, but I was fascinated by Beijing! I loved it so much, after getting home at the end of my trip, I wanted to go back so badly – and I did.
Last September after arriving in China, I lived on my friends sofa for the first week or so. This was because I didn’t come here with any special deal including accommodation and airport pick-up, I came here alone, with no real plan other than to enjoy the next chapter of my life.
After getting here, I managed to get myself sorted out with a job and with some classes to learn Chinese. It was the perfect combination! My level of Chinese sky-rocketed in the first couple of months and I could’t believe how quickly it was all sinking in. I studied French at school for 5 years and within 2 months here I could already say more in Chinese than I could ever have said in French. School education eh..?
Every day is a different adventure out here and I love it!
Crisis after crisis
I am not sure if it’s me or if it happens to everyone else out here, but there seems to be a crisis I have to endure roughly every 3 months. First it was my computer, it broke. Then my iPhone was stolen, then after moving in to my new apartment, I had no money.. The list really goes on. Sorry and thank you to all my friends for listening to me ramble on (and on) at times!
Beijing winter was a crisis of its own. I have never experienced anything like it and do not look forward to going through it again this year! The days had ‘highs’ of -5 and lows of -12. This alone might not sound so extreme but add gale force winds and a climate so dry your skin cracks no matter how much water you drink or moisturiser you use – it was awful.
If I were to talk about every crisis I have had since coming to China, you might get the impression that I have made some kind of terrible mistake by coming out here! You’d be wrong though, when I look back on what I have done out here, I have really loved every moment.
I have had so many good times here and met so many ridiculously talented and interesting people. This experience has been so enriching for me and has taught me so much about myself and the world we live in. My highlights are definitely my times with friends old and new.
My family came to visit me earlier in the year and I had fun showing them around and giving them a taste of my life out here. They had a great time and it was really good to see them!
I have visited different cities in China and so many tourist attractions. Cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Shenzhen. I have been to Hong Kong (my favourite city in the world) another few times and thoroughly enjoyed my trips. It feels good to know I can go there almost any time I want to as it’s a ‘local’ destination.
I am so grateful to have such amazing people around me and amazing people still keeping in contact with me back home too. I don’t want to say I feel special… But I feel special!
Oh wow, have I done all of this without mentioning the food!? The food here is out of this world. I eat in a restaurant every day, every meal. I have tried so so many different things. I don’t know if my mouth can handle going back home to the food I ate in the UK.
From using chopsticks, to the correct time to take a shower, the cultural differences between the ‘West’ and China are immense! Too much for some to handle, sometimes too much for me! However, I have definitely learned to adapt to the way of doing things out here. I am constantly being told things like ‘you can’t do that because…’. These are for things that I have already been doing all my life, yet somehow now it’s detrimental to my health or the well-being of the others around me.. Oh boy.
Did you know, for example, it’s ‘completely going to ruin your stomach if you drink cold water’.. ‘mosquitoes only bite people with sweet blood’.. ‘if you eat spicy food you will get acne’.. ‘Coca Cola is bad for your teeth, but sweets/candy is ok, so is not brushing your teeth twice a day..’ I have been (un)educated about the things I/we do in the ‘West’, every day is something new and equally confusing, but I just accept it and find myself doing as they do.
I have been to Chinese school, worked in different English schools and met so many people. Every step of the way I have been reminded that China is still developing, the systems and processes of doing things feel alien to me and sometimes frustrate me. I think of China as a giant baby, very powerful, but still learning. I have studied a little Chinese history and realise now that there has been HUGE progress made and it is still happening now. I have never been somewhere that has so much development going on at once and at such speed. It really is a superpower!
I have decided I am going to focus more on the things I enjoy. My friend here in Beijing sent me a video of Steve Jobs at Stanford University which got me thinking. I need to focus on only the things in life that make me truly happy. Everything else should hopefully fall into place.
I plan to be here in China for another year, learning the language and travelling a lot more. I really want to go back to the UK with a sense of accomplishment, I don’t want to go back with any regrets, or wishing I’d have studied or travelled more. I have a great set of friends out here and I am always making new ones every day. I am very grateful to also have an amazing group of friends back home in the UK who have been supporting and encouraging me since I came here – I will see you all soon! I can’t wait to see my family at home too! I want to have some home cooked dinners and a good catch up!
My aim, is to get my level of spoken and written Chinese to a level so I can look for jobs where I can put these newly acquired skills to use. I really love learning the Chinese language and all about Chinese culture. Some really strange aspects and some really interesting ones too!