its been far too long since my last post, but i thought what better way to reconnect than to note the quirky ways to fit in in shenzhen, the migrant city of millions.
the following is not an exhaustive list, but its just some things that you can’t help but notice as a foreigner
1. carry an umbrella everywhere - rain or shine, you will be covered
2. when walking, don’t bother going anywhere quickly or in a straight path - just zigzag and saunter
3. don’t take the stairs. you should probably wait for the escalator no matter how crowded. and then, be sure to stand on the left so no one else could get by, even if they wanted to.
4. if you’re dating, be sure to wear matching shirts on a regular basis
5. make sure you’re kids know how to squat to use the bathroom, especially in public places and on the street
6. use your hands to count (in china, there are universal hand symbols for numbers, which prove to be quite helpful)
7. spit on the streets, smoke in elevators, throw your trash on the ground
8. there is no such thing as waiting in line, if you want something, feel free to ignore the queue and push in front
9. also, don’t bother waiting until people get off the bus or metro - you just get yourself right on there
10. keep your infants and young children out very late, no matter what - and congregate in random squares or pathways
11. stare at white people. they must be some sort of celebrity.
12. be pregnant.
13. as a female - wear high heels and/or platforms; as a male - carry a man purse
14. own an iPhone
15. if someone says ni hao, that’s all you need in order to carry on a conversation in mandarin
16. eat with chopsticks
17. eat outside on plastic stools and fold away tables
18. eat only parts of animals with bones and/or fat
19. don’t hold the door for anyone - if someone wants to get in, they will push their way in
20. play ping pong or badminton - competitively.
and now you know, if you follow these 20 simple techniques, you’ll be like a local in no time!
being a teacher isn’t as easy as i imagined. while i have fewer scheduled work hours than most, the time spent planning more than makes up for it. i find myself living for the weekends.
not just because work is tiring, but because when i have time off, it means i can explore. its interesting the things you can stumble upon or learn when you let yourself. i’ve probably done more in the past couple of weekends than some people will do in months over here.
i climbed a mountain, visited temples, saw the ancient city walls, got a new pet fish, tried more than my share of new chinese foods, purchased clothes on the side of the road, and seen my fair share of babies peeing on the streets.
we’ve been tired, but pushed our way through. we’ve gotten lost, but found our way home. we’ve been lost in translation, but have managed to eat. and we’ve done it by putting ourselves out there.
part of me would love nothing more than to curl up in the apartment all day, pump up the air conditioning and hide from the stares and the quizzical looks we receive as foreigners on a daily basis. but the better part of me is glad that i don’t.
my shift of the day: try something different. do something you don’t want to do. explore. you might be surprised at what you find!
i survived my first day of work. but i forgot the stickers… which might as well have been the end of the world for little (chubby) Teddy.
after stressing all day about being thrust in front of 10 little chinese children, the time came that i was either going to sink or swim. luckily, i was eased into the evening with a vip (one-on-one tutoring)…. mind you, i could have been teaching a mute, and i probably would’ve gotten more words out of him… but it was a good warm up at least.
then came time for the small stars - a group of 4 year olds who would much rather run around or climb over chairs than actually sit through an hour of english lessons. my favourite part was the little diva (lisa) who came prancing in wearing a crown (and who is actually pretty legit when it comes to knowing english words). i also couldn’t help but love the little fatty with the m&m tshirt (teddy), who was so proud to tell me that he had chocolate on his shirt. then there was little little cutie with the pink tutu (emily), the bratty ring-leader (jessie), the nerdy one with glasses (apple), and the boy who definitely has a crush on lisa (jerry)
after the new little boy (ryan) finished crying, and the kids stopped fighting over who got to sit beside princess lisa, i managed to teach the kids colours, some verbs and even some pronounciation…
i felt quite proud of myself (especially my timing), until the end of the class when teddy refused to leave without his stickers.
shift of the day: if a kid knows they will get stickers just for showing up, you don’t forget to bring them.
in Shenzhen, taking the newest metro line all the way to the end leads to some pretty interesting cultural experiences.
Katharine, Nick and I discovered the Tian Hou Temple (which means Empress of the Sky Temple…) This empress is said to be the protector of fishermen, and is a common namesake for temples along the Chinese coastline [which makes sense since 20 years ago, Shenzhen was entirely a fishing village]
this Buddhist temple was apparently built on the remains of an older temple & was almost completely abandoned, aside from 3 or 4 worshippers.
this was my first real ‘Chinesey’ experience… and I was pleased to honour the practice, by obeying certain rites - such as only entering the temple with your left foot and leaving with your right (which is meant to symbolize oneness).
what i noticed most: the colours. everything was ornately painted with bright reds, blues and yellows.
after two arduous days of teacher training (EF style), Katharine and I are apparently ready to work.
while the principles may be simple - provide clear instructions, use basic terminology, check understanding and correct errors…. trying to prepare a mock lesson for a group of mock children who you’ve never been exposed to posed a challenge.
for those of you who know me, i do not particularly love being thrown into a situation where i don’t know exactly what is expected of me, exactly how i’m going to be assessed, or not given time to do a dry-run. this was exactly that.
i was told not to worry, but without any reason why i shouldn’t worry… it didn’t offer much solace.
and thus, i was forced to shift. i had no other alternative but to make a lesson as best as i could, be willing to stumble over activities and words and just hope for the best.
i personally think i succeeded. i was given positive feedback. and really, once i’m in front of people… things really are quite fine.
my shift for the day: try to move beyond the anticipation of something new or foreign. its okay to be worried and feel nervous…. but don’t let it overcome you. just grab those chopsticks and dig in (the worst that could happen is that you need to ask for a fork!)
while i came into this new adventure consciously knowing that china is not canada, i think i still held out a bit of hope that it would be similar.
of course if you look hard enough you can find familiarity in almost anything… but off the bat, its a drastic change.
perhaps i’m more aware of this now since i’ve had to pleasure of getting sick [already]. unlike the clear, open spaces of canada… china is rather polluted. and though they do a great job in shenzhen of keeping the streets clean, it doesn’t change the fact that millions upon millions of people, with millions and millions of germs are centralized in one particular location.
as a result of catching this foreign flu, i’ve made a keen effort to find out where i can find some tylenol (downstairs in a little convenience store), what the emergency number is (110), and which local fruits will give me the most vitamins (nick tells me its guava and dragonfruit).
and alas, another shift in my world… no longer can i curl up on the couch and find comfort in my mumsy bringing me apple juice, or knowing without question where i can find everything to cure me…
china is not canada. this is okay, but its going to be an adjustment.