Monday, September 23, 2013

One Month.

I can't comprehend how I've been living in Beijing for one month today! I know it is so cliché to say, but time sure does flies by when you are having fun. It's certainly been an experience and a learning curve at times, but all in all it has been fun and an adventure since day one. 

I already knew this before arriving, but living in China is quite different in some ways from living in Canada. I have had to change how I do some of my day to day tasks, and I have also learned to let things go a little bit easier - like when the internet stops working. Sometimes you just can't fix it no matter how determined you might be. So, as I look back and remember the feeling I had when getting off the plane in China after 13 hours in flight only one short month ago, I will share with you five things that I have learned or changed about myself since moving to Beijing, China. 

1. I will NEVER, EVER complain about traffic and driving in Canada ever again. Okay, maybe I'm over-exaggerating slightly. But I do know that if I ever do begin to complain again about traffic back ups, crazy drivers, or the lack of signalling in Canada I'll be brought back to my time to Beijing and will remember how insane and intricate the traffic moves here. Sometimes it seems like an art how closely the cars graze each other as the weave in and out of lanes. And the horn honking! I know that here in Beijing the incessant horn honking is not out of angry and road rage (most of the time), it's a warning to pedestrians and other cars letting them know where you are. But sometimes it's hard to hear yourself think, let alone talk, with the horns wailing in the background. It's certainly a lot different then the cruising we do in New Brunswick. China has taught me patience.

2. "Tuan Li rich, Beijing poor." This is so true! I live in a small village in Beijing called Tuan Li which is surrounded by the Tongzhou District. The cost of living out here is very cheap. So cheap that when we wander into the city centre of Beijing we find things to be overpriced and very expensive when in retrospect, it's still a lot cheaper than living in Canada. I mean, HELLO! going to the grocery store in Tuan Li and buying two huge chicken breasts (one does three meals) for about $7 is mind blowing. I think I'm going to find it difficult to pay full price for things back in Canada when I come home in the summer. China has taught me to spend money wisely.

3. It's China. Sometimes you just have to let things go. Life here is very different from life in Canada. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that they play by different rules and you have to accustom yourself to living in a new culture and a new way of living. I am not afraid to admit that I have a bit of a control freak streak implanted within me. It's who I am, it's why I like to lead. So it can be hard for me sometimes to let things go. But I'm getting better at it. Brad, you would be so proud - I'm becoming slightly more "laid back." China has taught me to take a step back and let go.

4. I love teaching here. Every day I become a better teacher because of my students. They have already helped me to grow immensely as an educator. This is my first full time teaching job, and I am loving every minute of it. I had a conversation with my dad and grammy a couple of weeks ago and I remember saying to them that there have been several moments during teaching time where I've paused and thought to myself "This is job is definitely what I am meant to do." I am so thankful that I took the educational path that I did because I love my job. China has taught me that teaching is truly the profession for me.

5. This last point isn't sometime I learned nor something that has changed. It is something I have gained. Friends. I have met and made friends with some amazing fellow teachers. By moving out here we already shared something in common - the urge to travel and see a new part of the world. From there things could only grow more. I can't imagine a better group of people to live with, work with, and see this part of the world with. I am a pretty lucky lady! 

If the last month speaks anything of the experience I am going to have in Beijing and China as a whole, I think this is going to be the experience of a lifetime. Something I have been waiting and yearning for for a while.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Same Moon.

The harvest moon was out in full force tonight in Tuanli. It was beautiful, full, round, and the most gorgeous hue of orange. And for a moment while walking home from supper tonight I got home sick. I missed my family, I missed their hugs, I miss my friends, I missed their company and laughter, I missed home. I won't lie to you, I got emotional and had a good cry. I took some time alone when I got back to my apartment and talked to Mom and Dad. I sent a message to my best friend Sara. I slowly began to feel better. I looked out my window again and up at the moon and remembered that no matter how far away I am or where my life takes me, family and friends are always near. Because we all look at the same moon. We are together, always and forever.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Brad!

Today is my "little" brother's 21st birthday. HIS 21ST BIRTHDAY! I remember very clearly writing a blog post for him one year ago in disbelief that he was turning 20. We were finally back in the same decade again. Then BOOM! Another year come and gone. And now, as I sit in my room in Beijing ending the day in which he is just beginning, I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm feeling proud. I'm full of love. 

Now, last year I wrote a list of things that I loved so much about you and our relationship. And I know how much you love me being all sentimental (sarcasm...), but I just want you to know how much I love you. I've learned a lot about you and our relationship over the last year of being away. And I am continued to be amazed at how much you've grown, how I've grown, and how we have grown as a family. Brad, you are a remarkable human being. Your "laid-back-ness" can drive me INSANE, and your ability to get under my skin is irritating in itself. All that aside though, I know you would bend over backwards for your family, friends, and loved ones in an instant. You put others before yourself time and time again (though you can be very sarcastic about it!). And you find the humour in small things. You know how to lighten the mood and let go of the little things. You have taught me a lot (though I don't think I have ever told you that until now, nor would you even understand it fully). You bring out the best in people and your determination is admirable. I think what I am trying to say, and what I want you to always remember is that I am so proud of you and to be able to call you my brother. I love you, always and forever. 

Have an amazing birthday, brother bear. Wishing you all the best and sending you much love from China! xoxo 

PS - Though it may be an unattractive picture, it's my favourite :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Adventure Begins.

I can't believe I've been living in China for eleven days! It's certainly been a busy week filled with it's fair share of frustrations, happiness, learning curves, laughter, and moments to remember. As I sit here in my apartment reflecting on the last week and a half I remember many moments when I had honestly forgotten that I was living in China. I'm in a new country. I'm on the other side of the world from my home. And I'm doing okay. 

I am living in Tuan Li (pronounced Tu-ar Lee). Tuar Li is a village in eastern Beijing. It is small, but has the staples one needs to get by day to day. It reminds me of living in small town rural New Brunswick. Small, quaint, friendly. Tuar Li is about an hour from downtown Beijing. Talk about big! Much bigger than any city I've ever been to. I'm really enjoying living outside the city. It's very cheap to live in Tuan Li and it is definitely quieter than the city hub in Beijing.

So far, life in China has been very good to me. I'm meeting lots of wonderful people and making some great friends. I've been telling the people I'm living with here that I feel comfortable already. I'm so amazed at how quickly I'm adjusting to living in a new country, a new city, a new culture. Especially in Tuar Li - life here isn't as "westernized" as it is in the city centre of Beijing. You are thrown into the language, the lifestyle, and the culture from the get-go. I've learned how to say my numbers, order food, and other singular words or commands in mandarin.

Today (Monday) was my first day of teaching. My first day as a real life teacher, guys! My own students, my own lesson plans, my own style! The way the school works is that the students stay stationary in the same classroom all day and the teachers rotate throughout. I am teaching grade 10 AP1 and AP2  English Language, Literature, and Listening & Speaking. Today I taught my AP1 classes. They are great students. Being AP (advanced placement) students, they have a fairly good basis of knowledge for the english language. I can talk to the whole class and the majority understand what I am saying. They will ask what words mean and are curious about everything. I already feel connected with them, and I am so excited to see where the school year takes us. I can tell already that I've made the right decision for me at this point in my life and career.

On the weekends, I've been spending my time in Sanlitun (pronounced San-le-tur). I've heard it referred to as the "expat" area. It's quite westernized and has A LOT of shopping opportunities...much more than little ol' Tuar Li. The thing with going in to the city though is us "small town" folks get sticker shock. Everything is so cheap out in Sanlitun (like dinner tonight: food for 14 people plus beverages for under $5 a person. Yup. Cheap.) So, when you go out for supper at a western restaurant in Sanlitun and spend 80-120¥ on a meal, it's a bit of a blow to the wallet. Sometimes, though, you just need a big ol' burger and some french fries! 

I've really enjoyed checking out Yashow Market. It's floors and floors of shopping. Clothes, electronics, jewelry, purses, souvenirs, gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets! This is the area where you start to learn how to barter. My first weekend here I bought a new Gucci watch, a hair dryer, a paper fan, chopsticks, and some DVD's for next to nothing. The weekend after I even got a manicure! Me. The girl who has been biting her nails my whole life - 24 years! It's been 9 days and I am nail biting free! I'm coming home to Canada a changed woman! 

So, life is good! I'm going to try and update more often - especially when I see and do some new and amazing things. In the near future I plan to check out Tienanmen Square, the Great Wall, and maybe a little vacation in the works. Stay tuned! 

PS - Thank you to EVERYONE (family, friends, loved ones, neighbours, etc.) who have been sending their love and support through cards, emails, Facebook messages, texts, etc. You have no idea how much it means and I have never in my life ever felt so loved and cared about! It is a testament to how lucky and blessed I am to know such amazing and wonderful people. Thank you!