I can’t believe the world wind of events that have happened to me over the past two months. My last month in Derry, Northern Ireland, I not only made the most amazing friends that I’m missing like crazy…I also fell head over heels for an Irish Lad. Of course, one month before I left for China!
As devastated as I was to leave, I had a fantastic two weeks at home in New York with friends and family. But let’s cut to the chase and get to more recent events, I’m IN FREAKING CHINA!
In all honesty, the flight over was easier than my 6 hour flight to Ireland. How can an 18 hour flight be that simple you ask? Lots of wine and lots of Ambian.
Luckily, I was able to sleep for a good part of it (which never happens to me on a plane)! And just like that I was flying over Hong Kong and into Guangzhou. Going through Customs was also easy breezy, however, trying to carry all my luggage?…not so much. Fortunately for me, Rex, a man from the HR department at the school I would be working at, greeted me in the Welcome Hall with open arms (…to carry all my bags that is).
SIDE NOTE: While packing, my mother and I got into a heated debate on whether or not I should bring my cowboy boots to China:
“Where would you wear them?”
“Why did you even get these?”
“For Country Fest!”
“They’re way too heavy to fit in your bag”
“I’ll wear them on the plane!”
“You really want your first impression in China to be you wearing cowboy boots?
I did not take my mother’s advice and leave my boots at home, I wore them on the plane and the first thing my new HR friend Rex said to me? “Loving those boots Hil-ry!” BOOM mom 🙂
After that, I was off in a car to Nanhai, where the school would set me up in a hotel for the next week while I acclimated!
The first week was a crazy mess of chaos but the HR department from the school helped out tremendously. We started viewing apartments the day after we arrived and were even set up with a cell phone. Rex showed all new faculty around Nanhai, how to use the bus system and where the local Starbucks was! Mind you, almost no one in Nanhai speaks English, so without the help of Rex, we all would have been utterly lost! He also took us out for a few meals on the school during the first week!
I was very fortunate in that I found an apartment my 3rd day in Nanhai, while it took other teachers a few weeks to come across one they really liked! When I finally moved into my new place and was left alone a thought suddenly hit that scared me to bits: I’m alone in China.
Although I had just met a few friends that were also brand new to China and our school, none of us had working cell phones until the beginning of next month! Along with that, now that I was by myself, I didn’t have anyone around to translate for me. Regardless! I decided to put on my big girl shoes and take the bus around town to get to know my new surroundings. I was actually really proud of myself until, it started down pouring. Have I mentioned yet that it’s rainy season here in Southern China? And this isn’t normal rain that you see in the states. This is high-torrential speed winds in your face crazy rain.
At this point, I had no umbrella and no rain jacket. In the mixture of my shock to this sudden rain storm, I had managed to take a wrong turn and had no idea where the bus stop was. My phone wouldn’t be working for another few days so I couldn’t call anyone and of course, no one around me spoke any English. Panic started to strike in the middle of this downpour. What should have been a 15 minute walk home ended up taking around an hour and half from all the wrong turns I kept making. When I finally saw my apartment complex, I thought I was SAVED! Drench, but saved. I was wrong.
My apartment complex is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It’s surrounded by lakes, jungle like trees, grocery stores and temples (which I would later find out aren’t actually temples, but natural disaster relief shelters).
However, this complex is HUGE and everything looks exactly the same. Once I made it inside the complex, I had no idea which way to go. This was my first time venturing out alone, I never even thought to consider how to find my way back to the right apartment (And yes, it’s still down-pouring). I start to run because this rain is almost too much to handle and me being the utterly graceful person that I am, tripped and fell flat on my bum! A nice old Chinese man came running out from under one of the complexes to help me and starts rapidly speaking to me in Mandarin. I thank him (Che Che…one of the only words I know at this point) and continue to start running, not knowing where anything is. Throughout this complex, there are thousands of apartments and over a dozen separate buildings. Each of these apartment buildings also has a covered playground below it. I decide to take shelter underneath one of these where I run smack dab into the middle of a playgroup. I’m face to face with 20some Chinese mothers and they’re babies all staring at me as if I’m from another planet: A white drenched American.
SIDE NOTE: It is VERY uncommon to see a non-chinese person in this part of Southern China. Still to this day, the only foreigners I have met have been in my school. Thus, when walking down the street or on the bus, you get a plethora of stares.
A lady comes running over to me offering her umbrella and once again, speaking in a language that means absolutely nothing to me. I shake my head and go sit in the corner of the playground BAWLING my eyes out. I’m in China! I have no idea where I am in my own complex! I’m soaked! I’ve been lost for the past three hours! It won’t stop raining! I can’t speak or understand anyone! I give myself a good pity party in the corner for the next 20 minutes until the rain starts to slow down. I take a deep breath, stand up and I’m ready to keep hunting until I find my apartment. I take a step outside the covered area, and realize my building is ten feet in front of me. Of course.
Me doing China is going to not only be an adventure, but absolute hilarity. I promise I won’t slack again updating my blog!