New Challenges in China

September 8, 2016 at 5:44 am (China)

IMG_2105Where to begin?  After a ridiculous amount of visa stress I finally arrived in China five days later than originally planned.  I missed all of the new teacher orientation but made it in time for whole school orientation and most importantly for me, did not miss any time setting up my new classroom.  It has been difficult adjusting after arriving late but everyone has been amazing supportive and in true Kate style I have just fitted in as if I had been here all long.  It’s been overwhelming on many levels…  school, flat hunting, not speaking the language to name a few BUT I am still alive and mostly smiling so I can’t really complain too much.

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My first Chinese barbeque with my buddy Anne

I am starting to get my head around the new school and it was a relief to finally meet my class and get back into the swing of things.  It doesn’t matter what else is going on around me, when I am in the classroom I am in my element.  It gives me a strong sense of home, who I am and why I have made the life decisions I have.  It’s almost soothing being in the classroom with everything else going on around me.

I spent a lot of time cleaning out my classroom and organising displays.  Those of you who know me, know I love colour and there are certain things in my classroom that make my room feel unique.  At the moment I am desperately missing my disco balls but having my welcome sign up has calmed me a lot.  I have 18 wonderful students including two German speakers.  There are new programs to learn about so I doing lots of reading and trying to make sure I am as prepared as I can be.  I’m doing my best but trying not to be over the top and stay balanced with my social life.  So nothing new, right?

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Totally crashed it on the first day 😉

Buying my e-bike has made me more mobile and a lot more settled.  Now I can be independent with getting from A to B.  Tim, one of my colleagues, took me out to give me tips and buy it and without his help I would probably still be bikeless.  At first I was hesitant but they are super easy to ride, it’s more the traffic and road rules that are the problem now.  Oh and the fact that it doesn’t go fast enough!  I’m pretty sure I have already broken all possible road rules… no helmet, no lights (just wastes battery), riding up the wrong side of the street, crossing the road at a red light… but this seems to be totally normal practice here.

I’m glad I went for the ‘baby’ model.  It’s little like me and makes sense.  It’s also much easier to maneuver, especially in the lift going up to my apartment to charge it.  It’s sitting in my living room plugged to the wall as I write this!  I originally wanted to call it ‘Belle’ in honour of Tim and his help as his last name is Bell.  However, somebody suggested ‘The Beast’ and it’s sorta stuck.  Operation ‘Pimp my e-bike’ is also in full swing.  So far I have three stickers all in bright pink… Kate, a koala outline and of course Hello Kitty.

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Out with work friends

Socially I have been a bit of a butterfly and have found some good friends.  I’ve been to most of the local expat hangouts and it’s not hard to find decent western food here in the city. I’m loving having a band at the pub and being able to play pool.  Slowly and surely I am also exploring more and more Chinese options.  I am LOVING the cheap street food and never shy from trying different options.  Ordering can sometimes be a challenge but that is half the fun.

Suzhou is nothing like I expected China to be: wide roads with a lane JUST for bikes, heaps of green and tons of western shops.  It’s not particularly hectic and the Suzhou Industrial Park, which is where the school and my flat is situated seems to be a wealthy area for Chinese.  The amount of building that is going on is phenomenal.  There must be tons and tons of empty flats in the city!

Settling in has been my priority so I haven’t really explored much of the city.  I figure I have heaps of time to do that.  Mind you, I said that about Stuttgart and then never made it to the Mecedes Museum… so I am determined to be a little bit better in my new city.

The day before school started I caught up with a student who I taught in Stuttgart last school year.  Michael is from Suzhou and him and his dad treated me on an amazing sightseeing day.  We saw the old town with its beautiful canals and they ordered a feast for lunch so I could try lots of new things.  Afterwards we went to a tea house on a lake.

IMG_2132Then for dinner we went out with close friends of the family.  They were all very welcoming but very shy to use their English.  My Chinese is currently limited to ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Bai Tang lieu’ (the road that I live on for taxis 🙂 )  It was lots of fun though and Michael had me trying all kinds of new foods.  I had chicken legs, duck tongue, frog and pig liver.  Bob, I hope you’re suitably impressed?

It was so fantastic to see Michael more relaxed and happy outside of the school environment.  He came to me with limited English and now he is becoming confident nd expressing himself more and more every day.  I hope that I will be able to see him again when he is in Suzhou and continue to be a part of his amazing English learning journey.

I also went to the Ferris Wheel Park on the banks of Jinji Lake with some new friends with work.  The park’s main attraction is the Ferris Wheel and we managed to ride it so we saw the sunset over the lake and the center of town with the symbol of the town, the ‘pants’ building.  Our entrance fee included all the rides apart from the roller coaster and it was lovely to feel like I was ten years old again.  We rode the Merry-go-round, explored the haunted ghost ship and went on the massive swing which gave me flash backs to the Parkdale Primary School fetes.

At first Jen and I weren’t going to go on the small roller coaster but our friends came off buzzing.  You literally get strapped in lying down!  We even got hair nets to cover our hair, which totally made us look like gangsters.  The ride was much more exciting than expected and definitely worth it.

I’ve had my ups and my downs, only cried once after I got lost and spent two hours on my e-bike trying to find Gaelic football training and have already had some amazing experiences and met some wonderful people.  I miss Stuttgart and honestly, I still wish I was there, but I live by my decisions and plan on making the most of my new school, home and city.

Thank you to new friends and old friends alike for listening, challenging me and being there when I need you.

xoxo

P.s More photos?

 

 

 

 

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