Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Place Called Home

Finally, I can say that I have my own apartment – well, it’s shared with two other girls, but still, you get the point. Though it is in a foreign country, I have a key for a place that I can call home. I just want to talk about some of the differences about apartments in China and in the U.S.A. today.

1. No dryers, just hang dry
It’s common in China to see clothes hanging off of buildings as they air dry them. Even in our fairly Western apartment, we have a rod which is inside our laundry room where you hang dry your clothes. You just have to plan to have a day to get your laundry because it sure isn’t instant like a dryer.

2. Most come furnished
The number of people that live in Beijing is around 25 million I believe. With that being said, almost all of the apartments here come with furniture that the landlord supplies. It wouldn’t really be logical to have huge semi-trucks moving furniture from apartment to apartment. Although some people attempt to move some furniture on the back of their little tricycles and other smaller vehicles.

3. No ovens, but we did negotiate a toaster oven
It isn’t common to bake things here or even use an oven in any means. Explaining to the landlord during the negotiation process that we wanted a toaster oven was quite an interesting endeavor.

4. Pay 3 months of rent up front – plus the deposit
This was a huge part of the moving expenses (besides the plane ticket I bought at the last minute thanks to the visa process). This is the main reason that housing in Beijing is so expensive. You pay rent quarterly, which means I will have to pay at the end of October as well. I don’t mind paying for this view though – the skyline is Guomao

5. Pay for utilities before you use them, or else you have no utilities
Unlike the states where you pay for your utilities when you get a bill for how much water, gas and electricity you have used in the month, China works on a pay as you go system. If you don’t pay ahead for your utilities, you just won’t have any until you pay. Quite simple, but something we need to pay attention to.

6. Water heater has to be turned on in order to use hot water 
Inside the kitchen there is this huge mechanical box that has to be turned on in order for there to be hot water. Luckily, ours doesn’t take that long to heat up because other can take up to 45 minutes to heat the water. However, you have to press the on button as well as plugging it in - I had to teach my roommates that after they took a few cold showers.

7. Take your shoes off inside
The ground in China is considered dirty which makes sense because I’ve seen so many children use the restroom on the sidewalk and the squatter toilets aren’t the cleanest. When you enter someone’s home, it is likely that they will give you slippers to wear in order to keep your “dirty” outdoor shoes off of their floors inside their house.

8. Chinese deep cleaning is different than American deep cleaning
Our apartment was “deep cleaned” before we moved in but deep clean in China has a different meaning than in America. With that being said, we did our version of deep cleaning before moving in completely as well.

9. Can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet
If you choose to do so, then you will more than likely clog the toilet. The piping here just isn’t made to have the paper be flushed through them. So having a trash can next to the toilet is necessary.

10. Bathrooms normally don’t have shower stalls
Typical Chinese bathrooms do not come equipped with a glass shower stall or even a tub. The whole bathroom instead just gets wet and the water is moped into one central drain on the bathroom floor. I’m so grateful for our bathroom glass shower stall.

All of these pictures are picture from the first day we saw our apartment, so of course, we have added our own personal touches to it at this point in time. We will add much more once we get our first paycheck at the end of the month!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Real Chinese Food

I'm sure many people are wondering about what I have been eating here in China. No, I haven’t had General Tso’s chicken, orange chicken, crab rangoons, or even fortune cookies. All of those are American Chinese food. So I wanted to introduce some Chinese culture and cuisine.

Street food 

Though I haven’t had any yet, it can be seen on many streets here in China. They can sell things like fruit, veggies, or even full meals like pork sandwiches. It shocks me sometimes as to what they can whip up on the street within five minutes. Some will be on carts like this one which is attached to a bike and others will be pulled by a donkey which I actually saw the other day


 This is one of my favorite dishes. The idea here is you have a boiling pot of water and spices in the middle, and you put whatever meat, noodles, and veggies into it, wait for it to cook, and then eat it with a peanut butter-like sauce. It is also common to have this with an extra-large Coca-Cola, but I am not quite sure why.

American Franchises

KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Subway, and an occasional TGIF or Hooters can all be found in China. I haven’t had any of these yet either, but last time I had KFC, the meat seemed a little more real than in the United States. Of course, they adapt the menu to the taste of the Chinese so there is rice and pork on the menu. The nice part about having these here is that most of them deliver. Pizza Hut is also a fancier, sit down restaurant where you would take someone on a date, and they serve alcohol.

Traditional meals

The typical Chinese meal will consist of many dishes being shared in the middle of a circle table on a lazy Susan. Sometimes the meal seems to be never ending so make sure to pace yourself, but it allows every to try a little bit of everything. You will normally have your own small bowl of rice to eat towards the end to fill you up. At the end of the meal, Chinese will fight for the bill because one person wants to treat the rest of them. Dividing up a check here is not common to do, but we still find a way to divide it as equally as possible. I have added some pictures here of a chicken dish, some pumpkin buns, dumplings, an egg and tomato dish (which is one of my personal favorites), green beans, as well as a picture of the table with my wonderful co-teachers.

 IKEA food

With moving into a new apartment soon, we needed to get some things at IKEA so we decided to check out the food there. I don’t recall ever eating at an IKEA in the states, but I do know about the Swedish meatballs. We couldn’t say no to trying them, and I was rather happy with that choice. They were delicious, but the salmon lasagna on the other hand wasn’t as good. The cheese here just isn’t the same.

So after just a week of being here, the food is just as good as I remembered. I did not include any pictures of Chinese eggplant dishes (simply because I forgot to take pictures whenever I ordered it). With that being said, keep an eye out for more posts about food in the future.

I wanted to leave this one for last because I honestly have no idea what this guy was doing today. He had a turtle tied to a stick and just standing in the road. If anyone knew what his goal was or even had any guesses as to what he was doing, I would love to hear them.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Officially Employed & Almost Settled In

Three days ago, I started my first full-time job. I cannot believe I signed a yearlong contract and will receive my first paycheck of more than around 200 USD as if I had my old part-time jobs. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not doing this for the money in any means, but the realization of being on my own is definitely sitting in. The morning of the contract signing I had a cup of coffee. Not the best idea because shortly after I couldn’t tell if I was shaking from the caffeine or the excitement of beginning this new chapter.

Taking this leap of faith was something I was confident with. I can easily get by with my Chinese here in China even though it is nowhere near close to being fluent (and I don’t have a Beijing accent - future blog posts will tell great stories about this). Some people don’t have ANY Chinese language background at all, but they still make it! Just because the language is so foreign does not mean that it is impossible to even vacation here. Every metro sign has the written out pronunciation of the stop, most menus have pictures, some young people speak English, and on top of that, there is always gesturing! That’s the most fun one because sometimes you just look like a fool, and they don't even understand what you are saying. It's all a part of the experience in my opinion.

Now this part of the post is a little more personal, but I wanted to share with the world honestly about my experience. I’ve decided to reflect upon this experience before I got lost in the repetition of everyday life. With that being said, these are some thing I am looking forward to:
  • Being a minority – In the U.S.A., being white and having white privilege is something people definitely overlook every day. Living here in China puts it into a different perspective when you get called 老外 (laowai) which means foreigner over and over again. It also challenges me more to prove to people that I can speak the language and that I can survive in a country that is so foreign to people. Most importantly, I want to become accustomed to this unique culture that I will call home for the next year.
  • Being an expat – Working abroad has always been my dream, and now it’s finally happening! I want to take advantage of meeting more people in the same boat as me and networking with as many people as possible. You never know where one connection will take you.
  • Having a full-time job - I love working and probably will end up being a work-a-holic, but I am looking forward to that this first year. I want to get my schedule down to a routine while at the same time challenging myself to become the best teacher that I can possibly be.
  • Exploring a new, incredibly large city – Beijing has an endless amount of activities to do, places to see, and food to eat. I want to explore as much as possible and see what all it has to offer. This may involve meeting people to play ultimate Frisbee with or even finding a new delicious restaurant! I am willing to do whatever is necessary to fuel my adventurous spirit.
  • Having an apartment – After a long, stressful weekend of apartment searching, we have found a place. A nice 3 bedroom with 2 bathroom apartment with a park in the apartment complex and many restaurants (international and Chinese) right outside the main gate. I cannot wait to sign the contract and move in. This will be my first time having my own place besides living in a dorm, and I look forward to making it our new home.

And these are some things that I expect of myself (AKA realistic goals):
  • Meeting people from all over the world – Once a month, I want to think about the friends I have made and make sure that I am still reaching out to new people, as well as maintaining the old friendships that I have made.
  • Learning how to teach – Thankfully, my company has many resources to further our education in teaching, and I want to be proactive in learning something new about it every single week to better myself.
  • Teaching the children – The reason I am teaching is for these children, and I want to make sure that they are making improvements. I will evaluate and adjust my teaching style to make sure that they are learning as much as possible.
  • Managing money well – Being the first time receiving a salary in this amount, I want to make sure to save a good chunk of it and start being a responsible adult when it comes to money. This means following a budget as closely as possible while still being able to enjoy life.

I will leave you with a picture of the subway map just giving you an idea of how big this city of 25 million people really is.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Ride In

I made it to the hotel and through a whole day! Training has been pretty laid back thus far, but still beneficial and entertaining. It’s so great meeting people from all over the world ready to take on China.  As for school placement, I found out that I am a brand new school on the Southeast side of Beijing. I only know the metro line that is closest to it, no clue what the address is. I am still having issues with getting data on my phone but hopefully I should have it figured out by tomorrow! Thank god I am not the only one going through these troubles – everyone who brought an unlocked smart phone is in the same boat.

 I wrote the rest of this post on the flight, so let’s time travel a little in the past just for the fun of it.

Currently, I’m on this huge 777 plane waiting our arrival into Beijing. I think there’s about 4 hours left, hopefully! I had the hardest time sleeping over noisy Chinese people speaking in front of me for about two hours – they never told me about this perk of getting an exit row seat! Yes, the leg room is nice and you get to help people during an emergency, but you also deal with people thinking it is okay to hover in your area, talking and opening the window almost blinding you. Besides that, the food has been edible, nothing spectacular.  I wouldn’t recommend any of their recipes.

I got my training schedule yesterday, I could possibly find an apartment to call my own this weekend. That’s really when it all set in. I am going to be living in China for a year – a whole year. My first full-time job. I am more than ready to see what I can do to be the best teacher to these kids. And of course, explore this vast land they call China.

After being on this plane, differences between American and Chinese way of life already popped up since I would say 75% of this flight is Chinese. Here are a few of the highlights:

·         Wrong Room!- I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many Chinese people tried going into the workers’ break room – basically their closet – instead of the bathroom. Not sure if it was because they couldn’t read, or if they haven’t flown much before. Nonetheless, it was rather entertaining, if I do say so myself.

·         The shoving, oh the shoving Personal bubbles and urgency to get places are different between cultures. Chinese will do whatever to get by whereas Americans will wait around and say “Excuse me”, expecting the other person to move.

·         Love for rice – This one is a little more stereotypical, but for the first meal, we had three options, one of them being a beef and rice dish. Of course, they run out of it before they get to the lovely and spacious (if only!) back part of the plane where I am residing. Good thing that wasn’t what I wanted to eat.

·         Language expectation – I understand that English is becoming the lingua franca for basically the whole world; however, this plane is going to China. There are only 3 flight attendants out of 9 on board who can speak Chinese, all of which look Chinese. It just reminds me of how Americans oftentimes are naïve to how big and diverse the world truly is.
I’m sure there are more differences. I would love to know if you have noticed any yourself, or if you are curious about any of the ones that I have mentioned. It’s time for me to go explore Beijing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Here we go again

After graduating from Marietta College, I am now on my way back to the mainland. Mainland China, that is. However, this time it won't be in Shanghai, instead I will be exploring the capital city - Beijing!

I leave on Tuesday afternoon after having an amazing summer of what seemed like vacation after vacation, well because it was. At first, I had my normal summer of laying on the couch and watching Netflix, but once June came around, I went to Minnesota, Chicago, Pittsburgh (several times), Columbus, and even Disney World. I couldn't have asked for a better summer.

But now, I start a new chapter in my life by having my first FULL-TIME job. I will be teaching English for EF English First somewhere in the Chaoyang District in Beijing (the East side). I'm so excited for this and cannot believe it is so close to happening!

I will be posting to this blog hopefully every week to update you all on my journey on the other side of the world! Feel free to let me know if you have questions or want to hear about something in particular about life in China.

It's gonna be difficult saying goodbye to my family, friends and puppies for a whole year, but at least I will have cute pictures of them like this one.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I just figured I would let you guys see my first BuzzFeed article since it directly relates to studying abroad! Here's the link:

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's the little things that count

As the semester wraps up, I still have two Chinese tests and a little homework, one Economics presentation and paper, and one Finance presentation and paper until I have completed my Spring semester of my junior year. It’s crazy to think about, but in reality, it has been a long semester. All of my friends in the states have already been out of school for a few weeks now, but because we didn’t start classes until a month after them and we had two full weeks of vacation, we’ve had to make the semester longer than normal. There are some people heading back next week for internships, but for me, I wanted to stay. (And now my sister is even coming-you guys have no idea how excited I am for that!) 

Today, on my way to internship, I was walking between metro lines and noticed the escalators were both closed. This is common occurrence and I’m not sure why it happens so often, anyways, we all had to take the stairs. I noticed an older lady is holding up people because she has a bag that she is incapable of lifting down three flights of stairs (she has a rolling one that she’s ever so slowly having fall down each individual stair). I go up to her and politely tell her in Chinese that I can help her and she tells me, “Oh thank you young lady!” She still holds onto the bag as I lift it down. When we get to the bottom, she goes back to rolling it and says some Chinese which I’m not sure what it meant, but I carry on knowing that this lady was extremely grateful. It’s not like I was the only one around that could help, I was the only one who made the effort to help. As I continue towards the metro, a Chinese man looks at me and gives me the thumbs up. Today, just made me realize that despite the whole difference in language and culture, you can still impact people’s lives for the better, even if they are just small acts of kindness.

Since it’s been blowing up on Facebook and since he is from Minnesota, I wanted to write a little about Zach Sobiech. (at this point in time, if you haven’t watched the 20 minute video on him, go do that!) I watched his video this morning and found out about his death on May 20, 2013 which just happens to be the Chinese “I love you” Day because the pronunciation of 5.20 (wu er ling) sounds similar to 我爱你 (wo ai ni) which means I love you. I found this to be incredibly ironic, and it makes his story that much more meaningful (although it is already such an emotional story). It makes me realize how precious life is so go out there and start making the legacy that you want to leave behind. “You don’t have to find out you are dying to start living.” –Zach Sobiech