Saturday, June 8, 2019

Welcome to China

Okay first let me admit the American media had taught me a certain level of fear…OMG, did they get it wrong…if I can not be at home in America, this place is pretty freaking awesome…yes, there are cameras here – no more than webcams in America…no there are no kung fu masters jumping out of doorways…and NO ONE has hated me because I am American, if anything they are even more polite to me…

My second day I started working with 2 young people in a national compition…this was a 3 part English speaking contest…I also got to meet several of the students who would be going to Keiser West Palm Beach campus...this was so much fun…I felt safe and welcome…my coworker John showed me the lessons I would need to prepare for while he was gone

I have been still working for first future…so the third day was about getting wyfy hooked up…whole this was being done, I was treated to a VIP meal…this was wonderful…I tried to use chop sticks – I did so well they gave me a knife and fork…lol…the food was interesting…John explained we would never know what most of it was, just try it and keep eating it if I liked it

SICFL is the host college for Keiser….this is a wonderful school with very caring staff who have not only Chinese but, also international student body…working in and around this campus gives one a very global feeling…does not matter where anyone is from, everyone gets along…I feel blessed to be here and very special

The biggest comment I have heard, even by those who do not speak English is ‘Welcome to China’ this comment is followed by a big smile…the warmth from the heart lets you know the sentiment is genuine…I contacted my student Daisy and her mom…they too were just as welcoming…this whole country was so polite it seemed a little strange to me…4 of my college students wanted to take me to Yu garden in downtown Shanghai

We woke early and took a Taxi to the subway…they explained it would be 2 hours to get to the inner city…no biggie I had been on the T in Boston, the subways in New York and Washington DC…this was the fastest subway I had ever been on – make sure you hold on to the hand grip…people actually gave up seats for the old or women traveling with children without being asked…Marin grabbed my arm as it stared to pack in…she was so sweet…she was taking good care of me as we emerged from the subway and it was raining…even in the rain, I was gobsmacked by the was sooooo clean and gardens everywhere…as you walk along the mix of ancient and modern is stunning – a real engineers dream….

The on to Yu Garden…this is a private garden that had been constructed in the Ming Dynasty so, that he may receive his guests…the detail was beyond incredible from rooflines in the shape of dragons to Koi that had descended from original fish, along with a gink tree that was more than 500 years old…it struck me that it had been planted before my country had been conceived…the students got a kick out of my child like wonder

Then it was off to the best meal I have had since I have been here…at the top of a 6 story mall, was a beautiful restaurant…everything is served on a giant lazy susan and is meant to be shared…and the food just kept coming…the texture of the noodles was like nothing served an America…the ribs were served with a dry rb and the meat itself had a sweeter flavor than what I had known stateside

We took a taxi to meet Daisy and her mom in a different part of town…this was a different multistory mall complex…this was a child I taught online for quite some time…to see her in person…to hug her…I was so happy, I wanted to cry…she was as beautiful in person with the same attitude…being an online teacher is not as easy as everyone thinks…sometimes you wonder if you have any impact on those you teach…to be treated so wonderfully made it all worth it…

Then I was whisked off to another meal…man, for such little people do they like to eat…every time I turn around there is more food…even though food was constantly being shoved in my mouth I had been losing weight…this meal was the perfect example why…Marin and I split a bowl of Pasta…no garlic bread or parm cheese served with it…though little Ryan was with us and that girl can eat – it was impressive…I bet she could give Joey Chestnut a run for is money…

We grabbed a Taxi home to the dorm…this was the end of my first week in China…I was exhausted and had lost weight, my belly was full and my mind was so overwhelmed…I was being shown the China of my students’, not something from a travel brochure…this was so much better…though there were a few quirky things, this was so cool…

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Starting the Journey

 The 72 hours before I left went by like a blur. There was so much to do: packing, phone calls, lists of things that would need done while I was gone, calling banks and bills, etc…so much to do and so very little time. Seriously there was barley time to breathe.

We left the house at 3am to make it to the airport on time. Tampa International was quiet and efficient. Sadly, I did not get felt up by TSA. They were quick to board us for the 4-hour flight to LAX. This leg of the journey was fairly unremarkable. Delta had wonderful service and kept us comfortable. I was excited to get to LAX as I had seen it on TMZ so many times, I was sure I would get to see a celebrity.

LAX was a real disappointment. Not only were there no movie stars, the airport had a poor design and was hard to get around. The international terminal was not easy to find. You have to take a bus from the regular terminal. There was an older Chinese lady who spoke no English, she had been on the flight from Tampa, and no one would help her. I looked at her and said ‘Shanghai’ and she shook her head. So, I grabbed her hand and took her with me. When we got to the International terminal, she was able to find another person who spoke Chinese to tell me ‘Thank you’. She was so grateful, she kept putting grapes in my hand. I was thankful for this as there was a 4-hour layover and though there was a bar, there was really no place to get food. The only really good thing I can say is that the bathrooms were clean. TSA here ransacked my luggage and left me a note. I was able to get a 20oz bottle of coke for $4. The line to board the airbus was crazy long.

Once onboard, it was like entering a different world. Delta gave us blankets, slippers and travel pillows. The flight attendants were beautiful and professional. Our every want or need was seen to and they were so VERY polite. The passengers were relaxed and seemed as though a 13-hour flight was just another day at the beach. They served 2 meals and snacks. Part way through the trip the turbulence started. It reminded me of being in a horse and carriage on a cobblestone street. I tried to watch movies or sleep and not focus on it but, my stomach was having a hard time. My American cell had quit working somewhere over Russia and I was worried my ride would not be able to find me. The turbulence stopped just before we got to Shanghai International.

They disembarked us on the tarmac where they had buses waiting to take us to the terminal. It was very clean and well-marked. As a foreigner you get your picture and fingerprints taken. Next up was a yellow ‘health’ machine that you step in, if your scan is clean you move on if not you go to quarantine. Then to a second check point where everyone (foreign and domestic) gets their picture and fingerprints taken. From here, the assault to the senses begins – vendors signs, video billboards on your way to baggage claim. The customs line moved quickly and down a short hall to find your ride. It was the end of the short hall that was something I was not prepared for, there were a sea of faces. Even at rock concerts in large venues, I had never seen so many people in one place. My head was spinning. I kept walking until I heard someone yell my name. John and Bella grabbed me. We had to hunt the parking structure for our ride but, we found him, and we were off.

I feel that Shanghai drivers have to be some of the best in the world. Growing up in Massachusetts, I am used to crazy drivers, but they seemed normal compared to this. Cars and vespa like motor bikes bob and weave down the road like a frightening ballet. Road signs had blue and red strobes, there was a symphony of horns, and looking at the roads one could note how clean it all was. I was impressed at how polite the drivers were with each other. This would probably account for the lack of accidents.

We dropped my bags at the dorm, and they took me to dinner. We were going to have pizza but, it was due to close in 15 minutes and John told me the lady did not want to be troubled – you would never hear that from PaPa Johns in America. We found a cute little place to eat in the mall. At this point it was 9pm and john explained that the city rolled up the sidewalks at 10.  I had a steak; it was served with a fried egg and veggies I had never seen before. The beef had a very fresh flavor and since there were no condiments (of any kind), I used the yolk as a dipping sauce for the beef and veggies. There is no salt or pepper or butter or soy or duck sauce or bread provided with a meal. I had to go the bathroom and John warned me that public bathrooms here were not the same as what I was used to. Bella brought me to the bathroom. I saw porcelain holes in the floor and asked if we were in the men’s room. Bella is Chinese and did not quite comprehend my dismay. I asked if there was a bowl…lol – she though I meant a soup bowl. Now we both had a dismayed look. I found a stall at the back with a toilet bowl. When I pointed and said, ‘toilet bowl’, we both laughed relieved. It was now she handed me toilet paper as it was not provided, and she explained about the ‘good paper’ – this was more like Scott tissue than Charmin. When we finished, we jumped in a taxi and headed back to the campus.

Back at the dorm that night I was happy my room had a regular toilet. John was nice enough to give me a roll of ‘good paper’. I was quite exhausted as I had not really slept since Saturday and it was now Monday night. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed – sights, sounds, smells, flavors – all new to me…it was so much to take in. I woke several times through the night and each time started unpacking my luggage until I needed sleep again. This place was strange, beautiful and wonderful and it would be my home for the next 9 months. I missed being home but, if I could not be there this was the next best place.

#GirlyPirateInChina #China #Pudong #education #KeiserUniversity #lifedoesntsuck

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Choice To Go

I am a woman of many talents. I often go over and above and this has led to many opportunities of personal growth. As I took each opportunity, one would think I would become more employable when actually the opposite was true. The word often used was ‘overqualified’. It also did not help that I was over 50 years old and in Today’s America, that makes it much harder to find work also.
A Chinese company called First Future out of Beijing was willing to take a chance on me and hired me to teach English online to students in China. Although I was sitting in America, I was working in China every day. The students went from 3-65 years old and came from all over the country. American labor laws did not apply, Chinese ones did. Though I had never planned on a career as a teacher, I had become one. Though the company pushed training and personal growth, it was the students who made the job bring happiness to my life. They did not want to come to the USA, they wanted me to come and see ‘their China’.

Keiser University found out I had been doing this for a year and offered me the opportunity of a lifetime – would I go to China and work with their students? They wanted to produce students with a better global business understanding of English. My doctorate was in global business and I had been teaching English as a second language for more than a year…this was exactly up my alley. I did not have to give up First Future and would now have the chance to see the students that I had been speaking to for a year. I was going to be gone for 9 months -1 year.

I do a lot to care for my family, they would have to do without me for a while. This weighed heavy on my mind. I was caring for many people; this would be very hard on them too. After speaking to all concerned, they wanted me to have this opportunity. I was a little scared, though I had been working in China for more than a year, the American media had made it out to be a frightening place. With much thought and consideration, I accepted the position.
I had never had a passport or visa so; Keiser hired an agent to help me. What I was told could be handled in 2 weeks, actually took 6 and there was much stress involved. I had hoped to see family and friends before I left but, due to the agent’s incompetence, I had to wait around the house to keep getting paperwork that needed to be added to applications. I had to see the doctor, get shots and fill prescriptions, I also had to get permission from First Future to have meet ups with my students, and they were very supportive.

Friends and family were happy I was getting the opportunity but, sad they would be without me for so long. This created some really ‘bi-polar moments’ – we love you, have a good time vs. fuck you, you’re going. A few of them crushed my feelings but, when they apologized all was forgiven. I understood it was because I would be missed, and they were worried as they saw the same media I did.

Finally, passport and visa in hand, Keiser ordered my tickets. I would be gone in a few days. It really hit home now that my life was about to change forever. The world, my world, that I would leave behind would not be the same world I would return to. Many of my global coworkers at First Future helped me through this. These students needed me to be there for them and I had made a commitment. Being the Girly Pirate I am, I pulled up my big pirate panties and rolled with it. It was time for the journey of a lifetime to begin…

#teacher #China #lifechoices #education #FirstFuture #KeiserUniversity