Saturday, March 17, 2018

I am Lazy on an International Level

This month marks 18 months since Red and I arrived in the Middle Kingdom. We've been here long enough that this is just where we live now. The adventure is gone. Having the adventure gone means that most of the stress that goes along with that adventure is gone also. Having the stress gone is a good thing, but I miss the adventure.

We have gotten settled to the point that we are shopping around for apartments. Something that is not fun to do in any culture and China is no exception. Now that we have this place a little better figured out, we know what we like. And, more importantly, we are very aware of what we don't like.

We've learned how to order food directly to our apartment instead of going out. That is really nice in the winter. However, when we do go out, we have the regular restaurants we enjoy visiting. Just like in the States, we try new places also, but you settle into your favorites.

I have received messages from so many people saying things like:
  • "Wow! Your life is so exciting."
  • "What's it like to live in Beijing?"
  • "How do you know what you're eating is actually pork?"
  • "Aren't you scared of all the pandas running around?"
When we first got here, it was adventure all the time. Confusion, cluelessness, abject terror when out of the apartment, but adventure. However, with time, it has just become the place that we live. Most of my life in the States, I would wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work, come home and watch TV, eat dinner and hang around the house. Now I live in China and my typical daily routine is eat breakfast, go to work, come home and watch TV, eat dinner and hang around the house.

As you can see, it hasn't really changed much. The only real work I do here that I didn't do in the States is searching the internet for pirated TV shows to download since there is no Netflix in China.

If you know me at all, you are well aware that I am rather lazy. Now I do love to experience new things and enjoy being the center of attention, but I'm not too keen on either if it will require much effort. I am more than happy to do nothing. And I have quickly learned that I can do that literally anywhere in the world.

My new life goal is to take a nap on every continent.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Starting To Figure This Place Out

Last week, I returned from an English competition I participated in last year. It was four days of sitting under studio lights and listening to children showcase a talent they had prepared.

Some of the performances were great. Others were like listening to Gilbert Gottfried and Fran Drescher having sex with each other.

Despite the long days, I love working on this show. It's an opportunity to do something different and meet a bunch of new people. I make a lot of new Chinese friends and also meet many foreigners who are there doing the same thing. However, this year had one major difference from last year.

Last year, I had only been in China for a couple of months and was still in the "Crap! What have we gotten ourselves into?" mode. Now, I've been here for almost a year and a half and China doesn't seem scary anymore.

I was especially reminded of this when I got home and was reflecting on the week I just had. Each group of judges had two "native" English speakers along with several Chinese judges of differing talents. The other English speaker I was paired with was a Brazilian guy who had only arrived in China the month before and has not had a good experience so far. In fact, the company that brought him here really screwed him over, but he has gotten away from them.

While he enjoys working with children, he is acutely aware of everything around him that "just isn't right." He had a host of complaints over the course of the weekend.
  • He was disgusted that some children had memorized answers instead of interacting with the judges.
  • He hated that the breakfast they gave us was not what 'normal people' would eat.
  • He told us stories of the management style he had to suffer with at his new job.
  • The apartment he lived in was sub-standard.
  • He didn't agree with the educational system he was working in
  • He was having trouble making Chinese friends.
  • The language barrier was ridiculous.
 After one of his stories about something he was not happy with, he walked away and another guy in the room (in China for 6 years) said: "He's a whiny little bitch."

While I couldn't disagree with the sentiment, I tried to remind the people in the room that this man had just arrived in the country and is still in freak out mode. Everyone nodded. Those first few months are difficult. It's like being on another planet.

Since I was paired with this guy, we spent a lot of time together and I did my best to help him understand some things, tell him where to buy certain items that he couldn't find and how to do some necessary tasks that seemed insurmountable. One conversation stood out in particular. It happened over breakfast.

James: Don't these people realize that breakfast is supposed to be a different meal? Why are they serving the same stuff we ate at lunch and dinner?

Me: This isn't the same.

James: Well, maybe not. But why don't they at least serve breakfast food?

Me: This is breakfast food. It's Chinese breakfast food. You do understand that we are in China, right?

James: Why can't they serve the food that normal people eat?

Me: Stop and think about this. There are over seven and a half billion people on this planet and almost one and a half billion live in this country. China, the country you are in now, makes up close to 20% of the entire world. Statistically, whatever they eat here is closer to 'normal' than whatever either of us eats in our own countries. This is normal. Everything that happens here is more 'normal' than what happens anywhere else.

He understood my point and let it rest for a moment, but as I scooped up a spoonful of my congee, it struck me. "Did I just say that? Where did that come from?"

As much as I was annoyed at how little this guy was willing to open his mind and try to bend to his surroundings, it occurred to me that this was me a year ago.

I wasn't happy about anything. I didn't know how to pay my bills. Grocery shopping was a disaster. We didn't know how to cook. There were strange smells in our apartment. We came dangerously close to getting hopelessly lost every time we went outside. I couldn't talk to anyone. Even the few people who try to help don't realize how clueless I was. It was horrible.


What a difference a year makes. There is still so so so much about China that I don't understand, but the fear and anxiety is gone. I got this. I'm ready to tackle another country now.