Tag Archives: Zhangjiagang

Shanghai and Early ZJG Picture Highlights

Just to start things off because I feel like I’m going to die from severe franticness, I currently have 28 bug bites.  8 of which literally just happened in the last ten minutes.  Most of which are on my leg.  See picture number one.

With that out of the way, back to Shanghai.  Aside from taking more Chinese classes and getting lectures on what to expect when teaching English (most of which has not actually been the case!), we also went to the Shanghai Museum which was pretty awesome.  My favorite exhibits were the seals, the minority clothing and the calligraphy.

We also went to Old City and on a cruise where we could see Shanghai at night best.  And finally, the Chinese acrobats show, where we sat in the first two rows.  I “lucked” out and ended up first row, dead center.  Which was awesome except for when they wrapped their arms in long ribbons hanging from the ceiling and swung out into the audience…I don’t think I’ve ever ducked lower in my life.

The last few pictures are from around Zhangjiagang.  I realllly like it here.  It’s a lot bigger than I expected, but still pretty quiet and smallish.  I would just really appreciate for the bikes, motorbikes and cars to STAY OFF the sidewalk!  I almost got run over a few times today because they don’t always honk to warn you!

A closing comment:  I may or may not have eaten five slices of processed cheese last night.  I was craving cheese and browsing the snack section of the corner store not really expecting to find anything cheese flavored when lo and behold: sandwich cheese.  And while the food we’ve had here has by no means been lacking, when you have a craving and aren’t really expecting it to be fulfilled, processed cheese suddenly tastes like extra sharp cheddar.

Random post of Random

Orientation week was monster busy so the following post includes some random thoughts I wrote down throughout the week…I’m now in Zhangjiagang so I have lots to report on that as well, but for now, here is a week full of thoughts:

Sooo China.  Hello!  Let’s start with the airport terminal in Chicago and how silly I felt when I had pictured in my head that I would be on the plane with mostly non-Chinese people…why I made that assumption, I’ve no idea, but it was certainly not the case, and it was kind of nice because it gave me my first taste of being surrounded with the language before even leaving the country.

The flight actually felt quite short to me minus one very long minute when I half woke up in whatever REM cycle it is where you’re kind of paralyzed and freaked out in my head a little bit because my half-dream state had me thinking I really was paralyzed, that the plane was going down and that, well, that really wasn’t a good thing.  Otherwise the flight was good and I even watched an adorable movie set in China/in Chinese.

I brought the most stuff of everyone in my group….I was already embarrassed by my one massive suitcase but was hoping I would see others with the same…not the case.  Everyone else who I met at the airport in our program had less luggage.  Oh well…on a fun note, walking out of customs you kind of felt like you were famous or something because you walk down a roped off path lined with people holding signs, I’ve never had a sign held for me at an airport before!

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon/night sleeping and then woke up at 4am, went for a walk with my roomie around 6 and then had breakfast at 7 (this has not happened since…now we wake up at 7:30).  I had forgotten how many flavors I missed from my last visit to China!  However I will post a “first week of food in China” entry later with pics of food and more about restaurants.

So there are about 40 participants from our program, four of us going to Zhangjiagang and about six who are staying in Shanghai…one poor girl is going to the middle of nowhere by herself and she doesn’t know any Chinese…as you can imagine, we’re all tryin to be extra nice and helpful to her…

And oh right, it’s monster hot here.  It doesn’t help that it was all lovely and cool in New York just before I got here, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s  never typically this horribly humid there.  I am actually looking forward to the wet and cold winter at this point just as a reprieve from my hair fluffing up into a giant fro and my face melting off.  However, I have been hearing more and more from people here that it snows very little and that it doesn’t even get much colder until the end of October!

So here’s something great, my Chinese is 80 times better than last time I came to China!  Last time I could read about 25% of the characters on signs around the cities, but now I recognize about 60% and can figure out another 10% from context.  I’m still complete rubbish at tones but these are actually better than last I was here as well.

I currently have a habit of formulating sentences in Chinese in my head to say to people and then find that either I end up standing mute or English comes out of my mouth instead.  Frustrating, but it’s getting better.  My roommate in Shanghai has helped because we’re about the same level of Chinese and so I’m really comfortable talking to her.  She’s a bit better at actually putting words to sentences in the presence of Chinese people, I’m better at characters and vocab.  So we make a pretty good team when trying to talk to anyone.

I am best at Chinese when I am isolated from everyone in our group and confronted with a stranger actually.  I think it’s because I know I don’t have the crutch of some of the others in the group and I’m less nervous because this stranger doesn’t have any expectations of how well my Chinese should be.  We had our physical exam today and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to communicate with each of the doctors (we had to see literally six different doctors who all did different things, including an ultrasound…)

I will try to make less scattered posts in the future, but I’m trying to make up for the past week without overwhelming everyone by jumping back and forth!

I will leave with a picture of our house here in Zhangjiagang:

Where I’m at, would like to and will be

Before I head over to China, I figured I ought to illuminate both everyone reading this, and to be honest, myself, more clearly on why I’m going to China.  I stopped writing in pen and ink journals a few years back because, well, to be honest I’m not really sure.  But I really wish that I hadn’t, because within a year, I meet tons of fascinating people, a million and a half events happen and I go through about a billion and a half new thoughts and emotions…seeing as I have the memory of a squirrel, it almost ought to be mandatory that I put said people/events/thoughts to paper at least once a week.  Apologies in advance for the length…

Where I’m at

I am 24.  This means that I’ve had the past two years to start learning how to function as an adult after being dependent on my parents and status as a student for 22 years, but am still young enough that I can be unsettled for a few more years before having to figure out how to function as a completely independent adult…point being, it’s the exact perfect time to move to China for a year.

I live at home with my parents.  This has been amazing because my parents are two of the most incredibly supportive, patient, fun and loving people ever.  I’m not just saying that because they can read this either, I’m one of those kids that was truly blessed to get great parents and coming back from college to live with them again has been wonderful, but now sad because I have to get used to missing them all over again!

I’ve spent the past two years going on adventures with them, getting to know the company where my dad works better because I’ve been working there (my previous understanding of his job was limited to, “something to do with plastic, purchasing and international business trips”) and having long talks every night with my mum before bed while Trooper tries to interrupt our conversation with loud squeaking of the “dog toy crushed between mandibles repeatedly” variety and Archie slays us with looks and sparky attitude…

I mean seriously...slays

I’m not afraid to go on adventures without my parents, but I will absolutely be thinking of and missing their commentary and company in China and can’t wait for them to visit!

I work at Welch Allyn.  Again, the company my dad works for.  I don’t work in the same building as him, but it’s still just ten minutes away from the house (I am not a morning person so this is heavenly and I will absolutely miss having a job so close to home in the future if I eventually have a longer commute).

It’s a lovely company to work for, full of engineers of the software, hardware, electrical and mechanical variety, business-type people, lazy people, fascinatingly smart people, confusingly smart people, helpful people, scary people, all sorts.

I would say that it’s a typical workplace, but I honestly have no idea.  My past jobs have been organist, dog walker and dance teacher…not so much your typical workplaces.

It took me a while to get used to it (A large majority of the people who work here are older, of the opposite gender and have actual backgrounds in engineering/business), but now that I have a handle on how things work, who’s who and what questions to ask, I’m really going to miss it.

So what is my current job exactly?  If I have to give a simple answer, I now say “Software Test Engineer”.  If I have to elaborate a bit, I say that I test the software on medical devices to make sure everything runs correctly by writing and running protocols.  If you had asked me 6 months ago, you would have heard quite a lot of stuttering.  I’ve pretty much spent the last two years learning how the company is run, what types of products we make and test, learning how to use the equipment we use to test things, and doing whatever I can to be helpful.

Much to my delight, I have actually been able to use my Chinese here.  They eventually translated the device I’ve been testing into Chinese…

This guy...

and I was able to help out with the characters and to run our basic suite of tests in Chinese just to have a record of it.  SO much fun.

The first boss that I had here had the incredible perception and confidence in me to realize that I could figure out how to exist and be helpful here, and for that, I cannot be grateful enough.  When I first started the job, I couldn’t wait to move on to a new job and any time my dad asked me “would you ever consider working full-time for Welch Allyn?” I scoffed and said that would be ridiculous, I would hate it and why would they ever want to hire me anyway?  About a year or so later when I shockingly was asked by my boss if I might consider staying, it actually ended up being a very hard decision.

Where I would like to be

Why am I now heading to China?  Because when it comes down to it, I majored in Eastern Asian Studies, I’m not ready to settle down yet, not sure where I’d even want to settle down, and will probably not be happy wondering whether or not I could have actually become fluent at Chinese if I don’t take the opportunity now.

So I’m heading to China basically to see where it takes me and to attempt to become fluent at the language.  I have studied on my own, but never really allowed myself to get anywhere because I’ve been too afraid to open my mouth and make a mistake.  So, I’m going to move to a place where everyone around me speaks the language and force myself to start making mistakes until I finally make sense of things.  From there, I’ll stage new goals.

Where exactly in China?  Zhangjiagang in Jiangsu province.  It’s about an hour or so from Shanghai and a few other bigger cities and from what I’ve read from people who have lived there, it’s a smaller city that is very very clean.  Sounds nice to me because, being so close to other big cities, I can still have a chance to experience the cities but will live in a less smog-in-my-face place that’s perhaps a bit quieter?

What will I be doing there?  Learning and teaching.  My job is as an English teacher at a foreign language boarding school.

Main square of the school campus

I don’t know what age of students I will have until I get there (anything between K and 12), but I’m supposed to be teaching conversational English and I will also be tutoring.  Right now, I already have two Korean siblings that I’m going to be tutoring 5 times a week.  I’m excited, but since I’ve never really tutored before, super anxious.  I’m hoping that I will find someone to trade English for Chinese lessons with too.

One more very concrete goal:  I would like to open up an Irish dance school.  I’m very much flexible on the where and when this will happen, but no matter what I end up deciding to do after my time in China, an Irish dance school will definitely be worked into the mix.  I fully plan on attempting to teach lessons to anyone who would like to learn while I’m in China as well.  There is currently an Irish dance school in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei and Riverdance and Lord of the Dance have toured all over China numerous times so I’m hoping there will be interest!