REALLY Far Abroad

Chris and I are currently abroad. As in a 15-hour-time-difference, welcome-to-China kind of abroad.

For those of you who may not be up to date on the happenings in our lives (shame on you): Chris is a Chinese major at ASU, and we have moved to Nanjing, China as part of a year-long study abroad/internship program.

Last summer we spent a few months in Taiwan, which was a wonderful adventure. While Taiwan had its pros, it definitely had its miserable aspects, namely: 1. Wretched smells—for a while, I convinced myself I could breath through my mouth for three months. 2. Hotmidity–really hot humidity that causes such profuse sweating I started to wonder the effectiveness of putting deodorant on my face 3. Neesty food—the weight loss plan you can’t abandon.

Most people say that Taiwan is like American when compared to China, so I was fully expecting worse smells, worse food, and worse humidity (Nanjing is one of China’s three “furnace cities”). So I moved here with really low expectations.

I read a book about how Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. They have such depressingly low expectations that they are almost always pleasantly surprised. When you have a low standard, there’s nowhere to go but up. Moral of the story, I had a very Danish state of mind in preparation for our move to China, and so far, I have been pretty impressed with the country. Granted, there are always a few things you just never get used to. Some of my favorites from this week:

–      As we were eating at one of the more dingy restaurants, a cat came slinking out of the kitchen, jumped on the extra seat at our table, and took a nap. It reminded me of the Toyota commercial where as two guys are eating out, the nasty cook peels his restaurant’s A rating off the window and puts up a giant C.

–      Pants-less, diaper-less babies kickin’ it on the street. I was fortunate enough to watch a grandparent assist his toddler so he could do his bizznas in the gutter.

–      People who don’t treat the lobby or halls of our apartment as a communal space. Were talking, dog pee/poop, smoking in the halls, and people driving their mopeds into the building.

–      People nonchalantly tossing their trash on the street.

–      Grandmas attractively coughing, snorting, hocking, and spitting loogies.

–      People smoking wherever they please, namely in Chris’ university buildings. And did I mention my apartment building? In the hall outside my door? So it wafts into my apartment.

–      The staring. Oh the staring. I assume that most of the time it’s out of curiosity, but today a group of girls and I went on a walk, and we had a stalker who kept taking our picture.

–      Along with the curious staring, we sometimes get the evil eye (mostly from the older generation). We got it bad yesterday. Four of us were sitting on a bench when an older man stopped in front of our group and gave us the most disgusted look. Then after making sure he had adequately killed us with his eyes, he continued on his merry way. I guess I’m pretty offensive. Those snot snorting grannies aint got nothin’ on me.

–      Speaking of the evil eye—some people seem to be a little racist and refuse us service. Namely cab drivers. Dang them.

–      We live on the 22nd floor, and currently I can’t see skyscrapers over a mile away. Pollution!

–      Cleanliness standards pretty much don’t exist here. Our “clean” “move-in ready” apartment had WAY too much evidence of the previous tenants: lots of hairs, an old sheet, a toothbrush, an ashtray with cigarettes, and mouse poops.

–      The people here are pretty… aggressive. China is relatively disorganized with lots of pushy yelling Asians. Dog eat dog (how appropriate since they eat dog). I get cut in line all the time. I think I’ll just start kicking people.

–      Customer service doesn’t exist. Customer satisfaction doesn’t exist. I bought butter yesterday—it’s moldy. Pretty much everything in our apartment is broken–our landlord disagrees and says it’s fine.  This is truly the land of knock-offs and crap-ola.

–      I won’t say much on the matter since government is creepily aware of everything we do, but there are cameras on the streets that take pictures of everyone so they can see who is where, and apparently the government has people follow us. Paranoia…. Technically this blog, facebook, and other American websites are supposed to be blocked, but we have our ways.

The more pleasant surprises of the week:

–      Church was only two hours long, followed by a potluck (my kid of worship).

–      China is cheap, cheap, cheap. You can take a cab or eat a nice meal for $2, and Ikea is less expensive here than in the States.  Lastly… you don’t tip (which probably explains the crappy customer service), but I’m a cheap wad, so I fit right in.

–      There are rows of impressive trees running the length of the street by our apartment. There are also a few nice parks, so it’s not all dirty streets and necked babies.

–      Nanjing is loud by American standards, but still much quieter than Taiwan. The difference is that people here drive electric mopeds. They are quiet and don’t smell like burning diesel. The little pleasures.

–      There is a really great group of girls whose husbands are also in the Flagship program, so hopefully I will feel less isolated and socially awkward than I did in Taiwan.

Nanjing’s city gate that is the start and end point for the 600 year-old wall that wraps around the city.
The Chinese write their prayers on ribbons and hang them from trees.
The smog outside my window.
Factoids: Nanjing was originally China’s capitol. It has a population of over 7 million people and is among China’s largest cities.