Alyssa’s Expat Life—Unexpected vs. the Expected

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They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I must say my “pen” has been a bit stifled this week after learning that some of the expats here were talking about the negative points of my blog. Every person on earth has talked about someone else behind his or her backs at one point or another in life. What bothers me, I think, is that my blog is sort of a diary, and to write it down is not only cathartic, but will allow me to look back one day on my thoughts, opinions, etc. in a point in time in my life while living abroad. It’s also for my friends and family at home who care to read it.

And the fact that people that I barely know or, more importantly, barely know me are talking behind my back, which led to make me hesitate in my writing, made me feel weak. That, I don’t like. I do like the fact that people ask questions, want to know more and value a person’s opinion. That is the aspect that I will try to continue to facilitate in a positive approach more than the negative. With that being said, I will always have my own opinion and my own voice. That’s what truly being free is all about.

My boss Keith asked me today what I have found that I liked about China that I didn’t expect to like. I really couldn’t answer him in that moment. I had to take the day to think about it, because my knee jerk reaction was to say, “Not a whole hell of a lot.” There truly are only a handful of things I can say I like about this country so far. Today I took the time to really think about my top 10 unexpected likeable moments about life in Jinan.

Making friends. Throughout my entire adult life, I’ve never had a problem making friends. I thought the same would be said for coming abroad, since I am close with everyone I’ve ever been on a tour group with for the most part. This isn’t a vacation, however, so the small amount of friends I’ve made I cherish more than I normally would, since it’s much harder to make friends here than any place I’ve ever been. Perhaps that’s due to my blog, my sarcastic personality, the location of where I live, etc. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for those who invite me to things, noticing that I’m here completely on my own. Thank you.
Walking home. Walking the mile home at night after a long weekend of classes is a relief like none other. Each night I have either successfully managed 18 classes in two days, navigated my way through Jinan or relished in seeing the rare stars. It’s a wonderful time to reflect, breathe and think about my time here and why I came in the first place.
My Chinese English teachers. I had no idea when I came here how much I truly would rely on them, especially with the little kids. They help me come up with games, run around, and we laugh more than I expected to. And, they help me outside of class with questions, my first time at the ATM and in writing down addresses to places I should/need to see in the city. I can honestly say I will miss Micky, Eileen, Ruby and Rachel a ton. It’s been a pleasure working with them already in just four short weeks.
My apartment. My apartment is my safe haven in the crazytown of Jinan. I absolutely love it. It’s huge! I spend more time there than I expected due to the location of my suburb and the lack of funds in the first month. It has a toilet, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, a large room to hang my wet clothes and the best chopping knife I’ve ever had. These may seem like little things in America, but here they are luxuries to me.
The value of appreciating the smallest of things. I don’t even know where to begin here, so I’ll use one example. Just to get to, say, a bar. The first night we had to remember to bring our home address in Chinese to show the cab driver, or else we couldn’t get home unless we knew which bus to take. Then, you have to get the bar address in Chinese. Then you’re there once the cab drops you off, right? No! All of the buildings are in Chinese! So, unless it looks blatantly like a bar, you are left playing charades in the street to find the exact building the bar is in. It takes a lot of patience, and I’m glad there was actual Bacardi waiting for me at the end of that rainbow. (There may be rum elsewhere, but I can’t read the liquor labels at the Unimart, so I’ve started a drinking process of elimination.)
It’s freaking cheap. Holy hell it’s cheap here. It’s about $6 U.S. to an RMB, yuan, quay, whatever you want to call it here. I get paid $8000 RMB a month. I can live off of about $500 RMB a week. Do the math on how much I can bring back to the states at the end of this. It’s wonderful and makes all the classes worth it when you see the dollar signs in your eyes.
Some of my classes. To my surprise, I actually enjoy some of my classes. The teachers help, but a lot of my students are just plain fun. As stated in a previous Alyssa’s Expat Life, I have my favorites, but as the weeks go on, they are gaining in numbers. We’re becoming more familiar and having more fun. I try to think more like a kid and try to make my classes as less-boring as possible. Those poor things have to work all day at school, do homework and come to classes at Always. I would hate all of that pressure. So, within the confines of the lessons, I do games as much as possible and try to act crazy so they like me. I want them to have a good experience. Some of the smart asses and the ones who scream or roll around on the ground I still want to punch, though.
My celebrity status. I worked at a public school this morning, and holy cow, I was like Britney Spears or something. I signed about 50 autographs and was bum rushed at the door with photos and questions. I seriously thought TMZ was going to come running around the corner. I’m glad my hair is brunette, because if I was a blonde here I’d never survive. I get stared at on the street, not bad, but enough. I couldn’t imagine what that hair would do to these people. I’m like an alien!
The comfort of having freelance work. My work at The Arland Group and Vape News Magazine have kept me sane in this time of total surrealness. It’s comforting to do what you love and what you know in a time where everything else is upended. I’m truly enjoying the work that I do in my “spare” time. And, it’s reassuring to know my bills at home are being paid, because even though I have fewer of them, they don’t stop just because I’m in China!
Fast food delivery. KFC and McDonald’s deliver. This is completely unexpected and a joy like none other, when only one restaurant in your suburb has photos on the menu. The local food choices consist of that restaurant, fruits, vegetables, mystery meat and the glorified Walgreens known as Unimart. After a month I’m seeking variation, and this will definitely do the trick! I can’t wait for April so I can venture out more to different food places, but for now I will look to my school to call and get that delivery started!

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