When I arrived in Jinzhou, my first impressions were (contrary to what I’ve been told about this very “small” Chinese city that holds 800.000 people): pretty and impressive with new buildings, new apartment blocks and new bridges (with frozen 'streaming' water – something I’ve never seen before in my life). The city is quiet (by Asian standards), it's clean (again, by Asian standards), it's smells fresh (... Asian standards..) and it’s really like a spread-out mini Chinatown! The thing I loved the most was the bright neon lights in Chinese script and not a word written in English! Finally, finally, finally I thought: I’m in ASIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By the way, when I went to the toilet and I had the choice of a western or non-western (hole in the ground) toilet, it totally hit home where I was… and what did I choose?? NON-WESTERN!!!!
I got to the apartment at around 7pm (this was still on Tuesday). Feeling like my head was in space and my brain was fried and frazzled, I opened the door to my new home and the first greeting was from a gorgeous dog (not too sure of the exact breed… could be a type of sheepdog) by the name of Cooper. Then I met my flat-mate, an American guy Matt, who is also Coopers’ ‘Dad’. I instantly had a home-life to fall into that would happen in the huge, clean and spacious apartment, with my own room (king-size bed and door wardrobe!) and private bathroom... How brilliant…
Before getting too settled into my new home though, I was taken by Apple and Lydia to the most high-class restaurant in the city. Well… this place was amazing! We ate in a PRIVATE SUITE, with massive double-doors and in the background there was a classical pianist playing live music… My first Chinese meal… I couldn’t believe it. I was told to sit at the top of the table. Then in walked around 3 or 4 waitresses, all holding a different dish, they placed them on a moving-platter in the centre of the table, so we could pick and choose whatever we wanted… I was so glad at this stage to have had some use of chopsticks in the past… So I didn’t feel like too much of an amateur! The 2 girls were so intrigued and interested. They were speaking Chinese between themselves, almost constantly, and I can only imagine how they were observing and evaluating my ‘eating techniques’ and my reactions to their food - which were all good… (Except for the pork and the grizzly bony chicken pieces) This was my welcome dinner from the company and, even in my frazzled state, I managed to savour it.
I got back an hour later and some of the other English teachers came by our ‘pad’ to welcome me. I met British Mike, American Lauren and British John (he isn’t actually a teacher for our company (which is called English First), but teaches at the city university). I felt so relaxed, straight away. Within 15 minutes of chatting with them, I knew this was the perfect place for me right now. This made me feel so relieved, and with this sense of relief came a buzz of excitement for what this lifestyle will offer me. Then, the jetlag subsided and all I wanted was to get more and more familiar with this Chinese life. I wanted to get ‘out there’!!!! Hearing of how things work here, I know that this convenience and ease on the job - that I didn’t experience in India but WILL be experiencing here - will free up so much of my time and give me all the energy to focus fully on this Chinese experience AS WELL as what I focusing on at home. It’s amazing. Also the group I’ve fallen into… are sooooo likeminded (it’s almost freaky). Lauren is a writer, Mike is a therapist back in England (just taking a few years out of London to experience a different life), Matt and Mike both play the guitar and sing (not that I do, but being surrounded by that type of music will definitely suite me!) And they are all into art and learning to speak Chinese!
Within an hour, I got so many snippets of the amazement that awaits and I desperately wanted it to start. But I had to take my time… I first needed sleep and to get some of my energy back… And because I was feeling so excited, yet calm with discovering this is the right environment for me, I was able to sleep amazingly… What a ‘day’ this was.. and it lasted for I don’t know how many hours ;)