Well today finally marks a full week in our Beijing apartment and two weeks in China! We have really started learning about our neighborhood and finding the best places to shop and eat. It certainly has been an adventure and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
First off, let me tell you about our first night in the apartment. I felt really lucky that the furnished apartment already had a lot of the stuff we needed. We were able to cook spaghetti the first night because the pots, strainers, and plates were already there! But of course, our luck ran out pretty quickly after that. We managed to flood the bathroom twice in that first 24 hours as well as discover a broken air conditioning in the master bedroom. The bathroom, I thought, I was fully prepared for! I had watched all the videos about bathrooms in Beijing and thought I could handle all the changes that were coming. Before I begin, I need to explain that the washing machine has a hose that must be plugged into the drain in the bathroom. It is usually in the floor and it sometimes doubles as a shower drain. We checked, it was plugged in, and we began our first load of laundry. I walked in a few minuted later and a large puddle had already formed on the floor. I became panicked as the spin cycle started and LARGE amounts of water started spilling from the pipe and onto the floor. WHAT WAS GOING ON? I called Korey and he ran in to turn off the washer (I hadn’t thought to do that). He unplugged the hose and pulled out a drain plug. Of course it wasn’t visible because the hose was there and the pipe had absolutely no drainage until it was unscrewed. After fixing the problem, we cleaned up the mess and moved on with moving in. A few hours later, Calvin realized that only hot water came out of his sink, no cold. Korey looked beneath the sink and realized that there was another plug stopping cold water from getting to the sink. Korey pulled it out so Calvin could brush his teeth and then we went to bed. The next morning, we awoke to several centimeters of water flooding his bathroom. Apparently, the previous tenants knew there was a leak and just plugged it rather than call the landlord.
Fortunately, our landlord has been AMAZING throughout all of these problems and has sent out plumbers for the bathroom sink, repairman for the air conditioner, and made our lives so much easier. We had another problem a few days later when the electricity went out. It turns out the 100 rmb the owner thought would last us a few weeks only lasted 5 days. He had the realtor come out and taught us to turn back on the electricity (still waiting for the gas card though). The apartment is really coming together and we have started to explore the surrounding area. One thing I have noticed in China is that there are restaurants EVERYWHERE. Seriously, we would go into a plaza and find 5 restaurants and one pharmacy (it is always a pharmacy for some reason). Keep in mind, we live in the suburbs, but I couldn’t believe we had such difficulty finding a grocery store. Funny thing is that the grocery stores are either tiny holes in the wall or several stories high. Anyways, it is a bit of a walk to the grocery store but it is close to school.
Speaking of school, Calvin and I are both getting antsy for the first day next Monday. My past 2 weeks have been full of meetings, task lists, and re-scheduling. I have made a lot of friends in and outside of my department. I think there is a little nervousness all around because we have a lot of teachers that have either never taught before or never taught internationally. On the bright side, we know we are all going in it together! The camaraderie at the school is so much better than I could imagined, especially since the school employs over 200 teachers! A teacher I didn’t know broke her necklace at lunch, and I couldn’t believe that myself and at least 6 other teachers all ran to help her find all of the pieces. It really is that kind of place. We don’t all speak the same language, but we all know that we are on the same side!
As for the people, the Chinese are really great. I walk home from work somedays and feel the curious glances as I walk by. I usually meet their gaze and utter a “Ni hao!” quickly. Almost 90% of the time, they burst into a big smile and nod to me, happy that I know enough to say hello. Some stores that I shop at recognize me and there is a security guard that always offers to take my umbrella so I don’t have to carry it while shopping. He even helps me bag my groceries afterwards! Sure we can’t speak to each other, but that doesn’t stop him from trying! A really big moment of kindness came when Korey and I couldn’t figure out how to get home from Walmart. We had our address in Mandarin, but not in English! Our hotel before had a card with both on it, so we never thought about it. We stopped a nice Chinese fellow at the store and he took over 5 minutes of his time to change our app to Mandarin, order us a car on Didi, and made sure to show us where to wait because the driver couldn’t come into the parking lot. How many would have stopped to help? I don’t know, but that man did and I was grateful.
This Sunday I will be meeting all of my students before school starts on Monday and I couldn’t be more excited. Calvin had the chance to meet his advisory teacher last Sunday and even met a friend named Thomas! He had his entrance exams today and thinks he did fairly well. He will have a whopping eight classes a day that include Honors English, Honors Math, Choir, computers, and MY CLASS!! He may even have a few courses that might be in full Mandarin. We will have to see on those, though. Either way, we are excited to get this year under way and will be sure to tell you everything!