Beijing Expat: September 2019

I would say that you could label our second full month in Beijing as a success! It has been full of learning experiences, culture shock, and brand new adventures! Calvin and I are growing more and more comfortable at school and Korey is finding his own groups to hang out with! Speaking for my family and I, we are very thankful to be here!

Beautiful view from Great Wall hike!

Earlier this month we went to our first section of the Great Wall and conquered it like men! You can read all about it on my separate blog post titled the Great Wall. It was such an adventure and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that might be traveling to Beijing in the future. Our other adventures haven’t been as big but were definitely adventures! For example, I decided it was time to master the food delivery app, Meituan. For those of you that have never heard of this app, it is an extremely convenient way to get AMAZING food delivered to your home for a cheap price. I had been using another more expensive app called JSS previously. I know what you are thinking, why didn’t you just use the cheaper app in the first place? Excellent question! Well, because Meituan is 100% in Chinese while JSS is in English. But the price difference is insane. JSS had me paying 230 yuan for big meals with 45 of that being delivery. I haven’t spend more than 160 with Meituan and the delivery fees range from 2-20 yuan depending on how far away the restaurant is.

Thank God for Maxine!

So after being told about this by my friend Maxine, I decided to ignore her advice on learning how to use the app from her and do it myself! This is how our little adventure begins…I find a fried chicken chain and decide to begin purchasing our dinner. After I had paid the 88 yuan, I realized they hadn’t sent a ETA for when the food would be delivered….or that I hadn’t given them my address. SOOOO I send my friend Maxine a picture and ask if I did something wrong. She laughs at me because somehow I requested pick-up instead of delivery. I am asking her how to cancel an order via WeChat and she is trying to explain to me as best as she can, BUT I STILL CAN’T READ CHINESE! So we have a flurry of pictures and messages trying to figure out how to cancel this order. Eventually she just tries calling the restaurant herself to see if it can be changed to delivery, but they say it can only be done via the app. What is the hopeless expat supposed to do? So I force my family into a Didi and go to see Maxine at the school in person so she can cancel this order! She was so kind to help us figure out how to cancel, input the correct address, and then send us on home to intercept our new chicken delivery. I was so grateful. The chicken arrived quickly and was even cheaper then when we were sending it for pick-up. Funny thing though, I go to pull out the chicken drumstick at the top of my box…and a whole chicken was attached to it. I had never seen that before! Only in pre-cut pieces already! A nice bit of culture shock there, but the food was delicious.

So having made my mistake once already, I tried the app again a week later to order some Papa John’s pizza for our movie night. We were so excited because I ordered, paid, and did everything on my own! Sure I sent Maxine a picture to make sure I did it right..but I still did it right! Anyways, Korey goes outside to get the order…and brought back the tiniest pizzas I had EVER SEEN. These things were so tiny they only cut them into four slices because they were roughly six inches wide! I was so upset about making another stupid mistake but Calvin and Korey found it hilarious. I quickly ordered more food for the boys and finally managed to get it right. The language barrier hasn’t ever been too much of a problem but this adventure sure had me frazzled!

Calvin and his best friend at the fire drill

School for Calvin has only been getting better and better. He has really gotten into basketball and seems to be getting pretty good! He usually has a few hours of homework each week (some from yours truly) and it now getting As and Bs in all of his classes. He has made a few friends and even presented with his class in front of the whole school. He had a large speaking part and did great…that is until he ran off the stage as soon as his part was over! But the high school kids thought it was so cute they came to me several times the next few days to ask if he was my son. He has already made quite a name for himself here and is recognized by teachers and staff all over the middle/high school. He has a close group of friends that he eats lunch with and even has a best friend that translates what is going on during assemblies or fire drills.

Speaking of which, I just had my first ever Chinese fire drill! Let me tell you, it is nothing like what we have in the states. At my schools in Arizona, fire drills are typically once a month where a big alarms goes off, classes file out, and we meet in a designated place. That was what I was expecting with this drill, but boy was I wrong! We got an email to meet out on the primary field for a 2-hour drill. 2 hours?? We go out there and are greeted by a group of firefighters and four different stations for the kids to visit. The one you see above was the ‘smoke drill’ (my name for it, not sure what it was called in Chinese). Basically, the students had to experience what it would be like to be in a smoke-filled building. So they were put into a smoky, dark maze and had to keep faces covered with their clothes and had to get out. Calvin said this one was the most fun but it took him longer to get out due to the maze being dark.

Fire extinguisher drill

Our second station was learning how to use a fire extinguisher. When I heard this, I thought it was a terrible idea to give kids fire extinguishers. Apparently they thought so too and invested in these high-tech laser fire extinguishers to use on a fake fire. The kids had to take the extinguisher (which was still fairly heavy) and point the laser at the base of the fire to extinguish the flames. When it was out, the machine would make a big BLEEP sound. The kids had a lot of fun putting out the fires, though I will admit that the poor fire fighters seemed absolutely exhausted having all of these kids running around. They probably would prefer unpredictable fires to these unpredictable 6-12th graders! We quickly moved on to the next two drills (that seemed to be the dullest to the kids because they had to sit down) medical aid and rope tying.

The next two drills were both completely in Chinese so I can only say that they seemed to inform the kids pretty well (Calvin had a kid translating for him). The medical aid one seemed to focus on head and arm injuries, including burns. The kids really liked being called up to volunteer being the ‘victim’ and having the firefighters bandage them up. This one was one of the shortest however, and the kids were quickly moved onto the next drill. I originally thought that the rope-tying activity was completely out of place. Why did they need to know how to tie a rope? A local teacher explained that since there are three or four floors to most of the buildings, they may need to make an emergency escape out of a window. They could use jackets, shirts, and ties to make a rope in case of an escape. So kids were given ropes and the FIRST thing they tried to do was kill each other with them. I am talking ropes around necks all over the place. As soon as we calmed these angelic sixth graders down, they were taught a few basic knots. All in all, I would say that the fire drill was one of the craziest and fun drills ever.

It is one of those experiences where I am glad to be my son’s teacher because not only did I get to participate in the drills, but got to see his reaction too. By the way, these drills don’t seem typical for public schools in China because many of the local teachers reported having different experiences when they were young. But I am glad to have had this adventure! Next time I will be telling you about our week off and day trip coming up so stay tuned!

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