Life Is A Rollercoaster. Just Gotta Ride It.
Yes, that title is from a Ronan Keating song, & yes, I know; I haven't done much blogging since we got to China. We’ve been here for almost two months now, although it seems like much longer to us. Here’s a quick recap of our time so far…
Ruby & Mr Tan, who work at Joy, picked us up from the airport. Ruby greeted me with flowers, and then we piled into Mr Tans van & began the drive into Daqing. The first thing we noticed was how hot it was, which was a surprising but nice change to the freezing Melbourne weather we were experiencing just the day before. We spent most of the drive looking out the windows as we took in our first impressions of China. I remember thinking how beautiful it was; the sun was bright & the sky was a clear blue, & for most of the drive we only saw paddocks & lots of green empty land. Then we started to notice the hundreds of huge oilrigs all over the place, & the closer we got to the city, the more daunting it all became. We saw what looked like brick huts, falling apart but clearly still lived in, then they were replaced with huge buildings that looked completely abandoned. I remember stopping at the traffic lights & saw a new Honda on one side of our van & a donkey pulling a cart on the other. Then all of a sudden we were right in the middle of everything, surrounded by so many cars go in every direction, groups of men sitting shirtless on street corners, more donkey carts selling fruit, run-down shops & apartment buildings, & there were people everywhere. As the van pulled into a car park, I was praying that that wasn’t the neighbourhood we were going to be living in. We got out of the van & followed Ruby into a restaurant, where I felt even more overwhelmed. Even more people, so much noise, people yelling over each other in a language I didn’t understand, the heat, men sitting at dinner table with their shirts pulled half way up their chest to reveal their huge stomachs… And every single one of those people were staring at us. I remember sitting at our table, drinking the hugest bottle of beer I have seen, & being completely terrified. After dinner, Ruby took us to our temporary apartment & left us to settle in. I remember lying in bed, feeling exhausted, & wondering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.
The good news is, you get to used to all that stuff pretty quickly. I mean, I’m probably always going to cringe every time a taxi driver throws his head back to catapult a huge wad of spit out the car window, & I’m always going to jump when fireworks shoot into the sky at anytime of the day for no apparent reason, & I know I’m always going to want to punch someone in the face every time they poke me in the back, push in front of me in a line, or stand two inches away from me & just stare, but I’m not overwhelmed anymore. Things that used to be scary or odd are now just a part of life, like having to play a live game of Frogger every time you cross the road, or carrying toilet paper with you whenever you go out. It’s all a part of the fun!
Also, remember that neighborhood that I was praying wasn't the one we would be living in? Well it was. It's called Ranghulu, we lived there for over a month & we loved it. It's like home now, we know it so well. A lot of our friends live on that side of town so we still go there a couple of times a week. That first memory I have of it seems like a completely different place to what I've come to know it as now. My first impressions of China, that I had just under two months ago, make me laugh today. And that restaurant that we went to that was so loud & overwhelming? It's now one of our favourite places to eat.
So, fast-forward to now. It’s taken a while, three different apartments, a lot of ups & downs - even one very stressed-filled moment of us being convinced we would have to flee in the night & go home - but here we are, still standing tall & still loving every minute of being in China. I’m not going to go into detail about everything that has happened over the past month or so, because it’s over, we’ve chosen to grow from it & move on to much better things. We are not going to get angry or seek revenge because it wouldn’t do anyone any good. The most I can do at the moment is warn people to be very careful when dealing with certain schools here, make sure you talk to other people who teach at the school before making a decision, even talk to people who work at other schools in Daqing for their opinion.
We have made some really cool friends from all over the world who have made it so much easier for us to settle in & get through the tough times, so a big thank you to them. That’s the great thing about there being so few westerners in this city; when someone needs help, everyone bands together. It’s really quite amazing.
Now, in the words of our current Prime Minister Julia Gillard*, it’s time to 'Move Forward.’
We are finally settled into our apartment (photos will be up on facebook soon) & the next few months are looking to be pretty awesome. I will spend the next few months completing my TESOL Certificate, then in November I plan to go back Open Universities Australia & continue my studies, which I am really excited about. In the beginning of October it is National Day, so I think we have maybe a weeks holiday, so we are thinking of going to a place called Dandong to see the Great Wall of China. After that I believe we are celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with the other expats, then of course we have Halloween, then not long after it should start to snow! I’ve been to the snow before, but I’ve never actually seen it snowing or lived in a snow-filled environment before. Ice-skating, hot-pot & a beautiful dream-come-true White Christmas are just some of the things I’m looking forward to in winter. I’m super excited, even though I know I will probably get sick of -30 degree temperatures pretty damn quickly. Then after Christmas there is, of course, New Years Eve, my first NYE in another country, which will be awesome. Not long after that, Dad, Rob, Camille & Jeanine are coming to visit, which is going to be so much fun! Then it’s Australia Day, Mike’s birthday, Chinese New Year (Yay!), then my birthday, then our 5 year Anniversary, then it’ll only be a few months until we go home! Hmm, maybe I’m looking too far into the future, hahaha!
In conclusion, everything is awesome. Daqing is pretty beautiful despite the oil rigs, the people are mostly very nice & always want to practice their English with us (or help us practice our Mandarin!), the food is so delicious, we have already learnt so much about ourselves & the world… we are having the time of our lives.
P.S I will try to post a bit more frequently, haha!
*sidenote: if Tony Abbott wins the election I’m not coming home! :P