It’s the Chinese New Year somewhere.

As it’s already January 31 in China, Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Happy year of the horse to you!

It’s doesn’t feel like seven years have passed since I was in China – collecting red envelopes and stumbling my way through the phrase above at the hotel where I was working.  I had only been in the country for a matter of weeks, so the culture shock was still very much present.  The adventure that would teach me innumerable life lessons had barely commenced, and I could not even fathom what was to come.

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Amy and I at the Beijing Zoo in 2007 – the year of the pig

There are a number of very special friendships maintained to this day that developed while I was in China.  I have a passport full of stamps to remind me of the trips from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.  And I have tons of pictures – of the people, the places, the culture.  I also have some letters.

If I could go back, I would create a blog and write about it as I lived it.  I’d write about the smells and the sights and the experiences and the communication barriers and the people.  Most of all, the people.  But I wouldn’t want to go back as the 22 year old that was I was at the time.  That silly girl didn’t know much about anything – and least of all did she know just how much she didn’t know.  I’d want to go back as I am now.  Or even better – as I will be ten years from now (because I’m bound to only get better with age, right?).

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Amy, Todd, JT, and I at Splendid China – a theme park in Shenzhen

In lieu of blog entries, I have letters that I wrote and emailed to my family and friends back home while I was there.  In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I decided to share a few excerpts from what I wrote then.  I wrote a total of 10 letters during the year that I was overseas, so it’s too much to share in one blog post.  Rather, I’ll share the first letter today, and then post subsequent letters individually over the next few weeks.

China Letter 1 (approximate date written:  January 2007):

Hey everybody!  I am having a great time in China so far.  Can you say CULTURE SHOCK??  Where to even begin….  

1.  The things that people can get to stay on the back of a bicycle will never cease to amaze me.  There was a guy pedaling along with a full size COUCH hooked on the bike behind him.  

2.  Chinese people are skinny because there are stairs everywhere.  I’ve climbed more stairs in the past week then I have the rest of my life combined.  

3.  Eating with chopsticks is not that hard.  I’m even pretty good at eating rice with them.  Slowly but surely I’m learning some Mandarin too. 

4.  We get MTV in our rooms and they occasionally play the good old American songs (Akon, Nickelback…all the best).  The rest of the time, it’s Chinese pop.  Which I have to admit is starting grow on me.  I can recognize songs I’ve heard before and pretty soon I’ll be belting them out.  Knowing what it is that you are saying is highly overrated. 

5.  The hotel I’m working at is the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen in my life.  It’s gorgeous.  I’ll try and send pictures as soon as we get internet in our rooms.  

6.  Yesterday we went to Splendid China, a theme park that is solely about (guess) China.  It was very cool.  I took a lot of pictures and will send those eventually too. 

7.  Everywhere we go, people stare.  I think that we must be four very good looking Americans and the people just can’t help but look at us.  Maybe they think we’re famous. 

8.  The weather is beautiful.  It is not very sunny ever because of all the pollution.  But the temperature is just right. 

9.  We had to go get a “body check” (a physical basically) for work.  Everyone is required to get one at least once a year in China.  We had to give blood.  Which is never fun.  They also do a ECG scan, which I had never had.  I was a little nervous anyway (hospitals are not my favorite), and one of the guys I’m here with told me that for the scan they wet your arms and one leg and chest and hook you up to a machine with these electric things and shock you a little bit.  WHAT?  I don’t like being shocked.  So I get in there when it’s my turn, and lay down and the girl rubs some liquid on my arms and leg and chest and hooks me up to these spark plug like things.  I am totally tense and nervous waiting for the shock to come.  Come to find out, they don’t shock you and my punk friend just knew that it would scare me.  My little heart scan paper showed how nervous I was–those lines went all over the place!  

Okay, that’s all for now.  I’m at a little cafe using their wireless and my battery is about to die. 

And there’s an introduction to my year in China.

Have you ever lived overseas?  What country would you choose to live in if you were to move abroad? 

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5 thoughts on “It’s the Chinese New Year somewhere.

  1. I remember getting those emails! Actually there is still an “Amy” folder full of them. I agree that it’s too bad this came before your blogging days. Would have been an interesting read. I’ve never lived overseas and to be honest, I may be a bit too set in my ways to adjust well to another culture. But if I ever did, I would probably choose a country where English was the main language. I think I would like Scotland or Ireland.

  2. Ahh, I love this!! I don’t even know where to start! Pretty much everything you wrote was true when I left in 2004 (my gracious, ten years ago this May!). When you come visit, I’ll have to play some of my favorite Chinese pop band music! There was a group called “F si” (F4 for “Flower Four”) that I just loved! That stuff is catchy, right?!

    Also, I never once had to have one of those physicals since I was underage while we lived there. My parents did, though, so I remember going with them and seeing all the old school medical equipment. That’s terrible that your friend messed with your head like that! I hope you got him back at some point! ;)

    And you know, I actually had a Xanga when we lived in China so technically I was blogging back then, but I’m not sure how much of the blog actually had to do with unique things about life in China because it was all so normal to me. I never really experienced culture shock there, however I dealt with some serious reverse culture shock when I moved to the States for college!

    Xin nian hao ya, Amy!! :)

  3. So many things in your letter sound familiar to me! I look back on my time in China with fond memories, but my husband REALLY misses it (if I agreed, I think he would go back TOMORROW). He especially misses it during this time of year–all of our Chinese friends on Skype are with family celebrating right now!

    It’s nice that you had a few non-Chinese friends with you when you went! I wish I could have somehow done the same. And I remember being freaked out about the body check, too! I didn’t realize how uncomfortable it can be to get examined when the doctor can’t make small talk with you (and generally doesn’t smile at you either). It was nerve-wracking!

  4. This was so interesting! I’ve never lived out of the United States, and I can only imagine how the culture shock must have affected you. But still, what an amazing experience!!! I really enjoyed reading this! :)

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