October!

October in Shanghai is proving to be one of my favorite months in the city thus far. There has not been a single day that the weather hasn’t been just perfect. It’s sunny, but windy, and it’s getting cooler – you can definitely feel that fall is coming along. It will be interesting to see how cool it gets when winter comes around!

Yesterday I had my first class at Sonflowers, and it was really fun. Very different from the classes that I teach at New Pathways. Most of the girls that I work with at Sonflowers are at such fundamental levels that our entire session was spent on introductions and likes and dislikes. The kids all seem to love being at Sonflowers, they all play and run around, shrieking and laughing, which means that I’ll have to make sure that me lessons are entertaining (and brief)! One of my older girls has a particularly low speaking level, and the ayi shared with me that she really hates English class. She was my last student and so I invited her over and took it very slowly, by the end of the lesson we were singing Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and giggling. Class with them Mondays and Wednesdays will be a hoot! Plus, I anticipate a lot of improvement from the kids over the next few months, which will be really rewarding for all parties involved. :)

This morning I had New Hire Orientation at New Pathways (had to find a sub for my Eden class though) which taught me a lot more about the company than I ever knew, and it was all very impressive. The session ended with a scavenger hunt around the office to find out little fun facts about our co-workers. As our meeting had ended, I was just going to go back to my office and get ready for class this afternoon, but I saw Ed working on it and my competitiveness kicked in. I think we were the only two who actually tried, and if I got more answers correct with him I get to have lunch with Danny (the COO) and the HR team. That would actually be pretty cool, plus, I met basically everyone who works at the Xujiahui office in the process!

I have some REALLY exciting news – probably the best news I have had since coming to Shanghai. There is an organization here, SCAA (Second Chance Animal Aid) and through them, there is the opportunity to FOSTER CATS! I’ve already talked to it about it with my roommates, and they’re super cool with it. I’m so excited and I’ve turned in my application – next time I post, I may have a furry friend by my side. :D

I would love to thank everyone who has supported me with graduation gifts – although I’m not home, it really means a lot and it’s all going towards helping me pay off my student loans. Particular thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Kim who have always supported me in everything I do and continue to do so.

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!

Eden

Eden

Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie - it was tons of fun!

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie – it was tons of fun!

Pork and Asparagus :)

Pork and Asparagus :)

 

Extracurriculars

Now that I’ve been in Shanghai for a month, I’ve had some time to settle in to my new life and explore some different activities and organizations that I can get involved with, aside from work. I have found a church, some volunteer organizations and have started making some great friends. Although there are many differences between life in America and life in Shanghai, there are a lot of similarities as well, if you are able to look at the bigger picture. My life consists of the same basic activities; working, socializing, exploring, etc – but it’s the destinations, relationships and scenery along the way that has changed. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as I believe young people should explore outside of the world they know. Of course, this is for some people, and very few regard my personal opinion, but I do think it provides an innumerable amount of experiences that can help shape your young adult life.

For the last month I have been regularly attending Abundant Grace International Fellowship (AGIF), which is the church that my family went to when we were here many years ago and the same church that I tried to get involved with over the summer (the commute was just ridiculous so that didn’t work out). I really love AGIF services. I go on Sunday afternoons at 3PM, which is good timing as my Sunday class gets out at 12:30 and it is about an hour commute. I can take time to eat lunch and make my way over to Pudong. My favorite part about the AGIF services is the music worship. We seeing more contemporary songs, and I always feel really moved when the congregation is singing with the praise team on stage. I also enjoy going to church because it allows me a regular time for me to see Nhi, my pseudo-mom (good family friends, she is great friends with mom and her daughters are close with Rachel and I). They often take me out to dinner and I get to get out of Puxi for an afternoon, which is nice.

Being part of a church group often offers so much more than just a place to worship, and AGIF is no different. A couple weeks ago I went to a showing of the documentary, Nefarious, which sheds light on the major issue of human trafficking. After the movie, there were speakers who worked at or ran organizations around Shanghai that focused on helping those who had been affected by human trafficking. Kacie was the first lady who spoke, on behalf of Eden, which is a company that provides restoration houses all around Asia, giving women who have come out of red-light districts the opportunity to learn, work and pray in a safe environment. She explained that they were looking for a volunteer English teacher, and I felt my skin raise. It seemed that God had let me right to this place – not only had He led me to an organization that I could volunteer with, but the need was one that I could confidently fill. Shona was another speaker, who runs Sonflowers, which is an afterschool program that shelters kids after schools, provides a meal, helps with homework and allows a safe place to play. The kids who come to Sonflowers are those who are either living in the brothels that their parents run, or who have parents who are involved with the Chinese mafia. Their homes are not suitable places for young kids to be growing up, which is why Sonflowers is such a great organization. They were also looking for an English teacher, and since I don’t have a very busy schedule at the moment, I knew this was another great way I could not only help others, but also become closer to God. My classes at Eden are just once a week, for an hour on Tuesday mornings. The English levels of these girls vary greatly, but for the most part are very poor. I have only had one class with them so far, but I am excited about thinking of ways that I can encourage them to speak English during the week, even when I’m not around. Audio recordings to me, and listening to American music is part of the homework I’ve assigned for them this week. My classes at Sonflowers haven’t started yet, but I would hesitate even to call them classes. I have one on one sessions for ten minutes with each child (there are about ten of them) two days a week. We can’t take a lot of their time, because they often have upwards of two or three hours of homework a week. I’m really excited about these opportunities, as I think they’ll be rewarding for the organizations as well as myself.

Another way I am working with Eden is by selling jewelry at bazaars and events hosted and attended mostly by expatriates. The central job that the girls have when they get to Eden is making jewelry by hand, which is where a lot of revenue comes in for Eden. Many girls also have a hand in designing the jewelry as well, and believe me – it is all beautiful! On Wednesday I went to an event hosted by ACS – American Club Shanghai, and while it wasn’t a huge event, we sold a good amount of jewelry. Plus, I met some really cool people, both customers as well as other vendors! There is another event tomorrow, and although I usually have to teach on Saturdays, we are still seeing schedule changes due to the National Holiday, which is great, because Eden is down a volunteer for the event.

Of course, work is still central in my day-to-day life, and there are a lot of fun projects that we are getting into, aside from physically teaching classes. The ELA team is working on creating a completely new, in-house curriculum, which has proven to be challenging, fun and rewarding all at the same time. My coworker Adam and I are working on putting together an Academic Decathlon of sorts for NPE ELA students at the end of this term. We get to think of all different themes, challenges and prizes, which is loads of fun and hardly feels like work. I’ve recently taken on a new class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, which means I’m up to four classes now.

Slowly but surely I see can see myself settling into my routine here. Growing comfortable with where you are is great, and once you’re comfortable you’re able to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, which is where the real fun starts.

 

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Seeing as most of China has at least a few days, if not the entire week, off work due to China’s National Day that was officially celebrated yesterday, I have some free time to sit down and catch up with all that’s been happening lately and give my readers a little more insight on my life in Shanghai. As you all know, I’ve by now found and moved into my apartment, and am really enjoying it. Immediately after I moved in, I was supposed to go to the local neighborhood police station and register myself as a resident. It was heavily stressed that this was an important thing to do, but I still managed to put it off for a little over a week. When I finally made it to the police station, I went with my roommate, who had also been procrastinating (for even longer than myself!). Similarly to how things go in America, you don’t expect it to go quickly if it has to do with the government. However, we had made things a little harder on ourselves since we waited, and instead of getting our registration and going, we were escorted into a back room of the police station, which was a first for us both! The police officer just kept repeating that since we had waited so long to come in, that he would have to “punish us”. This was so funny to us (although we probably shouldn’t have been laughing) because you could tell that it wasn’t really a serious matter, and being threatened with a ‘punishment’ was just silly and a result of the officer’s very limited English. There were a lot of forms that had to be filled out that we were assured ‘meant nothing’ but we signed our names on many pieces of paper that offered no English translation so for all I know we just sold our souls to China’s army. Two hours later we emerged, now legal aliens of the Xuhui district!

The apartment complex sits of the intersection of Kai Xuan Rd and An Shun Rd, which is always hustling and bustling. By now, I feel as though I know the stretch from my apartment to the metro station like the back of my hand, as I walk it at least twice a day if not more. Although I haven’t had a ton of time to explore the wider area, I have become familiar with many places and faces around the immediate area. Particularly, I have become quite good friends with a Mom and Pop who own a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is not much bigger than my living room, located along the part of Kai Xuan Rd I mentioned earlier. The food is mediocre, and there has never been other customers in the store when I’ve been there, however, I noticed one day while I was walking to the metro station that there was a cat sitting on one of the stools at the table! This prompted me to return a few days later ‘for some food’ (but really to play with the kitten) which is when I first started talking to the owners. I mostly talk to the Mom, while the Dad cooks whatever food I’ve ordered. While I know that allowing kittens to walk around your store probably isn’t the most sanitary thing, I don’t really care and it’s obvious they don’t care either. I enjoy going because I get a chance to speak Chinese, as we’ve talked about a wide range of subjects from Shanghai’s safety to where her daughter is currently working.

Just a few stores down from this restaurant is a pet store that I have to pass everyday – however there is no way you can just ‘pass’ a pet store, and I budget at least three extra minutes into my commute so that I can say hello to the precious kittens that live there. A couple owns the store, the woman is very nice and friendly, but her husband always has a very grumpy look on his face. On my first visit, I asked if I could play with the kittens, and he gave me a very sharp “no”. However, I have a feeling he’ll change his mind soon, as they’ve gotten used to seeing me every day and sometimes he even gives me a small wave and a smile. Again a few stores from the pet shop (these business are packed like sardines into each and every block) there is a nail salon, where I got a pedicure a couple weeks ago. The girls are really nice and they have a store dog that will sit on your lap while you get your toenails painted! Not being able to have a pet of my own isn’t that bad when I can go to any of these places and pretend to have a one for a little bit.

To get to the metro station, you come out our apartment complex and turn right, however if you were to turn left, you would walk down the street to see a few (surprise) storefronts. These stores are not the interesting part, it’s what is tucked behind them. Turning down a small alley where there are people selling anything you could want, you will come upon a huge semi-enclosed opening that resembles a warehouse. This is a market where you can get all your groceries (if you’re brave enough). They have meats (poultry, seafood, any and everything), all kinds of produce, dry goods (i.e. spices, nuts, sauces), noodles, breads, eggs. I’ve only gotten fruits and vegetables from here, but I think I may gather my courage and see if I can’t figure out how to really use this pseudo grocery store to my advantage and start buying a lot of my groceries here. For now, I take the metro just one stop to YiShan Rd, where there is a Carrefour. I get all the groceries I need here and the cab ride home is never more than 14RMB.

The gym that I attend is not within walking distance from my house, but a 5 minute metro ride is nothing to complain about. Although there are Will’s all over, and actually I think there is one that is closer to the apartment, I really like the staff at this particular Will’s. The salesman who ‘adopted’ me as his client when I first started at Will’s, has been working closely with me to encourage me to purchase a membership once my two week guest pass had run out (I used this when I first arrived in Shanghai and was staying at the hotel right down the street). Andy (the employee) has worked to get me really good prices, and I am paying about 200RMB less per month than the standard rate. When I did purchase the month membership last week, I asked Andy if his boss was present, and he told me that he was. I asked Andy if I could talk to him, and Andy was curious and questioned why I wanted to talk to his boss. I explained that I thought he was a really great employee and that I was really pleased with the service I’d received. However, Andy told me that this was not customary and that I probably shouldn’t talk to his boss. I was confused, because I thought this would be great for Andy, but after I told him that this is what we did in America, he explained to me how it was different in China. He basically said that, “If the boss likes you and thinks you’re a good employee… then he likes you and thinks you’re a good employee. If he doesn’t he fires you. It doesn’t matter what other people say to him”. How different things work here in China than they do in America! Every day I learn something new about China and the way they do things.

 

He asked me if I wanted to buy some. I said, "I don't know how to cook these! They are alive now, and then I kill them - they will cry!" He laughed at me and said "no cry!"

He asked me if I wanted to buy some. I said, “I don’t know how to cook these! They are alive now, and then I kill them – they will cry!” He laughed at me and said “no cry!”

riiiiiiice

riiiiiiice

hand pulled noods

hand pulled noods

Anything you want, you can find at the open air market

Anything you want, you can find at the open air market

Another picture of the view from my apartment

Another picture of the view from my apartment

my gym offers fitness classes, like yoga!

my gym offers fitness classes, like yoga!

Smoggy Shanghai

Smoggy Shanghai

At my intersection

At my intersection

So cute!!

So cute!!

The kitten, an only reason I go to this restaurant

The kitten, an only reason I go to this restaurant

Got to visit my middle school while spending some time in Pudong!

Got to visit my middle school while spending some time in Pudong!

You can see some of the apartment buildings above the trees

You can see some of the apartment buildings above the trees

Downtown Pudong

Downtown Pudong

 

Who said life was made of sugar and spice and everything nice?

I hope that my blog is fun to read. If I’m doing a good job, it should at least be interesting, because my life in Shanghai shows me new, phenomenal, amazing things everyday. However, fitting an entire week of stories and events into a single blog post means I am only showcasing the really awesome things that I want to share with my readers. While these are super important (hence why I choose to write about them), I want to be sure that on my personal blog, I am indeed giving an accurate impression and representation of my personal life.

It’s easy, as we’ve read in studies and see in our own personal experience, for people to project an impression that they are one hundred percent ecstatic, 24/7, on their social media accounts. In every case, that is not true. This is not to say that I am unhappy, but it’s to draw attention to the fact that although I am having a wonderful time, there are tough days too. Every day I feel blessed to be where I am. Every so often, I also allow myself a few moments to miss home and feel sorry for myself. Right now, at 9:12 PM on a Friday night, I am lying in bed, browsing youku (China’s version of Hulu) for anything I can understand. I can only imagine what antics I’d be getting into with my friends who are still enjoying their time in college. I am getting along swimmingly with my coworkers, and my roommates are both cool too. However there’s no comfort in the shallow relationships I have with these people. These people haven’t known me for years, don’t have an obvious, shared interest and they all lead lives of their own. Although it’s really cool to have a ‘big girl job’, it’s also really hard to not be able to come home to your parents, thus forcing you to be a ‘big girl’ all the time. Transitioning from college to adult life is difficult on it’s own. When you force yourself to make a transition in every other facet of your life, it’s incredibly difficult on all aspects of your being – physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual.

I know that all I need is time; time to find a good group of friends, time to settle in with my church family, time to find stability in my schedule, so on and so forth. I’m super lucky that I’m happy with my work and that I have such an awesome support group of old friends here who have assumed the roles of second moms, mentors and friends. It’s really awesome that Ohio State has a global gateway office here in Shanghai so that I can touch base with my alma mater every so often. Most importantly, it’s awesome that God is good and can be a part of your life no matter where you are in the world. It’s hard to admit that things aren’t always perfect. It’s natural to want to exude confidence and happiness all the time, in an attempt to influence people’s perception of you. I am grateful that I feel comfortable enough with myself that when things aren’t perfect, I can share that too. I hope everyone has a productive way to reflect on the little things that happen that sometimes make for tough days. I also want to remind people that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and under qualified for some of the curveballs life throws at you.

Carolyn 4.0

Somehow, over the last twenty-one years, I have become an adult. Of course, I would be fooling not only my readers but myself as well if I were to pretend that while assuming this role as ‘adult’ that I have any idea what I’m doing. Still, day-to-day, I’ll catch myself thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this right now”, surprising myself with my adult-y actions. Most recently was in my ELA 5 class this morning. While my students were taking their TRP I was grading their vocabulary quizzes. One of my students achieved a perfect score, and I wrote “Awesome job!” with three stars in my red grading pen. Another one of my students gave a very poor excuse for effort on his quiz, meriting a ☹ sad face from me. I looked at my papers and reveled in the fact that I was now becoming my grade school teachers. I now had the power to issue smiley faces and stars that students (similarly to myself) would go home to happily boast about to their mother. Another instance of this was earlier this week when I was setting up my bank accounts. Since I can remember, my father has helped me manage every aspect of my finances, so to go to set up not one but two bank accounts, in Shanghai nonetheless, was pretty funny to me. Thankfully, the bank tellers spoke English, because if I were to rely on my Chinese skills I have no idea what I would have ended up with. I moved into my new apartment last week, but the hunt itself was relatively difficult due to the requirements I (and my mother) had for the new place. Most important was location. Now that I have a job that actually requires me to be at an office, relatively early, five days a week, I wanted to make sure my apartment made didn’t make it too hard for me. A ten minute walk down KaiXuan Rd will put you at the metro station, with 3 lines running through it (10, 4 and 3). My work is ust three stops on the line 10, followed by a ten minute walk to the office, putting my daily commute at an easy half hour. The other great thing is that with such easy access to lines 4 and 3, getting anywhere in Shanghai is pretty convenient. It was also important to me that somewhere along my daily commute or by my apartment there was a gym, my banks, and a grocery store. The office covers two of the three, as both my banks have branches directly across from our building, and on my way to the subway station there is a Carrefour. I have two flatmates, who are both American and also are both teachers. They are really nice but I rarely see them – which is okay, because it’s like I have a huge apartment to myself! Another requirement I had was that it was on a higher floor. With apartments on floors 5 and below you have to worry about safety a well as hygine (there are a lot of issues with mold on lower floors). Since I am newly graduated and have just started working, I was trying to be relatively frugal with my apartment budget. Initially I gave myself 2,000-2,500 RMB and was seeking out local realtors to show me around. I learned my lesson very quickly, as all the apartments, while in great locations, were run down, old, broken or gross. After that, I used a site called SmartShanghai that is targeted towards expats to help in all aspects of living. This was how I found Jae, who moved me into my new apartment(for a mere 500RMB over budget)! One of the greatest things that my local realtor friends did show me, was the great fun that comes from riding around on a moped/motorcycle. My first time on the back of a Chinese moped was when my realtors picking me up from the subway stations to take me to these neighborhoods. Now, mopeds are my favorite way to travel!! Before, I would come out of subway entrances and there would be people waiting their with their mopeds, offering rides. I always thought it was shady and I avoided them at all costs. I have now realized that they are all friendly – and for the same price as a taxi (15RMB) you can complete your trip, often saving yourself anywhere from half an hour or more of walking! One of the greatest things about being back has been the opportunity to catch up with everyone. Last week I was able to reconnect with my Chinese tutor from middle school, Cookie. She recently moved back to Shanghai and invited me out to dinner with her and her parents. They were seriously so cute, they loved that I was able to speak Chinese and were laughing and smiling the whole night. The dinner was absolutely awesome, my favorite dish was lotus roots stuffed with foie gras, and during dinner I also tried chicken feet, which were surprisingly delicious! They promised that the next time I came over, Cookie’s dad would teach me to paint bamboo and her mother would teach me how to make dumplings. Friday night I went over to Liyan’s house, who you may remember was dad’s coworker in China and hosted me during my first week in Shanghai. We had Ayi’s amazing dumplings, as well as pickled hard-boiled eggs and a qpicy yet refreshing cucumber dish. Seriously, I would move into their building if I could come over for dinner every night. After a long day of teaching on Saturday and Sunday morning, I took the subway over to Pudong to meet the Arslains. The Arslains are very close friends of my family, their daughters are best friends with Rachel and I. Their parents are back in Shanghai for work and they also attend AGIF, Abundant Grace International Fellowship, a church that my family attended while we were here in middle school. I was so glad to attend the service, and afterwards, AGIF was showing the movie Nefarious. We attended the movie which spoke to us about the issue of human trafficking. It was incredibly powerful and also opened up a couple volunteering opportunities teaching English at restoration houses in Shanghai. There’s still a lot of details that need to be worked out but I’m really excited about the possibility of finding a great group to start volunteering with. Everything has really been coming together quite nicely. Of course, not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my friends and family at home. I know it will be a while until I see them again, but that really makes me appreciate the support group I have here even more. Also, Fall is on it’s way, and the weather in Shanghai has been absolutely gorgeous. Recently I haven’t been able to even make it two steps outside without grinning foolishly, as the temperature is low and the air is surprisingly fresh due to a strong breeze. This has been wonderful for my mood, and really helps me to feel utterly blessed every day.

 

 

taking the above-ground subway trains are my favorite because you get a great view of the city from an uncommon angle!

taking the above-ground subway trains are my favorite because you get a great view of the city from an uncommon angle!

Got sheets for my bed made just down the street from my apartment! (10USD)

Got sheets for my bed made just down the street from my apartment! (10USD)

The view from my new apartment's balcony!

The view from my new apartment’s balcony!

There is a pet shop on the street  I live on... I stop by every day and the owners now know me.

There is a pet shop on the street I live on… I stop by every day and the owners now know me.

They are just so darn cute!

They are just so darn cute!

The best new way to get around!

The best new way to get around!

Duck and Shrimp and Chicken feet, oh my!

Duck and Shrimp and Chicken feet, oh my!

What have I become?! (also, this was the first week so I expect that 1/15 to never happen again...)

What have I become?! (also, this was the first week so I expect that 1/15 to never happen again…)

Honey, I’m Home!

Back on my stomping grounds, and it feels great! I’ve been back in Shanghai for just four days now, but have quickly settled back into my groove – at least in regards to being in the city. It’s amazing how little things stay with you after they’ve become part of your routine, like taking the correct exit out of the subway or remembering exact change for your favorite yogurt at Family Mart. The trip over was, no surprise, extremely long – I think I spent about 28 hours in either an airport or airplane, but I arrived safely so no complaints here. When I did arrive at PVG, I met my driver who was holding up a sign that said “Carolyn Schneller”, which was very exciting for me (it’s the little things, people). We drove for about 45 minutes before arriving at the hotel I will be staying at for two weeks until I am able to find an apartment. Since I had slept for a large majority of the plane ride, my jetlag was a little worse than it has been in the past. It didn’t take me long to fall asleep, but Sunday morning I woke up at 4AM. I spent the day doing much of nothing; exploring the area, going on a short run, and unpacking, before exhaustion hit me like a brick wall. With no seemingly no ounce of will power in my body, I allowed myself to drift into a deep sleep at 7PM, a huge no-no for those trying to overcome jetlag. So it was not to my surprise when I woke up at 3:30AM with no prospect of falling back to sleep on Monday. The previous day, while I was exploring, I found a small 24-hour café that I decided to check out. I wasn’t 100% confident that it was actually 24-hours, as believe it or not those are pretty rare in Shanghai, and often times things boast faulty advertisements, but sure enough it was open and even had two other patrons (sleeping) at one of the tables. Thus, I enjoyed my first 4:30AM bowl of noodles.

I managed to lay back down from 7 to 8, as I had already been up for four hours and didn’t have to leave for work until 9:30. It wasn’t really a sleep, but it at least gave me the attitude that I was allowing myself to be more rested before my very first day of my grown-up job!! I was so excited as I was getting ready for work, I felt a little silly (but not really) because I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face! I arrived at the Pudong office 45 minutes early, because I wanted to give myself plenty of time to find the place, as this was where I had my second interview (with my now-boss) that I had gotten lost to and ended up showing up twenty minutes late! The rest of the day was spent on-boarding with Peter, who is the head of the English Language Arts section of New Pathways. Most of the other new teachers had arrived in Shanghai two weeks prior to start their training, so we immediately started cramming a lot of knowledge into my head (I took a lot of notes). My first classes are this weekend, four, three hour classes over Saturday and Sunday, so I’ve really got to get the concept down and I’ve already started working on my lesson plans. This is kind of the first time I’ve really done anything like this, so I’m pretty darn nervous. However, I’m also really, really excited which I think bodes well. So often while Peter was talking to me about things we do in class, or material we had to teach, it was like my mind was constantly working, just spitting out ideas of ways I could do something, how I can make it fun or interesting. Hopefully I can harness this excitement and execute some really great ideas in the classroom!

New Pathway isn’t a school, in the strictest sense, so it’s not like I am a middle school teacher in a school. We do prep for SAT, ACT, and SSAT, along with offering small (no more than 12 students) classes (kids from international schools, international division in local schools, and our lower levels have kids from local schools) to improve English in all aspects of the language. For this reason, the schedule is pretty random, as we have to find time to have our classes when the students aren’t in their normal class. Yesterday I met and worked with a new teacher on how to teach SSAT classes (yes… there is a math section), which is like the SAT for middle school children who are trying to get into private or boarding schools. I’m glad I don’t have any SSAT classes scheduled just yet, because I think teaching ELA will give me a little more room for creativity and allow me to establish my footing as a teacher before having to do into material that may be a little drier.

I’ve joined a gym here (which was incredibly complicated and took a long time and lots of lost conversation), Will’s, that has been a great outlet for me as I have been feeling super stressed the past couple days. Believe it or not, it’s possible to be having a ton of fun and still be feeling super stressed! At this moment in time, there are simply a lot of moving pieces – working on completing my TEFL certification, compiling all my documents to get to HR for my work visa, finding housing, logistical stuff that all new employees need to go through, all while trying to prepare for my first ever classes this weekend! Even though I’ve been SUPER lazy lately (before Sunday I couldn’t have told you what the inside of a gym looked like), it’s felt really great to be able to sweat out a lot of my worries. I wasn’t thinking about any differences there might be between gyms in China and America, until I reached 14 something minutes on the treadmill and my distance read 2.4! I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve ran two miles already??? I feel awesome!” then, slowly, everything started coming to me – “Wait, two miles? 14 minutes…? That doesn’t seem quite right. China doesn’t use the same units of measurements as America. Ahhhhh….”. The realization that I had not been running two miles at a ten minute pace, but that I had run two kilometers at a 6.5k/hr pace hit me! The fact that I’d only run half of what I thought I did wasn’t as depressing as the realization of how slowly I was running! J Still, I finished out my 5k and felt super.

Spending time with friends is also a great way to relieve some stress. Last night I met for dinner with a long time friend, Cookie, my Chinese tutor from middle school! Besides a brief vacation she took to the US in 2009, it’d been seven years since I’d really hung out with her! She took me to an awesome xiaolongbao place (my favorite!) and then spent some time helping me navigate some Chinese apartment-hunting websites. Cookie has been awesome in helping me get settled so far, and she’s one of those friends who would do just about anything to help you. I’m lucky to have many friends like that in Shanghai!

Although I’ve only been working for two days, today I have a day off. Peter wants me to be able to do some apartment shopping and make sure I’m rested. He’s really awesome, just like everyone I’ve met thus far at NPE. I am really looking forward to my time here! I have a feeling it is going to be awesome.

Concluding Thoughts

The final week in Shanghai was truly a whirlwind, a good representation of my unimaginably fast-paced summer abroad. I’ve subconsciously been putting off writing my final post, because I’ve wanted to keep a small part of my experience with me, and writing and publishing about my time as it ends makes it really permanent. However, as I finally sit down to complete my post, it seems silly that I would be worried about losing memories of my time in Shanghai. The relationships that I made this summer and the knowledge I’ve learned will undoubtably stick with me forever.

As Kevin, Schuyler, Stephanie and I prepared for our final group farewell dinner, working on putting together a short video of our time abroad, it struck me how lasting an impact my summer will have on me. The people I have been studying with all summer are from all over the US – from California, to Texas, to Boston, to Louisiana, to Maryland, (to Kazakstan), and they each brought their own uniqueness to the program, and opened their lives to the twenty-some other students who were suddenly thrust into their lives. I learned a lot outside of the classroom, from Californian slang, to how to say “hello” in Russian. We were able to travel together, seeing new cities like Suzhou, Xiamen, and Huangshan, working together to have the best possible weekends away. The most important thing I feel we learned this summer though, was the importance of exploration, inclusion, and independence. For some, this was their first big trip away from home. For this, in a new country with completely different customs than those in the states, they had to rely heavily on the support of their classmates in this awesome experiences. For others, like myself, this summer was an amazing preview of an exciting life after college.

I can’t say enough good things about my time studying abroad with the Alliance for Global Education. The entire staff truly took care of us and showed us the ropes of living in Shanghai, while also giving us the freedom and encouraging us to find our own paths. The teachers for our classes were absolutely wonderful, and the strong friendship I made with my Chinese professor is one I feel will continue for years to come. The Alliance made it so that I had a safe and comfortable home during my time in Shanghai, while simultaneously allowing me to navigate the many different aspects of the city on my own.

Being in Shanghai for the summer was an invaluable experience for my life after college. Besides everything I learned, and the wonderful time I had to end out my college career, I was able to secure a job that will allow me to return to Shanghai this fall. I have accepted a job offer and will be teaching English at a prep school, called New Pathways Education and Technology Group. I return to Shanghai at the beginning of the September, and will work on a year-long contract. I have the OSU global-gateway to partially thank for this, as well as Ohio States incredible alumni network, as the former was able to put me in touch with New Pathways head of HR – an Ohio State alumna.

 

For now, I am enjoying a wonderful week in Hawaii with my family. A great atmosphere and great company to distract me from the fact that I am not with the small family I formed and have been living with for the past two months (not to mention – no jet lag!). I am working to get my tourist visa in line, and also beginning to mentally prepare for my first year as an OSU grad. I want to thank everyone, my family in particular, for the incredible support I have received in my journey thus far, and I hope my readers will continue to enjoy my updates as a working girl in Shanghai!

Beginning to Wrap Up

This next week will be our last week in Shanghai, and there have been a lot of menial, logistical tasks we’ve had to do to prepare for our return to the states. Most annoying and time consuming of these tasks have been figuring out what to do about the fact that my visa that expires tomorrow, and my flight out of country isn’t until a week from now. I should be in Xi’an right now, but due to last minute scrambling, I wasn’t able to go. However, I am happy and relaxed, because after a frustrating experience with the government office on Wednesday, I was able to return on Friday and get everything sorted out. Additionally, I am not being forced to leave the country earlier than I had planned, and I am also not in HongKong staying in am over-priced hostel for the next four days so that I can get a new 30-day tourist visa. So, many hours, 6 subway transfers, and 940RMB later, I am able to legally leave the country on planned day.

The other positive side about not being able to travel this weekend, is that I get to spend some quality time with my new, and now very dear, friends. Since this is the last weekend we will all be together, we’re all trying really hard to take advantage of it. Tonight a group of us are going to a restaurant on the Bund for good food and great company. Last night, we went to KTV for karaoke. It was so much fun – people in China take their karaoke very seriously. You get a group together (we had eight) and rent a room. The room is soundproof, with plush sofas lining the walls, which are made of mirrors. There is a little stage, with an old fashioned mic stand, and then you are also given two hand microphones. The lights are dimmed, but there are a lot of colored lights everywhere. The best thing about the rooms is that you get to control the AC. Singing is a lot of hard work, and being able to turn the AC down to 17 degrees Celsius was definitely a perk. The selection of songs was awesome. We sang Eminem, Kanye West, Leona Lewis, (LOTS of) Taylor Swift, and even the theme song from Frozen…. we sang late into the night (even though we all basically sounded really awful). Ciara was the only one with a voice that I wouldn’t mind listening to in any other situation – she sang some Chinese songs and sounded wonderful.

Besides the episode at Yu Yuan on Wednesday, the week went on as usual. I’ve been working on my final projects for my classes, which takes a long time, but offers me a cool opportunity to do some new research and also recap on a lot of what I’ve learned this summer. Friday morning we had our exit exam – a test that doesn’t count towards our grade, but is used to measure what level we’re at with our Chinese. It’s the exact same test as the entrance exam we got our first week here, and I was so pleased with the progress I could see in my work! I recognized so many characters and was able to write more than what I did for my entrance essay, which was “I can’t write Chinese characters”. I’ll be curious to see in numbers, how much I’ve improved. That afternoon we had a meeting to discuss check out procedure and readjustment to being back in the states. During that meeting I realized that come next week, I’m really going to be very sad! I’ve grown close to so many of my classmates this summer, and it’s going to be hard to have to leave them. What is so great about the program, is that most of the people here are here partially because they really love traveling, and there have already been discussions about traveling to meet up with each other in the future.

Although leaving will be hard, the seven-day countdown until my flight back to the states is also making my very excited. I can’t wait to see my family, Rachel especially, and on top of that, I’ll be flying back to meet them in Hawaii! I can’t wait to enjoy a week of vacation with my family as well as my mom’s side of the family. I always have such a good time with my family, and I can’t wait to share my pictures and experiences with them, and hear about what’s been going on in their lives. After that I’ll be happy to be back home to see my friends and definitely our dog. I don’t have a lot of plans for when I get back, I’ll just want to relax and hangout with mom and dad – but I think I’m going to a concert with one of my best friends, which is a perfect, low-key, very-American cap to an amazing summer abroad.

Tea Scam – Real Life

There is not one place in this world that is made up solely of goodness, positivity, sugar, spice, and everything nice. Shanghai is no exception. Today I experienced a side of Shanghai that I have yet to, a nasty side, one that made me very upset. I’m not talking about the reckless traffic or seemingly severe lack of personal hygiene. Those I can deal with, and some days, can take as a unique part of China’s culture. Today I dealt with a nastiness that is present wherever there are human inhabitants – selfishness, manipulation and deceit. It’s not my intention to blow this out of proportion, my aim is simply to write my opinions, feelings and experiences.

Last week, I briefly introduced my readers to the Tea Scam, referencing the two groups of young people who stopped me while I was at Yu Yuan, asking me to take their pictures and then engaging me in conversation. For the whole story about last week, you can reference that blog post. Today, I returned to Yu Yuan to pick up my completed business suit from the Fabric Market. I was coming from meeting with workers for the Chinese government – trying to get my visa extended a few days so that I could finish out my program was a bust, they were relatively unhelpful and was in a pretty bad mood when I left. This encounter left me frustrated, and probably played a small role in what happened next.

As I was walking back to the Metro station with my clothes, I passed by the same place I was stopped last week, and sure enough, the ‘students from Beijing’ were sitting on the steps. There were two that I recognized, and one that I didn’t. I settled for a hard glare at them, making eye contact but continuing on my way. As I passed them, broke eye contact, and looked ahead, I noticed the third person I had talked with last week. He was with another young girl, and they were talking to an older foreigner. I walked past them as well and got about fifty feet away. Similarly to last week, I was debating very hard about what to do in that situation. Of course, I could have assumed that the older man was smarter than I, and didn’t plan on going anywhere with the young Chinese people. However, this was my second time passing them, and at this point I knew, without a doubt in my mind what these kids were doing. As an extremely trusting person, I get very offended and upset when I see people taking advantage of others. After I had been standing in the same place for about three minutes, contemplating, I spun around and stormed over to where the three kids were sitting. I started speaking in a very stern tone to the boy, who had done most of the talking last week. I asked him “Why aren’t you in Beijing? Last week you told me you were only going to be in Shanghai for three days? Why are you still here?” The kids (and when I say kids, it’s because I don’t know what else to call them – but they are not young, they’re about the same age as me.) were looking at me with blank faces with only a briefly passing indications of nervousness. Acting like they couldn’t understand me at some points was not throwing me off – I was speaking a mixture of Chinese and English, but it was simple enough that I knew they could understand me. Even if all of my grammar wasn’t correct, they could definitely get the point of what I was saying, particularly because I knew the two recognized me. The one girl who hadn’t been present last week tried to do most of the talking with me. “What are you talking about? What business do you want with us?” I told her that I was not talking to her. She walked away and mentioned for her companions to follow, saying that I was crazy. The other girl followed, while I continued to rattle off accusations at the young man. “You wait for foreigners to come, here, foreigners who are by themselves? Then you invite them to a tea shop, and then what? You steal from them? You hold them ransom? People your own age? What, you want my money? Why don’t you find a job? You are a bad person.” I feel as though calling someone a bad person is not something a respectable person would do, but in the moment I was so worked up that words were just coming out of my mouth, and any sort of filter I usually have had disappeared. At this point, there was a crowd of maybe twenty people surrounding us. It was not my intention to cause a scene, but if you have a white girl yelling at Chinese youth, partially in Chinese, it’s inevitable.  The other two girls had come back by the time I was wrapping up. “You should be embarrassed of yourself.” I harshly said. “And now, I’m going to go tell that other man what your motives are.” I turned on my heel and was walking away when I heard yelling behind me. “Wait! Hey! Wait, come back!”. The girl who had originally tried to take charge was following me. She asked me to talk to her, to tell her what I was trying to say. I almost gave in and started trying to yell/explain what I had said, but after a brief instant it was so obvious that they were trying to prevent me from talking with the foreign man, who had just started walking away with the two Chinese youth. I looked at him, walking away from me about 50 feet ahead, and turned to the girl and said no, and started walking away again. At this point, she grabbed my bag, and the boy who I had been talking to had reached us and was grabbing my arm. “GET OFF OF ME!” I yelled. I yanked my arm and yanked my bag and continued to yell at them to let me go. In between yelling at them, I was looking ahead and yelling “SIR! SIR!” In efforts to get the mans attention. By now, everyone in the general vicinity was watching what was going on, but the man still hadn’t turned around, and I saw the young girl with him gently grab his elbow and urge him forward. I didn’t want to hurt anyone or make things worse than they were, and in my final attempt to get away from the two, I finally was able to yank my arm and bag free. I ran ahead as they followed in quick pursuit. “SIR!” I yelled. As I was almost right behind them, I slowed down and the other two caught up with me.

Out of no where, I heard “CAROLYN!” I looked up and saw my classmate, Andrew, quickly approaching with a friend. I was so happy to see a familiar face! The man had finally turned around after I yelled out to him from just five feet behind. I was out of breathe and probably looked like a mad woman, and I bombarded him with questions, talking 60 miles an hour. “Did they invite you to a tea shop? Are you going to a tea shop with them? Please don’t, they were here last week and asked me the same exact thing! I am studying abroad this summer and during my orientation – ” “Carolyn!” Andrew interrupted me. “Take a breath! Calm down. What’s going on?” The man’s face was priceless – one of extreme confusion and slight anxiousness. “I’m not crazy!” I said to him. “I promise!” By now, it was Andrew, the foreigner and myself, with the Chinese youth flanking us. The two that were originally with the man were trying to convince him to come with him, but at this point I think he was pretty freaked, and backed away from everyone. Andrew and I followed after him with expletives being yelled at me – the Chinese I didn’t understand, but the loud “F*** YOU” I definitely understood.  After we had gotten about twenty five feet away, with the kids still looking on, I tried to explain what was going on. I explained that during our orientation, our program director had warned us about something called a Tea Scam, where foreigners get lured to tea shops and then are forced to pay large sums of money, often bringing in big men as a scare tactic if they didn’t comply, and how that same group had approached and befriended me last week. I was half talking to the foreigner and half talking to Andrew, rambling about how I didn’t know what to do last week but this week something just snapped. Andrew gave a much calmer, more rational explanation, and said everything that I was attempting to but just couldn’t. He suggested we cross the street, and when we were on the other side I really began to calm down. “She’s a protector, this one is!” Andrew said, trying to give more explanation to my crazy actions. After everything that needed to be said, was, Andrew and his friend told me to get home safely and that they’d see me later. I was so glad they had happened to be at Yu Yuan the same time as I was. The foreigner(we had now found out he was from Denmark) in all of this was relatively quiet, but as we explained, he grew much friendlier and I think by the end he realized I was (semi) normal. He was planning on continuing his sight seeing and was walking the same way as I had to to get to the metro. We walked along the street and had casual talk. I was a little paranoid, and checked over my shoulder a couple times, but there was no one there. He said that he had no intentions of actually going into the tea shop, and said some other stuff but English wasn’t his first language and I didn’t totally understand what he was saying. I apologized too, because I felt bad if I had interrupted him while he was just talking to some Chinese youth, trying to make the most of his time here. Any other people and I would have left him alone, but seeing who he was with and knowing what they were trying to do, I just got so angry. When we came to where we were to part, I told him I would be going to the metro and he was to go right, towards Jinmao. He asked where I would take the metro to, and I explained that I was living in an international village close to the University I was studying at. That’s when he finally understood that I was studying here this summer, and was impressed with the opportunity I had. I definitely wanted to make sure he wasn’t turned off by Shanghai by this bizarre incident, and explained that I was planning on being here for the next year and that this rarely happens, etc, so we talked about how good China’s economy was doing and how they may pass America within the next five years. As we parted, he wished me good luck and safe travels – and I did the same.

The whole way home I thought about what happened. It’s so unnatural to think about stuff like that actually happening, scams like that actually existing – and I wondered if I had done the right thing. Even though it’s what I thought was right, it felt like I really took it over the top, or at least, it escalated quickly. Just because I’m not afraid of confrontation, doesn’t mean I like it, and just because I initiated it, doesn’t mean it’s because I was trying to cause trouble. I don’t know if I went over there more for them or more for me, but at some point in my decision making process I had believed it was the right thing to do. Regardless, I’m home now and everything’s fine. Though trying, the day was eventful – and I love eventful. It’s unfortunate that there are people in the world who prey off unassuming strangers, and I doubt anything that happened today will change those kids decisions or choices. Maybe this will teach me to be more cautious and wary in this country that is still so foreign to me, maybe it won’t. All I know is next time I go to Yu Yuan I’m taking a friend with me…!

Saturday brunch with Rikki was an amazing success. It didn’t take me more than 30 minutes to get to the Bund via Metro, and once I arrived at the address, I realized I’d been there once before, as the building’s seventh floor was home to Bar Rouge, which has great cocktails and even better views. I truly felt like a sophisticated lady at brunch; the waitresses there were kind enough to place my napkin on my lap for me, and replace my ice water and tea as soon as they reached the halfway point! In the middle of the restaurant was a macaroon tower that you just went over to at any point before/during/after your meal to select a macaroon (all colors of the rainbow!). Our first course was dimsum, three steamed dumplings with all sorts of different fillings, and three fried. Afterwards was a bean sprout salad with pomegranate, grapefruit, and duck. It was so delicious! The main course was after, greens, a thick cut of salmon with a very light glaze, and six fat shrimp in a spicy curry sauce. So tasty. The desserts we had were so decedent I know that trying to describe them with words won’t do any justice! Rikki ordered a chocolate dessert, and out came a big chocolate ball shaped thing, nestled in chocolate cookie crumbles. Accompanying it was a small portion of hot, melted chocolate that when poured over the ball, melted the chocolate to reveal chocolate mousse and fresh fruit on the inside! I ordered a lemon tart type dessert, that was light, refreshing and just the right amount of tart. The conversation that went with the food was just as good. I enjoyed talking to Rikki about her life, my life, and who we had in common: dad! It makes me so happy to talk with people who have worked with dad in the past, because they always only have good things to say about him. When Rikki was telling me about how much Dad helped her get to the position she wanted to be at in GE, how he mentored her and so many others, and how he treated them with such respect even though he held such a higher position than them at work, my heart swelled with pride at the man who is my father. Besides that, we talked about working and living in China, the differences between what is traditional and what isn’t, particularly when it came to life after college for females. It made me appreciate the differences in cultures, and I enjoyed talking to someone who has not only experienced more than me, but who has experienced differently than me.

Brunch lasted a couple of hours, the time flew as Rikki and I ate and laughed. When we’d finished, we planned on the next time we would hang out, and promised to keep in touch via WeChat. My next stop was Felix’s house, I was meeting Schuyler and Stephanie there so that we could bake some cookies. Of course, none of the kitchens at Tonghe have kitchens, and Felix’s apartment is equipped with a stove, so we thought. Thankfully, Felix also had some of the essentials, like Vanilla extract (which was no where to be found at Wal-Mart). We whipped up our batter, and placed the cookies into a very small pan, and placed them in the oven – a small toaster oven that Felix had purchased herself! We were only able to bake four cookies at a time – but it was all good, we got to practice our Chinese and hang out with Felix and her cats (Buster, a big, handsome guy, and two little kittens – from Maomao’s first litter!!). Three hours later, we were on our way home, with a batch of fresh heart cookies for our class mates. Saturday was Chinese Valentines Day (qing ren jie) and we were hosting a small get together. We had cookies, punch, red lightbulbs, Hershey’s kisses and some decoration cut outs that Stephanie and I made. It was a lot of fun to get together, and the party was a good time. It ended pretty early, which was great because we had an early morning on Sunday.

At 8AM on Sunday I headed to the Tonghe lobby to meet Gao laoshi, Chen laoshi, Stephanie, Yanis, and Kevin. We were headed to People’s Park, to interview some of the people at the Blind Date Corner for homework. The Blind Date corner is a place where Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc, can gather in efforts to set the sons/daughters up for dating, and ultimately marriage. The park is lively at 9AM, there are opened umbrellas on the ground with sheets of paper attached to them, describing the child who was to be set up. This includes all sorts of things – not only physical attributions, but where the child graduated from, whether they’d spent time in the states, what other languages they speak, and other positive characteristics. If a mom sees a potential match for her child, she can work to set them up on a date. It’s very interesting, and one of the topics I talked about with on of the fathers was how invested Chinese parents are in their child’s lives, from birth until well after marriage. In America, a lot of times, as soon as a child graduates from college, it is common for them to be on their own, living without their parents support and many times very far from their immediate family. In China, the child grows up, and soon after college marries, builds a family, and then welcomes their parents back into their house, so that they can take care of their parents into their old age. It was a lot of fun for me to engage in conversation with the people at the park – I know for a lot of my classmates, they didn’t love the task because they felt like they were annoying them, and didn’t get great feedback. I made sure to sit down with people who looked bored, lonely or particularly friendly, and usually had good results. I even got a quick lesson in taiji before the day was up!

Sunday afternoon I allowed myself a long nap. The rest of the evening was spent working on homework, next week I have my final research paper due for my sociology class, and on top of that I have my normal amount of Chinese homework and other responsibilities.

This morning, I woke up at 5:30, to head to HuangXing Park. I wanted to experience the culture that consumed each local park in China from sunrise until the beginning of the work day. HuangXing Park is a big park relatively close to Tonghe, so after one transfer and seven metro stops I arrived. There was a big group exercising outside, even before you entered the park. Once you enter the gate, you were greeted by locals running, walking, skipping, around the outside loop of the park, and in the main courtyard there was a large group of about thirty women who were dancing. I sat on a grassy bank in front of them and just hung out. I jotted down some notes about what I observed, including the interesting outfits (skirts and heels in some cases!), their ages (looked to be anywhere from 40-65), and the kind of dancing (somewhat modern, with really upbeat music that you commonly associate with exercising, as opposed to traditional taiji music). After about half an hour, I had come to realize who the instructor was, dressing in all black she constantly wore a smile and was in charge of the music, frequently moving around the group. A woman came over to me, curious about what I was doing, and I explained that I was a study abroad student at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, and that I wanted to come watch them “prepare their bodies for better health” (duanlian shenti, or yangsheng). She pointed to my left, and introduced me to their teacher. I told them that I had already concluded that she was the instructor, due to her actions and movements while I’d been watching. The teacher then asked if I wanted to join them – “Come on!” she said, “I can teach you. It’s very simple!” I meekly protested, for I didn’t want to intrude on their morning rituals, but they seemed so enthusiastic and were very persistent, so I happily complied. It was so, so much fun. The movements were simple, but the routines weren’t – I definitely think I looked funny, but that’s never stopped me before. On the way to the park, I was able to see from my place in the back all the way to the front of the train – on the way back, now 8AM, it was impossible to see even into the next car. The peaceful energy I felt at the park was quickly replaced with a mixture of professional mundaneness and local simplicity. By the time I got back to Tonghe, it was time for class.

Baking at Felix's

Baking at Felix’s

Sunday mornings are lively at People's Park.

Sunday mornings are lively at People’s Park.

Can you spot the clumsy waiguoren!!?

Can you spot the clumsy waiguoren!!?

(hint: white tank top, olive shorts!)

(hint: white tank top, olive shorts!)