The sun is shining in our 15th floor apartment. Or at least I think it is. I can detect the subtlest shade of blue in the flat grey sky. The air is so thick we can only see a few blocks – and there are only three or four buildings the same height as ours, the rest are shorter. The traffic is so loud that we might as well be on the second floor of the building.
There’s no honeymoon period in China. It has been in-your-face and confrontational from the moment we stepped off the plane in Shanghai. By the time we arrived in Hangzhou, it was 1:30 a.m. and we had been traveling for 28+ hours. Right away the next morning we met someone in our hotel to take us to our apartment.
Our apartment is large and western-style. The entire north side of it is windows, which is more depressing than enjoyable, given how dirty the air is. At night the city is really dark – for a city with more or less the same population as New York City, it’s not so bright.
A girl from the university accompanied us to Vanguard – a Wal-mart-esque store that is conveniently right down the street. We bought bedding and some groceries. My bed is a clashing combination of loudly printed pink and purple florals. Our beds are large, but very very firm – as in we’re not so sure if they have more springs or plywood planks in them.
After stocking the apartment, we went to the university ,which is a full hour bus ride from the apartment. The girl from the university came with us and we took the public bus so we’d know which stop to get off of. We took the wrong bus (there are two busses with the same numbers and mixed in with different Chinese symbols – one is the wrong one). We were lost for a while, but finally found the right bus. I think I’m going to do my best to stick to the university shuttles that leave from my building and go straight to campus.
My first class is Monday morning at 8 a.m. It’s an advanced English class. I’ll be teaching them to negotiate. I don’t have a textbook.
I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do.
My second class is Monday morning at 11 a.m. It also is an advanced English class. I’ll be teaching them how to give speeches. I think I can handle this one, but the classes are large with 40-50 people in them.
I am beyond overwhelmed.
Everything is in Chinese characters. I was hoping for at least some pinyin (the Roman letter version of the language – it essentially spells the words out phonetically). We have no idea where our apartment is located in relation to anything else in the city. Since leaving Shanghai, we haven’t seen a single westerner. I know they exist and are hiding somewhere in the city, I just have no idea where.
We’re jet-legged, overwhelmed, and scared out of our minds. I’m hopeful that things will be less intimidating once we begin teaching. It’s going to take at least a month to wrap my head around this strange place the plane brought us to. It’s like a different planet. I’m willing to give it a chance, it’s just the biggest and most terrifying undertaking I’ve ever done.
Thank goodness I’m not alone. I wouldn’t have been able to do this by myself.