Wait, why not Shenzhen? Well, unfortunately, I still cannot access my own blog from the Mainland due to increased internet censorship and problems with my VPN, so I had to cross the border to the land of freedom in order to give you all a much needed life update. It’s been a two-month journey with no Facebook/Instagram/Google/News/Email/#EverythingNecessary on my phone, but I have survived. Just don't quiz me on international current events when we next chat. The China Daily isn’t always the most reliable source…Surprise surprise.
So, what’s the latest scoop over in Shenzhen? I couldn’t possibly fill you in on everything I have done in the last 2+ months, but I will share some memorable highlights. In an effort to keep this post from turning into a rambling mess of word vomit, I have organized my update into a few sections (see below). Happy reading! Feel free to leave a comment! :)
PART ONE: What is new in the social department?
Speaking of eating, us internationals have done a lot of family-style feasting. Literally, “family” style. As in, we have truly become a family over here. Despite our differences, diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and weird quirks (we are quite the quirky bunch!), we share an irreplaceable “China bond”. We can’t Skype mom and dad every time we are stuck with no hot shower, can’t get on the internet, got ripped off haggling for fakes, or are sick of Chinese canteen oil (oops, I mean food). Instead, we have our China Family with whom we can share our love-hate roller coaster ride. Our shared China experience gives us a commonality and creates a real sense of intimacy and understanding. What in the world has driven me to stay in China for so long? My China Family definitely plays a huge part.
The pics below include several of our family feasting occasions, including Indian food at our favorite Bollywood Café (approved by my Indian bestie, Harsh), Chinese BBQ in Pingshan Village for a campus event I organized, and a neighborhood hotspot serving northern-style Chinese food for my friend’s birthday.
PART TWO: How's the Great Wall training coming along?
…Wait, but isn’t the Great Wall of China all stairs? Yes, pretty much. My training has not just included leisurely runs, but also lots and lots of stairs. Not quite as meditative or de-stressing. Good thing I live on the 19th floor! No elevator for me these days. I am pretty sure my dorm guard thinks I am certifiably insane. Maybe he is right. 6 WEEKS TO GO UNTIL I CONQUER THE GREAT WALL!
PART THREE: "China Moments"
The three-week reimbursement process. Okay, so I must admit, I do not have a ton of experience when it comes to filing for work or school related reimbursements in the USA, but there is no way it’s as complicated as China makes it.
As many of you may know, I am the currently the President of the International Association at my campus. Therefore, I organized a “Welcome Back BBQ” for the Chinese and international students last month at a Chinese BBQ joint in nearby Pingshan village. I covered the event cost with my personal money and then started the reimbursement process. Migraine galore! Everything in China is a process with many (seemingly very unnecessary) steps. Nothing ever seems entirely logical or straightforward. I am sure those in the China Bubble support this statement. Reimbursement just so happens to be one of those things.
Bringing an official stamped invoice / receipt from the restaurant and filling out two forms and getting four administrative signatures is not enough. I had to return to the BBQ restaurant three separate times before finally getting all the “official stamped papers with red ink” needed for successful reimbursement. The restaurant manager and I are Wechat friends now. Just look at the picture below. Enough said.
I think we can all agree that getting a pedicure is supposed to be a relaxing experience. A nail salon should strive to make customers feel Zen and pampered. Ask my friend Max if he felt Zen and pampered when I dragged him with me to get a “manly pedicure” in Pingshan Village, ha! We sat in our pedicure chairs for 45 minutes holding our noses as the lingering stench of China sewage overwhelmed the nail salon. It was hard to breathe! The picture below of the laundry hanging outside the nail salon gives you a pretty good idea of what we were dealing with here. Zen? I think not. Entertaining? Absolutely. Gotta love China. I guess paying 4 USD for a pedicure sometimes comes with tradeoffs.
On another note, I did get a successful (Zen AND relaxing, 100% free of sewage stench) haircut at UM Salon (at the Holiday Plaza mall near Windows of the World - in case any readers are looking for a haircut recommendation). I always go to Eddy and he is AWESOME, speaks perfect English, and is quite the stud. A little eye candy while getting my hair trimmed…no complaints here ;)
I was one of the lucky ones who got a dorm room that has a window with a small hole. The hole was never a major problem. Sure, a little rain got in here and there. Sometimes my room got a little bit colder than my neighbors. However, the small hole became a big problem when a WASP NEST suddenly emerged on my balcony. Every day, giant wasps were flying around my dorm room. The only way I knew how to instantly kill them was to spray my toxic Raid spray. The wasps immediately dropped dead, such a satisfying experience. The downside? I was poisoning myself with toxic spray and starting to feel lightheaded on a daily basis. I was also experiencing major sleep deprivation because I was too scared to sleep at night, afraid of being attacked by giant killer wasps. After a team effort, I am now safe and sound.