The internet connection has been terrible here so I haven’t been able to post as often as I would’ve liked but I’ll recap what’s been happening in the past few days.

Things have been improving since I worked out my money situation and it makes me much more appreciative of what has happened since.

On Tuesday I moved into my new accommodation where I met my two new roommates who are from Washington, America. They’ve been very welcoming to me and what’s theirs is pretty much mine except for food. I even found out one of them was a Christian when I spotted a bible by their bedside table!

Tuesday was also the day I started class and I was surprised to find how relaxed the teaching environment is here compared to Beijing. I don’t have to worry over vocab tests every second day and I don’t need to stay up late working on my never ending pile of homework. I have so much freedom that I’ve gone out almost everyday whether it be traveling by myself on the subway or eating out nearby with friends.

I’m actually really surprised that I’ve adapted so quickly to the environment here in Shanghai from the busy subway and crazy traffic here to even being comfortable with eating the street food (no diarrhoea yet!). The first few days may have been hectic but now that I’ve experienced what could possibly be my worst possible scenario I’ve really been able to relax and be confident in whatever I do here. During class I only use Mandarin except when I’m speaking with my classmates during our short breaks and I can actually understand about 80-90% of what the teachers say (although our hanyu laoshi is terrible and no one can really follow along). It’s a huge boost to my confidence when I’m practicing my conversational Chinese and now I’m not afraid to ask questions or talk to random people on the street such as street vendors or people I sit next to in the cafeteria. People are more friendly than I expected and their speaking speed is comparably slower to those from Beijing which makes it easy for me to participate in conversations 😀


Desperate times call for desperate Mandarin

In hindsight (after my one and a half hour cry fest and finally resolving my money problem) my first post about Shanghai just sounds like one big whinge so I thought I’d share a positive side to my experiences too.

I think the biggest benefit I’ve gotten out of this stressful situation is me having to use Chinese in order to survive. I have never spoken so much Chinese in such a short time but when you’re stuck in a foreign country and desperate to get things done with no one else you can rely on you have no other options. Whether your grammar is correct or not becomes irrelevant, as long as the other person can understand you you’re good. Neither does it matter if your more advanced classmates listen in on your conversation, as long as you can understand the person who’s speaking to you you’re good. In the past few days I’ve already improved my speaking and listening skills more than I could have ever imagined and that just makes all the hardship worthwhile. Here are the series of fortunate conversations and encounters I’ve had:

– Speaking in Mandarin with the passenger next to me on the plane who was somewhere in his 30s – not usually the kind of person I’d choose to start a conversation with but why not?

– Asking to borrow someone’s phone to send a wechat message when I was stranded at the airport (harder than you think when they’re parents are suspiciously looking at you…)

– Asking the hotel receptionist if I could use their phone and subsequently having a phone conversation with one of my mum’s acquaintances in Chinese

– Getting lost several times on the way to said acquaintance’s house and having to ask 3 different people for directions

– A lady asking me for help on the subway back to my dorm

– Ordering some random street food as a super late dinner

I’ve come away with new skills and experiences and I discovered that Shanghai is filled with more friendly people than I had realised.

Welcome to the city of smog, shopping and squat toilets

*This was meant to be published on Sunday.

Yesterday I arrived in Shanghai, mostly safe but probably not as sound as I would have liked to be.

My flights were okay and I enjoyed conversations with the two strangers I sat next to but there were also some really 糟糕 (zaogao – unlucky, unfortunate) moments. Here is my version of a series of unfortunate events:

1. My phone stopped working before I had even left Sydney airport. Now normally I’d be fine with this because surely I can live without a phone for a month but the last two days have proved me wrong. When I touched down at Pudong airport I had assumed I would immediately be able to spot the transport the university had organised but I couldn’t find any paper signs identifying they were from Fudan. I waited for other classmates (I had never met before) to somehow come find me but after 15 minutes there was still nothing. I began to worry because I only had another 15 minutes before the bus would just leave without me.

2. (Also links back to point 1) Not only has my phone failed me but my watch has died on me too. I’ve gotten separated from the friends I’ve been exploring Shanghai with a couple of times and they couldn’t call or text me but there was one incident when we decided to split up to go shopping that was particularly terrible. We all went in our opposite directions but I hadn’t realised my watch was faulty so I arrived at our meeting point 30 minutes late. I feel really bad for making them wait so long 😦

3. I’ve also had the (dis)pleasure to meet this one guy in the program who thinks he knows best and every person should be living like him. Now often I don’t make this conclusion about others but I’ve had a strange feeling about him since yesterday and a conversation with him today proved why I had such an ill feeling. We were sharing our opinions on what we found enjoyable in life and he pretty much trash talked about everything I found interesting or disinteresting because it didn’t fit with how he viewed the world. I reasoned that we were all different so fun was a subjective feeling and he just shrugged like other people didn’t matter. At this point I knew there was no way I could reason with him and I was feeling rather hurt by his words because they were bashing not only on my identity but they showed a lack of care for other people… So I did what Evelyn would do. I called him out for his rudeness and his lack of consideration for others and their opinions due to his arrogance. I also wanted to call him a not so nice word but in the end I just ditched him because I couldn’t stand being near him anymore.

4. This last point is definitely the most distressing for me. As if all the other stuff that happened wasn’t enough, today I found out I had no money!! My mum had given me her bank card with supposedly x amount of dollars which would definitely last me long enough for my time here in Shanghai but when I went to the ATM to withdraw cash I didn’t even have enough to pay off the deposit for my hotel. I feel really let down by my mum because I’d nagged and nagged her to check how much was in the account so that I wouldn’t end up in a situation like this but she didn’t. I was so upset because I’d decided to trust her with something for once only to have her fall through not just with a small mistake but so deep that it’s like I’m left flailing in the water and that’s not good because I don’t even know how to swim!! Man I’m so disappointed… How could this even happen?!? I’d been watching the currency exchange rate for weeks and weeks but had refrained from exchanging my money because my mum had said she could help but in the end a thousand problems have sprung from it as I try to navigate myself around this foreign land.

Sigh, It seems like it would have been a while lot easier if I had done things my own way and relied on myself.

Fill her up!


So it’s my last day in Sydney before I leave and my mum must be thinking that I won’t have any source of fresh fruit or green vegies in Shanghai (probably true) so all week she’s been feeding me a while lot of vegies, fruit and fish

Day 31: December 22, 2013

What I did today:

  • Visited the third C of my one month in Bejing and it surprised me because it wasn’t that different from my home C – GCC. The seats were packed to about 100-200 people (and people came late), there were announcements and testimonies all in Chinese. Even when T translated parts of the talk I asked about, it all seemed accurate with what I had been taught and there seemed to be a lot of focus on telling others the good news. So encouraged that this is happening!

Learning opportunities:

  • Even though you have fun in a country, there’s no place like home. After a month I’m happy to return to Australia where communication is less frustrating and customer service is much better. Back home Xerri and I go! 回家了!

Day 30: December 21, 2013

What I did today:

  • Breakfast at the buffet downstairs before we farewelled Alex and Grace. All our friends are heading off and it feels sad that our time in Beijing together is coming to an end 😦 We’ve grown close over time and even begun to pick up on each other’s habit hehe
  • Fangxue and I had our last little outing together to Houhai Lake. It’s almost Christmas now and the lake has frozen over and the trees have lost their vibrant green colour (although maybe that has more to do with the pollution than the weather). We walked past Duck Island which reminded me of Grace (she really likes ducks) and saw some kids with their parents on some sort of seat/cart that you push yourself along with using ski poles on top of the ice.

Daring moments:

  • Grace clogged up the toilet yesterday after she pooped and me needing to go to the toilet in the morning…well I did what had to be done. I never want to reach so far up a Chinese toilet with my bare hands again -____-
  • Fangxue and I saw people going in for a dip in the ice-cold water and it wasn’t just like 1 or 2 people but a whole group! Pretty brave…or maybe silly :p

Day 29: December 20, 2013

What I did today:

  • Skipped my grammar class – really don’t want to work on the last day .__.
  • Dinner at Charme Restaurant and karaoke afterwards. Wish I’d gone with someone else to sing karaoke though because I couldn’t understand the Chinese songs at all @_@

Learning opportunities:

  • As I walk past stores along Nanluoguxiang and at the Hongqiao Pearl Market I’m reminded once again of why customer service is so terrible. The storekeepers all look at their laptops or devices as they watch one Chinese TV series or another and none of them have an inviting smile to welcome me – not even to convince me to buy their goods.
  • Fried chicken is very popular with Chinese people

Fun moments:

  • More bargaining fun! Found a cute music box that played ‘Amazing Grace’ for Felicia and also had a good learning experience where I bargained too low and wasn’t able to get an item at the price I wanted. Now I know what it feels like 😮

Day 28: December 19, 2013

What I did today:

  • Henry kindly partnered up with me for our speaking exam. I really like how he makes people feel relaxed and can put a bit of humour into every situation.
  • Received our results from the grammar test and I got a D! Didn’t really expect to get such a good mark but I’m happy with that 😀
  • Farewell luncheon for all the students and teachers involved in the problem. Had my first taste of authentic Peking duck and it was yum. We had Katie, Alise and Henry act as our class reps and they did a really good job with their twist on a Chinese children’s song. I’ll have to look for the video 😛

Day 27: December 18, 2013

What I did today:

  • It’s exam time! Yayyyyyy…not x_x We had our grammar finals today and I felt really under-prepared and super tired from staying up so late but surprisingly the questions weren’t too hard. Makes me wonder why I worried so much :/

Learning opportunities:

  • I’m not getting enough sleep at night so I’m always feeling tired during the day and drained of energy. What can I be doing that will help me rest better whilst being responsible with my studies?

Day 26: December 17, 2013

What I did today:

  • Walked on water. Just kidding, but it’s not too far from the truth. Weiming Lake has frozen over and after a bit of pushing I decided to try walking atop the frozen lake too. It was scary because we could hear a noise that sounded very much like cracking ice but there were some really brave people who walked towards the middle and took pictures. It’s amazing how much can change in one month
  • Went to BS again 🙂 Was good but I liked it when the British guy was leading. I was chatting with this guy from America and something he said really struck me as perhaps a narrow view for the expat. He was only planning to stay in Beijing for a year to teach English and had already been in the country for a few months yet he barely knew any Mandarin and he hadn’t even considered learning it before he arrived or whilst he was here. Is that really okay? What would you do if you were in that situation?

Learning opportunities:

  • Studying in consistent amounts each day is much more effective than cramming. I felt so bad for waking Xerri up each time I came into the room past 11pm because she’s a light sleeper and I keep her up >.< I even considered just sleeping in the chair rather than bothering her but that probably isn’t a good idea either

Moments of success:

  • Not class-related but I ran 5km at the gym today! It was really draining and I didn’t expect to run that far but Henry said go 4km and my pride made me want to push myself harder. I probably won’t run like that again anytime soon because my body can’t keep it up but it was fun challenging myself