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 😀
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.
*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.
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