Kung Fu skills outside of the Bird's Nest in Beijing.
I have learned a few key lessons during my stay in the great country of China. I thought I'd share some with you, so that if you ever choose to venture into this magnificent land, you won't go as blindly as I did.
#1: Watch Your Step
In China, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. Ever. Cars, trucks, and scooters rule the road. While walking, stay as far away from any sort of traffic as possible (i.e. stay on sidewalks, keep close to buildings, etc.) because you will either get honked at or run over. Keep vigilant.
#2: Cuteness Overload
There are SO MANY BABIES in China, and they are the cutest human beings I've ever seen. I see an average of 4-5 babies on my walk home from teaching every day in Tongxiang, and the number triples when we head to Wal-Mart or downtown or to a bigger city. Be prepared. You will want to hug all of them.
#3: So Much Food
If you're ever lucky enough to dine with a Chinese family, loosen your belt. I have never experienced hospitality anywhere else like I have in China. I have had the honor of being a guest of two Chinese families, and I was fed until I thought I was going to explode. The Chinese people are so welcoming, curious, and eager to please. Though it may seem odd, embrace it -- they do it because it's honorable.
#4: Social Media: The Worldwide Phenomenon
Though China has blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the Chinese people have no shortage of social media outlets. Tumblr is accessible, and China has its own version of YouTube called YouKu -- and you can search things in English. We've found almost everything we were looking for on YouKu. Also, my Chinese students have been asking for my QQ number! Apparently, QQ is an instant messaging service that's wildly popular in China. So I signed up for QQ, and I hope to keep in touch with my students when I'm stateside!
#5: The Power of a Resource
Coming to China has been such an experience, but it would not have been half as great without the help of two invaluable resources: Angela and Dirk. Angela and Dirk are two Chinese teachers at the school we are teaching at, and they both know English very well (they're English teachers - go figure!). These two have been unbelievably helpful, assisting us with everything from technology problems to medical emergencies to taking us out for karaoke! Without these two, we would be lost - so if you can travel to China with someone who knows the language and the customs, do it! This way, you can fully experience the culture without the anxiety of a language barrier.
International travel is rewarding, exhausting, trying and fun. China has definitely been a blast, and I'm already looking forward to my next travel experience! As always,