First month in Fuzhou - lessons from China

Ni hao! 你好 

That's actually the first time I've seen ni hao in Chinese characters, I was just trying to impress you. I still don't know any Mandarin yet besides hello (ni hao - pronounced nee how), thank you (xièxiè - shi shyeh), 1-10 (yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī , bā, jiǔ, shí - ee, ar, san, sur, wo, lyo, chi, ba, jyo, shur), England (yīng guó - ying-gwo) and I don't understand (which I say as 'ting bu dong' but Google Translate is not confirming that for me). Wow that all took me about ten minutes to type out. Mandarin is really hard. But I'm learning! Every day I am learning something new. I'm here in Fuzhou, China to teach English for a company called York English but I am the one getting schooled right now. Let me tell you what I've learnt so far:

  • When I arrived in China, I flew with China Eastern Airlines. CEA does not permit lithium batteries of a certain voltage in their checked luggage allowance. One of my suitcases was therefore held at Shanghai Pudong  airport, where I changed flights to get to Fuzhou, for five days while they destroyed the portable phone charger (lithium battery) that my boyfriend had given to me as a gift at Heathrow airport. £12 down the drain and five days spent without deodorant in 30 degree heat (why I didn't just buy a new deodorant will be explained later)
  • Fuzhou is HOT. It is located in southeastern China, kind of parallel to Taiwan and kind of close to Hong Kong. I experienced blazing heat, cloud cover, pouring never-ending rain, thunder and lightning within the first week. But mostly heat. With heat comes insects that aren't typically found in Britain. Such as the humble but terrifying cucaracha, or blatta, or zhāngláng or cockroach. God. I never thought another creature would scare me as much as a spider but I can confirm that I am NOT HERE for cockroaches. I despise them, loathe them. They move so fast. Their antennae are so creepy. Their bodies are so big. They go anywhere that food goes. They only come out at night! AND THEY FLY! Good God, I never though I'd see a cockroach fly. Killing them has been difficult for me as it makes me feel sick and scared to watch an insect writhing and running around as you try to still it forever.  I've now kitted out the apartment with Raid spray and cockroach bait which has delightfully left a trail of dead creatures around. No-one warned me about the cockroaches
  • Despite the heat, deodorant is not a popular toiletry here. I see regular sized sticks of deodorant priced at roughly 50 yuan, which is about £5.50. That's really expensive. And it's because Chinese people generally don't wear it, apparently. They lack the gene that makes sweat smell. Amazing! I, unfortunately, possess this gene and sweat all the time so I brought about seven deodorants with me to China, which will hopefully last the year
  • The official Chinese currency is renminbi (RMB). But no-one talks about having 5 or 10 rmb, as that would be like saying you have 10 British sterling pounds. So the equivalent of pound is yuan (pronounced yu-en). But no-one really says that either, everyone just says kwai, which is like saying quid
  •  It's really hard to find butter knives here. It took me a week to find one in Thrive Mart, my new fave supermarket. Just chopsticks and big spoons everywhere you go. My chopstick skills have improved significantly since I arrived but are still extremely poor
  • Bread tastes like cake - just like in the US
  • Chinese people spit in public. They suck up all the phlegm into the back of their throats and eject it, loudly. Part of me thinks 'fair enough, it's not good to swallow your phlegm'. But my body cringes every time I hear the sound. I had a taxi driver who did it recently, rolling down the window to spit outside, and the close proximity and lack of all other sound in the car made his phlegm-inhaling all the more disgusting
  • Chinese food uses up every edible part of the animal. That includes the feet (chicken feet are very popular here), stomach, stomach lining, intestine, wing, face, butt, blood, whatever. If you can cook it, you can eat it
  • There is SO much excessive use of plastic. I will write another blog post about this because I am so upset about it
  • Chinese people are really shocked to see black people. I'll write another blog post on this too because I've already got a lot to say!

Not all of my posts will be in bullet point form. I hope you'll enjoy reading them and learn about life as an ESL teacher, Chinese food, language, people, supermarkets and cultural norms. I hope you'll also learn what it's like for me to be the most minor minority I have ever felt like so far in my life. I'm here just here to mentally process this crazy experience so feel free to join me!

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