China. Gritty, yet polished. At times seemingly stuck in the last century yet pushing forward faster than most societies. A country full of oxymoron, where one can go to a high end dance club in one of the richest parts of the city yet still find yourself using a squat toilet (aka “squatty potty”) there after you’ve had a couple Tsingtao. Where you can walk past stores selling Prada and Gucci just to turn the corner and find yourself in front of a hole in the wall noodle shop without a menu in English.
The still revered Chairman Mao.
I have been away from home before but never quite like this. I will not see Nebraska, my family or my friends for at least ten months (unless you visit me, Mom and Dad!). I am not homesick quite yet, but even in China there are reminders of home. Silly, small things can cause a twinge of homesickness, like a handful of M&Ms or finding pizza with REAL cheese. Many of these things are food related, of course.
My days are very busy. I work teaching English at a primary school in the western part of Shanghai. I teach 2-5 classes of 40 students a day from 8-4 and most of my students are grades 1 and 2. The adorable chorus of “Hello, Sophia!” as I walk through the halls is enough to turn even the worst day around. The syllabus for the classes has been given to me but it is my job to turn the material into something fun and educational. As I arrived with no experience teaching small children or even just being around them this has proved to be my biggest challenge, but one that I have wholeheartedly jumped into.
40 students are typically in the classroom.
I live in a three-bedroom apartment that is ten minutes walking to the metro station. Compared to other areas of Shanghai my small neighborhood near Zhongshan Park is relatively absent of foreigners. I share my apartment with two other Americans, both of whom were complete strangers to me just one month ago but have become very close friends. I will be speaking more on the experience of finding an apartment in Shanghai in an upcoming post!
Roommates and a friend.
A rare moment in the metro I take every day to and from work: room to sit down!
Those who know me well will be shocked to learn that I have not only joined a gym, but also a dodgeball league and a Gaelic football team. With a changing diet and the effects of heavy air pollution I have decided to make being healthy a more important part of my life. In addition to that, playing sports makes meeting people so easy! More to come on this as well.
A view of Shanghai.
China has been good to me…so far. Other friends have been ill, had tiffs with their schools and extreme telephone issues to name a few things. Inevitably something will go wrong, but that’s just life, isn’t it? I continue to be happy with my decision to move here especially as things start to calm down and a routine has been established. Shanghai is very international and therefore culture shock is not as much of an issue as it would be in other parts of China. This is something that is both relieving and also disappointing as I like to be a bit more challenged when I travel. Nevertheless, language continues to be an issue but self-motivated study and weekly Chinese classes are helping me learn the basics (someone go back and tell 18-year-old Sophie to take Mandarin in college!)
Well, there are dumplings to eat and Gaelic Football to play. More to come!