Greetings from the Middle Kingdom

So. I'm in China, the land of dumplings. Go figure. As if you didn't know that yet.

Here's an airbrushed photo of myself. The real me is all hot and bothered what with the high temperatures and the humidity and since I value my readers I don't want to shock you for life!

I arrived on Sunday in the afternoon. Confused, tired and stressed. The flight - or should I say flights? - were everything but a piece of cake. Check-in in Dublin was a hassle because of my luggage and while we arrived ahead of schedule in Abu Dhabi I ended up queuing for what felt like forever before I got to my gate. Boarding and take off were delayed because we had to wait for some other flights to come in. By the time we finally got onto the plane I was parched. Abu Dhabi is hot and stuffy, even at night, and it's so not cool. It was also pretty stuffy on the plane so that didn't help much. Since our departure was delayed we were over an hour late when we finally touched down in Beijing. China's capital greeted us with dense "fog" and we had to slow down upon approach to wait for permission to land.

On the bright side, I met a lovely woman and her daughter from Beijing on the flight (they were on their way home from a holiday in Kenya) and we had a lovely conversation in Chinese that turned some heads.

By the time we finally landed I had just over an hour left to make it to my connecting flight with Air China. Beijing airport was nothing but wonderful to me. I did immigration, claiming my bag, customs, checking my back in again, security and racing through the entire airport to get to my connecting gate in just one hour. The staff was marvellous and it didn't matter whether I asked in Chinese or simply looked lost, everyone was super helpful in getting me to my gate on time. When I got there I found out that visibility at Beijing airport had dropped again to below the minimum which is required for take off. The plane spend a solid two hours at the gate, waiting for permission to take off, but Air China - without a doubt used to this kind of stuff - fed us, clothed us (with blankets!) and gave us something to drink. Also the air con was on so that was refreshing. Unfortunately I didn't sleep much on the flight from Abu Dhabi to Beijing and only managed to properly doze off when we were up in the air and on the way to Wuhan, but it did make me feel somewhat better.

I got to Wuhan with a two and a half hour delay and it goes without saying that after travelling for over 24 hours I felt extremely exhausted. It was about 40 degrees when I got off the plane at Wuhan Tianhe Airport but after being indoors and up in the air for so long the sunshine and the fresh air was refreshing to say the least. I also somewhat lied to my fish and told him that the the heat was enjoyable and that I couldn't understand why he'd been so worried about me not being able to stand it. Between us, the heat is a little annoying. It's quite tiring and you're not really in the mood for anything, except maybe sleep. You also don't have a big appetite and if it was possible you'd spend all day under the shower or inside with the air con on full blast. Then again, it's bearable providing that you drink a lot. Also, living off vegetables and fruit is never a bad thing.

Last night's dinner. Bok Choi and cucumber with some fresh tomatoes.

Today's lunch -- a quarter of a watermelon

Following my arrival - I got picked up at the airport by two members of staff from the school I work for - we went to look at some apartments out of which I liked neither. They were all very old and very dirty so I didn't want to live there, despite the convenient location (the apartments we looked at were just across the road from the school). Also the rent was much too high. In the end my fish stepped in and had a word with the staff to help me out and then simply checked me into a nearby hotel for the night. Once I had a place to stay in, he took me out for dinner - hot pot - to feed me which was lovely. After more than five months apart a dinner and a long hug felt like the best thing ever. To be honest, it was the best thing ever. Nothing beats a simple dinner with the one you love, especially when he takes care of you, orders the dishes you like and also makes sure that you eat. When you mumble something about not being able to eat a lot and preferring to eat veggies, he gives you just that - without as much as a second thought. When you nag because the waitress gave him more fish than you, he shares with you. He didn't grumble or complain or tell me to eat something else instead. For me that's love. Simple, pure, the real thing. Don't get me wrong, I love me some flowers and I love to hear him tell me that he loves me or that I'm gorgeous but what do I want with flowers or sweet words if they mean absolutely nothing?

Hello China Construction Bank

The last few days I've been extremely busy, organising a bunch of things, although I have to say I couldn't have done it without my helpful colleagues. Well, I probably could have but it would have taken me much longer to sort things out.

On Monday morning, after a good night's sleep, I had some baozi (包子 / steamed bun) for breakfast and then I spend the day with my HR supervisor trying to find a house. We looked at a few places a little further away from work but they were all pretty old, dirty or just in general very shabby. In the end we did see a lovely place around lunch time and the landlord was in the apartment as well so I got the chance to ask him some questions. He was extremely patient when explaining things and didn't mind to say things twice or three times just to make sure that I got them. He made sure that I had hot water and offered to rearrange some of the furniture to my liking. I didn't want to commit to the place right away so we asked whether I could let him know in the afternoon whether I would take the place. He agreed and off we went to sort out my Wuhan travel card and my Chinese phone number. These past few days we also opened a bank account and registered myself with the police, temporarily anyway. I still need a document before I get the permanent residence permit. 

Cold tea with rose and lemon flavour, very yummy!

After that we were well and truly exhausted and it was way past the usual lunch hour. High time for some food to refill our energy and of course enjoy the air conditioning. In the afternoon we looked at two more places, closer to work, but they were both awful so I chose the apartment we saw in the morning. The landlord was extremely accommodating, even with the rent, and I moved in that day. What with me being a foreigner, he'd brought his wife along to have a look. A sweet girl, we got on like a house on fire. She was also very patient with me in terms of my Chinese.

And here it is, my new home. My first 'own' apartment.

The place is in a very convenient location. I can walk to work in about 20 minutes. With the heat, make that 25-30. There's a supermarket just across the road, a police station, restaurant, cake shop, pharmacy and a market with fresh greens and fruits. It's extremely handy. I can buy my own food and cook at home but I don't need to carry it for miles. I'm not quite clear on the opening hours of the supermarket just yet but I guess I will figure that out soon enough. The earliest when I am standing in front of closed doors.

I wanted a home with a view of the real China. Construction / Demolition going on all over the place. In fact, as I type this the workers are hard at work outside. I can hear them. I could reduce the noise level by closing the windows but then I'll have to switch the air con on, so no.

There is also a little shop inside my apartment complex, just one floor below mine, where I can buy water and other handy stuff. It's much cheaper than the supermarket and my bed sheets, pillow covers and duvet covers were all bought in a little place nearby. The lovely lady makes the stuff herself and she was extremely helpful when I picked out the things I wanted. Today I bought a little "memory foam" type of cover for my mattress, which is as hard as a rock, and she told me at least three times to make sure that I hang the mattress (the Chinese word translates into mattress so I don't have a better description) outside in the sun before putting it on my bed. She also can't seem to get enough of listening to my Chinese, which is absolutely sweet.

Everyone's been really nice and welcoming so far and even the police officer across the road called me a pretty lady (美女) today. He didn't quite expect me to turn around though when he said that since he looked a bit taken aback when I flashed him a smile.

So far it's all been plain sailing and with everyone being so extremely helpful I have no trouble settling in. This whole living by myself is a tad bit odd, since I've never done it before, but I'll get used to it soon enough, at least I hope I will. Now that I also have WiFi at home I won't have to resort to scrubbing the place when I have free time and don't know what to do with myself.

All in all, I'm enjoying my life in China so far. I'm sure there will be some hiccups along the way but then living in Ireland wasn't always plain sailing either. Sometimes there were troubles and things didn't work out. I'm expecting nothing less from living in China, except that it might be harder to work things out since I'm not quite fluent in the language.

I however have to honestly admit that I probably would go crazy if I didn't know any Chinese at all. Not knowing what's going on and who is saying what and having to rely on translations, well I imagine it to be frustrating. I'm not sure I could handle it. This way I am more independent, I can strike up a conversation whenever I feel like it, I can ask for things, even if I can't quite explain them probably, and it almost feels like people are more welcoming and warm-hearted when they figure out that I can understand them. Then again I only have my side of the story, I don't know what life in China is like when you speak no Chinese at all. It might be fun too but I'm in no rush to find out. I like the compliments I get about my Chinese and I like it even more when people help me along or comment about me being rather modest. Chinese people like it and I don't enjoy being presumptuous. My Chinese isn't perfect but it's good enough to get around. I'm not too afraid to get lost, obviously I'd like to avoid it if I can, but should I get into trouble I can always ask for directions.

I still have a couple of things on my agenda and I have some training before I start work properly but things are coming along nicely. I don't regret my decision. I knew that moving to China would be a challenge but it's one I'm truly enjoying. Some things might not work so smoothly but there are a lot of good aspects about being here too so it all balances itself out. Anyway, I'm not giving up, I'm going to continue to make the best of my life here and enjoy every single moment of it all.

Chinese tea. The cup was a present from my fish.

Now if you excuse me, it's high time that I make myself some dinner.