The New Me (Yes, Again!)

It's my day off today, since my days off are never consecutive I am blessed with two weekends a week, which is actually kind of cool. On top of that it's Teacher's Day in China today. I got my present yesterday and now I'm lounging around the house with a cup of coffee next to me on my desk and no plans to go out until my fish comes over to take me out on a date. I should really go out and run some errands but there's a frightfully black cloud hovering over my neighbourhood and the sound of the rolling thunder doesn't really make me want to change into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Chinese rain is usually quite dirty and no fun to walk in. Besides, who am I to abandon my coffee?! That would practically be a crime. Correction, that would be a crime!

[11:00 AM: My suspicions have proved right, it is now lashing from the skies. Wuhan weather station said something about drizzle to light rain, I think they had too much bajiu last night.]

Teacher Sarah. Sitting at my desk in the teacher's lounge, preparing for class...or taking pictures?!

I was thinking of doing something really special for my 100th blog post, but I really couldn't think of anything suitable. I'm quite busy with work so I don't have too much time to explore the world around me, much to my dismay really. Also, I really do prefer to eat in, at the moment the only time I eat out is on Sundays when I work the early shift and can't be bothered to cook on Saturdays at 10pm or get up at 6.30am on Sunday to ensure I have enough time to prepare my meal. Nah, treats are allowed and Sunday's become my treat-myself-day. It's also the day when I indulge in my favourite milk bubble tea!

A huge box of fresh sushi for 20 yuan, this includes a sweet sauce, soy sauce and some wasabi. An acceptable price, I think. This much sushi will properly fill you up, I didn't even have dinner that evening, just some fruits.

Instead I decided to write a follow-up post to my "I Accept The Challenge" post from the beginning of July. I don't think I have massively changed since then but sometimes it feels like I'm a completely different and new person. Tomorrow I will have been in China for exactly one month and the first observation I would like to share is:

China is good for me!

Hello Wuchang! To give you a little insight, in case you're not too familiar with Wuhan... Wuhan is made up of three "cities": Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. Wuchang is the education centre, it's lively and there's plenty of good food to be had and shopping to be done. Hankou is the cultural centre, it features a lot of Western style buildings and is famous for business. Hanyang... mostly industrial and most of my friends (please include me) feel indifferent towards Hanyang. There's nothing fun there, except for the zoo and that place leaves much to be desired.

Yes, really. I feel happy and content here. I enjoy my life here more than I enjoyed my time in Ireland or living in Germany. Granted, I've only been here for a month but I never felt this way when I first came to Ireland. I felt at home there and happy, but never quite 100% content, something always seemed to be missing but I never managed to put my finger on it. Here in China I feel content. I feel like I belong, despite the language barrier, the different life style and traditions, the food, everything. There are many things I'm still trying to wrap my head around but it's a wonderful journey of discoveries. When I walk to work or back home I walk with my head held high, not in a I'm-better-than-you kind of way but rather in a I-want-to-know-what's-going-on-around-me kind of way. Hearing Wuhanese (武汉话) makes me feel happy, it is very similar to Putonghua so I understand most of it, it's an oddly comforting feeling. In comparison, I still struggle with my fish's local dialect which is Tianmenhua.

I enjoy smiling at the shop owners and street vendors and most of the time I get a smile back. Sometimes they're a little shy at first but since I always take the same route to work, they are slowly getting used to me. I like to do unexpected things like holding the door open for my neighbours and holding the lift for the lovely young woman 13 floors up. She didn't expect me to do that, but her grateful smile made my day. I think I'm paying it forward, for no reason other than people seem to appreciate my being kind, or maybe they just think the foreign girl doesn't know any better. Who cares!

The cashier in my local supermarket has stopped pointing at the bags to ask me if I want one. Instead she asks me in Chinese and I reply. She also stopped pointing at her screen to tell me the price, she just says it and I hand over the money. The vegetable vendors still calls me his foreign friend and his wife is still patiently teaching me the Chinese names of vegetables. I still suck at remembering them but I try my best. Other vendors at my local wet market stop me for a quick chat, amazed by the fact that I can speak Chinese, the news seem to travel fast. They are patient enough and we have a laugh together. In a recent social circle, my students were quick to point out that people are patient and nice to me because I'm a foreigner. Apparently most people, who are not from Wuhan, believe that the people from Wuhan are rude. Some are, I guess, but in my opinion most are lovely. Just the drivers are totally insane but that goes for every Chinese city.

All these little things makes me happier than I ever thought they would. Moving half way across the world, well, I have no regrets. I've an iron determination to make the best out of my life here. I want to make every effort to better my Chinese. My colleagues are more than happy to teach me (and so are my students, but I don't let them). We talk a strange mixture of Chinese and English. I'm the first female foreign teacher at my school so I'm suddenly finding myself with a lot of girlfriends, which is fun. We chat and laugh everyday. It's a bit like a big family. My colleagues tend to shower me with too many compliments when it comes to my Chinese skills though, they seem to think my Chinese is very good while I think it's acceptable. I've become quite modest in that regard. I feel bad outright thanking people for their compliment. My standard response is: 我的中文一点都不好!(My Chinese isn't at all good!). Since I say it in Chinese it makes everyone laugh.

Nevertheless, my colleagues are helpful and I can ask them for anything. How to pay my water bill? Where is the nearest post office? Why won't the printer print the material for my lessons? Why does the projector always strike when I want to use it? Etc, etc, etc... Admittedly, with my male colleagues I pretend to be a little more helpless than I actually am. I milk it and it works. 

My fellow foreign teachers are nothing but lovely. We joke around, have the weirdest conversations and just generally try to have a blast. I told one of the foreign teachers the other day that I missed him (I only see him once a week). He thought I was messing with him and would not believe me. I spend about five minutes assuring him that I was indeed serious while my other colleague had a good laugh. The conversation then turned to engagement rings, make-up, lady boys and weird Chinese habits. Mind you, not one after the other but all subjects mashed into one. Yes, I guess we are strange.

Mind you, we all take our jobs seriously though, we came to China to teach. Of course we all enjoy to play (yes, Chinglish!) but we don't compromise our jobs. We love our students, they are engaged, motivated and lovely so we want to give them the best possible opportunity.

Granted, not everything is always rosy, trust me, I'm not that insane (just yet). Some things can be pretty annoying but if you let them get to you too much, you're just giving yourself unnecessary heartache. If you want to live in China and enjoy your time here, you just need to take some things as they are and not dwell on them too much. Or take them with a huge pinch of salt and move on with your life.

I can't stand the fact that some of my students like using their phone too much but most of them put it away when I catch them out on it. They all signed up for English lessons at the school because they have a goal, a purpose, they want to archive something. It's good to work with motivated students... Some need more of a push than others but it works.

This new me, well she's enjoying every minute of her dream. Being a teacher is fun, not always a piece of cake, but fun. It's something I've always wanted to do, I try to be creative and fun and I discover new things almost every day. Things that work, things that don't work... It's a lovely journey. While I still have a desk and a computer, I seldom use it. I prepare for my classes, that's it. The remainder of my time is spend with my colleagues or my students. No more 9 to 5. Granted, I still work Mondays but I work from 1pm to 9pm... I can finally sleep in on Monday morning! My weekend is split but that's actually perfect for the kind of teaching job I have.

Smile, you're on film.

The new me dresses up for work and wears make up regularly. Now, I never ever went to work in track-suit bottoms and a manky, holey shirt but I enjoy making more of an effort than I did before. I also hardly ever put on full make up, just lipstick and some mascara, but now that I do, I'm having plenty of fun with it. I never thought I'd become that person since I'm usually a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal but I'm loving it. Here's too dresses, heels, lipstick and long hair! It seems like I've become even more of a girly girl. I've no plans to take it into the league of designer clothes an accessories though, in my mind that's just wasting money. I'd rather spend that money on buying the fish something nice. I'd actually planned to go out and get him a present but today's rain is unpredictable, I don't want to take another shower.