Photo taken at the Confucius Temple, Pingyao, Shanxi Province, China
I mentioned earlier that we had the opportunity to teach elementary school kids english. We had a wonderful time, the kids made us smile, and we made some new friends in the process.
One day, one of the middle school teachers was talking about the importance of the kids learning proper English pronunciation early, because bad habits are hard to break and they wanted to make sure the kids had the best beginning they possibly could. He told me in Chinese, there is a saying "万事开头难". In English "Everything has a difficult beginning."
This saying really hit home for me. I adore traveling. I always have. I have an insane case of wanderlust and dreaming of all the places I will see is one of my favorite things to do. I also have been studying Chinese for the past 2 years or so and I love the language. Thats why the difficulty of adjusting to life in China came as a total surprise to me. I've been homesick. I've experienced a bit of culture shock. And I truly didn't even consider that this would happen.
Prior to moving to China, I've lived clear across the country, on complete opposite coasts from my family - about as far apart as you can get without leaving the country. I never felt homesick. I didn't think living in China would be any different considering I'd already been living so far away from family. But a month or so after arriving, sometimes I've felt like I can literally feel the distance between here and "home".
I knew the food would be an adjustment for me, but other than that, I really didn't believe I would have trouble adjusting to my new life in China. I've also never dealt with culture shock before. I've been to many countries but the thing with traveling is, most people never stay in a new country long enough to experience culture shock. It is usually preceded by a honeymoon period in which everything different about the country is looked upon in a romantic light... but the honeymoon phase ends and pretty soon the things that were so unique or amazing are just sometimes obnoxious and annoying....
"oh my gosh that car was really going to hit us! they weren't going to even STOP!"
"this taxi driver literally refused to take us! he shooed us out of his cab!"
"O.M.G. it is 100 degrees outside and they have raw meat just SITTING OUT THERE?"
"...if I hear ONE MORE PERSON HAWK A LOOGIE!!!"
"Chinese food... AGAIN!!?!!"
YOU GET MY POINT!
Its a challenge. About 75% of the time I KNOW how lucky I am! I try to take EVERYTHING in. As I was walking down a hutong (alley) the other day, I literally stopped walking, looked around one minute, shut my eyes the next, and just took it all in. I felt the sunshine on my skin... heard the bikes whizzing past, the man whistling a traditional Chinese song as he walked by me, smelled the delicious scent of Chinese food in the air... there was no where I would have rather been. I LOVED CHINA.
But, the other 25% of the time, its hard, and I miss home and I would do almost anything to eat some tasty American food, and I miss my dog, and just getting in my car and driving where ever I want, and not having to worry about being scammed or having the price hiked up just because I am a foreigner... and just the ease of speaking my native language. (I feel like I am learning ALL DAY and it is exhausting sometimes.) (And my husband has our alarm clock set to the Chinese talk radio station and we really need to change that... when Chinese is literally the first thing I hear when I wake up it PISSES me off. LOL).
A friend I came across wrote in an email "China is hard" ...and I know what they mean. Sometimes, China IS just that - hard. Its no longer the Western world and sometimes those differences are very noticeable.
When this middle school teacher told me that Chinese phrase that means "Everything has a difficult beginning" it really made me feel better because it gave me hope. That particular morning I was feeling a little sad and its just the sort of comforting words I needed to hear. Prior to that, I was feeling a little crappy like I really sucked at this living abroad thing... everyone else seems so well-adjusted! Why am I having this adjustment issue?
So yes, he unknowingly told me exactly what I needed to hear.
Everything has a difficult BEGINNING but over time things get easier.
I'm hoping within a few months time I will be completely adjusted to my China life! I DO love the traveling around, and I think that helps.
Thanks for reading.
Post on Pingyao to come.