Busy making a life abroad

Wow, things have been busy. Halloween weekend here consisted of grocery shopping, hanging out with some colleagues, and enjoying an entire day staying INSIDE (i.e., not taking the bus, crossing any streets, seeing anything in Chinese, etc.). This work week has been crazy since it kicks off seven straight weeks of teaching before the holiday break at the end of the year. (Yes, I mean Christmas break. Yes, I get Christmas off. No, we won’t be coming home because the semester isn’t over until February.)

Highlights of the past week:

  • We received mail from the U.S. at our address! This is exciting because we weren’t positive the address was right, considering we always have to explain things to taxi drivers with our basic Chinese skills. If you would like our mailing address, please email me: kjk13(at)me(dot)com
    (Replace (at) with @ and (dot) with .)
  • I received really terrific feedback from my students about my teaching. I made a very basic survey with an open-ended question so my students could tell me what they like, what they don’t like, and what they want in my class. Their replies made me tear up because they are overwhelmingly positive. Reassurance is helpful at this point, when I’m getting so busy I feel like sometimes I don’t or can’t do a good job.
  • I got paid! I have more yuan in my bank account than I’ve ever had of dollars at any one time. (Remember the $1 to 6.6 yuan ratio… I’m not making *that* much more, but I am making more than when I was in the states!)
  • I bought something that was not wholly essential to my existence! (I bought a little stuffed cat in a banana because it made me smile. I put it in my office. Now I have a personal item at my desk and it feels more like home.
  • I paid for said stuffed cat using WeChat pay. (Reminder: WeChat is the phone application that the Chinese use for basically everything from texting to Facebook-like social networking.) The Chinese skipped credit cards in the sophistication of transactions and went straight from cash to electronic, application-based payments.
  • I paid the rent using a separate phone application. (Crazy, right?) I successfully transferred the money to our landlord with as much effort as flexing my right hand.
  • I went to the doctor. (I’m not sick—I just wanted to set a baseline with a doctor *before* either of us needed one!) I found an expat-friendly place near our apartment and met with the American doctor. He was very kind. He was in the army and has lived in 27 different countries! The clinic has all my prescriptions and they are all covered by our international health insurance, so that’s a nice change of pace too. (P.S. our international health insurance is valid in literally every country in the world except the United States. I think that makes a strong statement about the status of the healthcare system, don’t you?)
  • I attended my first international Toastmasters meeting! I went on Wednesday night. In this way I learned that saying “near the Starbucks” is no longer an accurate way of defining a meeting point in this part of China. I could’ve slugged my colleague for that one since the Starbucks I had seen from the taxi was three blocks away from the Starbucks she meant… but I digress. The meeting was really good. They had wonderful attendance, participation, and energy. It was really cute when they clapped after I told them I had been president of my last Toastmasters club, and I was honored when they asked me to give the closing remarks.
  • I got my fingernails painted for free! A local bar/restaurant called Meister Brau has various specials and parties, and Thursday night was Ladies’ Night: free wine, quesadillas for half price, and free manicures. I haven’t had my nails painted in months, so I feel very fancy right now with my sparkly silver fingernails.
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