Well, the Internet just when down. I came to the library for the express purpose of checking my email and writing the inaugural address of my China blog. Apparently that will have to wait. Fortunately Georgia taught me a great deal about flexibility.
China. What’s most surprising to me at the moment is how well everything has gone.
After the usual discomforts of traveling (17.5 hours airplane time, a slight higher number of layover hours, and a couple extra hours of transportation to/from the airport) I arrived at my university in Zhuhai on Monday, September 5th around 2 PM. Hooray.
The transfer from airport to university had been a cause of some concern to me. The instructions from my contact had been to have the taxi driver call her for directions and call again when we arrived. This displayed a slight cultural difference. I can’t imagine getting into a cab in the States and asking the driver to call someone. On their personal cell phone? Using their personal minutes? As a suburban resident I don’t have a lot of experience with taxis, but never in my television and motion picture watching experience have I seen this done. And ask a student to call someone for me? I don’t speak Mandarin. Though, post-Georgia, my non-verbal skills are off the charts. (Amy wandering the campus pointing at a phone number on a piece of paper and miming making a phone call with a pleading look on her face while dragging two 50 lb suitcases, a backpack, and a guitar). Surely you can understand my concern going into this.
However, it all went according to plan. Except I had the girl at the tourist information center in the airport call my contact. She wrote the place I was going to in Chinese and I just handed that to my taxi driver. I was the only foreigner in the airport and attracted more notice than I really cared for. Polite smile on my face, I ignored all the independent taxi drivers swarming around and the many loud incomprehensible comments and went to the first official looking taxi in line outside.
It was a long drive. Long. Long enough to start wondering if I was being given the extra-special-foreigner tour though I wasn’t. The view from the window was tropical, yet very industrial. Huge complexes, office buildings, and residential developments interspersed between lush forested areas. And all very new looking. Maybe 40 minutes in the taxi driver start a right-hand turn into a wide, straight avenue and draws my attention to a sign that I just manage to catch: Beijing Normal Univeristy, Zhuhai. I give him the universal sign of approval: a thumbs up. (I was mocked for my frequent use of the thumbs up in Georgia, but I maintain that it is one of the most useful non-verbal communication strategies I know).
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. I knew the university was relatively new (10 year anniversary this semester), but driving into the campus my first thoughts were of how . . . university-ish it looked. I could’ve just arrived at a UC or CSU for all I knew. Aren’t I supposed to be in China?
The sadly cobbled-together bits I know about China did not prepare me well for this. And neither did Georgia. Everything I see reinforces my initial realization that my life in China will be quite different from my experiences in Georgia. I’m excited.