Well, we were supposed to leave today for China. However, two days ago things went crashing through the roof when we found out Noah needed Kidney surgery in about a week and a half. Apparently he has reflux and it is coming up and touching the kidney, which is not good considering he only has one of them to begin with. They operate on the 27th and he will need 2 weeks in the hospital after that.
This hasn´t flat out stopped our plans to move to China, although we fear we may have burned some bridges with the company who was going to hire us.
We would like to be over there by the beginning of September and have tried getting in touch with the regional HR guys where we were before, as well as some other schools.
This was a disappointment to us-we´d been planning it for 7 months and while I´m sure we´ll find something, I had felt truly secure in the team we were going to be a part of over there. That being said, I´m a believer of a) making your own destiny and b) things happening for a reason.
As of right now, I´d kind of like to find something that will give us weekends off together if that is possible because we would like to be able to travel around China and discover it together as a family.
Hopefully, something somewhere will work out for us. I haven´t given up and this constructed dream has become more tangible over the months. Perhaps it´s my ¨little girl¨attitude that Juan sometimes complains about, but I don´t like being told I can´t have something. Now, getting there is going make us that much more proud of what we´ve done and we´ll really enjoy it because we´ll know what it took to get there. Stay tuned for developments on where we´ll be in China!

As much as my nomadic self gets pushed (not literally) to move on and meet new people and travel the world, she knows that there’s always a remote possibility that she won’t like some place new and that moving on means saying good-bye to something, or someone-several some ones, that/who mean a lot to her.

Jumping into the unknown is thrilling, and anyone who likes jumping into rivers and oceans without dancing at the edge of the beach for 30 minutes before getting their hair wet will know what I mean. Yes, there is a moment mid-jump where you know you’re about to bury yourself in waves of ice-cold water and you can see little exclamation points and pound signs floating over your head, but as you come up for air and push your hair out of your face, you feel awake-you got the blood circulating and you are alive. Moving to a foreign place is like that.

So, thirty seconds before being engulfed by those wet, icy arms of water, I’m thinking, what if China turns me into the foreigner I can’t stand? What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t learn Chinese? What if I don’t make new friends? What if they’re not like the other ones? What if I can’t break that wall of embarrassment that keeps me from speaking? What if the pollution causes me to get pimples? What if I eat so much I get fat? What if..?

So ,now I’m just waiting to resurface and shout a long whooping, “Hell yeah!” to remind me that travel has made me come alive again!

I thought I’d have trouble finding China-related news until next week. I mean a girl can only talk about moving to China and explore her inner feelings about saying good-bye so many times. But, helas, it seems that the government may have had other plans for us.

In all honesty, it has seemed a bit easy. I mean they told us we didn’t have to get married, they told us everything was on track for getting us our paperwork so that we could apply for a Chinese visa at our nearest consulate (Paris)…and 1 week later they send us an email requesting that either a) we send in the Chinese consulate form (as in the one we haven’t yet done because it’s for the visa application in France and we still have, according to them, 2 weeks before they’ll even send out necessary paperwork for us)-which is in Chinese or b) official proof that we were tested in consulate-approved establishment (Huh? Say who to what now? Yes, we got our EKG’s done in someone’s basement, the lung x-ray…I just had one of those lying around and I’m an expert at drawing my own blood.) Anyway, it’s not a horribly big deal-Juan was going to go to the Dr. today to get that paperwork filled out, but you can imagine my surprise at that little twist on the Chinese visa requirements.

On a side note: hopefully I’m not being monitored…if I am….I promise that I am oh-so-very grateful to you so far. We appreciate that you are letting us come to teach English in China and I really am a bit of an ironic writer:) No offense taken? Thank you!

Good blogs about teachers living in China? I know they are out there…according to a 2005 report, there were over 60,000 of them living there. Now, I would imagine that this number has either drastically gone up or kinda stayed the same. Either way, 60000 is considerable.

Yet every time I search, I get the same blogs…and they are all 2 years old and haven’t been updated since 2011. Another little pet peeve, the blog I keep getting at the top, was used for 6 months sporadically at best.

This isn’t a complaint about the blogger really. I mean, I can imagine it well…you blog your heart out before your trip hoping it will connect you in some way to the Middle Kingdom, the destination at the end of your (incredibly) long trip. You get there and you don’t know anyone. Since you can’t understand anyone either, you spend a lot of time observing people and analyzing every interaction you have with “the locals.” You head home and have plenty of time to yourself to create long, informative posts about your trip.

But then, you start teaching, you get invited places and you make friends. So, who needs a blog right? (Wrong, me..Christine 3 years from your last post date and I’m wondering so many things, things you can’t really ask your employer. Like, what is the monthly break-down in expenses in your city? Of course, everyone is going to be different, but tell me about YOU, show me your apartment (is it a hole? Is it a nice hole? Or do you have 2 bedrooms, a living room and a dining room all to yourself?) And tell me about your life in China! But like I said, I get you. Not every one thrives on writing. In fact, I just spent 8 years in France and am realizing I don’t have anything to show for it. It became my home and I was, well, not a local. But, I wasn’t quite foreign either. I was ET and they adopted me until it was time to peddle outta here, I guess.

Nope, my complaint is really for the algorithms over at Google. I thought they had “spiders” that “crawled” the internet trying to find the best information for you. Which also made me laugh, they could have called them brushes, or monsters or scooters, but they went for creep, crawly, venomous things.

But, that is precisely what happens when you let computers do a human’s job. Robots are going to take over the world. And they are going to let bloggers that didn’t have the gumption to finish what they started help them!

It is kind of funny because I entered in “best blogs by ESL teachers in China” today and I got a page and a half of mostly outdated blogs on moving to China. They had just abruptly ended and some of them had as little of 3 months of blogs. I then found a complete article from 2011 published in the Huffinton post-a newspaper article, not even a blog, about why one guy was happy he had gone to China. My favorite ones don’t even rank in the first two pages-although to be fair, one of them isn’t about a teacherJ

And then, I can never remember how I changed my search to find that one blog I did like. Well, thanks to you buddy blog, now I can add the sites to the page I have dedicated to that as I find them and go back to them later. But, Google spider…I have come across about 3 newer, more complete blogs about people that STILL live in China. Could you please go crawl onto their pages and find that one post that should make it to the front page of my search please?

And there will probably be several takes.

Let me start by saying that I am in no way what anyone (anywhere) would call organized. But, when you are moving across the (I was going to say Atlantic, woops-just across Eastern Europe and Western China is all)…country and into another country, I figure a list is in order as I have been reading enough to realize I may want a few things that I may not be able to find (perhaps just due to the writing on the package?), that I may need on hand in those first few unsteady weeks or that I simply have pre (and perhaps mis) conceptions about.

1.       Anything related to feet. I’m size 10 ½-11 in the US (41 in France). Socks, Shoes.

2.       Deodorantx2 (Gotta at least get through the summer and I hope that Carrefour sells deodorant in China)

3.       Mascara-I may not wear it every day, but every so often a girl wants to look like a girl. I’ve heard the quality is different and that it is expensive.

4.       Pants, capris, cardigan: I think I may be *slightly* bigger than most Chinese women my age-and probably much taller. If I can avoid buying pants and capris until I go home again, I would be very happy with myself. Cardigans just because I really don’t have that many and I’m already splurging in my head. That being said, I do have a 30 euro gift check to anywhere I want to use before we leave…

5.       Grown up medication: Now, don’t get me wrong, I have read that you can find remedies to different “bad food experiences” in a pharmacy easy enough, but I don’t particularly relish going up to our school aids in the first month and telling them I need one of those medications. I’d prefer to roll over in pain in the comfort of my apartment with no bystanders. Thank you.

6.       Child medication: to be covered in another post for a section dedicated to, oh say, raising a kid in china?

7.       Gifts from Europe: I want to bring a nice bag of chocolate+lots of funky flavored Lindt, wine, pate, etc. Not only have I heard that gift giving is the norm here, but I also think it would be fun to throw a French-themed dinner party for the team of teachers we will be working with.

8.       One paper Chinese grammar book. I have been highly disappointed with the two grammar books I bought on Kindle. One was book 2, and really “user” friendly, but I couldn’t find book one or three in Kindle format. The other wouldn’t be really bad (although it is really truly grammar straight-up), but the you can’t shrink the book to as much as you’d like, and you can’t even see one whole page, you have to scroll down. It makes it too difficult to visually link ideas together and see their examples.

9.       A few books for my tablet. There are lots of “classics” I’ve been meaning to read, and it would be fun to have a couple of other books to flip through on a day I’m feeling completely isolated from my culture/language.

10.   Oh yeah…visa. We are waiting for some papers from our employers, but otherwise, we really gotta get on that.

Pont Neuf, ToulouseThe reality of our plans really struck me a couple of weeks ago when our closest “couple” friends stayed over at our house after an enjoyable evening of martinis (for the girls-beers for the guys, as per tradition) and tapas (for the purpose of this, we’ll call them “tapas”, in the sense that they were “fancy” finger foods that I spent way too much time making, also as per tradition).
The next day, we took our sons to the park because every once in awhile in March, the sun shines and it’s warm and releasing two energetic boys on a park, seems like a good idea. (You know how we have the term, “Sunday driver” in English…in French it should be “Sunday walker” because you feel especially French when you walk down the paths of the parks no faster than a snail-and I know it’s ironic I talk about snails and France in the same sentence-in little groups that make it impossible to go around in order to keep up with the children..all in a relaxing, good way of course) We sat down on the posts that kind of “half-fence in” the children at the playground and dangled are shoes in the wood chips and were talking about a lot of things.
China inevitably comes up quite a bit these days. She told me not to be surprised if she took a little distance right before we left, because she would need that to not take us leaving so hard (aww, tear.). That’s when it hit me that we were really leaving.
And I love France. I’ve loved France since I was 11 and was stumbling through Harry Potter with my dad in French. I have spent 9 years of my life in this country and have friends so close they are an extended part of my family. Friends I would do anything for and who have shown me that they would return the favor.
But it isn’t my home. At the end of the day, when you are on a budget and the world is your oyster, how likely is it to think about coming back to France in even 2 years? I’d love to go back to France again, but the truth is I really can’t foresee when that will be. I have said many times that France is ideal for a vacation and that it is slightly more difficult to live there-especially as a broke student teaching English part-time. But, A lot of my friends probably will not be there in 5-10 years because many of them have grown homesick or at the very least, ready for new adventures. Moreover, I already have a travel conundrum. When we travel “home,” that means two different trips. So, logically I’ll only get to see my family every other trip (solution: each go home solo and take turns bringing Noah). So unfortunately France does come after both the US and Mexico.
That being said, France has become a second home (for those of you who know, I’ve been fairly frustrated here for awhile, so there may be some gasps or gaping mouths) whether I like that or not. And I’m sure a lot of things I do really aren’t 100% American anymore. I don’t try, but I’ve been shaped by this place. I basically grew up and became an adult in this place. My exchange here when I was fifteen gave me confidence to be the person I wanted to be. I’ve got a French university education.
And it’s gonna be hard to say good-bye to such good friends and not have a return date for the next summer when I know we’ll get to go to the beach and drink bottles of wine ‘en soirée’ and catch up. It’s gonna be hard, quoi.

zhengzhou compilation pictureI’ve read up quite a bit on Zhengzhou, but for those of you who knew me when I was getting ready to go on my exchange to Limoges, France when I was 15, I’m having similar problems finding a plethora of information on the city.

Let me explain, when I was fifteen, I found out I would be studying French in Limoges, the capital city of Limousin region in France. Most of my internet searches (in 2003, remember dial-up, that’s how I did it) told me that Limoges was known for beef and porcelain and that it was the only region in France with no official cheese. And basta, that was it.

Well, here is a post dedicated to anything I can find about the city of Zhengzhou not only because I am curious, but also because I’m sure most of my family will be too.

First of all, Zhengzhou’s most recent appearance in the news was apparently on Sixty Minutes in January or February of this year. They used it to report on the growing number of what is known as “ghost cities”-apparently Zhengzhou is home to an entirely empty, brand-new shopping center-I’ve read a few articles ranging from pessimistic to optimistic on this particular center. I’m gonna hope they open so that I have more malls around me;P

Otherwise, Zhengzhou was chosen as the capital for the Henan region based on its historical importance to the region (there were two other major contenders in the region I believe). Over 3500 years ago, it was the capital to the Shang Dynasty if I’m not mistaken. It was an important center at a time in history when Chinese smelting and porcelain techniques were superior to the rest of the world-imagine that, I get placed in two regions a world apart, that are both known in some way for porcelain!

Today it has been classed as one of 13 major emerging cities (in China?) and is home to 8 million people. It is a city that thrives on transportation and given its central location is a melting pot for different types of transportation. It is also home to a major medical university.

According to a packet I was given by my employers, mutton noodle soup is a well-known dish in the area. More internet searches have said that Zhengzhou uses a type of cuisine (Jiansu) known for using seasonal produce and has been influenced by Beijing cuisine.

I have noticed that we will be able to take many day trips to important historical areas of the region, it seems that the Henan region is sometimes considered the epicenter to Chinese civilization. It is the birthplace of Kung Fu andboasts the Shaolin Temple as made famous by its appearance in several Kung Fu movies. Song Mountain (the Shaolin Temple is located at the foot of the mtn. I believe) is less than 2 hours from Zhengzhou and is one of China’s five sacred mountains. You can also see the Longman Grottoes or the White Horse Temple (the very first Buddhist temple in China-FYI, Buddhism actually originated in India, which I didn’t know until recently). Additionally, if you take the bullet train, you can get to Beijing in 3 hours (5-9 hours in a regular train), or so says and for around 300 rmb traveling second class. Obviously we won’t be there every weekend, but it sounds doable on a day or two off.

I’ll update this if I find anything else interesting about Zhengzhou and its surroundings, but you’ll obviously get a does of Zhengzhou once we move there in June! Until then, I just thought it might be nice to know a little about the city we’ll call home for the next year or two.

Zhengzhou_east_district_at_nightSo it’s official. After 6 months of interviewing and pushing back our travel plans, we have finally negotiated a start date that will work well for all three of us. So, my family and I will be moving to Zhengzhou at the end of June to teach English for a minimum of one year.

This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly by any means. It’s a combination of not being ready to go home (how do you decide where home should be anyway when one person comes from Wisconsin and the other from Tamaulipas, Mexico?), wanting to learn another language and wanting to save a little money (which we are definitely not doing here in France) so we can achieve some of our long-term goals.

We hope that along the way, we’ll get to see some amazing (or at least eye-opening) things and teach our son to be open-minded and multicultural.

I hope to share our experiences with you, so stay tuned for upcoming posts!