Communication Breakdown

“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.”      ~Richard M. DeVos


Communication breakdown, well that conjures up a whole host of things in one’s mind.  Here in China with the Great Firewall, the language barrier, and the time distance between loved ones back home, breakdowns in communication happen.

In China the government controls the media, what is written, read, viewed and accessed.  Many locals and virtually all foreigners have what is called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that access the internet through various hosting IP addresses world-wide.

When the VPN isn’t able to connect, I’m pretty sure that Great Firewall has found me and is blocking my access, it’s an interesting proposition as to what to do next! We are so tied to our electronic devices and the medium for maintaining our connections with people through social media as well as to news sources and entertainment.  When you’re some six thousand miles from people you love, you do want and hope your VPN is working!

The very thought of a communication breakdown is poignant for me at the moment.  So many things are impacted by our proximity to them, especially people.  Much is lost in interpersonal communication through electronic means be it email, chat, or even video chat.  And when access is blocked, either governmentally or by snarky interpersonal snafus, the feeling leaves one with a pinched heart and confused sensibility.

Fact of the matter is, communication on any level takes two… connectivity requires a means to connect albeit through an IP address for electronic access or through interpersonal means of the heart and a reasonable nature… when any of those fail, a breakdown in communication definitely occurs.

Coming from the States, ninety-nine percent of the time things work, in the electronic medium!  I thought nothing of turning on my Mac and having instant connection, even at my favorite café. One learns to take things for granted and to expect nothing less than that ninety-nine percent connectivity. Also as a Westerner, we are geared to fix and figure out why stuff doesn’t work when it fails and to correct it.  Here in China, it’s common to hear anyone say, that well it’s China.  So the lesson is to learn to go with the flow and to let it go!

The dance of successful communication has never been more poignantly played out daily here in ZZ navigating the streets on an e-bike!  This is no joke in a city of six million plus people!  E-bikes require no licensing to own and operate and there are no rules of the road for e-bike drivers, meaning that e-bikes go every-which-way and where ever the heck they want to go!  There are clearly established, unconventional rules of the road here, else there would be terrible fatal accidents every minute of every day!  So I’ll call it the beautifully choreographed dance between drivers and pedestrians, the unwritten and unspoken agreement to rules of the road, and an often un-acknowledged agreement in that the process will work out, people getting around on these full and crazy streets will work together to make it their respective destinations! And you know what, they do, they’re all goin’ with the flow and somehow in its crazy way, the whole dance works on the streets here in China!

Interpersonally it communication at a distance compares well to the scenario above and really boils down to the same thing, even at a distance with our family and friends back home and round the world.  It’s important to trust in, often, unexpressed rules of relationships, and most importantly to learn to go with the flow… to remember what we value about our relationships and the person, and to be willing to find a level of trust in that person’s humanity that as the Great (Fire)Wall that is inhibiting connectivity (whatever that impedance may be), when it has lifted, and reason and possibility has returned, to be open and available to reconnect.

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So meanwhile here in China, with the Great Firewall impeding my connectivity, I am goin’ with the flow, man… and hey, it’s not a half bad day out there for discovering more of this new city I’m calling home… my e-bike is calling!

When these people, become my people

“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” ~ Misty Copeland

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Me and Crystal and Jessie my friends ~ two local staff at EF Zenghzhou.

Sitting in the teacher’s office of English First Zenghzhou, there is the lovely blend of Chenglish, Afrikaans, English, Chinese, Australian, and Irish accents dotted with the laughter of children and running feet!  My teaching team and I had just had a great conversation about the politics and experiences of everyday people in Johannesburg, South Africa along with the trade agreements between South Africa and China.  I was in heaven with the heady discussion between my colleagues and was pleased to be a listener in the exchange.  I don’t know anything about South Africa, or about Ireland, or about Australia and what it means to belong and be from those countries or about their experiences.  All of us ‘foreign teachers’ as we’re called, come from the same ilk in wanting to experience different places and people by living among them, not as tourists.  And of course a benefit of connecting with these like-minded people is learning about their countries and their experiences, as well.

One of my new colleagues from South Africa who has been in China teaching for going on three years, told me that at first we all remain steadfastly connected with our people back in our home countries.  He further said that where we are from remains with us, a part of us, and we continue to identify with our nationality, but… and I love this, but… where our people are, those with whom we identify with and relate to and look to for support,  were previously back home and from where we came, the more we experience the world and other cultures, our people become those people we are living with now, in the current moment. This is fascinating and wonderful and feels good and right and reassuring all at the same time.

This was further demonstrated when a couple of foreigners from ZZ were hit by a drunk driver while driving on their e-bike one evening.  The drunk driver was driving a three-wheeled delivery car with a big windshield and he made an illegal turn straight into our friends.  The driver of the e-bike remained firmly on the bike though the passenger was tossed from the bike after her leg was crushed in the collision. She was tossed, landing on her bottom, losing her glasses.  miraculously, neither of our foreign compatriots incurred head injuries and both remained conscious and alive.  Both were rushed to the hospital and our friend with the leg injury underwent MRI and x-rays and will require knee surgery and the driver of the e-bike just incurred a couple of scrapes (the drunk driver incurred a shattered windshield and no bodily injury).

The injured foreigner was placed in the hospital immediately with her leg immobilized and was scheduled for surgery the week following her hospital check-in.  The Chinese hospital experience deserves its own post, so that will come at another time. What I was mostly struck by, being a total new-comer here just 2 weeks into my China experience, is that our people, our employer, the local staff, the families that attend the school, the foreigners throughout ZZ, everyone totally rallied for the injured foreigners.

By rallying I mean, our people were totally one hundred percent present and in support and help mode on every level and in every way.  Word of the accident was shared through local chat circles and official circles at work.  Our company responded immediately  being present on the accident scene, at the hospital twenty-four-seven, round the clock for anything that might arise from concerns and insecurities about being in a foreign hospital, to loneliness, to playing cards.  The local team translated and made sure that our colleague was getting the best and right treatment and that she felt safe and secure and cared for.  The other foreigners were also steadfastly present to give good and valued input and to help in connecting with family back home, etc.

I went to visit about the third day after the accident following, on my e-bike ,another colleague.  The hospital is quite large, and gives me the feel of a Kaiser Permanente hospital in the States.  The elevators are designated certain floors from the first floor so there is rather quick access to your desired destination (brilliant really)… we rode to the nineteenth floor where our friend was hospitalized.  We arrived to a couple of other visitors holding our friend in good regards. The area around our friends hospital bed was laden with beautifully smelling flowers, food stuff of all kinds, electronic games and adult coloring books.  Every local visitor brought food stuff, apparently the hospital food problem is universal!

As we were visiting over the next hour or so, there was a steady stream of visitors! Everyone came with foodstuff… fruit and veg, soups, noodles!  It was crazy and heartwarming! These visitors were locals, foreigners living in ZZ, work colleagues, and students and families from school!

My heart was full this night.  I realized what my new friend from South Africa was telling me was true… this place we are in, that I am in, the people in this place do become our people,  and they are quickly becoming my people. This sincere care and support was evident from the time I was met at Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport by Elsa and Emma with the hand painted sign created by another foreigner with my name boldly printed on it… To the great responsiveness I have had to settling in to my new digs… to my local boss finding my e-bike for me… to the cheers, imbibing, and clinking glasses at Zax BBQ, the expat pub… to bonding and meaningful banter in the teacher’s lounge at school…to the hospital room here in ZZ.  My Irish colleague said it best, we’re here for each other… we all support one another… we stick together… we need each other… It’s just what we do for each other… We are, each other’s people.

Be careful what you wish for…

“You can actually create the life you want. It all depends on how daring you desire it.”
~ Lailah Gifty Akita


NLXJ7856I woke early this morning, round 3:00 am, in my new city.  I’ve been adjusting to the time change, and well, a whole host of new things, not to mention a new bed and a new apartment.  As I lay in bed, waking to the quiet hum of the air conditioning unit, I’m reflecting on my circumstances here in my new city.  My thoughts and eyes focus on my humble flat, and then recognize that I have everything I need in this perfectly small space.  My flat is quite small, though, for these past several years I’ve been divesting of ballast physically and emotionally as if preparing for this very moment. Chinese beds are very firm, quite hard actually, and though I’m not accustomed to this I find I’m sleeping quite well.  I found two of the best pillows ever at the local Denis market, so I’ve a good sleep spot for sure. The flat is equipped with a washer dryer combo unit, I’ve an efficient cooking space, and storage for my bags and winter clothes, hasn’t been a problem either.  I have everything I need and probably a little more.

I lay here thinking, that I’ve very nearly everything I’ve been hoping and asking for these past 8 years; what an incredible realization!  There’s the sayings, ‘Be careful what you ask for…’, and then the other about asking for specifically what you desire lest you get something you don’t!  And then there’s the ideal of the Universe conspiring with us to bring us what we need and what’s more, what we want.  Well, I’ve been dreaming and asking and seeking for things that have been delivered, though I never in my life dreamed it would be in Zhengzhou, China! And that’s just the thing, I also realize that I’ve wanted and needed to grow personally in ways that jumping out of the nest can do for us.  As much as I desire to bridge cultures, I realize I’ve been hopeful of connecting with like-minded people who want to do the same; and who knew I’d be recruited to work for a huge international company keen on bridging differences with language, that would also sponsor my travel documents and host my stay?! I’m wowed!

For years I’d been asking for more time for my writing.  Here I am half way round the world, living a couple of dreams, and I’ve more time than I could ever imagine to focus on my writing!  Writing this journal is proving to be wonderfully creative for me and I’ve also been able to work on my poetry!  Next I’ll give time to my book!  Most incredibly, though, is that I’ve been hopeful to be compensated for my writing and damn it if that isn’t going to happen, too, and quite soon at that!  What more could a girl ask for?!

And then there’s this…  I’ve had a desire to live in an urban setting… to be able to walk to the local market and the hardware store, and to walk and grab coffee and find interesting inspirational spaces to write.  Well, God bless me, here I am smack dab in the heart of a very urban setting, with a market with incredible produce right next door to my flat, and many more just steps away.  There are a myriad of hardware stores, some specializing in specifics like lighting or bath fixture, etc., also just steps away.  And kitty corner from my flat is an out of this world Italian bakery and coffee shop!  This café has a bird’s eye view of the intersection of two beautiful tree lined streets.  The plethora of e-bikes and passerby’s is phenomenal setting me up for non-stop inspiration close to home!

My dream to become a true global citizen is being realized!  The long held  dream I’ve had to live and work in another culture, to be able to live and breathe another way of living, has come true in a huge way! Traveling is always interesting and rewarding, though living beside others in their world, breathing their air, and seeing the sun rise and set in their day beside them, is something quite different.  Here I am working with people from round the world (currently South Africa, Ireland, Australia, India), in a city over 6300 miles from where I call home, it is fanfreakintastic!

For me, it is humbling to realize such gifts and blessings, dreams and desires coming true.  I’d imagined each of these possibilities and here I am achieving them all in China.  When I was met at the airport by Emma and Elsa, Emma said to me she thought it was destiny that I came here to work with English First ZZ.. I don’t know, though in my gut and in my heart it feels that way for me, too.  My sister used to say often, what we visualize will materialize.  My vision of living is truly materializing in exciting and unexpected ways! Now, to continue in practicing this humility and gratitude and living positively, I also visualize more love and a true partnership and mate to join me on this incredible adventure!

Let the conspiracy continue! 😉

 

 

 

Rainy day in the city

“Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass “

~ Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)


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My first week in Zehngzhou and Ma Nature doesn’t dissapoint!  She blesses me with incredible weather, sunsets and sunrises, the music of crickets, the flight of the butterfly, and the beauty of the familiar Trumpet Vine.

I’m walking round my new neighborhood, finding my way, becoming familiar with the lay-of-the-land, and finding my way to work!  It’s incredible here and I’ve always wanted to live in the heart of the city, and to walk to the hardware store, to walk to the market, and to get take-away and eat in the park or with the view from my flat.  I’d been asking for it, I just didn’t know it would be here, 6300 miles from my roots in California, to this beautiful city here in Zhengzhou, China!

Mornings come early for me as I’m adjusting to the time change.  I have always woke early, but here, I am waking round 3:00 am and from my perch on the thirteenth floor, the city is still asleep, under a gauzy haze and the promise of the day ahead.  On my first Wednesday, there was an unfamiliar feel in the air, an even more humid feeling and a swirly nature to the sky and low and behold it’s my first rainy day in my new city.  Ma Nature wasn’t satisfied with a few sprinkles, she sent a chorus of blustery wind accompanied by thunder and lightening in the early evening that lasted into the night!

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ZZ skyline during a rainstorm.

My recollection of rain back home is an indescribable smell of rain as it is arriving, it’s initial moistening of the sidewalks sharing a most familiar scent that always transported me to childhood.  Here in China, the rain didn’t arrive with that familiar scent; like everything for me these days, it is an entirely new experience. The city doesn’t drain well, so there is standing water in the streets, at the curb corners, and people do not like the rain.  They dislike it so much that many things stop to avoid the reprecussions of the rain and all the water.  Imagine the creative orchestrating of automobiles and e-bikes and pedestrians on normal hot humid days, it’s a modern dance version of a ballet with an exuberant orchestral accompaniment of horns and the whir of electric bikes, and the occassional screech of brakes.  When the streets are wet and there’s standing water, and hundreds of people scurrying about, it requires even more creative correography than usual!

 

The streets in my city are tree lines and shady, which provides needed respite during the heat of the day and on this day, I enjoyed a sweet walk home, just barely wet thanks to the same leafy cover of the trees on the boulevard.  I was properly entertained with lightening strikes brightening the evening sky, cymbol like crashing thunder, view of e-bike drivers balancing umbrellas in one hand with one handed steering!  Streets play host to numerous restaurnats and on this rainy night, their windows revealed packed houses of people avoiding the rain!  When I reached my flat, I hurried to the outer staircase on my floor that overlooks the city, to catch a view of this performance above the trees, which didn’t disapoint!  Building construction is such, and me being on the thirteenth floor, I couldn’t hear the clapping thunder indoors nor the rat-a-tat-tat of rain on the roof… Still, the experience was immensely memorable.

AACN6958The following day, I was greeted by the clearest morning sunrise and the most beautiful blue sky day one could imagine!  It rivaled my most favorite Summer day waking early morning in San Francisco with a view of Union Square!

I’ve arrived here in ZZ at just the right time, I’m told; the hottest of days are past and we’re moving in to Autumn with cooler days, and the changing of leaf color, and trees baring their branches, and then into a cold, icy, snowy Winter.

Meanwhile, you’ll find me enjoying the moments, the sound of the crickets, the flight of the butterflies, and the shade of the large oak trees…

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“Hello. I am happy!”

“I love you without knowing how, nor when, nor from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you this way because I know no other way to love,”  ~ Pablo Neruda


“Hello. I am happy!” This is the resounding response of seven and eight year olds to the questions, “Hello. How are you today?” This uncensored, sincere response touches my heart for sure!

I’ve now been here in Zhengzhou, China for five days.  I’m finding my way around and am successfully navigating my neighborhood walking to market and to my work.  I am comfortable hailing a cab or taking a mobee (a ride on an e-bike). The streets, every bit of them, sidewalks and roadways are packed. There are no formal laws for navigating e-bikes on the streets, so drivers head the wrong way on one way streets, and horns of auto drivers are sounding all the time.

I am working in a private school setting where the students come to the program after school and on weekends and holidays.  My first impression is that parents are parents and families are families the world over.  Parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles are snapping photos of their little ones taking part in on hands learning activities and graduation ceremonies.  The love in the eyes and the pride on their faces reflects the same as any other parent.  The parents meeting and greeting each other in the hall ways, feels the same as when I had my children in school and after school programs.  Even with differences in culture and language, love remains the same.

In my city of Zhengzhou, English is not a language spoken in shops or on the streets.  An application called WeChat is widely used for everything from texting and free calling cell-to-cell, to paying utility bills, scanning QR codes to order food at restaurants, and to pay for car and driver, and within this program is also a map and a translation tool!  I’m finding that everyone is curious and wants to connect and to help.  Shop owners and restaurant owners are curious as to where I am from and they want to help me.  There is mostly a curiosity and a need to do business, though a bit of altruism, too.

My city is also largely a commuter city and in most families both parents are working.  The scenario really isn’t much different from America, with perhaps the exception of a broader extended family at hand for pick-ups and drop-offs of children at school. And kids will be kids!  There is a sweetness and an innocence in the children and young people here in China.  Off the cuff and comparatively, western children have bit more of a sophistication and street awareness that I don’t sense in Chinese youngsters.  My time here is so new, I will surely learn more and be exposed to more, though initially there is a sort of naiveté, a humility within the people I am encountering, a genuineness that is refreshing and reassuring in a pleasant way.  There is always a quick smile, if not a wave of a hand, and always a curious look my way.

I am adjusting to my new surrounding mostly the time change, so my posting has been a bit erratic here.  I promise to be more connected and to post more snaps of my lovely city and my experiences! Thanks for visiting…

 

Love Remains the Same

My reflection in your eyes

Your touch on my heart

Hand in hand, little and big

Reassurance and support

Giving peace and guidance

Your reflection in my eyes

Hearts in hands

Love remains the same

SB © 2016

Finding joy in change…

 

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”   ~ Judith Minty


Thank heavens for a couple of days to acclimate to all the newness and to feather my nest! I am beginning my third day here in China, in my new city Zhengzhou.  I have ridden on the back of an e-bike through the city, opened a bank account, set up my cell, shopped for my new apartment, and cleaned and organized my space.  I’ve unpacked and stowed my suitcases, so I think that means I’m staying awhile!

My first day out n’ about was exciting!  I’ve been generously shepherded by a kind woman named Elsa who has assisted me in establishing a bank relationship, setting up my phone service, organizing maintenance in my apartment, and taking me shopping!  It was a damn it full first day!

First, I rode through the city on the back of Elsa’s e-bike, which is the preferred mode of transportation through the city.  It is economical, quick, and doesn’t take up lots of room anywhere – parking or motoring through a packed city!  I loved it and it gave me a chance to see the sites and to hear the city, too.

Banking in China is similar to banking in the States.  I actually felt like I was at a Wells Fargo bank where the greet you at the door and direct you where to go for the services  you need!  The only difference is that you ‘take a number’ and queue up in line.  While we waited we went across the street to the cell provider and set up my cell phone.  We also took a number for assistance and interestingly both were the number seven, so when I chose my cell phone number I chose one with several sevens and eights!

We met a couple of maintenance fellows to attend to a few repairs and then Elsa took me shopping at a local merchant that has everything from sundry items to food stuff to household things… a one-stop-shop.  Elsa was kind and used her family’s store registered card (just like our Safeway loyalty card) to get me the discount on items I purchased!  I was amazed at the service in the store, very attentive and helpful… there seemed to be someone on staff about every other aisle.  Items in the store are different of course, though I was impressed that most bed linens and bathroom and kitchen towels are multi colored.  Because of the high temperatures here in Asia, one can find a woven mat to place on top of the bed for sleeping on, which keeps you cooler than a fabric sheet! There was a big selection of chop sticks (duh), flatware was limited (and no butter knifes) and you had to purchase by the piece.  Dishes are not sold in packages but rather by individual piece and interestingly I didn’t find flat dinner plates, everything seemed to have a bit of a rim or curve to it.  I did find the absolutely best pillows ever and the most effective degreaser I have ever used!  Oh and another interesting point is that in China now you have to bring your own bags to the market!  They are beginning to implement some recycling focus among the people.  There is still a whole heck of a lot of plastic water bottles out there, though.  My Grayl filter water bottle is one of the best things I purchased for moving to China!

I live about a 20 minute walk from my school, which is perfect!  I will begin working sometime in September and in the meantime I will be training and observing how the interface is with teachers and students and then I will work alongside another teacher for a few weeks.

My apartment is about seven hundred square feet, give or take, it is in a bustling neighborhood that appears to be typical of city living here in ZZ; there are numerous eateries and retail shops all around with apartments above them.  A funny note is it seems many of the restaurants also sell Chinese wine which of course I will have to try!

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Life is beginning gently for me, here in ZZ… I’m anxious to get my apartment just right with everything in its place, though here’s another lesson for me in really living with just what I need and having patience to discover the rest!  I’ve been greeted with kindness and generosity from coworkers and the community.

I’m optimistic about how life for me will unfold here in ZZ… stay tuned.

Cheers to life beginning in ZZ!

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“Ignorantly is how we all fall in love; for it is a kind of fall. Closing our eyes, we leap from that cliff in hope of a soft landing. Nor is it always soft; but still, without that leap nobody comes to life.” ~ Salman Rushdie


ZZ is affectionately how everyone here refers to my new city,  Zhengzhou!  Being American and of a particular age, ZZ conjures up bearded men playing guitars; hehehe!  Not that there’s any comparison with Zhengzhou and ZZ Top, though there is comparatively great energy here for an ancient city that is full of people and living! It is here in this ancient, historic city, I am taking my first leap into living differently, into living my dream of working and living in a new culture, into understanding how others live everyday, and into becoming that bridge between cultures.

So, I arrived at Zhengzhou airport at 6:00 pm on Monday, August 15, 20016.  I flew business class from Taipei on Mandarin Airlines, an affiliate to China Airlines, which I flew from San Francisco to Taipei.  The aircraft was smaller and older than the one I flew on the first leg, though the ground crew and flight staff were equally stellar!  I sat across the aisle from an elderly Chinese Muslim couple.  They didn’t speak a word of English, but were delightful to engage as much as we could with one another.  The flight was around three hours in duration, and though I was a bit tired, my anticipation at arriving in ZZ kept me from catching those zzzz’s, however, Ma Nature didn’t disappoint with the most incredible cumulus cloud display I have every seen!  We flew at about twelve thousand feet and the apparent depth of the clouds was amazing.  I kept thinking of my friends in South Asia with their drainage problems and likewise my friends back home in California suffering drought, since these clouds surely held some amazing amount of precipitation!

We must have circled Zhengzhou airport a couple of times and when we finally landed, my excitement and anticipation were at a peak! We disembarked quickly into one of the most massively big airports I have every been in!  The one hundred plus passengers on my arrival plane were dwarfed in the wide open space of the gate area.  As I got off the plane I had to stop at the ladies facilities and dontchaknow it was my first introduction to the traditional squatty potty!  This is common in many parts of the world where the toilet is in the floor.  I had myself a good giggle and thought it perfectly appropriate that here I am, straight off the plane and  into my new way of life!  Without too much detail here, all went well, and I was off on the moving walk way in the massive gate area on my way to baggage claim and customs.

My flight mates and I moved along through the gate area, up an escalator to a large area, much like the TSA check stations in the States, but wide open (not segmented or roped off as we’re mostly familiar with) and people fell into various lines, behind a yellow line on the floor, waiting to be called forward to the government official checking all passports and travel documents. For our viewing pleasure while waiting in line, there were videos overhead of the Chinese military doing good works around the country and a public service announcement to the young people to come and find their future in the military. I also noticed military lined up around the hall.  This branch was in green fatigues, perhaps the Army.  They weren’t wearing flak jackets and holding automatic weapons like I experienced in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, though I think the soldiers here at the airport had gun belts on.  They seemed to be posted there and simply observing arrivals.

I had filled out my customs card on the plane, and as I was called to move forward across the yellow line, I wondered if I would be questioned about my intentions while in China, who my employer is, etc.  The agent greeted me with a smile.  There are cameras at chest level directed at my face and there is a bank of observers directly behind the agent in a separate glass enclosed room, I would guess reviewing those of us on camera.  The agent was quite pleasant, smiled at me and welcomed me to China and to Zhengzhou!  He asked me if this was my first visit to China and then also to Zhengzhou.  He asked me what I was doing here, what sort of school I would be working at and then he stamped my passport and wished me a nice visit. My time in line and with the agent wasn’t any longer than any of the native people I observed passing through.

I moved forward to the baggage claim area, which was also a massive room with free luggage carts, and then the bags began to slide down onto the carousels.  I lugged my very heavy bags off the carousel and made my way to the exit.  Here the bags arranged on a conveyor belt and x-rayed.  I again lugged my bags onto the luggage cart and then made my way to the greeting area, which was another doubly massive area and there was a hand written sign on bright purple paper “Susan Bradley ~ Welcome!” and two bright and happy faces there to greet me!

As I sat at the Taipei airport awaiting my connecting flight, I thought about how I was feeling and realized I felt peaceful and calm about this whole new adventure of mine.  I had no sense of trepidation nor did I feel afraid of what was upcoming for me; I found I felt this next step, this traveling to unknown places, to be exactly what I am meant to be doing. I share this because as I greeted these two lovely ladies, Emma the Controller and Elsa one of the teaching assistance, we hugged and they shared how excited they were for my arrival.  We took some photos, for which I must have looked a fright after over twenty hours of travel with possibly 6 hours of restless sleep sitting up!  It was as we found our car and driver and were leaving the airport that Emma said she thought it was destiny that I was here with them and our company here in ZZ!  This very moment in this car, the cool air from the from the car’s air conditioning cooling my very red cheeks, the conspiracy of the Universe, God’s plan for me, gave me a reassuring glimpse that I am in good hands here, and on my correct journey’s path here in ZZ!

As we drove from the airport it was around 7:00 pm; I’d actually made it to my final destination, through customs, baggage claim and was now traveling to my new apartment in what felt like record time, really!  We chatted about the ZZ and I was pleased that I’d arrived before dark so I could see the city scape and to be able to gather a first impression of my new surroundings.  The road from the airport is super wide with many lanes and a toll booth.  It is a long highway, feeling almost like an extremely wide boulevard, new as well, and quite clean.  The driver did a great job, and I realize the driving here in China is of a selfish nature, not defensive type driving that we learn in the States, but rather one of out of my freakin’ way, I have somewhere to be.  So there are quick and deliberate lane changes, and it feels as though drivers are just looking for the next open space and it is those behind that are watching out, so to speak, as they are looking for the next open space as well, and so on and so on.

We approached downtown ZZ and the street is still quite wide and lined with big trees with high-rise businesses and apartments just on the other side… we drove past the Culture Business District.  I asked whether ZZ had its own symphony and opera and the answer was yes to opera and that most Chinese love the classic opera and know all the tunes. There are many colorful lights on the buildings, big Chinese characters with the business names.  A tall cone-shaped building pulls your attention to it, and first impression is that I’m entering a large modern city.  As we exit the freeway and make our way to my apartment building, real life in ZZ begins to emerge… there are people on electric bikes (e-bikes like scooters) zipping in and out of traffic, again that sort of selfish, non defensive driving style, cutting in an out in front of us, loads of pedestrians and cars, too.  The streets are set up with retail shops (apartments above) a deep side-walk full of parked e-bikes, a curb with cars and pedestrians, a metal fence of sorts and then two lanes of traffic and then the same repeated on the other side of the street. Traffic lights are universally red and green with left turn arrows, cross walks with curbs for handicapped or wheeled vehicles are at each corner, too.  The e-bike riders are just zipping all over all the time as are pedestrians! Our driver, pulls up to my apartment and it takes the two of us to pull my bags from the trunk, and we three ladies make our way in to my apartment building.

The entry is large and looming, dimly lit with a security desk and four of the friendliest security people there, and the opposite side is lined with packages I’m told are goods ordered on-line and waiting for pick up by apartment dwellers.  There are two banks of elevators, one going to the eighth floor and the other form the ninth to the fifteenth floors.  The apartment building is separated by two sections, A and B.  I reside in section B on the thirteenth floor.  My space is small, maybe 800 sq. ft., with a small galley like tiled enclosed bathroom, with a nicely tile floor and kitchen opposite of it.  These are on the outside wall of the apartment which is a glass wall looking into the city… this is the place I will set up my writing desk!  The kitchen reminds me of an Ikea kitchen, modern cabinetry with soapstone counter top, no cook top though an over head hood.  There is no gas in this apartment so cooking is done on an electric hot plate or something similar.  My apartment has a small dorm sized fridge and a washer/dryer combo (nice and lucky to have this dual unit, I am told).  My apartment has a reasonably sized closed with mirrored doors that reflect the light from that full wall of windows in the kitchen!  I have a full-sized pedestal bed with two drawers and space to store my suitcase(s) as well as a lounging/fainting couch, side tables, and a couple of metal desks that I will use as areas to dress and do make-up and the other as a side table to house laundry supplies and possibly a cocktail area. I also have a wall mounted television.  The walls are wallpapered in coordinating gray  striped and floral paper, in fact the apartments colors are a conservative gray and white combo.

As is par for the course for me, my new living space requires my hand at cleaning, which writing this post, I took a break from doing! One of my new Chinese friends and I, had a good conversation about perspectives, specifically on what clean is.  I learned that, interesting to me, Chinese people are typically focused on what they use, in other words at the surfaces they use, so the counters in my space were cleaned but, soffits and lights and corners of the floors, and walls in my space not so much and could use a good washing from my perspective (this whole thought of what is square in front of us, or what we use, being priority is every so true in what I can see as I get out n’ about here in ZZ, too).  There were a couple of things in the apartment that required attention and correction and the team responded immediately  to taking care of these things straight-away! My friend told me further, that they all just want me to be as comfortable as possible and that they were sorry these things needed addressing… they just saw things differently.

Awe, cheers to the first lesson, and reminder, for me in my new surroundings on how we all see the same things differently… an age-old lesson and reality the world over, to be sure, though my heart was touched with the expressions of love and support from new friends here in ZZ.