An expat’s first days in Lianyungang

Hey guys! As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not easy to blog every single day, but I have a question for you. Would you rather I post short, daily updates OR a bigger update every 3-4 days? Please let me know!

So, it’s day 5 of being in China.

day 5 of living in this bizarre city.

A city that doesn’t have an international supermarket, but has UGG, Tommy Hilfiger and HM.

There’s only one McDonald’s, 3 Starbucks and one Sofitel hotel – that’s it as far as international goes. There’s one or two local supermarkets that have things like oreos or kellogs, but nothing major.

I’ve been trying to YouTube every day, because I find it much easier to express my emotions when I’m talking, and right now I’m pretty emotional about this major move. AND I want you all to see what I’m seeing for real. I’m trying out instagram live, but when I’m out it’s 3/4/5am in the UK so no one’s tuning in. My YouTube channel is gzxklair so if you want to check it out that would be awesome. You might hate it, you might kinda like it. Let me know?

Today’s video is here

Day Three

was induction day. It was ‘go to the police station’ and ‘get your local ID card’ day. It was looking around the school, signing papers, getting stuff done. Also the day I finally got my SIM card. I say finally like I waited years for it, but trust me, 3 days using up my UK data at £8 a day is not good on top of a £50 per month phone bill. They say it’s 4G but come on, it works worse than 2G. It’s an absolute nightmare. I’m trying not to complain because it’s costing me £10 per month for unlimited internet, when back home I pay £50-60 per month for 3-5GB a month, which is an outrageous price. ANYWAY! 

My trip to the police station was an experience in itself. My boss’ wife, who’s the manager of the school, is amazing. She’s been doing all of my paperwork, running around, sorting out issues since day one and today was no exception. We went to the police station on the back of her e-bike, which is an electric bike and looks like a cross between a scooter and a bicycle. I was terrified! I had visions of me being a typical Thailand tourist  – videoing their scooter ride on a GoPro but no, no way. I hung on for dear life.

The police station was like a court room. Everyone was waving papers all over the place, shouting at each other, people were trying to serve 4 people at once. It was absolutely insane. Thankfully we weren’t there more than 10 minutes and everything was sorted out very quickly.

After getting back to the school my boss and his wife took me to lunch at a little Buddhist restaurant only 10 minutes walk away. It’s a lovely little place and only serves vegetarian food. It was absolutely fantastic! For 16 yuan (about £1.80) you have a buffet of 20 dishes – vegetables, tofu, roasted beetroot, tea, water… it was just perfect. I keep meaning to go back but I am weary of going and sitting alone.

Then I was able to get a ‘tourist card’ which is a bit like the UK National Trust card, except this is a local version and only cost £8 for the year. It means when Spring arrives I can go to the beach or the mountains and not have to pay any entrance fees. Too bad about my horrific murderer style passport photo.

I had a few hours to myself after this and walked around the local park, unaware that there was only one exit and entrance. I walked aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way to the edge of the crossroads opposite the mall, within the park, before realising you couldn’t actually get out. Therefore, having to walk aaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllll the way back to the main entrance and around the outside. Good exercise I suppose. There’s a bridge, a beautiful lake, an exercise area, seats, flowers, plants, and security guards. I feel so lucky to have that on my doorstep and it will be wonderful once the weather is warm enough to stroll around and sit outside. I’ll be sketching and having picnics I think.

Of course I stopped by Starbucks, my daily routine, and had a little wander around and by 4pm I was back at the school with a warm loaf of chocolate bread from the bakery below the school. It tastes like heaven, I’m guessing. I had a ‘demo’ lesson with my boss, which was great fun.

Some of you might not know what a ‘demo’ lesson is, because I certainly didn’t when I first started applying for jobs out here. Essentially it’s a lesson you give to entice parents to send their children to your class / school, and to give students an idea of what classes would be like if they joined. Basically, a marketing tactic whilst still being productive. So I had to pretend to be a small child learning about the names of animals. I got high-fived and thumbs up – it was brilliant.

Then I watched a 30 minute class, in which my boss started singing ‘You are my sunshine’ with the kids and I thought I was going to cry. That song is one I used to sing to my Grandpa when I was little, and it’s also a song that they sing at BEET quite often. So double memories!

After that I came home to a freezing cold apartment, which took until last night to figure out, so that was just awful. I didn’t stay long because I went back to the Wanda mall in search of a heater, which failed, but I did over-buy on junk food – coke, crisps, chocolate, snacks etc because I was feeling sorry for myself. Hey ho!

Day four

not bad not bad… I had a day off so I decided to make the most of the morning sun, I walked down little roads and past the shopping mall in hopes of finding something new.

Unfortunately I had to go into work because the police wanted some papers signing immediately. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t impressed as I really wanted to do my own thing, but my boss made me a coffee and we talked about ‘next steps’ for my career etc and it turned out to be an enjoyable hour.

Because it’s Ladies day on the 8th of March my boss’ wife bought me some things for the flat! How lovely is that?!

When I woke up this morning I had a request in my Instagram inbox from a girl that lives in the building next to me, saying that she was free today if I wanted to grab a coffee – so we did! I found this ‘creative quarter’ just a short walk from the flat and we went there. The coffee was okay but it was £3 for an Americano! Where on earth did they get that price from?! But it was great, it feels soooo nice to have made one friend!

It clouded over and ended up being pretty chilly, so I sat in the school office for a bit where the heating works like a dream, then went in search of another supermarket. About 20 minutes walk on the same road as my flat, past a million food stalls and strange fashion shops, is a large building with florists, toys and a supermarket. It’s not huge, it has a few imported items and you have to weigh every. single. item. of fruit and veg. It’s really annoying and there was a huge queue, but I remember having to do that in Taiwan, running off whilst my mum stood in line for ages.

I bought myself some packet noodles, broccoli and a bowl of fruit which came to £5. Much more expensive than Lidl! I’ll have to search for some markets I think.

In the evening my landlady came back with her husband to ‘fix’ the heating system. She kept changing the time throughout the day and in the end she was late! I know it’s her flat but she walked all around in her dirty shoes and was looking at everything, which I thought was so rude. The best bit was that neither of them even considered I could speak Chinese, meaning I understood every single word she was saying about me.

The system is easy to use, but not the same as what I have back in England.

The thermostat on the wall displays the temperature of the heating system, not the inside of the flat. No one told me this. And all you do is press ‘on’ and wait 20-30 minutes for the boiler to heat up, then you turn the aircon / heating on and it works. Simple, yes? Well, not if no one tells you how to use it when you move in!

So she was standing there, looking me up and down, tutting, saying things like ‘oh it’s so easy’, ‘she didn’t even try to use it’ and also, my personal favourite, ‘look at her, she’s not even wearing any clothes’. As I stand there with two tshirts, a jumper and a cardigan, tights and jeans, three pairs of socks and a scarf. Are you kidding me woman?!

Anyway, it’s fixed now and I’m most definitely using it because IT IS COLD!

The neighbours are a nightmare and kept me awake until way past 1am. It’s infuriating. I bundled my double duvet and pillows onto the sofa, set up the extra heating and raided my USB for some movies. Thankfully I had ‘The English Teacher’ and ‘Les Mis’, plus some jam sandwiches!

Day Five

I’m absolutely exhausted today. After falling asleep somewhere around 2am, and being woken up by the neighbours at 6:20 I think it’s fair to say I’ve hardly slept!! Grumpy, tired and not impressed I showered, dried my hair etc and tried to drown their noise out as much as possible.

I walked to yet another supermarket complex and this place is so much like the old Carrefour in Taiwan where you walked in an felt like you’d discovered a pot of gold. Although this place didn’t have as much imported stuff, it was still the best place I’ve been to so far. It was huge.

They sold all the usual things – clothes, stationery, face wash, towels, sports equiptment etcetc, but but but when I finally got to the checkout, there were 25 lanes, all of them full, I queued for 15 minutes and barely moved. I had a mini-strop. I put the basket down on the floor, and walked out. But guess what?  My mama used to do this on numerous occasions when we first moved to Taiwan. Talk about frustration!

For some reason my mum was awake and I was able to talk to her about this, which was definitely reassuring. I found this fascinating road which is full of hair salons, clothes shops, tea shops and strange little food stalls. It was lively at lunch time and I bet it’s heaving of an evening, so that was great to wander around there. Heading up past the mall and finally discovering a shopping quarter which is either called Walking Street or Women’s Street – I keep hearing different names. Anyway it was lovely, lots of quirky shops and restaurants, tonnes of coffee houses, but unfortunately they were all closed. Yet another place I bet is heaving now, of an evening.

There were lanterns everywhere and the buildings were stunning. Traditional houses, temples, bridges. It was so beautiful.

I kept walking, got a little lost, met my boss at a local (and very small) import store for dairy and baking products before finally heading to McDonalds. I didn’t know what to eat or where to go so I figured chips couldn’t kill me. So for £2.50 I had a large box of chips and a weird salad with an even weirder seasame dressing.

I managed to sleep, dead to the world, from 3 – 6:30 because it was finally quiet, but of course, I was woken up by my neighbours. They really are ignorant people. They haven’t stopped making noise since 6:30pm and I’m sat here with my headphones in, which I hate doing.

That about wraps up the last few days. It’s been emotional, bizarre, testing, eye-opening.

Tomorrow I go back into school for an induction, study lesson and also to teach a very short lesson tomorrow with some little ones – wish me luck guys! I’m so nervous.


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