Disclaimer: These are the memories from 9 year old me. None of this is complaining about another culture. I grew to love China and it's people, but as you can imagine, especially for a child, any different culture can be a shock! Enjoy.
At the age of 9, I had a pretty normal, to most people's standards, life. I had just finished the 5th grade, moved to the town of Sheridan, Arkansas a few months prior, and I was loving life. Little did I know, literally in the blink of an eye, my life would completely change for the second time that year.
During the summer of 2002, a man came from Harding University to preach at our church about mission work in China, as well as teaching English in schools there. I had heard many sermons like this before about places like Africa and South America, but for some reason the China missions spoke to my Dad. So, after discussing it with the man that visited our church, my parents came to the decision that we were to move to China....in 6 weeks!
So from what I can remember, it was a very busy 6 weeks. We had to get all kinds of paper work done, we sold/put in storage most of our belongings, said goodbye to all of our family and friends for awhile, and we made the flight (27 hours all together) from Detroit, Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia to Los Angeles, California to Guangzhou, China to Wuhan, China and then a 5 hour bus ride with some of the school teachers from Wuhan to Yichang, China where we would live for the next two years.
When my parents, I and my younger brother (who was about 7 at the time) got off the plane in China for the first time, it was almost overwhelming, especially after not sleeping much for over a day. There was so much to look at, all very different from what I had been used to for the last 9 years, things I would soon get used to, and learn to love!
When we got through luggage, there stood the school representatives, a Chinese English teacher named Henry, and the driver from the school my parents were to teach at, waiting for us to take the 5 hour bus ride to our new apartment(s). I remember them being super nice, although the driver didn't speak much English...and about the time we hit the bus/van, both my brother and I were out like a light for a couple of hours.
When I woke up, I remember looking around the cities we were passing, and feeling quite the culture shock! Whole pigs on the back of motorcycles, rice farms everywhere, and the many many apartment buildings covering many cities. Of course, the biggest shocks were yet to come...
About 3 hours into our trip, the teacher and driver decided it was time to stop for lunch. I have always had a serious love for Chinese food, so I was super excited to eat some egg rolls, chicken lo-mein, and egg drop soup.
As you can imagine, those dishes don't exist there.
Instead, there was fish soup with the head and eyeballs floating on top. I know there were other dishes besides this, but honestly, it's the only one that holds a place in my memory of that first meal in the middle of Hubei Province, China.
There were also a couple of things that stood out about that restaurant besides the food. First of all was the lack of a major utensil in my life, one that I had grown up using daily, a fork! It had never occurred to me I guess, that other countries didn't use forks! But because I didn't have much of an option, I quickly learned to use chopsticks...and to this day, I use them better than a fork.
The second thing that was a bit (or a lot) different were the bathrooms....
If you haven't heard of Chinese squatty potties, they look something like this:
I eventually of course got used to them, and they definitely work out your leg muscles!
I slept most of the way home after the restaurant because of severe jet lag, but we finally arrived at our hotel, where we'd stay for a few days before our apartments were ready.
It was rather like a nice hotel back at home, complete with a restaurant, and even american toilets in the rooms.
So what's the first thing I did when I got to our room?
Of course, I flopped on the bed! I mean, I was totally and completely exhausted.
What did I not realize?
Beds in China don't really have mattresses!
Instead, it's a blanket, a sheet, a tiny bit of padding...and a wooden board.
So I flopped down on a wooden board!
About an hour after we had gotten ready for bed (It was like 7 pm, but we were all so tired), and climbed into the strange new bed, and was almost asleep when the hotel phone rang.
It was the head of the school that my parents were going to teach at! They told us they had made reservations for a restaurant near by in 30 minutes, for us and them to meet and try some more food! That was nice of them and all looking back, but I had never been so tired in my entire life, but my parents decided it was best to go!
I don't remember much about the restaurant, except the smell...it was one that made me constantly want to throw up. Little did I know, a few months later, that restaurant, and the smell, would become one of my favorites, and we'd eat there quite regularly!
It's funny looking back on how my first few impressions of China weren't the best, but how I'd grow to love almost everything about Yichang, and Jingzhou, and Beijing. I'd love to go back someday!
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my stay in China. There is many more adventures to share, and I can't wait to share them with you!
Have a great week,