Nanjing, China, a city with over 6.1 million people living in it, is my new home for at least the next six months. As I was walking through a fresh vegetable market today, avoiding the fresh meat market right beside it, I was reminded of why I fell in love with China. I realized I truly enjoy the hustle and bustle, the cars honking for seemingly no reason other than to be obnoxious, people weaving and dodging to get there where they need to go, people spitting anywhere, the hundreds of tiny shops with trinkets being bought and sold, the occasional stank smell of China (really no way to explain it), and the persistent staring at me as a foreigner, which makes me feel like I left the house without putting pants on. It all sounds awful, but it adds up to be this beautiful country whose people and culture I have come to love. It definitely is not a place for everyone, but I am realizing once again that it’s a place I want to be, at least for a while.
Settling into Nanjing has been quite a fun, yet exhausting experience. Getting here was even more difficult. In order to save a couple hundred bucks I decided I would take a train from the airport in Shanghai to Nanjing. In hindsight maybe that wasn’t the best decision when trying to lug around two suitcases full of a year’s worth of clothing. Nonetheless, after getting to the train station and missing my first train due to two cute little kids who wanted to practice their English with me, I finally arrived in Nanjing. After taking a taxi to my hotel I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the bed without even taking me shoes off. It had been over 30 hours of travelling and my body was ready for sleep.
The next day I decided to get right on apartment hunting so I called the realtor that many of the students before me have used and she told me she would be picking me up in five minutes. I hadn’t even showered or gotten dressed by that time, I figured it would be a while before she could meet. I was excited to ride in someone’s personal car in China. Up to this point I had only ridden in a taxi and bus in China. As I waited outside the hotel for her, I was surprised to say a lady on an electric bike (not a moped) coming towards me waving her arm. To say the least it wasn’t the car experience I was expecting, but I think it was much more. I rode around on the back of that bike all day looking at multiple apartments until she finally decided she was too tired to drive anymore and made me drive. If you think biking in traffic in the states is tough, try it in China where street signs and lines in the road don’t matter all while having an extremely energetic lady on the back of the bike moving around to point things out.
After a long day of apartment hunting, I had decided on one, but wanted to sleep on it for a night before I made a decision. The next day I went to the apartment to sign the contract, which consisted of me sitting there while the landlord and realtor squabbled over minor details that somehow didn’t concern me even though I was the one renting the apartment. Not sure how that works, but it’s China. I was finally able to get my contract signed and moved in that day. Although it was really clean thanks to the previous Flagship student who lived here before me, it was nice to tidy it up and make it seem more like home. It is now probably my favorite place that I have lived including where I’ve lived in the States. It still needs some posters on the walls to break up the massive amounts of light, but it’s slowly coming together.
We started orientation today, which was consisted of a lecture on safety, a welcome, and then two surprise placement tests that none of us realized we had until yesterday. Thankfully it’s just a placement test and holds no weight when it comes to our grades. The group of students is a small group of 9, compared the group of 30+ the previous semester had. Tonight we all went out and had 北京烤鸭 Beijing Roast Duck which was delicious as is to be expected when it comes to this dish. Tomorrow is another round of orientation and then Monday we begin classes. After this first week of classes I’ll give an update on how those are going. For now though, it’s time to turn on my electric blanket and sleep on my bamboo mat bed.