Shanghai: Highs and Lows

September 7, 2015
I've been in Shanghai for over two weeks now, although it seems like much longer just because I've had a jam-packed schedule (working and social.) Here are some of the highs and lows of my time here so far!

High: The apartment I live in is very nice and has just been completely remodeled, and best of all, it's free! It is much better than the free accommodation I was offered in Korea. In Korea, I just had a studio, but here I have a one bedroom apartment with a separate kitchen and living room. It's more spacious than I anticipated, and I even have a desk and a balcony!! I'm really happy with where my room is located, too. It's on the top floor, so that means I don't have to hear any footsteps above me and hear others passing by my door on their way out of the building. I was worried that there would be a ton of people living on each floor a la college dorm style, but there are only three others, so it's pretty quiet in our building. One of the three people I just mentioned is my close friend, Scott. It's perfect and convenient for if we need to talk about school, if we are meeting up, or if we just want to chat. Another plus is that my balcony doesn't face the other apartment building with all the other teachers in it, so it is more private. If I'm feeling social, all I have to do is go and sit on Scott's side! 

Low: My flight over to Shanghai was pretty miserable. I flew from Columbus to Atlanta to Seoul to Shanghai and had long layovers (more than 4 hours) at each airport. My flight time from Seoul to Shanghai was delayed for hours, and I got SO scared on my flight from Seoul-Shanghai. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a good flyer to begin with--I am afraid of heights and get really anxious while flying. We were told by the flight attendants that we would be landing in 5 minutes, but after 25 minutes passed, I was looking out my window and couldn't see the ground at all. What I could see was lots of rain and lightning, though. Then the flight attendants finally told us that air traffic control did not give us permission to land due to bad weather, so we were circling Shanghai until we could land. In those 20 turbulent minutes I was freaking out!! Nothing like that ever happened to me before and the constant lightning did not help. The flight attendants told us that they would let us know when we were able to land, but then all of a sudden we just landed. I was so relieved!! Unfortunately, we did not have a gate, so the ground crew was supposed to come and provide us with transportation over to the main terminal. Since the weather was so bad, the workers weren't allowed to come out and help us. We were stuck on the plane for over two hours. Since I didn't have Chinese cell phone service and no Wifi was available, I was unable to contact the person who was supposed to pick me up at the airport! I was supposed to get into Shanghai at around 8, but because of all the delays, I didn't pass through baggage claim and customs until past 1:30 AM. At that point, there was no one there to get me and I didn't know how to get in touch with my school, so I just took a cab over to our hotel. The trip was not the best, but the most important thing is that I got there safely! 

Low/High: I was informed a couple days before my arrival in Shanghai that our apartments would not be ready in time. We would have to stay at a hotel indefinitely until they were deemed safe for us to live in. Basically, they needed time to air out our places because of all of the remodeling they did on them. I was asked by the lead in the foreign affairs office at my school if I would mind sharing a room with another girl, but Scott and I asked to be placed together and they let us do that. At first I was a little annoyed because I just wanted to unpack and settle into my new place, but truthfully it was kind of fun staying at the hotel. It felt to us like we were on vacation, even though we weren't. Also, who doesn't like maid service, fresh towels, and free breakfast? It also provided me with more of a chance to socialize with some of the other new teachers. In the end, I didn't mind staying in the hotel at all. I really appreciate that our school found somewhere nice for us to stay, too. 

High: Last year in South Carolina, it was SO hard for me to make friends! I never had time, I lived in a conservative place so I felt like I might not have fit in, and while the people I worked with were friendly, they already had their own group of friends. Here, I don't have that problem at all. So many of the teachers here are awesome and fun, and I feel like I already have more friends this year than I did in SC. I was fortunate enough to already know Rachael and Scott beforehand, and I felt like I already knew Rachael's friend Tara a little because we chatted before our trip. In that respect, I know I am a little spoiled because I am coming into this with great friends already. 

High: I did not know what grade level I would be teaching until I got here, and I got placed in the primary school in 1st grade.  That's exactly what I asked for! I really feel so lucky in that respect and am thankful that I got placed in a grade level that I'm certified for.

High: The first day of school was last week and I met my class for the first time. They are a great group of kids! People are telling me, "Oh, just wait and you might change your mind," but I doubt that. No class is ever perfect and I can see I have a couple of challenges, but last year gave me tons of practice with that. As an added bonus, I think that I have a really great Chinese co-teacher. That is always important since we will be working every single day together!!

High: I'm very excited to be living in a big city again. There is so much to do and see and the ex-pats that have been living here have plenty of recommendations for me.

Low: We don't get paid until the end of September. I know I'm not the only one that is impatiently awaiting my first paycheck here. While I am going out and am enjoying Shanghai, it is very important that I budget my money. Once I get paid for the first time, of course I will have more financial freedom. 

Low: The pollution... I knew that this would be an issue. No more bright blue skies for me for awhile...

High: There is a one week vacation the first week of October, and Scott and I booked a trip to Yangshao and Guilin! It will be a great respite from Shanghai's pollution that I just mentioned, and we hope to spend plenty of time outdoors riding bikes, taking a river cruise, possibly going bamboo rafting, etc. 

High: I've lost five pounds so far! All the walking we have been doing really adds up.

High: I just feel a lot happier here. My sister Denise sent me a We Chat message saying, "Could you imagine another year at your old school? Aren't you glad you're in China?"  The answer to that second question is a resounding YES.

Mostly, everything is going very well and I'm excited to see what this year has in store! Have you ever made a life-changing move? 
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