Sunday, January 17, 2010

And here I am, over a week later. Longest ... week... of... my... life. Yet.

Well there is just so much, I should start at the beginning.

I arrived in Zhengzhou city on a pretty chilly night last thursday. I was met by the director of the school I teach at, and a driver chartered by the school. After an official introduction to one of the people I had been facebook stalking for a while... (secrets secrets) we took my two bags, which made it all the way from Vancouver without being lost, not even once, and headed to the car. On the ride back, my director began the onslaught of information that is starting new job, with a new organization, in a very new country.

One of the first bits of advice was... welcome to Zhengzhou - get used to pollution. Yay.

Continuing down the highway towards Zhengzhou proper (the airport is in an adjacent town, not actually Zhengzhou itself), I was exposed to the shocking truth of chinese advertisements. Of course, everything is in Chinese characters, but to one up that little stipulation is the fact that everything is illuminated by those really tacky neon type lights. Digesting all of this new stimulation as I saw it, my director told me, “before you think you’re going insane, yes the lights on the highway are changing colour.” I had been staring at the lights that were lining the sidelines of the highway, and only just really registered the fact that the colours were actually changing colours like a lava lamp. welcome to China indeed.

Past the seven layers of the candy cane forest and all that, we arrive at my appartment building, which is a 26 story tower, surrounded by other towers of similar or greater hight. We get my bags out of the car and hop in a relatively derelict feeling elevator. Twenty floors later, and we arrive at my door. My director rummages around in her purse and produces the security wand that you might otherwise call a key. This however was much much more than your average car key. No thats not a typo... it actually looks like a car key, but it is even more complicated than that. this key has varied levels of pin indentations in it, meaning that it is essentially impossible to pick. Even if you were to pick the initial lock, it needs to be rotated three full times in order to open the door. It is essentially a vault. That does a number to make a body feel safe, let me tell you.

After we figured out the three turn pass-code, we walked into my apartment, and were greeted by a chilly dank smell that is very similar to an old farmhouse basement. Quickly browsing around the place, and by quickly I mean that I took five steps and turned around, I took stock of where I was about to spend the next year or so sleeping.

Small, compact and... efficient? are all words that come to mind. My director took a moment to explain the situation to me. Immediately after entry, on the right is “the kitchen” which consists of a sink, counter, microwave, electric kettle, hotplate and exhaust hood. Careful! try not to get too envious now. On the left is my bathroom, which fortunately equipped with a western toilet, shower and washing machine. I am told that no one has a dryer... and my week of being in Zhengzhou has shown that to be accurate... dryers just aren’t sold. Outside the bathroom are a series of interesting switches. Now up is down and down is on. - Not kidding, welcome to China... Down = On. One of these turns on the fan, one the lights... dunno what the third one does, but the big fourth one starts my water heater. Well, lets just say that I need to know that I am going to take a shower about 30-45 minutes before I want to do it.

Proceeding into the great hall, or... my room, is a window (YAY-- though it does steal my heat frequently). There is also a very large cabinet to hang up my clothes, a TV (which will probably never be used for any reason...) a mini-fridge, which for my purposes will be a normal fridge, and a little water dispenser sitting on top of it. There is also a large bed with somewhat questionable blankets on it that read, “fashion fashion fashion etc” and of course my desk.

Now above my desk and window is an interesting looking machine.... what is it? Well it turns out that this object is known as an air conditioner. The term “air conditioner” is generic in China, and also refers to a heater. Unfortunately it did not work well for quite a few days. I then learned the value of cleaning the filters from another expat. Now it purrs like a lamb ~ or whatever.

I am informed not to drink the water straight, for all sorts of good reasons. Because my water dispenser was empty, I needed to use the kettle and boil all drinking water. The boiling will kill any sort of bacteria, and I am informed that I simply need to leave the last half inch of the kettle and pour it out... as to not consume the heavy metals contained within!

Wishing me a goodnight, my director and the driver said goodnight, and I got myself settled in for my first chilly night in China.

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