I’ve felt a lot in this past week here in Shanghai, China. I've gone through all the phases of culture shock and jet lag. I've had to constantly and continuously remind myself that I am actually, physically in China. And I've tried so many times to tell myself to immerse and enjoy this new culture, but when you speak less than five words of the language, it’s...difficult.
It took me three full days to take that first step.
You may read that and think, “Okay...good job?” However, you try going to a restaurant alone in a country where you only know how to say hello (Nǐ hǎo) , thank you (Xièxiè) , and the slang word for calling someone stupid (ganga). The closest I could get to a sentence would've been "Hello idiot, thank you," which is more likely to get me a nasty look and a curse than soup. In addition, it’s not like anything is labeled in English. Point and nod, in this case, was the best course of action.
In case you were wondering, the soup was delightful.
Then I returned to the office where I’m staying, back into the small comfort zone I had come to build there--back to friends, mild amounts of English, and some semblance of control.
Brimming with confidence from my success at independence the day before, I decided that I wanted to go to The Imperial Garden the following morning. No one was free to go with me, so, armed with my phone, the Mandarin address of the apartment I’m staying in, and a lot of anxiety and excitement, I set out and hailed my first taxi to take the 40 minute ride to The Imperial Garden alone.
Being disconnected both from the people I’m staying with and without WiFi to communicate with them was really nerve wracking at first.
Thoughts of all the bad things that could happen to me kept crossing my mind in between jumping at the sound of the loud car horns being blasted from every which way around me.
It was only when I arrived at the The Imperial Garden that I finally settled in. I found my way over to the front (mainly by following all the tour groups) and began walking around. It proved to be easier than I thought and I began to feel more and more confident in myself and my ability to travel alone while walking through the gardens and monuments. I even realized how close Tian’anmen Square was and made my way over there. Five hours later I went back to the apartment feeling more capable than ever.
I’m a person who really enjoys going outside of my comfort zone. I think you lose a lot of experiences in life by not going for things, no matter how small they may seem. This was a big step for me and while objectively getting food may not be the biggest accomplishment I’ll ever achieve, I had to start somewhere. So I started with soup.
Where will you start?
This is part two of Maital's journey through China. For parts one, three, and four, click here:
Part One: Finding Myself in Shanghai -- http://aiesecus.org/blog/finding-myself-in-shanghai
Part Three: Why did you choose China? (Exposed) -- http://aiesecus.org/blog/why-did-you-choose-china-exposed
Part Four: Guess Who's Back, Back Again -- http://aiesecus.org/blog/guess-whos-back-back-again