Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!
Today I am trying my best to write an article in English. I have been living in Shanghai for more than one month now and I want to document the very first steps, interesting experiences and challenges on my way. To be honest, writing in English feels more like doing homework for school back in 2010, but here we go… 🙂 I want to write in English, so that my friends from all over the world can follow my adventure. Please feel free to correct my mistakes!
In Shanghai everything is big! Look at this huge zebra crossing!
New city, new life
Over the past few years I have learned that having less expectations makes you experience more happiness, because when things turn out to be way better than you expected, you are overwhelmed by how good life is. That’s exactly the feeling I have right now! Although the excitement of the first few days is gone, because every day life routine and uni life have taken over, I am still happy and slightly overwhelmed by how good my life is at the moment.
The Happy Jori 🙂
Making new friends
I am currently living on the Siping Campus of the Tongji University and making new friends seems to be easy, because most of the students who just moved in are new here as well and very happy to meet other students. Living in the hostel for foreign students is a blessing, because only two people share one room and we have a private bathroom, but it is also a curse, because we are separated from the Chinese students, who live in other buildings. When I leave the building, I see groups of students sitting in front of the hostel, talking in German, English or French. I pretend not to speak any of those languages, which might seem weird, but I have my reasons.
When you start making friends with people from your country, or people from other contries, you might feel connected because you share the same language, the same difficulties, the same humor, etc. but I want to feel lonely in the beginning. I want to have the feeling that I have to start from level zero. I want to use Chinglish (Chinese and English mixed together) and my body language to communicate with Chinese students, without being afraid of making mistakes. As long as you are communicating, you can only get better! Yes, I am a weirdo! Honestly, feeling lonely pushes me towards being more open, approaching people, asking for help, trying out new things and being independent.
D 班 The best class in Tongji
My classmates from the language course at the International School are wonderful by the way! The come from all over the world: Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Sudan, Yemen, France, Poland, Italy, Portugal, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Madagascar, Togo and I really appreciate how nice everyone is. Most of the students are already fluent in Chinese and try to avoid using English in their conversations. That is really cool! We were once talking about how French has been influencing German and English in the past, or we discussed the political situation in Sudan. That was a challenge, but we do understand each other with some Chinglish and body language. I have to admit that I found a very good friend here in Shanghai attending the same class and we are exploring the city together.
Catherine and me in the city center of Shanghai
The Golden Week
The third week of uni started with a vacation because of the National Holiday in China. Catherine and I decided to go to Beijing and spend some time in the capital, sightseeing, exploring and having fun. We were not the only ones having this idea. It felt like everyone in China was travelling during those days!
We soon got used to a lot of people everywhere and it felt stupid to complain, because we were part of the crowd!
We were not alone. Never. 🙂
Taking the train to Beijing
My Chinese teacher in Germany used to play a game with us about taking the train. We were singing: “开开开火车，我的火车就要开。” (I am taking the train, my train is about to take off.) and the class had to ask: “往哪儿开?” (Where are you going to?) The answer was one city from China, because every student had a paper in front with a name of a city. In my case I would answer: ”往北京开！” (I am going to Beijing.) This simple game was really fun and it is one of the best memories I have of my first semester at university. Everytime when someone did a mistake my teacher was clapping her hands, laughing and said: „You have to get of the train!“ In the end only two students were still playing and one of them won.
This might seem like a game for children, but isn’t everyone who is learning Chinese going back to primary one level? You have to start over, learn how to read and how to write and only by practicing every day you can reach a higher level.
Taking the train is an experience
The high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing takes about 6 hours and is cheaper than taking the airplane. Smoking was not allowed, but we were still amazed about the differences of taking a train in Germany and in China. People are eating a lot during the trip: warm noodle soup, other meals, nuts and even other kind of snacks like chicken feet. That was new to us! I was also amazed about how a lot of people were watching series on high volume without wearing their headphones. I could follow at least 4 different TV series at once. That was challenging!
Smoking is prohibited
School on Saturday and Sunday
We had one free week, but Saturday and Sunday were normal working days, where we had to attend class. That’s why I took my Chinese book with me and practiced some characters. Despite the noise in the train, I tried to focus on my vocabularies and enjoyed the small baby mandarin.
北京欢迎你！ Welcome to Beijing!
The trip to Beijing was definitively worth it! Thanks to Baidu (the Chinese Google Maps) and the Subway plan we didn’t get lost and we spent some wonderful days in Beijing. Even though Beijing is the capital you can find smaller buildings, old traditional houses and beautiful parcs and lakes.
Sightseeing was a challenge
We were never alone and sightseeing was not easy, because thousands (I really mean thousands) of other tourists wanted to visit the same places as we did. This picture is taken on the Tiananmen Square and afterwards we tried to get into the Forbidden City, but at 9 o‘ clock in the morning the 88.000 tickets for the whole day were already sold out.
The Great Wall 长城
The day at the Great Wall was the best experience of our whole trip! So many friends did scare us and told us it would be horrible and totally crowded, but luckily we booked a tour at our hostel to visit a not so famous part of the Wall, where only adventurous tourists want to go to. It was AWESOME! Kind of like, you know, I don’t know.. well.. EXACTLY! We even reached a part of the wall, which has not been rebuild yet and we would have loved to continue walking there. Unfortunately our guide was waiting for us, so in the end we missed this original part of the wall. Nevertheless the view was great and the weather was really nice, too! I have been visiting the Great Wall in July and the sun was burning at that time. In October the sun was still there, but we also enjoyed some wind.
We took a cable car to get up to the Wall and had a fantastic view
Not only the view, but also the stairs were breathtaking!
In 80 days around the world
On the Great Wall we met this wonderful young lady from the Netherlands who is part of the project „STORM Eindhoven“. A group of motivated students developed the world’s first electric touring motorcycels and travel around the world in 80 days. It was a pleasure to meet Michelle, who made all the way from the Netherlands to China. I loved listening to her sharings about her adventure. If you are interested in their project, please check out their website and Youtube Channel!
Ich glaub mich knutscht ein Drache
In German we have a saying: „Ich glaub mich knutscht ein Elch“ (I think an elk is kissing me) which means „I can’t believe it.“ In my case, I think a dragon is kissing me „Ich glaub mich knutscht ein Drache“ (this sounds weird in English) but I really can’t believe how good our trip to Beijing was. We walked a lot (up to 26 kilometers per day) we enjoyed some good food, visited beautiful places and even met some friends from Freiburg.
In Beijing we were trying out a lot of different vegetarian restaurants or other places to eat. One evening we were having dumplings at a small restaurant and the menu was only in Chinese. A group of foreigners walked by and sat down, a few tables away from us. I expected them to know Chinese, but when one of them opened the menu I could clearly see by his stunned look that he didn’t understand a single word. I burst out into laughter, because he looked so helpless and funny at that moment. We offered our help to them and in the end Catherine was ordering food for 6 people, translating all the ingredients and different types of food. The group was really nice and they were very thankful for our help.
One morning we couldn’t resist the French bakery and got some real croissants. Catherine is French, but I have the tendency to forget about this fact, because her German is so good.
Hmmmm….. C’est delicieux!
Not this not that
The other day we were ordering Chinese pancakes with a lot of fresh vegetables and a mysterious brown (very tasty!) sauce: “我们想要两个薄饼，没有辣，没有香菜也没有肉。” (We would like to have two pancakes, not spicy, no Chinese parsley and no meat please.) When the lady repeated our order she was turning back to her colleague hissing in Chinese: “也不要！” (Not this, not that…) making fun of how picky we are. 🙂
This was so tasty!
The Summer Palace 頤和園
We spent one whole day in the Summer Palace and enjoyed the nature. The big lake was beautiful, and all the trees made us feel at home. I really miss the nature of Switzerland and Germany from time to time. (To tell you the truth: I miss it every single day.)
No black feet in the grass?!
A lot of Chinese tourists wanted to take pictures with us that day. Most of them didn’t ask for our permission and this felt weird. While we were eating, or just sitting down to relax people were coming and taking selfies with us. Our strategy was to hide behind books.
Look how beautiful the auntie is!
There were a lot of parents pointing at us saying to their children something like: „Go to see the auntie there, look at her skin, so white! Look how beautiful the auntie is. Go to her, we take a picture together!“ Most of the children were very shy and I guess they wondered why we were considered beautiful, because in their eyes we must look weird.
Children don’t know about beauty standards and sometimes small children even get scared when they see me. Maybe my long nose looks pretty scary to them? We frequently hear comments about our long noses (which is a compliment!) and about our white skin. It doesn’t matter how you look like, as long as you look like a foreigner you are considered beautiful and that makes me really sad. There are so many beautiful Asian women in this world and anyway… Isn’t beauty just a superficial measurement? Real beauty comes from the heart, not from the outside.
We are a very good team! Team 包子 🙂
In Shanghai we like to visit the BaoBao shop frequently, because they make very tasty 包子 Baozi and you can sit outside with candle light. In Beijing we found this shop with a very nice lady selling the Baozi to us.
She gave us one Baozi for free, because she wanted us to try out something new and asked us to come back the following day. We will definitively come back one day!
I enjoyed the days travelling with Catherine and discovering a new city in China. Although we were a little bit scared in the beginning, we spent a wonderful time in Beijing!
I am ready for new adventures!
Greetings to all of you!