Time moves at a different speed in China. It’s like you’ve gotten thrown into a weird alternate dimension that throws you back and forth in time, sometimes feeling like it’s been two months and other times two days. In reality, we’ve been here for about two weeks. We’ve gotten bizarrely adjusted to being constantly surrounded by an unrecognizable language and different looking everything, but each day we still encounter some small new adjustment that throws us for a loop and reminds us that we’ve only just started this adventure.
Luckily for us, our first week and a half was spent in Yangshuo, only half-jokingly referred to as the airlock into China. While we had never heard of it before, Yangshuo is actually one of the most-visited destinations in China and is therefore very Westernized by Chinese standards. It is a “small” town built amid absolutely stunning karst mountains. There was a McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Starbucks all conveniently centered around West Street, which was the main entertainment street containing small shops, restaurants, and bars. The level of English was basic in most places and the locals who only spoke Mandarin were clearly used to charades and poorly pronounced attempts. It still felt like a culture shock to us with all the signs in unrecognizable characters, the blatant every-man-for-himself disregard of traffic laws, and the abundance of cheap foreign food and goods that encouraged impromptu sidewalk gatherings. After moving to Sinan this past week, however, we are definitely coming to realize it was fairly different from “real China”!
While we were in Yangshuo, we were trained by Buckland (our placement agency) on teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and basic Chinese culture. We spent our free time exploring the city. Some of our highlights were:
- Biking along the Yulong River and watching the bamboo rafts float along.
- Hiking to the top of one of the TV towers – in 80° weather with 90% humidity, the 1,142 stairs completely kicked our butts! But the view was absolutely unbeatable.
- Traditional Chinese street barbecue hosted by Buckland.
- Roaming West Street – Day and night are literally completely different experiences. In the day it is sleepy and relaxed, and at night it turns into a Disneyland-esque carnival!
- Walking into a market and walking out almost immediately when I saw/smelled the many varieties of raw meat hangings.
- Visiting Yangshuo Park at night to find huge groups of people dancing in sync, a children’s carnival, and moonlit views of the karst mountains. We have now learned that choreographed dancing in parks is a very popular form of exercise in China, referred to in English media as “dancing grannies.” Who knew?!
- Relaxing at The Lounge, a popular expat bar. So nice to have a sandwich with proper (AKA not sugary sweet) bread!
This week we’ve started teaching in Sinan, which has certainly been full of adventures but is going well. I’ll have more on that later, but for the most regular updates check our WeChats. We post frequently there as internet is very slow in China, but WeChat seems to be the exception. 🤔 Until them, much love! 💞