我在上海到了!I’m living the first 12 days all by myself… O_O

It’s crazy to believe I’ve made it to Shanghai on my own! I’ve traveled to breathtaking countries like Australia, the Philippines, and Germany, but never have I gone to China and never have I gone somewhere far and ALONE. I think that’s what scared me the most about flying here. I’ve always been one to try and show my family I’m mature and able to be on my own, but this was one of the rare times where I had so many doubts.

When I sat next to this Chinese lady on the flight from Toronto to Shanghai she asked me something in Chinese and I immediately defaulted to saying “对不起,我说中文一点”. I wasn’t even proud of myself for speaking Chinese because one: I had no idea what she said and two: I was way too wrapped up in my thoughts thinking “What am I doing?” and “Why am I here?” I spent the next 13.5 hours on that Air Canada flight distracting myself with movies, music, and games. I was doing anything to not think too much about the flight and how long I’m about to be away from home. I barely got any sleep and in the several 10-15 minute episodes of air turbulence, I found myself grimacing and barely breathing. Not a fun plane trip.

But upon arrival, I began to feel that excitement I always felt whenever I landed somewhere new. I got through security and immigration smoothly and once I found my friend, Jason, I felt better. Riding to my apartment with Jason, I was already so curious, so much that Jason laughed at me and said “Look at you being a tourist already” because I kept craning my head to look at the huge skyscrapers and the river.

When Jason dropped me off near my apartment, the stench of the streets, the sight of grime, and the people staring at me, the new laowai in this community all hit me, but I was quick to accept it (maybe I just ignored it). When I managed to drag in my two huge suitcases and my backpack into the apartment, my first reaction was “Wow I am dumb”. I had no idea what logic I was going with, but when I had first booked this Airbnb with Siân and Katie I thought it was going to be fairly big and spacious, with multiple rooms, and zero neighbors. It was such wishful thinking that didn’t take into consideration that this is one of the most populated cities in the world and so something like a house is a rarity. Instead here are pictures of the actual size of my apartment that exists on the 12th floor of a 15 story building stuck in the middle of a community filled with hundreds of other residents! It all matches the pictures on Airbnb, it just happens to be that everything is crammed into three rooms.

The door leads right into the small kitchen, bathroom, and door out of the apartment

After unpacking my belongings and trying to get some sense of organization in this already chaotic journey, I figured I needed food. Because I lacked unlimited data and I had zero confidence in my Chinese speaking abilities, I went to the nearest Family Mart and purchased snacks, sugary drinks, and already prepared meals. For the first week, I either ate fast food or American food, the one real Chinese dish I had was pork wonton soup. I was eating nothing that I wanted to and getting zero experience of the food culture or any culture at all.

I barely did anything either. Besides playing tennis with Jason or tagging along whenever he offered, I hardly went anywhere by myself unless it was less than three minutes from my apartment. I brought my professional camera and I would glance at it ever so often wondering if I would actually use it.  One night after going straight home after my internship, I took a snapchat of the Papa John’s pizza that I proudly ordered in Chinese and one of my friends deservingly gave me crap for it. If I didn’t have that or the encouragement from my travel-expert brother, I might still be too hesitant to really go out there and really travel.

That’s definitely not the case now.

Dragon structure inside the Yuyuan Garden

Some of the food I’ve been having.

Kangjian Park

Since the first week, I’ve settled in and gotten used to navigating on my own. I think I just needed the time and the reassurance that I’m out here to explore a whole new world. I am so grateful for every little thing I’m seeing, trying, or doing. I’ve already gone all over Shanghai visiting gardens, temples, and its city views. I’ve eaten at/tried street vendors, restaurants, and many of their little dessert or drink shops. Whether I’m out solo or with Siân and/or Katie there is something new I learn about Shanghai every day and each day I grow to love this city a little more.

 At Jing’an Temple

First Couple of Days in Shanghai

This is my first time out of the country by myself and also living by myself, which was a terrifying prospect. The flight was long and mostly smooth sailing for 13 hours except for 5 minutes of death when we were over Japan and the plane hit severe turbulence. After landing, I began to freak out about the next two months. What was I going to do? How was I going to get around? My internship was outside of the city and there wasn’t a metro line near where I was staying, so I was going to have to learn how to use the bus system, which are notoriously confusing. The company where I was interning had someone pick me up her name is Gao Xiao (高晓). She does not speak English, and that is when I realized that my language skills that I learned in Chinese class were inadequate to have a conversation with her and we ended up using our phone to translate back and forth. I found it difficult because she used phrases and words  that I did not know, but I learned a different way to say it. We managed to eat hot pot after my flight and go shopping all while dragging my suitcase around. Because I just flew 13 hours and I don’t know very many Chinese characters my first meal consisted of chicken gizzards and cow intestines and some vegetables. They had an interesting rubbery texture. It was not the worst tasting food that I have eaten, but I would not order it again. We then dragged my suitcase through the street to the grocery store to buy a few daily necessities. The company had sheets and blankets already ready for me. After dinner and the short shopping trip we arrived at my apartment. My room was on the fifth floor, which is the top floor, and we both managed to drag my suitcase up the stairs because the complex does not have an elevator. After that Gao Xiao left and I immediately fell asleep. 

My apartment consists of a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. The kitchen only has a sink and a refrigerator and freezer, so I plan on eating out a lot. The bathroom has a washing machine, a sink, a toilet, and a shower, but the entire bathroom is used to take a shower. When I took a shower for the first time, I was not exactly sure how to position the shower head and ended up getting water everywhere in the bathroom. The apartment has A/C, but it took a while to get it to work because I did not have the remote and I had to ask my boss at work to come with me to pick it up from the apartment office.

 

Bathroom in my apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my first full day in Shanghai, I woke up at 2 AM because of the time difference, and I went on a walk at 5 AM around the community that I am living in. There were only a few people up and it was rather cold in the morning as I walked around to find the company’s building. Below are pictures of my apartment complex. The top left picture is a garden where they are growing food between buildings and is one of many around the complex. Many of the people living in the apartment complex were farmers, and I learned from one of my co-workers that if there is an open space they will make it into a garden. I also learned that the gardens are not allowed, but because there are so many of them and the residents just keep making them the apartment management does not do anything about it.  The top right picture is of a street inside the complex. The bottom picture is the street in front of my building. My apartment building is the building on the left. 

One of the many mini gardens in my apartment complex.

A street in my apartment complex with gardens on the left and right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My apartment building is on the left

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am outside of the city by quite a bit. I am about 40 minutes away by car and about 1 hour away by public transportation. There are no metro stations near me and I have to take buses to get to the nearest grocery store and nearest metro station, which I figured out how to use with the help of Gao Xiao who helped me get to the grocery store. Because if I went by myself I would have been very confused. Before my colleague helped me to the grocery store, I tried to find a grocery store by myself and I wandered around trying to find one, but with no luck. I did get to see another neighborhood and had more chances for people to stare at me. Below are photos of my adventure.

Canal near my apartment

Exercise equipment in a neighborhood near my apartment complex

 

2018 Lunar New Year @ Davidson College


Davidson College celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Dog with our usual fireworks, food, and performances.

Our celebration of the Year of the Dog also extended into the classroom. Prof. Wan-Chi Wu and her students wore red clothes and made 春字 (paper cuttings) for celebrating the new year last week. The button of the character is a head of the dog!

Reflections

Working at OLE and living in Nepal was one of my all-time favorite experiences. I went bungee jumping, biked a 50K with my coworkers, went ziplining, and ate the lung of a buffalo. I never thought I would do any of those things and I did all of them in just one summer. I was out of my comfort zone upon arrival in Kathmandu and I stayed in that area of discomfort the entire summer. Not only did I learn to have a sense of adventure, I also learned how to take better care of myself and to not plan every minute detail of my life. I learned how to listen to my body and give it time to relax and heal, which is something I had been severely neglecting at Davidson and during my time abroad. My time at Davidson was spent eating too much junk food, not sleeping enough, and crying (a lot). I put my work and extracurricular activities above my mental and physical well-being and I learned in Nepal that taking care of yourself makes life so much better. Not only was I able to be more productive, but I began enjoying myself doing the simplest things. I was much happier and I’m already applying what I learned about myself in Nepal to this semester in Beirut. I take time out of my day to be myself (I even started training for a half marathon) and make sure I get enough sleep every night–even if I don’t finish all of my work. Doing this has already made me a better student, friend, and person and I really hope I continue this back at Davidson. I also hope that I don’t lose my renewed sense of adventure when I return to Davidson. Keeping it up in Beirut has been easy because there are so many places I have yet to visit in Lebanon and so many dishes I haven’t tried yet, but it will definitely be more difficult to do at Davidson. I fear I’ll get back into a monotonous, stressed out routine, but I’m using what I’ve learned from my time in Nepal and Lebanon to make sure this doesn’t happen.

 

OLE Nepal gave me an opportunity to work in a field of education that I hadn’t had before. I’ve worked (and am currently working) for education-based NGOs and have been teaching small classes for the last four years, but OLE was completely different. Working there reaffirmed my dedication to education access and showed me that I could enjoy education-based work that wasn’t teaching. I originally feared that working in an office setting would bore me, but it made me appreciate teaching in a classroom even more. I am very grateful for the lessons I learned in online education, lesson planning, and curriculum work but I don’t think I will stop teaching in the traditional sense anytime soon. I was also able to make time to teach a weekly English class and run a self-defense workshop while I was in Kathmandu. This is especially reassuring as I start looking for non-teaching jobs. No matter what type of job I have in the future, I know that I will make time to teach and spend time with students. After almost a year of living abroad, I’m ready to go home. I’m nervous to return to Davidson, but I know having these lessons under my belt will definitely make it a more enjoyable and rewarding experience the second time around.

 

These are pictures of the students in my English class. These girls are part of a program, Sikaai, run by the organization I volunteered with called Powerful Hands. Sikaai provides these students with housing, free classes, and meals.

This was taken after we finished learning some of the lyrics to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”.

Virtual Teaching

This summer, I worked at Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be doing at OLE before arriving in Kathmandu. I knew it had something to do with education and possibly involved lesson planning. At my first meeting with my boss for the summer, I found out this wasn’t completely incorrect. Their mission, as a social benefit organization, is to enhance education quality and access for underserved children through the integration of technology in classrooms. When my boss showed me their software and online lessons, I was intimidated. It would be an understatement to say I was horrible at technology–it took me over a year to figure out how to change my icon photo on my Macbook. Not only were my technological skills limited to Microsoft programs, but I had never used more than a powerpoint while teaching. All of the lesson planning I had done in the past was for classes I’d be meeting with face-to-face and in areas where I could not use a projector or laptop. This job was different than any I’d had in the past. I’d be creating English and math lessons which would be used by thousands of students in and outside of Nepal. I’d have to consult Nepali curriculum guides and textbooks to create the material and make sure it was understandable for all the students who would be using it. Usually, I can see how the students learn and determine my lesson plan from there, but I couldn’t be there in person to see what was working and what wasn’t. This was one of the biggest challenges of the summer–not having students to actually talk to about what helped them learn or what they wanted to do. I could only communicate through the computer and I couldn’t explain what my ideas were to the teachers who would be using my lessons. Everything needed to be explicitly clear and understandable. Although this was really challenging, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had and I learned a lot about how to be clearer when teaching–whether it be online or in person. My ability to communicate complex ideas improved and I also learned a few cool new tricks on Google slides! Working for OLE was a really incredible experience and I hope to return there soon. 

Below is an excerpt from a blurb I wrote about OLE to recruit new video game developers from universities. I think it aptly describes their work for those who are reading this and are interested in donating or working with them:

We create and design educational software and distribute them for free to schools in Nepal. All of our software is culturally specific and meets the national curriculum requirements. E-Paath, our interactive digital software, covers grades 2-8 and the subjects of math, Nepali, English, and science. Our software is translated into English, Nepali, and Chepang. We are currently operating in 230 schools across 34 districts in Nepal. In addition to providing free educational software for these schools, we provide teacher training so that educators can incorporate our materials into their lesson plans. Our in-staff teachers go to schools in Nepal and facilitate trainings for the schools’ staff. Our teaching team periodically checks in with the trained educators to receive feedback on the materials and fix any technical/logistical problems they may have. We also collaborate with other organizations to rebuild schools affected by the 2015 earthquake and to also provide laptops to schools in remote areas. All of the laptops are equipped with our educational software and e-library. Our extensive online library, E-Pustakalaya, holds PDFs, short stories, audio clips, videos, and other educational resources in both Nepali and English. These materials can be viewed for free directly from a web browser or downloaded to use later.

 

My coworkers showing Melech and me around Kathmandu! All of our coworkers were really kind and basically took us under their wings during our time in Kathmandu. They took us out to their favorite restaurants, cafes, and places to hang out. It was so nice having them show us more than the tourist-y parts of Nepal.

css.php