Lifestyle differences

15 Jun

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been in China for less than a week.  So far, so much has already occurred that I feel like I’ve had weeks to adapt.  I’ve taken note of the differences between what life here will entail (of course not all of them yet) and what life is like back home.

My favorite difference is transportation.  I have always wished to live in a place where I can get around entirely by public transportation, and Guangzhou is the perfect city for such aspirations.  The subway is brand new and clean; the buses are fast, frequent and spacious and the taxis are cheap (usually 2-4 USD to most places in the city).  I’ve been very pleased with all three forms of transportation, not to mention just general walking, because it means I don’t have to drive a car.  I’ve never been a huge fan of driving.

My kitchen is tiny, and there are a lot more bugs, but that just means that the term cleanliness takes on a higher standard in its meaning.  I don’t have an oven, but the trade-off for a nice microwave (mine is questionable), big fridge (mine is dorm-size) and lots of counter space is a future education in cooking with a wok and bamboo steamer and using very, very fresh ingredients (the vegetable market is a 3-minute walk away, and I’ll be buying things the morning I cook them).

Clothing is certainly different.  I’ll have to get used to things being a little dirtier, but I don’t mind hanging my clothes to dry because at least I don’t have to wash everything by hand.  I have a large balcony with an excellent hanging system already in place for hanging all kinds of hangers with wet clothing.  Because of the location of my apartment, not much rainfall gets onto the porch even during heavy storms (like the one going on right now).  I’m very lucky in that regard; as I type, my neighbors in the apartments across the way are scrambling to bring in clothing about to be wet again from the rain.

It’s about as hot as Texas here, not in temperature, but in effect due to very heavy humidity.  Its more noticeable because I spend more time outside and because even though I have a wall-unit AC in each bedroom (making sleeping very comfortable), then rest of the apartment relies on open windows and fans.  The layout of the place, however, makes for excellent drafts, especially in the kitchen.

There is definitely more pollution here, in the water, in the air, on the surface of everything, but I’m planning on purchasing tons of house plants for some fresh air in the apartment.  My bevy of brand-new cleaning supplies has already made a huge difference; anything left un-polished for too long collects a black soot of sorts, residue from the smog outside.

One of the best things about life here (so far) is stocking up at IKEA.  I have just finished purchasing the majority of my small furnishings, the stuff that didn’t come with the apartment, like lamps, rugs, and kitchen supplies.  I could never afford to have bought this quantity of products at IKEA back home, and everything is the same great quality.  I am really excited because I just bought the best cutting board and cleaver I’ve ever owned, and for much less than I’ve paid for lesser quality knives in the past.

Beyond that, things are cheap and food is fresh (most fast-food places don’t last out here), since fresh food is so easy to get on the fly anyway.  I have wifi, cable TV (though only 2-5 channels are in English, depending on the time of day), and a radio built into my new cell phone.  People are very nice and helpful, even though I’m an immigrant who doesn’t yet speak their language (which is a blessing considering how many people from back home feel about non-English speakers).  Of course, there are about 5 stages to living in a new country with a very different culture, and I’m just in the first (the one where everything is new, fresh, and awesome).  We’ll see how things pan out, but for now, I’m really happy with the little differences in lifestyle.

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4 Responses to “Lifestyle differences”

  1. Constanza Fernandez June 15, 2010 at 09:52 #

    It’s great to hear Rob! I hope you also get a couch soon, as you mentioned you wanted one. Love you ;-).

  2. Russell June 15, 2010 at 21:07 #

    Your probably going to forget how to drive while your there. You and Brandon will have to retake the test! Also Your very lucky on the food front. I wish I could walk three minutes to get fresh ingredients for breakfast. Get on skype more!

  3. Anna Skinner June 17, 2010 at 20:06 #

    Wow, Robin!!! Reading the clear, engaging account of your first stage of adventure in China–both the email and this first post gave me a feeling of blended deja vu, covering a stay with a family in Taiwan (in 1974) and living in Japan in 1995-96. I had so much fun reading about your triumphs, and I totally get your delight when you master something (e.g., getting the IKEA kitchen stuff or managing to arrange the drinking water thing. I used to feel a sense of real triumph when I adventured out in to all kinds of unknowns with a goal . . . and the goal was reached!

    I don’t know the 5 stages you’re supposed to go through regarding your trip, but two things I will say: (1) I never lost my wonder and pleasure with delightfully “alien” sights/tasks to be figured out/all that newness, not the whole time I was on the visits. (2) I felt increasingly less tolerant toward some things–toward the dirt and bugs and mildew in the bathroom (always wet)–as time went, but so what? I’d never been in love with them anyway. (3) I spent all my time loving to figure out why Japanese cultures did things THEIR “peculiar” ways, and in almost every case, I came to understand and value their culture’s culture as pragmatic.

    So I am so excited at your adventure and I think you may well “feel” the negative stages lightly and continue to love the new, sometimes puzzling, sometimes beautiful, sometimes really weird you see and experience. Speculating on why these things are they are is so much fun!!

    I’m so proud of you! What a huge shift. You will be every kind of wonderful with your students, too!!! How wonderful that your plans with Brandon worked out–

    Much love, Anna

  4. Kathleen Schmieder June 19, 2010 at 14:11 #

    I’m so glad that I got to see Hong Kong (well, as much as you can see in three days) about 15 years ago. It fills in the 3D gaps for me. I remember how mind boggling the apartment buildings were, a jungle of towering concrete structures with clothes drying on bamboo poles like porcupine quills. We were there on New Years and entire streets in the city were closed off so residents who have no yards–only balconies–could bring lawn chairs and hibachis outside for communal picnics. What an experience!

    I look forward to hearing more and seeing Asian art appear on those walls at some point ;p

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