Sep 5, 2010

home sweet, crazyville.

I'm writing this blog from my fourth floor dorm room. I just forked over 1/2 of my net worth for a year's worth of internet. I tried to use the school's cheaper internet, but my VPN wouldn't work on it - it is on total lockdown. So after a few days of moaning and groaning, I sucked it up and forked over the cash for internet from an outside source (facebook! blogging! google! hooray!)

It's amazing to me that a week ago fast, decently reliable, and non-censored internet was a daily thing for me. Now it's like gold. Whatever the case - hallelujah, I'm back online enjoying a first world luxury.

So much has happened in the 6 days since I landed in Shan.ghai. About as much happens to me in a day here than all summer chillin at my parents house. Life here is unpredicable, adrenaline-filled, random, and awkward. Just the way I like it.

I'll do a quick summary of life now, as so much has changed in my situation here in Han.gzhou. Later I'll tell some of the funny stories that have been happening...for posterity purposes.

Well, I am now a full-time PhD student at Zhejiang University (top 3 school in, baby!) I live in a single room in the "old building" which is technically "off campus" and in a Chin.ese neighborhood. I know a few people in the building from last year so it's all good.

I have no kitchen, dryer, refrigerator, central air, etc. I have a desk, a bed, a wardrobe, and running water. It's simple, but it's a nice feeling to live simply. When I first arrived to my new home I was not too happy. I tried to hide it, but I was really thinking "holy crap, I live in the Chinese ghetto in a falling apart building and I'm gonna die."

It's an extreme downgrade from my previous home in Ch.ina and is lightyears away from what I am used to in Amer.ica. But then I remembered that I am living better than 80% of the world. Probably more than that. I have access to water, electricity, and food. I will sleep safe tonight. Any compaints that I make are self-righteous and ridiculous. I'm learning to love my new little home. Once all of my stuff is moved (I still have boxes at my old home), then I think I will feel more comfortable here.

I'm getting used to having so many rules. I don't do well with rules (which is weird considering I live in a communist country). We get locked into the building from 11pm-5:30am and on my first morning I woke up early thanks to jetlag and broke the handle of the door trying to get out to run at 5am. I was panicked thinking that I was trapped. Turns out, we can come and go as we please, as long as we wake up the man whose job it is to sleep in the downstairs office everynight.

It's strange being a student now because all the teachers just talk to us in Chin.ese. I'm not the one in charge anymore, is in charge. All my paperwork is in Chinese and the people who run the building don't speak English so most of my daily chatter is Chinese. This is a new thing since last year teaching English my bosses, students, and co-workers all spoke in English.

My hall consists of a Ukranian girl, Swiss guy, an Amer.ican guy, a man from Dubai, 2 Sri Lankens and 2 Malaysians. The other side of the hall is reserved for the visiting North Kor.ean students. Yes, North Kor.ean. Because of some joint-yay, we are communist-venture, a delegation of NK-ians studies at my university. They are not allowed to talk to anyone, must go everywhere in pairs and have their Chin.ese classes apart from all the other students. And they are super skinny.

I share a laundry machine with them and was told by the Ukranian girl not to use it because they wash ALL their crap in it. Lucky for me, my sink/shower/toilet is all one room so I can wash clothes in the sink while I shower. Convenient.

All the new students took placement tests in order to be placed into classes. I am a level 2 (out of 3) which is really nerve-wracking since I can't read or write. I got my books and my class schedule yesterday and I'm nervous/excited to start classes tomorrow. I feel like I'm living in a rol-reversal from my past 2 years as a college teacher. But it's a great feeling to be learning.

Having this scholarship is really awesome. Yesterday for book pick-up there was a line just for scholarship students and we were just handed our books. Everything is just handed to us for free. (except internet ugh.) I still feel really overwhelmed with how good of a deal I got. It's weird to just be handed things for what seems like no reason. I pay no tuition fees, book fees, housing bills, or school fees. I get a monthly stipend of electricity and if I go over, I get charged. I pay no water bill. I'm getting a PhD for free. This is nuts. A glorious gift that I don't take lightly.

I bought a bike a few days ago and because of the good location of my school, I'm able to get most places fairly easily by bike. Let's just cross our fingers it doesn't get stolen.

Well, enough randomness. I'm saving the good stories for later when I can give them the individual attention that every awkward moment deserves.

I am trying to find a way to upload some of the video I have taken the past few days. I have some gems. But until this connection allows that, photos will have to do. Here's a glimpse of my week:

...first dinner back in Hangzhou with my doctor friends! We are coming upon the 2 year anniversary of knowing each other. They are the first people I called when I got back into town.

...the traffic jam along the Shanghai - Hangzhou highway. I just wanted to get home and have the journey be over.
...I arrived at the school gate via taxi and my dear friend Hannah was waiting for me! She snapped this pic, this is what I look like after 40 hours of travel. Right after this, the paperwork began. A few hours later I was in my dorm room.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world. I'm off to eat some Dongbei Cai with some friends. (food from the northern parts of goooooood).

walk slow. xoxo.


agapelife said...

GREAT post Jessica! Glad you're settling in, your life is anything but dull.
As usual loving and thinking of you from Jersey!

mom said...

So glad to see that you updated your blog! I love the pictures!

Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Moving to a new city is always difficult... but it looks like you are handling it well! And your comments about how, despite your scantly resourced residence, you are living in better conditions than 80% of the world's population was definitely convicting.
Good Luck!