Shanghai Orientation Video: The Beginning

I pushed hard the past few days and I finally have my first video up and running.  This edit covers some of the events that transpired in Shanghai including: orientation, our travels through Shanghai, experiencing our first KTV experience (Karaoke Television, my GoPro died right before we entered our room), and a peek at the Shanghai club scene.

Let me know what you think about the edit and feel free to leave comments.  I have little experience in creating videos and I the many future edits I will create here will develop my abilities.  Whether it is the music choice, audio and visual syncing, overall cinematography, or anything.  Really.  I always appreciate feedback.


Also, the Ameson Year in China released its video covering our arrival in Shanghai on a much deeper level.  It is well edited, well shot, and covers the reasons why many of us decided to embark on this educational adventure.  My interview did not make it into the edit, but Renee, Frankie, and William communicate the participants’ goals and motivations better than anyone else .  Make sure to check it out.  Credit to the AYC film crew consisting of Nathan Montgomery, Tony Ni, and William Yang.

Follow my blog and experience China with me.  I want you to WANT to read about my experiences.  Comments, feedback, and content requests are more than welcome as they will help me engage you, the reader, in a more effective manner.  Stay awesome.

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Nanjing: Settling in

Laws being suggestions?  Blank stares thrown my way while walking down the street?  Overwhelming feelings of confusion, intrigue, and frustration as you attempt to navigate these relatively exotic streets, buildings, and businesses?  Watching young children tug on their mother’s blouses as you walk by, pointing at you and yelling, “Wai guo ren (Foreigner)!  Wai guo ren (Foreigner)!” Welcome to my first few days in Nanjing and boy was the first week a doozie.

It has been a little more than two weeks living here in Nanjing and I could not be happier.  The city is positively gigantic; it is nothing I have lived before.  Skyscrapers tower around the school campus where I teach and reside, but you can look down another street nearby that does not fit the bustling-city atmosphere Nanjing emanates. There is so much to distract you that it is no wonder I have gotten lost more than a handful of times already.

View from the Zhonghuamen Metro Station
View from the Zhonghuamen Metro Station.  This does not come close to showing the actual skyline of Nanjing.  In fact, those buildings are mostly just apartments on the SE side of Nanjing.

The streets are filled with tantalizing aromas wafting from the restaurants and side shops that saturate every city street.  These smells engage in a constant battle with the reeking funk of garbage compressors, garbage bikes, sewage dumps, and other stinks that remain unknown. The constant chatter of merchants shouting their wares and prices dominate your ears, even after you kindly say no and continue on.  The use of car and moped horns and bike bells is extremely liberal (I cannot communicate how quickly these horns and bells become white noise that you eventually end up ignoring).  The daily struggle of driver vs. moped vs. biker vs. pedestrian is an ongoing war on these Nanjing streets.  Bright light-shows and flashy displays overload your vision.  In the same day, you can eat the most delectable meal of your life that puts your mother’s cooking to shame and then you can eat something that makes Ramen noodles, ketchup, and goose liver sound like a delicacy you would rather enjoy.  The weather is hot and heavy as you break out sweating from walking just 100ft outside of your air-conditioned apartment.  You experience this city—to an almost uncomfortable degree—with all of your senses and each day is a new adventure that your body and mind will learn from.

You may happen upon a big group of spectators watching a strategically thrilling game of Xiangqi.  You will see meats, vegetables, produce, and other foods that are not found at a typical American grocery store.  There are beggars, families, couples, groups of teenagers, farmer’s markets, high-end boutiques, luxurious clothing stores, video game cafés, banks, houses, apartments, repair shops, hole-in-the-wall convenience stores, and supermarkets; this is just within two blocks of my residence.

Downtown Nanjing is exactly what you would expect to be with swarms of people inhabiting the streets from 6am-11pm.  However, as soon as the clock strikes 11pm, it becomes a ghost town on the weekdays.

I am placed at the Nanjing No. 5 High School and live on the campus.  The campus is protected by gates as is typical of all schools and universities in the downtown Nanjing area.  Basketball courts, a track, volleyball courts, badminton courts, a dance stage, and numerous ping-pong tables are right outside my apartment/dorm.  The school is currently constructing its cafeteria where I will be able to eat for free for five days of the week if I so choose.  The only annoying thing is being woken up by the campus bells and music that signify a change in class periods on the days where I do not teach in the morning.

Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 High School
Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 High School
One section of the school.
The Nanjing No. 5 High School teachers’ offices and a few classrooms.
School building
The Nanjing No. 5 High School classroom building
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The Nanjing No. 5 High School cafeteria is the building with the blue, yellow, and green athletes. My apartment is the building in the center of the photo and left of the cafeteria.

My teaching schedule runs in an A week, B week type format and I teach some classes at the Nanjing No.5 Junior Branch School on my B weeks.

Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 Branch School
Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 Branch School
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Branch school announcement board
Branch school campus
Branch school campus
Branch school classroom buildings
Branch school classroom buildings

When I arrived to my apartment, it was filthy.  The kitchen was a mix of wood shavings and layered dust, the wood flooring was covered in dirt and mud, and my bathroom was horrifying.  There was a major sewage problem, but I was able to resolve it through toilet odorizers; I am just thankful that I don’t have a squat toilet. The bathroom still needs a bit more elbow grease, but it is almost to my liking.

It seemed as if the school considered my livelihood as an afterthought.  They provided me with new bedding, a mattress, and a mattress pad, but that was pretty much it.  It was less than stellar, but now that I have settled in and gotten the place somewhat clean and outfitted with the necessary living arrangements, I am finally enjoying my residency.  The air-conditioning is fantastic (necessary for being comfortable with the Chinese climate) and I have my own kitchen, washer, and bathroom.  You have to boil the tap water in order for it to be drinkable and after some negotiations, my school ended up getting me a hot plate, an electric kettle, and a few cooking pots. Stoves are extremely rare and I will not be baking cookies or pizzas anytime soon.  In China, people don’t really use dryers.  Clothes lines and hang piping can be seen everywhere from apartment windows to right outside shops to my (kind of) balcony.

My "balcony."  Shared with the high school students in my dorm.
My “balcony.” Shared with the high school students in my dorm.
Kitchen and laundry room.  I guess I will have learn to cook with only one hot plate.
Kitchen and laundry room. I guess I will have learn to cook with only one hot plate.  This is right next door to my living area.
My living room
My living room
The bedroom
The bedroom
My bathroom, getting better.
My bathroom, getting better.

The fun is just beginning.  I’m almost completely settled-in, I have already made a great number of friends in Nanjing (both expats and Chinese), and I have almost taught for two full weeks which I will talk about in my next post.  This enormous city has much to offer in these next months and with potential trips to Ningbo, Xi’an, Hong Kong, Beijing, Taiwan, and an end of the year trip to Japan being talked about, I am on cloud nine.  Each week will continue to be eventful and educational.  Strap-in folks, it is going to be a wild ride and an unforgettable experience.

Follow my blog and experience China with me.  I want you to WANT to read about my experiences.  Comments, feedback, and content requests are more than welcome as they will help me engage you, the reader, in a more effective manner.  Stay awesome.

Enter the Foreigner

China.  What exactly comes to mind when you think of this vast country?

Hailing from the United States of America, I could only draw upon prior knowledge of this distant place.

However, upon my arrival, I quickly realized how little I actually knew.  Typical cultural stereotypes portrayed in American entertainment such as an affinity for noodles and rice, the martial arts, and diligent students came to mind. I knew nothing about the culture, the Mandarin language, its geography, its history, or the Chinese people.

Old town Shanghai
Old town Shanghai
Downtown Shanghai
Downtown Shanghai
Downtown Shanghai
Downtown Shanghai

What did I get myself into? How am I going to survive almost a year away from the country that I grew up in for 22 years? I’ve never taught English. How will I communicate with my students? I’m going to be living farther than 20 minutes away from the house I’ve lived in/near for the past ten years. How do I live by myself in a country that I’ve never even been to? What about my parents? My grandma? My aunts? My cousins? My friends? My fraternity brothers? I’m going to be away from everyone I have come to know and love growing up. What if I fail?

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Downtown Shanghai

These were only a few of the thoughts and challenges that raced through my mind on the way to the airport prior to my departure. I have never been more frightened or nervous in my life despite my parents trying to calm my mind on the way to the airport. To be honest, I felt like I was having a panic attack walking onto the plane.

Now that I am here, sure, I miss my family and friends. I miss being able to cook up a Jack’s pizza, sit down with my buddies, and watch football.  The disconnection I will feel when I miss the first and third weekend of deer hunting season in November will make me incredibly homesick. I miss going to happy hours with friends whom had their post-grad lives figured out before they graduated. I miss Minnesota and the familiarity that I grew accustomed to.  Hell, I miss college and I am not afraid to admit it. However, I take pride in the fact that I will not allow my former college lifestyle to conflict with me moving on with my life and continuing to grow.  You just have to accept that that chapter in your life is over, dwell upon what you learned, and move on.

Left to right: random woman who wanted a picture with us, me, Zach, and Patrick.  Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.
Left to right: random woman who wanted a picture with us, me, Zach, and Patrick. Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.

Orientation in Shanghai was a great time.  We stayed in an awesome hotel, visited some interesting food shops and hookah bars, and learned a lot about what we will experience in the Chinese classroom as a foreign teacher.  KTVs make for an interesting night, especially when a group of Chinese adults invite you into their room next door. You have a big group, two small stages with 50’s style microphones, and you put your karaoke talents to the test.   I will be posting my GoPro edit of my brief Shanghai experience a little later.  I just wanted to get this first blogpost out of the way.  

Up to this point, the greatest thing about this program is the incredible people that I have met.  The Ameson Year in China provides an almost surreal opportunity to meet people from all over the U.S. and the world.  Nothing compares to the rush I feel when I meet new people and foster new relationships into strong friendships.  The AYC participants consist of legitimate teachers, recent college grads like me, and those that just wanted to try something different.  Every single person participating in this program comes from a drastically different background than myself.

Now, orientation in Shanghai is over, we have all been shipped out to our host cities, and the real challenges begin now. It’s been a pleasure learning from my new friends and it will be an impactful year traveling and teaching in China.

About half of the AYCers enjoying our first KTV.
About half of the AYCers enjoying our first KTV.  Yes my slippers were comfortable.

Thanks for sticking with this word heavy post.  Everything after this will have less words, more specificity, and feature more pictures and videos.  Follow my blog and experience China with me.  I want you to WANT to read about my experience.  Comments, feedback, and content requests are more than welcome as they will help me engage you, the reader, in a more effective manner.  Stay awesome.

The AYCers along the Bund river in Shanghai.  Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.
The AYCers along the Bund river in Shanghai. Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.
The AYCers in Oldtown, Shanghai.  Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.
The AYCers in Oldtown, Shanghai. Photo courtesy of Nathan Montgomery.