China: A New Chapter Begins

- I have arrived in Ningbo, China -

Exactly one month has past since I dragged my overweight luggage through High Street of the university campus drenched in sweat, mixed emotions and jet lag. I arrived one week before induction week, and campus was so empty I had to ask myself if this was China. I solo travelled around Shanghai for four days prior and I was beginning to get used to overcrowding. It was one of the most revitalising experiences of my life by the way, but I'll save that story for later. Anyway, it was an interesting phase I went through those first few days living alone in my new flat while waiting for my flatmates to arrive. I was excited and ready to start my new life in China, but at the same time I felt homesick, slightly lonely and more than anything - a thousand miles away from my comfort zone. Language barriers certainly wasn't making the situation any better.

It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the environment; to hear Chinese language everywhere I went; to learn how to say 'I don't eat pork' in Mandarin and then get it served anyway; or to simply realise that crossing the streets on green light is considered a safety risk. Culture shock is a matter of course, and eventually I'll be able to embrace it all. Embrace those squat toilets; embrace that people spits on the streets wherever I go (this is a hard one); embrace the smell of stinky tofu; embrace the air quality in China; embrace the fact that my grandma runs faster than the Internet.. The list is as long as the river I'll cry if I think about them all. But don't get me wrong. I believe that every little thing offers something unique and valuable, even if the signs are not so clear (or totally mis-translated like most English signs around here). Quoting a poster at the mall: "You are my love, my angel. Don't treat me like potato."

Every 'bad' experience is just a way for me to gain new perspectives and appreciate cultural differences even more. Since I don't always have VPN to access social media, I've become more social and outgoing in real life. When I'm forced to use antibac ten times a day, it makes me question basic hygiene. Here in China I have witnessed parents let their kids wee in the middle of the street; a chef spitting on the kitchen floor; a Golden Retriever running around the restaurant while I was having dinner.. Yesterday me and my friends even saw a women throwing up in the bus and then throw the bag of puke out of the window without even closing the bag!? As much as it was traumatising for all us other passengers, imagine the trauma of the person who had the bag landed on. Imagine casually riding your bicycle, life is beautiful - flowers & rainbows - and then out of nowhere, bam! a flying bag of puke in the face.

So how come some things so freakin' strange be considered a normality here? Or rather, why am I reacting to it while others are not? Isn't it just so interesting that we are all human beings only separated by geographical borders, yet it's like we come from two separate worlds. I'm getting too philosophical, but my point is... The contrast between Norway and China is enormous and so for me, the privileges of my life becomes so much more apparent. Edinburgh certainly was a life-changing experience, but I think that China will change me in a totally different way and I'm excited. 

I know a blog post can only give so much insight of what has actually been going on in my life this past month. My effort to stay active on social media lately hasn't been great either, so I might have a bit of catch-up to do. At the same time I really enjoy the time 'offline' with good friends, doing new things every day and truly live in the moment. I've been a shameless phone addict for way too long, so to no longer feel the need to constantly check my phone has been a great personal achievement. I hope to keep it up, but I'll make sure to take some good photos along the way to post on Instagram every now and then.

Meanwhile I'm just going to take each day as it comes. The most amazing places and people that I've met so far have all been serendipitous surprises and I've got a feeling that the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for another update after the Chinese national holiday! Tomorrow I'm off on a backpacking trip to Taizhou to explore more of Zhejiang province. This week is supposed to be the peak time for travel in China, so fingers crossed that everything goes well.