Breaking cultural stereotypes while making friends in exotic places. My recent trip to Beijing has opened my eyes as an American and as I now focus on finishing my degree in Educational Consulting, I hope to share my experiences and knowledge with others so they too can make a difference in the lives of others and their community.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Day Eight: New Day, New Beginnings
Online tutoring. It’s the next best thing that helps students find academic success in subjects like mathematics, English, and science. The job is flexible as many tutors pick their own hours. The job can be a rewarding experience and many of the tutors, who I have met, tell me that they plan on visiting their students one day.
The best part about living in Beijing was that I wasn’t going to be bored. The second day in Beijing was when I met Dora and Scarllet at Bridge for Education and International Travel in Chaoyang District. This was a required meet up and orientation that all new World Explorers go through. It’s beneficial to listen and to take notes in this orientation. I learned etiquette and some Chinese before I was shipped off to my new family.
In the orientation, I was told that I could tutor online and earn $15 an hour. My interest was piqued. On the eighth day in Beijing, I had been accepted for an interview with an online tutoring service. At the time, I thought this opportunity was going to work with my schedule and Dora’s (host sister’s) schedule. In the end, I couldn’t become a tutor, not because I didn’t pass the interview or because I didn’t want to, but because the hours conflicted with the time I needed to be with Dora.
It’s a Tuesday and I’m once again left to figure out what I wish to fill my day with. Since, at the time, I had just been accepted for an interview, I was practicing answering common job interview questions. In America, back home, I usually don’t practice as I find myself becoming more stressed and nervous about the interview. I’ve learned that if I’m going to a job interview, the best thing I can do is to look confident and speak with confidence. This helps potential employers to see that you aren’t afraid and that you’re willing to take chances that can help their company. I’ve been hired for jobs that I have no experience in but get hired because I present myself in a certain way that makes people think that I’m confident.
And this is what today’s blog post is all about.
Finding my confidence while being in a foreign country that is quite different from the US was difficult. Living in a foreign country that is currently fighting with my home countries government was also a difficult aspect to get over. I felt as if I needed to be quiet and to stand in a preverbal corner when I was introduced to new people because I didn’t want to seem as if I was some intitled American that could butt into conversations and social groups.
I wanted to be respectful. So, I decided to be quiet unless spoken to and to be as helpful as possible, even though I do this at home anyways. Many times, after eating a meal, I would TRY to collect the dishes and hand wash them. I was never able to do this as my host family and their friends would always take care of these kinds of chores.
I didn’t know it then, but my host family and their friends were respecting me and showing me kindness by taking care of tasks like cooking and cleaning. In the Chinese culture, it is common to eat dinner (or what I call supper and YES I’m from Northeast Wisconsin, calling dinner “supper” is normal) with the entire family and to spend extended periods of time eating and communicating with each other.
My family and a friend
I’ve written about this is another post about how I believe Americans have lost the art of communication, especially within families. I’m used to eating alone at a table and the guys basically inhaling their food so they can continue doing whatever it was they were working on. Many times, the women are the ones who cook the meal and clean after a meal. Though this isn’t the case for every family, I haven’t been around many families that sit down for supper together and talk with each other for more than ten minutes.
It was common to be eating supper and talking for about two hours each night. Granted, Dora and I were the slowest eaters known to man! My host mom and host dad used to play a game with Dora and me to see who would finish their meal first. I’m happy to report that I did win a few times, but Dora would come out of nowhere and start shoveling in her food to beat me. It was all fun and games. This easily became something I looked forward to. This simple act of eating as a group, communicating with each other, and racing to finish my meal was what made me feel connected to my host family.
But this was the day that I met someone who changed my life. On Tuesdays, Dora has Spanish lessons. Her teacher, Anna, who is from Portugal, came to the house to practice Spanish with Dora for an hour while my host mom and I relaxed before our meal.
I learned that Anna had been in Beijing for four months and was working with Dora’s dad as an architect. She’s very outgoing and isn’t afraid to do things that make her uncomfortable. Anna was the one that convinced me to not be such a scaredy cat and get out of the apartment to experience Beijing.
Anna told me that when she first arrived in Beijing in February, she was alone. She was alone for an entire month. I wish I could’ve recorded my reaction to this because I could feel all my blood leave my cheeks and a sinking feeling settle in my gut. Anna didn’t know Chinese when she arrived, and she knew nothing about the area. Yet, she still went out and got lost and experienced the culture.
While playing an intense game of Uno with Dora, Anna and I continued to talk. She wanted to know why I was not going out. After explaining that I was too scared and that I was shy, Anna lectured me. I needed this strict and straightforward lecture to break me out of my funk. I wasn’t going to experience anything if I was going to be a hermit.
For four hours I spoke to Anna and told her all my concerns. With her help, I was able to download a VPN and get Baidu and Microsoft translate on my phone. Since my phone is a Google phone and Google products and services are blocked in China, Anna and I had to struggle around security credentials to finally be able to download apps.
Baidu became my best friend and guided me home more times than I can count on both hands. Baidu is a multi-functional app that has a detailed topographic map, service for taxis, and is a search engine. The only problem is that the app is only in Chinese.
Before Anna and I knew it, it was 11 pm. The subway was now shut down.
Anna returned home while I enjoyed watching Westworld with my host parents until 1 a.m. Staying up until the earliest parts of the morning was normal and watching American TV shows was very much appreciated. Surprisingly, I had never heard of any of the American TV shows my host parents liked. Yet, I’m now a fan of Westworld and Legion.
This concluded my eighth day in Beijing, China. This was the day that made the biggest difference in my life because it was the day that encouraged me to start exploring my surroundings. Because of this, I met up with another World Explorer a few days later and started experiencing the Real China.