Well, we are in China!
After 200 days of anticipation, and a whirlwind of a final weekend, we finally landed in Shanghai on Monday morning, and so here is our first blog from our new home. Just to give you a bit of info on how we’d like the blog to work, we want to tell you all what we’re up to and will do so in sort of ‘general’ blogs like this one, and then for anyone who might be reading with a view to visiting Shanghai, we’ll also do some more specific blogs that actually give some useful information for finding your way around, things to do, and how to do things. We’ll label them up with different tags of course, so you can read whatever you’d like from the different types of blog we put up.
This is a mixture of both, but more than anything is a reflection on our first 7 days in China and what we have learned so far. We’ve already done quite a lot, but the key thing we have learned is this: people can be absolutely wonderful. I mean, we knew that already, but we’ve learned it again.
First of all, before we even left the UK, we were put in touch with a few people from the school who were extremely kind and patient with us while we bombarded them with endless questions which must have seemed totally inane. Their answers were comprehensive and understanding, and as a result we already felt looked after before we even got on the plane. Then when we arrived in the airport, one of them happened to be on the same flight as us and so met us for coffee in Manchester. She was immediately friendly, warm and funny, making us feel like old friends from the off. Then as soon as we arrived at PuDong international, we were met by representatives from the school who took us to our flat.
Carting eight cases which contained pretty much everything we own from the bus to our apartment’s door in 35 degree heat and then up to the 12th floor (well, alright, there was a lift but still…) wasn’t easy, but we were helped straight away by the people who work in the complex.
From there it was straight into school for the afternoon induction sessions. We were very keen to attend for three reasons. Firstly, it was an important topic being covered, secondly we wanted to get stuck into school life and meet our new colleagues and thirdly we were worried about jet lag kicking us right in the stomach. This was now midday on Monday in Shanghai, and we hadn’t slept properly since Friday night, so the immediate temptation was to collapse into bed and see if we could sleep for several hundred hours. We realised, however, that long term this wasn’t going to be a handy solution and so we put our faith in the idea that hitting the ground running would be the right course of action. Now, arriving at a new school is always an intimidating experience, and this was certainly no exception. It didn’t help our confidence that we were tired, disoriented and really quite sweaty at this point. Every new job you start, in education or not, will claim that they will go out of their way to make new staff feel welcome. Even better, some places actually do it; but we’d never experienced anything like this. From the Head down, every single person we met was friendly, helpful, and more than anything, seemed to understand our situation. This isn’t unique to international education, I’m sure, but it’s particularly pronounced here. Everybody remembers what it’s like to be the new kids on the block (the block in this case being school, but also a city of 24 million people more than 5,000 miles from home) and that makes a huge difference. While I could mention every single member of staff who was nice to us, I’m not going to. Just take my word for it, otherwise this blog is going to be three times as long again. I will, however, highlight two particular moments that stood out for us – one from in school, one from out in Shanghai, as a summing up of how wonderful the kindness of strangers can be.
Firstly, a colleague who had known us for all of 20 minutes offered to top up our new SIM cards so that we could contact our families and let them know we were ok. We could have gone to the local Carrefour and done it there; but she’d quickly grasped that we were a bit intimidated by the prospect and simply logged on and sorted us out to the tune of over £60. Yes, we gave her the cash, and yes, she could afford it, but nevertheless it was a really kind gesture that she did without a second thought or any hint that we were now beholden to her for the rest of our lives. Secondly, as we arrived at the checkout of our local supermarket (which we had found very much by chance rather than design), we were told that they only accepted ‘Allipay’ (more of which in a later blog) – basically, no cash or card.
We were VERY hot, and VERY tired by this point and so even though our entire order only came to about £20, we were, shall we say, quite emotionally taught at this point. Just as it dawned on us that we couldn’t now actually buy any of the things we wanted to buy, a Chinese lady behind us in the queue stepped forward, had a quick chat with the cashier, and in broken English let us know that she would pay, and we could give her the cash. Again – I suppose in the grand scheme of humanity, this does not register up there with the single greatest sacrifice of all time, but it meant the world to us at 9pm on a Tuesday night in a city we didn’t know surrounded by people we didn’t know speaking a language we don’t know.
So, we are here, we feel very lucky, and we also feel quite tired, so that’s all for now.