I’m in China again! Dalian, this time. Working as a teaching assistant for my uni at our partner campus whilst pursuing my MBA.
Some Dalian fast facts:
Population (according to the 2010 census): 6.69 million
Founded by the Russians in 1898
Home of Xinghai Square, the largest square in Asia. From Wikipedia: "It covers a total are of 1.1 million square meters, making it the largest city square in the world. Its name literally means "the Sea of Stars."
It's cold in the winter. Right now it's winter. It's cold.
I'm here with two other TA's, together responsible for 5 classes and about 110 students (mostly Chinese, but with some other nationalities sprinkled in). Our first two weeks here have been with our professors, and have been long days. It's much worse for the students though. Their last week they had 4 tests. Yikes.
My fellow female TA and I have a ridiculously nice apartment about a 10-15 minute walk to our office. It’s great. Every morning we play frogger with traffic and walk up a street with tons of little Korean and Chinese restaurants and a couple coffee shops. Dalian, like many Chinese cities, is fairly mountainous so the last bit of our walk is kind of (really) steep. And our classrooms are on the sixth floor of a building without an elevator. You may think I’m complaining. No way. We shall have buns of STEEL. There’s also a bus stop, metro stop, and grocery store mere minutes from us. Good job, whomever was in charge of choosing our apartment. Gold stars for you.
Our 3rd counterpart is very into fitness, and we’ve been working out with him in the little gym in the school on weekdays. Basically, we get personalized workouts with a personal trainer FO FREE.
We all get along pretty spectacularly :D
Our time thus far:
My flights ALL went smoothly! If you’ve followed my travels at all…this is an abnormality.
We have little old school Nokia brick phones for use in-country. Very convenient, but I also remember why txtg used 2 lk like ths. T9 is a struggle.
Our first weekend in Dalian, the smog was AWFUL. We were a bit discouraged, because Dalian is supposed to be a “cleaner” city as far as China is concerned. But it hasn’t been that bad since and everyone who has been here for a while has said that was very rare.
We went shopping with the professors one afternoon, and I never fully realized how handicap UN-accessible China is. Large curbs, lots of stairs, crowded public transit, bumpy sidewalks. One of the professor’s wife has MS, and it’s been a bit difficult for her to enjoy herself. I’m glad she got to go shopping, she’s lovely.
I’ve had two Chinese women mother me in the most endearing ways. One on my final flight to Dalian from Shanghai was very concerned with the warmth of my clothes, and who would pick me up, and why I was alone. The second was very concerned my roommate and I were not dressed warmly enough (we had just got done working out and were in leggings), insisted we would get sick, and personally guided us across the road. It’s been kind of nice, actually :)
We’ve made several new friends! Last semester’s TA’s gave us some namecards on WeChat (the BEST app on the planet) and it’s been great having people to meet right off the bat. Expat’s are always interesting. There’s always some story behind why they’re where they are.
A Chinese friend of mine I was in a group project with last semester was in Dalian visiting her family over Christmas break, and our paths crossed! She was kind enough to take us out to dinner one night, and her dad drove us around to see all the major sights of Dalian at night with all the lights. It was GREAT.
The boyfriend is the best. We talk often, he has really helped me adjust by pulling me out of my funks the first week. The long-distance relationship thing is not ideal, but it’s also not the worst. I may have a longer post about long-distance relationships in the future. Not just of the romantic variety.
Both of my cards have already been compromised. We’re talking thousands of dollars of transactions that I definitely did not make. BUT I can say only very positive things about Bank of America. By the time I called them, it was mostly taken care of. All is well. It’s just annoying, especially with further travel quickly approaching. I knew everything was going too smoothly! There are scanners in existence that can simply be waved over your purse and steal your card info. I suspect this is what happened. I’ve been in some very public, crowded places lately looking very foreign, alone, and a bit lost.
Also, WeChat has a call out function. $0.99 has gotten me almost 3 hours of call time to sort out the card issues. Have I mentioned WeChat is the best app ever? Because it is. It’s basically texting, facetime, calling, snapchat, social media, and walkie talkie all in one. America needs to catch on.
So we were in class all day for two weeks with our lovely professors, but now they have gone and we and our students are on break for the Chinese New Year! A break that will last…SIX WEEKS. Yeah, this is a pretty sweet gig. My roomie and I will be traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam so be looking out for that. Potentially a Beijing visit as well. Should be fun :D
As always, questions/comments/conversation are always welcome! Happy travels to you and yours.