Finally made it to China! After over a year of studying Chinese and planning in New York, it’s rewarding to finally be here. I’m studying in a 10 million person city you’ve probably never heard of called Shijiazhuang. There are no foreigners so it offers the best opportunity for real immersion. And boy is that true. The first week here was one of the hardest in my life. It’s really stressful to communicate simple ideas in a foreign language when you have no other option, at least for me. The whole first week my stomach was in knots, I couldn’t eat much. Maybe half culture shock, half anxiety.

After a week, I’m feeling much better, and I’m amazed at how fast my Chinese is improving. This is definitely the way to do it if you really want to learn and aren’t a language superstar (as I am not). Here’s a random picture of a Chinese Red Bull copy cat (I assume?)

Chinese Red Bull?

Being in a city without foreigners is interesting. Literally everybody stares at you, every single person. I like the attention, but it’s a little unnerving. Once I built up the courage to talk to people in broken Chinese, people are very nice. My weekly achievement was this - I went out by myself to see the city and look for something good to eat. I was feeling pretty shy until I nearly arrived home and decided that I had to talk to at least one person. After asking 2 people, I found a group of teenagers, one of whom led me down the block to a night market close to my apartment, jackpot. I got fried chicken, it was so-so but who cares.

Another fun thing on the same day. Around my apartment building there are often kids playing. Whenever you pass, you can hear then saying “foreigner!”. This time, 2 brave young girls chased me down and asked me where I was from and what floor I lived on. I thought that was the end of it, but nope, they came right up to my floor, and banged on every door until they found me. Communicating with kids is just as hard as communicating with adults, but it was pretty fun, and in the end they taught me (my second time trying) how to ride one of those silly hover boards. Still hard.

They both added me on WeChat, making friends already. Here’s a picture of an old chinese pillow.

An old chinese pillow