We Made It!

A fellow teacher met Chris and I at the ferry in Shekou to take us to my new apartment. The apartment is in a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees and very close to the local Walmart. There are 30-something buildings in this complex that surround a park. Inside the gates (we’re a gated community) is a gym, laundromat (someone actually said it’s one of the best in Shekou), convenience store, and restaurant.

After Ron got us, plus all the luggage, to the apartment, he decided to show us where Walmart* was in relation to my new “home”. Walmart is about a block away in a little plaza. Also in this plaza is a KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Haagan-Daaz, and a smaller mall. After touring the entire Walmart, he took us over to the mall. We walked it** and came across stores like Adidas and Crocs. I believe the mall is 4 stories tall. Also in the mall is small home appliance store and sporting goods store.

Dried Fish in Walmart

Dried Fish in Walmart

Fish Market in Walmart

Fish Market in Walmart

Bins of Grains

Bins of Grains

After walking through the mall, he walked us to a bus stop. We hopped on the bus*** and rode it to the Main Campus where I’ll be teaching. We walked to the second floor and I met my new Director. She seems super nice. She even showed me where my classroom will be. Get this: last year in my co-teach room, we had 44 students…this year I only have 13 on my roster so far. Ron also showed us the library which looks pretty cool.

Next, we looked at the two food stores beside the campus and then headed to a place called Sea World (no, not the one with Shamu). Sea World has tons of restaurants and a giant ship. We’re told that they have a light show nightly. After spotting a Mexican restaurant, Chris kept talking about wanting Mexican. Seriously, who eats Mexican the first day you’re in China? Who? My brother. Ron asked us if we wanted something to eat…I said yes and that I wanted some Chinese. I’ll be darn if I’m going to eat Mexican when I love Asian food and I’m in China…maybe I’ll cave and go there while he’s here.

Chris trying some of my noodles from our first meal in China.

Chris trying some of my noodles from our first meal in China.

Anyway, the food at the Chinese place was good. I ordered some dumplings (they were okay) with noodles in a broth. The broth was very flavorful. I was given chopsticks to eat the noodles and dumplings with. Well, I need to work on my chopstick usage clearly, but I do think I managed quite well with what I was given.

Finally, we hopped back onto the bus and rode back to the stop we’d gotten on earlier. Ron escorted us back home where we thanked him profusely for all of his help. He really was an amazing guide. After we said our goodbyes, I was in desperate need for a shower. I sweated so much walking about! After a 20 minute frantic search for my shampoo, I jumped into the lukewarm shower (it was lukewarm by choice). Though the school left us some bread and peanut butter, Chris and I ventured to Walmart on our own and bought some water, Coke, cookies, and Chinese Frosted Flakes.

Overall, it was a fairly decent day. Sure, it was tiring, but the fact that we were given a tour of the city and shown the ropes (okay, I am not an expert by any means, but you get my meaning) was simply wonderful and a gift. This is going to be an adventure for sure!

*Walmart: Walmart is two stories here and quite the experience. No matter the time of day you visit, there is a crush of people in it. After 3pm, it does tend to get much worse and it seems like a free for all. It is best to not use a buggy—they only hinder the maneuvering process throughout the hoards of people.

**Mall: The Garden City Mall is awesome. It is 4 stories and filled with tons of restaurants. One of my favorite stores is a place that makes jerky (as in beef jerky) out of bacon. Talk about delicious.

***Bus: There are a few buses that will take me to work. But, you must hold on! It is almost like the bus driver closes the door and floors it the moment you jump onto the bus…before you even have a chance to hold on!

Fly Me To China Please

Out of all the airlines I’ve been a passenger on, one airline sticks out the most: Korean Air. I first traveled this airline when I was flying to UB, Mongolia. When I went to Nepal, I regretted flying a different airline. But I knew when I accepted a job in China, that I would fly Korean…even though it might take a little longer.

For my flight over to Hong Kong (we’ll take a ferry to the port in Shekou), I booked myself a Prestige Class ticket, the Korean Air equivalent to Business Class. And I can tell you, I just don’t know if I can go back to economy (I type that last line holding my head in shame).

From JFK (New York) to Incheon (Seoul), the flight was 14.5 hrs. From the moment I boarded the plane, I felt special. I was greeted by a flight attendant, who proceeded to take my jacket and hang it up. The flight attendants on Korean are the best of the best, in my opinion. They’re super friendly and don’t let language become a barrier in creating the best atmosphere for their passengers. I was offered juice before the plane took off even. My seat was like my own personal recliner. And for the first time, I was able to sleep comfortably on a plane. It probably helped that my seat reclined up to 180 degrees to form a flat bed. Talk about heaven.

My very comfortable and spacious seat on the Korean Air flight from JFK to Incheon.

My very comfortable and spacious seat on the Korean Air flight from JFK to Incheon.

The flight itself was easy (again, I slept for a good while so that probably helped). I was offered delicious food (for supper I ordered the bibimipap and for breakfast I went with Korean beef porridge). Anytime I requested a beverage, it was delivered within a minute. My seat neighbor was a charming gentleman of Korean descent. I’m not sure if he was relatively new to flying, but he did need some help regarding the remote for the entertainment system, as well as a few other things. At one point, I decided to sleep, so I put my Bose headphones on the console that separated our recliners. I woke up a few hours later to find him wearing them while sleeping. I simply took the cheapy headphones and wore them to watch a movie while he slept. When he woke up, I asked if I could have them back. He was so embarrassed—he thought they were from the plane. When we were about to get off the plane, he took my luggage down from the overhead compartment (by the way, that’s another perk of the Prestige Class area, always plenty of room for carry ons) for me and apologized (in the cutest broken English) for being such a pain. I assured him he was not and wished him well on his journey.

Chris and I also had a layover at Incheon. With a Prestige Class ticket, I got access to the Korean Prestige Lounge. Well, I wanted to take advantage of that because who knows when I’d be traveling in Prestige again (it is a bit hard to afford on a teacher’s salary), so I was able to use some miles (I’m a member of Korean’s frequent flyer program) and get Chris in as well. It was quiet and comfortable…and here’s the best part: the lounge provided snacks and beverages).

Soon, it was time to board our flight to Hong Kong, where once again I was in the Prestige Class. Lucky for me, there was no one assigned to the seat next to me so I was able to sit next to the window (I am usually all about the aisle since it’s easier for when I must get up so this is a rare treat for me). Again, the service was impeccable. The flight was relatively short in comparison to the previous flight so it felt like we were there in no time.

The flight over Hong Kong was overwhelming to see….there had to be millions of buildings (okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration).

Look at those buildings!

Look at those buildings!

Seriously...look at them!

Seriously…look at them!

All we have to do now is find the ferry and sail to Shenzhen!

I will admit, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed–as we flew into Hong Kong, all I saw were buildings! I’ve never had to really navigate a city by myself before! Seriously, it was building after building. And the buildings are TALL! I’m sure once we actually get to Shekou and I’m taken to my apartment that I will feel a little bit better about this whole thing. But for now? I’m not so sure about this…

A Change Can Begin With One Single Step

So, I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy lately. You see, I’m moving. Now, I know it’s a travel blog, but bear with me for a moment. I decided that after 11 years in my local school district, it was time for a change. I needed a change desperately. The direction education was going in was not one I necessarily agreed with—at least in our district. Last year, I was already thinking about what I could do, and then I was inspired by a fellow teacher. She accepted a job teaching overseas. It hit me then…I am not sure why I never thought about it before. If you’ve followed my blog, you could see that I enjoy traveling. Why not put my love of travel and exploring new destinations together with my profession? Hello, right?

Finding a Job

Last summer, I started my journey of navigating this world of recruiting for international schools. I learned that there are some free recruiters out there, but I knew I would need some hand-holding so I went with a fee based recruiter. I was not disappointed. In February, mom and I, along with 20 copies of my teaching portfolio, headed up to Boston for a recruiting fair. Little did we know that Boston would go on to have one of the heaviest snowfalls in that one week we were in town. It was miserable. First of all, I’m glad we stayed at the same hotel that the fair was being held in; also, I’m grateful our hotel was attached to a mall. We listened to presentations to numerous schools on the first day. The next morning, though, the work began. For two hours, I signed up for interviews at schools that were all over the world. It was quite overwhelming. I was offered a few jobs, but in the end, I went with a company I felt truly cared for students. I mean, for years I’ve been boxed to a particular calendar, and though they can be helpful, if you are caught even a day or two behind, you’re penalized on your evaluation. In my former district (it’s kinda nice saying “former”), you’re told how to teach; teachers aren’t exactly encouraged to be creative. And though I hate to say this, but basically, we’re teaching to the test (the district will deny this) and students aren’t individuals, but rather students are numbers. You can see how I might be interested in finding a new job.

When you accept a new position at a new school (much less in a different country), you experience some apprehension. But I have to say, I have felt more welcome by this new school (I don’t haven’t even met anyone in person yet) than I did in the last few years at my former school **. I look forward to meeting my new coworkers.

Where am I going?

Now, you may be asking, “Okay, yadda yadda, you found a new job. But where are you going?” Good question. I am going…drumroll…Shenzhen, China. China was never on my radar when looking at available jobs, however the company I was hired by owns and operates numerous schools around the world. They had an opening at their school in Shenzhen. I have spent the last few months trying to learn about the area…through reading, an online class (provided by the school), and a future coworker (she’s been an awesome help!).

I leave this Tuesday (8/4), and I’ll be honest, I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions for the past month: excitement and anxiety (with a mixture of panic…seriously, the closer to departure date, the more I ask myself, “What am I doing?” I mean, I am leaving everything I’m comfortable with behind.).

In the end, though, I am more excited than nervous. I’m a traveler and adventurer at heart, and I look forward to this. I will be writing about my experiences (probably a mixture of teaching overseas and the sites/adventures I see) when I can. I hope you continue to follow me and enjoy my story.

**I loved the challenge at being at my former school. I learned so much, and I met some wonderful people/educators. I will miss it, but I also look forward to this new adventure.