And Now I Live in China

I think the only way to begin is just to begin anywhere – and hope that everything will come out in the end.

I’m in our new apartment, having just eaten a thrown-together-and-microwaved meal for dinner. (I can only eat out for a few meals in a row before feeling annoyed.) That I have eaten at home represents the very minor accomplishment of having secured groceries, something that was not true when I woke up this morning starving.

I mention this because I think it may have contributed to my mini-meltdown shortly thereafter when I was seriously convinced for an hour that I was locked in my apartment. No joke: I was sitting in tragedy at the foot of the door, pounding for help while thumbing through a dictionary trying to figure out how to say accurately “Help! I’m locked in! I have the key but the lock won’t turn!”

Turns out I just wasn’t turning the knob hard enough. Thank god no one came to rescue me.

In a spirit of optimism, therefore, I will list my very minor accomplishments since arriving in Kunming yesterday afternoon:

– Purchased groceries and household necessaries
– Secured cell phone
– Met everyone in my new office and managed not to throw up on them despite extreme wooziness from long journey
– Got internet in apartment working
– Did not flood my hallway while showering, only my bathroom
– Reattached light fixture hanging out of ceiling using super glue and packing tape*

I give you these facts because I don’t know how to start talking about the fact that I live in China now. It’s not a joke, it’s not a holiday – Kunming is where I live now and, as of tomorrow morning, work. I have yet to see another foreigner, although this is probably because our apartment is in the equivalent of Midtown, 10 minutes from my office, and away from the more charming sections of town where foreigners are likely to hang out.

I’ve had no conversations in English since arriving. I even had the thought, while watching dogs happily trot in front of their masters around Cuihu Park, Even the dogs speak Chinese.

I haven’t been in China for three years, but it feels deeply familiar. I should feel so much more confident than the first time I moved here in 2004 – my Chinese is better, my knowledge of China is more significant, I am more independent and professional now, I have a promising job – but instead I feel more nervous than I ever remember being 5 years ago.

Then, I was just a dopey college student going to teach English in a small Chinese tourist town. Now I’m adult who is trying to figure out a career and was hired with the expectation that I am capable professionally and able to conduct myself reasonably in Chinese. I haven’t encountered any actual problems with this yet, but I’m intimidated enough to be wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Work in the morning – wish me luck.

*Aw, sue me. I first tried using conventional nail/screw methods, but the ceiling is made of concrete and I appear to have left my power tools in my other pants.