Before I started researching China and cities to work I had never heard of Chengdu. I discovered most people that I spoke to about my transition had never heard of this huge city either. Chengdu is located in the southwestern province of Sichuan and has a population of roughly 14 million people, the 4th most populous city in mainland China. The great thing about this city is that even though it is so large it is also quite calm, with many parks, teahouses and beautiful places to visit throughout. There are also so many quick getaways out into nature by a short bus or train ride. I have had the opportunity to visit a few, Emeishan and Qingcheng mountain. However, there is so much more to explore and on my list.
When I first arrived, though intrigued and excited, I did not think it would be possible for living here to feel so called “normal”. Now, over three months in, life feels normal. There are many things that will always fascinate me and things I miss from home. There are also so many things I wish I knew before I came even though I don’t believe you can ever be fully prepared, its not real until your actually living it. Below are random facts and pieces of information that I have found interesting about life here in China thus far:
#1 – Pandas
It is pandemonium here in China, well especially Chengdu. Pandas are everywhere…statues, clothing, pencils, signs, etc. It really is the land of Pandas and they are proud of it. There are several reserves of real pandas in and around Chengdu. I have only visited one so far. They sure are as adorable and wonderful as they seem and even better in person. It was great to go somewhere that felt like more of a natural living environment for them rather than a caged zoo. I look forward to many more trips when family and friends come! They are a must visit while in Chengdu!
#2 – The clothes are awesome
There are endless amounts of markets and clothing stales with any variety of clothing you could ask for. The best part is the funky style and shirts with sayings which contain broken english and random words that make absolutely no sense. To me that is the awesomeness of it and I have already started my collection of these great shirts! The Chinese, at least what I have experienced in Chengdu, as a whole really are very stylish. Always dressed up for any occasion, even hiking a mountain! It sure makes you feel good in your athletic wear hiking up a mountain dripping sweat and having women in dresses and heals without a stitch of sweat pass by ;).
#3 – Markets
Markets of not only clothing but of all different foods are waiting to be discovered as well and there nothing like you would find in the states. One particular fish market I came across has any variety of sea life you could possibly imagine, from turtles and snakes to many things that I don’t even know what they are. The smell was extremely pungent and close to being unbearable but so worth walking through. Markets that contain meat just have the meat hanging there, nothing to keep it cold. Or you could go with the option of seeing the animal such as a duck, chicken or rabbit killed right in front of you. It can be disturbing, but another experience that is important to be had when in China.
#4 – All about the heat
The Chinese seem to like everything hot and ice is a hidden treasure. This includes drinks and the temperature indoors. Unless you are in a western style restaurant (and sometimes even in those) warm water is what is served and ice may not be an option. Air conditioning, though places like malls have them, don’t seem to be put to use as much as would be expected or appreciated. Sometimes you may get lucky and get on a bus or in a taxi that has one on but the chances are minimal. Teaching a class, no matter if your moving a lot or not, you are bound to come out sweating. Be ready to be shiny and sticky 90% of the time. On the positive at least your body is releasing more of those toxins it is taking in through the pollution!
#5 – Chinese medicine
This layers off from above as there are many health reasons they do what they do, including only drinking warm water. Still natural Chinese medicine very much a real thing and is what is typically given when going to the clinic. I have been sick just a few times since I have been here and a translator is a great tool if you want a quick trip to the clinic. Unfortunately, you can’t just walk into a store and get medicine, painkillers or really anything to help even with a cold. When you do go to the clinic you are given so much stuff and told to take a large number of small pills several times a day not knowing at all what it is. At least there is comfort in knowing it is something natural. For me it is actually my preference but the difficulty is not being able to know exactly what it is. Natural medicine is what am studying and I am slowly trying to understand more about Chinese medicine here while I can. Maybe this is why they seem to age very gracefully.
#6 – Clothes dryers are not a thing
Maybe the rich have them but your brought back a few decades here by having to hang dry your clothes. In the U.S. anyway, we have been spoiled with many conveniences including the ability to dry your clothes quickly. Its the little things that help you to appreciate as well as realize you can easily adapt and live without.
#7 – Internet and television
American television and tv shows are not something you can watch here, except for the occasional sports or possibly children’s cartoon. Even Netflix is blocked. Honestly, I really don’t miss it. Plus there are no copy right laws so most people just download the shows or movies they want. The internet is a bit of a tougher thing to miss. Bottom line it is just slow and a VPN is necessary to access most sites you will probably want to. It makes it challenging and frustrating especially when it comes to trying to talk to family/friends and in my case also taking courses online. With that, I really came to china to get outside and see and experience what I can while I am here so the importance of this goes down.
There are so many more crazy and interesting things to observe here in China such as no personal space, uncleanliness, crazy baby hats, babies with bottomless pants, shirts with built in sweat clothes, spitting, mouth numbing Sichuan peppers, being closely followed in stores and the list could go on and on. I may never get used to some of these things but is now not unusual to the eye.
“Notice that the stiffest tree is the most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee