Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Southern Hospitality, 中国 Style

Having been born and raised (for most of my life) in Texas, I learned from a young age the importance of saying please and thank you, and especially remembering to add in those ma’ams and sirs after addressing your superiors. As much as growing up with those rules was tedious, I couldn’t be prouder to be a Texan, because along with all those manners comes the famous Southern hospitality.

While Chinese culture may be completely different, and adjusting to their manners can be extremely difficult, one thing that is comforting to a Southern boy like me is that even though I’m away from home, here in Shanghai , I can find a version of hospitality very similar to that of the South. It’s something I like to call “Southern Hospitality, Zhongguo Style.”

For instance, my phone charger broke the other day, as in the USB thing completely separated from the cord (bummer). I didn’t have time between work and my Chinese lesson to go to the store, and my phone was in desperate need of a recharge. What did my coworker do? She leant me her charger to use that night (another thing I like about China : chargers are usually made by brand type, not specific phone). About a week ago, I needed to get my hair cut, but had no idea how to tell a Chinese how to cut my hair or how short I wanted it. My Chinese friend offered to meet me at the salon and told the hairdresser exactly what I wanted, and then sat next to me to make sure they cut it like I wanted. These are just a couple of examples of the friendliness I have experienced here. And this isn’t just me. The other foreign interns here have had many a similar experience. The Chinese are extremely willing to help you acclimate to their country, and are very interested in learning about your culture and sharing theirs as well. I urge anyone that has ever even slightly wanted to travel to China to do so, right meow!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Culture Shock, or a Lack Thereof

If you read my guest blog post, you know that I was a bit hesitant about coming to Shanghai. I wasn’t sure about my internship, my living situation, or anything really. But I am quickly seeing that this will prove to be one of the most influential experiences of my life. Only in China can you travel down a sketch looking alleyway and find a plethora of small decent eateries while at the same time only a few streets down, huge Coach, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co. shops exist. Shanghai is nothing like I expected, in an extremely satisfying kind of way.

My internship is certainly not a coffee and donut kind of job. Already, I have visited a migrant school, a disabled home, and a community center. I've written countless reports and presentations, and it’s only been two weeks. In my spare time, I’ve been able to hang out with other interns and sample Shanghainese museums, shops, and of course, nightlife. In a few hours, we're all leaving to visit the neighboring city of Hangzhou and climb Moganshan (pictures and blog post to follow after trip).

It's weird for me to think that I only arrived here two weeks ago, because I feel like I've lived here forever and have assimilated to my surroundings. Of course, this could just be the honeymoon phase of culture shock, but let's hope not.

What are your experiences with culture shock?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Something New...Fill in the Blank Friday!

Hey guys! I'll continue posting about Shanghai (don't worry), but I'd like to introduce you all to a fun thing that I've been thinking of doing for a while now. And that is Fill in the Blank Friday. I realize it's not Friday anymore, but I am going to start it today and try to be on time each week from now on. You can find the original source at Lauren's blog, so check it out sometime!

1.  The love of my life is   that's tough. I'm really focusing on me right now, which is why I'm not in a relationship right now and haven't been in one for a while. That may sound selfish but there is a lot of self-acceptance to do before I can accept someone else into my life on that level.

2.   Falling in love is   not simple, and it's not a game.

3.  Marriage is   something I'm still not sure of.

4. The longest relationship I've ever had was  four months, and it was in high school. If the length of the relationship is any indication of its importance, clearly we didn't have our priorities set at that time in our lives.

5. The key to a good relationship is  honesty and trust, along with understanding and compassion.

6. I feel loved when   someone goes out of there way to bring me happiness, even if it's just a short text message or call.

7.  My favorite quote about love is  "Love comes to those who still hope even though they've been disappointed, to those who still believe even though they've been betrayed, to those who still love even though they've been hurt before.”

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone! :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Impressions

It's been a few days since I arrived in Shanghai, and I must say I am quite impressed. The city is clean, the air is relatively unpolluted, and the weather is wonderful (if you like the cold). I've already learned a few things, so in attempt to share three of my new-found pearls of wisdom, here you go.

1. Traffic rules don't exist. At all. Okay, they probably do, but no one particularly follows them. Green means go, and so do yellow and red. Especially red. (wait, what?). You can turn right AND left on red depending on the intersection, so yay for one more thing to look out for when crossing the street. Speaking of crossing the street, even if the little green walk man is telling you it's safe to cross the street, it's probably not. Because like I said, no one ever stops. Also, lanes don't exist. The white dashes may be painted on the street, but who cares about that, right? Just find enough space for your car to fit and you're golden. So, motto of this story: look both ways before crossing the street.

2. Haggle, haggle haggle. I wouldn't suggest doing this in a department store or other similar locations, but get ready to bargain in the markets. A general rule is that you can item for about 10%-20% of the original asking price. If someone tells you a tea set is 800RMB (~$130), you can probably get them to sell it to you for 80RMB (~$15). That extra $115 you saved will probably buy you a million more items. Okay, maybe not a million, but a lot. A lot of times, just by walking away after acting interested, the shop keeper will chase you down and give you the item for the price you wanted, if not cheaper. Also, some shops are just hellbent on ripping off foreigners that don't know any better, so if need be, be prepared to walk away if the item you want won't sell for the price you want. Chances are, you can find the same/a similar item for cheaper at another market.

3. Take public transportation. Taxis are expensive. Unfortunately in Shanghai, the metro is not 24/7, so if you're going out for the night you'll have no choice (unless you're in walking distance of your destination). But otherwise, take the metro or a bus. It costs about 3RMB (45 US cents) for most trips on the subway. You'll probably pay 10 times as much for taxi fare.

If anyone else has travel tips, please feel free to share!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Waiting With the Rest of the World, Resolutions, and Other Grown-Up Stuff...

I'm taking a well-deserved break from summer internship applications to bring you my first post of the new year. Okay, maybe it isn't so well-deserved, but let's be honest...these applications are exhausting at times.

This New Years, I decided to go to New York with a very good friend. I grew up with annual trips to New York (sometimes more frequent), but never went into the city for this world-famous nights. I decided this would be my friend's and my last big hoorah before leaving the country for our respective countries this semester.

We got there at 3pm. Despite our attempt to be earlier, we were corralled, and by this I mean we were herded like horses into a holding pen, to 52nd Street, about 10 blocks from the main stage and ball drop. We managed to work our way up to 49th as people gave up the fight in search of bathrooms, food, and just general boredom. At first, I really questioned my sanity. Why was I waiting 9 hours to watch a minute of a lit-up ball dropping from 10 blocks away? I could do that at home. But as I took some time to soak in my surroundings, listening to a multitude of different languages and people calling their families back home to wish them a happy new year in countries where the clock had already struck midnight, I realized...this is a big deal. People come from all over the world just for that one minute. One girl was flying  back to Australia at 6 AM that morning. Crazy. In the hours right before the ball drop, I could feel the suspense and excitement building. I must admit, when it became 11:59 and that ball started to drop, my heart skipped a beat or two.

New Years is a time to remember both our victories and our setbacks. To remember our promises made, and those that we may not have kept. To look back on the friendships made, and those we lost. To cherish the times we risked it all for a great adventure, and to examine the times we closed ourselves off in fear of getting hurt. That's what New Years is all about: second chances. A chance to forgive, to do better, to do more, to give more, to love more. When that ball dropped at midnight, I got to experience that magical moment with the rest of the world, and for that I am so entirely grateful.

I don't usually take New Years resolutions seriously, but in honor of this monumental event, I've decided to try to be better about keeping my resolutions this year. So here it goes. Jacob's New Year's Resolutions, 2012 Edition:
  1. Continually improve myself, and prove my worth to others
  2. Appreciate what I am given and the chances I am afforded
  3. Love with all my heart, not just superficially
  4. Be honest with myself and with others
  5. Carpe Diem
2011 was an amazing year filled with many new opportunities, experiences, and friendships. I grew in my sense of myself and am so much happier than I was in years past. With that said, here's hoping to an even better year in 2012. Cheers y'all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And So It Begins...

The day has come! I received an official offer from Shanghai United Family Hospitals and Clinics to intern with them this coming semester. I'll be taking on the role of Corporate Social Responsibility Assistant, working with a team of four doctors and hospital employees to address issues such as HIV/AIDS in women, orphanage nutrition and health, and migrant school health and dental education. The department also deals with government policy and regulations for the hospital. If you know me at all, you know this is exactly up my alley.

The Chinese Adventures tab will now be up and running, with updates on everything leading up to my trip, as well as updates during my stay in Shanghai.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Growing Pains

"There's that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should've been paying attention. Well, get used to that feeling. That's how your whole life will feel some day."
- Chuck Palahniuk

One of my friends has had this quote on her Facebook profile for quite some time. When I've read this in the past, I've never quite believed it. WELL, life, looks like you get to add a point to your scorecard, because never have I ever felt like this quote applied more to my life than it does right now.

Also, what is contained in this post may be involved in why I think I may be having a quarter-life crisis, but that deserves its own blog post. And I'm probably just overreacting. 

If you know me even a bit, you probably know that I count my friendships and other relationships among my greatest blessings. It's quite easy for me to get nostalgic when I start thinking about my past friends and my past experiences. Lately, being around all my friends who are graduating in December and entering the "real world" has made me realize how unprepared I am. Not unprepared in the sense that I don't have a clear plan of action for my goals when my time comes to graduate, but unprepared in that I have no idea how I am going to say goodbye to my friends.

Like a good son and brother, I went home this week for Thanksgiving to spend time with my family. I love being home, but what I don't like so much is being reminded of the past....old awards, pictures, letters....anything that reminds me of my days in high school. Not that high school was a bad experience for me. On the contrary, I loved high school, had lots of close friends, and probably wouldn't change my activities  even if I had a do over. I miss my friends a lot, and miss how carefree and fun life was back then...even with all the added drama that high school brings. I've kept in touch with a lot of my friends, but not as much as I should have. I saw high school graduation as just a step forward. I took my friendships for granted and figured that I'd stay best friends with all these people, no matter the distance. Even though there are lots of friends that I still talk to on a regular basis and see every time we're all home together for break, I've realized how much I've missed out on. I don't take the time to check up with them and see how day to day life is for them. It's only when breaking news hits that we talk, and catching up over the break is targeted towards summarizing a semester's worth of events into an hour....not much room for thoughtful discussion. And when I think of my high school activities....athletic training, church retreats, senior musical, and everything else I did, I experience the same dejected feeling, that feeling that I never took the time to stop and savor these life-changing and unique experiences. I just kept going. And going. And going. Until those experiences and friends were just a blur from the past. 

A few days ago, I received my internship placement for the coming semester in China. This served as a further reminder that I'd have to temporarily say goodbye to my friends and my activities for a semester before coming back to school for a year and then have to say goodbye AGAIN for good before graduating university. Reflecting on how I handled high school and being faced with the fact that these experiences won't last forever has placed a lot of stress and discomfort on me. But it's life and we've got to grow up, right? Life isn't meant to be stagnant. While I can't change how life is going to happen, I can change my attitude towards how it happens. Instead of adopting the "go forward and never look back" advice that I used in high school, I'm going to do all I can to truly enjoy and appreciate who has been in my life and what I've been able to do with them before I don't have that chance anymore. And I encourage everyone to do the same. Tell your friends you love them. Color in coloring books with them using a 94 pack of crayons. Watch a Disney movie with them instead of going out one night. Anything that gives you a chance to invest time in them. Because let's face it... life rarely happens in "big moments," so take the time to delight in the small details.