Finishing up up my 8th week in Chengdu; month 2. At dinner a few nights ago, a friend reminded me to give myself credit and be gentle and congratulatory too myself instead of so hard on myself. I have accomplished so much and learned even more these 8 weeks. I managed the loss of my Dad from afar and separated from family support. I’ve been sick twice—for weeks—due to the air pollution.
Little, simple tasks take twice to thrice as long in China, since I do not speak the language (and perhaps due to some bureaucratic processes!) For instance, I JUSt received my resident work visa on Thursday! Not only did it take months to obtain required paperwork while in the US, it took multiple visits to government agencies and 2 months to receive the work visa! Since I have yet to learn Mandarin, everything takes 5x as long, as I have to translate everything using one of two phones, and one of two laptops. Thank goddess for visual translators that work with a phone camera! Since almost everything is electronic here, I spend most of the time translating apps using Google translate on my old phone or iPad. For instance, ordering food, online shopping, utility payments, deliveries... all in Mandarin, so I have to translate everything first. I love that everything is web-based, though! Every single item needed (excluding fresh groceries and food delivery) can be found on taobao.com! Although we have large supermarkets and stores and malls, it is not always easy or quick to navigate these places and find what I need. Although the same can be said of ordering online and from apps, I have learned to find what I need on Taobao: nail files, clothing, kimchi, dishes, towels, sheets, etc. Luckily, I can type what I seek into the search bar, or upload a photo, and the selection pops up—although that can also be overwhelming, since it’s like a million items that come up from general searches! I’ve learned how to save favorites for later, add items to my cart, purchase, and pay! Sound simple? You try it in Mandarin! Some expats I know that have lived in China for years still use the english version baopals.com, which,— while easier— charges about double on most items.
I can now pay all my bills with the online apps as well, of which there are several! (I’ll include some screen shots.). WeChat is the main messaging platform, where not only do you text,, but you order food,, pay bills, reserve rental bikes and cars, pay utility bills, keep a balance like a bank, book flights and trains, buy movie tickets... we each have a unique QR code that vendors can scan for payment, exchange contact cards with new friend4098s, send money when you split a the dinner bill, and a twitter-like platform to post pics and “what’s up with me now” type blurbs. It is awesome! Then there is Alipay, which is mainly a payment app similar to WeChat to pay bills, order taxis, tickets, etc. Oh, and on both, you can access “Kangaroo” which is the food delivery app. Speaking of food delivery. Kanga and other apps enable online grocery shopping and delivery from major grocery stores, convenient stores, and local grocers. I’ve avoided it so far, but could order a blizzard from the DQ a few km away if I wished. I have yet to find delivery of food other than fast food, junk food, fried food, and Sichuan-style Chinese (more on that and why I avoid it, later! It is delish but too oil- and meat-heavy for my tastes!), but through much searching, found several Korean banchan (side dishes) such as kimchi, danmuji, and more, to eat with rice. I’ve reverted to eating my Korean meals again, which feels healthy and palatable. I might be getting bored with food rather quickly here, so I’ll be looking for more options soon! Again, I’ve only been in China 2 months, so I will figure it out!
Through the help of many new friends at work and through various WeChat groups, I’ve found doctors, grocery stores, movie theaters, film groups, thai restaurants, places to visit out of town, and more!
As with everything in life (at least my life), it will become easier and I have to accept the ups and downs, be flexible... and learn Mandarin!!!
Photo: Roof detail of one of the temples at Namwu Si Buddhist Monastery in Kangding, from my June 2018 visit.