Week 3 in Ningbo was when I finally felt like I could see myself having a great time this year. I always have a hard time adjusting when I leave home and being in an entirely different country has not made it any easier. Finally, I was starting to see myself fit in somewhat here. I went to a bar with some friends during the week and had my first ever shot. I can’t believe I can actually say that I had my first shot in China!
Friday I found out that I was officially inducted as a member of the Marketing department in Vis-a-Vis and threw myself into the initiation process as much as possible. I went dress shopping with new friends for the VBall. From what I was told, China does not have prom and homecoming like they do in America. For many of the girls there, it would be there first time getting all dressed up in extravagant gowns and experience feeling like a queen for the night. I watched as the ooh-ed and aww-ed at curling their hair and putting on makeup; something that I’ve been doing since middle school and am very familiar with by now. Of course I have already noticed many of the cultural differences but this is one that I never thought about. I can’t remember that wide eyed feeling of seeing my hair be curled for the first time or putting on make up and feeling like an entirely different (and more fabulous) person. Homecomings and Prom were some of the best moments of my high school and I hadn’t considered that those practices were American and uncommon in the rest of the world.
After trying on a few that were all either too big or too small I gave up on getting a gown. I’ve been there and done that and I don’t need add another to the collection in my closet that will never be touched again. Either way, I had a great time at the VBall!
One thing that I learned in my Mandarin lessons and finally experienced is the food culture here. Food and eating together is a big part of communication and bonding between family and friends in China. I went out to eat with my department members twice on Saturday and both were interesting experiences. For lunch we headed to a Sichuan style restaurant near the school. I’m going to be honest… I was terrified. I can handle spicy food, but I didn’t think that I could handle Sichuan spicy food. Luckily, Ningbo locals also can’t handle food that spicy so this meal was apparently nothing in comparison ( I still don’t think I’m ready for Sichuan).
This was the first time everyone in the Marketing department would meet each other. I found out that I am the oldest and still the only American. The food was delicious and I knew at that meal I would have a great time with my new family.
Later that night after the VBall we went to 蚝翅 （Hao Chi）which is a popular seafood restaurant in Ningbo. I was craving seafood up until our visit and they exceeded my expectations. Being a seafood lover, I’m glad that I chose Ningbo as my destination. Eating out in China is fun because it almost seems like the food never stops coming from the kitchen, especially if you dine with a large party. So much food was brought out that more was still coming even when we were all full and done eating. I also noticed I had been receiving special treatment that day. I was given food first and given any extras. I’m not sure if it was my age or just hospitality, but I definitely didn’t mind.
Sunday night Vis-a-Vis held the official team welcome meeting. I was also chosen to work in the Home Stay program that night. We were able to meet the new inductees, share some laughs, and let everyone else know in Vis-a-Vis we are the best looking department in this organization (it’s our new slogan and very fitting). Overall, I had an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to make more memories with these great people!