How do you like China?
We are actually really enjoying our time here. The transition was much easier than either of us anticipated and we are loving the culture and overall experience. We occasionally find it difficult to come up with good things to do with our time, but that's mostly because we're trying to not spend too much money on the daily stuff so we can enjoy the bigger trips later. But so far everything has been great and we have been very happy and very blessed.
How long are you going to be in China?
We will be here for 8 or 9 months. Our current plan is to get back to the States near the end of May.
Do you have to pay to be there?
No. And yes. The program gives a generous stipend that is supposed to cover all of Spencer's costs while we're here. Notice I said Spencer's costs. Because I am not in the program, the stipend doesn't cover anything I do. However, Spencer and I are, well, cheap-os, so we are doing pretty well with the money that we've been given. And if all goes well we should be able to live entirely off of it and not need to dip into our savings.
Do you speak Chinese?
Haha, um, no. I did know what I was getting into when we decided to get married though, so I have taken a Chinese course and Spencer and I are currently working through the Chinese 201 and 202 textbook to help me learn more. And one of the other wives has taken several years of Chinese and is pretty darn good, so us wives meet once a week and have a lesson on something we can use (grocery shopping, talking about dates and times, ect.)
What do you do during the day?
I'm still not brave enough to wander around by myself, so while Spencer is at school I usually spend my time reading, watching tv shows (bless you Hulu!), making hats for a service project that I'm a part of, indexing, looking for recipes I might be able to make here, and anything else I can think of. The wives also get together once a week to exercise (we heart Jane Fonda! haha) and I'm trying to come up with other things for us to do together. Because I still spend way too much time in my apartment.
What do you eat?
Food has been the biggest adjustment for me the entire time we've been here. They just don't have the same ingredients available in China, and what foreign things they do have in the specialty stores are pretty darn expensive. So finding things to make at home has been a challenge. I feel like we've done pretty well though. So far we've come up with good things like spaghetti (homemade sauce), curry, french toast (our favorite, even though syrup is $6/bottle), stir fry, hamburgers (with ground pork, they don't do ground beef here), orange chicken, fried chicken, and hash browns and eggs. And I even made my own barbeque sauce, which Spencer loves and helps give some variety. Breakfast is either oatmeal or hash browns and eggs, and lunch is either ramen or peanut butter and honey sandwiches and some fruit. So we're doing ok, and I'm trying to get creative and figure out more things to make. My goal for this next week is to try making homemade tortillas and sausage. And we just got a toaster oven, so we have so many possibilities that just opened up for us!
But we do eat out a decent amount because 1) most of the time it's actually cheaper than making our own food and 2) sometimes we don't have food in the house to make. Our favorite place is a noodle/rice place behind our building.
|Fried pulled noodles, yum.|
Are you able to talk to family/friends, use the internet?
Yes! Some of you know that China has a huge internet firewall. They monitor and censor anything on the internet that they don't like. But there are ways around the Great Firewall of China, and we sure use it. We can use facebook, hulu, netflix, google, Skype, and whatever else we want. Skype is our best friend. We talk to our parents about once a week and we LOVE it. And if anyone ever wants to Skype, we would love to talk to you too!
What is the time difference there?
China is all one time zone (crazy, huh?) so the time difference is the same no matter where in the country we go. We are currently 15 hours ahead of California, 14 for Utah/ Idaho, ect... That will change with daylight savings coming up, but we'll figure that out when it comes. But basically you all are about finishing up dinner and getting ready for bed when I'm waking up, and I'm about going to bed when you wake up.
What is the money/exchange rate like?
Money here is called yuan (pronounced yoo-en), and they do just about everything in cash. We even had to pay our 6 months of rent up front, in cash. The exchange rate is about 6.34 yuan to a dollar, so in order to get an idea of how much something is in USD we usually we just divide the price by 6 and know that that is a little more than we are actually paying.
|In case you were thinking about robbing us, we |
already spent it all, suckas.
How much do things cost?
I think the general public thought in the US is that everything in China is super cheap. Well, sometimes that's true, but not for everything. Local food and produce is pretty darn cheap, clothes are pretty cheap, and general home products and common things you find in the store are pretty cheap. Foreign foods and items are usually pretty expensive (i.e. $6 for a bottle of syrup). Luxury electronic items (ipods, cameras, ipads, and other fancy extra stuff) are not cheap. In fact, they compare pretty similarly to US prices, probably even more. But if you don't mind a knockoff, you could probably get a fake for a steal. And you can get a knockoff of just about anything. In fact, if you want to buy a movie, any store you walk into probably has just as many pirated dvds as real ones (or more) and they are all right next to each other on the same shelves for the same price and you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless you knew what to look for. For instance we bought 'The Dark Knight Rises' yesterday. It looked legit and we thought we got a good copy. Then we came home and realized that it is still in theaters and doesn't get released until December. Oops. And movies are one of those really cheap things. As in, it cost the same to buy any movie here as it does to Redbox a movie in the States.
How close are you to the Great Wall/ Terracotta Warriors/Forbidden City?
We're not. To get to any of the most famous Chinese sites will take about 4 or 5 hours on the high-speed train, or about 14 on the regular train. We're hoping to see all these things while we're here, but we have to fit them in on the weekends and short breaks that Spencer has from school so we'll see what we can fit in.
What is your plan for when you get back?
We'll fly back into San Diego sometime in May to pick up our car and spend a couple of days with my family, and then we'll probably drive straight to wherever Spencer's next internship is (with Celanese, the same company he has interned with for the last two summers). We should know where that will be within the next week or two. Because we'll have just come from over 32 hours of traveling we're hoping it'll be somewhere relatively close to California, like Texas. I'm really hoping it's not somewhere on the East coast, like South Carolina. After that summer internship we will go back to BYU in August for Spencer's senior year. And that's the plan.
If you have any other questions, let us know? We love talking about China, so ask away!