(continuation of my testimoney from last publication)
It was on Sunday the 3rd September 2006, I finally sat in Une's van ready to go to the airport. I spent the night at Une’s apartment. Bro Une drove me to the airport. He asked me what I was taking with me as a memory to remember PNG. I said “nothing”. He bought me a small PNG flag and said, “When you miss home and PNG, see this flag.” There were some of my friends and relatives like aunt Yakale, her son Luke came to see me off at the airport. We said good byes and hugged.
At 15:10, I finally left POM Jackson's Airport to Sydney on my way to China. I was the only PNG student heading for China. All my other country mates who were also under the Chinese Gov Scholarship left on Friday, two days earlier. As I have mentioned earlier in last update, my flight was scheduled on Sunday. The next day, I was supposed to fly from Sydney to Beijing, China (via Shanghai).
I boarded the plane (Flight QF 352) to Sydney that afternoon. I met lots of smiling faces heading down to Australia. No wonder, nobody was in the flight heading to China except me. I sat down in a seat next to the window. Well, it was my first time flying out of my country. I have got 150 Australian Dollars in my pocket and that was all I had.
After about an hour or two later, we arrived in Brisbane. Some passengers were offloaded and we were on our way to Sydney. It was quite a long flight from Brisbane to Sydney. While we were still up in the air, I decided to move to another seat next to a fellow country man was. His name was Bruno Wulal and he works with Air Niugini. He was going to Sydney for a short course. I told my entire story to him and because of his kindness and generosity; he decided to accommodate me in his hotel room for the night. My concerns of accommodations and food in Sydney were all taken cared of that night. I thank God for Bruno. Lord will bless him always.
The next day was Monday. Bruno was picked up by his training guide on a white van at 8am. My flight to China was scheduled at 11.20 am. I asked the hotel workers how to get to the Sydney International Airport. They were kind enough to allow me to get on their hotel bus to the airport. Upon my arrival at the terminal, I wanted to check in. Remember, I was a first timer and was by myself. Fortunately, though the terminal was quite big and busy, I was able to locate where I was supposed to check in. A slim and tall Asian-white mix race girl collected my ticket at the check in counter and gave me the boarding pass and wished me good luck with a smile. I smiled back and said thank you. I ended up at the waiting room to be boarded. Many Chinese were there and some even do not speak English. I boarded with all those Chinese with some Australian students on a study exchange program on flight CA 178, China Airlines. When the time struck at 11.20am, the engine of the plane could not start. We waited for two hours on the plane at the airport. The airhostess made the announcement that the plane was experiencing a mechanical problem.
The China Airlines booked a hotel in Sydney for all the passengers and that was my second night in Sydney in a room of my own and my meals were again taken cared of. Not surprisingly, I was missing my mum. I picked up the phone and tried to dial the numbers here and there and finally the signal was connected to home. I talked for a while and also made some calls to couple of friends back at home. Remember, nothing is free. When I wanted to check out the next morning, a bill came to my room with A$99. I paid the price of dialing the numbers that night and I was finally left with A$51.
The hotel buses made several rounds trips to pick up passengers to the airport and we were finally on the board ready to take off at 11.20am. This time, it was the same plane but the mechanical problem had been solved.
We were up in the air for about eight hours and finally arrived in Shanghai at 8pm. We stayed there for about 30 minutes and made our way to Beijing at 10pm. I looked around at the Beijing airport terminal only to found out that no one was there to pick me up. I was not surprised by that because my flight was delayed by a day. I tried every means that night to make my way out of the terminal but all efforts were in vain. I put my hand bag on the hard chair at the terminal and was snoring away while Chinese security guards and travelers were throwing their eyes on me. .
Next morning was Wednesday. I was expecting someone to turn up for my aid with my name written on a box card. Unfortunately, none turned up. I did not feel hungry. My concern was to get out of the terminal. I went to the information desk several times for help but all attempts were of no gain. It was now 10am that morning. Different travelers were throwing their eyes on me. I stood there helplessly at the terminal. I went to a corner and wanted to pray but tears started to flow. I could not stop it.
After wiping my tears, I went to the information desk again. I showed the information desk officer about the place that I supposed to go. The place was Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). That was supposed to be my transit point to go to Shenyang where I live now. The officer told me that BLCU was quite far from the airport. It would cost me about U$100 by taxi. Some taxi drivers wanted to take me to BLCU only if I had to pay them 500 Yuan. I decided not to risk my life because I had only A$51. With this, I bought a telephone card with A$5. I managed to call back to the Chinese Embassy in my country. The Scholarship officer said, he could not help me. Oh! What an unfortunate guy!
Believe it or not, after I shed tears, I had total peace in my heart. I knew from deep within my heart that the time to get out of that terminal has finally come. I still did not know how I would get out but I had peace in my heart. I asked the officer at the information desk if she had a Telephone Directory. Well, to my surprise she did not have. She gave me a folder containing some handouts with some telephone numbers. I roll over through the papers and found PNG’s China Embassy. I gave 5 Yuan to a taxi driver who had a mobile on his hand. I dialed the embassy numbers and finally I was connected. I talked with a lady at the embassy and explained everything to her. She told me to giver her 15 to 20 minutes. That was it! At 11.15am, a Good Samaritan from the embassy Ms Liza Gabina turned up with her driver. Wow, finally I left the place where the hard chairs were my bed for that night. I do not want to spend the night again on those.
Thomas from Tanzania and I enjoying Chinese hot pot. They call it "huo guo". This is the most favorite dish for Chinese people especially the northern part of China. I like it too. There are two sections in the dish above. One section has got spicy and the other is just plain water. After both sides boiled, the sliced meat and vegetables are put inside and taken out to eat after 2 or 3 minutes.
From BLCU to Shenyang
Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) was my home for three nights. On Sunday (10 Sept) evening at 6pm, I was heading towards the Beijing train station on my way to Shenyang. Shenyang is a city where my University is located. With me were other African students who are also trying to go the Shenyang but to different Universities. We were all on a BLCU bus. Most of these African students were girls. When ladies move around, they travel with “their houses”. They had so many things to carry and those were so heavy. I had a small hand bag so I decided to help them carry two heaviest suitcases. It is very important to note that when traveling to a place you do not know and for the first time, you should take small and light bag with you. These girls cried when they were carrying their stuff from the bus station to the train station.
We ended up sitting on a train heading to Shenyang. The next day was Monday and we finally arrived in Shenyang at 7.30am. The African students were then welcomed by the people from their University who were waiting for them at the Train Station. Unfortunately, no one turned up at the station to welcome me. Am I going to sleep again on the hard chair at the train station as I did at Beijing International Airport?
I had a Chinese friend whom I met on the train. His name was Wang. In fact he was sleeping opposite to me on the sleeper on the train. Except “hello’, ‘friend’, ‘ok’ and ‘good’, he can not speak other English words. While I was stranded there at the station, Wang came to me and said ‘hello friend’. I showed him my acceptance letter from my University. It was written in Chinese so he understood where I was going. He made body actions to me to follow him. We got onto a taxi and he started telling the driver where we were going. After 20 minutes later, we got off from the taxi at a gate and that’s the south gate of my University. He started to ask some students on the campus in their language. No wonder, I knew that he was asking for foreign students’ office. We went to a building and now I can read some English word written as ‘Foreign Students’ Department’. I hugged friend Wang and said thanks and good bye. I went to the office and asked them why they did not come to the station to pick me up. They had arrived at the train station at 7am and left early when they found out that no one was there. The train was late for 30 minutes.
The foreign students’ officer Mr. Li gave me the door key for the room number 305 on the 3rd floor of the office building. The offices were on the ground floor (1st floor in Chinese), 2nd and 3rd were dormitory rooms and 4th floor had classrooms. The time was 8.10 am. Mr. Li told me to have bath and rest that day. I really wanted to attend my first Chinese Language class because I was late for a week. Mr. Li gave me some Chinese language text books and I went in late to the class. All the eyes in the classroom were on me as when I opened the door and sat on the last chair at the back. After 30 minutes, I found myself that I was sleeping away. There were students from Yemen, Afghanistan, America, Central Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Namibia to name a few.
Life In China
I usually send them emails to meet me at a certain place every Sunday morning. You can see the small blue "Gideon" right ontop of their heards
My first two weeks in Shenyang were very humiliating. Locals looked at me as if they have never seen a person like me before. From the tip of my hair to the soul of my shoes, all of me was counted. My trousers and shirts were screened in every detail. It seemed as if I just arrived from Mars. I locked myself inside my room to prevent myself from getting hurt feelings. Even the students on my campus seemed not knowledgeable. It was indeed a frustrating thing to see them staring so strong at me.
After 3 weeks, I talked to myself. I would be staying here in the midst of these people for next 2 to 3 years. I would rather expose myself and get some experiences than to sit in my room and attend classes in the same building. This time, I paid no notice to the people who were staring at me. I minded my on businesses. As time goes on, I was accustomed to the environment and when people stared at me, I began to do some actions and they smiled.
Generally Chinese are friendly people. First able, Americans and British are smart in the minds of most Chinese. When they see a Black or Brown person, they see it with different perspective; not smart, poor and poverty. However, how you act in front of them and give them impression is the most important thing. The way you speak your English, your dressings and the way you act will whether confirm or change their perspectives.
One way to learn their language is to make friends with the people. Chinese people especially students like to practice their English. They sometimes want to make friends with foreigners who can speak Standard English. They will not only help you to improve in your Chinese language but also they can help you when you are confronted a problem. A friend close is better than a family member far away.
Well, you may believe it or not, I have made more than 5000 Chinese friends in Shenyang for the last 2 years. I can now speak Chinese more or less like that of a Chinese person. I do not know much Chinese words since I am still learning, but the little that I know; I can to speak the way they speak. I have decided to have time for my friends, be patient with them, respect their culture, invite them to church, do not criticize their government or their famous people and live the way they live. When you are in Romans, do what Romans do.
When I began to do that, I was accepted into their society. My friends would introduce to me teaching jobs and apart from my studies I could make a living. A friend introduced my current job to me with a multi-million dollar company which I am enjoying it. Sometimes, it’s not what or how much you know, but your character and attitude will paint a picture of not only who you are but also the country you come from.
My first Major class
After a year of my Chinese Language studies, I was getting ready for my major classes. I chose 9 subjects in total for the first semester. My first class begun on Monday, the 10th of September, 2007 from 6pm to 9pm. It was a Matrix class. I was the only foreigner among 100 plus Chinese students who were doing their Masters program as well. Guess what I was doing. I was like a cat watching a Television Program. I could not understand what the lecturer was lecturing but just heard the voice of their language and watched the actions. I felt so embarrassed but pretended I would understand. It went on like that for the first three months. During those times, I was making lot of friends and they were willing to come and help me on my language problem. I made a schedule for them to come and help me 3 times a day. After a couple of months later, I was beginning to understand and finally sat for the exams. I was told to write my exams both in English and Chinese. I had a computer with a translation program installed and it really helped me a lot to translate Chinese into English to understand when friends were not around.
The weather in the North of China is different than that of the places in the south. The four seasons are experienced in the north. From mid November to February is winter when the snow falls and this time is freezing. The spring period is from March to May and this time, the snows started to melt. It’s also cold at this period. Summer is from June to September and autumn is from to October to Mid November.
During the winter and spring, I was getting cold. It was terrible. I did not even want to get up from my bed and go for class. They advised me to wear lots of clothes and drink a lot of hot water. The temperature went down well below negative 25 to negative 30 degree Celsius. It was like living and moving in a deep freeze.
People are always busy and crowded even in the buses from 6 am to 11 pm everywhere in China. One time, I decided to get on a bus to go to a shopping center. It was in the afternoon. The bus was so crowded that not even a single place remained. I could not feel someone was cutting my back pocket of my trousers with a very sharp razor and took away my purse with 120 Yuan inside. When I arrived at the shopping center, I found out that my purse was gone. Fortunately, I did not keep my bank card in that purse. They advised me to put my purse or bank card in my front shirt or coat pocket.
I have come to realize that 100 Yuan is not enough to keep you on for 3 days. One hundred was a big figure but when I used the money, it’s gone so fast without any trace. Food stuff in Shenyang is quite cheap than other places in China but the minimum prices for clothes and other things are 120 Yuan. Spending money wisely will sustain you to live in China without living on borrowed money.
Studying Chinese language was another burden to me. To remember the words was no problem but I found myself lost when I try to remember the four tones of each word and their corresponding characters. It was indeed a head aching to memorize all of them. Our Teachers told us that if we could remember more than 1000 words, we could about to speak and travel to places by ourselves. To make even things so complicated, all our Chinese teachers could not speak English. Though some teachers might speak English but there was a policy that does not allow teachers to speak English when they teach Chinese to the foreigners. It was a challenge and I like facing challenges.
Apart from learning Chinese Language and my major of studies, I learnt many things in the short period that I have been in China. I learnt how to work with diligent. Poet Tawali Kumalau one time said, ‘laziness kills economy’. China’s economy is growing at an unprecedented rate not because it’s a big country with a people of 1.3 billion. It’s because Chinese people know how to work with diligent.
I also learnt that; though many Chinese people do not believe in the God of love, blessings and prosperity but they preach and practice love. When it comes to love; they love their country, people and family members. They all want to prosper. They hate cursing. Somehow they believe that they might become exactly what the words of other people say about their life. Chinese people are unified and they practice and maintain teamwork.
Tourism is the main source of income for most people. People are creative and they find ways to make money. They will make even a small hill or a lake so beautiful and put a fence around them and collect money at the gate. Just for a day, more than 10, 000 people visit such places. Mobile network coverage is linked to the mountains and forests where tourists can visit them.
Living in China is an opportunity for me and I do not regret choosing China. Though my travel to China at first was difficult and tackling the difficultness of the language but my tears and efforts were paid off. I am enjoying the friendliness of the people not only in my campus but also at my work place and places in Shenyang. I love to visit some historical sites and famous places. I hope that I will be a valuable asset to my country with these expertise and experiences to help my people.
Lord bless you!