We stand out a little bit here. I am a 5'7" brunette, verging on blond, caucasian twenty-something year old girl, and Nate, my boyfriend who has joined me on this adventure is a 6'4" ginger giant. We get stared at a lot, I mean full on, turning around completely as we pass, shameless gawking. I'm pretty oblivious to the world as it is, but Nate notices each and every glance in our direction. It's kind of fun, we make friends everywhere we go as there are not a lot of foreigners living in Jinan. Hopefully when our Mandarin improves we'll be able to have proper conversations.
The picture displayed in this post is of our washing machine. These were the instructions we struggled to follow on our third day here. Luckily we have a wide resource of English speaking Chinese citizens from the school where we are teaching. We ended up calling Lola, a high spirited, bouncy, energetic Chinese teacher from our school who has been assigned with helping us adjust to the Chinese lifestyle. "We need your help, the soaps already in the machine and our shirts for work are in there!" we begged her to come to our rescue despite the late hour. She did, we sent her pictures of the machine and she translated for us. Thanks to Nate and Lola the laundry got done in time!
Another cultural experience we were forced into early on was squat toilets. Fortunately we were provided with an American sit toilet in our apartment, but the school, and everywhere else has squat toilets. I am constantly paranoid at peeing on myself, and if you don't aim right you get this gross splatter spraying out on the floor in front of you. I haven't even thought about braving the squat number 2 yet! The plumbing here is not made for toilet paper, so we've had to get used to throwing out our used paper in a bin beside the toilet. Gross, but not the end of the world. We picked up an air freshener to combat the smell.
Food is also another interesting cultural experience. While the majority of the things we've tried have been delicious, there are certain dishes we try and steer clear of. Unfortunately not all menus have pictures, and very few have English. Sometimes ordering food is like playing the lottery: once we ordered a pancake with fish powder on it instead of chicken! We are trying to be adventurous, but there are some things, like pigs feet, I do not feel the need to taste.
The Jinan culture also consists of loud luggy hacking on the sidewalk, the Jinan roll, where the men roll their shirts up and expose their big bellies, and a non-existence of sarcasm. We've already had some fun with the last one!