China- First Impressions

Sand sculpture in the middle of the main shopping square in Ningbo

As an initial first impression, I must say I am pleasantly surprised by China. Given, we are living in the nicest hotel we have ever lived in since we started traveling, and we’re in a big city with lots of stuff to do. First of all, it is very hot and humid right now. I finally found some people who spoke good English and wanted to talk to me, and they were telling me that it is unseasonably hot this year. Yay for pregnant me! Because of the humidity, it doesn’t really cool off much at night, but being kind of close to the sea means that breezes to come through and give some relief. On the hottest days, though, Landon and I can’t be outside for more than an hour before we are soaked with sweat and overheated.

It is green here! It rains a few times a week, and that keeps the trees, flowers, grasses and shrubs all looking great. I’ve decided that I absolutely love the look of Asian gardens. There are several parks close to our hotel and I love the landscaping style that they use. It is organized, but not to the point of looking too neat and sterile. The gardens still look a little wild.

Playing with an alligator near
Tianyi Square

 I also very much appreciate the emphasis on toilets. There are signs EVERYWHERE pointing to the nearest toilet. That is much appreciated by this pregnant lady. There are toilet attendants but I think they just clean and sell toilet paper (it’s definitely BYOTP otherwise). Depending on the location, there are either normal toilets or squatters. I’m sure the squatters will get much harder as I get further along in my pregnancy, so I’ll have to memorize the nicer full size toilet restrooms. Experienced China dwellers- am I missing something written in Chinese telling me to pay just to use the toilet?

The people are very nice one on one. I’ve had many people approach and politely ask to take pictures, or just ask us where we are from, how old Landon is, etc. Very few people speak any English here, so when I come across someone who does, it is a great day! I was expecting Landon to be mobbed by people all the time because of his blonde hair, because when we were in Korea, we were mobbed by Chinese tourists all the time! It must be a vacation thing, because it has not happened yet! We were warned about being assertive in lines/public places, and that has definitely come true. It all started on the airplane to Beijing (mostly full of Chinese people) when we were in line for the airplane bathroom. We were clearly in line, but Landon wandered a few feet away from the bathrooms and in the time that I grabbed him and headed for the bathroom, two more people had already taken the vacant restrooms. Fast food lines with the stroller are the worst, because people just assume because I have the stroller in front of me that I’m not in line? Or they just cut in front and squeeze in to get in ahead of me. It’s quite annoying but I’m sure they don’t mean to offend me. It is just frustrating to wait longer than I need to when I’m trying to wrestle a very contrary, active toddler and get food. Landon actually ran away the other day out of the restaurant and down the street while I was trying to pay for our lunch. He must have an army of guardian angels watching out for him to keep him safe!

Tianyi Square, Ningbo

China is modern. I’m not sure what I was expecting in this area. There are cell phone shops all over with the latest smart phones. The buildings around town light up beautifully at night. There are more street sweepers here than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. Everything, for the most part, is clean. Ningbo is full of high rise apartments and stores. China compares well with Korea in this area, in my opinion. The traffic signals are awesome here. There are automatic walk signs on every stop light, and a countdown not just for the pedestrians, but for the cars as well to the time the light is going to turn! No excuses for red light running here! The red lights even count down before they turn green. Why is this technology not on American stoplights? I’m not really sure…There are more cars on the roads than scooters, and all the scooters are electric. Austin is freaked out by this because we can’t hear them coming up behind us.

While we are on the topic of scooters, people have some pretty awesome scooter accessories I just have not seen anywhere else yet. Many people have oven mitts, boxing gloves, or other large, bulky gloves that attach onto the handle bars. I’m guessing this is to protect the hands from the sun, or bugs, or road debris? Others wear a jacket, poncho, or plain cotton shirt backwards to protect their clothes while scootering around town. There are special scooter lanes, but scooters seem to be able to go wherever they want- on the sidewalks, in the car lanes, cross the road with cars or with pedestrians- anything goes. Of course, no one on bikes or scooters are wearing helmets, and I find it miraculous that there are not more accidents! Landon and I definitely watch out for those scooters!

Old gate marking entrance into historic building area, Ningbo

In the city we are staying in, there are many food options and breakfast and dinner are provided at the hotel, so we haven’t had to venture out to local restaurants very much yet. I’ve very much enjoyed most of the Chinese food I’ve tried at the restaurant, and we went out for Korean BBQ and that was also fantastic. We found peanut butter at the store (hooray!) and so our lunches are pretty much taken care of. The pitted fruits are in season right now and really yummy. In sum, we are not going to starve while we are in China. We have even found McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC if we are craving a taste of junky American food. There are ice cream parlors, tons of Starbucks shops, and even a waffle place close to our hotel. I’m sure we will try all of them at some point while we are here.

More sand sculptures and Ningbo skyline, Tianyi Square

On a more personal note, I am of the opinion that jet lag + toddler= WORST THING EVER. As Landon gets older, it only seems to get worse and worse. When he was younger, he just slept a lot and eventually changed over. This time, he just woke up at weird times, wouldn’t sleep, and was extremely irritable and irrational. My jet lag was also horrible because I was already exhausted at the end of every day dealing with Landon + being pregnant, and with jet lag on top of that, I was falling asleep while going through pictures at 8 pm! It seems like we are finally getting on a good schedule, though, more than a week later! I felt like I tried to do all the right things- I limited Landon’s naps, tried to get him to stay up to his normal bed time, but without fail he was waking up between 4-5 am! I guess we need more practice traveling before we have everything figured out…

I think this assignment is China is going to be great for us. We are right in the middle of downtown and so Landon and I can walk to most places easily. We are enjoying the views from our 31st story suite, and the yummy food in the lounge, which is a lifesaver because I don’t have the energy to attempt to go out to eat with a toddler every night! There is a hospital in the city that I can go to for my prenatal check-ups, so we don’t have to travel for that. 

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