Week 2: After 37 years …

Last week I wrote about redefining success. This week, one thing that has struck me is rediscovering ‘Team Neal’. It is 37 years since Raymond and I fell in love (not that anyone is counting). During that time, we have worked together on many things, most notably nurturing and launching four wonderful young adults, and most recently building a house together. So we know each other quite well!

However, one of the unexpected bonuses of our China adventure is that we are (re)discovering and valuing, different things about each other, and ourselves.

We already knew that I tend to be more future focused, intentional, analytical (love those frameworks) and like to make things happen, and Raymond tends to be more living in the moment, responsive, flexible, and intuitive. And we both enjoy problem solving and like to respond to the good and bad that life throws at us by laughing.

What has this meant in China so far? Well it means, and some of you know how hard it is for me to say this, that Raymond is generally coping much better. It turns out that go with the flow, laid backness is brilliant in the first few weeks in a new country.

This was most apparent in the ATM card swallowing incident. When it happened I was upset immediately. Then, when we were told, through Raymond’s Chinese colleague who was with us, that the people who clear the machine came this morning so you will need to come back in two days when they will clear it again, I was even more frustrated and upset, while Raymond remained calm and unphased. Although, my emotive approach had benefits. It meant that I said ‘no, we cannot be without our card for two days’ (maybe not that concisely, certainly not calmly, and shedding a few tears which may have helped). So we only had to wait two hours until they came back from lunch.

Raymond was also more relaxed than I when he found out that he is teaching senior physics (over 20 years’ experience) and senior maths (never done it before), which is good because he is the one who has to do it.

Actually, I can’t think of any time that he has been less relaxed.

He has been wonderful to have around – helping me to react less emotionally, or for a shorter time, and to laugh when things do not go according to plan, and carrying my bag when I am hot and bothered in the heat.

And, in a different way, I have been good to have around too.

I have just organised cable TV so we can watch the Olympics, and something after that.  I found and connected with a kiwi on LinkedIn so we are now part of the kiwis in Chengdu group, which has given us people with whom to watch rugby, and the beginning of my network for job-hunting, and bridge club finding.

My future focused disciplined approach where I started learning Chinese before we arrived has proved useful. I can recognise the metro stations on the map so when we follow the GPS blue dot on our phones as we walk or travel on the bus, I know where we are in relation to things we now know. And I can ask how much things cost, and understand numbers in reply.

Although my over analysis was amusing when we went to the food market last weekend. I was quite distrusting of the vendors and thought, as foreigners, they might try to rip us off. I asked the first vendor how much and heard her say wu (5). Then I noticed her partner entered 11 into the weighing machine. I said ‘wu’ in my ‘don’t rip us off’ tone, pointing to the machine. He pointed indignantly to the machine displaying its 11. So I thought ‘we are not having this’ and went to walk away. Raymond said ‘I don’t mind, I just want to buy these peanuts’ so we did. When the apple woman did the same, I thought ‘she also doubled the price, oh, maybe they quote per 500 grams’, which we have since confirmed they do! In fact, proof of the vendors’ honesty came when Raymond gave several notes, including two 10 kuai notes to the meat seller. She returned all but one note, pointed out that the one in her hand was actually 50 kuai and gave him the correct change as well. One can be too laid back!

In relationships, we are getting to the same place via different routes. We both have strong values about everyone being equally important, and us being the visitors here, so we should try to adapt to the different culture in which we find ourselves.

Raymond applies this by being his friendly, caring and responsive self. He has already crossed the divide on the bus to and from school where teachers and Chinese support staff tend to not sit together. Yesterday, a Chinese colleague chose to sit next to him, and I am sure it is because of Raymond’s earlier safe, friendly interactions with him at school.

Whereas, I follow a more reflective, intentional route (including this blog). I am reading ‘Think like Chinese’ and consciously thinking about how to apply what I am learning in my interactions with locals. For example, the person who is helping us set up internet, cable TV etc appeared to have forgotten to contact the TV company. When messaging him on Wechat, I tried to recognise the importance in Chinese culture of mianzi (face), by acknowledging that he might have been busy after the storm, and not had time to get to my request, rather than just saying ‘what is happening’ like I might in NZ. And, as I think about my job hunting approach, I have been reflecting on guanxi (connectedness), and what that might mean when networking with Chinese or kiwis who have lived here for a long time.

As an aside, because it is happening as I write, today’s success/problem to solve has been communicating with the TV installation guy and then getting my head around our options once installed. For transmitted TV, we can watch a small number of channels in English, many channels in Chinese, including some instantly recognisable as soap operas and game shows, Sherlock Holmes dubbed in Chinese (Benedict Cumberpatch just doesn’t seem the same), and the news channel which will be part of my language learning programme. We also have various things ‘on demand’ – recent sports events (such as UEFA, NBA, Wimbledon) cartoons and movies, with some of the latter in English with Chinese subtitles. But the on demand menu and sub categories are all in Chinese, so take a bit of clicking and deciphering. I got excited about a Rio 2016 option but it seems to be some promotional video for the city. And I have no idea how we know anything will be showing before we click on it. No clear Olympics channel, a bit on the news as you can see below. Not a kiwi in sight. So, what is happening for rugby and rowing?

So here at Team Neal (尼尔团队 (I think)), we continue to benefit from being with each other, in our 38th year, in a more intense, illuminating bubble – and we are having many laughs on the way.


4 thoughts on “Week 2: After 37 years …”

  1. Enjoying your blog – there is nothing like a “shared experience” to draw a couple closer! I pray that it may continue for you and that God will give you lots of patience!


  2. Terry – another good blog.
    I am having bridge lessons at the moment – so me being out of my comfort zone seems very mild to your experience.
    The view from your front door is slowly changing – with the new building – will post a photo on the Sue Dow facebook page.
    Look forward to your next blog


  3. Thanks. I think it is wonderful that you are learning bridge – I look forward to playing with you when we return, or online before then. I am still looking for a bridge club to join here. Some progress, although the feedback from the researcher contact of the kiwi helping me out was ‘there are a lot of old people’ – not sure if that means I am or am not eligible!


    1. We had Sue Dow drinks this afternoon to welcome the hint of spring – it was one of those special days with no wind and lots of sun. Yours and Raymonds absence was noted.

      Chris and Kim are having “window” issues with their house. Kevin and Denys arrived without Marica and Awatea. Bob and Sue plus Ashog and Jasvinder have both returned from seperate holidays and are well.

      The view from your front door is changing – the neighbours have started the block walls.

      Kindest requests from Aotea



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