Date registered: April 19, 2011
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The most ridiculous stories I've ever heard in my life are about friends and wisdom teeth in Chengdu. Unfortunately I don't know what dentists they went to, so I can't be of much help for what places to stay away from.
My first recommendation, which seems to be the general consensus of everyone I've spoken to, seems to be to go back home.
My second recommendation: Unless you have insurance, dental work is ridiculous in America. How about flying over to South Korea? A direct flight from Chengdu to Seoul is about 3 hours and less than 2000rmb round trip. That already beats the cost of the ticket to go back home. Hotels are expensive, but you can find apartments for daily or weekly rentals that are reasonably priced on sites like wimdu.com.
Awesome thread idea! Wish it was here two years ago.
Shampoo and Conditioner:
When I first came to China, my blonde hair became dry and brittle for the first time in my life. I can't think of what could be the cause except for the hard water in the taps. I've tried many brands, ranging from the Chinese knock-offs of Dove and Pantene to the foreign brands available in Ito Yokado and Metro. The only thing that's proven helpful has been the Shiseido Tsubaki line. I first used the intense damage repair (white bottle), then switched to the yellow version (normal moisturizer) and am now using the red (intense moisturizer). It's important to note that the ones sold at Watsons are made in China, whereas the bottles sold in Metro are imported from Japan. There's a big difference in the quality of the two. I had mistakenly bought the ones at Watsons thinking they were the same, and wound up having to throw it out once a single use dried out my hair.
I haven't sampled many of the Chinese brands, since I brought a lot from back home to last me a while. I have heard that a number of companies used high levels of bleach in their products and are comedogenic. Since I have sensitive skin, I freaked when my supply ran out and after a few months of skin-related hell, I started to use Limi Girl which has been my savior.
Minimized skin troubles, no clogged pores, smooth skin, and perfectly moisturizing for my skin type. I personally recommend the Honey Sweet line for winter (some of the products contain Royal Jelly which is a great way to keep your skin from becoming too dry if you have to drive a scooter in winter), and the Peach line for summer (moisturizing without being overkill). They have a great wash-off mask made from rose water which contains actual rose petals. Smells like heaven!
Tried a few brands, but overall it seems like the large 20rmb bottle from Ikea is not only the best deal, but good quality.
Nail Polish remover:
Every single brand I have tried has been the same. You need to use a lot of elbow grease and rub fiercely to see any results.
I've always liked the Korean brand Skin Food, but it's so much more expensive here. I recommend their Cucumber face mask and hand lotions.
You could get a bartending job but you might not be paid much. At the bar I used to work at, the Thai bartender was paid the same as the Chinese staff whereas the Africans and Caucasians made significantly more. A Chinese bartender makes nowhere near the amount a NYC bartender does. As a DJ, you would definitely make more. Also, students are not allowed to work at entertainment venues so if the school or police ever found out, that would give you a lot of headache. Don't forget you also need to be in class by 9am the next morning.
As far as teaching English goes, that would have to rely on your luck. If you speak in a standard American accent, you have a better chance but it's still, sadly, limited because of your appearance. At the places I used to work at, American-born Chinese were often turned down for teaching jobs because they "didn't look like they could speak English". I had an African American friend and a Persian friend who grew up in America and both had trouble finding teaching jobs despite English being their first language. After some self-advertising online, they found some private students they could home tutor.
Have you thought of teaching Thai? The market might not be as big as the one for English, but there must be students interested in studying.
Also a note that not everyone follows but you should still be aware of - students aren't legally allowed to work over 15 hours at a business and first have to be given permission to work at all by the school. This doesn't include private tutoring, which you don't need permission for.
Also, look into grants from the Thai government. It seems like a lot of the Thai students I've met have scholarships.
Make sure you check Chengdu's AQI before going out for a run:
Some days are more polluted than others, especially after it rains.
I used to be a regular outdoor runner in America, but noticed I can't keep up the same pace when running outdoors in China. My chest begins to feel heavy and I just start to feel like crap after two weeks.
You can enter a university and look at the campus map posted by the entrance. It should tell you where the track field is. I prefer finding a small park and jogging there. The scenery is nice, the trees provide a cool area, the air is fresher, and it's peaceful.
Thanks for the heads up. I wouldn't have imagined this sort of situation to arise at a restaurant. Did you leave your table at anytime during your meal or do you suspect that a waiter put something in your drink?
Also, it's not just men you have to be careful of. Once I went to a sit-down bar with my friends. A Chinese girl from a neighboring table offered me a glass of tea that I drank while we were chatting. About 40 minutes after that, I had passed out and had to be taken home by my friends. I only had a beer, which I opened myself, and that tea. I spent the next day trying to get over a heavy groggy and dizzy feeling. Couldn't remember anything from after that cup of tea.
At the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (西南财经大学) most of the students are 20-30, somewhere in that age range. But we do have a lot of older students, especially from South Korea, who are 45-65. Classes are predominantly made up of Thais, Koreans, Europeans, and North Americans but there are people from all over the world here. Each class has a good mix of cultural backgrounds and age groups, which is nice.
I went to China Post today and shipped a 694g box to the US for 116rmb. They only offered me the option of airmail and said I couldn't have the box insured. I had also already packed my box with care, but didn't tape it up. When I got there, the attendant dumped all the contents out onto the table (literally turned the box upside down), threw away my box, examined the items, and then shoved everything into a new box without the slightest bit of care. Say whhaaat. I told him to be careful and allow me to repack the box, but he said he had to do it himself.
So my questions:
1) Can you not insure your packages?
2) Really? Only airmail?
3) Can you not use your own box? Is there a fee for using their box?
4) Should I try another China Post next time, or is this customary service?
5) Can anyone recommend other mailing services that are in the same price range?
Thanks a lot.
I've always found the pharmacists in my local pharmacy to be very helpful and informative. Whenever I come in sick or with a problem and describe to them my symptoms, the Chinese medicine they recommend is always what I need.
Try your local pharmacy. If they seem to be unhelpful or knowledgeable, then you can always try one of the other five or so bound to be within walking distance.
My experience from January 2012:
If you arrive without passport photos or your photos are too small, never fear, for right in front of the hospital is a security guard who will take your picture and print them out. 4 pictures for 20rmb. I heard you only needed 2 pictures, so I brought 2, but the registration lady demanded 3 so I had to get some taken. I guess it depends on the registration lady.
Go EARLY in the morning, as it will be crowded. From what I remember seeing on a sign, there is a cut-off time to accept patients for physical exams (but I forgot what time).
From what I was told, you can only go to the hospital in Tongzilin to receive a qualified physical exam for your visa.
1) As you walk in the main entrance, stop by the booth on the right to get your paperwork. It's in Chinese and English. You'll fill this out, attach your passport photos, and wait to turn it in. Then you'll go to another counter to register, and finally another counter to pay. The papers they give you are in English and tell you what tests you have to do and where to go. I started on the 3rd floor and went down. From what I recall, my experience went like this:
3rd floor: Wait in line for urine cup. Wait in line to pee. Wait in line (with warm urine cup in hand) to turn in urine cup. Wait in line for blood test.
2nd floor: In no particular order - eye exam, weight and height recorded as well as skin check (the doctor had me lay down and lift up my shirt and looked at my stomach, but didn't pay attention to my arms or legs or feet), scan with ultrasound (they have you lift up your shirt, smear on some cold gel, and do an ultrasound), some other test where they attach wires to your chest and stomach (nothing painful). It was on the 2nd floor while we were waiting in line that a passing doctor noticed my friend and I, and told us in English to go to a special room for our skin check. There was no line to wait in and the doctor spoke good English.
1st floor: Chest x-ray. You're required to remove your shirt and bra. Women are given a special shirt to put on behind a screen with other women.
Turn in your paperwork and get a free milk box to drink. They then give you a receipt and tell you when you can come back and get the results, but I told them I needed it the same day. They then stamped my paperwork, gave me another receipt, and said to come back after 4:30pm. No extra fee for us. We went and ate some pizza and walked around, then picked up our paperwork without a problem.
It took my friend and I two hours to complete the process, as we got there around 11am. I heard if you arrive earlier, it takes less than an hour.
*Words of advice: Go early. Wear shoes and shirts that can be easily taken off. Bring at least THREE passport photos and your passport. Bonus points for bringing wet wipes to use after you pee in the cup, because the bathrooms didn't have soap and my stall handle had pee on it.
An electric heating pad you can place under your bed sheets will keep you nice and toasty at night. As for during the day, wear layers of comfortable winter clothes inside, buy an electric hot water bottle, and if necessary, buy a portable heater. I also bought a pair of USB-powered house shoes that keep my feet warm while I'm surfing the net, haha. I've been able to survive the winter here for two years without fuss and I'm from Florida.
My first encounter of a squat toilet was after getting off the plane in Chengdu two years ago. A Thai friend had picked me up from the airport, and I mentioned I had to use the bathroom. I remember pushing open the stall door and letting out a tired and disbelieving "Reallllyyyyy?" at the sight of it.
"Ohhh, you know how to use it?"
"No, I mean, yeah. I mean, I can figure it out. Probably."
"Ohh, well if you pee on your foot I have a wet wipe."
"Okay. Wait, what?"
I remember my mental struggle of 'Well, do I squat facing the wall or facing the door? Can I even get down that low? Why the hell am I wearing high heels? How do I hold the bottom of my dress while holding my toilet paper and my bag at the same time? What the hell, is that menstrual blood on the floor? I am going to throw away my shoes after this. Why don't people flush their toilet paper? Oh bloody hell, I just pissed on my foot! Why are there two buttons to flush the toilet?'
Being drunk and using them has been an experience. I've almost slipped on a few occasions but managed to save myself. I've had Chinese friends who I have, on several occasions, had to help go to the bathroom (either due to needing help with their clothes or just being too intoxicated to trust by themselves) and I've witnessed people fall over into them, step into them, or pee on the floor and then slip and fall over into them. I haven't seem anyone vomit into a squat toilet, but that must be interesting to do.
What the hell is with some bathrooms where the squat toilet is a few inches from the shower head? Once or twice I've stepped back while showering and stepped into it.
I remember overhearing in a bank once how Western toilets are so unsanitary. Bullshit. When I use a public Western toilet, I also squat to use the bathroom but I don't have to squat in a way I worry about where my stream of piss is going. I also didn't know what stale urine smelled like until I went into a squat toilet stall. After my first squat toilet experience, I suddenly realized why people took off their shoes before entering their homes.
Much agreed. I used to stop by and eat their chicken fajita sandwich all the time because it's actually pretty delicious and it was inexpensive. Tex Mex was my go-to restaurant for whenever I couldn't decide what to eat whenever I wanted a taste of home. However with the increase in price, I might as well go to Bookworm and get something a little nicer to eat for the price.
The campus gate nearest the dorms closes at 11:00-11:30pm and is easy to climb. Regarding the dorms themselves, the newer dormitory stays open 24/7 while the older dormitory (currently being remodeled- the 500rmb one) has another gate that gets locked during the night. I don't know about the ease of jumping it.
I'm deciding if I want to buy a rabbit to keep me company. Everyday on my walk home I pass by the usual street side pet vendor selling baby rabbits in cages that barely contain their bodies. As much as I would like to adopt one of them, I can't help but worry about their current state of health. I doubt they have been bred for temperament and DNA variety so much as a quick turnover to make money. There is also the problem with adopting bunnies who have already been living in high stress environments and then trying to adapt them to a loving environment.
So my main question is this. Does anyone know of decent pet stores who do not overprice their animals for foreigners? For those of you with animals, where do you buy your fresh hay and food pellets?
I have avoided going to the Qingshiqiao outdoor pet market for some time, but they must sell pet supplies right? Can anyone give me reviews of the place? Is it full of heartache? (I'm a big baby when it comes to animals.)
Or, on a different note, if anyone has a rabbit that has recently had babies, I'd be happy to buy one from you!
Of course you can cook in your rooms. I do it regularly and don't find it inconvenient. If you ever make friends with any of the many Thai kids (who are all great cooks, by the way) they cook just about every night in their rooms. If you're going to be here for 2 years, I recommend buying an electric burner that you plug into the wall. They're small and pretty convenient, and can even be taken back with you to the states. You can buy a decent one for around $15. Also, the dorms have a handful of mini-fridges but they've all been claimed by other long-term students. If you're wanting one, your best bet is to buy a new one for around $100 instead of waiting for one of the long-term students to leave. The ones at the school are really old and the freezer partition frequently needs to be defrosted, which is a pain.
The kitchen isn't so much of a kitchen as it is a preparation area. There is a large fridge, but it's usually filled to the brim with stuff so you can't always count on there being room for your groceries. There is no stove top or oven in the kitchen, either. But there is a microwave.
I also recommend getting a water dispenser. It's cheaper than buying water bottles every day. You can get a 5 gallon water jug for $1.50, whereas a small bottle of water is $0.30. I haven't heard of many people who take the time to boil their own water, but I guess you can. Also, most water dispensers do not dispense cold water however they do provide near-boiling hot water which is useful for quickly making tea or coffee.
And actually, you'll find out later in your stay that cooking for yourself is actually cheaper than eating out and of course you'll be more happier with the quality if you're cooking your own food. But like cooking in any country, it's just a matter if you want to take the time to make your own food. If I eat out everyday 3x a day eating whatever I want, I spend around 1100kuai a month. If I cook for myself everyday I spend about 600 a month. If you know how to bargain shop and get used to the stores, you'll know who has what for cheaper prices, where to get the best and cheapest produce, what times of day to buy the freshest meat, and so on.
It would be a pity if you didn't at least try the different foods available from the roadside stalls. A lot of them are really good, it's just that they shouldn't be eaten every single day just like you shouldn't eat fast food every day.
About the internet, the school has its own internet service that I think was around 150kuai a year. It's very, very slow. (About like dial-up) However you can use an off-campus internet service that's 70kuai a month that's much faster. About VPN's, I use either my college's vpn service (which is free but unreliable and slow) or StrongVPN. I've used StrongVPN for over a year and, while they are $10 a month, I have found them to be the most reliable, fastest, and customer-friendly VPN service I've tried. There are some free VPN services online but I'm not familiar with them.
You are first assigned a room, but if you don't like it you can switch. Like I said, I wouldn't live on the first floor!
Ai Zhe Xi, if your air conditioner doesn't work you can tell the 服务员. I told them yesterday that my air conditioner wasn't as cold as usual and they fixed it this morning. About the screens, most rooms on the first floor have theirs removed for some reason. If you're planning on staying here next semester what you can do is when all the other Florida students go home, see who has a screen in their bathroom and take theirs.
I'm not sure I agree with a lot of the things Ai Zhe Xi says in terms of food. Yes, Chengdu is in Sichuan and is famous for its spicy food. But that doesn't mean you can only find lava to eat here. I for one never ate anything spicier than tobacco sauce until I came. It took me about 3 months to adjust to where I could eat the majority of the dishes served in restaurants, but in those 3 months I was able to find a variety of food to fill my stomach. Eating just rice and water for weeks? That's starvation. Unable to find protein aside from shao kao? That's ridiculous. There is a plethora of dishes and restaurants to choose from. You probably just never asked any of the many other foreign students to help you order. I could have taken you to several places in the vicinity that offer healthy and delicious non-spicy (Hong Kong style) food.
And yes, you will most likely have traveler's diarrhea. Bring some pepto-bismol and take it easy the first few weeks you're here. Don't start experimenting with a lot of the stranger cuisines until you can handle the basics. This is just something normal that comes with going abroad.
And about the plane ticket, you don't need to buy a return ticket before coming to China. No problem~
msinglynx, you should be able to move into the dorms whenever you want. The school usually encourages you to come early to get used to the scenery. I happen to know as a fact right now the original dorms have single and double rooms available on the second floor, and after the beginning of August a lot of rooms open up when the summer program ends and students go back home.
Dominik, the classes at SWUFE are from 9:00am-12:00pm (or 12:30 depending on how much your teacher likes to talk) Monday-Friday. While there is no doubt that private tutoring would be more beneficial than a classroom setting in some aspects, are you wanting to study Chinese 6 hours a day? As for accommodation, I can't be of much help. When I first stayed at SWUFE I lived on campus but last semester I moved into an apartment off campus that was a 10 minute walk from class. I found that I missed the lively atmosphere of the dorm (which is strange because I hate dorms) and have recently moved back on campus. I remember paying 1600rmb/month for my 2 bedroom 1 bathroom fully furnished place.
I can answer your questions as I'm currently enrolled at SWUFE.
1) The dorms weren't flooded. There are two dorms: a recently "renovated" dorm and the original foreigner dorm. I definitely recommend the original dorm (which used to be a hotel) as it has Western toilets. The "renovated" dorm (I use the term loosely) has the squatting toilets and the rooms are much smaller. Also, try to get a room that isn't on the first floor of either dorm as you'd get more bugs than you would if you were higher up.
2) I know tons of people who come to Chengdu on a tourist visa and then decide they like the city so much they want to stay here and study. They've all changed to a student visa without any difficulty. I've personally helped friends have their visas changed over, and no one at the visa office batted an eye.
3) The first time I came to Chengdu, I applied to SWUFE via my American college. When I came back a second time, I applied directly through SWUFE as it was faster and cheaper that way. If you're having any problems communicating with SWUFE's secretary, it's because his English isn't as great as the teachers' and dean. If there is any part of your questions that confuse him, he'll most likely direct you to the student handbook.
4) The first time I came to SWUFE, I did use their airport pickup service. They send a volunteer student (either foreign or Chinese) to come pick you up in a taxi that's paid for by the school. This saves you 50-75 kuai and you get to make your first friend easily. There are luggage carts in the airport, but keep in mind that at best you might be able to maneuver two carts on your own for your luggage.
Also, I don't recommend bringing two years worth of clothing. You're a girl, so you probably love to shop. There's also the issue that you might find yourself losing weight during the 2 years you're in China. If you find yourself needing to buy new clothes, there are foreign stores like Uniqlo and H&M which carry decent quality, larger Western sizes. But in my experience, the girls in the dorms here lose a bit of weight and end up buying new clothes.
For the issue of money, in my experience eating out twice a day every day for a single person is around $200 a month. This includes me going to bars on the occasional weekend and eating the more expensive Western food every now and then (like Subway). You can expect to pay around 100-200kuai a month for electricity (depending on if you need to use the A/C and if you cook in your room). I would keep your money in an American bank account and withdraw from it whenever you're getting low on cash. I use Bank of America and I can use Construction Bank's ATM without a fee.
Let me know if you have any other questions.