Moving to Macau
My first thoughts on moving here.
Wow. WOW. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I guess I didn’t really think much about it, but my first 48 hours has been quite eye-opening and somewhat of a culture shock. This is going to be one hell of an adventure.
Coming into Macau, I could see the mountains out one window, and the ocean out the other. There were several huge cargo boats out in the water. The mountains weren’t tall enough to have snow on them, but the combination of mountains and ocean was really cool. The moment the wheels touched the ground, I smiled. This is my new home for the next year.
I went through customs without any issues and gathered all my luggage. I met Helen and Virginia right outside the baggage claim area. Virginia will be my contact with the primary school and Helen is my all around contact. We hopped in the car, which was brand new (the driver seat still had plastic covering it), and headed to my apartment. We drove past all the casinos and hotels. Such huge, flashy buildings. You could tell there is current construction for more buildings to come in the future. The traffic really wasn’t too bad, but Helen said it can get a lot worse.
As we got closer to the apartment, the neighborhood definitely changed. I am living amongst the locals, not the tourist, that is for sure. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it reminds me of a mixture of Moshi town in Tanzania, except with all paved streets and more electricity, and Paris. The streets in town are lined with buildings, so you can’t really see too much of the sky. It’s funny how you notice things like that when you are in a new place trying to find your sense of direction. It makes it much easier when you can look to the sky and find the sun. The streets are not in square blocks and every street is lined with all kinds of different little shops. The street signs are labeled in Chinese and Portuguese, but no one refers to the streets by their Portuguese name. So even if I did get lost and tried to say the Portuguese street name, no one would know what I was talking about. Virginia wrote down my neighborhood in Chinese for me. I keep that paper with me at all times and have had to use it several times already. People are as helpful as they can be without being able to speak English.
The shops reminded me of Africa in the sense that it is just small shop after small shop filled with random stuff. It is a little more organized than Africa because it is somewhat easier to tell an electronics shop from a clothing store. I remember wondering how the locals in Moshi knew what shop to go to find what they were looking for. Well, I’m about to learn how they do it here in Macau, because everything is scattered all over the place. Some of the shops remind me of Paris because of the designer brands. It’s weird because one shop can be kind of old and run down looking and then the shop next to it is very fancy and has all kinds of designer and name brand items. It is a hodgepodge of things and is going to take quite a bit of exploring to find what I am looking for. However, I have already set a goal for myself to become educated in quality brands and then find the best deals in town. The driving also reminds me of Paris. The traffic is very fast paced. All kinds of cars, buses, and mopeds zooming by. The cars are all pretty new and nice. I saw several Mercedes, BMWs, Porches, and even a Maserati, but also Hondas and Nissans. And I would say there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of mopeds. The pedestrians typically have the right of way. Most of the time the traffic will stop if you are waiting at a cross walk, unless it is a busy intersection. Macau seems to be fairly clean considering the amount of people that live here.
I would not say that the people are outgoing. They seem to be very introverted and don’t smile or say hi often. My roommate, Oksana, said it is because they are nervous and somewhat frightened of Westerners/Europeans. They are nervous to have to speak English and are embarrassed that it may not be good enough. That was just my first impression. We will see if my perception changes after some time here. There is quite the language barrier. When there wasn’t a cash register, they had to show me the price on a calculator because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. When I order food, I have to point at pictures. I think I may have seen a total of 20 Caucasian people within the last 48 hours. And half of them were at the Starbucks in the Venetian, which in my opinion, doesn’t really count. There is no denying that I completely stand out in Macau based on my skin color and facial features.
I have roamed the streets for hours now. It’s the best way for me to learn where I am exactly. I feel safe. There are a lot of people on every street. There is a small supermarket down the street from me, a McDonalds, and a bakery right across the street that always smells delicious. There is also a fresh veggie and fruit market not far from my apartment that reminds me of Moshi as well. Around the corner from my place is a roundabout with benches for people to sit in the middle. It seems to be quite the meeting place. All ages of people, sitting and talking. There were about fifteen really old people in their wheelchairs just sitting and watching everyone else. It was a sight to see. I got lost of course, but did find my way back by recognizing the one and only homeless man I have seen.
Monday I’ll go into the school with my roommate, Oksana, who is from the Ukraine. She is the English teacher for the secondary school. She seems nice and has been helpful so far. It’s nice to know someone who speaks English. If it weren’t for her, I would not have had an English conversation since I parted ways with Helen and Virginia on Friday. I have a feeling she is a blessing in more ways than one. At first I felt like I may be infringing on her space, as she has lived here for two years by herself. But now I am kind of glad she has broken in the place and cleaned it up. It sounds like it was quite dirty when she first arrived. Now it’s just a cozy, clean, little place that will do just fine. I wonder how long it will take me before it all begins to feel like home. It is so new and different right now. I’m kinda excited my apartment is in the middle of the locals. This is going to be such a learning experience.
And lastly, the most exciting part… Monday I will go to the primary school. I’m still not sure when exactly I will start teaching, but the thing that excites me the most is that I feel I will REALLY be of service. English is not spoken here at all. I will REALLY be teaching English. I’m so excited about that. I love to teach, that’s a given. But I love to even more when there is a challenge at hand and I can be of service. Something I can help with that will make an impact on lives for the long term. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I’M EXCITED! I am really proud of myself for doing this. I thrive on challenging myself to be a better person. So here we go!