Finding my way around Shenzhen – Part Two
Close your eyes, close your eyes and get a surprise
This fun children’s chant could not be more apt in describing my experience in Shenzhen. With every day that comes by, and the shut-eyes in between, I find myself learning more about the environment that lays around me.
Despite the temperamental drenching rain, and the (at times) stifling heat that so threatens to envelop you, the Shenzhen air is clear and the sky is bright.
For those of you who are considering joining the LoPair au pair programme, don’t forget your sun cream – you’re certainly going to need it once you’re here!
One of the most important things to do whilst you are out here, asides from maintaining your work and class duties, is to find and build a support system. I know personally that my experience would not have been the same had it not been for my fellow au pairs. Wechat is such a nifty tool to communicate with others, and it is something that I have definitely taken advantage of whilst I have been here.
Moments for wechat users is what stories are like for fans of Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. Something you can use to show off your lesson plans, and travels. It’s a great way of keeping track of those around you, and of highlighting some of your favourite moments in China. It is these personal touches, aided by digital bytes, that are ubiquitous here. Certainly what surprised me when I arrived, was the seamless integration of technology that exist in everyday life here. For example, people can pay for meals or simple trinkets using wechat pay. You could come across, even the most remote shop in the city, and they would accept payment by mobile. Just scan the QR code, and you’re a-go.
It is with this in mind, that I am left wondering why Chinese stereotypes are not extended to technology. A city full of digital minds and hearts, Shenzhen certainly has a reputation for being the pinnacle of technological innovation (having been dubbed China’s answer to Silicon Valley), however the same could not be said of reputations elsewhere. China is opening its mind (and wallet) to the possibilities of open networks and constant trade of information and goods, and the rest of the world should take note. With one of the biggest e-commerce markets in the world, China is making a stand for modernity and connection.
It would, however, be a digression to delve further into the inner mechanisms of Chinese society. Certainly that can be left to the sociologists, anthropologists and economists of the world.
What are worth noting instead are the smaller connections that are forged within this community. Recently, I attended a KTV session (essentially a karaoke booth) with some other au pairs. From this, I had hoped for two things: to gain a finer appreciation for Chinese culture, and to stretch out my vocal chords. As I expected, I was able to achieve both objectives. There is something special about sharing a song with others. Amidst all your struggles and worries, you can left everything go in the middle of a Beyoncé or ABBA song. It was something I needed, and something I really enjoyed. Despite the lack of up-to-date English songs (unfortunately Despacito doesn’t count, however memorable and fun it may be), the booth was packed with throwbacks. Picture Jamilla and Natasha Beddingfield: absolute classics in their time, and you can begin to have some idea as to what the atmosphere was like that night.
It is from this high that I hope to embark on new adventures in my journey here in China.
Warm air and picturesque surroundings – what more can you ask for?
Ayah-Sofia Semlali, au pair in Shenzhen