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My First Month in China

Hello everyone! My name is Andrea, I just graduated from high school last year and am 18 years old. I was born and raised in Australia and for my gap year I decided to become an au pair in China for six months. My host family consists of my host mother Erica, host father Carlos, host grandmother, housekeeper and my host kid Terrance. The family lives in the city of Shenzhen, a place situated very close to the much more well known city of Hong Kong. While not as popular as Beijing or Shanghai, I really enjoy staying in Shenzhen, although right now the weather is getting warm and humid, the air quality is better, it's less crowded and the transport is awesome, seriously it's so cheap and efficient, well in comparison to Australia (the transport in Sydney is terrible).

For me, the moments right before my host dad found me, looking lost in the middle of the airport, were the most nerve wracking. I'd only spoken with my host mum through video calls and had only seen photos of my host father and kid. So when my host parents picked me up from airport, like expected, it was a little awkward. Even more for me as I'm not a fan of photos yet my host mother absolutely loves to take photos and so my host kid and I went through a mini photo shoot before we were able to leave. However during my two weeks I could tell that the family genuinely made an extra effort to make me feel welcome and enjoy my stay. I think my host mum took me out for lunch so much during the first week that I barely ate anything at home.

The first week was the hardest for me, despite my family's efforts I became very homesick, I had missed a couple of birthdays back home and other important events. I got better after time though, throughout this past month my experience with my host family has had its ups and downs. Right now however I feel a sense of stability. I now know my way around the city, how to use transport, what's considered too expensive for one apple, how the rental bikes work and so on.

My first trip with the family was to Guangzhou where we went to visit the zoo and watch a circus. We stayed overnight in the zoo's hotel which was enormous, just the reception desk was intimidating. The next morning the whole family awoke early in order to take advantage of the day at the zoo. After a tiring day we finished the trip with a circus show, which was my favourite part of the entire trip and the show was made even better by the fact that we were seated in the second row.

My host kid loves dancing and music and I've found that it is the easiest way to get his attention. He is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and practically all trains. When he doesn't have class or is taking a nap the grandmother takes us out for bike rides or walks to the park. From Monday to Friday Terrance has class in the mornings so I'm usually free until lunch. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons I accompany him to his afternoon art and drama classes. The rest of the time we usually watch cartoons, read books, and play games.

Since my host parents were mostly always busy with work, I spent most of my time with the grandmother and aunt. My host grandmother is really nice and probably the only one in the family that can understand my horrible Chinese. I was unsure as to how to treat their housekeeper at first because usually at home I was used to doing certain things by myself. However my host mother made it clear to me that I should let her do certain tasks for me because it was her job. Other than that, the housekeeper is the one I have most fun communicating with, we both just end up using over exaggerated movements and weird noises to communicate.

The photos above show the best times I had during my trip. One of the most important aspects was a half Swedish-Chinese au pair that lived in the same complex as me. Her name was Lina and she had been here for almost 5 months and was leaving soon. Most au pairs tended to go to Beijing or Shanghai, and it turns out that in Shenzhen, it was just the two of us. So after hanging out during my afternoon breaks, getting coffee or going to the movies, it was hard to say goodbye when she finished her contract and left to continue travel elsewhere which coincidentally was Sydney, Australia.

And that is all that happened this month!

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