PhD Journal-Week One

This is my first entry into my Public PhD journal. Week one of my PhD at Central China Normal University(CCNU), Wuhan, China.

Week one started with travelling. Three flights and a Taxi to finally find myself in my room. 3 hours from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, 9 hours from Addis Ababa to Guangzhou, 1 hour 30 minutes from Guangzhou to Wuhan, and about 45 minutes from the airport to the university. This is minus the layover hours. I was drained physically by the travel, but I was very hopeful that all this will be sorted once I arrive in my room, until I encountered one of the hardest mattresses that I have ever slept on. I suspect this is wood and not a mattress. But anyway.

Going to a new location is always daunting. When I was at Guangzhou airport, several funny things happened. First, my luggage was intercepted by one of those trained dogs. I was pulled aside and asked to open my bag. My concern was on the 1 kg ‘Kapenta’ that I had packed in my luggage. It is always comforting to carry home food when you are travelling to a foreign country, which might have a different food culture to yours.

Funny enough the officer only took the 2kgs red kidney beans. I thought he was going to fine me, but he gave me a receipt for detainment/treatment of articles carried by entry-exit personnel.

‘this! Not allowed here in China!’, the officer said whilst pointing at the red kidney beans.

He did not touch my ‘Kapenta.’ Praise the Lord!

I left, and a few minutes later another security officer calls me again. What have I done again? She then told me that I forgot to carry the other bag. Then I remembered that I had two bags and I forgot to carry my second bag with me.

The fruits of being drained.

Done with the security officers, I was now looking for a place where I can check-in for my next flight. Arrows pointed to the right, and I thought I was going to find something close by. I walked for close to 15 minutes and I didn’t any place where I could check-in. Tired of walking and guesswork, I asked the officers on the information desk.

‘You will have to go to terminal 2, sir to check-in. Please get a shuttle and it will take you to terminal 2.’-he said.

If I didn’t ask, I was going to miss my flight for sure.

Before leaving terminal 1 I went to a forex bureau to get some local currency. Instead of getting all my money changed at once, I ended doing this twice, at terminal one and terminal two. I was charged 60RMB for each transaction. This was not the fault of the forex bureau’s it was me, who for some reason decided to get my money changed twice instead of just once and save 60RMB.

Went to terminal 2. And in my confusion, I tried to carry two big bags on an escalator. I almost fell had it not been for the good Samaritan. Later, logic told me, ‘You should have taken an elevator.’

All this was telling me that I need to sleep because my brain is not working.

Came time to check-in I went to the international departure section. Did a self-check-in and the machine told me that this is only for international flights, for domestic flights, I need to go to district/section D and E. To cut the long story short, I managed to check-in and get on the flight to Wuhan.

They gave us biscuits and water only. I have to admit the biscuit was tasty. I don’t think I have ever tasted a biscuit-like that in my life. And the water was like normal water.

Landed in Wuhan, and I was welcomed by two Malawians from Central China Normal University. Ladies and gentlemen, the feeling you have when you see familiar faces in a foreign land cannot be put into words. The level of relief is just unimaginable.

Took the long drive to the university while catching on the politics from Malawi and Wellman Kondowe giving the driver directions to the University in Chinese. The driver did not speak any English and the little Chinese that Wellman knows got us to the university.

Then, one of the guys talked about how the sleep pattern gets disoriented when you are in China, something I am learning now. But that time, it didn’t make any sense.

The team organized everything for me, including clearing my room, and checking if everything is ok for me. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Day one on campus was filled with a lot of running up and down. There was a lot of registration that was done. I had to buy a sim card and get it registered, register for accommodation, the college of international cultural exchange, the school of psychology, the bank, and the card-issuing office.

Took a break during lunch hour to enjoy some excellent meal. I have forgotten its name, but it does taste really good. The staff at the restaurant speak Chinese, and I don’t. But they are kind enough to use sign language and visual aids for me to understand what they are saying.

Since this week is a holiday, I have taken a break from the other items remaining on the registration list. One thing I am glad I did was, I carried cash to help during the first days. One thing that is not mentioned when it comes to settling in any new country, is the expenses you incur during the first days to pay for things. Buying things, paying deposits, and all that paying you have to do.

With my Chevening experience, the expenses are covered with the cash card they give before your departure. The card usually has your stipend for the first month and a settling allowance which you can use. With the Chinese government scholarship, you do not get a cash card. Your stipend is processed when you are in the country, and it might take days or weeks before you get that money. Therefore, you will need to have at least $500 with you when coming.

The next day, I was generally resting and trying to buy some of the items that I will need here in China for the next coming months. You know the usual, toiletries, cutlery etc. Google translator and the usual sign language helped to communicate what I wanted.

I was also working on trying to resume my morning routine. I managed to read a chapter of a book, make a summary and share.

The third, day, I did my full morning routine, including a morning run which felt good. Took time to review the profiles of my potential supervisors, and dropped an email to one who we have common interests. Waiting for feedback.

As I am typing now, I sleep at least at 2:00 AM every day which is 8:PM Malawi time. I guess my body is tuned to the Malawi time. I hope it will adjust over the coming weeks.