Mandarin teachers adjusting to life in America

Shu Ang Yao was never much for cooking until she moved to Macon three weeks ago.

After getting settled in a new loft apartment and beginning a teaching job at an elementary school, the 23-year-old began to crave the familiar pork heels, tofu and dried duck of her native home in the Jiangsu province, on China’s eastern shore.

So last week, Yao got together with her young Chinese friends and traveled to the Pio Nono Avenue Kroger store, where Yao said they found almost all the ingredients they needed to cook authentic Chinese fare in their Macon apartments.

“We got all these American vegetables and cooked them the Chinese way. Lots of potatoes and pork,” she said. “It tasted a little like home.”

Yao and the 24 other Mandarin Chinese teachers who arrived in town earlier this month are still getting adjusted to life in Macon.

Although they’re here to teach Mandarin Chinese at the county’s elementary schools, some of them admit that they’ve still got a bit to learn themselves when it comes to living in the United States.

“Everything’s so much different here than I thought, and it hasn’t been all easy,” said Yongjie Zhao, 23, who’s teaching Mandarin this semester at Vineville Academy. “But I’m thrilled I’m here. Everyone wants to be here in America.”

During an informational session Tuesday, the group emitted “oohs” and “ahhs” as the frigid rush of an air conditioner hit their backs. They joked among each other that those “air machines” would never get popular in China.

Carol Nelson works with Sierra Development, the Macon-based company that manages the loft apartment building where the Chinese teachers live. Nelson came to Tuesday’s meeting to make the teachers feel more comfortable and answer any questions they might have.

Nelson reminded the Chinese teachers of some of the little things they must pay attention to. American shower curtains work in such a way that if you leave the curtain hanging over the outer edge while showering, water will spill onto the bathroom floor. Also, the lint filters on the dryers must be cleaned each time the machine is used.

“Lint filters and dryers aren’t really used much in China,” Nelson said. “Things like that are important for them to know.”

Yao and her friend Ting Liu, 25, said they’re liking their new Georgia home overall. The biggest problem they’ve faced is finding transportation to grocery stores so they can buy groceries and prepare home-cooked meals.

“It makes it a lot more difficult here if you don’t have a car,” Yao said.

Related stories from Macon Telegraph