Thursday, September 28, 2006

New holiday plans.

Everyone's leaving for the holiday today! And by everyone I mean Angelyn and Derek. Cindy leaves Sunday, the Lewis family is leaving Monday, and I have no idea when the others are leaving. Maybe today. Anyhoo, I'm planning on having a nice week of sitting around instead of the planned week of travel since I have no one to travel with now. But on the upside, I've been invited to play on the English Department's badminton team in a tournament this week. That should be fun. Two days of badminton, maybe some ping pong sprinkled in there. Frisbee. Who knows, this week could turn out okay.

So last night was pretty awesome. We had to go to English corner, which I dread. If you don't know, English corner is a time set aside each week for people to get together and just practice chatting in English. As a foreign English teacher, I have the honor of "getting" to attend each week. So on Thursday nights from 6:30 until 8:30 we go into a classroom where students crowd entirely too close to us, ask inappropriate questions in bad English, and as soon as one student is done asking you a question the person next to them will ask the same question as if you hadn't just answered it three times. It's usually okay for the first 10 minutes and then the last 110 are torture. Well, this time around we foreign teachers got to give a "self introduction" to the whole group instead of having a mingling session. The students were all seated and we got to stand at the front and tell them about ourselves and why we are in China and then they asked us questions. Because we did this, only the last 30 minutes was unstructured mingling. I almost made it through without wanting to scream. After making our way out of English corner, Angelyn, Derek, and I decided to go to Happy Guy's to eat because we hadn't eaten. At 9pm most restaurants are fairly empty, so we had the place to ourselves. Happy Guy and his wife both came out and were chatting with us while the other employees took care of the cooking and serving. Then, Happy Wife got up and went in the kitchen. When she came back she had a big can of Nescafe instant coffee. Mind you, I wouldn't normally drink that stuff, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That stuff was sooooooo good, let me tell ya. They got a big kick out of the fact that we didn't use the creamer powder stuff that came with it. They would stop everyone who walked past and tell them that we didn't use it. I guess people here don't usually drink black coffee? I dunno. Then we sat around and gave everyone English names, made up songs about coffee, and met some of Happy Guy's siblings. Good times were definitely had.

Yesterday's weather: rain. Tomorrow's forecast: rain. And it's chilly, too! I've been wearing my trusty Arkansas hoody for three days now. Thanks Jennifer and Matthew! Well, I've decided that I'm all blogged out right now. I know, a little disappointing. Sorry! I'm going to watch an episode of Monk (yay for cheap DVDs) and pass the time until LUNCH! I like lunch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reasons today was mostly good.

Today was an interesting day. First of all, I woke up at 9 to the sound of some people outside yelling and whatnot. No, there wasn't a commotion or anything. People just talk loudly in China. Really really loudly. The first thing I noticed after that was the rain. It's been raining here for two or three days, so I'm starting to get tired of it. So I'm thinking that today is going to be a dreary day. I get up and get to moving around. I'm dressed and ready to greet the world by 9:30, which is not the habit I formed in the last two weeks. When all of your classes are from 6:30 until 9:15 at night and you have nothing to do before lunch EVER, you don't form great habits. Anyhoo, I was up and dressed earlier than usual, which was a good feeling. Then around 10 or a little after I went to the phone station and called different people in the states for about an hour. Just so you know, I spent 132 yuan on the phone this morning. That's why you should call me or get Skype on your computer. It's cheaper! Anyhoo, if you're upset about not getting a phone call from me don't worry, I may call you tomorrow. I think I'll be calling more people tomorrow. So talking to people until after 11 really got my spirits up and it was kind of fun walking through the puddles and stuff outside. After an interesting lunch in which I ate some deep fried minnows (there was a mistake in our ordering, if you were wondering) Angelyn, Derek, and I walked around for awhile. We got Derek's glasses fixed so they sit straight on his face, bought some milk, and then decided to hunt down a good place to chill and read a book. After dropping off the milk and picking up some books to read, we headed downtown to UBC Coffee, which seemed like a good enough place to chill. It's a really nice place, but coffee costs about 30 yuan per cup. And it's not good coffee. But they have couches instead of chairs, so it was a great place to sit back and read. So we read for two or three hours. It was really relaxing. My favorite part was when Derek started talking about some things he was reading in his Book and we got a conversation of sorts going on. It wasn't anything super deep or anything, but it felt great to be hanging out and just talking about things like that. Around 5 we headed back to campus. At this point it was even more dreary and grey outside. At 6:30 Nancy was supposed to come over for our Wednesday night meal/study session. She cooks and then we eat and work on our language skills. We teach each other English and Chinese at the same time. It's a lot of fun, actually. Well she called when she got off of work and said she wasn't coming. I think she had a headache, I'm not quite sure. So instead I went to dinner with Angelyn, Derek, and a student named Grease. Yeah, some Chinese students have really interesting English names. Like Pig or Cola. Anyhoo, it turns out that we thought his name was Grease because that's what we heard him say. Turns out that it's Grace. But he will forever be Grease to us (partly due to Grace being a girl's name). After dinner we decided we had too much strange energy so we folded up the umbrellas and ran around in the rain, jumping in puddles until we were soaked. Then we jumped the fence to the football (soccer) field and ran a lap or two around the track, kicking water on each other and singing in the rain. It was quite fun and was turning out to be one of the best, most relaxing days I've had in a while. Of course, after running in the cold rain for so long we were all ready to get a hot shower and dry clothes. When I came back to change I found that our plans for the holiday vacation had gone sour. Other than that, today was a very theraputic day. I can only imagine the joys that tomorrow will bring.

Not so much fun in the motherland.

Well, the huge plan for fun and mayhem has had a sudden change to it. Turns out the amigos (or pengyous as we call them here) can't make it from Ningbo. So they're just going to Yellow Mountain. And since I went there on my last October holiday and it's about 18 or 20 hours from here, I don't think I'll be making it over to see them. I would except at this point it's too late to buy train tickets. I would just end up with a standing ticket, and standing on a crowded train for 18 to 20 hours doesn't sound appealing to me today. Maybe tomorrow? We'll see. So for now I don't have a plan for next week. If you're reading this and you've recently been thinking about how much you wish I was going to be travelling with you around China next week and you even happen to have an extra ticket, let me know. I'm there! If you're reading this, you have the ticket, but you weren't recently thinking about me travelling with you, well what's up with that? Just invite me already! And if you're just reading this and that's all there is to it, then I'm sorry you had to suffer through this entry.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Holiday fun in the motherland.

Well, as most of you probably already know, next week is National Holiday here in China. What? You didn't know? Well now you do. October 1 is China's National Day. To celebrate everyone gets anywhere from two days to a full week for a holiday. On this holiday every person in China travels somewhere (usually on the same train) to spend money, spur on the economy, and celebrate Chairman Mao's founding of the People's Republic of China. So as a good resident of China I feel obligated to follow suit. You may be wondering where I will go. Well let me tell you. I have some friends in the wonderful town of Ningbo, which is on the east coast of China, south of Shanghai. Those friends are wanting to see the Great Wall and the terracotta warriors. Usually one would go to Beijing to see the Great Wall and to Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors. Well, those two cities aren't exactly close together. That's like going to New York City and St. Louis in one trip. But the Great Wall isn't just any old kind of wall. It's GREAT. That means it's thousands of miles long. Which means it must be other places besides Beijing. Beijing's big, but it's not that big. So I looked into it and we've decided to go to Xi'an (which happens to be close to where I live) to see the sights and then take an overnight train north from there and see the Great Wall where it hits the edge of the Mongolian desert. Nice, right? It should be lots of knee slappin', hootin' and hollerin', fireworks shootin' fun. I'm excited. Plus it should be fun to spend a week with Keli, Tim, and Heidi. It's always nice to see new faces.

In other news, it's been raining here for three days or so. It feels like forever. The sad thing is that it doesn't really storm here, it just rains. I prefer a good storm with thunder and lightning and wind blowing the rain around. Nope, we just get some water falling straight down and nothing else. Booooring. Someone sent me an article about teacher salaries in China. Go ahead and read it here. It's pretty crazy. Keep in mind, I make about 3,500 yuan each month, am not an actual professional teacher, don't have to pay rent or utilities, and live in a small city with a low cost of living. The guy in the article lives in stinkin' Beijing, city of 16 million. Not a cheap place. That article made me grateful for what I've got. Not that I wasn't glad for it before, mind you.

Well, I'm off to be productive. I need to get train tickets and book rooms in a hostel for our lovely road trip next week. I hope all is well in the Western hemisphere. Mail me something good!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Things I like.

Due to popluar demand, I'm posting a list of things I like that aren't really available where I am and would be greatly appreciated. Don't feel obligated or anything, but if the mood strikes you then feel free to mail something in my direction sometime. First of all, here's where to find me:

Brian Neal
c/o Foreign Affairs Office
Hubei Automotive Institute
Shiyan City, Hubei 442002
People's Republic of China

Now for the goods:

Poptarts - strawberry or blueberry, no frosting please
Reese's mini cups - mmmmmmmmm
Koolaid is good - grape Koolaid is not so good, though
granola bars - crunchy or soft, not peanut butter flavor, please
Power Gels for running - would be nice but I don't really expect any. Last minute idea.
Cheese is always nice, especially swiss or cheddar or something else that's actually cheese and melts and isn't the stuff they claim is cheese here. Velveeta, not real cheese but as good as real cheese.
Muffin mix
Stuffing mix
Cookie mix (the kind where you just add water or an egg or something simple like that)
Peanut butter - they have Skippy here, but so far my experience with it is that I should just skippy right over it and eat something else. I'll try it again to be sure and possibly retract this statement.
Magazines - Newsweek, Time, anything cool like that. I've been told that Reader's Digest is taken care of, so don't send that.
Newspapers - even if the news is three weeks late, it's nice being able to read a newspaper in English. If you use newspaper as the stuffing in the box, I can flatten it back out.
Smell good candles - nothing fancy, the ones at Walmart work GREAT. This place smells weird.

I should also tell you some things NOT to send. Most of these are things I've gotten in the mail before.

Peanuts - China is overflowing with peanuts, save your postage.
Ramen noodles - Where am I again? Oh, right. China!
Oreos - Believe it or not, you can get Oreos just about anywhere here. Along with:

That's all I can think of for now. If you get the hankering to send a guy some love in a box, feel free to let said guy (hopefully me) know. Just to avoid unnecessary spending on postage. And in case I really really need something. Like a Sonic milkshake. I think that would make it over, don't you? One last warning, before you go loading up a box with everything on the list you should check out postage rates first. I don't want to break your bank!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Forming a groove.

Well, things are starting to reach normalcy around here and I think I'm getting into a good groove. At the moment I'm only teaching on Monday and Tuesday nights. We have something called English corner on Thursday nights and a cultural lecture on Friday nights, but we don't have to go every week. This week I have the honor of doing this semester's first English lecture. I think I'm going to go the easy route and do it on English idioms. Feel free to post a comment with your favorite idiom, phrase, or saying. Do it soon, though. I'm giving the lecture Friday night (your Friday morning).

My two classes have been going well. My Monday night class is annoying because it meets from 6:45 until 9:15. That's a long time when you have to practically wrestle with your student's English. But we're making it. That class is an elective so we basically do whatever I feel like. My Tuesday night class is Oral English for sophomore non-English majors. That means the students aren't English majors so their English could possibly be great and could possibly be horrific, and we have a textbook. The class is only two periods, so compared to the other class it's pretty easy to fill up the whole class period. Here's the weird thing about these classes... they only meet 10 times or less the entire semester. My Monday night class meets once a week for 10 weeks, then I'll get another class for the rest of the semester. My Tuesday night class meets once a week every other week, and I teach two different groups of students, one on odd numbered weeks and the other on even numbered weeks. That class only meets 7 times total. It just seems to me that having class 7 times every other week wouldn't be very productive. We'll see.

Today is a day off that I'm really looking forward to. I need to do some major apartment cleaning before lunch. I've had people in my apartment three of the last 4 days and I need to sweep, mop, and take out the trash like nobody's business. After lunch I plan on shopping for some things including, but not limited to, a DVD player, badminton raquet, guitar, bread, trash bags, and Oreos. I know you're so interested in all of this. Tonight a Chinese friend is coming over to cook dinner. We're going to work on her English in exchange for her cooking. Her husband is studying in America and we're hoping she'll be able to get a visa soon to go see him. I think it's been about 5 years since she saw him last, so it's about time to get her over there.

I'm hoping that this week I can start having some students over because I've made contact with a lot of different people and I think the time is ripe. Friendships will be formed, connections will be made, Studying will be done. After all, the reason I'm here is to Teach.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Current (and past) goings ons.

I thought everyone would like to know that my roommate and I are resolving our differences. There was a long period where we were fighting over closet space and whether or not he can smoke his pipe inside. Also, I eat in about once a week at the most, but he eats 10 freakin' meals a day. Why should I have to do his dishes? Exactly! And I'm getting tired of picking his feet hairs out of the shower drain. Talk about nasty.

Anyhoo, there's been a lot of things that I have somehow skipped over or forgotten about in my blogging, and I'm pretty sure that some of those things are worth reading about. For example, Wednesday of last week was an exciting day. After lunch with a new Chinese friend, Derek, Angelyn, and I all went across town to visit the Lewis family. If I haven't told you, Jeremy and Rena Lewis are here to teach with our group and they brought their three teenage daughters with them. Those girls deserve a lot of credit for moving to China and not being totally angst about it. Anyways, we went to visit them because they seemed pretty bored. We eventually decided that we wanted to check out a park in town called (oddly enough) The People's Park. It's near (wait for it) The People's Square and The People's Supermarket. Just down the street from The People's McDonalds. That last one was a joke. So we hop on the bus to the park and get off directly across the street. After checking out a cool little store we noticed, we all prepared to cross the street. You may not know anything about crossing the street in China, but it's a life changing experience. It can definitely make your life flash before your eyes. Well as soon as some of us walk out of the store, we see a lady on a motorcycle plow into an old man walking across the street. Usually the scene would unfold this way: lots of people would gather to look, cars would honk a lot and barely slow down to drive around, the lady would be left alone to help the old man up and get him some help, if she's lucky a police man will come by and help. But we happened to be there with good ol' Jeremy and his medical training from years in the army. So Jeremy kicks into action and goes out into the street. Well seeing a foreigner helping someone who just got hit by a motorcycle is enough to cause any Chinese person to die from shock, so we drew an even BIGGER crowd. Jeremy was able to check out the man's arms, legs, head, and whatever else before someone tried to move him and potentially make things worse. He checked out okay, Jeremy helped him to the side of the road, a taxi was summoned, and the lady and the old man were both whisked off to the hospital. At least I'm assuming that's where they went. Makes sense to me. How could I have forgotten to blog about that? I don't know.

After all the excitement we paid our 2 yuan and entered People's Park, the center of fun and merriment in Shiyan. It turned out to be a large park with some small mountains to trek all over, an amusement park (yeah, you read right), and a zoo of sorts. After trekking ourselves up a random trail and back down the other side, we ended up at the amusement park. There were such attractions as the whirling swing ride, shooting games, go carts, bumper cars, a pirate ship, a merry-go-round, a giant, mountain-spanning luge ride, and the essential roller coaster. First I hit up the shooting games. It was pretty easy because all you do is shoot balloons with a bb gun from 15 feet away. Not hard. There was also whack-a-mole, which they called "hit-the-mouse". Not quite the same ring, even in Chinese. We moved on past the peacocks and monkey in a cage to the rides. Now, when you're imagining these rides in your mind's eye, add about 40 years of age and rust to the picture. That's what we were riding. Jeremy and Derek rode this luge ride that I'm pretty sure was named "Big Mountain of Death". The sleds were just big plastic sleds on wheels. There was a handle in the middle that acted as a hand brake. There was no seat belt or strap or anything else to hold you onto the thing. It started off by being pulled waaaaaaay up the side of this mountain on a chain lift, like the beginning of a roller coaster. Only, since there's nothing to hold you onto the sled then Derek said he was trying with all his might not to slide off the back of it. Then you sled/luge/roll/whatever down this metal track, going around curves and whatnot. It's not a track like a train or roller coaster track. It's a flat metal road that resembles a bobsled track in the turns. Yeah, with no safety belts or anything. Coming down a mountain. With a looooong drop right next to you. Looked like fun, but I sure didn't want to test out my luck on it. After the survivors got off, we all headed to the roller coaster. I had ridden a similar roller coaster at a park in Qingdao before, so I knew that everyone had to try this thing out. Since they were all a little hesitant I went ahead and paid, which got rid of any hesitation. This wasn't a huge roller coaster with loops and corkscrews. This was a small roller coaster that some people know as a Crazy Mouse coaster. One or two people per car, the cars aren't attached to each other in a long train, just by themselves, tight turns, nothing too fancy. But add in the rust and general appearance of the ride and it makes it pretty scary. Somewhere in all this fun, Jeremy and I raced on the go cart track. There were only two cars and the track was only wide enough for one, so it wasn't really a race. If you started in first, you ended in first. Plus, Jeremy's car didn't exactly function to full capacity, so I was zooming around while he was puttering around. While making our way back to the entrance we passed what appeared to be a reptile house and a half empty pool with some ducks in it. The zoo, maybe? Dunno. That was our People's Park experience.

Well, I took longer than I thought I would to type that and now I need to go. I guess this is all you get for now.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A weekend of FUN!

Well, here it is Monday morning. It was quite an interesting weekend. Friday night we were slated to have a "Western" meal courtesy of a restaurant in town. When the 12 of us got there, the owner informed us that he had been too busy to arrange all that other stuff, but he would provide some great Chinese food. It was great, I can't lie, but nothing will suffice when you're expecting pizza and BBQ. But we made up for it afterwards. Across the street from the restaurant is a place called The People's Square. It's a big town square type area, a huge open plaza. I guess at night people go there and do these traditional dances and form little community orchestras and stuff. It seemed to be mostly senior citizens so we added a little bit of youth to the party and joined in the dancing. I say we, what I mean is most of us. Some of us don't really have any moves. But it made for a fun night.

Saturday was a free day for the most part. Some of us played frisbee before lunch, which always draws a crowd here. Then the Lewis family and Angelyn went to Square Mountain, a.k.a. Four Table Mountain. It's a great place to walk around and there's a park with giant fake mushrooms that make you feel like you're at Disneyland or something. I couldn't go because I had a Taiqi lesson at 2. So I stayed, ate lunch, and rested up for my big lesson. At 2 I went down to Happy Guy's to meet my teacher. And we sat and waited. And waited. And waited. So at 3 my teacher showed up finally and we set out to find a place big enough to learn Taiqi. We ended up in the open space in front of my apartment. For about an hour he showed me move after move. He claims he only taught me six moves, but it feels more like sixty. I got a good video of him doing the routine he taught me, but I'm inept and can't figure out how to post a video on here. My teacher's only 14, but he studied at Wudang Mountain for 3 years (I think I said 13 and 4 last time) so he's got the poses down pretty good. I'm not quite as fluid and graceful as him but I can at least remember all the moves, which is good. After my lesson I relaxed and cleaned up, then at 6 some of us went to find a place to eat. We invited some Chinese students that we knew so that we could begin hanging out with more Chinese and less Americans. We walked down the street and found a new restaurant, so we all decided to be adventurous and try it out. It ended up being really good. One of the girls who works there was kind of scary at first, in a Goth kind of way. She was wearing all black and was super pale. But she ended up being really nice. I think I would go back there just for the service. Afterwards we sauntered around for a while and came back to our building for a rousing session of Uno. You've never played Uno until you play it with Chinese students. We had picked up one or two more people at this point, not English speaking, so it was fun to teach Uno to them. The evening ended with the students hurrying back to their dorms before 11:30 because at 11:30 sharp the gates are locked and they can't get in until morning. Kind of a bizarre curfew. You don't get in trouble for being out late, you just have to sleep outside.

Sunday started off busy and then kind of wound down. In the morning a bunch of us Met together and had a good time getting to know each other and Learning different things. Then a large group of us went to lunch together. After that, my day was pretty much over except for the 30 minutes when Happy Guy's nephew and daughter came over to see if I could give them an English lesson. That was fun. I got to give them names, so Happy Daughter is now Amber and Happy Nephew is now Luke. As in Luke Skywalker, because he's a Taiqi master. Yeah yeah.

Today has been booooooring, but tonight I have a class from 6:45 to 9:10. The students are doing introductions, which will take up 2 of the 3 periods since I have 40 students. Then we'll do something fun. Who knows? I'll figure it out before then. I'm sure we'll do some super exciting pronunciation exercise. Woo hoo! Rice, lice. Super, supper. Net, let. Fun times.

Well, that's all for now. I'm going to brush up on my skilz and see if I can get this video on here. Until then, don't do drugs!

Friday, September 08, 2006

A date with the master.

So the other day I was talking to Happy Guy and he asked if I could teach his daughter English. At first I was reluctant because it's a lot harder to teach beginning English. It deals with a lot more grammar and things like that. I'm used to teaching Oral English where we just try to smooth out the edges. But, being the good friend that I am, I finally agreed. In return, Happy Guy offered the services of his 13 year old nephew. What services might he provide? Well, he's been studying Taiqi (Tai Chi to some of you) at Wudang Mountain (the birthplace of Chinese martial arts, which just happens to be less than an hour from here) for 4 years. Now if you made it through all the parenthesises (or whatever) in that last sentence (and this one) then you'll know that I'm about to begin the journey to becoming a martial arts master. It was nice knowing all of you, but when you see me again I shall be a new man. Able to fly and flip and do all that cool stuff you see in Chinese martial arts movies. It's gonna be awesome! My first lesson is this afternoon at two o'clock. I'm sure that this 13 year old is going to totally embarrass me, but I think it will be worth it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some pictures of campus.

So the other day (I think it was Tuesday) we had an awesomely clear, sunny day. Those aren't in great abundance here so we took the opportunity to climb the hill/mountain behind our building and get some pictures.

This picture is just looking over campus towards the mountains in the distance. See the building in the very bottom of the shot with the light bluish balconies? Our apartment building is just on the other side of that. You can't see it from this angle.

This is a cool critter we saw whilst hiking up the trail. Hugest grasshopper ever!

This is a view of what is directly across the street from our school. Good ol' power plant. No, it's not nuclear.

That's all the pictures for now. I'm working on a video tour of my apartment for your enjoyment. It takes about 5 minutes to post one picture and I just don't feel like posting any more right now. Maybe later!

Repair men and "new" toilets

Today was scheduled to be a landmark day at our school. We were supposedly getting new toilets. The apartments here are fine and dandy. The only problem (and it's a problem in every apartment) is the toilet. There's just so many small things wrong with the flush handle and all that stuff that it basically just makes for a totally broken toilet. Well we received the joyful news yesterday that they were trying to get us new toilets and that the repairmen would be coming by this morning. So at 8:45 there's a knock on my door and in come the men. With just a wrench. Hmmm, that's an interesting looking new toilet. Anyway, previously my toilet flushes by picking up a hanger that is tied with a ribbon to the plunger in the tank. The plunger comes up, letting the water do its thing, etc. Then you kind of flop the hanger around (makes me feel like I'm fisihing) until the plunger covers the hole again because the plunger isn't actually attached to anything, it's just sitting in the tank on the back of the toilet. Well they took the hanger off the ribbon and tied the ribbon to a new flush button. In the states the flush handle is on the side of the tank, but here it's a button on the top of the tank. The idea is the same, though. You push the button, with moves a lever, which pulls a chain, which raises the plunger to let the water out of the tank. So now I have a button attached to a lever attached to a ribbon attached to a plunger. But the plunger isn't attached to anything so it can pivot. So when you flush you have to pick the whole lid of the tank up to "fish" the plunger back into position. So then the men leave and I'm thinking that this is perhaps the best new toilet I've ever seen except for the fact that it's not new and it still doesn't work. Well about 15 minutes later they come back to attach the plunger to something, I don't know what. So now you can sort of flush my toilet by actually pushing a button instead of pulling on a hanger. I know you were totally wondering about that, too.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The (second) greatest story ever told.

Let me tell you a story. It's a nice story. A real family story. A story for the masses. Rousing and heartwarming. What is this wonderful story, you ask? Let me tell you. When I got to Wuhan last Sunday, we were taken to a nice hotel with beds, toilets, and showers. I took a hot shower that night after days of being on planes and in airports, and another Monday morning for good measure. Monday night we arrived in Shiyan and moved into our apartments. We don't have hot water tanks at this school. There is a hot water main that services the whole campus and it is turned on twice a day, in the morning for an hour and at night for 3 or 4 hours. Well, Monday night we couldn't get our hot water to work, so we didn't know if we were trying at the wrong time or what. Cold showers Monday night. Tuesday we missed the hot water in the morning and again in the evening due to not really caring because we were jet lagged. Cold showers Tuesday. Wednesday, the same. Thursday the same. Friday night we were hanging out and Angelyn came running in to say the water was boiling hot. She had already taken a shower, Derek goes to his apartment to take a shower, and I walk our company down to the bus so that they can get home. By the time I got back to the apartment, the hot water was off. Derek only caught a minute or two of it. Cold shower Friday night. Saturday morning I still hadn't quite figured out when the water comes on in the morning so I missed it. That night we came home from dinner in time to catch the water, but couldn't figure out when the water came on. Around 10:45 I figured out the water was on in the other's apartments, just not mine. The valve was off! I got it fixed but my water never warmed up, even after turning on the hot water valve. I went to use someone else's shower and missed the water by a few minutes. Cold shower again. Sunday morning, couldn't catch the hot water. Sunday night the hot water was on in the others' apartments but mine was still cold, even after opening my valves. I got my things and went to use someone else's shower. The water cut off while I was gathering my things. Cold shower AGAIN. Monday, sleep through the morning water. Monday night, teach from 6:45 to 9:10. Go eat some dinner. Come back to the apartments. Derek says his shower is hot! I run and grab my stuff! I jump in his shower! It's HOT WATER!!! I was excited. That was perhaps one of the best showers ever. I cannot describe to you the joy that I felt standing in under that stream of water. Of course, after trying for a week and finally having to use someone else's shower to get hot water, I came back to my apartment and stuck my hand in my own shower. It worked, of course. Dumb shower. At least I know that tomorrow it will more than likely work again. More than likely. Ah, the power of hot water.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The rest of the story.

I'm back. Sorry it took so long. I kept getting distracted. After getting dropped off here last Monday evening, our waiban (in charge of helping us get anything we need) didn't come back for two days or so. That made for some good times since we needed some things fixed in our apartments and we needed money to buy things. Like food, for instance. And cleaning supplies. Well Tuesday I took the four of us to the bank in the middle of town to exchange money. I figure I've been here before, no problem. Well, we get to the bank and no one will help us or even make eye contact with us. There's a lady at one window who is free, but when Derek tried to go to her window she left and hid in the back. When he walked away from her window she came back. Are foreigners that scary? Finally a lady sitting at a desk got off the phone and I hurried over. I told her in my poor Chinese that we work in town and we need some Chinese money. So she told me to go to window number two. I turn around to go to window #2... it's the same window we just stood at for 5 minutes while the lady hid behind a table. Only this time the lady from the desk took us over to the window and said something to the lady, so she didn't run and hide. Fun times.

After getting our money in order we made our way to a supermarket near our school. I had been there before, so I knew we'd be able to find what we needed to clean our apartments and get them suitable for living in. As we're shopping in this store for floor mats, towels, soap, shampoo, bathroom cleaner, brooms, and things of this sort, I was reminded of something which I had forgotten about China. When you go to a store or a restaurant, there are almost as many workers as there are customers. So here we are perusing the bug spray aisle while 10 or more workers (all female, mind you) form a group to watch us shop and offer advice on the best bug spray to buy. Derek was apparently quite the spectacle because they were all trying to sell him shampoo for his mop top. Of course, the funniest thing is that they just talk and talk to us in Chinese, extolling the virtues of each different brand of shampoo, even after we tell them (in Chinese) that we can't understand them. While we greatly enjoyed all the help and attention, the manager wasn't too amused. She strolled through and barked some orders that sent every single one of those ladies running back to her respective post. The moral of the story (or ironic thing) that I came away with was that in the bank, when we actually needed help, no one would look at us. In the store where we could just walk through and grab what we needed, we each had 10 girls trying to help us out. Such is life at times.

The days since have been spent doing various things. I waited a day or two for our waiban to come back so I could get the a/c fixed in my new 4th floor apartment. Then I started moving my stuff from the 3rd to the 4th floor. I haven't really done much moving or unpacking since. I managed to dust and sweep my apartmet, so I think tonight I'll finish unpacking and try to get some pictures that I can post. Friday afternoon we got our teaching schedules. I teach from 6:45-9:10 three nights each week. Stink. At least I'll have lots of free time during the day! It just stinks to have most of your nights automatically taken up like that. Friday night all of us foreigners got together and had a nice meal together. Then we hung out and got to know each other since we didn't really know each other before getting here. Mandy, one of my Chinese friends, got hold of me and invited the four of us from the Automobile School to eat dinner with her. We actually went to a cool restaurant on the 5th floor of a building downtown. It has a great view of the People's Square in the middle of town, I'll have to get a picture next time I'm there. The owner of the restaurant recognized me from my previous year in town and invited all of us foreigners back next Friday. He's planning a Western meal in our honor with BBQ and pizza, which should be stinkin' AWESOME. I had pizza at another restaurant he used to own before opening this one. I'm hoping it's as good as that. So good, mmmmmmmm. Then today some of us got together as Friends and had a good time. We spent a lot of time just getting to know each other and about 16 of us went to eat lunch together. It's hard to find room for 16 in one of these small restaurants, let me tell ya. But we had a grrrreat time.

I'm so glad to be back!