Month: August 2009

Changsha, Hello Students and Welcomed Boredom

So on Wednesday we were told we were going to leave for Changsha at 8 in the morning. This Changsha trip happened so soon because Craig needed to get an official medical check for his work permit issuance, so I lucked out! I stuffed most of my traveller’s checks into my wallet, grabbed my passport, and met Monica, Cindy and another girl who was driving at the school’s gate.

Changsha is the capital of Hunan, with a population of about 7 million or so i think? and is only about 45 minutes to an hour away from Liuyang. Liuyang is right in the middle of a bunch of high mountains, and in order to get out of the mountains you have to go through a series of three extremely long tunnels that just go right under the mountains. Once you are on the other side, it’s pretty much flat land all the way to Changsha.

Once we got to Changsha, the girl who was driving us stopped at this really dilapidated building that looked like it’s hayday had been a zillion years ago. They started getting out of the car and we followed, and it turned out that that was the ‘hospital’ where Craig had to get his medical check. I thought it was gonna be a grand ol’ time, probably because I wasn’t the one who had to be poked and prodded by telltale instruments all morning.  After a bunch of paperwork and waiting for Craig outside a million different rooms with really strange names, the medical check was done and we were told we had to come back at 15h30 to get the results. Monica suggested we go to the bank, then go shopping and walking around, eat, then go back and get the results.

We stopped at a Bank of China that was right near the ‘hospital’, and I went in, and sure enough they had no idea what travellers checks were either. They suggested we go to the head branch in Changsha, so off we went. I was getting pretty nervous, envisioning months with zero cash, all my travellers checks gone to waste.

The main branch was in a really impressive building, clean and modern. We went inside and finally someone recognized my travellers checks. I took a number and sat down, waiting for about a half an hour for my number to be called. I went up to the window and they guy there had no idea what to do. He called a manager over, and they did it step by step together.  Finally after about an hour all together, my checks were changed into cash, and we left. Even in banks everything works on China-time! Patience is really a necessity here….

After the bank we went to this giant mall because Monica had to exchange an mp3 player she had, so while we waited for her, me Craig and Cindy walked around the mall. It was super-modern and super-shiny in there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many shiny surfaces in one place. Everything was as expensive as stuff in the states, if not more, so just looking around was all I did.

After lunch, we went back into the mall and Monica went to get some sunglasses and the girls were all looking at some make-up stuff for quite a while. It’s obviously not up Craigs alley, nevermind mine, so we circled the floor about 10 times waiting for them, and looking at Chinese capitalism at is best…millions of people selling things and zillions buying those things. After that we just went back to the medical check place, picked up the results and drove back to Liuyang.

The next day in the morning me and Craig were both told we were going to be doing a class for all the first graders and 4-8th grade at once in the auditorium. We got together and made a lesson plan. For the first graders we made a powerpoint that had the alphabet song on it and each letter individually with a picture (like M for Monkey, A for apple). For the older kids we were going to read a story that was only a few lines long, but had a lot of action words in it. I was going to read it and Craig would act it out, then we would read it again and have the kids act out what they heard in the story. After that we put some tongue twisters on a powerpoint to finish up with.

The next morning we went to the auditorium and in filed 250 loud, squirmy first graders. The teachers had to spend about 10 minutes quieting them down and trying to get them to stop climbing on their chairs. Finally we went up there and sang the alphabet song with them, then went through each letter. It kind of worked, getting the kids to scream the name of the picture they saw. Some of them knew the name in English, while others would just yell it out in Chinese, and some would just stare blankly. All in all, I guess it was ok, considering it was the first time ever doing this, and the kids were super squirmy.

We had to come back at 9h00 to talk to the 4-8th graders. When we got there at 9, an English teacher met us and said ‘oh, all you need to say is Hi, I’m__’. So we dropped all that stuff we prepared, introduced ourselves to a bunch of oohing and aahing middle-schoolers, taught them the tongue twisters only, then sat back down again. They said we could leave the auditorium because they were just going to be teaching in Chinese for the rest of the time. We left and that was the start of the weekend.

That evening we went into town to that same mall where Monica took us before to check it out completely and to get some snacks and juice and stuff. We also found a market with stalls that sell everything, from shampoo to watermelons to telephones. I had been looking for a pair of cheap speakers to play my music over, because my laptop speakers don’t quite cut it. I found some for 75 yuan, and bargained down to 50 yuan (about 6 USD). I also needed some lotion, but for some reason it is incredibly hard to find, if you just want a big bottle of some cheap stuff. All i could find was in the department store, in the beauty section, in tiny bottles with whitening stuff in it. Maybe people don’t use body lotion here? After finding everything we needed, we taxied back to school. I hooked up my speakers right away and adjusted them so they sound o.k., but my office room is big and empty, so the sound still sounds a little wonky. But I can finally listen to my music, so I’m not complaining!

The next few days were spent not going outside except for meals, because it was at least 98F (37C ) and really humid. I’m turning farmer brown just from my walk between my apartment and the cafeteria. It gets a little boring sitting inside all day, waiting for each meal to come, but it’s nice to have a rest. The reason why I couldn’t go to town is partly because of the heat, partly because the afternoon is nap-time for all the Chinese so few people are out, and shopkeepers are snoozing at their registers. In the evenings though, after dinner around 6 or 7, everyone emerges from their homes and there are people all over the streets, shopping, sitting, looking, walking, and dancing or singing in the park. Also good street food vendors come out as well.

On Friday night me and Craig decided to locate a place to go out. So I looked a bunch of places up on Google, and we went into town and walked around looking for them. We came accross one place that said ‘It’s Party’ in big neon letters, so we went up inside and it turns out it is was some kind of Chinese disco place. We walked in, not sure where to go, then all these people came over to us and ushered us to a table in the middle of the room. There weren’t many people there, and they were all off to the side. They brought over a menu and told us we could either pay 30 yuan for a bottle of beer or 300 yuan for a bottle of vodka, and that was it. 30 yuan is a little steep for a small bottle of beer, since you can get a giant one from a store for 3 yuan. 300 yuan isn’t a lot for vodka so we went with that.

The waiter brought over all this stuff, like grape juice, cups, a pitcher, a fruit tray, peanuts, meat with toothpicks and finally the actual bottle of vodka. I went to pour some in a glass then he grabbed it and said no no wait! And proceeded to do all this stuff that finally resulted in three glasses of tastiness. The third glass was for a guy that worked there who was not dressed in the waiter’s uniform, but I think was some sort of manager or something that was assigned to sit at our table with us and keep us entertained since we were apparently the only foreigners who had ventured in in a few months. I talked to him a bit and he said that there had been many foreigners during the last school year that would come to this place, because it is the only bar in the city, and they had all been teachers at the number one middle school or elsewhere in Liuyang. I showed him the list of bars I had found on Google and he told me none of them exist. I have yet to verify that….

Anyway, as the night wore on, lots more people came in and started dancing as they got more intoxicated (as it usually happens…) Then everyone got off the dancefloor and someone in some skimpy clothing came out with a chair and started to do a burlesque pole/chair dance. Only half way through did I realise it was a man. He sure was a good dancer though. It kind of brought me back to that time in Taiwan when Rotary brought all the exchange students to see a native dancing show, and half way through we realised all the men were women and all the women were men. Oh China…

Saturday was another lay around day, waiting for the next meal, being lazy in between. It was really hot until a massive thunderstorm came rolling in. It was super windy and since everything is open, my clothes went whipping off their drying hangers in the kitchen, and you could hear doors opening and slamming all over campus, along with everything rattling. The sky opened up and there were huge raindrops that soaked everything in a few seconds. After that passed, I went to dinner and me and Craig decided to go into town again to do more exploring. We walked around a lot, found some alley ways and some other stuff then went home around 10.

Today I woke up and the weather was really nice. It was cloudy and almost chilly outside. After lunch, I decided I would go into town early in the afternoon because it wasn’t hot so it would be plausible to walk around without getting soaked with sweat and burned. I asked Craig if he wanted to come, so we took a taxi from the school into town and walked around for at least 4 hours. I finally found some stuff I had been needing, all for very cheap. I got a bag (got tired of carrying everything in my pockets and hands every time I went out), USB key and an E-1 string for my bouzouki, and a bunch of juice. I keep thinking I’m spending a lot here, but then I do the calculations and find out it’s almost nothing.

Anyhow, that brings everything up to right now…..

I start classes this week, though I have still heard nothing. I’m starting a few intro class lesson plans. We’ll see how that goes….Also I might be going back to Changsha in the next few weekends since Katie, one of the teachers is going to be there.

I’ll write about my first few classes as soon as they happen!!

Oh! and P.S. I wanted to thank everyone who came to my going away party. There are postcards in the mail to you, but the post office said they would take a month at least….I didn’t forget about you!!

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Training and Liuyang Arrival!!

(Sorry for the long-windedness! Lots has happened in the past week or so, and I keep forgetting to update the blog! I’ll have to start making more regular and shorter entries after this…)

O.k., so the past few days lots of not so good things have been happening, and lots of good things. First of all, I am in Liuyang!! I got here this morning at about 6h30am. The bad few things that happened started on Saturday…first my rental bike got stolen in Yangshuo, second I woke up on Sunday with a raging stomach sickness and flu-fever, only the kind you can get in China (mom, you know all about those) right before an 11 hour train ride….third I got to Liuyang and feverishly wobbled to the bank and found out that no banks in the city change traveler’s checks, so I am broke until I can get a ride to Changsha. Strangely enough, as testing all these things are to my sanity, I’m still fairly indifferent. After all, this is China and this kind of stuff just makes the character of the place all the more interesting.

Anyway, all that negative stuff aside, I had training last week in Yangshuo with 23 other teachers, mostly from the States and Australia and Canada. It was pretty informative, and good to be able to get to know all the teachers that will be teaching in China at the same time as me. I’ve made some friends in the group and we all intend to visit each other in order to get some real local knowledge of these backwater towns around China. At the end of the week we had to do teaching practice after learning how to make a lesson plan. Basically we were given a lesson plan template and had to formulate something interesting around that. I didn’t have too much trouble coming up with things, and I figured I had enough material to last about a half an hour. When it was time to give the lesson I got a little nervous, but soon realized that teaching is much much different from public speaking, and much easier. I think I gave a boring lesson because I was still so nervous, but it was a good thing they had us practice before I have to do it for real next week.

After the training was done on Friday night Owen, the head honcho of Buckland, brought all the teachers out to eat a good Chinese dinner on the edge of the Li River. There is a strong tradition in Chinese culture of drinking yourself into the ground with the famed ‘Bai-Jiu’ or rice alcohol. It is 56% alcohol, and the more one can drink, the more they are considered a hero. Owen is truly a hero when it comes to Bai-jiu. He brought four bottles to the dinner and kept pouring everyone more and more into there cups, laughing and having the grandest time ever. I took one sip of the stuff and vowed never to drink it again. It burns all the way down, and the rate at which it gets people drunk will keep me clear away. During dinner one of the older ladies fainted and we thought it was because she had had one too many bai-jiu’s, so Owen quickly stashed all the Bai-jiu under the table. When she had woken up and left the restaurant, we all learned it was just because she was sleep deprived and too hot, and she hadn’t drunk a sip. Owen got the bai-jiu out again as quickly as it had been hid, and promptly poured everyone more to cheers to Nancy (the fainting lady)’s health.

After dinner we all went to KTV, which is basically a place where you can rent a room with couches lining the walls and a TV and wireless microphones where you can sing along with the karaoke song of your choice. I had been to a few in Taiwan, but this one was way more fun, maybe it’s because I was with a bunch of teachers and my boss, who had all had one bai-jiu toast too many. Towards the end of the night everyone started leaving and then I left with some of the teachers, Craig, Grace and James. We got separated from Grace and James and then ran into another teacher Laura on the street and paid an electric bus driver to bring us home.

On Saturday I took the chance to go around Yangshuo again before I left, because Ping had told me and Craig that we will be leaving for Liuyang on Sunday night at 8pm. I took a bike ride with a bunch of teachers back to the Yulong river to go swimming. We all jumped off the ‘Dragon Bridge’ that goes across it, dodging the tourists on their bamboo rafts, and we met a few British dudes who were just around visiting and wanted to know about how to teach in China. Later on that night we all went out to get Western food, since it would be the last chance for a while. Yangshuo is known for it being a tiny microcosm of western things and a zillion tourists. I decided to order lasagna, and when it came it was absolutely the weirdest interpretation of lasagna I’ve ever had. It was basically cut up vegetables put in between layers of wonton wrappers with splotches of cheese here and there. I ate half and gave the rest to some friends that had finished their pizza (which was real pizza). I was feeling a little like I had a cold later that night but I wanted to go say bye to some friends I had made around the town, so I went back to that place ‘rooftop bar’ and said by to them, then bike home.

On my way home I saw some other teachers walking by and so I stopped and said hello to them and decided to lock my bike near a restaurant that was still open and go with them to the park. When we came back from the park, lo and behold my bike was nowhere to be found. I figured the next day I had to go tell the rental place what happened and pay them the deposit on the bike that they had waved when I first rented it. These things happen I suppose!

So the next morning I woke up with a horrible stomach flu and for the rest of the morning laid in bed, alternating that with packing up my stuff since me and Craig had to leave to go to Liuyang at 5pm that night. After I was packed I had to bring all my stuff to the school, but I couldn’t walk very well without getting all feverish and sweaty and shaky so I asked Craig to ask Yuan to bring his electric bus around and pick up my stuff. Yuan came around and I was shipped off to the school to wait a few hours till it was time to go. One of the other teachers, Jason, had had this same stomach flu a few days before and so he went to get all the leftover medicine he had and all the Chinese Gatorade people had given him. I sucked that down and felt a tiny bit better.

Our van came to bring me and Craig to the train station to catch our overnight hard-sleeper train to Changsha, and to bring two other teachers Megan and Eric to the airport because they are going to that school in Sichuan! I held down my nausea the whole weave-y jolt-y ride there, and then me and Craig got dropped off at the station, and were told to wait by the entrance to the public bathrooms for the ‘travel agent’ that was supposed to come give us our tickets. While we were waiting a kid came over to us, plopped down his shoe-shine kit about 6 inches away and stated squeaking at us and grabbing Craig’s feet and pouring water on our stuff. We tried to get him away but he wouldn’t move, so we asked these people who were next us from Xi’an to help, and they tried, and the these other people came over to help/watch the spectacle and laugh. Finally the kid got up and went away after about 20 minutes of squeaking and grabbing stuff. Craig then went up to go into the bathroom, which was followed by a discovery that perhaps the Guilin trainstation public bathrooms serve a strata of society that isn’t just looking to pee in there. For more details you can go read Craig’s blog, which I’ll post a link to in the link section soon.

Soon this guy came up to us waving some tickets and asking for 200 yuan from each of us, when the ticket only said 130 yuan. I asked him to recite his phone number because I didn’t believe it was the guy we were meeting, but indeed it was and indeed we had to pay the guy 200 yuan for going 10 feet away to buy a ticket we could have bought ourselves. So silly! But after that was sorted out, we only had 10 minutes to run to the train. So, ready to hurl at any minute, I ran with Craig towards the train platform, and we got on the train safe and sound. Our bunks were right near the door, with a family that was also going to Changsha. I almost threw up all over everyone, but then Craig helped me take care of my bags while I curled up in a ball on my bunk and tried to feel better. I’m so glad he was there or it would have been a gross disaster!!

When that was all taken care of, and everyone on the train had settled into their bunks, we started off the Changsha. Me and Craig chatted for a bit on my bunk then we both decided sleep would make the time pass faster, so I went to sleep and he went up to his bunk and did the same. Since he is so tall, half his legs hung off the end, and people kept walking by and exclaiming at the foreigner with long hairy legs. I was woken up many hours later by a lady collecting tickets and saying we had just arrived in Changsha and we need to get off the train. I still felt nauseous, but a ok enough to grab my things off the train. Me and Craig got off and went the way everyone else was going and were greeted by two people with our names on a sign.

One was our foreign affairs officer, who doesn’t speak any English, and was driving the car. The other, Monica, is an English teacher at the Liuyang Xinwen School where we will be living and teaching. She is young (24) and very nice and talkative, and I think she is going to be functioning more as our foreign affairs officer instead of the other guy. Maybe he got the title because he did a favor for a higher-up or something.

On our way back to the school, we stopped at a noodle place for breakfast as it was only about 8am. I was feeling a tiny bit better at that point so I ate a half a bowl of noodles, and I wish I had been able to eat all of it because they were so tasty. After that we made a stop at China Mobile because it was apparently very urgent that we get cellphones. We stopped by there and I said, ok I will have the cheapest one possible please, so I got one for about 350 yuan include the phone number and some minutes. I think that’s about 40 U.S dollars. The rest of the phones there were over 1200 yuan. I don’t know how anyone here can afford that, but they all seem to be carrying one around.

Next we were brought to the police station to register ourselves as new residents of Liuyang, and we will have to register as teachers as soon as we get our work permits. I have a business visa, and everyone keeps telling me it is ok, that it is a different kind of business visa that allows me to teach. We’ll see if that’s true as time wears on.

Anyway, we finally got to the school, which is a ways from town in the ‘new district’ of Liuyang. Basically where all the government buildings are scattered some distance from each other. We are off a main road up a small dirt road and on the other side of a giant dirt pile. Although the school is a little off the beaten path, its very nice looking, and is apparently the best elementary school in Liuyang and only going into it’s 3rd year of being open. We were driven up to where our apartments are, and we brought out stuff inside.

Craig is on a first floor apartment and I am on the second floor, right above his. The apartments are really nice and really big. Mine is about the size of my old Papineau apartment, except now it is only me living in it. I closed off the doors to three of the rooms to make it seem smaller, since they are all empty. In one of the rooms there is a weight bench and a bike. One room is locked and the other I put my empty suitcases in. Another room is my bedroom, and the bed is huge, but with a very hard mattress and no sheets (i’ll have to get some of those…). And across from that room there is an office with a computer, a big desk and something to fold and hang my clothes in. At the front of the apartment there is a living room with two couches, a small fridge that doesn’t work, a water cooler, and a tv with a dvd player next to it. At the back of the apartment there is the kitchen with long bars on the ceiling to hang my clothes to dry and open but barred windows on all sides. Off the kitchen there is a bathroom, that kind of looks like a public bathroom since there are two stalls, one with a western toilet and one with a squat toilet. There are two sinks along the wall as well, and a Chinese washing machine and a big faucet for filling up buckets of water. There are two shower heads in each bathroom stall, because the Chinese shower on their toilets. Well, not on, but around. You have to be careful not to drop anything in the shower or step in the wrong spot because either you or your shampoo will fall directly in the hole in the ground!

I was still feeling a little sick so I took a nap all afternoon and when I woke up Monica was calling me to see if me and Craig wanted to go shopping to find things we might need, and also go eat some good Liuyang food. I was feeling better after the nap so I agreed and Monica and two of her friends who are also teachers at this school came to pick us up at the school gate. We drove around the city and they showed us different spots, and I went to change some money at the Bank of China and the people there looked at my travelers checks and had never seen them before and that if they were really legitimate then I could go to Changsha to change them. No amount of talking could change there mind. I even filled out all the paperwork necessary exactly as I had done in Yangshuo, but that wouldn’t change there mind either. I tried the main branch and they said no as well. So this week I am going to have to grab a ride into Changsha and change all of my checks at once, and then stash the cash somewhere safe (and yes mom, in separate places).

After that we went to a giant department store and Chinese Walmart-esque store. I bought tp and scissors and two cups, but then ran out of money, so I’ll have to get the other things I need next week. It’s good to know that Liuyang has places like this, and that although they are a little expensive by Chinese standards, there are a lot of good things in them and its very convenient.

After the shopping trip we went to a special lotus restaurant that had little pathways built all throughout a lotus pond and tables on platforms in the pond and lotus plants. We had really really really good food, and after I got some rice in me I was able to eat my first actual meal in two days. The best food there was some kind of spicy pulled pork. I asked how it was made, but none of the teachers knew. Before I leave here I definitely want to learn how to make some of this food because Hunan food is really tasty!!

After that, they dropped me and Craig off back at our apartments and I went to sleep and slept all night. Today I am no longer sick, and went to have lunch at the cafeteria where there are lots of students milling around and clambering for some food. The food in the cafeteria is pretty good, and I think it won’t be any problem to eat this a few times a day for the next year. It’s also free for staff, which is great!

After lunch me and Craig went for a walk down that dirt road to the main road to see if there is any sort of corner store around to get something to drink or a snack or something. Way down the extremely wide concrete road that banks off of our little dirt road, there was one, with two pool tables randomly in the front with some laughing smoking dark Chinese men sat out front, and referred to me as Craig’s laopo (old wife), which I am not. They offered Craig a cigarette which he was obliged to take, otherwise we would not be considered as very friendly if we come back around. I am apparently a ‘lady’ so I needn’t accept that offer. We got some juice, tea and hangers and went back out onto the roasting hot wide concrete road. The walk was basically just to find our bearings in the area, even though we are far from town. It kind of worked, but I think I’m going to have to go on a bike ride soon to really get to know they area and find my way into the city from here.

That’s about it up till now. But oh yeah!! I forgot to mention. Liuyang is indeed the city of fireworks!!! All afternoon yesterday, and all evening I could hear and see fireworks going off in a zillion different directions. A bunch would go off in the north, then in the east, then the west. And then they would start up again, all different kinds in another spot. This morning I could hear them too, but after lunch which is nap time for everyone in china, I couldn’t hear a single boom.

On Thursday me and Craig are going to be doing a class for all the 1st graders, and then for all the 7th graders. We get to do it together and each one only lasts about a half hour. They said we can do anything we want, just make sure it is fun and that its something that will make the kids interested in English. I think it’ll be fun figuring out what to do, and I’m glad we can do it together, since there are going to be so man little kids all at once.

After that happens, we’ll take a trip to Changsha to check it out, and for me to change all my money. I’ll write again soon!!!!

First Week In China!

Hi everyone! I haven’t posted anything since I’ve gotten to China because it turns out that wordpress is blocked, along with Facebook, Blogspot, Youtube and Gmail emails that contain photos. I finally found a way to bypass the firewall, so here is my first blog entry. I’ve also found a website where I can upload photos to share, and the link for that is:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/68162807@N00/page2/

So to catch up to whats happening now, I’ll start with the beginning. Last Sunday, August 9th, my mum and dad drove me to NYC to catch the plane to Shanghai. The whole trip I had no troubles at all, except for the 11 hour layover in Shanghai before I caught my flight to Guilin. It was really long and I couldn’t check my bags until an hour before since it was a domestic flight. But other than that it was fine. I flew into Guilin and a guy was standing there with my name on a sign so I followed him and he drove me back to Yangshuo. The drive was pretty good. I had forgotten what Chinese traffic and driving was like. We must have passed every single car on the road, and almost gotten hit head on by a truck multiple times. The guy was definitely a really good bad driver. The scenery was nuts going there too, the sun was setting behind the karst mountains and there were fires burning all over the rice fields, burning the extra dry grass the farmers picked. We stopped for a windshield wash at one point and there was an almost naked guy taking a shower under a faucet at the gas station. When we got to Buckland in Yangshuo, I was greeted by a young guy named Yuan who took my bags and had me fill out some paperwork, then I was shown to my room at the ‘ESL Hostel’. I fell asleep right away even though it was only 8 or 9 oclock. I hadn’t been able to sleep at all on my 11 hour layover, so I was pretty tired.

The next morning I woke up at 6am and so I hung out in my room until I heard the door next to mine opening. I ran over and looked to see who it was and it was another foreign teacher, Craig, who is 6’9 and from Florida. He had gotten there the day before so he showed me where the office was and where breakfast is served. It turns out breakfast is noodles, congee, youtiao (oily breadstick things), steamed buns and hot sweet soy milk. That day I went with Craig to climb two of the karst mountains in the area and took a zillion pictures of it all (on Flickr), and then we went to West Street to have lunch. After that I had to go change money so I went back to my room and got some travellers checks with the intent to go to bank of china to change them, then went back to the school to pick up my passport. There was a foreign teacher there named nick who said he would give me a ride on the back of his bicycle. So after some watermelon, I jumped on the back sidesaddle and we sped off the the bank. I felt like a real chinese lady balancing on the back of his bike, weaving in and out of traffic. Anyway I got to the bank and changed my money pretty easily, then we went back to the school and I went back to my room to get my laptop to see if I could get a wireless connection in the office. When I got back to my room I fell asleep and wouldnt have woken up had craig not knocked on my door to see if I wanted to come to some event that was happening that night on west street with the school. We all got in Yuan’s electric bus and drove over to West Street. I had no idea what was going on but I was told they were filming a tv show to be broadcasted on cctv guangxi on october 1 for the people’s liberation army and the p.r.c.’s 60th birthday and we were to be participants. They sat us down at this table on the side of the road they were filming on, gave us some shiny light up batons and told us to look excited and happy and wave them around. They also gave us pitchers and cups of beer which we were to drink and cheers as often as possible, maintaining our excited looks. There was a guy from the army there next to us to make sure we did just that. There were tables down the middle of the road with snazzily dressed teenagers who were dancing in unison to a song and a camera guy running all around them taking shots every which way. They kept having to repeat the takes because it was so disorganized and people just kept forgetting what they were doing or walking off. At one point a fight even broke out and the police had to run in and take the guy away. I was exhausted, so by the time the thing finished, we left as soon as possible to walk back to the school. It was a long walk but it was fun because I made friends with this chinese kid who works in the office as the I.T guy. He doesn’t speak English, so we talked a lot in Chinese and I was happy I got a chance to practice and to speak with someone who cant speak English and a real resident of Yangshuo. His name is Liu I think. Anyway, we got back to the office and then me and Craig walked back to building number 7 where our rooms are, and I fell asleep soon after I got there.
The next day after breakfast we went to the police station to register ourselves and thats about all I did other than walk around more and I met a few more teachers that arrived from Las Vegas named Corie and Adam.

On Friday night I decided I wanted to explore the places where I can get beer around here, and a few of the other teachers agreed so we went out with some of the Owen College students to Alley Bar near west street on the smaller river. It was pretty fun, we just talked a lot and I had some conversations in chinese as well as english, but more often than not in english and spoken very slowly. I played a game of pool and me and corey won, I got the majority of shots in which is strange as I’m so bad at playing pool. Then tony, one of the students, asked us if we wanted to follow him to another bar called rooftop bar. So we went there and walked through these people’s living room and up about ten flights of stairs until we got to this bar that was…on the rooftop. There was this tiny girl who was the owner and a bartender named stussy who has a maniacal laugh and is the most nuts person in China that I have ever met. We stayed there a while and lit a wish lantern which craig had to let go of because he is the tallest, but the wind just put it right back down onto the roof. So there was a giant flaming lantern bouncing around on top of the roof, and we thought the place was going to catch fire but finally it bounced off and floated away. The bike ride home was nice because there were so few people on the road so we could free-wheel it all the way back without being afraid of dying. I forgot if I mentioned I rented a bike for 5 yuan a day. Ever since I got that bike, I have been zipping around everywhere and all over yangshuo and the countryside.
Last week a few of us decided to go explore the countryside and maybe go swim in the river. It was me craig cory and adam and emmanuel, a guy from Quebec. We were going and got caught in a huge torrential thunder and lightening storm and we ran over to this overhang that was made for a restaurant at someones house that was closed, but then this guy came out and we asked if we could stay under the overhang and maybe have some beer, so we all bought a beer and sat under this wooden hut until the rainstorm passed. When we got the river I jumped in but no one else did. It was good swimming and I swam across, trying to avoid all the bamboo rafts that tourists were taking downriver. I talked to an old fat guy in a speedo who was swimming across as well who said he studied english and japanese in guilin university.
On saturday I went to ask nick, one of the teachers at owen college, if he could tune my bouzouki so I went over his apartment and he did, then he asked if I wanted to go with him to the post office, so we went there and he mailed some postcards then it was so hot, so he suggested that we go swimming in the yulong river again that day. We biked all the way there and then we swam all afternoon. I got incredible burned and red. Then later on he left and all the other teachers came with some new ones that had arrived that day. There are so many arriving now that it is hard to keep track.
I slept a lot on Sunday and had watermelon with some of the new arrivals and then had pizza on west street with craig. I came back and found nick and went to get my bouzouki and we re-tuned it because the humidity is so bad here. Then I went back home to hang around a bit and I watched some things on my computer, then craig came by to hang out and he decided he might want to go to liuyang as well, which is awesome because I was afraid I might be alone there, or at least with an older couple or something. I’d rather be with someone who is around my age and in the same general mindset as me. Also, we were looking in his lonely planet guide and it turns out there is a carrefour in changsha, which is amazing. I can make some western food when I get homesick! Anyway, tonight I’ve just been writing postcards because training starts tomorrow morning and I want to be rested.
I’ll write about training when it’s all over, and by then I’ll also know if I’m going to be going to Liuyang or not!!

Almost Time to Leave!

I came back to Connecticut last Wednesday to start getting things together and to see friends and family before I head out. On Sunday my mum organized a family party, so I saw my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all at once! It was really really nice to see everyone again, especially all in once place!

This next week is going to be very busy with all the things I’ve got to do. I’ve already separated things that I will bring to China and things to give away and things to stay. Now I just have to cut that bring-to-China pile in half, and then in half again! I hope I can have the least amount of stuff possible. Maybe just a backpack, a suitcase and my bouzouki.

My flight is at 1h30 in the morning on Monday out of JFK, so me and my mum are going to drive to New York on Sunday evening to drop me there. I’m pretty sure the flight is direct from JFK to Shanghai, just about 15 hours. Maybe we’ll be flying over the North Pole, because going over Alaska seems like it would take a lot longer…

I’ve been trying to find out more about ESL teaching, going to forums and websites online, looking for tips or lesson plans. I’m not nervous at all about going to China or staying there for a long time. The only thing I’m really nervous about is teaching, because I have absolutely no idea how to teach, and I often get weak-kneed talking in front of people. One of the reasons I’m doing this is to get over that. Logically, I can see no reason to be afraid of talking in front of a crowd!

Earlier in the process, I was told if i have a city that I prefer I can e-mail and let them know and perhaps I’ll end up there. I saw recently that there were these ‘newly franchised schools’ on the list of places to go, one of which was in Liuyang, Hunan. For some reason I felt attracted to it. Probably partly because the school is an elementary school, and I really like little kids.  I read a little about the city and it is apparently the fireworks manufacturing capital of the world, with fireworks being tested and shown-off day and night. Sounds like it would be an interesting experience!

Anyhow, first I’ll be going to Yangshuo and that is for certain! In a few weeks I’ll know exactly where I am going and I can finally tell the people back home where I’ll be for the rest of the year!