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November 2003 Archives

November 29, 2003

I keep thinking I should write something significant about the events of the day, but I'm not postiive about what to write.

The school hosted its first "Sports Meeting", which was a track and field event that the whole school participated in. The opening ceremony was equal parts fun and tedious. I didn't stick around past the first few runnings of the girls 100 meter dash, since I'm really not into watching track and field. But the energy out there was amazing, and I got a little orange flag out of the deal.

I never quite know what to think when I see something that's so similiar to home. I wonder if they copied it from us, or if they really want to have something like that. Today it was a small marching band. A bunch of kids done up all in white band uniforms, carrying trumpets and drums. They even had the white hats, like police officers. I'll admit, it seemed strange to see something so... hmm... Western, except with Chinese faces.

There were also balloons. Balloons with helium! Yay balloons!

Many tedious speaches were given, and it's nice to know that's a universal trait.

Two groups did performaces during the ceremony. One was a group of boys, who did a martial arts demonstration. They gave me the name of the style, but I can't remember what it was. I just watched, entranced. I love watching martial arts demonstrations, and I was disapointed that it was over so soon.

The second demonstration was dancing by a group of girls. Many many many more girls than boys, and this surprised me since there are so many more boys than girls at the school. The girls here seem to be more open and friendly, although that might just be because I'm a girl, and they feel more comfortable talking to me. Paul gets all the boys' attention at his school, so I guess this makes more sense.

Anyway, the whole thing would have been well suited to having pom-poms involved. I really loved watching it, even if there weren't any of the tricks that cheerleader types are supposed to do. Again, it's the energy. I don't remember ever having that much energy when I was there age, but I didn't have to run laps around the school twice a day, or do excersizes outside regardless of the weather.

After the ceremony, before the races, I was dragged everywhere by girls wanting pictures with me. My father will be happy, I went through two rolls of film in two days. I really have to get some of this stuff developed.

I should talk about yesterday, and the meeting with the overseas students from Nanjing, but I find myself strangely reluctant to talk about it. It was very strange, suddenly being around a group of Westerners again. They have this little community they've formed, and part of me wonders whether they exclude the rest of China because of this. It's completely wrong of me to judge anything based on six hours of time with a group of people, but part of me can't help myself.

I feel envious of them, because they have each other. But I'm happy to be here alone, too. I'm beginning to get used to it, and try and work my way around this isolation. {Can you both accept and work around something at the same time? I have no idea. Being in China is making me very introspective.}

I have plans for lunch tomorrow with some of the teachers, and next weekend is the Shanghai Blogger Christmas Thingy. {I'm talking about this way too much. But either way, I'm going to Shanghai, and I'm going to buy Christmas lights.} Weekend after that I'm going to Rudong to hook up with Paul and get taken to a bar. I've informed him I'm dancing. I don't care if he does or not.

November 28, 2003

Heaven holds a sense of wonder....

I have been wished a happy Thanksgiving more often this week than I ever have been in my life. And it's not Thanksgiving for me. I'm Canadian, it was last month some time.

I only have one regret about the timing of my leaving Canada. Kris said to me in the week before I left, "Well, do you want to have a Thanksgiving meal or something before you leave?"

"Um, no," I replied. (Probably sharply, I was a real bitch right before I left. In my more charitable moments I blame it on nerves, but I think I should just blame it on being a bitch.)

It didn't occur to me that Thanksgiving weekend was the same weekend I was leaving, and that, with me gone, Kris wasn't going to really have a Thanksgiving.

I mean, it's always been a non-holiday for me, an excuse to eat pumpkin pie and get a day off school, or get paid more for working it. It just truly didn't occur to me at all that there was Thanksgiving in 2003.

I think the holidays are going to be really hard for me, though. It already seems impossible that it's almost the end of November, when I haven't heard Christmas music at all, when I haven't seen snow, there's no Christmas decorations in any of the stores... how can it already be Christmas time? What the heck is going on?

My mother tells me that she'll make her special Christmas Cake for me when I get home. She's been sending me this stuff every year since I left home, and it means Christmas to me. Christmas tree or no, Christmas dinner or no, Christmas is my mom's care package. I know she's sent me something, but I don't know when it will get here. On some level I think, What difference does it make? It's one year of living abroad. It's not like there won't be other Christmases for crying out loud. But, it matters.

I wonder at how other ex-pats can do it, and I wonder at the communities that they've formed. Living in China has taken off, and I know that there's a lot of Chinese bloggers that flock to each other's websites, creating their own communities around them. After having spent the day with a group of overseas students learning Chinese in Nanjing, I'm so jealous of the community that they've formed. They'll do something for Christmas, I'm sure. Me? I'm trying to decide if I want to even acknowledge there's a holiday in December, since I have to work during it anyway.

I guess dealing with the holidays when you're far from home means making your own traditions, ones that show where you're from, where you are, and where you're going. I haven't figured out where I'm going yet, and I'm still defining where I've been. The process is confusing. It's taking what's important to you, and making that the focus of your celebration, while bringing in the parts of this new culture that you enjoy.

I just feel like I haven't made a home here, like I'm just... waiting for something to happen, for lack of a better description. Waiting for that sense of home to come to me, and it doesn't seem to be. I don't know if it's because I haven't given myself enough time, if it's the culture shock, if it's because of what I've left behind, or if it's just because I don't want to connect here. It's so easy to just explore the city without connecting with the people, to teach my classes without ever making friends with the teachers, to sit here in my apartment, reading about living in China without actually doing it.

When Scarecrow went to Japan, he told me he never really suffered from culture shock because he's always felt like an outsider in his life. Being an outside in Japan was just... well, normal for him, I guess. For me, it's different. Back home, I always had someone I could talk to, confide in, laugh with, or yell at. It's varied over the years, but there's always been some friend some place. I never realized how much I used that support network until suddenly it was gone. I'm convinced that I'll eventually find someone here that I can relate to, that I can dream with, but right now, I'm struggling.

I started this out in one place, and ended up someplace else entirely. I think that's a good metaphor to end this with.

November 27, 2003

Laowai Power Make Up!

My Day, a list, by jo

  1. Got a letter from Scarecrow! Yay yay yay yay! Scarecrow is right, there's something extremely satisfying about getting a letter in the mail.
  2. Found out that most of the people I wrote letters and sent postcards to have received them.
  3. Found out that the reason Jeanne-Marie and Colin have not received their letters is because they're still in my coat pocket.
  4. Taught 120 kids how to sing "Auld Lang Syne". Did you know this song has four verses? I didn't. And two of them are partly in Gallic. On a related note, I find the way the Chinese sing English songs very endearing. There's something with the way they sing "forgot"...
  5. Remembered that I'm going to Shanghai next weekend for the Blogger Christmas Party!
  6. Got an invitation to the Canadian Embassy's Christmas Party which is on the same weekend, but sadly takes place late Sunday, and I don't think I'd get back in time to teach. *sigh*
  7. Saw a small black and gray cat going through the little courtyard on campus. I miss my cat.
  8. Discovered I cannot make any international calls on my home phone without a calling card. Which, on one hand sucks, because I can't call home even long enough to say "Please call me back!", and on the other hand is good, because it means I can't call home and turn into a sobbing maniac.
  9. Created a new threat for my coworkers: Don't make me use my evil Loawai powers on you! {Laowai = forienger} I, being a total loser, find this incredibly funny.
  10. Realized I wanted to make a blog post about my day, but didn't feel like putting into coherent sentences, so decided to make a list instead.

It is actually beginning to get cool here. It might even get cold enough to see your breath before Christmas. *sigh*


So, this weekend is going to be a busy one, from what I can put together.

Tomorrow, which is Friday, we'll have some foriegn students visiting from Nanjing. The kids are putting on a variety show for them. It's really quite cute, but definately a high school production. I got to watch it last night while they did a rehersal, and I helped with the English introductions and stuff. The kids are pretty good. If I hadn't been told they put together the dance numbers themselves in two days, I wouldn't have known that.

It doesn't hurt matters in my mind that they're dancing to songs I just love. I'm sorry, like half of the world, I love the song Butteryfly. Kris and I did it on DDR about a million times.

This is what I don't like about China. My DDR reflexes are going to be horrid by the time I get home. Kris is gonna kick my ass!

Anyway, Saturday and Sunday is a "sports meeting". Paul went to one, and warned me outright to take my camera. He said it was a lot of fun. But then, Paul likes watching sports, because he's crazy.

Ah well. I love the kids to peices, so it's okay.

The unfortunate side affect of all this is my second morning class was cancelled because "the students have activities in the playground". Which sucks, because I love teaching that class. Something I've discovered over here is I love teaching children. I didn't think I would, I figured I'd go crazy and kill them all, but I was wrong. I love being wrong some days.

On an unrelated note, I've discovered that the "stationary" option in Yahoo! is a blocked site in China. WTF?

On a slightly related note, I have a new Chinglish example:

On a poster in the grocery store, showing an employee helping someone find something:

"Your need! Our Greed!"

Ah, honesty in the advertising world.

I got an email from one of my students back home, Wang. {It's pronounced Wong, btw.} He's going to be in China for a month, visiting family. I hope we can get together while he's here. *smile*

I got asked That Question. You know, the one that drives people who are in a foreign country crazy:

"Do you know so-and-so? He's from Canada!"


And it was from Paul, no less.

No, I don't know that guy on t.v. who says he's from Canada. It's a big country. The second largest country in the world. I don't even know so-and-so from Edmonton, I assure you.

November 25, 2003


I added something to the site, an "About" page. Because, you know, it's Tuesday, and everyone knows how bad Tuesdays are, right?

On an unrelated note, I've been advised that a bunch of teachers from other schools will be sitting in on one of my classes on Friday. Hurrah. Can you sense the sarcasm? I can sense the sarcasm.

There's a sports meeting on the weekend. Almost every kid I run into has asked me if I'm really going to it, so I guess I'm really going to it. *smile* Paul went to the one at his school, and he said it was really interesting. Lily tells me I have to go so I can shout "Come on, Come on! Faster faster!" at the kids. Eh. But I've been *strongly* advised to take my camera, so I'll take my camera incase my father kills me if I don't. *laugh*

I keep thinking I should say something significant, but really, I can't think of anything. Today I taught. I made a kid cry, because he was reading in my class, and then tried to lie about it. I didn't mean to make him cry. He had pushed the book into his desk, and when I told him to give it to me, he handed me a magazine. I just looked at him until he gave me the book, and that's when he started crying. *sigh* I mean, bad enough he was reading, why lie about it? Do I look stupid? And I can't even properly reprimand the kid, because he only understands about 1/10th of what I say.

That's what I find frustrating here. I can't talk to the kids, not really. I mean, half the teachers don't understand most of what I say. How can I expect the kids to? For someone who's used to talking all the time, this is a weird experience. Between that, and the fact that I'm not getting hugged, I think I might go insane before I get home.

November 24, 2003


Sometimes I think there are two Chinas. {There are likely many more, but I've only been here a short time, and I'm discovering different things every day.}

There's the loud China. China of blarring horns and shouting people and bright lights. China where I sometimes fight the urge to turn my music up as loud as I can to block out all of the noise. This is where I shop, where I walk most of the time, because the streets are better lit and I feel safer. I think nothing can happen to me here, because I'm out in the open, exposed. There are streets like this in Calgary, in Edmonton, in Vancouver. I can pretend, with my music turned up, that I'm not "other".

Then there's the interesting China. The China in the tiny alleys that I walk down on warm Saturday afternoons. The people in this China are much quieter, and much more interesting. They seem to smile more. They seem more real, if that's possible. The paths, since they aren't really streets, are made out of stone. The houses are, too. I walk past people repairing their roof for the coming winter. I walk past children playing in the mud, while a woman washes clothes in the river. A woman with a face wrinkled like an apple left out too long smiles at me and says something I can understand, and laughs when I smile back and say "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

I pass dogs tied up. Little tiny dogs, and large dalmations. I was surprised at the dalmations. When I think of dogs in China, dalmations are not what comes to mind. And there were three or four of them on this walk, in different places.

I pass kids playing pool on tables set up outside, and the little shops people have set up that sell pop and cigarettes and fire crackers. I have to almost walk off the path to avoid the bicycles here, because the paths are so narrow. There are no street lights. I couldn't imagine walking down here in the dark, at night. I wonder what they think of me, obviously a stranger, wandering down their streets.

On the same walk, back on the loud streets, I found a place that looked like a farmers' market from back home, except all it sold was clothes, shoes, hair ties and scarfs. The layout made me claustrophobic, but I kept poking around, trying to find something I would want to buy. I can't seem to find anything here that I want, and I don't know why.

I guess that's not entirely true. In Shanghai I found some things I wanted, but I'm not confident enough about the logical price of anything to start bargaining to buy it, and I don't really feel like being taken advantage of. Besides, some of it is stuff I can get back home. The cheap knock off swords were just funny to me, since I know I can get much better stuff in Calgary.

The problem with being Canadian and travelling with someone, though, is that you find yourself bowing to their whims more than you want to. *sigh* I love travelling with Paul, he helps my confidence and stuff, but I don't think I would have spent two days walking up and down Nanjing Dong Lu without him. I would have tried harder to find someplace else to go, some place that wasn't West Edmonton Mall transfered into Shanghai and moved outside.

It's getting close to 9:30. I've been warned not to go out at night, and I want to. I feel cooped up in here, kept locked away. I don't know where I'd go, but if I felt like this back home I would have gone for a walk down to the Mac's store, bought a milkshake in a bottle, and come home, and felt better for it. Here... *sigh* I can't do that. It's not "safe". I don't know why they say that, but they keep pushing that at me, it's not safe for me to go out at night.

On a completely unrelated note... I think I might have battered my half-cold into submission.

Immediately after typing that, I sneezed three times. *sigh*

I'm a big fan of an online journal called "perceptions". At one point, the author received an email from a woman who had fallen in love with a boy over the internet. She had been in high school at the time, and they had finally met when they were a little bit older. She talked about how meeting him was the best experience of her life.

And less than a month later he was hit by a car and died. And she spent a lot of time regretting how little actual time they had had together. What had kept them apart was distance.

"They were only miles."

Only miles.

This world is such an interesting place. The only thing holding you back is miles.

Sex Apples

Have I ever mentioned that I love fairy tales? Love them to pieces. I read rewritten fairy tales for adults, I read novelizations of fairy tales, I watch fairy tales redone on t.v., I read annotated fairy tales, I ponder the meanings of fairy tales.

This will become relevant shortly.

For some reason, my lessons for the Senior Students never last the whole 40 minutes. So, I started listing random questions in my notebook, to ask them at the end of the class. The goal is to get them thinking and talking. Most of them giggle their way through it. *sigh*

Well, the question that gets the best response is always "What do you want in a boyfriend or girlfriend?" Everyone giggles, the class starts pointing at the best potential mate for the person standing up, and the answers are usually interesting.

Today a boy stood up and proudly said "Sex Apples".

The very first thing that popped into my head was Snow White. I'm certain it's not the first thing that popped into your head.

Turns out he was intending to say "sex appeal".

Ah well. I wanted to increase traffic to the site anyway...

November 23, 2003


I find I dream more vividly in China. It's either that, or maybe I just have more time in the mornings to contemplate my dreams. I guess the fact that I don't have to immediately run out the door if I want to be at work for 5 a.m. helps a lot.

Some of my dreams are funny. I dreamt about Eric being in a biker gang with Hoffman, and I have to say they both looked good in the leather jackets. I dreamt about Barry wearing half a hockey mask, his hair wild and streaming around his face, then taking it off to remind me of something important.

But some are very very vivid, and those are the ones I hate. I work up in the middle of the night once, and actually thought Why would I think I was in China? What a silly thought. Until I rolled over on my bed, so completely different from the one I have back home, I really truly believed I was back in Edmonton. I was so afraid to move, to break that illusion.

It's not that I regret coming to China, but sometimes I wish I wouldn't dream while I was here.

And what did YOU do for your weekend?

So, this week I had my Junior II classes, and I decided to have my warmup be something simple: What did you do on the weekend? Most kids gave the same answers: watched t.v., read a book, slept, studied, played computer games. Blah blah blah, very dull.

However, one kid today answered like this:

"I killed people! And I played computer games."

I stared at him for a moment. (Okay, I laughed so hard I thought I was going to be sick.) Then I asked "How many people did you kill?"

"A thousand!" he said, with a big grin on his face.

"Was it in a computer game?"


"Um... okay. Did you make the newspaper?"


"How did you kill them?"

"With a knife!"

So, yeah. Kid went and killed a thousand people on the weekend. I'm keeping an eye on the news.

November 22, 2003

No! NO!!!

So, they've been doing a lot of construction in Jiangyan. Which I find horrible because they're doing it so quickly. I have literally had landmarks torn down three days after I found them. It's horrible.

But today... ah... today took the cake. They've been doing renovations on my grocery story of choice, and I figured they were just expanding it. But no.

They're putting in a KFC.


Some of you know that I spent part of my formative college years working at a KFC. I feel like I'm being stalked here. Make the bad KFC go away.

Walking past the sign makes me crave a drink.

Which reminds me, I bought alcohol, but I don't know what I bought. It smells interesting, at least.

And, today I once again realized I could identify some of the words I know in Chinese on street signs. Not much, mind you, but I can see a few of the words now. Yay! Now, I just need to learn how to *speak* it....


One of the things I find most interesting about living here is the textures of the food. Everything feels... hmm... I'm not sure what word I should use here. The food feels different in my mouth, and it seems even in the cafeteria they put some effort into the food having a pleasing texture.

I'm getting melancholy, but I think that's mostly because I might have managed to catch Yet Another Cold. Yay me. I think I might keep a running tally in the corner. Number of colds caught since moving to China: 2.5 {I'm counting this as a .5 until it decides to turn into something other than a sore throat.}

In an effort to make myself a bit more cheerful, I present this:

Circle I Limbo

LRPS members
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Role Players
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Mythical People
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Game Masters
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Game Designers
Circle VII Burning Sands

LRPS Council Members
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

I considered putting my cat in there someplace, but decided against it.

Anyway, I'm going to curl up here in my computer room and think healthy thoughts.

Once again, new template

As a note to the nice person who said my blog just wasn't as cheery... I agree. What do you think of it now?

Yup, I decided I needed another new look. Hopefully this one will last a few days longer than the last new look did. What can I say, I'm always looking for something different.

(On a completely unrelated note, for my friends back in Edmonton... Have you ever just hovered over the little face thingy on my blogchalk? I find what it says quite funny.)

Anyway, one thing I find a bit frustrating about teaching in China is that people are always asking me to give them an English name. Now, first, I see nothing wrong with their Chinese name. I mean, I can't pronounce it, but that's my problem that will be fixed with time. Second... Well, I'm less than creative when it comes to naming. At once point in an RPG, I had four major NPCs whose names were all derivitive of "Elizabeth" - Liz, Beth, Elizabeth and Bess. I mean, really. No, don't ask me to give you a name. Please.

But then, a few of the names the kids choose for themselves aren't that much better.

I haven't done a list in a while...

Things I Miss Lots from Home, a list, by jo

  1. Having around a thousand books at my fingertips that I could read at any point.
  2. Having about 400 magazines sitting around that I could reaad at any point.
  3. Being within walking distance of several places that sold books and magazines in English.
  4. Baths.
  5. Mac and Cheese
  6. Hot Chocolate the way Kris makes it.
  7. Those yummy ice cream floats from Ages.
  8. My cat.
  9. My friends.
  10. My room mate.

Of course, on the flip side:

Things I really like about Living in China, a list, by jo

  1. I live alone! {Not that I have anything bad to say about the people I have lived with back home, but this is a new experience, and very strange at that. See that mess? The one over there? Yeah, that's *my* mess. Editor's note: In retrospect, I could probably have safely said that at home, too.}
  2. I have a really really *really* big apartment all to myself.
  3. I like my job. Granted, I'm still new at my job, and maybe I'll hate it in another month and a half, but right now, I love it! Love love love!
  4. Soy Milk is yummy!
  5. Whenever I get bored, I can just take a bus someplace for fairly cheap. So far: Shanghai, Nantong, Nanjing. Someplace else I can't remember the name of, but starts with an H.
  6. If I die crossing the street, at least I can tell everyone in the afterlife that I went to China. *smile*
  7. Beng here gives me lots and lots and lots of time to think.

Yeah, I know, there aren't as many on the "China is Great" list, but I'm tired, and really, nothing in China beats the way Kris makes Mac and Cheese, and those yummy floats from Ages. You think I'm kidding? Go down there, tell him you want a Green Apple float. Yup, at whatever time of the night it is, Casey's floats are better than China. *laugh*

November 20, 2003


Although I'm still trying to avoid going online (and failing kinda... at least I have my laundry done, and swept and mopped), I had to post this because I thought it was hilarious.

Everyone here thinks it's cold during the day, although since it's snowing back home and close to -20 most of the time, I'm not seeing it as cold here at all. That being said, I'm wearing a zipper blouse and usually a t-shirt or something underneath it when I'm teaching. The blouse is black, and I'm beginning to regret wearing black while teaching. Every time I come near the damned board, I get chalk on me.

Well, yesterday during class I leaned over my desk to give a kid a hard time about not paying attention, and managed to lean right onto the chalk brush, leaving a nice chalk stain over my left... um, over my heart. *wink* The kids were all "Ack, teacher, you have chalk!" I tried to brush it off, but it wouldn't come off at all, so I shrugged and took off the blouse.

Pandemonium! Kids going nuts everwhere! My eyes got wide and I stared, then checked to make sure that yes, I was in fact wearing a shirt. I looked back at them, assuring them that I was wearing a t-shirt.

Then I heard what one of them was saying. "You're going to get cold!"

I just sorta smiled at them and reminded them I was from Canada, and that this weather is nice and warm for winter as far as I'm concerned. {Check out Raven's blog if you don't believe me. Let it snow, indeed....}

God, though, the way those kids freaked out, you would have thought I'd stipped naked....

November 18, 2003

Childhood: For Sale -- SOLD!

Some time ago Scarecrow and I had a long chat about the Disney sequels. You know, Peter Pan II, Lady and the Tramp II, stuff like that. I told him then (and he agreed) that it just felt wrong. He looked at me and said "Kinda like they're selling your childhood, right?"

Then I found out they were releasing a "Cat in the Hat" movie, and wanted to weep. Why make Dr. Seuss' stuff into a freaking movie? It's not right, it's not approrpiate. It's just... wrong, like they're selling my childhood. I mean, Dr. Seuss' stuff is meant to be *read*, not watched. I mean, Grinch as a cartoon worked, and I still don't consider it Christmas unless I've watched it on t.v. at least once (which probably means no Christmas in China), and regularily get "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" stuck in my head. But the rest... No. No no no no no.

So, to make a sudden topic change, I didn't read Tolkien as a kid. When I started reading Tolkien, it was for a class on children's literature, and we read The Hobit. I didn't like it. I won't go into why. I tried to get into Lord of the Rings, but it just didn't do anything for me. I'm glad Tolkien wrote this stuff, but I'm glad I don't have to read it. I'm madly in love with the movies, though, if that makes any sense. I think they translate onto the screen very well, and I really don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to end.

(Editor's note: Of course, until I saw LotR, I thought that all my D&D friends and DMs were very very creative souls. I had no idea how often I was just playing a version of part of that story. I found that very disappointing, actually.)

Anyway, as I eagerly look forward to the next installment, and mourn to myself a bit that I not only didn't bring any of my LotR CCG cards with me, I don't have anyone to play with here anyway, I stumbled across this link on someone's live journal. This relates back to the whole selling of childhood stuff:

Barbie and Ken as Arwen and Aragorn...


November 17, 2003

Now I want to go back to school...

To my friends back home who think everything here is so serious and cultural and historic:

Police bust at Gigilo School

I just can't help myself from thinking "Hey, I wanna go to a school like that!"

{From Living in China}

Edited to fix link

November 16, 2003


I tried to make this post a few days ago, but the internet ate it and I got frustrated.

It was early in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my room killing time. The Junior I and II students had been sent home for the weekend, so I had no classes to teach.

I heard some strange noise outside, and figured it was just the kids, since it was their break between classes. However, the noise kept getting louder, and it sounded like music. Finally I got frustrated with it, and took a look outside.

Behind the school is a long narrow dirt road, between the back wall of the school and a farmer's field. It looks so much like roads in the rural areas of Canada, except no gravel.

The noise was coming from instruments. Cymbals, something I'd say was a flute or a recorder, and something I'd say was a stringed instrument. I couldn't actually see them, they were lost in the crowd walking down the road in what seemed like a proccesional.

The processional was led by what looked like six men with white skull caps on. Behind them was a crowd of people, and I couldn't pick out anything in particular about them, except that they were carrying three large fans, like the "chinese" fans we could get as kids, that folded out with the handles at the bottom. One was white, and the other two were multi coloured.

At the back were four people wearing red robes and hats. Somewhere in the mob they were carrying what looked like a little Chinese pagoda made of red paper, but it was hard to tell exactly what it was.

I did take several photos from my window. I considered running down the three flights of stairs and trying to get a better photo, but then I wondered exactly how offensive that would be if this were a wedding or a funeral, so decided against it. Once again, too Canadian to be allowed to travel.

I still have the music running through my head. I love traditional Chinese music.

I was kicking myself for not having studied more about the culture before I came here. I have friends back home who probably know exactly what this proccesional was, but I haven't a clue, and it makes me feel bad. And I just don't want to ask about it, because that would be rude, too. Too bloody Canadian to be allowed to travel, I tell you...

Blogging in China

I just joined up with Living in China, which is... kinda hard to explain. It's a collection of blogs and opinions and thoughts and knowledge and experiences and everything about being in China. Another woman has also recently joined, named Johanna, and I find it amusing because our names are almost the same. *smile* I look forward to reading her blog, to see what her experiences over here are like.

Reading blogs over here is what keeps me in touch with what's actually going on in China. I can't read the papers here, I don't have a working t.v., and I can't find an English language newspaper. Until very very recently, I didn't even find out how to get around the Great Firewall, and I only use that sparingly. So, when my parents called all concerned because there was an earthquake in China, that was the first I'd heard of it.

It's hard to explain to people who haven't been online how important online communities can be. I've defined myself by online communities since I first went to college. There was GMAST-L and MAGE-L when I loved mailing lists, the Void and AugMUD when I was into MUDding, even the forums for PTG PTB were a place where I could "talk" to people with similar interests. When I started up Fade and took over Noc, I made the forums as important as I could, because I liked the community feel of that.

Here, I feel so isolated. Paul and I often compare our co-workers. My school, to be blunt, is better than his. The students are better educated, my apartment is a lot nicer, my pay is even better. But his teachers are always pulling him into their community. Here, I feel like I'm an interesting specimen, someone to occasionally talk to, someone who can make you laugh quickly, but not someone you'd spend your free time with. Part of that's because they work such long hours, some of it's because of my shyness, some of it is just the language barrier. But I feel isolated here because of it.

So, yeah, I've found another community here. Part of me is afraid I'll just throw myself in and turn my back on my attempts to make more friends here at the school, but then, even at the height of my internet addiction in college, I always had friends IRL that I talked to, so maybe not.

I just need to stop being so damned nice about it all, I think....

More Chinglish

"Please keep your legs"

{On the wall next to the escalators in Shugo's (a grocery store) Jiangyan Store}

Sure thing, I'll get right on that.


I decided today to go out and try and do some shopping. I want to find some fabric so I can make some wall coverings, and I'm convinced that if I just look around enough shops, I'll find one that sells what I'm looking for. I didn't know where to go, and I couldn't find anyone who spoke enough English to help me before I left.

So, I walked down the familiar main road. Trying to judge Jiangyan by this road is likely like trying to judge Edmonton by Jasper Ave, but it's the only road I've seriously been down. I once took a bike ride down a road that ran parallel, but was so intent on not getting myself killed that I didn't pay attention to what was around me.

I crossed one of the canals, watching a boat go under it, and cursed myself for not bringing my camera (sorry dad). Then, I turned right instead of going straight, because I saw something that might have been shops.

I think they were restaurants, I didn't go in any of them, but there was this little alley behind them that I decided to check out.

It was very narrow, all made out of stone, and another canal ran next to it. There were a few people on bikes, but I probably passed only three of them on my walk. There were houses on the right hand side, apartment buildings that rose about four stories. The windows and doors were all barred in, and people had some of their laundry out on the bars. They also had some hanging on the bushes that lined the canal.

I kept peaking in through gateways that looked like doors, and behind them could see a little courtyard type thing, all made of stone, where people left their bikes or their laundry, or sat and knitted. Others were tinier little alleys, probably leading back to the main road. I passed what looked like a bookstore, but I didn't go in. I was enjoying the scenery too much to want to go inside.

It was very peaceful, and very cool, and although everyone I passed stared at me, there were a lot less people, so it didn't matter as much. A little kid was playing with a toy sword, much like the ones you can buy back home in dollar stores, and his father was watching indulgently while smoking. I passed a few parked rickshaws, and a dog digging in the garbage.

I finally came out onto one of the busy streets again, and the light and noise was shocking because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I walked into the light, and two people had set up about a hundred fish bowls full of fish. There were big gold fish and little brown fish, and even a bowl full of baby turtles! I wanted to buy one, but I can't keep fish alive at all, and can't imagine where I'd put a baby turtle.

Everywhere I go in Jiangyan they're doing construction, and I keep losing major landmarks because they get torn down. Today was no exception to the construction noise and insanity, and I almost stepped into wet cement until the person selling the turtles showed me where to walk.

I didn't find fabric, but I did find some hooks that I hope will work on my walls, so I can hang *something* at least. I like my apartment, but frankly it's a big white cement box, and it's kinda boring to stare at the walls at night....


I am glutting myself on fanfiction again. I am going crazy for want of stuff to read. Books, magazines, newspapers, anything written in English for crying out loud!

I had a bad magazine addiction back home, and I really miss magazines right now. I tell myself sometimes "Oh, well, by the time you get home you'll have broken that magazine addiction, and think of how much money that will save you!"

But then I think... "No! No! When you get home you'll go crazy for magazines, spending all of your first two paycheques on them and going magazine crazy until Kris bans them from the house, and then you'll start sneaking them in and reading them in the dark under your blankets with a flashlight until you're caught, and then--"

And then I go for a walk until I calm down.

November 15, 2003


I've run into a few cases of "Chinglish" here. There's the "Don't Smoking" signs everywhere, the cashier's sign that was "settie here", and my personal favorite: "Let the grassess's heart will go on". which I assume is supposed to remind the students not to run on the grass.

But, today I found the longest example of it yet. Please tell me what this movie is about:

An occurrence is in the Tang period of big side legend story that close:Guard frontier regions the Lee( ginger text) because of the defiance soldierReam, not wish some old man, womens of the captive of the butchery Turkies who have no the inch irons with the child but were list as wanted by imperial government, The Japanese Tang makes come the ( inside the well is expensive a)s because of often please return to country but were devaluated by imperial government for catch quick, be sent to Turkestan top arerest the escaped convict,Two people meet the empress, a war draw, hence roughly fight again,And here the hour, they meet head oned to meet with the imperial government company's b riga de,of the country Confucian classics the brigade's ground head the snake is peaceful( the king learn the ), had been saved by Lee's of will The solider's

Yes, all of that, as typed, is on the back of the DVD I purchased today.

Too Canadian

I continue to be too Canadian to be allowed to travel outside of my country. But then, exactly the same situation has happened to me at home and I've sat there and taken it, too.

I got completely taken for a ride on a cab fare today. I am too embarrassed to write out the details, but I'll sum it up as I paid about 3 times as much for a cab ride in Nantong than I should have. I feel like such an idiot.

I thought for part of today that if I were just more comfortable in China, if I could speak some decent Chinese, or even survival Chinese, I'd be okay. I would have been all assertive, and insisted on paying the proper fare. But then, as I said, the same thing has happened to me in Canada.

Anyway, my luck in meeting English speaking people when I need too has continued, and I was okay getting to Nantong. I had to go through... um... Hiaean? Hian? Um.... some nice looking city. And then I got another bus to Nantong. Unlike the last time I travelled to Nantong, this was a much shorter trip. And I ended up with the same buses both ways, which I found amusing.

But I just feel so stupid!

November 14, 2003


This is the second part of my trip to Shanghai.

The trip to Shanghai was fairly uneventful. We did take a ferry across the Yellow(?) River, but we weren't able to leave the bus, and it didn't take that long.

Once we got into Shanghai, though... My, what a difference! The areas of China that Paul and I live in are much darker than back home. There are fewer lights, and they aren't nearly as bright. Shanghai, though, is basically the New York of China, and is bright! Lots of Neon lights and flashing lights and all sorts of things. We stared out the darkened windows of the bus and tried to figure out where we were on the map in my guide book.

We passed quite a few Western fast food chains on the way. KFC was definately the most popular, but we also passed a McDonald's, which is where we decided to eat. What can I say, I was curious as to what it would be like, and how it would taste.

So, we got off the bus, got multiple offers for taxis, and walked back to the McDonald's.

In France, the McDonald's have statues and serve beer. In China... hmm... Remember about 10 or 15 years ago when McDonald's were all tight places with bright colours? (I know, not all that different to how they are now, but the colour schemes and layout were to get out in and out quickly, and now they've changed that so you linger.) It's not quite like that, but very similiar. Hard to explain. However, the menu was the same, and they had us point to what we wanted on a little menu they kept near the cash registers for us non-Chinese speaking people. I had my usual, a McChicken Burger combo. It, and the fries, were less spiced than they are at home.

After we finished (I felt so much better, I hadn't eaten since breakfast and this was getting on into the evening), we started trying to find a cab. I'm still not sure if the etiquette in China has people hailing cabs on the street, but we'd passed a taxi stand on the way, and stood in line for a little while, still trying to figure out where we were on the map. Like I said earlier, we'd picked out a hotel (well, I picked out a hotel). Finally I asked the woman standing in front of us, and she spoke very good English, and was able to confirm where we were. She also warned us that we would probably have little luck getting a cab there. She and her companion were going to try someplace else.

Paul and I talked about it, and decided to go back to the bus station. Still lots of cabs, and guy came up to us and offered to help us find where we were going. I think the word is "tout", but I'm not positive. First he took us to the hotel I had picked out, but they were apparently all filled up. Then he said "Hey, I have a couple of places you can go" (okay, he didn't, because his English wasn't that good, but that's the idea). He gave us a couple of price options, and we picked the least expensive at 400 RMB a night. We finally got there (forienger's tax... we took the scenic route), and got a room with very little difficulty. The tout got a bonus from them for bringing us. *smile* But, the girls at the desk spoke very good English, and our room was comfortable, at least.

However, NO CLOCK!

I think there's a law or something against clocks in China. None of the hotel rooms I've stayed in have one. I'm going crazy.

Anyway, Paul and I dropped off our stuff, got changed, and decided to hit the town, have a beer, whatever. Just something to relax. We went back down to the front counter and asked about possible bars in the area, but I guess there aren't any near there. We grabbed another cab, and were finally able to explain what we wanted. We drove... and drove... passed lots of places, but decided we wanted to see where the guy was taking us. Because, if you're going to get sold into White Slavery, you want to see the place first, not just get knocked out, and dropped off, right?

We eventually pulled up in front of a strip of bars, and started looking around. All of them seemed busy, playing different music, and we weren't really sure where we wanted to go. Finally we just picked one and walked in.

There was a young woman wearing a wig at the front, who asked us how many there were (2), and lead us to an area and invited us to sit down. Until that moment, it had slipped my mind. It was Halloween.

Paul tells me that Halloween is just coming to New Zealand, and isn't a big deal there. The only people we saw in costumes were the bar staff at the bars we went to. Me, I missed Halloween, and I'm still kinda sad about it. Last year I dressed up like Medusa (thanks Kris!), and had a great time, even though I was at work.

Anyway, we had a couple of beers and I danced while Paul stared blankly at the dance floor. (That is to say, I stood next to Paul dancing. They were playing Salsa music. It was a live band. I can't dance. So I danced around by myself. I laughed a lot.)

Then we decided to move on, and went to the bar right next door. Same building. There they had a live band singing music from the states, but I can't remember the song at all. After a couple of songs, they played a dance number, and four very bored young ladies wearing... very very little... came out and "danced". Yes, they kept their clothes on, but all they did is undulate a lot. It wasn't very interesting. I had a shot called "Angel's Kiss", and then we started walking up and down the strip again, trying to find another place to check out.

We walked up and down a few times, but no place really reached out and gripped us, so we walked down the streets a few blocks, looking at things and trying to get back to a few of the places we'd passed earlier in the evening, but finally gave up, hailed a cab, and got back to the hotel. There, we bought ice cream and went to sleep.

November 4, 2003

Shanghai or Bust!

Hey all! As I mentioned in the tag box, I'm alive and back from Shanghai. {Editor's note: My dad keeps calling it "The Big Smoke", and I don't know why. Is this some dated reference, or am I just completely out of the loop?} Sorry it took me so long to sit down and tell everyone about the trip, but I got a brand spanking new cold as soon as I returned, so I didn't really feel up to doing much of anything. It's not as bad as the last cold, which had me passed out asleep for three days. This is mostly just a nasty cough and a really sore throat. This makes it hard for me to teach, so I just get the kids to talk more. Yay for talking kids.

I enjoy typing the following sentence: I went to Shanghai for the weekend!

I'm sorry, I just find that so damned kewl. I'm obviously far too young to be actually doing this.

So, let's start from the beginning. I got myself to the bus depot here in Jiangyan by the simple act of getting on a rickshaw. {Editor's note: I didn't look that hard for a pic, so it's a lousy one. Sorry.} I spend a lot of time just getting into these things and pointing at what it says in my guide book. (On a related note: Teresa got me the best going away gift: a guide book. It's already tattered by how much I keep refering to it.) So, they drove me to this one place that I had walked by last week, and couldn't tell what it was. However, the driver was insistent, so I walked in.

I haven't been to most countries, so I'm making a large generialization here: Bus depots are the same no matter where you go. They all have a smell to them that means "bus depot".

I took out the nice notes that Lily had written for me, and walked bravely up to the counter. I was a bit nervous, but hey, what's the worst that could happen, right? The note said, in English and Chinese, "Ticket to Nantong", which is where I was meeting with Paul.

The woman started talking in Chinese. I put on my best "I'm a little lost foreigner" look (I have a great "I'm a little lost forienger" look, by the way), and said "I'm sorry, I don't speak Chinese." She looked at me, talked to a few people around her, and then wrote on the note "No", and handed it back.

I blinked. I blinked again. I said "Why?", as though she was suddenly going to learn English.

Lucky for me (because I am the luckiest person alive), the man standing next to me had enough English to explain what was going on. He told me there were no buses to Nantong. I panicked. I had no way of contacting Paul. I asked him if there was another way. He took a map out of his bag, and started looking at places, and then said "Follow me!" {Editor's note: This reminds me of sandals that prostitutes would wear in Greece and Rome. The footprints left behind would have "Follow Me" written in them However, there was no hanky-panky, but he did start hitting on me on the bus, which was fun.}

He had me buy a ticket to... um... somewhere else, and told me that there, I would be able to get to Nantong. He was going to the same place, so he'd make sure I was okay.

We sat in the bus depot for a bit. He asked me a few questions ("Are you from Australia?" {Editor's note: I get asked this a lot. I'm asked second if I'm American.} "Are you married?" "Is this your first trip to China?"). A lot of people were staring at me, which was not fun. But he told them all where I was from, and tried to ask me their questions, but it had been so long since he learned English he couldn't remember it all. We laughed a lot.

Then we got on the bus. It was a little bus, uncomfortable, not a lot of space. The man sitting in front of me had a cat on a leash, which I found very cute. Ah, I miss my cat...

We talked a lot more on the bus. I found out his name is Liang Li Long, and he worked for a company that built bikes that folded up, and had little batteries. Not really mopeds, but kinda like them. He also speaks Korean. I'm the first foreigner he ever met. At one point he told me that all Americans have blue eyes. He also insisted I had gold hair. I decided not to argue. After that. he started giggling, staring at my face for a bit. He finally said, gesturing to me, "Everything you have is bigger! Bigger nose, bigger eyes, bigger mouth, bigger...." and then gestured at my breasts. I found this incredibly funny.

Have I mentioned that I have the largest breasts in Jiangsu province? And I teach some 17 year old boys. Go me!

We saw goats on the way! Goats! Yay!

Anyway, he got me to wherever we were going, got my ticket to Nantong, and had to run. I wish I had either gotten a photo or grabbed his address from him.

Then I sat in the busdepot there for an hour, gazing at the big map across from me. This is when I discovered the truth: Maps are useless. I couldn't tell a thing from that map. I think the center was where I was, but I'm not sure.

Eventually they put me on the bus, and I got to watch a "great" movie, Wonder 7. Let's see what I can recall of the plot. Hmm... The beginning was kinda funny. It involved a bank robbery in Hong Kong. The criminals got into China through a fence, and shouted at the police "Bye! See you in 1997!" Then, the Wonder 7 captured them.

After that, it was typical kung-fu wackiness and angst. I was pretty tired so I missed most of it. But the beginning was good.

Then I got to Nantong. It was very overwhelming, and I finally ended up just sitting some place so I could watch for Paul. Before I did that, I looked around the bus station, because they were selling *tons* of stuff, including, but not limited to: cell phones, toys, food, condoms, and DVDs. I found the condoms to be amusing. I keep thinking that I'll buy a couple of packs just to send home.

Then Paul showed up, and told me that we wouldn't be able to take the Ferry, and we ended up taking the bus to Shanghai. It was a pretty boring trip, but Paul and I talked a lot. It's nice to have someone to talk to about stuff, and he had apples. Can't do anything wrong with apples, right?

I'm going to take a break here and update the rest later. I'm still pretty whiped from my cold.

About November 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in November 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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December 2003 is the next archive.

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