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January 7, 2007

Kissing, or How I Learned To Stop Angsting Unless It Was Going To Look Pretty When I Did It...

Kissing, or the lack thereof, defines entire countries for me.

I remember being 17 and walking through the street of Paris. I was at my angsty best, pining after a boy, and felt that everything I was doing there (walking across bridges, looking at beautiful buildings, seeing churches or statues or paintings) was coloured by the fact that That Boy, That Boy That Was Always On My Mind, wasn't there. I remember sitting on a bridge at night, holding a rose I'd gotten from some place, and slowly taking off every petal and dropping it into the river.

Light in the DarknessThe next time I went to Paris, I had freshly turned 29 and the memory of being that overly-lonely 17 year old brought me some form of bemusement. Ah, young angst, I thought, while pretending not to notice the young couple doing everything except actually getting naked whilst the lights were coming on at the Eiffel Tower. There's an age I think we all go through where that lack of someone to kiss is so... disheartening. The feeling that we're the only one that isn't being kissed *right now*, except maybe our parents, and parents don't do that *anyway*, right? 17 and in Paris probably should have been just as much fun as 29 and in Paris was, but I was so distracted.

Maybe if I'd had someone to kiss at 17, I would have been just as distracted. It's hard to notice the beautiful lights across the city when you're... well, otherwise distracted.

At 27, I went to China, and dealt with students that were the same age I was then. I didn't so much notice the lack of kissing in the school - it had been so long since I'd been in a high school, and most of my classes were of kids around 12, so it just didn't occur to me. Sometimes I'd tease my older students about having boyfriends, or get the younger boys to behave by telling them that they should stop showing off to impress their girlfriends, and quickly everyone would fall in line. It wasn't until my first trip to Shanghai that I finally noticed that those public displays of affection that were so common in my high school were totally absent.

I was sitting on the bus from Rudong, travelling with a friend of mine, when I saw a couple of teenagers on the street kissing. "Pssst..." I hissed at Paul. "Look over there." When he saw them, his eyes went as wide as mine, and we spent most of that weekend pointing out Public Displays of Affection in awe. How brave they were! How... affectionate! How... normal, at least to us. Then we went back to our respective very small towns and noticed how little affection we saw displayed in classes.

Soon after that I found out that students could be expelled and sent home in disgrace if they had boyfriends or girlfriends. I don't doubt there were relationships going on, but there was so much pressure to never be caught.

Two RosesI'm almost done my packing for Australia and I'm very aware of the fact that there won't be anyone to notice these things with. There will be no one just as lost as I am to whisper "Do you see them?" to, and smile and share secret memories of being that lost in each other that the lights seem unimportant, no one to discuss whether the socialably acceptable forms of affection in public are the same as they are back in Canada. {In thinking about this now, public displays of affection are much less in the UK than they are in Canada... maybe it's because we cuddle more to deal with the cold?}

There won't be anyone to kiss.

I suspect that this time that won't be quite such an end-of-the-world type of feeling. But I won't promise not to sigh occasionally in wistfulness....

{Sunday Scribblings}
{More pictures from Paris}
{More pictures from Rome}

January 12, 2004

I took complete advantage yesterday of Lily's presence and dragged her through the grocery store asking such intelligent questions as: What is this? And that? And over there?


I got talked into buying some small bags of... um... something. Something that's liike tea, but isn't tea. The first bag has rose hips in it (apparently to make women beautiful), the second has some sort of flower, and the third is dried oranges.


"You drink them like tea!" she said.


Expensive tea, though. At least the rose hips. A little bag was 14.5 RMB.


I have some floating right now in hot water, and they smell wonderful.


I had the oranges last night, and they weren't too bad. If I let them steep too long they need honey or something, but that's typical of all teas, so I'm not too worried about it.


I also spent the night cooking some of the stuff I bought. As a note to everyone: Chinese dumplings are delicious. And they cook so quickly! I was very happy.


I spent the night curled up in bed watching DVDs. For those of you who think I'm being very evil for buying DVDs in China, I can assure you that I've been rightly punished by forcing myself to watch Helen of Troy. I won't go into it here, but I've been scarred for life.

January 11, 2004

I'm determined to have as close to a Traditional Chinese Spring Festival as any western teacher without any close friends in Jiangyan can have. I went out today and started buying up decorations for the apartment. I guess you're not supposed to put them up till Spring Festival Eve (that would be January 21 this year), and then you're allowed to go nuts.


I have a scroll for the door that says "Much Money and Happiness" or something similiar, and another couple that you're supposed to cut in half to put on either side of the door. I also have tons of these little red papers that you're supposed to put everywhere. I'm in heaven, and I'm annoyed that I'm supposed to wait!


I also started buying up little dumplings. I'm going to practice making them tonight, so when Paul comes up we can go nuts over them. I know they won't be as good as the ones that he gets brought to him (straight from the kitchen!) in Rudong by his Lily, but still...


When I say dumplings, I think of these big things full of potatoes from back home. Here, they're bite sized and easy to stick in your mouth. They stuff them will all sorts of things. I really have to learn the Chinese words for Fish and Seafood, because Paul gets ill at the smell of seafood.


I decided not to buy firecrackers, on the theory that my parents will shoot me if I blow my own hand off. Besides, there'll be more than enough loud booms and pretty sparklies I'm certain. Every time I'm doing Wu Shu on the playground, I can distract myself from the pain by watching the fireworks.







When I was buying my kewl new DVD player, I was handed about 50 tickets to some sort of dance hall. I guess I in some way indicated that I like to dance, and I'm not quite sure how I pulled this off.


I showed the tickets to Lily, and she just freaked right out. "No, you can't go there! You're laowei, and bad people go there!"


Um... okay...


"You can't go there alone, people will take advantage of you! Bad people go there!"


"I won't go alone, I'll take Paul!"


"No, you're two laowei, people will... bad people!" She took the ticket I was holding out of my hand and ripped it up.


So, yeah, I'm planning on going next week. And yes, I'll take Paul.

January 10, 2004

If you're wondering why I've been quiet lately, it's because I've been doing dick-all, really. I've spent the last three days patiently waiting for my t.v. to be fixed, and staring at the little watermark on my new DVD: Property of Warner Brothers Distribution, For Screening Purposes Only. I've truly experienced China now. My DVD of Harry Potter is incredibly illegal.


But, the saga of my t.v. It's never worked, and I finally got up the gumption to complain about it roughly three weeks ago. Lily assured me that someone would be around to fix it soon.


Three days went by.


I asked again. She assured me again someone would be around to fix it soon.


Eventually I was promised "Before Spring Festival."


Lily stopped by a few days ago to see if it had been fixed yet. I said no, and she assured me she'd get someone down to look at it, or she'd talk to the headmaster to get him to get someone to take a look at it.


I talked to Lily last night about it, and she stared at me. "I was told the workers were at your place yesterday!"


Um... No.


"They told me they were there yesterday morning!"


I didn't leave the house at all yesterday.


"I will talk to them!"


So, we'll see.


Frankly, I know I'm not missing much, but I really get a kick outta the melodramatic Chinese martial arts soap opera things. Sure, they're all in Mandarin and I don't understand a word of them. But I can make things up like the best of them!

January 9, 2004

One of the things I did when I started teaching was signing up for several news letters on teaching. I then lost access to my email account for about two months, and ignored it. Today I finally got it back up and running (thanks Tom!), and I'm reading emails from a few months ago that I wish I could have read at the time.


A topic that was being discussed is students falling asleep in class. I've taken the tactic in my teaching that, if a kid manages to fall asleep amongst all the shouting and jumping up and down and everything else that goes on in my class, they're freaking exhausted and deserve the nap. I know how late some of these kids are up, and I have no illusions about the usefulness of my class. It's a fun break for the kids. It might be different if I saw them more often, but one class reminded me that, since I got here, they've only seen me twice.


I remember the last year that I was in school, and I could barely keep my eyes open. Reading other teacher's thoughts about this just brings back why I was falling asleep at the time. I was working two jobs, one full time and one almost full time, and going to school. Most of my classes were in the evenings (before one of my jobs), and were three hours long. I would be biting my wrists, digging my nails into my palms, leaving class every 30 minutes to splash water on my face, and drinking enough caffeine that I could jump start a car or a space shuttle or something, and still couldn't keep myself awake. I would fall asleep anywhere I could sit still for a moment, including the hallways at school. When it was noisy as all heck. One time, as I was taking the bus between jobs, I fell asleep on one bus. I woke up when it got to my stop, realized that I still had about 30 minutes before I would start work, and got on another bus that would bring me back to the same stop 25 minutes later, and fell back asleep. Near the end of my shifts at work I was typically slurring my words. Then I'd go home, sleep for two hours, and start the day all over again.


So, all in all, I have a lot of sympathy for the kids who fall asleep. If they had the language, or I had the language, I'd pull them aside to let them know that it's okay.


What gets on my nerves is when they insist on talking while I'm teaching. And not talking in English, just chatting away in Chinese. I read on one person's site that they tell all their students that, if they're talking during class, he'll assume they have a question for him. I like that idea, and might use it next term. (Paul insists I call it a term, but it's a semster. Really.)







On a related note, Paul and I currently have a debate going on how much of each other's slang we're going to have picked up by the time he goes home in June. Currently I'm losing, as I'm adopting more of his stuff than he's adopting mine. I just love it, though, when we suddenly stop each other to say, "What the heck are trainers?" or stuff like that.


The first night we met, he entertained me for a while by explaining how one would say, "I've sent my children to the nearest store to purchase some carbonated breverage" in all the countries he's been in. I can't remember them all, but in Canada you'd say "I sent the kid to the store to buy a can of pop."


English is so strange.

January 8, 2004

I blame my parents, because that's the fashionable thing to do.


There are two things that I think you require to do Wu Shu well: balance and flexibility. And I seriously lack them both.


And why do I lack them both, you might ask?


Well, when I was bad as a child (and I was a horrid kid, as my father will be quite happy to prove at any point), was I made to run laps around the house? Was I made to stand on my head in a corner? Was I told to "drop and give me twenty!"?


Nope. I was sent to my room. With the books. Where I could read.


So now, I'm incredibly smart. Amazingly so, in fact. But I have the coordination of your average milk cow.


I, of course, blame my parents.







That all being said, I had Wu Shu again today. I can actually see progress, which is so kewl. My teacher did a whole kata in front of me, really fast, and I just stared at him in shock, thinking God, I'll never be able to do that!


Well, by the end of the lesson today I'm seven moves in, and I can see how he does it. Granted, I fall over a lot, and I'm not very fast, but I can see it. It's so... wow.


I figure if I practice this every day, by the time I get home I'll be able to do it.


I, of course, blame my parents.


Since they gave me the bulk of the money to come to China.

I'm getting a bit better at buying things at your average store. (Problems with buying DVDs aside.) The few words I know in Chinese are suddenly becoming useful. Words like "green" and "up".


If you're curious, the Chinese for Coke is "Co-ca-co-la", or so the nice people at the supermarket keep telling me when I say, "Cola?"


I'm sick to death of cafeteria food, though. I just want to scream rather than eat it. If you think it's something to do with China, it's not. Cafeteria food is awful the world over. In fact, I'm certain that some of these meals are exactly what we were eating at AUC.


So, I've come to a big scary foreign country, and what do I eat when I get hungry?


Noodles.


Yup, cup of noodles.


They come with all these extra things you can pour in, but I'm actually afraid of some of them, so I haven't used them yet.


I do eat a lot of the "breads" here. (When they say "bread", they mean pastry.) The one I really like is filled with rice. It's kinda sweet, very mushy. Yummy and filling, if nothing else.


When Paul comes up we're going to do a tour of some Chinese restaurants here. I feel strange eating out by myself. It's enough that I'm stared at when I'm walking around. Having every bite of a meal I'm eating watched with interest by the staff is just too weird for me.

And Lo! The Anna's life was exciting and interesting, without the constant /

dullness of movies and t.v. /

And thus the creators of movies and t.v. were displeased /

And they send into The Anna's life Paul /

A temptor from a land down under Australia. /

And thus, The Anna was tempted /

And went on a quest to buy a DVD player to fill up her hours with the /

tedium of movies and t.v. //


And thus did The Anna gird her loins /

And place upon her head the Toque of Bravery /

And place on her shoulders the Borrowed Jacket of Many Deep Pockets /

And she went into the Forest of Many Tall Buildings /

Where she did not speak the language /

And attempted to buy a DVD player. //


And The Anna entered the First Store /

And there, the Persons of the Store looked at her in amazement /

Fascinated by her Toque of Bravery. /

Her attempted to express her desires were misunderstood /

For The Anna forgot her Translator. /

After many long minutes of attempting to express her need of the /

tedium of movies and t.v. /

The Anna was forced to admit defeat.//


And The Anna entered the Second Store /

And discovered quickly that this store did not sell /

DVD players.//


And The Anna entered into the Third Store /

And she climbed the Stairs with Many Many Steps /

And she found the DVD players /

And she expressed through pantomime "Remote Control?" /

But this was misunderstood. But instead, she was /

given a demonstration of the DVD player.//


And the Anna saw that it was good /

And said that it was good /

And it was good. //


And then The Anna waited.//


For although The Anna had paid for the DVD player /

And had seen the DVD player /

And had watched a music video on the DVD player /

The DVD player was not for her. //


So, basically, I waited around for about an hour, with people saying to me in English, "Just a moment please." I got fairly frustrated with myself, again, for not being able to just wake up with Magical Chinese Language Knowledge in my head. Even just the ability to read the characters would be useful at this point.


Then someone led me into a back room and down many many stairs into a back alley, and there was my DVD player. I was happy.


I went out about bought 50 RMB worth of DVDs, which is less than 10$ CDN. (I accidently picked up some VCDs, too, and I've discovered what the difference is.)


So, I own Harry Potter I and II, Titantic, Scorpion King, and what was allegedly Return of the King, but if it is they've really done some very scary things with it. I'm gonna wait till Paul shows up with his copy and watch it then.


The whole saga where I had to hook it up is much more entertaining. Because, of course, the instructions are in Chinese. I made a few valiant attempts, but finally gave up, and started trying to find someone who would help me. When there were finally people in the English office, I explained what I needed, and they started calling workers and the like, and I'm just staring at them, saying, "I just need someone who can read Chinese!"


Finally Ing listened to me, came up to my room, and we got the thing working. The remote is all in Chinese, but Ing pointed out all the important things on it. And I got the menus turned into English, which helped me a lot, too.


So, yeah, DVD player. I fell asleep last night watching Harry Potter. I can feel my brain beginning to rot already.

I'm trying to peice together what the school system here is like, and so far I'm doing a lousy job.


What I've gathered about Li Cai really surprised me. The school has a Junior level and a Senior level, and I assumed that the junior students would go on to the senior levels after they were done Junior III. This is how things typically are in Canada. Junior High goes onto Senior High, if they're both in the same school.


But here, the Junior IIIs are writing exams in the hopes of getting into an important Senior school. One in Taizhou, or Nanjing. Apparently anyplace that isn't Jiangyan is good.


The Senior students here are the students that didn't do so well on the exams. I feel like this place is a sort of purgatory for them. None of them attended here as a Junior student.


On some level I think this explains a lot of my problems with the senior kids, but then I think that's really unfair. They're good kids, they just drive me nuts.


Paul's told me that at his school, the kids have to maintain a certain G.P.A. If they're under that, they get kicked out. Unless their parents pay a fine. Then they can stay.


We're both teaching at private schools, where the parents are paying for the privledge of dumping their kids off and only seeing them once a month. Paul's commented to me that, to his coworkers, barely seeing their kids is normal. I find it strange.


I didn't really think too much of this until I started getting the Christmas letters. I looked through them, and more than one of the students... all they want for Christmas is to go home.

January 6, 2004

It's a drizzly day here, which means the poor weather from Nanjing caught up with me. The two days that I spent wandering the city were warm and just like spring, and now it feels like I'm back in time for fall.


Editor's note: I'm complaining about the weather to piss off my relatives. It's apparently down to -35°C in Edmonton right now. There's snow in B.C. Myah ha ha!


I hit all these museums in Nanjing, and it became clear to me that my knowledge of Chinese history is lousy. Granted, Augustana didn't offer any Chinese history classes, and the one I was able to take at UofA ended in 1800, but you'd think I would have at least heard of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Uprising.


There were two museums that had artifacts from this time period. What I've been able to gather is that an uprising of some sort against the last Chinese dynasty was lead by the Heavenly Emperor. There was a lot about God Worshippers, but I wasn't able to determine if they were Christians or something else.


There was a great painting of the Chinese defeating the "Never Defeated British Army". Wish I could remember the proper title.


The more time I spend here the more frustrated I get at the gaps in my own education back home. Yes, Canadian schools are centered on North American and European history, but the fact that it was so rarely even an option for me to learn more is frustrating. I remember the Nanjing Treaty, and the Opium Wars, simply because my high school history teacher talked about the treaty allowing "everyone to rape China equally".


I wish I could talk to him about my experiences here, but the last I heard he was going to Romania to teach.


I thought about history, and the way we teach it, when I was in a museum that focused on the Ming Dynasty. Beautiful hairpins and necklaces, the reminants of some of the clothes of the period, pots and chamberpots and cooking pots and all labled so dully. "Lotus-plant design pot", "Butterfly hair pin". When Paul and I talked last night, he complained about the same thing. "In the Forbidden City, they've got this beautiful blue and white pot, and what's it labeled? 'Blue and White China Pot'. How can you like this stuff?"


I think this is why we lose so many people when we try to talk about history. How are we supposed to care about a gilded butterfly when we have no context for it?


I compare this to the amateur archeology where we get so many of our Greek treasures from. I used to want to shoot Schleiman in the head for messing up the excavation of Troy, but on the other hand, we have lables like "Death Mask of Agamemnon". A little bit more interesting than what my textbook wanted to lable it: "Basileu's mask".


History is my passion, I love everything I study about it, I actually care what happened a hundred or a thousand years ago. It's part of the reason I wanted to come to Asia in the first place. As much as I love Canada, our studied history only goes back so far. (I have yet to get an option to study Native American History.) China claims 5000 years of history, and there's so much more I could learn, so many more things I could discover.


And it's like historians are in a race to see who can make history as dull as possible. "Blue and White China Bowl"? Lord, put it in some context for crying out loud! Show a picture of how the damned butterfly hair ornament was worn! Create a replica of these things, and let people touch them. Make people see that there were people behind these bowls, these hairpins, these swords. Otherwise they're just things.


January 5, 2004

First, as a shameless plug, my article is up at China-teachers.com. Because Roddy, whom I love, is wonderful.


Anyway, I've determined I should say something today other than strange sayings from Nanjing. The big highlights of the journey are going to be more meaningful if you've ever been to China.


The trip to Nanjing was quiet. Why? Because the bus driver didn't honk his horn during the entire trip. Oh, wait, once he did, when another bus almost crashed into him. But that was at the end of the trip, right as we were pulling into the bus depot. I can't describe how confusing this was to me, except to explain that on the trip back (which cost less, I have no idea why), the driver was honking every twenty seconds. Which I know because I timed it.


One of the other really odd things that happened was that, upon answering the question, "Which country are you from?", the response wasn't an immediate, "Ah, Canada's a very beautiful country." I don't mean to sound so nasty, but I get asked this question a minimum of five times a day, and this was the only time I didn't get that response. Instead, I got a thoughtful, "Hmm... Canada is a very... big... country."


Hmm... Other highlights:


I went almost the entire time without seeing another westerner. Since Nanjing has a fairly famous university exchange program, I was expecting to see someone. I finally ran into someone Sunday night when I was right down by the university, and almost chased after him just to say "Hi." I refrained, because who wants to explain why they're so crazy?


I spent the entire time walking, so my legs are extremely sore. I hit three museums, four bookstores (and only bought Chinese Language for Foriengers books), and the same very bad coffee shop twice. (You'd think I'd learn after the first very bad coffee, but I was so hoping if I ordered a different coffee, it would be better.) I did eat in an actual sit-down western style restaurant twice. I know, it's sad. I go to this big city in China and I want to eat western food. But it's been three months since I've had anything that wasn't either KFC (with a definite Chinese feel to it) or Chinese food. They had lasagna. Real lasagna, with cheese. When I told Paul, he wanted to kill me. It's hard to explain how much you miss the food when you're away from home.


I had awful apple pie, but that's okay.


Hmm... I took three rolls of film (my father will be happy), I bought some very nice postcards and souveniers, and realized why I hate travelling alone. (I'll get into that later -- and it's not for the same reasons Paul does.)


Oh... and I found vodka. I'm saving it for Spring Festival. Everyone else in Jiangyan can go home and hang out with their friends and family. Paul and I are going to watch Last Samuri and Return of the King on DVD and drink vodka.


I have so many other thoughts I want to share, but they're all jumbled up in my head right now. I'll probably be posting again before the end of the night.


And, my mom's package arrived while I was gone! I'll pick it up tomorrow afternoon!


And all was right in the middle kingdom again.

Sentences I'd Never Say In Canada #2

Sentences I'd Never Say In Canada #2:


"I'm sure your monkey is very nice, but I'm still not giving you any money."


Oh, and I'm back from Nanjing.

January 3, 2004

I could make some metaphor about how, the same week I decided I was getting really culture shocked in China my toilet clogged up. The same day I decided I was feeling better about China, I managed to unclog my toilet. (And I tell you, I almost cried when it started working again....)


But really, who wants to read a metaphor like that?


Anyway, I'm off to Nanjing in my desperate search for both cheese and reading material. Take care!

January 2, 2004

China is Big!

Editor's note: Part of this (a very small part) is written in simplified Chinese characters. I'm too lazy to find out for you where you can download the programs to be able to read them in Windows or on Macs. If you see a strange sentence with a bunch of strange characters in it, they're Chinese characters. Relax, it's not important to the story. But you may want to download the drivers or whatever anyway, because I'm going to start trying to put more of this in, now that I've figured out how to do it.


Editor's Second Note: No, it's not. My webcrimson won't support the characters. So it'll look funny anyway. I'm working on fixing this problem.


I was talking to Ing and practicing one of the two sentences I can so far write in Chinese:


ÖÐ ¹ú ´ó Âð?


Which, in pinyin, is Zhong Guo Da Ma? In English: Is China big?


"Zhong guo da ma!" I said, all excited.


"Is this what you say when you're lost?" Ing asked.


I looked at her for a moment. "Um, no...."


"It means Chinese auntie."


"Um... No, that wasn't what I was trying to say at all."


All sorts of stuff like this happens, although my favorite is Paul trying to say, "It's cold!", and saying instead "The wolf is coming!"

If I were at home right now, I'd be getting ready for the wake.


Every year, Raven hosts an "Old Year's Wake" on January 1st, to mourn the year that has passed. Around midnight or so, everyone stands in her basement holding a candle, and says something about the year that has passed.


Last year I talked about how 2002 was, by far, the worst year of my life, and was glad the bitch was dead. I was so afraid that 2002 would chase me that I was willing to leave the country to get away from it - the first real annoucement that I wanted to get the heck outta Canada.


This year... If I were there this year (through the magic of teleportation, of course), I'd be saying this:


2003 was the year I finally told the rest of the world to fuck off and did what I wanted for a change. I'll always look back at this year with fondness. May he rest in piece.

January 1, 2004

Poor Ing. I think she thought there was some special western significance to doing something together on January 1st. She was gracious enough to go out this afternoon with me, and she, her husband, and I had a lovely time. Well, okay, I had a lovely time, and they seemed to have fun.


The city was crowded. Ing told me that most of the people had the day off (I've gathered from various web logs that most of the students have the next few days off), so that's why everything was so full. Every place we went was packed with people, and I managed to avoid being run over simply because I have wavy brown hair. It's easy to see me as laowei from a distance. *smile*


Anyway, after poking around a few stores, we ended up in my first Chinese tea house. I'd been inside one in Shanghai, but all I did there was stare at everything like I was in a museum, and buy tea. Here, we sat where we could see outside, and drank tea and had far-ranging conversations.


A glass bowl was set on the table with a tea light in it. (This was the first time I'd ever seen a tea light actually used with tea. In Canada, they're typically for decoration.) The tea pot was glass, and tea leaves and sugar were poured into a cylinder in the center. A woman poured hot water into the cylinder, which had holes in it so the tea would fill the pot. I'm explaining this so poorly. I wish I'd had my camera with me, because I would have gotten a picture of it.


The tea (Ing's husband, Wei, told me it was called "German Flower Tea") tasted a bit like lemon meringue. This strange combination of sweet and tart. It was absolutely wonderful.


Wei doesn't speak a lot of English, but he's always so eager to share his knowledge with me. It turns out that not only is he a classical music buff (he keeps asking me questions about French and Italian), he's also interested in History and Linguistics. I told Ing I'd happily take him off her hands any time she wanted. I used to think he just tolerated having me around, but I discovered today that he's usually so quiet around me because he's gathering his thoughts. He gave me a quick and dirty history lesson on Jiangyan, talked to me about the Dragon Bones, showed me some of the ways Chinese characters have changed over the centuries, and asked me questions about how I perceive the characters.


(For the curious, Jiang is a family name, and Yan apparently means dam. He talked a bit about geography and three rivers coming together and the soil being great and all this other stuff. All I had asked Ing was "Tell me about Jiangyan.")


After two hours of sitting and talking, we went around to check out some more stores. I asked a ton of stupid questions about the wall hangings, about Spring Festival, and about the Lantern Festival. Sometimes I feel guilty, because whenever I mention the slightest interest in anything, Ing is always ready to find me someone to show it to me. Today they were telling me about how, about ten years ago, the people in Jiangyan used to make their own lanterns for Lantern Festival, but now they don't. I got all giddy and excited and talked about how much I'd love to make a lantern (even though I'd do a horrible job of it), and she offered to see if she could find someone in the countryside that was still making them.


On the way back I had more fun Chinese food. The popcorn the street vendors are selling is sweet, more like candy corn than what I was expecting. I also had fried tofu on a stick (yummier than it sounds), and some sort of drink that was made of some sort of plant. (Yes, I know, that's not helpful.)


And the best part was, she helped me buy a plant! It's some sort of water plant. She told me the name, but I can't remember it. It's "water", and then the name of a Chinese fairy-tale heroine. So I've decided to call it Rapunzel. (Yes I know that's a type of cabbage.) Ing was told that it was "guaranteed" to bloom by Spring Festival (January 22 this year). It's a water plant - no soil. We'll see if I can manage to keep it alive till Spring Festival. But now I know where to buy another one if I need to, and about how much to pay for it.


I think tomorrow I'm going to go back to the tea house, drink more German Flower Tea (or maybe another tea, who knows) and study Chinese for a couple of hours. Maybe I'll even manage to mail Jeanne-Marie's letter.

Sentences I Would Never Say In Canada #1

Sentence I would never say in Canada:


"Why is there fish in my desk?"

One of the things I've found most interesting in China is the sugar in the food. Here, bread has a sweet taste to it, which I assume is added sugar. The only time I've ever had bread that didn't taste sweet was when I bought some bread that had something baked inside of it. I wasn't a big fan of whatever was inside of it, so I couldn't finish it.


However, the things that I expect to be sweet? They aren't. Candy here is not nearly as sweet as it is back home. (They do have cotton candy here, though. Spun sugar. That tastes just like at home. One of my pictures is of me wearing a Santa hat and holding a big bundle of cotton candy. On a stick and everything!) The only chocolate I've found that tastes like "chocolate" to me is expensive Dove bars.


Last night one of the kids gave me a bag of these candies. I didn't know what they were, but they looked like chocolate covered coffee beans, so that's what I was expecting. (What, I went to college. Chocolate covered coffee beans are a staple of being a college student or a gamer. When you're both, you have a tendancy to O.D. On an unrelated note: Tom, have you found more Jolt candies?) Well, they were bitter enough to be coffee beans, but they weren't covered in chocolate. I have no idea what it was, but I just couldn't eat more than one.


When I was in Shanghai I found those coke-bottle gummy candies that I'm beginning to suspect are required by law to be available anywhere in the world. Those taste right, but they're much bigger here than back home. Almost the size of my palm. So they're a bit harder to eat. I've got the bag hidden in my computer desk so I actually have to go to some effort to find them.


Coke doesn't taste the same here, but that's typical of everywhere. American Coke doesn't taste like Canadian coke. I can't really describe the difference. More cinnamon? More ginger? I'm not sure. But Pepsi's not too bad.


Unrelated to that, I have a theory that the city of Shanghai is sponsored by Pepsi. Everywhere I went I could see Pepsi ads and trademarks. Fido Dido (do you remember him? God, he was when I was living in Sherwood Park, IIRC) is big there as well. I have some photos of Nanjing Dong Lu (the main shopping street in Shanghai, from what my touristy eyes can tell me), showing the trademark Pepsi three-coloured circle on every streetlight. It's surreal to me.


I've discovered I'm a big fan of warm soy milk. I've been lazy for the past few months, not getting out of bed (even if I'm awake) for breakfast, but I really miss the bottles of warm soy milk they serve. It tastes sweet, too, like a milkshake. Even more like a milkshake is the yoghurt drink. I finally made myself try one, just to see what they're like, and they're great.


I am, however, sick to death of plain rice. Bloody hell, every meal in the cafeteria is dominated by this rice. I poke at it and make faces in it and draw pictures with my chopsticks. Give me fried rice every day of the week. I've started hitting the campus store at around 9:30 when they're selling it to the kids. I have to get there early, or it's all gone pretty fast. Guess the kids get bored, too. Or hungry. They also sell fried chicked and hot dogs, and some other type of meat that's so fatty it could probably kill if you ate too much of it, but so good....


Chips here don't taste the same, either. A lot less flavor than the ones back home. I haven't decided if I like that or not. I tend, when I'm feeling homesick, to pick up some Lays chips (in Pringle packages) and binge on them.


Anyway, this all leads up to why I think Raven is wonderful. She sent me Mac and Cheese. For some reason I still haven't eaten it. I think the fact that I can is keeping me sane.

December 31, 2003

I'm beginning to determine that my problems with China have nothing to do with China and a lot to do with my co-workers. I've decided I have to do something about this.


I talked to Ing, who was the one who helped me buy my coat and who got me hooked up with my Wo Shu teacher, and she and I (and her husband) will go out tomorrow for something and have a talk. I really need to figure out if Lily just doesn't like me, or if there's something cultural going on, or if Lily is just Lily. (There's just lots of little things going on that I don't talk about because they're little and petty and they drive me out of my tree.)


I did spend a great day with Li Qing, one of the girls who works at the supermarket. She doesn't speak much English (I'd guess about 200 words, very few of which string into a sentence well), and we laughed and giggled and pointed at things to say their names in English and Chinese. She helped me get photos developed and I mailed of 177 RMB worth of letters and postcards home.


I've also been told what my holidays are. After this week (whether or not I teach tomorrow is still up in the air) I don't teach again till February. That's a month to bum around China. I'm thinking of waiting till Paul's back from Beijing and then hitting a few places I wanted to go. Shuzhou, Nanjing for a few days (they have a sizable foreign student population, so I should be able to buy cheese), probably Shanghai again. I'm not really sure. Part of me doesn't want to give up my Wu Shu lessons for long. But then, they're on Mondays and Thursdays. I can easily go out Tuesday and be back Thursday afternoon and consider it a full trip. I've certainly felt that way about Shanghai.


I'd like to stay mostly in Jiangsu, I think. I'll have to buy more film though - I'm down to my last roll. (And in B.C. my father is shouting that he can't believe I've only just now gotten to my last roll. Dad, you should have bought me a digital camera!)


Anyway, I'm going to find a place in Shanghai or Nanjing that will burn my photos onto a CD, and then I'll slam them up here for you all to mock.


Unrelated to anything else, until someone told me that today was the last day of the year, it slipped my mind that it was New Years Eve. Raven, I'll be thinking about you tomorrow.

Ex-Pat

It's really strange being a foreigner in an Asian country, not the least because you meet people from all over the world. In my life, I've only met one person from outside of North America. (That I can think of. Maybe more.) Now, I've met people from New Zealand, Australia, England... So far I've only met Ex-pats from either Commonwealth countries or from the States, but it's been interesting talking to them about the experiences of being away from your home.


One of the things I found most interesting was the question I'm always asked by ex-pats: "So, do you have that Canadian Flag sewn on your backpack?" This is always said with a bit of a nasty tone, their opinion on that habit of Canadians being very obvious.


To answer that question, no, I don't. I do have a Canadian pin on my jacket (a gift from Shani), and another one on my dress shirt. Since I get asked all the time where I'm from, I can now just point at the flag and say "Jianada!", and if I say it wrong they still know where I'm from. I don't have a flag on my backpack because a) I didn't bring a backpack and b) I didn't feel like buying a patch.


In Canada, we're always told by our friends, "Oh, make sure you have a Canadian flag on your backpack when you go overseas! You don't want people to think you're American." No, I'm serious. I remember being about fourteen and being told that American actually put our flag on their stuff so people think they're Canadian! I was an angry fourteen year old, and found this terribly offensive. How dare they! We'll lose our international reputation of being so nice if Americans go around impersonating Canadians!


People are always telling stories in Canada about other people being treated so much better once the natives in the country they were going to found out they were Canadian instead of American. Ah, you're Canadian! You're much better than your neighbouring country. We should go out and have lots of beer together! I'll buy. Granted, when I was in France we were invited to a bar after being confirmed as Canadian, but I think that had more to do with us being a group of seventeen year old girls and less to do with us being Canadian.


Editor's note: Pretty, giggling seventeen year old girls, no less. There was yummy wine, and we broke plates. It's been about a thousand years since I was seventeen, but I still want to find that wine. One day I'll go back to France and find that place again.


It seems that the habit annoys ex-pats, though. Ah, another bloody Canadian. *sigh* I guess if I was travelling a lot it would get pretty obnoxious after a while. I'm not sure how many readers I have that are either ex-pats or Chinese, and I'd love to get your opinions on this.


And no, I'm not going to run out and slap a Canadian patch on my brand-new backpack that I bought last week. I have a toque. As far as I'm concerned, that shows I'm Canadian. If they wonder where I'm from, they can ask. And trust me, everyone in China will ask. *smile*

December 30, 2003

And China rallies from behind to remind me why I actually like this country. Yay!


I spent a lovely evening with my Chinese teacher, ending with me teaching her Western Chess, and her agreeing that tomorrow she'll teach me Chinese chess. My new life goal is to learn as many different chess variants as possible in a bid to find a game that I can actually beat people at. Go me!

I'm having one of my "frustrated with China" days. The worst part of it is the knowledge that the stuff that's bothering me right now is not something China-specific. This stuff can and will happen anywhere.


I'm annoyed that I can't leave things on my desk in the office. I've had my pens and scissors disappear from my pencil cup, I've had my little display of photos taken apart more than once, and now one of the photos is missing entirely. I have no idea if someone took it or if it was tossed. Now someone took my pencil cup (which was a canister I got some tea in) and filled it full of water and left it. Since it's mostly cardboard, there is now a lovely mess of water all over my desk. I'm glad I moved my photos.


Now I'm annoyed because I politely asked for my t.v. to be fixed two weeks ago. Lily, of course, assured me that it would be fixed "tomorrow". For a week I asked her when it would be fixed, and for a week she told me "tomorrow". I finally started teasing her that her English isn't very good. When she says "tomorrow", she means "next week". Well, now it still hasn't been fixed.


It took two months to get the Chinese teacher that's mentioned in my contract. Two months. Why? Because the person who had to arrange it was Lily. She "finally" found me a teacher a month after I started, and then had to get it approved by the headmaster. Which I can understand, but every time I saw her she'd say, "The next time the headmaster is on campus, I'll get you your Chinese teacher." I'd seen him many times over the course of that month, so I knew he was available. What finally got me my Chinese teacher was when we had that group of foriegners show up, and the headmaster was asked by them why I didn't have a Chinese teacher yet, since I seemed so eager to learn Chinese. Didn't take long after that.


In comparison, I mentioned in passing, once, to Ing that I wanted to learn gung-fu while I was here, since I had the time. Within two weeks she had contacted a teacher, found out what days were good for the both of us, and lined me up. Poof. (Of course, my legs hate me for taking Wu Shu, but we'll ignore my legs for now.)


Today I just got fed up, frankly. I've mentioned a few times to Lily that I want to buy a plant. The first time was because I didn't know where to go to get one. The second time I just mentioned I was having trouble, since she asked me if I had bought a plant yet. Well today, out of the blue, she offered to help me buy a plant, since she had free time. I was so excited at the idea, but I've already learned better than to believe in Lily's promises of time. She told me to meet her after my classes were over, and I told her when I'd be done.


I waited, she didn't show. I waited some more, and she still didn't show. I finally gave up, and mentioned to Rose that, if she showed up, to tell her that I had gone to my apartment. Rose offered to call her, but I told her not to bother, because I figured she was sleeping. What I was really thinking was I'm sick of this.


Well, I ran into Lily in the hallway, and she was carrying all her stuff. She looked at me blankly for a minute, and then said, "I'm sorry, I forgot what time the class was over." I nodded and told her I understood (thinking, Ah, Rose called you.)


"I have to go the office," she said.


"Well, call me if you still have free time."


So, I haven't heard from her.


I have Chinese class tonight. I think I'll ask my teacher who I have to talk to to get my t.v. fixed. I'm going on holiday from teaching soon, and frankly it would be nice to have something in the apartment to watch besides the walls.

December 29, 2003

Wu Shu

I had my fourth Wu Shu class tonight. I'm in a different sort of pain. My body doesn't hurt as much as the last three times, but I feel queasy. I'm sure I'll get better eventually. I just hate feeling like such a klutz.


Unrelated to that, all of my kids know what the word "klutz" means. I mean, how could they not, I fall into holes, fall off the edge of the classroom (don't ask), and fall down stairs on a daily basis. I'd think I'd been dropped on my head as a child or something, but I'll just blame it all on being hit by a car in grade nine and leave it at that.


I'm going to crawl into a shower and try and make my body behave for a bit.


And just because I can (I'm horrible, I know), I'm ending on a song:


write down the things you don’t want
burn them in a glass
write down the things you dream of
make a paper plane that flies to heaven

and buy a ticket for a plane and come and see me baby
or drive your car all night by just starlight to Canada
that’s where I’ll be
waiting

December 28, 2003

Whistling in the Dark

A woman came up to me and said "I'd like to posion your mind

with wrong ideas that appeal to you thought I am not unkind"




I have a mission for my friends back in Canada. (However, it would be great if anyone reading this would do it, too.)


Mail me a postcard of some sort. The kids get a huge kick out of it when I get postcards from home, and they're really easy to do. My address is in the side bar. If you're stuck on what to write, just write:


Hey Anna! You're in China! That's so neat! Love (your name here).


I've gotten two postcards from home, and the kids go nuts over them. I have no idea why, but they seem to think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread.


So, yeah, drop me a postcard and win my undying love and affection. Or at least a chance to make me and about 700 kids happy.


I'm having a wonderful time but I'd rather be whistling in the dark....

December 27, 2003

I have now eaten my new strangest thing to eat in Jiangyan:


Little candied tomatoes on a stick.


Tomatoes.


Candied tomatoes.


It was surreal and tasted strange, when I was expecting an apple.


Ah well. Later I found pineapple on a stick, and that was better.

Enveloped

One of the problems I have in China is that, no matter what I do, I get told I'm doing a good job. This means I have no idea what I'm doing right or wrong.


Let me give an example. I laboured for a few days to try and say "envelope" in Chinese, since I kept having to buy them at the store. Xinfeng. I practiced, I wrote it out phoentically, I chanted it under my breath on the way to classes. Xinfeng. Yes. I could say this.


In every class, I would be asked, "Do you know any Chinese?" "Oh, just one word! Xinfeng." And the kids would stare at me blankly until I pulled the envelope out of my book, and they'd all laugh, and say, "Oh, very good!"


So when I'm told by my headmaster or my co-teachers that I'm good at teaching, I don't know what to think of that. I can't even think, "Oh, I must be okay, because they'd just say nothing if I sucked." They don't do that here, at least not to foreigners. With us, everything is "good". Every country we come from is "beautiful." It makes everything so surreal.


Back home, if someone told me I was doing a good job, I could safely assume I was actually kicking butt and taking names. Most people (and this is not a slam, just a statement of fact) think that, as long as they aren't telling you that you're awful, as long as they keep showing up, they're showing you that they think you're doing a good job. This makes the people who do the work feel like crap most of the time.


In one of his essays, Scarecrow refers to the desire for "commendation pay" whenever an employee would do well. Whenever a customer took the effort to tell the boss that you'd done a good job, you'd get a bonus. When you went above and beyond the call, worked extra shifts because someone called in sick, whatever, you'd get a cash prize of some sort.


It's just strange to me. No matter how often they tell me that I'm doing a good job, it just doesn't mean as much to me as the wooden plaque sitting on top of my computer back home that just says "Thank you". And little blue paradox spirits scattered around my apartment.


I guess a lot of it goes back to the alleged Chinese stereotype that foreigners are quick to anger. I have no way of confirming this except for a few scattered comments from Lily about how nice and understanding I am (again, though, how can I believe this isn't more placating of the foreigner?), and the fact that she expected me to go off the deep end about my internet connection. I just read about this stereotype, so I guess you can say it's a stereotype that all Chinese people think all foreigners are quick to anger. *smile*


The other thing I've been told in no uncertain terms is that it's a big deal to have a foreign teacher at a school, and it makes more students come to the school. (Is it that the students want to come, or that the parents want their children to have that special "forienger" stamp to their English?) Paul was told by one of his friends in Rudong that they'd be just as happy if they could have a statue of him out front, really. They don't care if he can teach or what he does, just that he's there. Here, I was told after being taken to a small country school, "Now that the students know you're at Li Cei, they'll want to come to our school next year!"


Factor in to all of this that my school is looking for two foreign teachers for the summer, and I think I might go crazy trying to figure out if I'm a good teacher, or just a good Western Face.

December 26, 2003

In a fit of extreme boredom I discovered that I am worth exactly $1,742,570.00. Want to find out your worth? Sadly, I can't recall how much my soul was worth.


Confirming the Chinese believe that I am a small child, I bought a little chinese lantern that you can turn on with a switch. It has a little stick you can hold, too. I'm in love with it, and I guess I'll tape it to the computer so that I can have light late at night.


I'm reading more letters to Santa, although nothing's beat the "I want the world" comment from the first class I did it with. I think I should give him extra marks for creativity. Most of them want a "teddy bear". Which is what I put in the example.

I'm at the stage of culture shock where you start to get really pissed off with the country your in. I'm working fairly hard at not snapping and killing anyone, since I was assured by Lily that I can't say, "But I'm a Laowei, everyone knows we're crazy!" as a defense.


It's not so much that I'm annoyed with China, but that I'm annoyed with myself. I'm not learning Chinese fast enough. I'm not learning the culture norms fast enough. Hell, I'm not even figuring out the food here fast enough. I just want to be able to wake up and know this stuff, instead of having to struggle and work hard for it.


The pure white walls finally started getting to me. In a fit of decorating, I put up an advertising poster for Orange Juice on my wall. It has four girls on it, one with black hair, one with purple, and two with orange. So now, instead of all white surrounding me constantly, I have white with a big orange blob. Somehow it helps.


I'm slowly beginning to make this place into a home, such as it is. I bought a snowman that hangs on your window, and put it up in the kitchen. The kids got me mobiles for Christmas (three of them), and I have them in various places around the apartment. I'm thinking eventually I might even buy a plant.

December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas

So, since it's Christmas Eve I went down to the KFC and ordered a bucket of Chicken. (There are now several people in Canada giggling and saying in a deep voice "you and me and a bucket of chicken and it's a date." Damn, I miss that.)


It's a much smaller bucket, and it was all legs and wings. I was pretty surprised. Plus, it tastes nothing like KFC chicken back home. It was a lot greasier, if that's possible.


When I was last there I had a chicken burger. I took a look at the patty, and it had green on it, so I opened it up to see what the hell it was. Peas. And carrots. I'm not sure if I got a chicken burger or some vegetarian thing. But the meal came with two pieces of chicken, so I suspect not.


Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone.

Things I Learned Today While Teaching

Things I Learned Today While Teaching, a list, by jo



  • You cannot teach 60 children the "Hokey-Pokey" in ten minutes. Especially if they don't know English.
  • You will have equally large problems teaching them "Simon Says".
  • Children love the words for "monkey bars".
  • Children also love it when you impersonate a monkey.

So, after politely implying that I didn't study enough this week, my Chinese teacher asked me about Christmas Eve.


"Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?" she asked.


I blinked, a bit confused. "No.... Why?"


"It is Christmas Eve."


"Oh! I'd forgotten completely about it!"


Which, honestly, I had. Even though I had 150 children remind me multiple times yesterday, without the constant "It's Christmas" cues from the rest of the world, Christmas Eve had slipped my mind.


"I have plans for dinner with friends," she told me.


The light dawned. "Ah, okay. Then I'll see you next week. I promise to study harder this week!"


So, yeah. I've gotten a few Christmas cards and the like, and my teacher gave me a scarf. Really, it's just a non-issue. But I'm looking forward to multiple phone calls from home in the next couple of days, since everyone who has my number assured me they'd call.

December 23, 2003

So I'm listening to Christmas Carols and wrapping presents for my coworkers. Yes, it's Christmas Morning, but it's not Christmas unless you put off everything important to the last minute.


I got a couple of "popping chocolates" for some of the girls I know. The wrapper has these chocolates with gold sparkles coming out of them. I'm very curious to know what's up with that. *smile*


Anyway, I got my first phone call at 7 a.m. From Paul, who decided I wasn't allowed to sleep in this morning. Apparently his first call came from a pub in Scotland that was so loud he couldn't hear anyone, and then it cut off after five minutes. Merry Christmas in Scotland!


Oh, and I'm watching Norad's Santa Tracker. I love it, because I'm kinda sad that way. This is the third or fourth year I've watched it, and it always makes me smile. I wish I had an oven, I'd make cookies for Santa.

December 22, 2003

So I gave my Senior One students a quiz today. The concept of "This is a quiz" seems to have passed them by, as many of them were giving the answers out. I had one kid just hand his sheet to a girl and tell her to fill it out for him.


*sigh*


Joke's on them, though. Since none of them bothered to think, they all got the first question wrong. Every single one of them. I'm suitably impressed.


Anyway, I went to KFC for supper again tonight because I had missed supper. The girl behind the counter knew very little english, but knew enough when I asked for Coke to say, "Is Pepsi okay?" I found that interesting.


I'm very anxious about Christmas here. I can't figure the etiquette at all. My Chinese teacher told me she got me a present, so I bought her a box of nice chocolates. I have no idea if that will be acceptable or not. I know that Christmas is supposed to be about the thought and all that, but China makes me so uncomfortable....


Speaking of uncomfortable, I had my first kung-fu class today. I am old and weak.

Letters to Santa

Today for class, I had my Junior One students write letters for Santa. Yes, this was a cop-out, but I'm bloody tired. There's only so much jumping up and down and being all "lively" I can do in a two month period, and after Shanghai I'm still pretty beat.


It took them about ten minutes, all told, so it wasn't too bad for them. By the end of that I was back up to my usual jumping around stuff.


I spent some time at lunch reading over these letters. I got some interesting answers. "I want the world!" "I want a girlfriend!" "I want a big car!" I love these kids.


Anyway, I decided to write my own letter to Santa.


Dear Santa,


I haven't been very good this year, but I've been very brave, and I think that should count for something. I haven't packed up all my stuff and run back home, and I stopped worrying that I was going to be held up at knife point on the streets of Jiangyan. And I'm really trying to learn Chinese. That should count for something, right?


For Christmas this year, I would like:



  1. Vodka.
  2. Kaluha.
  3. A phone card that works in Jiangyan.
  4. My mom's package to arrive.
  5. Kris' letter to arrive.
  6. To know that my letters home have arrived. (There's a real letters theme here....)
  7. Vodka.
  8. A better memory.
  9. More episodes of Undergrads when I get home.
  10. Vodka.

If you can only arrange one thing, please make it Vodka.


Hugs and Kisses,


Anna


P.S. One of my students wants a girlfriend, but I think he's too young. Can you get him a plane instead?

December 21, 2003

Interesting Things I Learned in Shanghai

Interesting Things I Learned in Shanghai, a list, by Jo



  1. I've been pronouncing it wrong all my life. Shang with a short "a".
  2. The line "You look just like a boy I've been dreaming about back home", or some variation thereof, is an acceptable pickup line.
  3. Foriegners have very interesting anecdotes about living in China. They are not for the weak of stomach.
  4. I am a sucker, and consider 35 RMB a perfectly acceptable way of getting someone to shut up and stop telling me to buy stuff.
  5. If you throw a rock on Maoming Lu or Nanjing Lu, you'll hit three foriegners.
  6. There will always be someone who speaks English.
  7. Ignoring people will not make them go away, but it may make them less obnoxious.
  8. No matter how many foriegners there are in Shanghai, there will always be some people who are shocked that you're there.
  9. Metro Stations in Shanghai have bookstores.
  10. Jumping from Platform Forbidden!

The metro was really overwhelming to me, but that's mostly because I spent too much time thinking about it. I guess I expected it to be more like Paris, which involved tons of lines and the real possibility of getting bombed. (When I was in Paris, students were bombing the lines in protest over something. You weren't likely to get hurt, but the lines would be cut, and you'd be stuck on the metro for hours on end. This was... god... long ago now.)


But the ladies that sold the tickets spoke English enough to get me a ticket, and the nice man fixing the broken gate showed me how to get through it, and I guessed which train to go on by the fact that I knew which direction the People's Park was from where I was. It was actually only two stops. I thought it would be longer.


The annoucements were about three minutes long in Chinese, followed by one sentence in English. There's a joke in there someplace, but I'm not coherent enough to make it.

One of the things living in China has taught me is how little a common language is necessary for having a good time with someone.


I just came back from the on-campus supermarket. From what I can gather, it's run by a large family, but I love each of them. My favorite is the father, and we've mutually decided to run away together one day, as soon as he can get rid of his wife, and I can turn Chinese. It's a lovely arrangement we've made through pantomime, written word, his faulty English, and my occasional few words in Chinese. Every time I'm in there, I laugh.


Today when I was in there we danced, we laughed, we talked about Shanghai and Christmas, I met his wife (in that he pointed her out and kept making sure she wasn't looking when he blew kisses at me, much to the amusement of the rest of his family), and I took a bunch of photos. I also bought more Christmas stuff, and was advised that I like cola a lot. In fact, they've started just pulling out two 600 ml bottles of coke whenever I show up, so I just buy it even if I don't want it. Heck, I see nothing wrong with having a stockpile of caffeine in this place.


The family there is wonderful, and even though the majority of them speak no English (the grandmother laughs every time they can get her to say "Hello"), they manage to always make me feel welcome there.

December 19, 2003

As a note to my beloved friends and family back in Canada: If it's bright out in Canada, likely it's dark out in China. As much as I love hearing from you, please don't forget that China is 15 hours ahead of Edmonton, and 16 hours ahead of Vancouver.


Not that I don't love hearing from my dad, but it might have been nicer if I had been awake when he called!


That being said, I'm awake now. He picked a good time to do it, all things considered. I forced myself to go to bed before midnight for the first time in a while, so I actually got about as much sleep as I usually do anyway.


I've been reading the forums over at Living in China, most specifically the thread on "Do you have a Chinese Name?" Since I've just started my Chinese lessons, I've had more thoughts on this question. I've been told by Lily that my full first name (which is Joanna) is transliterated to mean "Bridge - Peace - That", which instantly makes her giggle. I've thought about telling people here to just call me Anna, since it's easier for them to say, but I'm not really sure of the etiquette of nicknames here. The thread addresses that to some extent, but I'm always so uncomfortable with it. Plus, there's the whole thing where I got rather used to be called by my full name at work, with just my friends calling me various nicknames.


Since I've gone by the nick "Trouble" for... god... almost ten years online now, I thought about taking that as a name. (Considering I have kids whose English names are Ball, Partisan, Orange and Fish, I'm thinking this wouldn't be as odd as it sounds.) However, I don't like the sound of it as much. "Ma Fan." Plus, the characters confuse the heck outta me.


Ah well. The kids call me "Teacher", except the senior students who can actually say my name. I have this one kid who insists on calling me "Miss JoAnNa" (that's how he says it), and I find that rather endearing.


I've also considered trying to find something that has a similar meaning to my given name. It means "Gracious Gift from God". However, having heard the Chinese word for gift many many times in the past two weeks, I don't think I could handle that as a name.


What I find most intimidating is when someone from China asks me to give them an English name. I'm always caught flat footed. First, I don't think there's anything wrong with their Chinese name. (There is something wrong with my tongue that I can't say it.) Second, I'm lacking creativity there. I once ran a game where every female NPC had a variation of the name "Elizabeth", and I didn't notice. So, really, asking me to give you an English name is a very bad idea.


Ah well. I might change my mind sometime in the future, but for now I'm content.





Paul went to a Christmas "meeting" in Nantong on Wednesday, and was climbing the walls from boredom. However, the food was good, or so he tells me.


The reason I'm mentioning this is because he ran into a bunch of people who came over with the same recruiting company he and I both did, and had the same impression: It sucked.


Everything turned out okay in the end, but I found the experience really frustrating. The person who met me at the airport didn't speak a word of English, and I'll tell you that was quite frightening. I kept having visions of being sold on the black market, and trying to explain to my parents several years later what had happened. "Well, I trusted someone who had my name on a piece of paper. Yes, I know that was silly, but the Canadian government saved me, everything's okay now!" The fact that Kris insisted on telling me horror stories of what could happen in China every night before I fell asleep really didn't help with things.


(On the other hand, it also put things in perspective. Could be worse. I could end up as the next Manchurian Candidate.)


My "warm welcome meal" was me, so tired I could barely keep my head up, Donny, and the guy in charge. Guy in charge spent the entire "meal" wandering around the restaurant yelling at the staff. Donny kept me sane, told me what everything was, and assured me that this was all normal. A few jokes about having to sign three year contracts were cracked at my expense, which I might have been able to handle better if I hadn't just spent upteen hours on an uncomfortable airplane. Note to my friends back home who are taller than me: Fly AirCanada.


My promised tourist stops in Beijing never materialized. They weren't even acknowledged by the head of the company, and I was ultimately told by one of the other recruits that their tour guide had "quit recently", so there wasn't going to be any tours. I find it very frustrating because the first thing anyone ever asks me if I mention I was in Beijing was if I saw the Forbidden City. So I've stopped mentioning I've been to Beijing, because all I saw was the hotel.


Third, the school I was supposedly being sent to kept changing every time I talked with the guy. First I was going to a college. Then I was going to an elementary school. Then Paul and I were going to be in the same town, but at different schools. Then Paul was going to be teaching elementary, and I was going to be back in college. *sigh* I thought I was going to go mad, since I hated not knowing what was going to happen.


When trying to get my expert's certificate, I got asked by Lily for my resume. I had spent weeks on the thing, trying to rewrite everything on it to make me look like a great candidate. I had spent another week writing my cover letter, calling up random people I knew to read the thing outloud to them. But the school never got any of this stuff. They didn't get my transcripts, my letters of recommendation, or my passport information. All they got was a photo. It was like they were told, "Eh, she's got a pretty face, hire her."


{Editor's note: I was going to write "She's got great tits and a nice ass, hire her!", after a comment I once got at a bar I was working at, but then I remembered that my parents read this blog.}


So, I hastily rewrote my resume and thanked whatever gods were watching over me that I had brought along copies of my transcripts.


Paul had equally nasty problems, having been told that he didn't need to have gone to college, and not to worry about bringing over any of his stuff from high school. (I guess high school is much different in New Zealand. He didn't get a school leaving certificate, and can't get his transcripts.) The school is having a bitch of a time getting him a visa, I guess. Luckily his initial visa was for three months. Mine was for only a month.


Donny, another guy we met up with in Beijing, was told it was no problem that he wanted to be at a school where he could play soccer all the time. But he was also told he was being "too difficult" when he said he didn't want to go up north.


Well, Paul ran into people in Nantong who had had similar problems. One guy who wanted to go up north was told he was "too difficult" and the company wasn't going to pay for his lodgings in Beijing if he kept up with it, which is why he's in Jiangsu. Another girl was told everything was all lined up, to come on over, and then waited in Beijing for days while she was told the same stories I was.


I wonder how much money he's charging the schools for this "service". It didn't cost us anything except the plane ticket over, and it's not like he saw any of that. *shrug*


Ah well, it all turned out alright in the end. I'm happy with my school, Paul's good with his, and I get Donny's doing quite well for himself in Wuxi. I just wish the beginning had been more related to what I had been promised.





Unrelated to anything, I finally went to the KFC here in town. I've mentioned before that I used to work at KFC, and the smell of the cooking chicken still makes me want to go back to Bubbles in Vegreville and buy more alcohol. I liked Tom before we worked together, but I think getting drunk three or four nights a week to handle working with surly teenagers was what really made our friendship as good as it is.


That all being said, the initial "everyone wants to be here!" thing had finally worn off, so I was able to get served pretty quick. The girl behind the counter got quite flustered and called over one of her coworkers who could speak enough English to tell me what my total cost was, but since it was nicely displayed on the till, I wasn't concerned. They also kept assuring me it would be "very quick". They made the fries fresh, and it all tasted good.


I find ketchup here strange. Not enough spices in it.


But now I have more things for my collection of "gum wrappers, ketchup containers, labels and other weird things from China" that one of my coworkers in Edmonton asked for. So far I've just mailed her the labels from coke bottles and and a few gum wrappers. I'm sure she's regretting this now.





I'm leaving for Shanghai in a few hours, so I should probably get some other things done. I'm determined to have a good time, and there are all sorts of people and groups I intend to hook up with in Shanghai. Besides the Shanghai Bloggers, there's also a group of ex-pats who meet every Saturday morning (or is it Sunday morning? I have to check that out) at a Starbucks there. And I have to tell you all, I'm missing coffee from Starbucks almost as much as I miss Casey's ice cream floats.


December 18, 2003

Woo hoo! I'm now at cold 3.5 since arriving in China a mere two months ago. And I'm going to be on a bus for Shanghai in less than 24 hours! Go me! *laugh*


At this point, I am sick to death of teaching people how to sing Jingle Bells. It's my own damned fault. I could have chosen to ignore the existence of Christmas, but I decided to bring it up in every class. So I've now taught 1500 people to sing Jingle Bells. I know by next year I'll be able to love the song again (it was the first Christmas song I learned how to play on the piano), but right now it's evil.


I'm drinking much hot water, and I'm beginning to feel better. I've got to stop ignoring the people who tell me to drink more hot water. They're completely right. It always makes me feel better. How strange.


So, my advice to everyone today is: wear more clothes and drink more hot water!

December 16, 2003

My Never-Ending Phone Card Quest

Since arriving in China, I have bought seven phone cards. I have managed to make and complete a phone call with one of them.


The first card I bought in Beijing, at the airport. I was catching my flight to Nanjing, and had an hour to kill. The man at the recruiting agency had told me about IP cards and IC cards, and since I was waiting right near a bank of phones, I grabbed an IC card. (IC cards work in payphones. IP cards work on landlines.)


I ripped open the package, stuffed it into the phone, and attempted to call Kris.


"We're sorry. This phone cannot complete this call."


I tried another pay phone, but I got the same recording at each one. I sighed, stuffed the card in my pocket, and waited for my plane.


The second card I bought in Shanghai. By then I was with Paul, and since he had made several successful calls home, I figured he could help me pick one out that would work. We found a place that sold them, I picked up a nice card, and stuffed that in my pocket, next to the IC card that I still hadn't used. I made a joke about how, in case of emergency, I would rip open the plastic and call home.


When I tried to use it, shaking because of how much I just wanted to hear a familiar voice, I got a new recording:


"We're sorry, this card will not work in this region."


Needless to say, this upset me. A lot.


I've tried cards that don't work for overseas calls. Those frustrate me. I have a growing collection of these damned Chinese phone cards right next to my phone, taunting me every time I try to call home.


Last week I finally began to snap. I was going crazy. I went into the office and asked the teachers there where I could buy an IP card. They directed me to the front gate of the school. Where no one spoke any English, and nothing I could say would get "phone card" across to anyone. I thought I would go mad.


I decided to wander over to the supermarket on campus, because at least one person there speaks enough English for me to talk to. He wasn't there, and I once again tried the pantomime-writing-drawing technique that so far has not worked. With a group of people around me, I tried to explain that I wanted to call Canada, that I needed a phone card.


They finally brought me out a card with bees on it, and told me it was 30 RMB. I just nodded, paid, and left, determined to call home, to hear some sort of familiar voice.


I got through to Kris, and listened in frustration to the answering machine message. I had forgotten how many rings it picked up on, and since I was already being charged for the minutes, I left a message. Then I tried calling Tom.


I actually got through to Tom and Carla. It wasn't much of a conversation, as the second sentence out of my mouth, after "How are you?" was "I want to come home!", followed immediately by incoherent sobbing. Carla, being a wonderful person, handed the phone over to Tom, who had just woken up. He mumbled a bit, I cried a lot, and then, seven minutes into the call, it cut off. No warning, just the end of the card.


I stared at the phone in shock.


I decided I didn't want anymore of those cards.


On the weekend, Paul took me to the place where he buys his cards, and I bought another 100 RMB card. I once again joked about how I would open it in case of emergency, but I tried it as soon as I got home.


"We're sorry, this card will not work in your area."


I've decided that whatever fates that are watching over me have made the choice that I will not be calling home from China.

December 14, 2003

Rudong

Well, I'm back from an excellent weekend spent in Rudong with Paul, and greeted with many wonderful emails and things to read. I am very content with the world.


For those of you who asked, I got an email from my brother's young lady friend today. She tells me that my dad is doing great, and he'll be home on Monday. I can't tell you what a load that is off my mind. I don't know what I would have done if something had happened while I was here.


I tried practicing my Mandarin while visiting with Paul. At his school, he has a woman named Lily who helps him out, and she's very... hmm... blunt. I tried to say "Open the door!" and she laughed at me, so I guess I got it wrong. Ah well. I'm proud of myself because I can say "trouble" with the best of them. ma fan. Yay me!


I'm so happy-tired, I just don't have anything fun or interesting to say. I hope everyone else had a great weekend, too.

December 11, 2003

Canadian

I come from a country where "patriotism" is synonymous with "beer commercial", and we identify ourselves primarily as being "not American". I found it an interesting comment on all of that when I met Paul, and he was so impressed that I didn't have a Canadian flag on my bag. "God, that's really annoying," he said. Couple that with the article Tom forwarded me about how American's see Canadians as boasting a lot, and it's been an interesting month for thoughts on patriotism.


If I'm asked what nationality I am, I always answer, proudly, Canadian. Back home, it's immediately qualified: "No, where is your family from?" Um, Canada. "No, no, no... What's your ascenstry?" I usually sigh at this point, and respond with: "We were Vandals. We sacked Rome." This usually shuts people up. Except History majors, who usually insist on telling me that I can't be a Vandal, they all died out. I ignore them.


I've started thinking a lot about being Canadian. I have a song that defines Canadians as "...we like to stand in line, and if you ask us how we're doing then we'll say 'Just fine!'." Which is true, I guess. We have this international identity as being "polite". We're "nice". We're "dull".


It's not that I've rejected that. Paul gives me a hard time over how polite I am, how I always say "thank you" and "please" and stuff like that. I've been told that friends don't say "thank you" in China, which I find strange. My advice to newly married couples is always "Don't forget to say Please and Thank You. Just because you're married doesn't mean you don't have to be polite to each other!".


But I've come up with a better definition of what makes someone a Canadian, especially overseas:


Canadians know how to dress for the weather.


I can't tell you how often I've had a varation of this conversation:


Lily: I am very cold out here!
Anna: Oh? I have an extra pair of gloves you can wear.
Lily: No, they are ugly.
Anna: Suit yourself.
Lily: I am very cold!


On the phone with Paul last night, we were talking about how cold he is trying to sleep. I mentioned that when it gets to cold out here, I just toss on a pair of sweat pants or a sweater or something.


His response: "How can you do that? That's so uncomfortable! I'd rather be cold!"


Then I listen to him complain about how cold he was last night. *sigh*


Me, I'm very rarely cold in China. If it starts to get cold, I put on a hat. If it gets really cold, I throw on my scarf. Occasionally I put on gloves. It just got cold enough here during the day to see your breath, and I heard from a friend that it's -19°C back in Edmonton. Which means it's warming up.


So, I'm a proud Canadian. I wear my cute little duck gloves with pride. Because I know how to dress for the weather.

December 10, 2003

Lessons

I had my first Chinese lesson tonight.


I'm finding it a bit ironic that as soon as my father gets admitted to the hospital for his surgery, and thus can't ask me "How's your Mandarin coming?" every other day, I actually start learning the language. At least the speaking part. My teacher, Miss Wei (?), is focusing on getting me speaking. I was hoping to learn the characters at the same time, but at least I'm learning the pinying.


My father is going into the hospital for open heart surgery. Words like "bypass" are being used, although I can't remember the number of things that will be bypassed. They finally got around to mentioning this to me when we were waiting for my connecting flight to Tokyo. I can think of better places to mention it, but at least I got told when I was still in Canada, and not over the phone when I was in China.


We started with simple words. I had already learned how to write the numbers, and she took me through trying to say them. I fail miserable at saying "four" and "ten", which makes me feel stupid, but at least I can write both of them. It's the "s" sounds in Chinese I have trouble with. Si and shi. My mouth just doesn't want to form them. I can hear that I'm saying it wrong, I can hear the correct way of saying it, but I just can't reproduce it.


I've been keeping Kris updated about everything, forwarding along my father's emails. I got a reply today: "I admire your father's optimism." I responded very simply: "Yup. Proves I'm a foundling." My mind will not get past "My father is in the hospital for surgery. And I'm in China." I don't know why I'd feel better if I were in Edmonton. He'd still be in Vancouver. But the fact that, in an emergency, I could likely fly to Vancouver and be there in a few hours is more comforting than the idea that, at best, I'd be home in a day and a half.


Miss Wei lhelped me learn hand and foot and head and coat. She tried to teach me hair, but I guess I sound like I'm saying hat. I like the fact that she's honest about it. It reminds me of Paul, trying to say "It's very cold." Everyone said, "Oh, that's right, you are very clever." His friend pulled him aside afterwards and told him he was actually saying "The wolf is coming." I keep picturing a Simpsons episode: "It's cold, and there are wolves...."


Both my parents have told me, often, that everything is going to be okay. The friends back home that I have talked to about this have said the same thing, with anecdotes to back it up. But this is my father, and I'm worried about him. I want everything to be okay, for him to wake up and give me a call and laugh at me for being so worried. No matter how much I want to believe that everything will be okay, part of me still thinks it won't. Because that's the way the world is.


I'm going to look back at this post once he's out of the hospital and feel stupid.


I keep trying to say "Close the door!" but I say "Look at the door!". And I'm satisfied that I'm at least saying "door" properly.


So and thus.


Miss Wei taught me the Chinese alphabet, and it's beautiful to listen to. I'll have to sing the alphabet song to Dad when he calls me.


Xia ke.

Beautiful!

For the first time in my life, going shopping for clothes made me happy. It was a rather unique experience.


A week ago I was down in the office talking to one of my coworkers, Ing, about how lonely I was. Back home I was used to being very busy, and I'm not really happy unless I'm very busy. Here, I teach 3 classes a day. That's it. And since each class is only 40 minutes, that's a lot of free time I have every day. Since the promised Mandarin lessons still haven't materialized, I'm pretty bored. There's really only so much wandering aimlessly around the city I can do before I start to go a bit wonky.


I was telling Ing about the things I wanted to do, and how frustrated I was that I couldn't do them, when she grabbed onto something I said. I'd mentioned how I really loved the traditional Chinese jackets that some of the women I saw in the street were wearing, and how I'd love to get one, but I could never find one that would fit me.


"Well," she said, "there's a tailor in town who could make you one very easily. I have some free time right now, let's go."


I love Ing. Love love love.


Anyway, she took me to the tailor, pointing out a few places along the way, and just chatted with me about Jiangyan and her life here. I found out her husband teaches music at another school, and really likes classical music and opera. She told me that the bunches of flowers in baskets lined up outside a store meant the store had just opened, and all of the friends of the owners had sent them flowers. She pointed out where her house used to be when she was growing up, but it was destroyed when the widened the main road.


We eventually started down a narrow street, and she talked to me about how new clothes were usually made for the new year. Fireworks we going off, and she asked me what we called them in Canada, and if they were set off often there. I talked to her about how we usually only have fireworks on Canada Day and New Years Eve, and how I was looking forward to the fireworks display for Spring Festival.


When we made it to the tailor, it turned out that he was already gone, but his wife helped us pick me out a jacket. It's all black, with red hilights to it. Ing and the tailor's wife got into a barganing session, and Ing finally turned to me and gave me the price. I smiled and nodded, happy to pay anything for this chance to have a nice jacket from China. I have no idea how much it would cost to get a jacket custom made in Canada, but it's working out to about 50$ CDN here.


Last night I went for a fitting, sadly without Ing to hold my hand through it. They brought down the "rough draft" of the jacket, and had me put it on. It's just the main part of the jacket, the sleeves weren't attached yet.


The tailor was there, though, and man... I've always had this image of tailors being little old men bent over from age, with pins in their mouth. Let's just say (since my father reads this blog) that this was not the case. The tailor is definately a nice looking young man. Too bad he's married. And doesn't speak English. *laugh*


Although the tailor's wife had taken several measurements when I was there the first time, the jacket didn't quite fit properly. They had... hmm... miscalculated the size of my breasts, to be frank. I'm not particularily surprised at this. But, twenty minutes later they had taken the seems apart at the back and resown them, and this time it fit over my breasts perfectly. They marked where the buttons would go, had me try on the sleeves to get the right length, all sorts of nifty stuff. I felt so special. I get the impression (although I could be wrong) that custom fitted clothes aren't that big a deal in China, but I'm used to attempting to buy off the rack.


So, from what I was able to piece together, the jacket will be ready on Sunday. I can't wait to wear it. It's so beautiful.


I will make one other comment: I always make it a point to speak like everyone around me understands what I'm saying. At least twice now I've found this to be a good assumption. You can get a feeling when people are translating what you're saying to the people around them, and I got that feeling again last night, when I was attempting to talk about this jacket to the tailor. I think his wife understands English, or at least enough to get what I was saying and asking. They knew I was saying it was beautiful, and understood what I was asking when I asked when to come back to get it.


They had some other designs of jackets there that I liked, too. Ing wants me to get one in bright red, and I'd love one in green, too. Of course, he also had one on display that was a long jacket, like a trench coat but it buttoned up differently that I totally fell in love with. I feel so decadent!

December 9, 2003

So I walk into my office and four of my workmates are sitting there drinking yogurt out of a drink box.


Yogurt. To drink. This is wrong.


I stare at them for a moment as they continue to talk in Chinese, and then I finally snap:


"Lily, yogurt isn't a drink! You don't drink yogurt! You eat it! With a spoon!"


She looked up at me, takes the straw out of her mouth, and says: "We don't have spoons in China." Then she went back to drinking her yogurt.


I had to concede her the point.





So I've actually now had drinkable yogurt. It's not as thick as it is back home. I picked up a one liter container of strawberry, and poured it into my brand-spanking new happy face mug.


{BTW: Kris, I bought myself new happy face mugs. Yay!}


It tastes a bit like a milkshake, really. I ended up enjoying it. I could definately make sure that I get my calcium intake this way. But don't tell Lily I said that, because yogurt is supposed to be eaten. With a spoon.


Editor's note: Of course, now I keep thinking "There is no spoon." I'm hoping someone quickly comes along and kills me.

December 8, 2003


I'm not a religious person.


When I was a little girl, I remember going to Sunday School, but I can't remember doing anything there. When I was older, I took Religious Instruction, but could never figure out why. When I was a teenager, we went to church at Easter and Christmas. Religion was something I was aware of, but not something that affected my life in any significant way.


When I went to college, I started meeting people to whom religion was very important. My four closest friends back in Edmonton all have very strong faith. Out of respect to the friends I made in college, I started studying religion, to the point where I took enough Religious Studies classes that I could have listed it as a minor, I'm certain. I've read the Bible, the Apocrypha, Luther's Small Catechism, The Case for Christ, the Jesus Seminars. I've banged my head against the wall when watching movies like Stigmata.


If you asked me, I would tell you I don't believe in God.


That all being said, I was surprised at how disquieted I was at the idea of going into a Buddhist temple. The smiling people around me told me this temple was to the Goddess of Mercy, and they wanted me to show respect to her as an ancient Chinese god. One part of me was going Cool, I get to see a temple! A real temple, not one in a photo! The other part of me was feeling very uncomfortable. I'd never been in a temple. I've walked past synagogues, I've studied Greek temples, I've written tests about Shinto and Buddhism, but I've never been inside a place that represented someone's faith, other than a Christian church.


"There are monks living there now. Maybe we will see them!" His English name was Liam. He'd told me his Chinese name, but I could only remember the translation: Mr. Left. He led me over to where a store was selling incense, and we bought two packages each. I looked at the bundles in my hand, tracing my fingers over the Chinese writing, and thought about Mercy.


As they led me back towards the gates, I started chanting in my head: Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee...


I was surprised at my reaction. Like I said, I'm not religious. I know Hail Mary because of a song I like. But it seemed like the right thing to keep in mind.


We went up in a gondola, and I watched the view get larger and more beautiful. Most of the people in the gondola with me didn't speak English, and those that did just assured me I shouldn't look down, and that we were safe. I ignored them for the most part, staring down at the park we had passed on our way. It was beautiful down there, and I was disappointed that we didn't have the time to walk through the park, to indulge my desire to see everything here.


We got off the gondola and walked up the stairs in the mountain, and I was once again awed by the view. This time I could see the Yangzte River, so wide across I could barely pick out the opposite shore. It was beautiful and timeless, and I could have been content at that point to just gaze out at the water.


"When I was attending college, I used to take my girlfriends for walks along the river," said Liam, and I smiled at him. He was very polite, very sweet, and the only person there who made sure I knew what was going on. I wonder now if he sensed my unease, but it's hard to say. Body language and facial expression seem so different in China, but I can't put my finger on what the difference is.


He told me a story about how Buddha had made all the wolves promise to stop killing people and animals in the area by making a bet with them. He had bet that he could make the sky dark, and the wolves, not knowing who he was, had laughed and agreed to the bet. When Buddha tossed his cloak up into the sky, it grew larger and large until the whole area was dark. The wolves, realizing then who they were confronting, left the area, never to return.


By now we were at the top of the steps, and the temple was behind us. I looked up at it, and thought about the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.


I've always considered myself very open minded, and never thought much about religious preferences. I know what I believe, and what I don't believe. I accept what other people believe. I question about religion, but I don't question faith. Standing there, confronted with definitive proof that other religions existed, I was surprised and disquieted. I'm still attempting to figure out why.


We walked up to the temple, and each of us in turned bowed and genuflected to the first statue, tossing a few coins into the box before it. I did as the others did, but stared up at the statue, wondering at it. It was a large statue, the typical laughing Buddha that we've all studied in school.


"He is always laughing, always smiling at life's misfortunes. Just like you!" said Mr. Left, grinning at me.


We walked past two large statues reaching up to the ceiling. I recognized the style, but couldn't tell you what they were or what they represented. Garishly coloured, their faces were dark brown, and their smiles were fake. They looked frightening.


We continued to walk through the temple, stopping every few minutes to bow before another statue. I never became truly comfortable with it, and clutched my packages of incense to me between bowing. I kept looking at everything, wanting to touch it, to have someone explain everything about this faith, this temple, this lifestyle to me, but everyone was in a rush, and I wasn't comfortable asking.


We passed a statue with many arms. "She is using all of her thousand hands to give blessings," Liam told me, and I looked at her hands, trying to decide what she was holding.


We eventually got to the inner sanctum of sorts. I stood outside it, feeling very uncomfortable. Mr. Left pointed to the statue inside. "It is a tree," he said. "The people of China carved it into a Buddha." I heard a bell tolling, and saw a monk banging against a stick against a large bell.


In the half-light it was hard to see what he looked like. I only have impressions now, of a robe of an off-red colour, and the sudden thought that he actually looked like a monk on t.v. I guess I assumed that t.v. got that wrong. He sat down at a table in front of the statue, holding onto a feather duster, and I smiled.


I finally bowed at this statue, too, and when I looked up at the face of Buddha I thought again of golden calves. I quickly stepped away, and out onto the highest balcony.


Liam led me to a fire, and told me that I was to take my incense and toss it in there. I looked at the packaging again, and he pointed out the Chinese characters. "This one means that you will have good luck in the new year," he said, pointing at the first package. "This one means you'll get lots of money." I smiled at that, and stepped forward, tossing both of them in the fire. I couldn't smell the incense, and was disappointed, but I watched it burn for a few minutes before I was led to the cushions in front of the fire, and asked to bow again, in thanks for the blessings.


After that, there wasn't much left. We walked back down from the temple, got back onto the Gondola, and into the van. We were heading to the t.v. tower, where they told me I would see an even better view of the city. I just closed my eyes, leaning back against the seat as we started to move, and pondered everything that had just happened.


I knew I wanted to come back, to look at everything by myself, and to wonder at faith and religion and my own feelings about them.

December 7, 2003

Eating in China

Interesting things I have eaten in China, a list, by jo



  1. Turtle. I found it tasted like fish. It was a very interesting experience.
  2. Pig's Ear. Eh, I didn't like the texture, or the appearance, but I tried it because everyone insisted I should. By itself, it's not that good, but I liked it dipped in vinegar.
  3. Pig's Feet. Tastes like pig. Strange looking bones. I have no idea how someone would prepare this, though.
  4. Pig's Skin. At least, that's what Lily told me I was eating. I hate the texture, and I'm not too fond of the flavour, either. I'd say pass, if you're asked to try some.
  5. Crabs. I know I can get crabs in the shell at home, but I've never had it. These crabs are about the size of my fist. You crack them open and eat them out of the shell. I have yet to do this properly.

All in all, I haven't had the influx of strange foods that I thought I would. I guess the fact that I rarely have someone with me to tell me what I'm eating may add to that.


Hmm... They're doing a Best Asian Weblogs thingy. (Yes, that was very descriptive of me. I can see why I'm teaching English.)


I love reading China blogs, because I like reading about people who are in the same boat as me, or reading about people who are more involved with China. I want to read their stories and see their images. So I'm all excited about this "Best Asian Blogger" thing because I just click on the nominees to read some great stuff.


Those of you who are interested, check it out. I'll put up a better link later.

I got a goat!

Editor's note: This is a fairly boring, mundane post. I meant to say something significant in it, but got distracted.


I've been starting a lot of conversations lately by saying "I got a goat!"


I find it interesting that everyone automatically assumes that someone in China gave me a real goat. I think it says interesting things about people's perceptions of this place.


That being said: I got a goat!


I got "invited" (as in: "We're going tomorrow, be here at 6 a.m.") to go with some of the teachers to another school and observe their teaching techniques. From what Paul and I have been able to put together, this is something that is very very common in December in China. We've had a day of it at my school (the same day the overseas students came up), Paul's just done one at his school, and I've been to the one at this other school. It involves a bunch of teachers from all around sitting in on classes in their specialities, and then discussing the teaching techniques. Which was an eye opening experience, I assure you.


So I sat in on two English classes, which was okay, I guess. Nothing too exciting there, except that it really brought home to me how impossible it is to teach the students here the way we teach the students back home. I haven't been able to figure out how often a week the kids get English classes, but back home we had French four times a week, with usually 20 to 30 students. Here they typically have 60. They do chanting instead of speaking. And yet, lot of the kids are good. At least, good enough to understand about half of what I say when I talk slowly.


Afterwards we had a big lunch. It was surreal, because it was the first time since I came here that I've sat at a big table of Chinese people. They poured a Chinese wine into bowls. I don't know the proper spelling, but it's pronounced "biejo". Anyway, every few minutes someone would stand up with a toast, and we all stood up and drank. I finally got to the point where I would just put the bowl to my lips, because I didn't want to get drunk. They brought out dish after dish of food, and I had pig's ear (which isn't too bad if you dip it in vinegar).


I had been asked earlier in the day if I would give a demonstration class. I wasn't really warned what they meant though.


I gave a class about Christmas to about 780 people. It was overwhelming, and frustrating, and fun, and great, and I laughed a lot. I got the kids to laugh, although whenever that happens I'm reminded of what my brother said when I left. "I tell all my students that the important thing is to know when to laugh. It doesn't matter if you get the joke, just know when to laugh." I wonder often if the kids only laugh because they think they're supposed to.


Then we all piled into a van, and got taken to Nantong. They showed us a Buddhist temple, brought us to the top of a t.v. tower, and took us on a boat trip on the canals within Nantong. I want to write an entire post on each one of these things, because they were so interesting that they deserve the time and effort.


The frustrating part, though, was one of the teachers from the other school, Jocelyn, kept talking to my like I was seven years old. She'd point at the t.v. tower and say, "What's that?". I smiled and went along with it, but it was so frustrating. I could understand if we were talking in Chinese, but it was all in English. Ah well. I think she had fun, and I know I had fun.


When they drove us back to our school, they gave everyone large boxes to take home. I carried it up to my apartment, speculating on what was inside. I actually assumed, from the way it was thumping in the box, that it must be a bottle of liquor. I also hoped it wasn't. All kidding aside, I'm not a heavy drinker, and any bottle that would be in a box this size would likely end up coming home with me, unopened. (Which could be a lot of fun. I have drinking plans that involve Tom and biejo. And alcohol poisining.)


By the time I got home, I was completely exhausted, but I opened the box, and inside was a goat!


It's a large wooden goat, good for coffee tables or displaying on a mantle of some sort. If I were educated properly, I would be able to tell you what kind of wood it is, but I don't know. It just know that it's beautiful, a dark wood, and it's carved all in one piece. The goat is standing with one foot on a Chinese coin, the type with the square cut out of it. There are four Chinese characters on it. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you what it says one day.


Looking at this goat reminded me of some of the reasons I decided to come here. I've talked often about how it feels to be over here, how other it is, and how the world is a very small place that we make choices about seeing. I like the idea of coming home with this goat, the first of my souveniers of my travels around the world. Every time I get lonely or sad, I look at my goat and think about how rich my life is becoming with experiences. Yes, the day to day stuff can drive me insane, but there's so much I can experience here if I want to.


December 5, 2003

RAWR!

Long time readers of my blog (from the not-anywhere-on-the-web archives time) will know that I made it a point to not talk about my emotions very often on the blog. I'd talk about my plans of moving, my lesson planning, boring stuffs like that. Occasionally I'd rant about something.


I'm about to rant but good.


I am grounded.


Bad enough that I get told "Oh, don't go out at night, it's dangerous" without any definition of when "night" is, because it gets dark here at 4:30. Bad enough that whenever I go someplace I have to tell people where I'm going and when I'm going to be back. Bad enough that I get questioned when I'm walking places after dark on campus, to make sure I'm not going out.


Now I've been "asked" not to go to Nanjing tomorrow. (Plans to Shanghai have been postponed.) I've been "asked" not to go anywhere alone anymore.


What the fuck? I'm old enough to make my own choices, thank you very much. I was going to Nantong and Nanjing by myself before. I don't know what the hell changed, but it's really pissing me off.





Anyway, they've gotten my Chinese teacher approved. I haven't met her yet, but at least now I can safely seek her out without worrying about offending someone else.


Eh, I'm in too bad a mood to talk about the good things that have happened.

December 1, 2003

Easily Distracted by Bright Sparklies

There is something completely different about hurting yourself in a foriegn country.


Before I get a bunch of concerned phone calls from home, I'm fine. No bones are broken, and I didn't hit my head.


I had skipped supper tonight because I wasn't hungry, and then got hungry around 7:30. I decided to go out for a walk, maybe try the KFC that just opened up, or just buy something at the store. However, when I got to the KFC, it was packed, and I'm bored of the stuff at the grocery store, so I decided to keep walking.


Something I've found strange about China is the lighting. The streetlights back home are bright enough you could read by them. Here, everything feels like it's lit in gaslight. Little globes just barely bright enough to allow you to see the street underneath them.


However, the buildings are always lit up. Neon lights flash everywhere, signs are always glowing, and there are led lights running along the edges of buildings. Everywhere I look when walking downtown I see these bright lights. I find it very distracting sometimes, and I wonder whether the lights back home are as bright. The streets of Edmonton are so well lit that the lights on the buildings are washed out. The lights here look like the lights are supposed to in Las Vegas, all bright and flashy and neon and strange.


I walked along, chasing after bright lights, trying to find something that would satisfy my cravings for sweet. I turned down various streets, looking into windows and doorways, trying to decide what it was that I wanted.


Eventually I went into a store that sold gloves and scarves, and bought the cutest pair of gloves, with ducks on them. They're perfect for the not-cold that we're having here. As a Canadian, I know how to dress for cold weather. I have problems dressing for the not-cold weather, though.


Anyway, I walked down to the end of the street, and still couldn't find what I was looking for. I was beginning to get tired, and decided I'd had enough of chasing neon lights for one night, and started to head back. I walked along the street, keeping an eye out for traffic.


Sadly, not keeping an eye on the actual street.


I fell into a hole.


I took a step, and there was nothing below me, and I fell, hard, onto my tummy. I was so shocked I just lay there for a moment, trying to figure out what was happening to me. Several people were suddenly next to me, and helped me up, talking to me in very fast Chinese. They all looked very concerned, and very friendly, which I greatly appreciated, because I had just fell into a hole. (I'm still having troubles with this. I fell into a hole. On the street. Who does that?)


I was quickly pushed into a chair, and more concerned Chinese people came to me and asked me questions. All I could say was "I can't understand you, I'm sorry. I just fell into a hole." This was not very effective, and one of them went back outside. I didn't know where he was going, but I frankly didn't care that much. I just kept saying "ow" a lot, and poking at my leg to make sure it was okay.


Through pantomime a woman asked if I had hit my head, and I shook it quickly. I was also asked (I assume) if I had broken anything, but I hadn't.


The man who had disappeared came back and I was gently led to a waiting rickshaw. I pointed in the direction that I wanted to go, and leaned back, waving good-bye and saying "Thank you!" to all the nice people who had helped me. Then I closed my eyes, and wished that I had my mother with me.


I actually had to fight back tears on the way home. It's not that I was that badly hurt, but I fell into a hole! In China! And there wasn't going to be anyone at home when I got there to fret over me and tell me that everything was going to be okay! I was very upset about this. I fell into a hole!


Then I realized that I had fallen into a hole on the street. And realized how incredibly funny that was, and started chuckling to myself. I mean, really, who falls into a hole, right?


I got back to the school, tested my leg and confirmed that I could walk back to my apartment. I walked into the supermarket on campus, because I still hadn't had anything to eat, and that's when I realized how dirty I was. A woman pointed at my jacket and said something, and I replied, "I fell down." She looked at me blankly for a moment, and then pantomimed falling, and I nodded. She laughed, I laughed, several other people laughed, and I bought something sweet and walked back to my room.


I called Paul, who loves "Anna Fell Down" stories. I told him what happened, and when he was done laughing (momentarily), he said, "Well, at least you have something funny to write in your blog."


I said, "Yup. I even have the first line already figured out."

Photo Op

Interesting Comments on My Photos, a list, by jo



  1. "She must be the princess, right?" A comment on Theresa's wedding photos.
  2. "She is a dancer?" Looking at a picture of Jeanne-Marie. I was very surprised at this comment, mostly because it's of Jeanne sitting in a chair with her legs outstretched, listening to her walkman.
  3. "Is this a rockstar?" Picture of Kris. I find this very, very funny. Kris is all gothed out in the photo.
  4. "Is this you?" I should appologize to Clayton for this question. Clay has long curly blonde hair. I have long wavy brown hair. But I was actually asked if Clay was me. Poor Clay.

Hmm... I thought I had more of them. Guess not.

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*

Excitement!

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!"


*sigh*


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

Tuesday

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

Exploring

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

Dreams

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?"


"No!"


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


"No!"


"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.


*cry*


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....

Days...

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:



Geeks
Circle I Limbo


LRPS members
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind


Goths
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


Kris
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

Cold

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...


*sigh*

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

Parade?

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...

Parade?

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.

Jiangyan

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....

Addictions...

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

"Chinglish"

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

Shanghai!

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 China

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Anna Overseas in the China category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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