Sunday, 31 August 2008
I would write more or in more detail, but tomorrow is my first official day of teaching. I am very tired and very nervous. I just wanted to write a quick post because I am in good spirits and wanted to let you all know!
Just a quick silly note to make up for the lack of detail in my post. My current facebook profile picture is this:
A Chinese teacher from my department friended me on facebook and asked if this was what people from my hometown typically wear! :-) I explained about being in That Medieval Thing.
Anyway, I need a good nights sleep before tomorrow. I have to be in the playground at 715 for the flag raising ceremony. I need to introduce myself to the whole school. *GULP!* Then I have three classes to teach throughout the day.
Wish me luck!
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Then I went to Carrefour to get some laundry detergent and fabric softener. I paid the big bucks to get a brand I knew (All). My clothes need to last me all year and I don't want them to fall apart cuz I bought a really crappy laundry detergent. If I have time tomorrow I will probably brave the washing machine.
Guess what I had for lunch today?? Grilled cheese! Yum! I bought a tiny tiny tiny block of cheese and some bread with my other groceries (which included duck ramen, peanut butter, soy sauce, and a chinese dessert similar to moon pies). So when I got back to my apartment I cut up the cheese and cooked myself up a nice grilled cheese sandwich. It was very tasty, but tasted like most American food I've had in China. Similar but not exactly the same. The bread was a little weird. For a sliced loaf of bread my choices were "American egg and milk salty bread" and "American egg and milk sweet bread". I decided to get the sweet bread.
Anyway...after lunch I got on the bus to go see Lucy. For those who don't know, Lucy has been my penpal since I was in middle school. We have been writing to each other on and off for the last 10 years. We have never met face to face....
We met in the subway station in front of the science and technology museum and had a big hug. She was wearing the gold butterfly necklace I sent her what feels like a million years ago. We took the subway to the river. We sat by the side of the river and talked for a while. We talked about jobs and life and college and men and travel and all sorts of stuff. We walked around some more. She got some hot pot as a snack (which she shared with me ^_^) and I bought some bubble tea. We walked around a very western area and then went to a park where we sat and talked some more. She also called her father and had me talk with him a little. He seems very nice! She gave me a cute little purse for my cell phone. I'm so stupid. I should have brought her a present from the US, but I was so freaked out packing for myself I didn't even think of it.
We went to a restaurant where Lucy treated me to dinner. We had some beef with onions, potato balls, some vegetables with cashews, and rice. I asked Lucy if we could go to a Chinese restaurant because I was too nervous to go into one by myself. It was also nice having her there because at the school canteen I don't know what I was eating! She was able to tell me what everything was. It was very good. I especially liked the beef and onions.
After dinner we parted ways. She gave me directions on how to get back to the bus line I needed. I feel more sure of myself with the subway here now. She invited me to come to her home in Guangzhou for the Autumn festival (which is in the middle of September). I'd love to go, but I'm a little nervous about the idea of meeting her parents. I hope they like me if we meet!
Meeting with Lucy was a really cool experience I never thought would happen when we started writing to each other 10 years ago. It was also nice to have someone to talk to. I've been pretty lonely in my apartment. She said she wants to introduce me to all her friends and take me out dancing. I'm excited to go! I just wish she didn't live so far away. She lives on the other side of the river. Huh...kind of ironic that I now think of her being on the other side of the river as being far away when there used to be an OCEAN between us. Anyway, I'm just really glad that we hit it off in person and I look forward to getting together with her again!
I am trying to reach out in the area to other expats. I posted in an expat forum about wanting to meet up with other craft people (knitting, etc.) I even offered to teach people how to knit. The only responses I got so far was telling me about a group that meets during my work hours and a guy sarcastically asking if I was his mother. :-P Oh well. I'm keeping my hopes up.
I've written a lot and I'm very tired! So I'm signing off for now!
米凤冠 (My Chinese name)
雪飞 (Sproffee in Chinese)
Friday, 29 August 2008
I'm truly nervous about getting the students to respect me. I keep thinking about Mrs. O'Neal. She was my English teacher in high school and my favorite teacher ever. She's the first teacher I can remember that made me feel like an adult and an individual and not just "a student". I want to make my students feel that way. I hope if I am straight forward, honest, patient, and show them that I respect them, they will do the same for me. I don't know what I'll do if I can't keep control of my class. I can't imagine myself being a hard-ass and I don't want to spend so much time punishing them that we don't have time to learn. Worst of all, I don't want them to ignore me or treat me like nothing.
I keep getting mixed messages from the administration. One woman said I didn't need to write a lesson plan because she'll write it (we are both teaching english. she's teaching grammer and reading, I'm teaching speaking and writing). Then another woman asked me to turn in my lesson plan today.
I wrote up a lesson plan for the first week of class that includes a warm-up, a class exercise, and homework for each day. I hope that's what they mean. Other than that I've been writing up ideas for projects both in and out of class.
For example, create your own product. Write a letter to the CEO of the company you work for explaining about your product and what it can do. Then the students can either design the product (or the packaging it comes in) or perform a commercial for it. Sound interesting?
At times I feel like my only worthwhile trait to this school is that my native language is English. I know, I know...that IS my main selling point, but I need to prove that I can be a good teacher too.
(I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope)
P.S. Someone else in the office received international mail using the school address in English, so feel free to write the address on any and all mail sent in English. I updated the address in the post "HOW TO CONTACT ME".
It was meat! Again, it was quite tasty and once again tastes like jerky, but it was wrapped like a candy. Very confusing. If I had actually taken the time to read the wrapper I would have recognized the symbols for "beef", but I just assumed it was fruit. So much for having a sweet taste in my mouth this afternoon.
I had lunch at the school cafeteria for the first time yesterday. It's pretty good food, though i have no idea what I'm eating most of the time. I don't feel like holding up the line to ask someone and I don't want to look like a doofus.
Yesterday I had what I'm assuming was duck. And something else I'm assuming was green beans and potatoes. And some sort of soup that may or may not have had tofu in it. And rice.
Today for lunch I had ribs of an undefined animal. And a cold sweet soup. And bean sprouts. And cabbage with eggs...I think. And rice.
Both days they also gave me a HUGE triangle of watermelon for dessert. But nothing to drink. I guess I'm supposed to supply my own drink.
I feel like a kid on the first day of school in that cafeteria. Yesterday some people sat down with me because there was literally no where else to sit in the cafeteria and we all sat in silence. Luckily today Charlotte came in a short while after I did and she sat with me. We shared different versions of our "I have no idea what the heck I'm supposed to do" stories. It's nice to know I'm not alone.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
So what would be a good thing for a new teacher to eat? Here is a clue:
Can you guess? Here's another hint...I'll need to TALK a lot.
If you guessed tongue, you're right! Duck tongue, specifically. They were handing them out at the first meeting for the high school teachers today. After waiting for someone else to eat one and then asking them if they were spicy (my main concern), I helped myself to one. They are actually quite tasty. I know they kind of look like an alien creature, and they are a bit difficult to eat (lots of bones/cartilage), but they are worth the trouble. Kind of taste like jerky... I brought some back to my apartment to eat and take pictures of for you people. I've had three so far.
Please excuse the ridiculous expression on my face. I figured I would put up a picture of myself to prove that it is actually me writing this blog. Unless someone else IS writing this blog and they actually kidnapped me and are force feeding me duck tongue...that would be a weird torture...
Stephanie/The Duck Tongue Torturer
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
-First of all, it's long. If it was at least an interesting commercial it would be ok. It's not.
-Second of all, the product (some sort of skin renewal face mask) is just plain creepy. Evidence below:
-Third, part of the commercial involves a man watching a hot bikini babe on tv and his girlfriend trying to get his attention. He smacks her hand away and keeps his eyes glued to the tv. If this were to happen, you should be renewing your boyfriend, not renewing your skin.
-Fourth and MOST ANNOYING, the commercial repeatedly tries to convince viewers that this mask is super easy to put on (unlike The Leading Competitor™). The way that the commercial does this is by showing a clip of a woman taking the mask off and playing it in REVERSE. It is so painfully obvious that the video is in reverse. Do people watching this commercial actually believe what they see? I wish I could find a clip of this commercial online to show you all.
Ah well. I know this post has nothing to do with me, but I just had to share.
So this morning after my shower and a large glass of orange juice, I got a call from a director from the IB school. Apparently she sent me a schedule on Monday, but she had sent it to my Drew e-mail address (which I hardly check anymore). I was expected at the school. Oops! I would have felt so much better if I had had that schedule. Here I had thought they had left me with no indication of what I had to do and when. I gave her my gmail address so it wouldn't happen again.
I headed over to the school where I was shown to my office (which I share with about 5 other people. I have my own cubicle). Everyone was unpacking and talking and I was just sitting there with nothing to do. Then I got a text from Amy about getting my supplies. I picked them up from logistics and set them up at my desk. It was basic things. Stapler, pens (mostly RED since I'm a TEACHER. Yikes!), paper clips, etc. One of the Chinese teachers gave me a book: "Lonely Planet: China". It's a travel guide and apparently has been handed down from foreign teacher to foreign teacher. It's a little outdated but helpful nonetheless.
The group leader, Jane(?) sat me down and told me a few things about what to expect. There are two classes in grade ten. They are split up for most of my classes. So I'll have grade ten, class 1a, then class 1b, then class 2a, etc. They also have a big combined class. She recommended I use that for presentations. She gave me a copy of the textbook I'll be using to look at. It's called "Cutting Edge". And if the students can really read this...DANG! Their English is GOOD.
Here is an excerpt from LESSON ONE: "Appalled by the current drive to modernize, many older people still wax euphoric about Chairman Mao and the years of sacrifice for the socialist revolution." Geez. I can't imagine being able to read this book if it was in Chinese.
There is another foreign English teacher in the IB school named Randy. He was here last year and said he would help me out if I needed it. I mostly just want to talk to him about what to expect. How much do I need to discipline the kids? Are they polite? Do they speak up? Are they creative? Do they get excited about class? How much homework should I give? Etc...etc...etc...
After getting back from my medical exam (which I wrote about earlier), I asked if there was anything else I needed to do today. I was told that I didn't, so I took all the books Jane had loaned me back to my apartment. I still need my library card so I can get my own copies of these books from the library. That should be taken care of tomorrow. Also, there is a meeting for high school teachers tomorrow morning where I'll be given my schedule and will hopefully get a chance to talk to Randy.
It was nice to meet some other teachers today. Especially Charlotte since she's new like me. She seemed just as lost and confused as I felt, which made me feel better. She doesn't have internet in her apartment yet, so I told her she could stop by tonight if she wanted to, to use mine. Hopefully she'll stop by. Lisa is moving off campus with two other foreign teachers that were here last year. I asked when she was going to have a party at her apartment. She assured me it would be soon. She seems nice. :-)
I don't have any pictures to go with this entry, but here is a picture I took from my balcony yesterday of a mommy cat with her kittens. She was in the parking lot of the next building over.
I know they look kind of lumpy, but once I steam them, they will flatten out and be easier to connect.
This first square is made from the skein of yarn given to me after I gave a talk about China at Jessica's (Donna's daughter) school. I don't know if it was from Jessica or the school, but here it is!
This square was knitting from a skein of yarn given to me by John Martin and his family.
This square is from Bruce (from Kamatics) and Jen.
This was the first square I made en-route to and in China. It's a skein from Chelsea Rowe.
I finished this square last night. The yarn was from the Millers.
I am picking which yarn to work on by random. I reach my hand in the bag and work with whatever comes out. Now I am working on a square with yarn from Patty Chung (also from Kamatics). Of course I didn't realize until I started it that it's the same color scheme as the yarn from the Miller's. Oh well!
First I was weighed and measured (I am 179 cm tall! Good to know.) Then I went to another room and got two tubes of blood drawn. Then I went to another room where a woman checked my blood pressure, listened to my lungs and did that doctory thing where they dig their fingers in your stomach and make little circles (doctors have been doing that to me for years...what the heck are they looking for?).
Then I went to another room where I had an ECG done. That was a new experience. For anyone else how there who doesn't know what this is, this is the best picture I could find online.
There were also plastic clamp things on my ankles and wrists. (When the woman put the clamps on my ankles and then went to put the sensors over my heart, they couldn't reach. She had to readjust them. HA!)
Next I went to another room for a quick eye test, nose and ear exam. Next room they did a ultrasound/sonogram/whatever on my lungs. The woman was NOT gentle. Ah well. Then all three of us (along with some other people) were marched in our robes outside to the next building were we had chest x-rays done. All done! The whole process was pretty quick and efficient. Hopefully all the tests went well and soon I'll have my foreign experts card!
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
So this morning after breakfast, I walked over to the main building to find out what the deal was. I talked to Sue who said that classes don't start until Monday. Oh! Well, I feel better now. Of course now I have to amuse myself for another 5 days.
The IB director should be here tomorrow, so I'm going to go talk with her then. I also have my doctor's appointment tomorrow. Pete says it'll be a blood test, chest x-ray and an EKG most likely. Then I get to fill out paper work for my foreign experts card (aka, work visa). Hopefully then the "this is what we expect of you as a teacher" part comes.
According to Sue, most of the foreign teachers should be on campus by now. Aka...in the building I'm in now. I have heard a lot more activity going on today. I think later I may open my door again and hope someone wanders by. I heard two people walking down the hall speaking english, but I couldn't think of a good excuse to pop my head in the hall other than: "I heard two people speaking english and I'm lonely....HI!"
Anyway, don't want to bore you all with rambling and I'm actually pretty hungry (I think it was writing that last post that did it).
As a side note, I bought some potpourri for my apartment (it was on sale at Carrefour, and cheaper than an aerosol air freshener) and now it smells lovely in here.
First up on the menu was some chicken/ramen/noodle type thing that I made for lunch yesterday. Amy suggested this brand at my first trip to Carrefour. I asked her what her favorite was and she pointed to a bright red package (which usually indicates SPICY). I told her I didn't want anything too spicy so she suggested another kind, which I bought. It was so spicy that it made my FACE HURT. Here is a picture of it cooking. I still ate about half of it because I was starving, but I don't plan on making it again. Maybe I'll give the rest to Amy.
At a larger trip to Carrefour yesterday, I bought a lot more food stuffs. Including....pork dumplings! I bought a package of frozen dumplings and boiled some for dinner. They were pretty tasty. They would have been better with some soy sauce or something. I need to get some more kitchen staples. Things like spices and oils and the like. Right now the only food I have that isn't a main food item in and of itself is a margarine-type-spread. I didn't feel like shelling out the big bucks to get "REAL BUTTER!"
Last on the menu (or at least the last thing I cooked that I took a picture of) was eggs for breakfast. Now, I don't really like eggs much, but I couldn't find a cereal I really liked, I don't have a toaster, and all the porridge I found said "cereal drink" on it. Plus I figured eggs...protein...good way to start the day. Again, some spices would have REALLY come in handy. Or some cheese. :-( All I had was that margarine spread to grease the pan and a little milk. All told, it tasted fine, just a little bland. A glass of orange juice and I had myself a decent breakfast. (Just a note, cuz I know there is no point of reference...it's a small plate. I didn't make myself a mountain of eggs for breakfast.)
I bought another package of ramen, this time it was shrimp flavored. That was lunch today and it was very good and not spicy. I'll probably have more dumplings for dinner. I also picked up my lunch swiping card from Amy today, so I'll be able to report on the quality of the school "canteen" (as they call it) after lunch tomorrow.
Monday, 25 August 2008
Here is the view of my living room from the door that leads into my bedroom. That couch is relatively comfortable, though it does make me feel like I'm falling off of it. I can tell it can be unfolded into a bed, but I can't seem to manage it yet.
Here is the view of my bedroom from the door that leads to my living room. The bed is pretty stiff but I'm sure it's good for me. I am sitting at the desk in the corner as I type this (now that I have internet in my apartment. WHOO!). Over my bed I've started a collage of notes from loved ones. The calligraphy is from 2005 in Harbin.
If you want to see the rest of the photos of my apartment, check 'em out here.
There is quite a fabulous thunderstorm going on right now. I wrote a poem about it.
Rain in Shanghai
Shimmering puddles ripple with rain and wind, collected on the pale pink-orange tile of my balcony
Thunder like a protest, a crackling, growling, drum beat. Persistent hum, rising and falling.
The dark rain curtain makes all things beyond my window a gray-green blur, the sky melting to the earth, each drop heavy with cloud.
Rain like static, car horns buzz and adult voices, small and far away, sound like children.
Quieter, quieter, the curtain pulls back into the sky and the world comes into focus.
The storm leaves and I am left with the glorious stink of a city made damp.
Pete and Stu made me a little nervous yesterday about two topics: my students and the weather. First of all, apparently Shanghai has two seasons: Summer and Winter. Summer is awful and hot and humid and gross and lasts until NOVEMBER. Then winter is cold and wet, but rarely snows. *sigh* Well, I did pick this job because of the type of school I would be working at, not the location. And I think I can handle one year without my favorite two seasons. I should have packed more sleeveless shirts…
When it comes to teaching, Pete said in his experience you can’t give the students choices or creative projects. Stu recommended that I was tough right from the start. These are exactly the things I didn’t want. Pete did admit that I am teaching at a different style of school then he did. I hope the IB mentality is similar here to my high school.
I got internet in my apartment now! Yay! I made up this new blog site and now I just need to spread the word that people should look here and not at my LJ. I'm still bummed about not being able to read other people's entries, but at least I have the ability to post.
So Pete, Stu and I ended up meeting for lunch instead. Having Pete here made me a lot braver. If I was here by myself I would have walked around in bigger and bigger circles around the school until things got familiar. I would have tried to find a map in English or in Chinese and then translate it. It probably would have taken me a while to get up the nerve to use public transportation. Instead, Pete calls, tells me to get on bus 987 and we’ll meet up on Century Ave. So I did. J
I ended up getting off at the wrong end of Century Ave. Alas. After much confusion on both ends and lots of walking in the wrong direction, we finally met up. We walked to a stadium/mall but it was closed. We then took a taxi to another HUGE HUGE HUGE shopping center. I felt like I was in an Escher painting...there were so many escalators, walkways and stairways. And it was PACKED. We ended up having very yummy sushi. The boys treated me to lunch. Pete then gave me a map of Shanghai which is in both English and Chinese and it shows subway lines! SCORE! He also gave me a metro card that I can use for buses, taxies, subways, and even the ferries that cross the river the goes through Shanghai. I wasn’t expecting such kindness. I feel very prepared and calmer now that I have this knowledge and tools. Of course, I’m sad to mention that Pete very likely may be coming back to the states in a week. At least Stu will still be here, and he is very nice and said I can call him if I have any problems. (Pete joked that I could call him when I run out of toilet paper).
After lunch we walked along the river, then took the ferry across to PuXi, Shanghai(I think that’s what it’s called, I live in PuDong, Shanghai). We walked to a huge foreign book store. I bought some postcards. Then we took the subway back (under the river!). We all waited for a while for the bus I needed to take back, but it took a long time and they had to go. I gave them each a hug, and Pete the Drew sweatshirt I had bought for him months ago. I took a very crowded bus back and got off at the Carrefour. I bought some apartment-y things (hand soap, dish soap, all purpose cleaner, garbage bags, etc). I then walked back to the apartment, took a shower and here I am now!
I was going to go to the Coffee Beanery or someplace else with Wifi so I could open a journal and such, but after all the walking today and yesterday, my feet and legs feel like they are going to fall off. Besides, the IT guy should be here tomorrow to put internet in my apartment.
The closing ceremony for the Olympics should be on in about an hour, but I don’t know if any of the 6 or so channels I get will be showing it. I would walk to the nearby bar, but again, I feel a bit broken from the waist down.
Well, I’m glad I bought that umbrella yesterday. It wasn’t raining all morning. The moment I decide to go out and walk around guess what…RAIN! I walked to the Coffee Beanery, which is a coffee place really close to the school. You will not believe what I ordered for breakfast. A BAGEL WITH CREAM CHEESE. YUM! It’s not as good as the bagels in the good ole U S of A, but it is pretty good. I also got a cup of coffee. While I’m no expert, I think it tastes pretty good.
This place is obviously meant to make English speakers feel at home. There is a large book shelf in front of me that says “Book Exchange”. And it’s filled with books, many that are familiar. Dean Koontz, Danielle Steel, The Da Vinci Code, etc.
Sue told me this place has wifi, but my computer isn’t picking it up. I should really ask the waiter. I want to e-mail Lucy and Pete and let them know that I’m in Shanghai and that we should get together. And I want to post this entry before it becomes so long that no one will want to read it.
This place has mirrors to make it look bigger than it is. It’s working. I keep thinking I see someone else in here. It’s just me.
I asked the waiter and he said that there is wireless, but my computer can’t seem to recognize it. I wonder if I have to do something different to get Chinese wireless?
After my coffee at the beanery, I decided to walk around. The faster I know the area near me, the faster I’ll feel at home. I was excited to find The Blue Frog, which is apparently a popular place for the foreign teachers at this school since they have Happy Hour until 8pm: Buy one cocktail get one free. So if someone says we should go there, I don’t have to ask anyone how to get there! I also found a nearby ATM for ICBC so I know where to go if I need cash.
Very close to the school is a tiny little market similar to a gas station market. I stopped in for a bottle of water and some tape. It looks like a useful place if I just need to pick up a few things. They even have the shampoo I like!
I found a restaurant that looks interesting. It was called Johnny Moo’s (or something like that). It said on the door they had free wifi and free refills on drinks. It was all western food, but dang it I want some internet! I will probably go there for a late lunch, get the cheapest thing on the menu, and hope and pray for wireless.
I wandered for a bit more. I saw another westerner and had this thrilling conversation.
Him: Good morning!
Him: It actually is a good morning, not like yesterday.
Me: Yeah, yesterday was much too hot.
I also had a run in with a Chinese man who decided it was important to tell me that I was very large. And not only was my stomach very large, but my arms as well. *Sigh* Maybe I’m not getting stared at so much for being white, but for being a gigantic white person. Hopefully this will not be the case for long.
I had made a circle around the school and it was raining pretty hard so I came back to my apartment. Water had indeed been delivered to the floor, so I grabbed a jug for my dispenser. I then proceeded to decorate with the national geographic pictures I used to decorate my dorm room for the past four years. As corny as it sounds, it’s nice to see a lot of familiar faces, even if they are people I’ve never met. I also hung up the few pictures I brought from home. I should have packed more. If anyone sends me mail/packages, please send pictures of yourself so I can have more smiling faces of friends and family!
I also finished unpacking. It feels a little more like home now since all my stuff is here. I took some pictures that I will post if I ever get to some internet.
As of now I am very hungry so I am going to swing back to that Johnny Moo place. Wish me internet or at very least a tasty meal!
Well, it took some messing around, but I finally connected to some wireless at that Johnny Moo place. I also had a delicious late lunch of chicken fingers and cream of mushroom soup. It’s good to know that when I crave some food from home they actually have pretty good stuff in the area. Once the school cafeteria opens, I plan on eating there a lot. Mostly because it’s so cheap! In the teacher’s handbook it said I get lunch free, breakfast is 2 yuan and dinner is 6 yuan! My soup alone at this place cost 14 yuan. Sue did warn me that this was an expensive area.
I can’t seem to get onto Livejournal, though I can get onto everything else I’ve tried. *sigh*
I e-mailed Pete about arriving and gave him my number. A few minutes later he called! Apparently I live close by to where he used to live, so hopefully I’ll have a visitor tonight!
Well, I did a quick look online and it seems that livejournal is banned in China. Some sort of censorship thing. If I can’t find a proxy to use, I’ll need to start a journal on another blog site. Ah well. I posted pictures of my apartment on facebook, I’ll try to send the link out or post it on whatever journal I end up using.
Lucy ended up texting me last night too. She understood how tired I was and said we would get together once I was rested up. I also texted Pete back saying maybe hanging out last night would be a bad idea since I was still so jet lagged. We have plans to get together for dinner tonight instead.
I had to absolutely FORCE myself to stay awake until 9pm. Little by little I am adjusting to this time zone!
The time is 4:15 AM China time. So much has happened in the last day.
The flight went ok, though I indeed was unable to sleep much. I got maybe 4 hours total of sleep, but it was all completely disjointed. I got a window seat and the one seat next to me was empty, so I got to stretch out as much as possible. The little sleep I did get was found curling up in the fetal position facing the seat back. Though I did wake up with my hip killing me and my tongue sore (I think I had been biting it).
They said we were going to get dinner, breakfast and a snack. I got dinner and breakfast and I guess I slept through the snack. Oh well. I saw bits and pieces of a bunch of movies, though I watched most of Chocolate. I started knitting a blanket square out of a skein that Chelsea Rowe had given me. I wrote in my notebook. I read some “Hogfather”. I read the second note from Emily.
We arrived in Shanghai an hour earlier than I expected (430AM). I wasn’t expected at the school until 8am. I went through customs and immigration and baggage claim with no hitch. I then dragged all my bags and such to the area where people wait to meet arrivals. I got asked about three times if I wanted a taxi, but I figured I would rather wait at the airport than get to the school impossibly early and wait there. I brushed my teeth and hair, splashed some water on my face and changed my shirt in the bathroom so I could feel a bit more human.
I tried to call home using my new cell phone, but I couldn’t. I think the plan I got only works to call in China (I found out later in the day I could call people in China). I was able to send my rentals a text message though to let them know I arrived and was safe.
I did more reading and writing in the lobby. Finished the square I had started on the plane. While I was knitting an older woman noticed and came over to inspect my knitting. She told me how beautiful it was. I showed her a picture of what the finished blanket looks like, but I think she misunderstood and thought it was a rug. HA.
At a little after 7am, I figured it was best to catch a taxi and head to the school, since I wasn’t sure how far away it was, only that it was in the same district. I loaded my stuff in the first taxi and made an honest attempt to ask for where I was going in Chinese. I said the name of the school. No luck. I said the address of the school in Chinese. No luck. I then grudgingly dug out the envelope the school had used to send me my contracts that had a mini map on it. The driver grunted and we headed out.
I want to learn this area and SOON. I don’t like feeling like a tourist and I have no idea if the driver was taking me on a tour trying to rip me off. I kept my eyes on signs and everything but I really have no way of telling. It was a long ride, costing me 119 yuan, the most expensive taxi ride I’ve ever had. The school told me to get the receipt so they could pay me back.
The area that the school is in seems like most of the China I’ve seen. Half of the buildings seem brand new and shiny and clean and amazing. Half seem broken down and old and dirty. And sprinkled around are tons of places being built or renovated.
The school seems similar. It wasn’t as fancy as the website would have you believe, but it does seem like a nice place. And there were people working on cleaning it up when I arrived (School doesn’t start until the 27th). I waited by the main gate at the security booth for a bit, then they told me to go to room 318 in the main building. I did. No one was there. I went back outside and told them so. They told me to go back in and wait until 9am. It was a couple minutes before 8am. I called Amy (the foreign teacher contact person) as she was walking into the room.
We went into her office where she turned on the air conditioner and started making phone calls and shuffling paper work around. She then went to get the key to my apartment. Getting to my apartment was a bit of a production since my bags were so heavy. A security guard ended up finding a cart and ripping up some cardboard to put in the bottom of the cart (since it was wet) then wheeled the cart to the teacher’s apartments. She told me I was on the tenth floor. I asked nervously if there was an elevator. I don’t think she understood me. (Don’t worry, there is!)
So, ready to hear about my apartment? I actually really like it. True, this is coming from someone who has only ever had either one bedroom or a dorm room to herself, so this is an upgrade for me. The only real low point is the kitchen. As they had told me ahead of time, I have a hotplate and a microwave. I also have a rice cooker, which I wasn’t expecting. And they provided me with a pan and a pot, so I can use the hotplate as a stove. I am only really missing an oven. I’ll make due. I have some standard kitchen stuff. Some plates, bowls, cups, chopsticks, and even a set of cutlery that looks like it was tossed in last minute. My fridge is tall and thin. It has a freezer compartment, a freezer drawer, and in the middle is the regular fridge. Next to the fridge is a cabinet with a glass front that currently has all my kitchen stuff and the tiny amount of food I bought so far. I also have a water dispenser thing. Apparently water gets delivered to each floor and we just need to replace our own when it gets empty. So I should have no trouble getting clean drinking water.
Since my apartment is actually two apartments that have been made into one, I have two full bathrooms. They recommend I only keep on one water heater though, since I have to pay my utilities if I go over 200 yuan and using two just wastes electricity. The bathrooms have a standing shower, no tub. They provided me with one roll of toilet paper and told me I need to get the rest myself.
I have a little table that could fit two people comfortably to eat a meal. The living room has a little glass coffee table that has a bouquet of fake flowers on it (whoops! On closer inspection they are real! They looked so fresh I figured they were fake). There is a futon type couch, bright blue, with orange pillows on it. I haven’t figured out yet how to unfold it into a bed instead of a couch. There is a tv stand/cabinet with a tv and cable box. My original viewing found one channel in German, one in French, one in Spanish, one in English (Bloomberg), and a few in Chinese.
My bed is queen size (I think). The mattress is very stiff. I’m going to try and make due since I know it’s better for my back, but if I need to I can always buy a mattress pad. They provided me with two pillows with cases, a sheet and a comforter. The pattern is giant pink roses. Oh well. Rose would love it. The actual mattress underneath (which is very visible under my thin sheet) is a black and white cow pattern. There is a bed side table with a lamp. In the bedroom is a desk and a decent chair. I have two wardrobes that have a closet type bit, a low shelf, and then a side cabinet on each with four shelves and a drawer with a key to lock it.
I do have a washer and dryer, though not like you’d see in the US. Amy had to explain what each of the buttons meant. It looks a little intimidating, but I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out once I need to get some clothes clean.
I also have two air conditioners, one in each side of the apartment, which is helpful since it is hot here. Like…HOT. And so very humid. UGH. It’s supposed to get decently cold here in winter, but right now it is HOT. Anyway. One of my favorite things about my apartment is that on each side of it I have a little balcony. The view isn’t anything amazing, but I love having a balcony. Once the weather cools down a bit, I can drag one of the many chairs I have in my apartment out there and read or something.
Anyway, after we brought my stuff to my apartment, I was only able to look at it very quickly before Amy took me to the police station to get me a temporary residence. Then we went to the bank so I could open up an ICBC account. I deposited the money I had brought as travelers cheques. OH! And by the way, turns out I wasn’t ripped off at the exchange place in the airport. The exchange rate is currently 6.81 yuan to the dollar. Holy crap! When I came to China in 2004, it was 8.2 yuan to the dollar. I feel rather poor right now.
We went back to the school where I talked to Sue (the person I had been e-mailing and interviewing with to get the job. She told me a little about what was expected of me (apparently if I want a visitor I need to notify the school a month in advance. WOW. I hope I misunderstood her.), and about the surrounding area. She carries herself as an individual who expects when she says something should be taken care of, it will be done immediately.
Afterwards, Amy and I went with some other people (I’m a bit confused as to who, although one person was head of logistics/facilities and one was the principle/mistress of the school). We went to this large building where you could either have a noodle meal or a rice meal. I went with Amy to get rice. My lunch was composed of a bowl of white rice, some duck, some sort of spicy green bean and chicken thing, and a watery soup. Lunch went quickly and for the most part silently. Then we all piled back into the van. The driver dropped everyone else off at the school and me and Amy at the local Carrefour. It’s silly, but I was really happy to know there was a Carrefour so close to the school. It was something familiar. We shopped rather quickly. I bought some towels, since the school didn’t provide them and I hadn’t packed any. I also go some toilet paper, an umbrella, some instant noodle meals, chips, some water (until the first delivery), and face soap. Turns out if you want to use a plastic bag at the store, you have to pay for it. It seems like this area is at least making an effort to be environmentally conscious (the bank also encouraged people to look at the statements online instead of getting a booklet). So I bought some reusable bags. Amy got picked up by a friend, so I took a taxi back to school. I again kept the receipt so the school can pay me back.
I went back to my apartment and unpacked the little I bought. I then discovered that they had only turned on the electricity in half of my apartment. I called Amy and told her and after a while someone came along and fixed it. I unpacked a bunch of my clothes but I couldn’t really stay awake much longer. I decided to take a two hour nap (from 3 to 5) so I could do more and try to start myself on a normal sleep schedule. I turned off the air conditioner in part of the apartment I wasn’t in and turned the air conditioner in my bedroom on low. They have me so nervous about how much the electricity is going to cost me.
I can’t even remember if my watch alarm woke me up. I woke up around 3am. Ah well. I feel pretty tired and a little sick, but this is how I felt every time I had jet lag. I’m going to try and keep myself busy today and get to bed at a normal hour. There is no internet in my apartment yet (the guy couldn’t come yesterday but should be here Monday), but Sue told me about a coffee place nearby with wifi so I’ll probably head there when it gets to be a decent hour.
I already feel a little lonely. It’s weird to be in a country where I don’t really know anyone. I hope I make friends quickly. I hope I get along with the other foreign teachers. I thought since it was Shanghai, being white wouldn’t really be a big deal, but I haven’t seen many foreigners in the area I’m in and I’m already getting stared at.
So, here I am sitting at the gate for my flight. I was super excited because I saw a sign saying there was WiFi here. Turns out you have to pay for it. D’oh! Well, while I have my laptop on and wasting battery, I figured I might as well write a journal entry to post later. Things will probably get crazy once I arrive in China Land, so this is the time to be productively bored.
Last night’s last minute “Say Goodbye To Stephanie” open house was fun. It was good to see some loved ones before leaving, and it distracted me from the fact that I was leaving my home very soon. Thank you especially to Emanuela for the champagne, which I shared with my parents before cleaning my room. And to Emily for the first of the three notes you gave me. I spent the rest of the night cleaning my room and getting any last minute stuff I wanted to pack. This morning I did the actual packing. It was quite easy after I had pulled out everything I wanted. There was a bit of finagling to get the weight right, but I had everything I needed and most of the things I wanted.
The ‘rents and I went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants for lunch. We got sushi and miso soup and deliciousness. Mom decided on the restaurant since I couldn’t think straight, and afterwards I was glad she picked the place she did. YUM. Then we wandered around Bushnell Park. Mom and I rode the Carousel (I picked a horse that was making a ridiculous face). Then the three of us fed some birds and fish. We walked back to the train station and they waited with me until the shuttle arrived.
The ride was somewhat interesting. The guy sitting next to me was much too absorbed in himself and found anyway to bring the conversation around to show off how many places in the world he has been to. The two women sitting in front of me were very nice. Once they found out where I was going and why, I got asked a lot of questions, which ended up turning into a big discussion about education and quality teachers. The four of us also feared for our lives as the driver very nearly rear ended just about everyone on the road.
Check in for my flight didn’t start until four hours before the flight leaves (1:45 AM), and I arrived at JFK a little over six hours before my flight leaves. I sat by my very heavy luggage and read, did some Sudoku, ate some trail mix I had packed, and tried to understand the various Chinese conversations happening around me.
I was all freaked out about a million different things while I was waiting. For example, I had packed my bags and weighed them carefully, but I kept getting different weights (I’m only allowed 2 suitcases each 50lbs). So I packed until I the weights averaged 50lbs each and figured if it came to it, I would take stuff out. I was also worried because I had packed tiny craft scissors and my knitting needles so that I could knit on the plane. There has been no hitch. They took my luggage without pause and I made it through the security check with the only delay being that I had forgotten to take my laptop OUT of the bag before putting it through the x-ray machine.
I bought a big bag of cheezits and a soda to go with my bag of trail mix to hold me over until dinner on the plane. Cost me over SIX DOLLARS. Craziness. Then I exchanged the rest of my American money for Chinese money. I got ripped off, but I’d rather have the money now then wander around in China until I found a place to get it.
I e-mailed the school about the details of my flight. Once I land, get my bags, go through customs, etc, I need to take a cab to the school. There I will be met by woman who gets the foreign teachers all settled. I’ll put my stuff in the apartment, then go to a police station to register as a resident.
(Interesting note, a guy about my age just walked past carrying an envelope VERY similar to the one I received my contracts in. Perhaps he is going to China for the same reason I am . J )
They also said that they will hopefully be sending a technician to my apartment to get the internet set up. That’s good news.
Well, that’s about it for the semi-interesting news. I think I am going to play around on my computer for a bit more, then go back to my book. It is now around 11pm. I still have over two hours until my flight starts boarding. I should do some stretches or something…
Love and hugs,