Wednesday, 31 December 2008

PingHe New Year's Party

So last night was the PingHe High School New Year's party.

I was involved with a few things. One, I can't remember if I already told you guys about it or not, but I was in a "Guess Who" game. Some upperclassmen students took a picture of the back of my head with my red pen sticking out of my ponytail. It's an old habit of mine to keep a pen in my ponytail and I've gotten some weird reactions here about it. A woman from my office said it was "romantic" and another teacher gave me a Christmas present of a hair pin because she said that she thought it would look nicer than a pen. Anyway, when the picture came up during the game, a student that I've never even taught before took one look at it and said "Stephanie!!" and won the prize. If you ask me it was too easy since I am the only person in the entire high school that has blondish/brown hair.

I was also in Class 10 (1)'s play. I had a few small things I had to do including be the voice over for a character, I was a farmer, and I also was a delivery person.

The strangest thing I did was sing "Duimiande nuhai kangoulai". It was the first time I had played guitar in front of more than 6 people or so. It was terrifying. I'm fine in front of crowds speaking or acting...but singing or playing guitar? SCARY! In the middle of the song I was shaking so bad I could barely get my fingers to hit the right chords.

Ahh well. It was fun. I cross-dressed a bit with my sweater vest, white shirt and tie. I also tucked all my hair up in my irish cap. The teachers that were dancing all dressed like high school girls. They had borrowed the student's skirts/shirts/sweatshirts from their uniforms. And Randy? Wow. He wore quite the outfit. I suppose I will let the video show that.

Anyway, here is the video. I love how when I start singing the crowd kind of goes a little crazy (I'm guessing because I sang in Chinese...). The crowd then goes nuts again when they see their teachers dressed like students. And then everyone loses it when they see Randy! :-)

Be kind when you watch the video though. My singing is rather off (remember I was terrified?).


Monday, 29 December 2008

Weekend in Suzhou

So this past weekend I went to Suzhou with Charlotte. I booked us a hostel and she got the train tickets.

We had a little trouble meeting up since she had taken line 1 and I had taken line 4 and I didn't realize they emptied out on separate sides of the street. Eventually we found each other and got to the train. After navigating the train station by myself at night to get to Nanjing, it was super easy to figure things out this time. The train ride to Suzhou was short (about a half hour) and uneventful other than a small boy across the aisle from us that was ADORABLE. His mother was trying to encourage him to call us either "auntie" or "older sister". For those who don't know, it's considered polite in China to call strangers by family terms.

The hostel's website said that there were a few different ways to get to there, but the only way to get dropped off at the front door was to take a pedicab. So we found a pedicab right outside the train station. I told the driver the name of the street. Then I told him the name of streets near the street. Slowly a crowd started to form. The driver started looking at a map. One person who could speak about 5 words of English thought he could help...which he couldn't. I was about the call the hostel when the driver exclaimed in triumph that he had found it on the map. Off we went.

I felt bad for the driver. If I had known how far away the street was I would have gotten us a motorized pedicab instead of push pedal bike cab. It's no secret that I'm a big person, plus we both had overnight bags. A couple of times the driver had to get off and push his bike up a hill. After a sort while we arrived at the right street and we discovered why a taxi couldn't have dropped us off at the door. The hostel was in the middle of a maze of alleyways that followed along a network of canals. Now I see why Suzhou is called the "Venice of the East".

This was my first time staying at a hostel and I loved it. It cost about $26 for one night. We had a private room with two beds and a private bathroom. The hostel was set up like an old fashioned Chinese house with open courtyards and such. Our doors opened right up into a rock garden. It was beautiful! When we arrived we dropped off our bags and then decided to rent bikes from the hostel (2kuai per hour! That's like...20 cents...)

Our first stop after we rented our bikes was a dumpling shop where we got lunch. I got beef dumplings and shrimp dumplings. Then we looked for an electronic store since Charlotte's camera was broken and she wanted to buy a new one. Then we couldn't decide where to go. We saw the top of a temple shaped building in the distance so we decided to bike towards it. Eventually we found them. We ended up at the "Twin Pagodas". We walked around and took pictures. Slightly further down the street was a beautiful Buddhist temple. We weren't allowed to take pictures there but it was beautiful and calm and smelled like incense. After that we wandered some more and found some signs leading to tourist locations. We decided to go to the "Master of the Nets Garden" since Charlotte's Lonely Planet book said it often had cultural performances of dance or theater.

We found the alleyway which led to the garden so we pushed our bikes down and checked out street vendors. I bought a couple things that I will put up pictures of later. We arrived at the garden and walked around. It was beautiful and definitely worth visiting, but sadly there was no performance going on that day.

After that we went back to the hostel and returned the bikes. We rested in our room for a short while and then headed out to find a place to eat dinner. Charlotte is a vegetarian so it's hard sometimes to find places where she can find a good variety of choices...especially in China! After stopping at a few places to check the menus we decided on a strange Fusion restaurant that was shaped like a big square and resting over a shallow pool full of rocks. I'm describing it oddly and sadly I didn't get a picture. It was down a different alley close to our hostel. Before dinner we decided to go to a cafe across the street for a snack and a drink. We got some TsingDao beer and french fries.

My dinner was delicious...sadly Charlotte was not so lucky. I ordered fried noodles and roast duck. The roast duck was done Beijing style with pancakes to wrap the meat, duck sauce and onions. It was really good! The noodles were cooked Shanghai style and only once or twice did I eat an unnoticed pepper and get a mouthful of spicy. Charlotte got a salad and pasta. She specified to the waiter that she wanted her pasta without meat. I know he understood because she ordered first and then when I ordered the noodles he worriedly pointed out that the noodles had meat in them. Then we explained that SHE didn't eat meat but I did. Her pasta took 15 minutes longer than the rest of the food and when it finally came, it had meat in it. After we complained it took another 10 minutes or so. When she finally got to eat it...she didn't even like it. AHH!

After dinner we decided to try and find the night market mentioned in her book. We took a taxi to Shilu (Stone Road) and wandered around looking at stuff/shopping until it started to rain pretty badly. When we finally got a taxi in the rain we realized we didn't know what to say to the cab driver. He couldn't take us right to the hostel and I couldn't remember the name of the main street outside of the alleyways. Luckily Charlotte remembered the name of the big shopping street that was near the entrance of the alleyways. UNluckily, the cab driver dropped us off at the wrong end of the shopping street and we couldn't figure out how to explain to him to go around. We got out and walked down the shopping street, then across the street, then through the twisting alleyways all the way back to hostel. In the rain. Ah well.

The next morning we woke up to more rain. We checked out of the hostel around 10 and went to the cafe we had gone to on Saturday night. We got some breakfast. I had a latte that was pretty rancid (I don't know how but I think they burnt the steamed milk) and then I ordered the "American Breakfast" which was pretty good, if cold. I only miss a few small food things from home, since Shanghai is so diverse I can get most things I want here. One of the things I miss? GOOD BACON. Ahh well.

After breakfast the rain had nearly stopped. Charlotte said she wanted to go back to the street where the night market was. She saw some things she thought looked interesting. We went back and wandered and wandered and wandered. We took tons of pictures. We found a big sloping bridge and also a piece of the old city wall with a large gate. For those who don't know, many of China's major cities were walled in a long time ago. Xi'an's city wall is the most complete wall that has survived. Suzhou only had a little piece.

We found more alleyways with shops so we walked down and did some more shopping. We decided we would walk to the end and find a taxi and get to the train station. The problem? The alleyway wouldn't end! If we had turned around and walked back the way we came when we decided we were done, we probably would have been back to the road and in a taxi in about 10 minutes. Instead we walked for another 45 minutes or so. We kept telling ourselves "it has to end eventually" so we just kept walking...and walking...and walking. And then it started raining again. And harder. And we kept walking. We walked under a bridge. We kept hearing cars or seeing cards but not seeing a street. People peeked their heads out of doorways to stare at us. We walked past chickens in cages. There were guys gutting and cleaning fish. We heard voices talking and tvs and radios. We walked in the rain through mud and fruit peels and fish guts and feathers. Finally, just when we were starting to get really worried that there was no way we were going to get out in time and we were going to miss our train...we got out and back to a road. We grabbed the first taxi we saw and made it to the train station soggy, relieved and with about 15 minutes to spare. Ahh.

All in all, I really had a really good time. I know I talk a lot about the bad things in this entry but it's easy to go on and on about getting lost in an alleyway, but harder to describe how much I loved being there in the first place. I really do love China and I forget sometimes how much or even why.

Then I find myself in a quiet Buddhist temple with the scent of incense floating past, barely audible chanting in the air, and a monk walking past in silent cloth shoes with prayer beads around his wrist. And a calm settles on my shoulders and my mind.

Or walking down those alleyways with the feeling of LIFE all around you. You can breath it and taste it and feel it in your bones. There's laughter and family and music and food and a thousand different smells. It's an orchestra of life and just being there makes me want to add my voice to the choir.

Or biking down the streets and alleyways. Making suicidal dashes across big streets. Squeezing between buses and the curb. Narrowly avoiding death at every turn from taxis and trucks and other bike riders, and laughing at the sheer joy of it. The cacophony of horns and beeps and bells and squealing brakes and yelling voices.

I don't know why this entry ended so...poetic? Ahh well. I had a great time in Suzhou and I hope I can go back. It was nice to have a reminder of how much I like China and why I'm here in the first place. I took a BUNCH of pictures and video so you should expect those soon.

Much love!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Pictures!

Me, Lucy and Audrey at Lucy's apartment on Christmas Eve. By a weird coincidence we all ended up wearing red and black.
This is a wood carving my parents sent me. My friend Liz's grandfather carved it and thought it was cool that it was coming all the way to Shanghai. So I took a picture of it with the Shanghai skyline in the background. Sorry it's not too clear...
My bamboo plant from my welcome bouquet is still alive. Here he is all dressed up for Christmas!
These are Christmas decorations my parents sent me.
This is an example of the Christmas presents I gave to the teachers in my office. Isn't the cup pretty?
This is my Christmas tree on Christmas morning with my package from my parents under it.
This is a Christmas tree from a huge mall in Puxi. It's from the Swarovski crystal people.

That's all for now. Love!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Some Christmas Themed Stuff

I started this post a few days ago and I have a bunch of stuff to cover so I'm sorry if the tenses sound weird and it'll probably be long...

Monday night was the Christmas dinner with the foreign teachers. We ate at a place called the Tang Dynasty restaurant. It was a super fancy kind of place. We had our own huge room with a TV for karaoke, big couches and even a baby grand piano. On a higher platform was the usual round dinner table. We also had our own bathrooms (male and female) and a coat room!

The dinner was amazing. There was beer and red wine to drink. There were a few starter dishes and then tons of dinner dishes. One strange one that was a first for me was snake. I felt a little guilty eating snake since I've had a pet snake before, but it was REALLY REALLY good. It was cooked very crispy with this kind of seasoning mixture you could sprinkle on top. It tasted like a chicken-fish hybrid and was very tasty. It was interesting to eat because snakes are basically nothing but tons of rib bones and a spine. The fun part was after I ate all the meat off of a piece, I could make the spine wiggle just the way a live snake moves. (Is that too much information? Does that weird people out? I am a bad judge of what is too weird or gross...)

There was so much food I can't remember it all. There was this lobster and noodle dish which was a hit. There was this glutinous crab rice, lobster congee, salmon, a delicious fish (I have no idea what kinda it was), goose wing, duck, this crispy fried thing with a kind of pork filling ... There were also some desserts including this mango pudding thing served in a shot glass.

All in all it was a nice evening and I also got my first ever Christmas bonus. Whee! I decided to treat myself to a trip to Harbin in January. I already bought the plane tickets and now I just need to find a good hotel. I've wanted to go to the ice festival since I first heard about it in college. Now I get my chance! I'm a littler nervous about how cold it will be and also about traveling in China by myself for the first time (well...on a plane). Ah well...I'm sure it will be awesome.

Christmas Eve I was at Lucy's apartment for the first time. It was so sweet of her to have a get together on Christmas Eve. It was also the first time I ever had home cooked Chinese food made by a real Chinese person. Haha! She made a bunch of different dishes like mushroom and beef and potatoes with peppers and pork and was all delicious. K.C. and Audrey (two friends of her's) were also there. We made some home made sangria that turned out pretty yummy. We also had a dessert of rice ball congee and then some ice cream. And then there was dancing! It was a lot of fun.

On Christmas day I sneaked into the office extra early and left Christmas presents for everyone in my office. I bought a bunch of really pretty coffee mugs and filled them with a bunch of candy, tea, a candy cane and a red pen (cuz they're teachers!). My students told me that cups are good presents because it means you are full of love for that person.

After that (and a short nap) I had a webchat with my parents. I opened up the present they sent me while talking to them. I miss them a bunch but it was good to talk to them on Christmas.

On Christmas night, Ned, another foreign teacher, and I organized a party. I bought some cheese and meats and crackers and nuts for snacks and he brought wine, beer and pizza. person showed up. Wow. Well, some of the other foreign teachers were on vacation and to be fair we did only let people know on TUESDAY that it was on THURSDAY so people already had plans. Oh well. It was a good excuse to completely clean my apartment. And I got some pizza and beer out of the deal. :-) It was a little weird spending Christmas with two coworkers, with me being the youngest person there by 26 years...but at least I wasn't alone and I did have a pretty good time.

Next week there is a Christmas/Winter/New Year show and I am going to be in two performances. One is done by the students from Class 1 and I am being the voice over for one of the characters. I have 4 lines, two of which are in Chinese. Should be interesting. Also, I am doing a performance with a bunch of teachers from my department. I told them I could play guitar and somehow that turned into me playing "Dui mian de nu hai kan gou lai", a song I sang in high school. It's about a guy who is upset because this girl won't pay attention to him. I am going to play guitar and sing it while all of the teachers from my office and the IB director walk past me and ignore me or diss me. I'm rather amused by this idea. Hopefully I will be able to get it on video so that those of you from home can laugh at me. I keep practicing and practicing because I don't want to make a fool of myself. I want it to be funny because of the acting, not because my Chinese singing sucks. Oh well. Wish me luck.

I think that's all for now. I can't believe Christmas has come and gone. It's rather unreal. Today I've been cleaning up from the "party" and trying to catch up on stuff. Tomorrow I am going to Suzhou with Charlotte. Hopefully that will be fun.

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely holiday season.

Hugs and misses!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Today is Special

Today is a very special date.

Today marks my four month anniversary. I have been in Shanghai for exactly four months.

Today also marks exactly one month before I come home to visit.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hey Look! A Non-Video Post..

So nothing big has happened recently, but some small things have.

On Tuesday I went with Zeno to the primary school since they were having an English performance. The students did a bunch of different stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, the Emperor's New Clothes, and the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I thought we were just going to watch, but we were given sheets of paper and sent to the front row where we were "judges". At the beginning of the performance the student announcers thanked the judges for coming and introduced them all to the audience. All the other teachers were introduced with their names...I was introduced as "the foreign teacher". Haha. I don't know what's weirder, the fact that I was the only non-asian in the whole auditorium or the fact that it didn't feel strange.

My favorite story was probably either The Emperor's New Clothes which was hilariously acted by the students and included both intentional and unintentional slapstick. I also liked the Little Red Riding Hood because the students included a bunch of other stories and fairy tales just for fun. It also included Harry Potter. Red met a wizard in the forest who said he was Harry Potter. She said he couldn't be since he wasn't wearing glasses. He said, "Glasses? Please! Glasses are SO out of fashion...I'm wearing contacts!"

On Thursday, one of my students came up to me while I was getting ready for class to start. He asked me if I liked Chinese tea and I told him that I did. He said that he wanted to get me tea for Christmas but that he wanted to make sure I liked it first. I thought it was very sweet. :-)

I played a version of Jeopardy with my students this week which they seemed to enjoy. I also had a discussion with Class C about dreams that went pretty well. Students talk SO MUCH MORE when I ask them stuff about themselves. I try to start every class out with them being able to tell me stories. Some had some pretty interesting dreams. One student had a recurring dream when he was younger that he was with a girl on a beach. She asked if he believed in ghosts and he said no. Then they walked away from each other. Then a man appeared and shot the girl. My student said that often he would realize he was dreaming and change his actions but the dream always ended with the girl getting shot and screaming.

Yesterday I felt this wave of contentment. I think it might be because things are feeling familiar and routine. I was walking back from Family Mart with my usual items (a loaf of bread, soda, apple juice, sushi, shrimp pocket bread and chips) and just thinking about the weekend and feeling good it was a Friday and all that. I also understood a whole Chinese conversation as some students were passing me. It was nothing big. One student was asking whose milk he was holding since he couldn't remember who gave it to him, and another student was asking for help carrying a box because it was heavy. But still...small victories. I was also happy because there was sunshine. I feel guilty for enjoying the relatively nice weather when Christmas is 5 days away. The New Englander in me wants a white Christmas.

Friday night I met up with Ron at Enoteca (the wine bar) for dinner. Dinner was SO GOOD. We shared a bottle of the Van Lovern Pinotage (one of the wines at the last wine tasting). We got a bunch of different things to share. We had mushroom risotto cakes, salmon spring rolls, whipped goat cheese tarts with marinated tomatoes, we even got oysters. It was the first time I had oysters, I think, and they were delicious. We also shared a creme brulee for dessert. It was a pricey dinner but since I knew it was coming the whole week before I had sandwiches or baozi for dinner. I think that made friday's dinner taste even better.

Ron leaves for California on Tuesday. I really am going to miss him. He's the first and only real friend I made here in Shanghai outside of work. He was really sweet last night saying that I helped make his semester here in Shanghai even more special. We had a lot of fun hanging out and who knows if and when we'll see each other again. We made tentative plans for dinner again on Sunday but I told him I would completely understand if he was busy packing or wanted to spend time with other people before he leaves. I need to go through the effort to make another friend here! Ron is going home and Isabelle is in Vietnam for a month. I'm glad Lucy is here. We have plans for Christmas Eve dinner.

I'm pretty hungry and I don't really have any food in the house so I should really head out for some dinner. Guess this is all for now.


Friday, 19 December 2008

My Sped up Shanghai Day

WHAT!? Three video posts in a row!?!


This is just something I did for fun....let me know what you think.

Video: A Package from Lee

Hey Lee! I got your package. :-)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Video Blog December

Another long video. I cover a lot of stuff in this. My package from Rose, my trip to Nanjing, my decorating for Christmas, my space heater "Sauron Jr." and a song I am trying to learn on guitar.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Social Butterfly Am I

This was a kinda crazy week. Monday and Tuesday mostly involved finishing up buying/making/packing/sending Christmas cards and packages. The rest of the week shall be done under headings to keep things organized.

Wednesday night I had to give my monthly test to my students during the evening class. I felt bad giving a test at night but it seemed to be the only time that worked. It went a little later that I had planned so I had to rush out of there since I had plans to meet someone. One of my students, Jackey, saw me biking off and RAN next to my bike just to chat with me on my way out. Hehe.

I met up with a knitter who lives pretty close by. We met up at Starbucks, which was remarkably like Starbucks in the USA. Most restaurant chains here are at least a little different than their American forefathers, but other than the Chinese words on the menu I felt like I was in a Starbucks back home. Her name is Fiona and she has had an interesting life. She was born in Scotland, lived in Minnesota, then met and married a man from Shanghai and now lives here with her two young boys. We talked about what we were doing here, how much we missed nature, and our knitting project. She is making a fair isle cardigan with a yolked neck. I really liked how it looked so far but I REALLY liked the yak hair scarf she was swearing. We made a promise to get together again sometime.

Thursday was another wine tasting. I was amused when I walked in and found that the seat I had sat in the last two times was left open. Yay! Tradition! This month it was South African wines. I think my favorite was the second white wine called Van Lovern. Mom, you should check it out. I think this month's wines were my favorite, but the food wasn't as good as before. Ah well. I stayed late and chatted. I gave one of the regulars a shoulder rub and she scratched my head. Ahh...human contact! Ron was there and we made some plans to get together before he has to be all responsible and go back to "graduate". Hrmph. I gave him a scarf I bought for him in Nanjing and he immediately put it on. Yay! I was lucky enough to get back in time to catch the last bus home at 11:30pm.

Friday was a kind of easy day at school. Some of the other teachers had taken some of my classes so I had an extra class with two groups. I didn't want to start something new so we played Balderdash instead. I thought it would be a fun game and a good way to teach them a few random words that they might run into that they didn't already know. Like jiffy and rendezvous and such. One group had a lot of fun with it, the other seemed bored. Bah.

There was no staff meeting on Friday so after my classes were done I went back to my apartment for a quick lunch and some cleaning. Then I went out shopping to get stuff to make a delicious dinner for me and Lucy. Originally I was thinking of making crab cake burgers, but then I remembered that Lucy had said in her opinion the main American food is sandwiches and that they were boring cuz they are always cold. So I made us hot chicken sandwiches. I flattened the chicken and then cooked it up in a little olive oil and spices with a melted piece of cheddar on top. Then I toasted the buns in the pan with some garlic and oil. I had tomatoes (for her. tomatoes are gross) and salad greens and honey dijon sauce. Oh it was so good. Lucy also loved it. Hours later when we were hanging out at a club she leaned in to me and said "I'm still thinking about that sandwich!". Ahaha. She said she would never be able to enjoy KFC again. That made me laugh.

I also whipped up a batch of rice krispie treats for dessert. Lucy gave me some ornaments for my tree and I gave her a bracelet I got in Nanjing. She also invited me over for dinner on Christmas Eve. She said she would make me some home cooked Chinese food. I am excited and also happy I won't be spending Christmas Even alone. Still no plans for Christmas, but we'll see.

After we finished eating we headed out to Xintiandi and met up with some friends of hers. I get the feeling that Lucy and I were crashing a party. We were there for all of 10 minutes when everyone headed out and onto a bus. The bus was loud and fun. After a short ride we ended up at the fancy pants club called Mint. Apparently you need to be a member to get in, but whatever group we were with went right in. The entrance was this long hallway with a big shark tank. There were people in skintight lycra suits in gold and silver posing on the speakers. The DJ was pretty good though. I shared a glass of champagne with Lucy and danced for a while. After a bit she asked if I wanted to go to a Jazz club.

The place was called JZ (I think). It seemed like a cool place when she gave me a tour, though it was PACKED. It had this lovely outside balcony that I would have loved to hang out on if it hadn't been so cold. We had mojitos and hung out with another friend of Lucy's. I chatted with some people with the standard "Where are you long have you been here...what brings you to Shanghai?" I get annoyed because when people ask where I'm from I never seem to be able to answer correctly. If I say "America" they laugh at me and say America is a big place and what state am I from. If I say "Connecticut" I usually get a blank look (unless that person is from America too). I've taken to just saying I live "near New York".

I headed out pretty late and took the loooong cab ride back. I had to direct the cab driver once he got to my area. I like knowing my area well enough that I can give a cab driver directions.

Saturday I got up late. I did a little reading and cleaning and puttering around the internet. I headed over to Charlotte's for a foreign teacher party that she and her boyfriend were having. I didn't know the foreign teachers in my building were going so I took the subway by myself. Ugh. On line 8 there was puke in the subway car I was in. Luckily I only had to stay on for one stop.

We all ended up showing up at the same time. I brought the rest of the batch of rice krispie treats and everyone enjoyed them. A few people said they were hoping I was going to bring the tortilla roll up snacks I had made for the last party. I'm glad they remembered and liked them. We hung out for hours just snacking and talking and laughing and drinking. We played "Never have I ever", which is an interesting game to play with a bunch of world travelers. I took a cab back with Stephanie, Chris and Becky.

Today I seriously need to do my dishes. I don't think I have any clean silverware. Ugh. And I need to do laundry. And I need to correct my monthly test. This coming Friday I have a LOT due. My final exam, personal comments on all 60 of my students, my grades so far...

Anyway, that's catch up on my last week. Hope everyone is having a good time at home. I know Drew people and friends of mine in grad school are doing finals now. Good luck on those!

Sending love,

Knitting Update Four, Nanjing Pictures Link

I was a speed demon and went right through four more squares. Here they are!

This is from Dawn at Kamatics. She wrote a really sweet note and stuck it in the yarn. Now the note is on my wall of love and here is the finished square.
This yarn is from my Grandpa and Grandma Stebbins. I really love this color combination. Like a sunset.
This is yarn from my cousin Savannah. This color skein seemed to be a popular choice. I'm guessing because I like blue so much. :-)
Annnnd this one is from Kim! This was one of the ones I got in the mail. Mmm purple and pink.
That's it for knitting for now. Currently working on a square from Auntie Bonnie.

Also, if you want to see more pictures from my Nanjing trip you can see my albums HERE and HERE.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

They Like Me!

So today I sent out some cards and packages. I have now officially sent packages out to everyone who I have received a package from so far and cards to everyone who has sent me a card or letter. I feel very accomplished. And poor. Yikes. I'm going to live off of noodles for the rest of the month. Meh, I would rather send out packages and cards than buy a toaster oven (or two...).

In different, very happy making making news, I sent out an e-mail to the woman here who hired me to ask if they had job openings next semester since Alex and Jenny were curious. I mentioned that I like working at this school and got this e-mail in response:

Hi Stephanie,
Thank you for refering our school to your friends and I was more than happy to read that you enjoyed your working with us here at Pinghe and so do we. Every time I bumped into Ms. Luo and Xuping either at meetings or at the cafeteria, they would more often than not talk about you with so much satisfaction. I think they really take pride in what you've done.
Once again, thank you for your hard work and I'm looking forward to meeting you at the school Christmas dinner in two weeks.

Just for reference, Mrs. Luo is the principle of the IB dept and XuPing is like the coordinator/director.

It makes me happy that people here seem to think I can do this job well.

This afternoon for review for the test I am going to have a snowball fight in class. I am putting review questions on pieces of paper and then they are going to ball them up and throw them at each other. When I call stop, I'll call on a student to answer a question on their snowball. I thought it would be a fun way to burn energy and review.

I gotta make my lesson plan for the rest of the week...

Much love!


Monday, 8 December 2008

Weekend in Nanjing

So I spent this past weekend in Nanjing. I finally left Shanghai!

At first I was really worried things were going to fall through. Charlotte canceled on me but I decided to go by myself. I was told to get my tickets ahead of time. I asked Charlotte to pick some up since she lives in Puxi. When she tried to go to the office for me, it was apparently closed. I decided I would try anyway.

I finished up work on Friday, cleaned up my apartment so I wouldn't come back to stinky trash or dirty dishes, packed a weekend bag and headed off to the train station. As I was walking off campus I saw a weird, unexpected sight. A Goodyear Blimp. Hmmm. I took a picture of it just cuz I thought it was funny to see in Shanghai.
I found the ticket office without any trouble and then waited in line for my tickets. It was a little scary buying tickets in a foreign language but I got them with no issue at all. Yay me! It was around 4:30pm when I bought the tickets and the earliest train I could get out left at 7:30pm but I was more than happy. I was worried I wasn't going to get a ticket at all.

I decided to get some dinner even though it was a bit early. I found a DongBei restaurant right next to the ticket office. I got a bowl of noodles with beef and some dumplings. I was sitting by the window and as I was eating a guy walking by actually did a double take. He back tracked and stared at me through the window, miming using chopsticks with this look of disbelief on his face. He actually came into the restaurant and walked towards me saying "kuaizi!" (chopsticks) over and over. I just nodded at him and went back to my noodles. I've never gotten such a surprised reaction when I use chopsticks...

I corrected some homework in the waiting room for the train. When I boarded the train the guy sitting next to me turned to me with a picture on his cell phone and told me it was his daughter. I told him she was very cute. Then we had a two hour conversation. Seriously. I talked to the guy next to me for the entire two hour train ride. WOW what a workout for my Chinese. I had to make use of my dictionary a few times and sometimes he had to write a word down before I could understand it but otherwise we talked the whole time. He seemed really nice. He works for a company that makes solar panels and has a young daughter. He was mad at me for having a cell phone without Chinese on it so he couldn't send me text messages. He tried to persuade me to get a different cell phone. Hehe. We talked about food and school and America and working and families and my class rings and knitting and traveling and Nanjing and college and everything. He made fun of me for wearing my irish cap, saying I looked like an old man. He told me I should come over so that he could make me dinner. He took a picture of the two of us together so he could show his wife. It certainly made for an interesting trip.

I arrived in Nanjing around 9:30pm. Kyle met me at the train station and we took the subway back to Nanjing University. He had tried to get me a room at a hostel but the two closest to the college were full. Luckily Alex and Jenny (two other Drewids) each had a double room to themselves. Alex stayed in Jenny's room and let me have his room for Friday and Saturday night. It was actually rather adorable. He had a new bar of soap and roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. He left out a map of Nanjing for me to use and even put a chocolate on my pillow! My poor planning and last minute trip actually meant I got to stay in the same building with my friends and for free! Win!

After I arrived I chatted with people from Drew for a while. Went to bed relatively early since I was exhausted. Travel makes me tired. Saturday morning I woke up and Kyle took me to this fried meat bun/dumpling place for breakfast. OH MY GOD they were so delicious. So cheap. So fresh. It cost 6rmb for 8. It could not have been fresher. They literally finished cooking them right in front of you and served them up so you could go eat them. We took them inside the restaurant and ate. Man...I wish there was a place like that near me. They were so tasty.

After that we walked towards the subway and split up. I headed off by myself to explore Nanjing. I had heard about different places to visit and looked at the tourist map Kyle gave me. I decided to go to this Confucius Temple. I took the subway and then walked. I saw a gate to a museum area and figured why not, paid 15rmb and headed in. The first section was a museum about the Taiping Heavenly Army. There was also a museum about the writing, poems and carved seals of a man named Li Lanqing. I think he used to be a government official? There were some pretty interesting seals. He made one for Mozart and the characters looked like music notes.

My favorite part about the first place I stopped, though, was the garden. *happy sigh* Nature! There were so few people and the air felt clean and fresh (at least compared to Shanghai). It was really relaxing and calming. So quiet. So peaceful. So solitary. So nature! I climbed up this big rock face and took a bunch of pictures. I wandered up and down every path I could find. I even ended up going through this cave that came out right next to a waterfall. I don't even know if I was supposed to go in it, but no one was around to say otherwise and there weren't any signs saying not to.

Here is a picture of the waterfall. The flat stones in the pool of water make a path from the tiny ledge on the right to the cave I was in on the left (you can't really see it).
Also at the garden was a bunch of bonsai trees. I took pictures of all of them. Here is one.
After I walked around the whole garden making sure to explore every inch of it, I decided to head out and see what else was in the area. I found what I THINK was the Confucian temple, though I'm not sure. It was rather small and mostly had this small rooms with fake models of men in traditional Chinese robes posed as if they were taking the official examinations. In each room there was some information about the exams.
What was weird was I swear I thought I heard music or throat singing or people meditating or SOMETHING the entire time I was in the temple. I can't be sure.

Here's just a nice picture I took while wandering in the temple.
There were also tons of shops and stuff. The only thing I bought were some bracelets and some cotton candy. I was super excited to see cotton candy. I really don't know what to buy people for presents. Plus pretty much every shop sells the same thing so after a while it gets repetitive. One weird thing about the area I was in is there were a lot of pet shops. I saw lots of birds and what looked like tanks of mostly dead turtles and even some puppies. It was rather heartbreaking so I tried to keep my eyes forward and keep walking.

After my touristy wandering and shopping I went back to the college. I hung out with Benno for a short while and then went out to dinner. Kyle had organized this dinner with me, him, Alex and Jenny and a Swedish couple he had hung out with. The Swedish couple (whose names I am pretty sure were Bjorn and Marna?) are teaching in Nanjing. I'm teaching in Shanghai. Jenny and Alex WANT to teach in China. It was a very fun evening. The Swedish couple was very interesting and fun to talk to. It was interesting to find the different experience we've had teaching. We went to this Japanese hibachi restaurant where they had an all you can eat AND drink special.

Oh my. Everything was so very tasty. We had sushi and scallops and pork chops and steak and veggies and fish and ice cream and lamb and onions and tons of stuff. To drink we had wine and sake and beer and these drinks that tasted like liquefied watermelon (which is probably exactly what they were...) Everything was so delicious. I think the waitress was getting mad because we just kept ordering more and more. What a delicious dinner. So totally worth the 150rmb.

We also chatted briefly with the other foreign devils at the table across from us. Without knowing it we were both playing the "I wonder what country they are from" game. Marna thought at least one of them was Swedish (using what she called "Swededar"). They thought we were all French. We were all wrong! The entire table across from us was Germans.

After a lot of sake and beer Bjorn taught me a weird Swedish drinking song about a frog. I don't really remember it, but apparently the creepy doctor in the movie "Minority Report" sings it if I want to practice. I also told Bjorn that I liked the chef's hat. So Bjorn asked me to teach him how to say "I like your hat" in Chinese (wo xihuan nide maozi). After he said it to the chef, the chef nodded and left. Everyone was like, "Huh...where did he go?" I jokingly said "Ahh...he went to go get us some hats."

Little did I know he really was. Which led to this picture:
From left to right it's Alex, Jenny, Marna, me, Bjorn and Kyle. We also wore these hats as we wandered out of the restaurant and headed off to a KTV bar on a whim. Which lead to me saying what Kyle believed was the quote of the day: "Follow the tallest chef!" Also, do not worry dear friends and family, I was sure to make many horrible jokes about the "Swedish Chef" to my new friends.

The KTV bar was a bit of an adventure. We were there for about three hours singing pop music, love ballads and TV theme songs. I had barely any voice left at the end of the evening and we got back to the dorm around 2am. Yay!

Sunday we all got up rather late. I went out for brunch with Alex, Jenny and Kyle to this cafe place near them. I got a yummy sandwhich and a coffee. Then we hung out at the college just talking and hanging out. I saw Paul when he finally woke up around 230. It was nice to just be with people from home and hang out doing nothing. It's going to suck when they leave because then the closest person from home I'll have near me will be D'Arcy in Japan...

I stayed probably later than I should since my train was leaving at 4:30. There was a bit of a panicky moment when I was running through the train station thinking I was going to miss my train, but I ended up getting on with about 4 minutes to spare. Phew. No interesting train companion this time. I just meditated and read on the way home. Took the subway and then treated myself to a cab ride cuz I didn't feel like going from train to metro to bus. Then sunday night was spent finishing up correcting homework and planning my classes for today.

All in all it was a great weekend. It was wonderful to see my friends and it was also refreshing to visit some touristy places without seeing crowds. Being in the garden was so relaxing and lovely. I loved climbing to the tallest point on the rock face and then sitting enjoying the view while eating the chocolate that Alex had left for me.

I think one of the best things about this weekend was how independent I felt. I bought train tickets for myself using Chinese. I carried on a two hour conversation in Chinese. I found the places I was looking for in Nanjing by myself without getting lost or confused. I found my way back to the college from the metro station even though I had only walked the way once before in the dark with Kyle. I found my way through both the Nanjing and Shanghai train stations without issue. Every one of these moments felt like a small victory. A tally put in the "plus" side of my self-confidence.

Anyway, this entry is very long and I have been working on it on and off for about 7 hours now. I think it's time to post.

Much love,

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Just saying I'm alive...

I haven't posted since Wednesday. GASP!

Just wanted to say I'm alive.

I spent the weekend in Nanjing and there will be a much longer post to update on that soon.

Right now I am amazingly exhausted and trying to finish up preparing for class tomorrow. Blarg.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

I feel like a stereotype.

So the world thinks of Americans as rich, fat, lazy and spoiled...right? Can we accept that and move on?

I just can't help recently but feeling like a stereotype. The thing I feel most, though, is spoiled. The Chinese teachers get a single apartment. I get a double. I get a dryer and internet in my apartment. They don't. I don't ever get night duty or have to teach night classes. They do. I get more days off than the Chinese teachers. One of the teacher's today asked why I get three days off for Christmas when I'm not even religious. I didn't know what to say.

And now I found out that another teacher is coming in next semester and will be taking two of my classes during the week (to teach Business). I already only teach 14 hours of classes a week. Next semester I'm going to feel so useless.

I don't know what to do about it. I feel uncomfortable being treated so much better just because I can speak English fluently. And the worst part is, it's not something I had to work hard at. I was just born in America.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Maybe technology doesn't hate me...

So I've been using notepad to write up things for class since Word doesn't work. I also am starting to realize how often I usually listen to music now that I have no way to listen to music (other than waiting for stuff to load online which takes FOREVER).

Also, I took this printscreen on Monday when I first saw the box bouncing around my screen because I couldn't read what it said (it was moving too fast). You can see the box with the magic wand that says "This computer is being attacked". On a happier note, you can see the beautiful fall background I picked because I was missing new england autumn. I should pick a winter one now.
I think I don't have to lose all my recent documents, music and pictures. Even though I can't open any of my documents in word/excel/etc, if I e-mail them to myself I can view them in google html format. So the data is still there, the virus just removed my ability to view them normally. I think I'm going to do a huge memory dump onto my big external hard drive tonight since my laptop is now clean. Then the IT guy can wipe my comp and reinstall Windows. Or whatever needs to be done. I am slightly less upset now.

Also, I returned the DVD player last night. I told them it had a problem and they tested it right in front of me and it didn't work. They gave me another one and I asked if we could test that one before I went home and they did. It worked. I brought it home and it still worked. YAY! Now I can watch movies in the living room like a real person! I gotta say, sitting on my futon last night knitting and having a snack felt pretty cool.

Health wise I feel alot better although my nose is running so bad I feel like I'm going to run out of tissues by the end of today.

Umm...I forgot what else I was going to say cuz my coworkers are playing with a cellphone and it's kinda funny.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Oh dear, oh dear...

Well the IT guy at Pinghe got the viruses off of my computer. Randy thinks I got it from watching movies online, the IT guy said that some high school students had the same virus and I probably got it from letting them give me their homework on a thumb drive. Either way, I got it. Now it's gone, but I can't open word documents or play music or anything. I tried to do a system restore but it didn't work. It's likely that we'll have to wipe my computer and reinstall Windows 2007. Which means I'll lose all of my recent work. All of my pictures and videos and word documents since like...March? I think that's the last time I did a full backup on my huge external. I have a whole new respect for viruses now. UGH. I REALLY hope I don't need to wipe my computer. I had done some writing and taken some pictures and I really don't want to lose everything...

Yesterday I bought a DVD player which I brought back home and set up only to find it didn't work. It's a Philip's so it's not like I bought a no name brand thing. I'm going to bring it back tonight and try to exchange it for another one. BAH! Technology not working for me!

Last night I also bought....long underwear! I'm sure Pete is laughing at me because just a few weeks ago he was like "Get yourself some long underwear!" and I was like "HA! I laugh in the face of long underwear!" Maybe it's because I've been sick for like a week, maybe it's because they don't really turn on the heat indoors, or maybe the winter here is just different from what I'm used to....but damnit I've been pretty cold! I feel quite comfy today though wearing my new long johns. Maybe I'll buy another pair. Mmm.

Tonight is seriously "clean the apartment" night. I haven't swept in forever and my dishes are kinda gross. Plus I've had clean dry laundry sitting in my dryer for days. Augh. It sucks getting healthy after being sick for a long time because suddenly you have to do everything you've been neglecting.

In my class this morning my students were silent as rocks. After three good classes yesterday I was really surprised. I played a game with them for ten minutes to wake them up and with the promise they would talk more after we played. They got a little better but not much. Oh well. I really am thankful for my improv experience to let me respond to different class situations. I keep flip flopping between feeling like an ok teacher and feeling like a total fraud.

I need to make another monthly test for next week and I need to finalize what I'm doing in the writing class this afternoon. I think my students can tell when I am excited about a lesson and when I am nervous or bored with it.

I gotta run to class. If you don't hear from me in a while it probably means my computer is being fixed up.


Monday, 1 December 2008

Know What's Fun?

You know what's fun?

Being sick, being in a really crappy mood, and then starting up your computer first thing on Monday only to find out that you have a virus!


UGH! I feel like screaming!