Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I was looking at my google analytic tools for this blog the other day and I realized that I had passed 1,000 hits. I know there are some websites that get a million hits a day but I'm pretty damn happy with 1,000. Doing this blog has been a lot of fun for me, even more so than I thought it would. I wasn't really sure when I started if I would have enough to say or enough to make it interesting, but I'm really happy with how its turned out so far. From the ads I put on the site I've some how managed to make about $44, which isn't much in the grand scheme of things I guess, but it's just nice to see. In China it's pretty quite on campus these days as a vast majority of the kids have gone home of the holiday. I noticed that in China you seem to see almost no students who live very far from where they go to school. About 80% of my students seem to be from Changzhou or some city really close by, and even the ones that are from further away still tend to be no more then a few hours from home. The national day is actually tomorrow so I think they'll be fireworks here in town, actually there are fireworks pretty constantly but maybe they'll be more. I e-mailed the Chabad Jewish center in Shanghai asking about Yom Kippur but I haven't heard back from them yet. I'd be curious to see exactly how people in China celebrate the holidays.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blue Sky and Chocolate

Today the sky was blue, well sort of. It was a hazy shade of blue even at the best times, but when you saw it against the clouds it really looked blue which is better then we usually get. Josh talked about "blue sky days" in China and I had a pretty good idea what he meant, I just didn't realize they'd be so infrequent. Even at the best points it wasn't the blue I really remember. When I was younger I used to have to go with my family to what I think were my sisters soccer games, I may have had games on the same day, it was a long time ago and I don't remember it so clearly. What I do remember was even when I played soccer my patients for the sport was pretty low so I'd eventually wander off to some more remote part of whatever field or venue we were at. One time I snuck into an empty tennis stadium and walked around the courts for a while. I figured pretty correctly that even if I was caught a little kid is forgive for most things pretty quickly. What I also remember was lying on the grass looking up at the sky. Some of the times it seemed impossibly blue. I would look near the horizon at the lighter blue then slowly tilt my head up until the sky became a darker and darker shade of blue. Near the very top, when the sun had passed a little so that I could really see the blue became so dark that I felt that I could almost see into outer space. That's the sort of blue I miss. The color that the ocean is always painted but never really appears, truly dark blue.

I went down to the mall at least in part to get some of the other thing I was missing, which is chocolate. The Chineese just don't really seem to go in for chocolate, you don't see it anywhere or on anything. I figure I'm taking at least a little risk with this milk scare but the dove chocolate is almost certainly imported anyways. I also went to the DVD store and bought another ton of DVDs. I don't know why but buying them seems more moral then just stealing them off the internet. Maybe it's because I'm paying someone for them, though God knows not the companies that actually put them out. But I think it just seems more above board since it's so accepted here. It's not like I'm buying them on the streets. They have a store and a staff in the middle of the largest mall in a city of millions. I suppose it comes down to the same reason taking things from the internet is so popular, because everyone is doing it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Foreign Expert

I got my foreign expert certification today. It's a little brown thing that sort of looks like a passport. I could not for the life of me take a good picture of it, I was either too close or too far at every angel I could think of. I'm not sure what I'm meant to be an expert in exactly. I'm not an expert teacher by any stretch of the imagination, pretty much the only requirement to get this job is being a native speaker and not having been adjudicated mentally incompetent in any state. I'm not an expert in China either. I barley know what's going on from moment to moment. Confusion is probably the number one emotion I feel in China, unless I'm crossing a street then it's just good old terror. I think the only thing I'm an expert in is being a foreigner. Yes, I'm an expert in not knowing the words for anything, an expert in getting lost, an expert in having no idea what's going on almost constantly. I am an expert in not being from here, and in China that seems to be quite the accomplishment.

I had my small class again today and for once it wasn't a disaster. I'm just glad that it's physically possible to have this class without wanting to pull my hair out. It's still a ton harder then all my other classes combined, but at least it seems sort of manageable. So far the only thing I've figured out to do is just come up with a ton more activities than I need for other classes and try to stretch them as long as humanly possible. I think being in there departments office helped since, with the exception of people still taking phone calls in class, the students were pretty well behaved. I still have this damn cold, if it wasn't for them having tea in the classroom I think I wouldn't have made it through the class. The only time I like tea at all is when I'm not feeling very well, but in China they drink tea like water. Actually, the water isn't that great so I think they probably drink a lot more tea then water.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No String of Cans

The hotel as part of it's normal hotel duties hosts, or at least provides rooms for a number of weddings. Some times you come down and see a giant picture of some couple has just been erected in the lobby. I think that they way this car is done up is the the Chinese equivalent of tying cans to the back of the newlyweds car in America. The weather here has changed dramatically in the last couple of days. Two days ago it was just plain hot, yesterday it was in between and today it is cool and it looks like it'll remain that way. People told me that cooler weather was coming I just thought it would take more then a day. The Chinese students around here must really be used to the hotter temperatures of summer because even on a 70 degree day I saw some jackets. The odd thing is this all actually makes it hotter in my room since I think the hotel cut off the air conditioning and I don't really expect it back this year. I've been sleeping pretty eradically with the start of classes and this weird class schedule this weekend and I think it caught up to me since I seem to be coming down with a cold. I took some allergy medicine in case that was the cause but it doesn't seem to make much difference. We have seven days off after tomorrow, though honestly I just want to get through one of my smaller classes without it being a train wreck. I haven't been able to find anyone who wants to travel around here with me, some people are going camping and some are staying around here, so I might just go to Nanjing by myslef if I can get a train ticket. I talked to one of the German girls who said she wanted to go to Sujou in a few weeks so I'm putting that off for a while. It'd be nice though to go to Nanjing and check out the french guy's restaurant.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

English Corner

The title of this post refers to the practice of having a time when students can gather in one place to practice speaking some English with foreign teachers, but before I get to any of that I have to describe what happened in my small class today. My first thought was to try to teach them some English history since they'll be going there. Besides the usual grumbling the passages I found just seemed to be completely over their heads. In fact I think I'd need a description basically for children for most of them to be able to understand it. My next idea was something Clark suggested to me. I asked them to get into groups and write a 10 minute speech on any topic, I suggested a few topics. They literally wouldn't stop complaining that this was too hard. I tried to help them break it down into smaller segments but they weren't really giving it a chance at one point one of them pulled out a cell phone and called Grace, who is basically in charge of the department that is sending them to England. Now I know a lot of things they do aren't really meant to be rude. I can tell from the way they react most of the time that they are just really direct more then rude. Honestly I'm usually pretty good with understanding that even some odd things are just cultural differences and I should let it slide, but this one really riled me up. Even if they were just looking for a solution to the class being too hard, even if this is somehow appropriate in China, I take offense to this. It's just too far to call up another teacher to complain in one teachers class.

Grace decided that the best thing to do was to have us all come to her office so we could discuss it. We all went over to the hotel, her office is on the third floor of the hotel I live in, and sat down at their conference table. It is a very weird experience to have 6 people sitting around talking about you and not being able to understand a word of it. In all the time here, with all the weird atention I get this was the most watched I ever felt. Grace would occasionally stop and tell me something or other, but I was largely in the dark. What became apparent eventually is that there level was just way to low for most real oral English work. We're going to get a book eventually and I guess were just going to have to do boring things like dialogues and what not. But it also definitly seemed like Grace was trying to explain to them that this was not just like other courses where the professor lectures at them, they were expected to talk and participate. I think they finally were starting to get it by the end and it was useful to be so close to more teachers who had suggestions and kept some order. One student, the one who had made the phone call, left really early and didn't tell me why. We also decided to have class in the hotel from now on where Grace works. I just can tell at this point that this class is going to be twice as much work as all my other classes combined. Not only do I have 6 hours a week as opposed to 2 but I haven't been able to find any good activity yet that kills time and makes 3 hours not feel like 8.

While that side of the day was annoying the English Corner was actually a bit of fun. It's held every Thrusday at 6:30 in a little park in the school. It's an odd place to hold this since it's dark and it was raining a little. I was the first American to arrive and word must have spread with the students that the American's were actually attending these things since I was basically mobbed by students. By the time David got there, who they all call by his last name, I basically never told any of my classes my last name to avoid this, I was standing in the center of a circle about 4 people deep in any direction with some students even standing on things to get a better look. I've never felt more like either a celebrity or circus attraction in my life. Even Chaz who had come with me was looking visibly nervous about all the people. I tired to talk to some of them but it seemed oddly ridiculous in a group of 60 to try to talk to one person. Eventually a couple more Americans came and the groups evened out, actually David had by far the biggest group and seems to have a talent for essentially entertaining a crowd. I just talked to a few students, one girl Catherine despite not being an English major had really good English from listening to American radio all the time and reading some pretty difficult books like Wuthering Heights. Seeing someone who learned English like that highlights why I'll never be that good at Chinese, I'll learn some, I might even become fluent, but I don't have that sort of commitment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Loaded Question

In almost every class so far when I've asked them to ask me questions at some point I have to stop and explain to them what a loaded question is. Unlike so phrases it's pretty easy to explain because I can just tell them it's a dangerous question and they get it. I've gotten some like "Which do you like best America of China," which all the students can recognize has no good answer, so I just usually stop and explain loaded questions to them. In one class a student asked what I thought of Chinese Communism and Marxism. Again I thought it was pretty funny since he was clearly just asking the most loaded question he could come up with. People here don't exactly expect you to toe the party line but I'm not exactly going unload in the Communist Party in the middle of class. There are times when you know that your getting close to a mine field, any time someone mentions Tibet or Japan, there's just a lot of cultural baggage around these issues. But I think this was the first time that if I said something dumb enough they might just kick me out of the country. One CIEE trainer told a story about a person who got kicked out in like a week for taking a guitar to class and just singing Christian Missionary type songs about Jesus for an hour. Now that person has to know that doing that probably isn't going to just slide even in a pretty laid back place like China.

I had 3 classes today, 6 hours, and besides being tired it was pretty easy since it was just the same thing 3 more times. Some of the jokes I use feel pretty stale by now and I'm not nearly as amused by what I know will be there reaction as I was the first time I did it. I know that I'll walk into class tomorrow and say "Hello" to a course of "Hello's" back. I know that when I say I'm from DC I'll get oooh's and aaah's, and I know that the girls will take pictures of me with there cell phones when they think I'm not looking then love it when I pose. While it's easy to do one class 6 times, it also gets a little boring. I just found out that apparently we have class this Saturday and Sunday to make up for 2 of the days we're missing next week. In usual fashion they told us at the last possible minute. It's fine, I just wish I'd known earlier. All the foreign teachers who knew just canceled classes for the weekend. I don't mind the ones on Saturday that much but I have the small class yet again on Sunday because of this. I'll try to cancel it, but the little smart alec's will probably throw a fit. The girl in class who most steadfast refuses to participate was the one who objected last week when I tried to end class a little early. Joanna posted in the comments of the last entry that she thought getting her little kids to participate in Hebrew school was sort of like pulling teeth also, and that's exactly what it's like. The students are sort of like little kids in a lot of ways. They want to show off, they want attention, but they don't really want to participate they just want to talk with there friends, and some of them are a little bossy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Smart Alecs

Today I had my smaller class, it turns out it was only 5 people, there may be a 6th person who just was absent today. I was hoping that there English would be good enough that I could just talk with them instead of trying to do a series of games and such. But I learned pretty quickly that that wasn't the case. One of the girls, and all 5 are girls, spoke pretty good English but the others were not nearly on her level. 2 Of the others could speak OK when they wanted to but they didn't really want to much. The final 2 just basically kept talking in Chinese the whole time and getting them to say anything in English, even when they could, was like pulling teeth. One girls would keep getting the girl who spoke the best English to translate for her and didn't want to really try to talk in English. They were also a bit of smart alecs. We were playing hangman a little, which my other classes enjoyed, and they just at one point said that they were bored and want to move on. I was trying to explain 20 questions to them when one simply said that they didn't want to play. My options are kind of limited though since I can't really just chat with them and they don't want to do a lot of my activities. The class is also really long at 3 hours instead of the usual 2. They are supposed to go to England to study Business in like 8 months and one said that they were worried about it. Well I'm worried to there English is no where near good enough to take courses in English only. One of them can speak pretty well but I had to stop and rephrase and define words way to much with her also to think she could do well in a University level class taught only in English. I asked if there were any other students who had done this before they could ask for advice and they said that they were the first ones. Right now I feel like it's going to be a disaster. I'm also dreading having these students for 6 hours a week, but that's a whole othet story. I just don't know what to do with them. I can teach them some things about England and get them to talk in English but they're just not going to be able to do anything like what it seems is expected of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How'd I Get Myslef Into This Mess?

How in the world did they let me become a teacher? I don't know much about the Chinese education system in general but I can't think too highly of it if they let me teach classes. I guess you could say that I don't really have less experience then half the TA's you see in America, while I guess that's true in general they are at lest supposed to have some sort of knowledge in the area that they are teaching. The only thing I have that even resembles a qualification is that I'm a native English speaker and honestly I've seen a number of Chinese teachers here who speak English well enough to do my job, and probably have been teachers for more the 5 minutes. So with about 10 hours total of training, little idea what to do with the class, and no idea of what to expect from the students I marched off into the fray to try to teach these kids something. Well all that complaining aside it went pretty well. It was only my first day but it certainly could have gone worse and parts of it went quite well. I made a fairly detailed lesson plan, but luckily I realized that since I know nothing about teaching half the ideas probably wouldn't work and I came with a lot of back up plans.

The classrooms, which I scoped out yesterday, are not what you would call particularly modern. It's basically a blackboard and a bunch of desks, the area in front of the class where I stand is raised up about half a foot. About half the students were there when I got there about 15 minutes early. I tried to chat with some of the students but I mostly just got giggles from the girls, who make up about 80% of both my classes. It seems the boys are the ones who essentially want to hang out with me and be friends, but more on that in a sec. When class finally began my first 3 activities pretty much bombed right away. Getting these classes to brainstorm or call out anything is sort of like pulling teeth, it's painful as hell and they really don't want to budge. Even doing things that I know they were interested in like getting them to ask me questions, they just sort of stared back at me. I was starting to get worried at this point so I went onto my next activity which involves through a little ball I made out of Saran Wrap around the room and whoever catches it has to tell one fact about themselves. Now the students essentially try to jump out of the way of this ball to avoid catching it but that actually makes for half the fun as it bounces of peoples head and the like. Basically if they tired to avoid it I just handed it to them when it fell on the floor. This actually ended up being a lot of fun.

The next game I tried was Hangman which also worked well. Even though it involved them calling out stuff a letter is easy for them to do since there is no right answer and once you get close someone will really want to call out the word. It really cracked them up also because they guessed a bunch after only one letter. They got China on C and English on E and University on S for some reason. I sort of pretended to be exasperated and they were having a good time. One of the people who did the training during the CIEE stuff said not to be an "Edutainer" but honestly I'll tak what keeps them engaged. I found the most successful ideas were anything where they divided up into groups and came up with something, things they want to learn, places to go, etc, and then shared it one at a time. This idea has problems, they talk a lot in Chinese, and only one group can share at a time, but it keeps them occupied and working on something productive in English. The class behaved alright but took a lot of convincing to get them to go out in the hall for a group photo and even then a few stranglers never came out.

After the class finally ended some of the students invited me back to their dorm room to talk for a while. The few male students in the class seem to always want to be friends and chat about basketball. The dorm room was amazingly Spartan. There were 8 beds in an area smaller then my living room no air or heat and beds that were basically a mat over hard wood. They were all really nice and even got me a soda as after 2 hours of standing in a 30 degree class room I was pouring sweat. I talked to them for a while before going back to my room to cool off before my next class. Before the class started I was looking though a class book and I heard clicking noises and every time I looked up 6 or 7 of the girls had there cell phone cameras out taking pictures. As soon as I looked up though they would snap the away. I signaled that it was OK to take some pictures and smiled for some. The next class went a lot better in the beginning since I just ditched the things that didn't work so well and focused on a few of the activities. When I said hello to start the class the all answered back in unison "Hello!" which makes me think they are trained to do it and cracked me up. Also when someone asked where I was from and I said America I got a big collective "ooooh" and again for Washington DC. When I said my name was Daniel they all also said "Daniel!" which started me laughing again. The class went more smoothly and at the end when I wanted to them to go out for a picture they all were very cooperative. Maybe it was because they were only Freshmen while the first class was Sophomores. All in all things went well though I wish I could get them to use more English in the class.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Under Construction

Some one pointed out that from my pictures Changzhou looks really new and clean, and while it definitely has those parts Changzhou is mostly a city under construction. There are buildings going up or coming down everywhere you look. The picture here is of some small building that about a week ago looked a lot different. Even the huge library I can see from my window had significant differences from week to week. I guess the one thing there not in short supply of here is manpower. Some one told me the 70% of all the cranes in the world are in China and based on what I've seen I can certainly believe it. There are also signs of a place that's still changing a lot. Teddy told me that part of the odd smell around here is caused by tire fires. Burning tires is maybe the worst thing you can do because they're just chocked full of chemicals. It brings to mind some image of the Simpsons and the perpetual tire fire in Springfield. Also apparently Lee who is a Australian guy who teaches English at some school across town got Tuberculosis. What ever kind he got isn't really all that transmittable apparently, and it's cleared up with antibiotics, but it's just not something people in America get.

I have my first two classes tomorrow, and I really hope they go well. I have a ton of activities planned out so I don't run out of things to do with them, but I just have this nightmare of them just all sitting their staring at me blankly as I try to get them to talk. None of the other English teachers have had any real problems, aside from the occasional student text messaging in class so I guess I shouldn't be too worried. On another slightly worrying note apparently the insurance CIEE purchases for us here is through AIG so I guess it's good the gov didn't let the go under.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Dark of Night

Well you have to hand it to them the street vendors come out no matter what the weather is like. It was raining really hard on and off today. I get the impression that it probably rains a lot more around here in the summer since even though it was coming down in sheets if I came out a hour or two later it would be almost totally dry. The drainage is really impressive especially when you sort of expect everything in China to only sort of work. I got something smaller at the noodle shop today because they were out of rice. I eat a lot later then most of the students do, they seem to eat at about 5-5:30, so when I go to the restaurant some times they are out of things. It's actually pretty impressive that she was able to communicate that they were out of rice with just some hand gestures. I pointed to one dish and she shook her hand no, which happens some times for lack of some ingredient, so I pointed to another dish with rice in it at which point she shook me off again and pointed to the fired rice and shook no. I gathered from that that they were simply out of rice, which made sense when I pointed to a noodle dish and got it.

I was working on planning my first lessons today and I'm sort of terrified that I'm going to have no idea what to say to these kids. Everyone else seems to manage so I guess I'll probably be all right but I just have this image of them not understanding any game or activity and just sitting there staring blankly at me. They actually have a lot of English already at this point, though not as much as older students. I also have one class which is very small, apparently something like 7 students, who are going to study abroad. I have no idea what there level is or what they expect from me though. Maybe I'll spend a lot of the first class with them trying to figure out what they want from this class.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Well this has certainly been an odd day. I woke up early this morning to go to the police station to complete our residency permits. The police station was pretty nice, I'm not sure if there is another place for police work and this one was just for filling out forums, but that's all anyone seemed to be doing, it wasn't exactly NYPD Blue in there. It took a little while as they looked thorough all out forums and kept stamping and signing every page. You really get a sense of China as a bureaucracy with things like this it was just one thing after another getting stamped and moved around it almost seemed sort of like a giant Monty Python version of what a bureaucracy should look like, row after row of people punching and moving papers. After that we went back to the hotel which is where I lost track of Brian, Ken, and Dave, but soon after Clark called me and said that some Chinese guys wanted to take us somewhere and that there would be food involved. If that sounds vague well that's how it sounded to me, we were going some place with some people to see something. I know China is sort of a go with the flow place but this was pretty vague even for that. I came downstairs to see July and Veronica, two of the German girls and Clark and his friend Cindy already out there sort of talking with a few Chinese guys. I say sort of talking since they didn't speak much English and we didn't speak much Mandarin. After a minute a van drove up and we all got in, most of the Chinese guy were in another car. As we were driving down the street I asked anyone if they knew exactly where we were going or why which was met with general shrugs.

We came to a hotel on the other side of town where a line of buses had formed and a lot of people in suits or semi-formal cloths were standing. I eventually learned that we were going to some kind of expo and we were all given passes and ushered onto the bus. It's a pretty wired feeling to be going to some place for reasons passing understanding with people who seemed to have serious business there. I eventually figured out that I think the organizers of the expo just wanted some more foreign people there, there were a number already, so some one came and essentially recruited us. Being in China seems to make me automatically some sort of foreign dignitary. We eventually arrived at the expo which featured a ton of over the top style performances. We were ushered around, with about a thousand other people between the booths getting a look at what companies are set up in Changzhou. On the way I started talkign to another western person on the bus who was from France but lived in Nanjing. It turns out he was only here since a client his company did a lot of business with had invited him. As we talked I learned that he also was part of the management for a French restaurant in Nanjing which I got the card for and intend on visiting.

After we had seen most of the exhibition hall we came to a huge auditorium where their was some sort of presentation about to take place. A number of speeches were given then some sort of contract was signed by a number of the participants. A few of the speeches were in English though I doubt more then a quarter of the people there could have understood them. The Frenchmen told me that a number of the business there represented more then a hundred million dollars investment in Changzhou. He also noted that every time he visited Changzhou he would get lost since the city was constantly reinventing itself. After all the speeches were over we were taken by bus to a hotel where we had what was essentially another banquet, along with the customary drinking too much. It's pretty amazing to just find yourself shoved into a huge expo with no real understanding of why you are there except that you are a foreigner. I think I came at a pretty amazing time in China's history where westerners are still rare enough that this sort of thing can go on. I took a ton of pictures which are on Flickr and if I think of more I'll post it tomorrow though as for today I'm pretty buzzed from that damn Baijou

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Class Schedules and Doppelgangers

Well I finally have my class schedule there are some good points and some bad points about it. The bad points are that I have 18 hours a week, I thought we were only supposed to have 16, and that I have 8am classes three days a week. I also have one class three times a week I think, which means more lesson plans for that class then for any of the others. I also have like four hour gaps between classes on one or two days. The good points of the schedule are that I have a class, twice a week 3 hour a class, that's going to be studying abroad in the US so I can talk with them about American culture and such. I also have a pretty evenly spread out schedule, no 10 hours in one day or anything like that. Finally, I have Fridays off which is always nice and on Tuesdays my first class isn't until 2pm. All in all it seems like a pretty good schedule though I though we were only supposed to get 16 hours a week maximum.

In more interesting news while searching Google for a English language bookstore in Changzhou, I don't think there is one, I came across a blog written by a guy who had taught English at a high school in Changzhou from 2004-2006. The blog is called "Jiangsu Journal" Jiangsu being the name of the province Changzhou is located in. It's really a pretty good blog, and while it does make me feel less unique it's definitly worth a read. He talks about a lot of stuff I recognize from the town and has some pretty interesting pictures as well. He has one picture, at the start of this post, of the giant pagoda while it was still under construction and notes that it's supposed to be the tallest pagoda in China. It's interesting here how you can never really tell how old stuff is, because even a lot of the ancient stuff was torn down and rebuilt a number of times. He has about 200 or so posts over two years spent in Chnagzhou and it's definitly worth a read. The site is at http://china.ajax.org/index.php?function=chronicle_entries

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Sole Beneficiary of the Workers Paradise

No friends I haven't gone pink on you yet. I'm not about to start spouting comments from the little red book, but I do believe in a workers paradise. It's not about collective farming or owning the means of production, or any of the the things communists have talked about for so long. The workers paradise is exist friends only in Changzhou, and apparently only for me. I seem to be the only teacher who hasn't been asked to teach a single class or do anything that even remotely looks like work. That's right the workers paradise is doing nothing and getting paid for it. Or I should amend, doing nothing and getting paid for it while be put up in a masters of the universe style apartment. As promised today I'll talk about some of the things I've loved in China. The first I think has to be the people. I really had no idea what exactly to expect when it came to how the people would treat you. Japan, where I was also considering going, is famous for be a pretty closed society that's at some level always distrustful of foreigners. China doesn't really have a set reputation for how they deal with foreigners, but so far all my experiences have been great. People have been really nice and have all gone out of their way to help me. And while I know that I'm paying at least some what more then locals pay for most things, since I still have no idea when it is or is not acceptable to bargain, people have avoided scamming me even when I was basically asking for it. I was buying some potatoes to make mashed potatoes and I had absolutely no idea what potatoes would go for so when they guy made the hand gestures for 4 then 5 I thought he meant 45 when he actually meant 4.5. He was honest enough to give me my money back, though he and everyone around him had a good laugh at me.

While I mentioned in my last post that some of the food really doesn't agree with me, some of it is absolutely fantastic. During the banquet we had some sort of baked eggplant dish that was just amazing, and my favorite little noodle place is constantly very good. The prices in China are also just amazing for everything. For most things I end up spending under a dollar. Tonight for dinner I had some sort of crazy wrap thing from a street vendor, which cost 2.5 RMB, and was enough to split with someone else. Then a meat and rice dish for 6 RMB and a soda for 2.5. Actually the soda was a little expensive by Chinese standards. All told that comes to about $1.50. A lot of others things are cheap too from taxi rides to DVD's and most other things you can think of. On top of that the school pays us pretty well by Chinese standard and even when we are asked to work it isn't exactly a lot. I'll have about 16 hours a week of classes this semester, with little out of class work necessary and maybe half that next semester. On top of that the school pretty much bends all the rules for us. The gates of the school are shut at 11 pm but we can basically get the guards to open it up for us any time we want, something the students certainly can't do. The city they put me in is also really nice. It's big enough to have some American stuff like a Wall-mart and a McDonalds while having maybe a dozen really big beautiful parks and a whole lot of other charming features. Lastly the hotel employs some girls to serve essentially as hosts. There are about four really pretty girls who stand in the lobby and great visitors and sometimes show big delegations or families to their rooms. There's just something nice about being greated by four cute Chinese girls every time you come home that's quite a kick.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Low Flying Dragonflies

Some one once told me that if you see Dragonflies flying really low that it meant that it was about to rain. I've seen a bunch of dragonflies and they were all flying pretty low and as far as I can tell there is no correlation between the dragonflies and the weather. I'm told it's still the rainy season though it hasn't really rained much more then it would have in DC. It was still really hot today, probably upper 80's with a ton of humidity. I've been pretty bored lately I just want classes to finally start. I could go to Suzhou but I'm not sure I really want to go by myself as I still know about 6 words of Mandarin and half the time when I say them people can't understand what I'm saying. I'm sure some one will want to go with me eventually but they all have classes right now.
I've talked some about what I like and don't like here in China but I thought I'd do some posts on the things I really like and the things that really annoy me, so first up today is some of the things that drive me crazy here.

The first and most obvious is the language barrier, now to be fair the fact that I knew about this one going in makes it less annoying. It's not really the big things, like not being able to have a conversation with most Chinese people it's the little one's like it taking 15 minutes to try to mime what an umbrella is when I want to buy one in the rain, or having such a hard time with street signs and restaurant menus. Also while sometimes it's fun having everyone stare at you gets unnerving after a while. I see six students walking along one sees me and stares for a minute then says something to the others then three heads turn then all of them look over for a minute. I'd call it a sort of paranoid feeling, but I don't think it's paranoia when everyone is watching you. China is also a pretty dirty country. I knew about some of that but all the spitting and the children going to the bathroom in the streets is pretty hard to stomach. I wash my hands a ton over here. There was a big thing of soap in my bathroom when I came and I've gone through about half of it in about two weeks. The food is another one I didn't really expect. I'm pretty good with liking unusual foods and new things but a lot of the food here is just weird and tastes really bad. Also we were warned a lot about it but China is a place where no one likes to give you a lot of information. They'll vaguely describe when things happen but won't really spell things out for you unless you really press them. For example there are in the classes class monitors who are students who have some role in monitoring the class, no one's ever really explained who they are and what they do though and the other teachers tell me sometimes they can't even tell if they have one for every class. Also things here just never seem to quite work right, the direr takes 6 hours to dry cloths the washing machine never really gets anything clean and my shower takes forever to drain. Finally there is the smell, Changzhou just smells bad. Not all of the parts smell the same mind you but they all smell pretty bad. Well that's it for today's list tomorrow will be things I like.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sometimes You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

This is my favorite little place where they always have chicken sandwiches. At this point I walk in and they just nod and start making the sandwich. It's not that the sandwiches are necessarily so great it's just that a lot of the food hasn't been agreeing with me and these sandwiches are pretty mild. I finally was able to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich also. I had posted before that I'm not sure if the jelly I bought was jelly or baby food, it looked like jelly and said strawberry jelly on it in English, but it also had a baby on the jar was about baby food sized and was near what I think was other baby food. I can now confirm that it is definitly strawberry jelly, though for all I know that is baby food here. It's hard to find many different places to eat at because of the language barrier so I'm just sort of reduced to places that I can point to something at. If they give me a menu I'm in pretty deep trouble since the menu's are in characters so I can't exactly look the words up either. That's why the Muslim place i frequent has such a good reputation among the expats, there are pictures on the wall, though to be fair I think I've point to the same thing and gotten at least somewhat different meals. My stomach still hasn't exactly settled down since I've been here. The funny thing is that it's not just one problem, it will get better, then get worse, then get better again and so on.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shanghaied in Chinese Monopoly

Well to begin at the end I was just playing Monopoly at Clark's apartment with Rachael from CIEE and a couple of Chinese girls. They went to some party, apparently there are few enough expats that when one throws a party it's just THE party and people from different parts of the city know about it. My stomach has been upset again all day so I decided a night of drinking isn't probably the best idea. Chinese Monopoly is similar to US Monopoly with three differences: it's in Chinese, the board is really small, and I'm sure they're not paying Hasbro any royalties. We played for a while with the Chinese girls translating as best they could and the rest of us just recognizing cads, hint if the police are dragging you away by your pants it;s "go to jail, do no pass go, do not collect $200." Where I was shanghaied was when I traded Rachel 2 orange properties, for her to complete a monopoly, for one purple, the cheapest monopoly, and a bunch of cash. The cunning strategy here was to quickly put hotels on both the cheap purple properties, where I get screwed was a turn later when Clark realized one of the properties was from another section of the board and the colors just looked really similar, so I in fact had no monopoly. And in Chinese Monopoly that's just the cost of doing business, so much for a workers paradise.

Earlier today I had been trying to use my "working" dryer which heats the cloths so little that it seems to work on the property of spin them around and hope the cloths magically decide to dry themselves. I think I'm just going to have to bit the bullet and by a thing to hang my wet cloths on, though I don't even have anywhere in the sun to put them. All of the sudden I heard counting coming form outside, which is quite a feat to hear from the 14th floor. I rushed to my window and saw the freshmen doing a little more advanced marching around the campus. For some reason though a group of them weren't wearing any uniforms and one was carrying an umbrella. They also still weren't exactly all in the same step. I eventually made my way down town and to the video store again. I think that by the time I get back I'm going to have 200 movies. For about $35 I bought 9 movies (The Other Bolyen Girl, Once Upon a Time in the West, Rock Star, Into the Wild, About Schmidt, The Shawshank Redemption, Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, A season of Twin Peaks, and 2 seasons of Dexter) Butch Cassidy took some doing as I had to try and write it down the guy went to look it up in the computer then hunted around the store until he found it. I'd like to end this post with a salute to Pepto Bismol the greatest stuff ever invented.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Most Beautiful Park in the World

DC has a lot of parks all throughout it even if you don't count Rock Creek Park, and when I was going to China I had heard that most of the cities have very little green space, but Changzhou has a ton of parks. When you look on a map you can see them doted all throughout the city, the only thing they have more of then parks are canals. I finally found out where exactly the Grand Canal is in Changzhou, and it goes right through the middle of the city, though today it's far too small to be used for any serious commercial use. The other canal I had described, the one back behind the school, is much newer and wider, that's why it can be used in commerce. Today I was going to take the 23 into town again and pick up some more stuff but right when I got outside the school the 38 was pulling up. I hadn't taken the 38 yet and I new it got into some part of downtown so I jumped on board. The 38 takes a little longer to get downtown going on the old beat up road just outside the school. When it finally arrived downtown, I can tell what stop to get off at mostly by watching when the students get off, I wasn't really near the shopping area I knew but I was near a really big park I had seen on the map. I was really hungry by the time I was coming close to the park but I spotted another place selling chicken sandwiches, "Ye ge hambou," aka "One sandwich" is my favorite phrase. "Hambou" is just there pronunciation of hamburger.

I walked down a small road and before long came to the first view of the enormous pagoda that is pictured above. I came to a gate and after some pointing and gesturing I understood that I needed to buy a ticket which was only 20 RMB. Inside the area was a pagoda that must have been somewhere near 15 stories high. Pagodas are tiered towers that usually preforms some religious function that evolved from Indian stupas which were a sort of burial mound. This pagoda towers over the whole park and most of the nearby buildings. I think there was a tour inside but I decided to try to bring a Chinese friend back with me to translate. Outside the pagoda in a small square were a number of amazingly intricate statues and stone carvings, the most amazing of which were pillars 30 feet high completely covered in complex carvings. Besides these there was a huge golden Buddha and a place to burn incense. Next to the square was a temple with a number of other Buddhas and some other statues that towered down over people. I didn't take many pictures of these since I was constantly worried that I had wandered in to an area I shouldn't have been in since I couldn't read any of the signs. Moreover I wasn't sure if the wanted flash photography since some places don't.

After I looked through the temple I realized that all this area was actually separate from the main park, hence the admission. The park it's self was maybe six times the size of the temple and pagoda area. You should really look through all the dozens of pictures I took since the park was as varied as it was large. Each section was a little different then the one before it and they were all amazing. The section nearest the temple had a canal running through it which was filled with people in row boats. There was a beautiful bridge over it and a number of paths along the sides. Besides this was a funny little area with a bunch of tanks filled with goldfish which all the little children loved. Past that were winding paths lined with trees which would occasionally emerge next to the water or some other amazing building. The Chinese really know how to blend water, rocks, and trees to form amazing parks. Every section of the park also had really beautiful vibrant flowers. One place had a field of different colored flowers just producing a stunning effect.

There was a elevated boardwalk section that took you up near the canopies of a lot of the trees. One thing I've noticed about parks in China is that they don't really go in for the open grassy areas that dominate parks in the US and even when they do people just don't really walk on the grass. Instead of playing Frisbee or something I see a lot of the Chinese kids blowing bubble or riding around in boats. There were also a ton of cops there. That's another thing about China there seem to be police everywhere, they don't usually seem to be doing much, the ones at the park seemed particularly bored, but there just everywhere. The park also had it's own smaller pagoda near one side. I kept trying to walk to it but every path would get closer before turning away and leading me some place else. This in turn makes a big park seem truly endless. I'm told that the paths wind around so that you see different aspects of the park from different angles. Maybe the single most interesting thing in the park was a stone carving of the city. At a distance it just looked like a stone pattern on the floor but where I was right next to it I could see it was an intricate carving of the ancient city of Changzhou with canals can city walls. I'm sure I missed a lot of the park also as it was so hard to ever figure out where I was. I'm told there are several other fantastic parks in Changzhou also.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Banquet Time

As some of you already noted yesterday was the first day since I started my blog without an update and there's a good reason for this, I was drunk. Not just a little drunk either me and the entire English department were quite thoroughly sloshed. Banquets are apparently partially welcome celebration and partially excuse for middle aged me to drink an enormous quantity. Baker the dean of the English department was one of the worst offenders insisting on constant toasts to any number of things which usually ended with everyone trying to finish there current glass. Nor was there any shortage of alcohol besides wine and beer there was Baijiu which even the New York Times compared with "rubbing alcohol or diesel fuel." Baijiu sort of tastes like sake but with a much sweater and just generally worse flavor, which is pretty hard to take down when you're trying to finish of a wine glass sized serving of the horrible concoction. Beer and wine are also pored into the same glass leading to some truly odd tastes. But it was far from all drinking the food, and boy was there a lot of it, was really good. There were a bunch of meat dishes, but maybe the best single thing was some sort of cooked eggplant that was so good that Clark got Baker to order another plate of it. The women at the table mostly passed on the heavy drinking by being the first Chinese people I've seen drinking Milk.

After the banquet me, Ken, David, and Clark went up to Clark's room and continued drinking for some time. This would all be well and good but at 8 this morning we all had to get up to go to the doctor's office. It seems that all the tests we did before coming in, and boy were there a lot of those, isn't good enough for the people here who basically had us repeat every test we had already done. At least the school paid for the whole ordeal. Afterwords we went out to a KFC, now I don't mean to sound funny but I've noticed that besides loving fired chicken the most common desert here by far is watermelon. The KFC was OK but it was pretty funny to see pictures of Colonel Sanders up all over China. In one last bit of new I have a cell phone. Now I have no earthly idea what it takes to call a Chinese number from America but my number in China is 13701503650 written as they do in China with no dashes or breaks. Just remember if your calling me that I'm exactly 12 hours ahead of the east coast so if it's 9am there it's 9pm in China. Just as a general rule if it's AM your time it's OK to call me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pay Day

Yes that's my shiny new Chinese debit card with my first months pay check (4000 RMB, about $590) already in the account. It's pretty nice of them to pay me considering I haven't done anything resembling work yet, and won't for more then a week. Josh told me before I came here that 4,000 RMB was more then enough money to live on considering that they provide housing and I have to say that he's entirely correct, especially when you factor in that the school pays for a round trip ticket. To put it in perspective here are the cost of some everyday things. A piece of fried chicken from a place on campus is 2-3 RMB, a chicken sandwich there is 5. A big meal, meat vegetables and a ton of rice at the Muslim noodle place we all like is 4-9 RMB depending on what you get. A bottle of soda is 2-3 RMB, it's about the same for juice or bottled water. A one way trip on the bus is 1 RMB .6 if you have the bus pass. Toilet paper is about 2-3 RMB. A lot of other stuff is pretty cheap also DVD's are just 10 and even the cereal I bought was only like 15. The original cost of the CIEE program wasn't so cheap but they're a non-profit and provided pretty good value for the money. Besides the training in teaching and in Mandarin we had, they put us up in a pretty nice hotel and showed us a lot of places around the city. They also picked us up at the airport and paid for almost every meal. All in all I don't think I spent 100 RMB while I was in Shanghai.

I went with Clark today to a used furniture place to try to find him a new side table. We took the 38 bus about 3 stops down the rickety old road which runs in front of the school. Unlike most of the roads in Changzhou which are newly paved and pretty nice this one is essentially falling apart and the bus bounced around all over the place. The store itself was a warehouse like space with tons of used furniture piled up ten feet high. There were little isles made in between the piled stuff so you could walk through. We were the only shoppers when we stopped by and they followed us around for a while but after about 10 minutes they lost interest and returned to sitting near the front. There were all kinds of things piled up, from bar stoles and dressers, to the dirtiest looking mattress I've ever seen. Eventually Clark found a table he liked but apparently whoever owned the table wasn't there at the moment so we left empty handed.

Yesterday when I went to the noodle shop I liked there were some Chinese guys sitting around who thought I was really interesting after discovering that I spoke no real Mandarin we sort of communicated about simple words, "xeixei thank you" he'd say and I'd smile and node back. After 5 or 10 minutes of this when they were about to leave I gathered from a lot of pointing and hand gestures that one of them was paying for my food. I thanked him and asked Clark later if this was something that happened. He said that yes sometimes people would buy him meals just to be nice to the foreigner. It's pretty interesting when a guy who probably makes half of what I do even in China and will probably make a hundredth or less of the money I make in a lifetime buys you dinner. The people I've meet here so far have been to a man really nice and helpful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Well here's something you don't see in America universities, West Point excluded, a whole bunch of freshmen marching around. I wouldn't exactly call this boot camp though. They would basically stand in groups for a while until a military guy would come over give them some commands and march them about 60 feet where they would stop and mill about for a while before marching 60 feet back. They would occasionally call out 1..2 3..4, in Mandarin, but there wasn't a whole lot of yelling. At the very end of the day they were all yelling out something for a while but that only lasted for a minute or two. I ran into Max a Chinese guy who speaks really good English and I think dates one of the German women. He thought it was pretty funny that I was talking pictures of all the freshmen doing their training. I've been wondering what exactly people think when I'm all over the place with my camera. In the US it would be pretty rude to just be sticking a camera in people's faces all the time, but they stare at me a lot so I figure turn about is fair play. Also I've heard that when the Chinese go on vacation they take a ton of pictures.

I spent a while wandering around the rest of campus, which is even bigger than I thought it was. Besides the Tibetan school which is completely encircled by the campus there is also what looks like an area for new drivers to learn how to drive. In one corner of the campus is a big area with odd crisscrossing roads and all sorts of varying obstacles. Past that is yet another set of basketball courts and a couple of tennis courts. Back in one area of the campus is a little canal and a brand new looking walk way along it that deadens in a pretty remote part of campus that looks like it's waiting for future building. In fact the whole back section of campus looks like its designed for a lot more buildings to be there. No work is being done there at the moment though, I guess they're still working on the library which will be the biggest and most impressive building on campus when it's done.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Grand Canal

Sorry no new pictures today, my camera decided to run out of batteries just as soon as I was far enough away from the school to make going back and recharging it difficult. I walked around for a while today eventually coming to what I believe is another canal, but this was was much bigger then any of the one's I had seen up to this point. While most of the canals I had seen look sort of like the C&O Canal in DC this one was much bigger the size of a big river. It also had a series of small ships transporting what looked like industrial goods down its murky brown water. I'm not sure if this is part of the Grand Canal or not but maps of the Grand Canal indicate it runs past Changzhou somewhere.

The Grand Canal is a canal that was started in the 5th century BC which spans from Hangzhou, not far south of here to Beijing 1700 km to the north. That's a pretty much half the country which is pretty amazing considering it was operating at that length in by 500 AD or so. For comparison the C&O canal in DC runs from Cumberland MD to DC about 300km was built in the 1800's and took so long and cost so much that it was never finished. The name C&O is for Chesapeake and Ohio, which is a pretty bold claim for a canal that gets no where near Ohio. The Grand Canal is still operating in some places, especially near Hangzhou. It used to be that you could still take an over night boat from Suzhou near here to Hangzhou, the NYT even did an article about it in '88, but I believe there's no longer a boat.

Suzhou and Hangzhou were supposed to be historically the most beautiful cities in China, both were said to have been visited by Marco Polo. In fact there was a proverb, which was probably and early form of a tourist ad, that said "In heaven there is paradise on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou." Suzhou was historically famous for having the most beautiful women in China and some beautiful building built during the visit of one Emperor, who supposedly came for the women. Suzhou also has some gardens that are on the World Heritage List.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Freshmen Orientation Speeches are Boring in any Language

Seeing a gym full of bored freshmen can only mean one thing, that the President of the University is about to deliver a boring 30 minute speech. Granted these freshmen are wearing military fatigues and the speech is in Chinese but the same principle applies. How, might you ask, can I know that the speech was boring when I couldn't understand any of it? Well, there are a few dead giveaways. First, when he' the only person in the room wearing a suit, everyone else is only clapping out of politeness. Second, I began to wonder around minute 20 if everyone in China yelled their speech into the microphone, but as the next speaker demonstrated, they don't. Third, I don't know exactly what he was saying or if this is just another Chinese speaking custom but when you have to clap yourself to indicate when everyone else should clap, that's a bad sign. Finally, and most obviously when about half the audience is trying to discreetly use their cell phones, and the people in the front row look like they're about to fall asleep, you've lost them.

After the President's speech there was some military official who gave a much quieter shorter speech. After a number of other various people spoke, there were about 30 people on stage and at one point I had the bad feeling they were all going to try to speak, Bryan got up to deliver his speech in English. I wasn't sure for most of it how much the students were getting, and Bryan had been told to keep the length down since they wouldn't get most of it, but toward the end when he cracked a joke a good number of them laughed, which is a good sign, a better sign when you consider the joke wasn't necessarily funny.

After the speeches were done they went off to presumably do some of their training, though what I saw them doing looked more like orientation then training. Teddy told us that when he went to school the training lasted for four weeks from before sunrise to after sunset, but now they had only two weeks. Actually he noted that they had just reduced it from three to two weeks at this school. He said that they weren't exactly going into the military after school either it was just that all public schools had some sort of boot camp like training for freshmen. Now that's the way to make sure freshmen are nervous, "Welcome to school. Here's your class assignment, now drop and give me 20."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Freshmen Move in Day

Today was that annual right of fall that sees teenagers wandering the campuses with maps and confused looks on their faces, yes friends, today is freshmen move in day. And much like in any place America it was quite a show. There were cars everywhere as parents dropped off their children's stuff and tents set up to welcome in the new class. Tomorrow Bryan, one of the people from CIEE is going to give one of the welcome speeches to the new class, it should be interesting. It's just another one of those things that looks exactly like it does in America with maybe one or two exceptions. First, the reasons that even though the freshmen are here I don't see them for another two weeks is that they have some sort of military training to complete. I saw a number walking around today holding fatigues that it looks like was just issued to them along with their bed sheets. I'm told that soon we'll see them marching around the campus, which will certainly be interesting. I asked one of the Mandarin teachers during the CIEE orientation if China had compulsorily service and he said that they sort of do. He said that they have at least some training they have to go through but a lot of it is deferred for college students.

After walking around with the freshmen for a while I headed out into Changzhou. The cheese you see cost about $7 the DVD's cost about $12 for 8. Now the DVD's are absolutely not what one would call authentic, but I still object to paying about 6 times a much for cheese as for a DVD, or at least I object to paying that much for cheddar cheese. Around town I walked thorough a canal which is done up and supposed to have sort of a touristy feel, which is at least partially ruined by that deep brown shade of the water. I have yet to see a river or canal here which looks at all clean. Just walking around I definitly get stared at sometimes by people of all ages, but the most fun ones are the kids. Three times today I was walking around when I hear some one call out "Hello" in English. Once I looked up to see a little girl and her father on an upper level of a mall looking down and waving at me. I called "Hello" back and then "Ni Hao" and waved. I walked for like another block then turned around and they were both still watching me, smiling. Some times it feels really weird to be watched all the time, but that was a lot of fun.

I took a taxi back from town, due to just missing the bus and noticing that since it's a weekend there even more crowded then usual. The taxi driver was particularly insane and I really thought at one point we were going to get into a head on collision. Here are some highlights of the crazy moves he made: To get around traffic that was going to slow for him he would drive across the double yellow lines to pass them on the left. Now he didn't just dart out across the lines and back either he would linger there for a good few hundred yards some times. The crazyist move though was when he, more the once mind you, would go out to the left, across the yellow lines of a car turning left when he two was turning left. The result were these wide left turns and him gunning it to get back over after we were out of the intersection. The most terrifying moment came when he crossed over the yellow lines while cresting a small hill, so that I'm pretty sure he couldn't tell if there were cars coming right at us just over the hill. Suffice it to say that I no longer fear death because I've ridden in a Changzhou Taxi.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Hazy Shade of Winter

I get it now. When Josh, who went to high school with me and lives in Beijing, talked about "blue sky days," I wasn't really sure what he meant, but now I get it. Changzhou is just under some sort of permanent haze. At first I thought it was just the weather, too rainy, too cloudy, and such, but I can see now that it's just always sort of hazy. From my 14th floor window the distance just disappears into a shade of white. It's not like it's hard to breath the air or anything, or even that you really notice it on a day to day basis, but there's just this permanent shade of white that surrounds the edges of everything. It gives this oddly tactile sense of what the growth is like. It's not just bug buildings and new cities, its a sort of thing that hangs in the air, like being really close to a construction site all the time. China is under construction.

We finally got our class assignments today. I got all freshmen, which I didn't really want since it means their English won't be so great. Teaching freshmen though means that I don't actually start teaching until the week of the 22nd. Which means that I have essentially nothing to do for the next two weeks. I guess I'll try to go to Shanghai and maybe Nanjing at some point, but it's just weird. It means that it will basically be a month from when I entered China before my first class. I didn't exactly come here to work but I'd like to be doing something, especially so early when I don't have a good sense of things yet. If it as later in the term I would feel more comfortable traveling around but I'm not really sure what to do so early.

My stomach is also still feeling a little off, though I did find what are basically Saltine crackers. Actually the crackers are sesame and much better then Saltines. I'm going to try and get some cheese and peanut butter from Wal-Mart. For those of you keeping score I'm up to $4.90 from Adsense so I'm basically rich now. More pictures are up, but I'm going to stop mentioning that since I'm putting at least some up pretty much every day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Dollar Forty-Two Cents

There it is, somehow I've made $1.42 from this blog. I added a little ad thing as a lark to see if it would work and I just got confirmation from Google that it was up and earning money. I'm not sure what the rate of return is but I know I make more if you go to the link and visit the sponsors so please do. It's amazing how easy it is to set up something like this. I know it was possible before but Google's program ad sense really makes it extremely easy. The adds are also amazingly targeted as they keep coming up for things like visa services and teaching in Korea. The ads you saw on websites used to be so much more general. I've told people before that I believe that as the specificity and power of internet ads grow the revenue of the internet as a whole will increase.

The internet is a place basically driven by advertising so these sort of small adds makes it possible for everyone to get in on the action. I don't know specificity how they square it with blogspot, the people who host this blog, but I imagine they give them a cut also. I'm also surprised how much money there is in it the $1.42 comes from about 130 view and maybe 1 real click, thanks Dad, so that seems to be a pretty large amount for so few people. Also I think that currently ranks as the second most money I've ever made from writing, behind the Colter Bean article, thanks Mom. Though interestingly both things were driven by me creating web pages.

Teddy had us sign our contracts today and we're finally having a meeting tomorrow to discuss teaching arrangements, but in truly Chinese fashion we were only told where and when this afternoon. I asked Teddy yesterday if there were some guidelines for what we'd be teaching and he basically said that there was no book and we could just use our imagination. We'll probably be starting the semester Monday, the Chinese teachers have already started. Steve who is a Chinese English teacher has already started work. I've been told he's a little bitter about how he, a real teacher, gets paid less, works more, and is in crummier accommodations then us "foreign experts," but he's still a really nice guy and very helpful.

I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference or what but Chinese people tend to sort of camp out in your apartment. They don't really pick up on the little body language hints that you want them to leave. Some want to practice their English and some just like hanging around. Teddy for example showed up when I was cooking dinner last night and didn't leave until well after I had fished eating. Clark told me that he once had to kick Steve out when he asked if he could take a nap on Steve's couch. More pictures are up on Flickr.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Take Care of the Teenager

I've seen whole New York Times articles on how many oddly translated phrases there are in China but this is probably the best one I've seen so far. I took the number 23 bus back downtown again to try to get some of the things I missed the first time and to just look around. I noticed that people gave up there seats to the elderly, I wasn't sure if they did that in China, and sometimes to women with children. The buses seem to have little TV's on them that show various programs, this bus was showing a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The older man next to me was getting a kick out of it. I meet one of my neighbors on the 14th floor a German woman with her maybe 5 or 6 year old daughter who didn't really speak English but looked at me curiously when I said "gutentage." Downtown I saw a rather large mosque/restaurant which surprised me so much the first time I saw it I thought I was seeing things.

I went to Wal-Mart again and got some milk and butter, it's really hard to find any dairy products in China. On my way out I passed a McDonalds and just couldn't resist. It was pretty expensive by Chinese standards about 3 dollars. There was only one size and it was about the smallest size you can get in America. They seemed to be giving out little toys with the happy meals proving that even in China kids like little pieces of plastic crap from China.

Back in my room I was just turning on some light when one of the light bulbs exploded. Now you may be thinking I meant burned out, but no it exploded as in I found pieces all around my room. This of course tripped the circuit breaker and all the power in my room went off. The front desk, I live in a functional hotel remember, was able to send some repair people up to fix the power the no one seemed to be in any hurry about finding another light bulb. I finally got around to doing some laundry which works fine expect the drier goes for about one minute then abruptly shuts itself off and refuses to turn on for a good 2o minutes, so I have cloths hanging all over my room now. I made mashed potatoes for dinner which was a little messy but a lot of fun and came out really well. I updated flickr again and you should be able to see a slide show of pictures on the blog to boot.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No Knitting

I went to Wal-Mart today on the bus with Bryan. The 23 Bus which runs basically between the center of the city and very near the school was really easy to take and only cost 1 yuan, about 15 cents, each way. The bus had a bunch of rules posted, most were simple things like no smoking, but one was no knitting. I wonder if people being poked with knitting needles is really a problem in China. The Wal-Mart its self looked like most big box type stores with maybe the exception of having a huge food section, which still had very little western food. I did see some butter cookies going for about $15 though. I got another comforter to put on top of my bed to soften it up a little. I also bought what I believe are Worther's Originals though I'm only guessing based on the packaging. I was disappointing that the Wal-Mart didn't have a greeter, some old Chinese guy welcoming people.

Outside there was some sort of advertisement going up for those mini cars they love in Europe. I guess that says something about the affluent of the city if they're advertising foreign cars. Apparently Teddy talked to Clark a little about the coming semester which will start next Monday. It looks like we'll have to teach close to 16 hours, 8 classes a week. Though in usuall Chinese fashion no one really disseminates information. For example I might have to get another blood test, apparently they ask the teachers to, but no one has told me. Also I don't even know where or where we'd have a meeting to find out about class schedules, I'm told it might be on Friday. It's a little annoying to have no idea what's going on. Clark seems disapointed in having to teach 8 classes apparently he had 3 last semester.

There has been a bunch of e-mail's going around between the members of CIEE describing where they've been set up, and while it's too long to reprint here I thought you might be interested in some highlights. A few of the people got put in Montessori schools which is pretty much the opposite of what they told us to expect. Another CIEE person recounts this story about a non-CIEE teacher: "One of the other teachers, an American named Cam I think was his name, went AWOL. Yea, he arrived the other night and I guess decided he didn't like it, and went back to the States. He just left, told no one except for one other Australian guy in an email after he had left." Another person was in a taxi that hit a dog at like 30 mph and barley even slowed down. Some of the CIEE people are teaching post-graduate students and apparently the school has given them basically no direction or textbooks just told them to more or less figure it out. That's it for today there are a few more pictures up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Food Glorious Food

This was not a good idea. My stomach was already too upset before we went out drinking in a park somewhere. Drinking always upsets my stomach a little but when you add all the weird food and beer from god knows where I felt terrible all of today. This does though bring me to something I've only talked about a little which is what the food. I knew going in that the food wasn't going to be that much like Chinese food in the States, actually I'm told Cantonese food is sort of similar, but I had no idea how different it would be. The only thing Chinese food in China has to do with Chinese food in the US is that they both involve meat and rice. Besides the obvious like things we just don't really eat here, duck feet and donkey, the food is just much more spicy, much more greasy, and much more flavorful then you'd expect. Actually the thing I find myself most craving is some blander tasting food, like a sandwich or cold cereal.

We've actually been to some pretty good restaurants including one really good tofu place that just shows you exactly how much better the Chinese are with tofu then Americans. It had better flavors and much more appealing consistencies then you'd find in American tofu. But the sort of amerage food you find is just sort of a big jumble or rice and a ton of spicy flavors. I've found a few sort of American things at the college including Oreos and fried chicken sandwiches but it's pretty hard to find. I realized the other day that I'll be able to make mashed potatoes since the market down the street sells potatoes right off the farm and even though it's heat treated, read terrible, there is milk around. I'm sure I can find salt and butter and that's basically what you need for mashed potatoes. The Wall-mart in town apparently sells more American food like cold cuts, but I bet there the most expensive slices of turkey you've ever seen.

I got a tracker set up for this blog which is pretty cool I can sort of see information about who's looking, for example I can see at least one person is viewing the blog from a Mac. Also someone asked about the new pictures, I just had to update the link so you should be able to see all the new pictures now.