Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Done Done Done

Well I'm all done with classes for this semester, and it's certainly been an interesting ride. I was so completely terrified at the beginning of how I was ever going to fill all those hours but as time went on I got a better hang of it and now it doesn't seem so bad. I just hope I don't have the small class again since after six hours a week all semester I'm just out of things to do with them. Yesterday I had Ken, Dave, and Clark over and made some pasta. I was able to find some cans of tomato sauce in Wal-Mart as well as some pasta. I started heating up the tomato sauce while I fried some sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and garlic, and mixed them all into the sauce. In the end there was probably as much stuff I mixed in as the sauce. Once again I had to fight the hot plates which love to shut off as soon as there is any smoke. In the end I made a huge pot of pasta but between all of us we actually managed to finish it off. It was fun if messy and I think I'll do it again some time. Speaking of western food I also got a toaster so that I could actually have toast with butter around for breakfast. It's always nice to have some more western foods in China.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Peppermint Pig

At the end of the Latke party I remembered that my Aunt had sent me a Peppermint Pig. A Peppermint Pig is well a big pink pig made out of peppermint. You put it in a little red bag that it comes with and smash it with a little provided hammer then eat the remaining peppermint pieces. It had become something of a family tradition, especially associated with health after my Grand-mother refused to eat it one year and later that year broke a few ribs. I had intended to bring it out at the party and have people smash it but I forgot just until the end when only Dave and Ken were left. To my surprise when I mentioned that I had something called the Peppermint Pig they knew exactly what I was talking about and noting that they had read about it on my blog. No matter who I know reads my blog I'm always sort of surprised when some one knows something that I put on my blog without me having told them. I can see that statistics that say people read my blog and I see the comments, but I just don't really believe it. They were happy to help me smash the pig and we even managed to destroy it without having a bigger hammer around, each person just had to take about two dozen whacks at a time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

100 Posts in China

I can't believe I've already come to 100 posts on my little blog. I thought I'd do a sort of retrospective listing some of my favorite posts I've done, but first here are a few interesting statistics. In almost exactly four months of doing this blog I've had a total of 1,708 visits from 244 unique visitors generating 3,303 page views, that's an average of about 14 visitors per day.The most popular Google search term people use to find me is, "please don't run over me changzhou." The top two cities for visits are Washington DC with 308 and Changzhou with 496. I've had visitors from Malaysia, Italy, the Check Republic, Denmark, Nigeria, Turkey, and Switzerland among others. I've made $154.36 from adds based on 2,909 views, 227 clicks, a 7.8% click rate, making me about $53 per 1,000 views. Here are some of my favorite posts broken down by category:


On the Road Again: My trip to Wuzhen and having our bus break down along the way

Strange Days in Nanjing: Going to Nanjing and being really really cold

The Most Beautiful Park in the World: Going to an amazing park right in Changzhou

100 Year Flood: Being in Shanghai at the beginning of the trip

I Have Arrived (Part 1) and (Part 2): Arriving in Changzhou and being amazed at the accommodations


Rock Star: Going to some sports meet and being treated like visiting royalty

Happy Halloween Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha: Throwing a huge Halloween party for the kids

To Give Thanks
: A big Thanksgiving with friends

Ringo Starr: A crazy time singing Christmas carols

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: A trip to a business expo for reasons I don't understand


How'd I Get Myself Into This Mess: My first day teaching

Loaded Questions: Other early adventures in teaching

My Favorite Post Title: Shanghaied in Chinese Monopoly

My Favorite Miscellaneous Post: This is Not Gumby

Well that's it for the retrospective I also encourage everyone to go over all the flicker pictures as many are a lot of fun and never made it onto the blog.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big Latkes in Little China

I had my latke party yesterday and it was a lot of fun. I went to the German supermarket earlier in the day to get all the things I needed. I got a bunch of potatoes, salt, eggs, onions, plus apples and sugar and the whole total came to less then 100 RMB. I tried to find applesauce or sour cream but I saw neither so I decided to make my own applesauce. That was much easier then I thought it was going to be just basically involving peeling apples and cooking them until there mush then mashing them with my potato masher. I wasn't sure exactly how much sugar to use so I went a little overboard and the applesauce came out a little sweater then I wanted it to, but besides that it was a big success. I then started preparing everything else for the party by cleaning my room more then it's probably been cleaned since I moved in. I also peeled the potatoes and chopped up one really big onion. At about 8 people began coming over, Steve and his family were first since in China if you say 8 people show up at 8 on the dot. Steve's son Mike saw my Xbox and wanted to play.

I don't have many games that are good for kids or are easy to pick up and play so after asking Steve I put in Call of Duty 4, a shooter, and Mike was playing it for pretty much the rest of the party. I had to try to remember the plot of the game before I put it in because I have one or two games where the Chinese are the bad guys but the bad guys in this game are pretty generic terrorists. After a few more people showed up I started making a bunch of latkes. After mixing this stuff together it's just basically a task of throwing the grated potatoes into a big pot of oil so that they basically float there browning. I remembered that latkes are greasy but even for China I went through a ton of oil. The biggest problem was that it got smoky in my room even with a fan on and for some reason the hot plates refuse to work if it gets to smoky so I had two and when one started complaining I'd switch to the other. Eventually I opened the door which helped enough that I could cook without switching them.

The latkes came out pretty well, better once I started making them a little thicker, but everyone seemed to like them. Latke are a good recipe for China since it's just potatoes and onions deep fired. I think that if I put some hot sauce on it I could open up my own thing selling them outside. Dave joked that I could probably make double what the street vendors made something like 500 RMB a month, all that while only work 8 or 9 hours a night. I must have made close to 30 latkes before all was said and done and my really clean kitchen area became a hige mess. It was a lot of fun though showing everyone some Jewish cooking.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas with the Kids

Christmas is a great holiday for little kids with a strange big guy in a red suit bringing you you presents. Clark dressed up as Santa for Emma the little child of one of the German teachers. Emma has gotten really good at Chinese since she goes to a Chinese kindergarten. In fact when Clark gave her a present and her mom prompted her, in German, to say thank you, she came back with Xie Xie, thank you in Chinese. I guess Santa is Chinese to little Emma, I'm sure all the toys were made in China and if you substitute elfs for dollar a day factory workers you've pretty much got it. Like a lot of little kids Emma was sort of nervious around Santa. I've noticed that no matter how big a fan children are of Disney characters they tend to freak out a little at places like Disny World. It's one thing to see Mickey on TV but a real life seven foot talking mouse is another story entirely. Emma was sweet about it though, I think she'll have to be an actress or something some day to recapture her childhood where every where she goes every person pay total attention to her. As unusual as westerners are generally a little blond haired kid is even more unusual. There was also a group of children singing Christmas Carols in Chinese in the lobby for about 15 minutes but they were done before I could get any footage. Today when I went to the noodle shop for dinner the little kid there who always likes to wave at me was back. She basically waves and I wave back and she laughs for a solid minute then does it again. Her mom tried to talk to me a little in Chinese but I couldn't really get any of it. The little kid never really responds to any of the words of Chinese I know but I do get a sort of "hello" out of her sometimes, though much less pronounceable.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in China

Well even though we got an e-mail telling us that since it was Christmas eve we didn't have to teach, I have no idea if anyone thought to tell the students, I had three classes today since I think it is my last opportunity to give finals. As Dave said on his blog it's hard to take teaching seriously when the school doesn't seem to treat it that way. Despite one meeting where they criticized some of us for missing classes it seems the school has absolutely no interest if we do anything remotely like educating the students. It seems pretty clear that were here more for the students amusement then to actually teach anything. Teddy even said he didn't really want to hire a guy named Bart since he was too old and the students might not like him. I mean that's not all bad. We are providing them a window into a culture they have very little experience with. I think the Halloween party and the Christmas Caroling alone were worth it for the students, but still it's a little disheartening when the school basically says we don't really care what you teach them or what grades you give them. I asked at one meeting what the normal range of grades is and they just said to give whatever I wanted. Honestly I probably could have skipped all my classes today and give every student 100 and the school would have been OK with it. I haven't been too homesick for Christmas since it doesn't really seem like Christmas time here even with all the trees and hats. It just seems missing anyone actually caring. I have though been more annoyed then usual with the Chinese way of doing things and that might be homesickness coming though in another guise. I guess time will tell. Till then though Merry Christmas to everyone back in the States.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chinese Gymnastics Team

Today they finally got around to fixing my lights and bathtub in maybe the most Chinese way possible. I don't know what exactly changed but Teddy showed up this morning with two guys to fix my lights and put in a new bathtub. Now in most places when going on a job that involves replacing lights on the ceiling you might think to bring a latter, especially if your maybe two inches short of five feet tall. But no, not in China, in China the better solution is clearly to stack three chairs into a pyramid on top of a hard hood floor. He didn't even think much about it either he just looked at the lights looked around and started stacking chairs. I bet if you give him six chairs he could replace any light in the whole building. They also finally came in and yanked out the old bathtub and put in a new one. Now before you go thinking their to professional or anything there were a couple of little oddities. For one thing there is a Chinese newspaper stuck halfway under the new tub which I think will be there till it disintegrate. For another thing there were four lights out in my room and for some reason they only managed to replace two of them. But the best part is what happened when they went to have a quick look at Brian's light. They again arranged three chairs to get up there and for some reason partially detached the whole big light fixture from the ceiling. They left it there for a while to go do something else and a minute or two later I here a huge crash down the hall as the whole, mostly glass, light fixture drops to the ground shattering. Now the real question is how long it will take before they get that fixed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cold Cold Cold

I got two more packages today. One was more Christmas stuff from my Aunt and her family. The other was a huge box containing my really heavy winter coat for Harbin. I felt like putting on the coat now since it was below freezing all day today. It's hard enough trying to do classes, but when your just frozen the whole time it's a lot worse. Actually, I thought it was really cold in the room until I went outside and remembered just how cold it was. The rooms are a pretty good size and have lots of windows so they never really get warm but when everything is closed it's still a lot warmer then outdoors. The building near where David and Ken live, where they do most of their teaching, has a couple of really small classrooms with everyone squeezed in there which is actually great for the winter as all the body heat really warms things up. I'd like to just start bringing my own space heater but I don't think it would do much and I'm not sure there is really any place to plug it in anyways. It is going to be really nice after the weather here and up north to go down to Vietnam where it's still beach weather. I'm told we have plane tickets now but I'm always a pretty suspicious person when it comes to traveling so I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ringo Starr

Since my last post there have been even more crazy things going on in China then usual. First, since my last post was about thing in my room being broken I thought I'd update you on that. Well not long after I had posted it I talked to Teddy to see what was taking so long with just replacing a few lights. Apparently the hotel no longer wants to be responsible for the 14th and 15th floors, which the school owns, so they are refusing to replace the lights. This means that Peter, Teddy's boss, is now getting into it with the manger of the hotel. Of course Teddy felt so bad about this that he came by my apartment later to apologies more. It's not really his fault but I didn't want to comfort him too much since I want him to put some pressure on them to get this done, if one more light here goes out I'm just going to be in the dark. Teddy solution for the whole problem was just to have me abandon my room and move across the hall. I just have this vision of them never using this room again because a few lights have gone out.

Yesterday we had a Christmas banquet with the president of the school. Teddy told us all to be there at 5:30 and no one was that surprised that the president was late, since it's sort of a status symbol, but we were a little surprised that he was an hour late. Ken was also about an hour late, and while that's not so surprising on its own, since Ken usually runs a little late, when I asked him about it he said that he forgot the time and had to ask Teddy again. When he asked Teddy again Teddy told him it was at 6:30 but didn't feel that he needed to tell the rest of us this for some reason. Teddy said that it would take too long to tell us, all of 15 seconds, but I think it was just that he wanted to make sure that we were all there before the president showed up since Teddy arrived at around 5:30 also. The banquet was nice Emma, the little daughter of one of the German teachers, was there and she's gotten really good at Chinese really fast. She was able to read part of a business card in Chinese characters a feat I don't think anyone else but Jason could do. The dinner was good and as usual there was a lot of toasting, but no Bijou this time.

The real fun started after dinner though. We decided to go Christmas caroling around the school so we all got some more beer and met out in front of one of the dorms. It was a girls dorm but they pretty much let us do what we want so we just went in. The people in charge of the dorms came out and said something to Clark, but he just handed them the business card the president of the school had given us and said it was OK by him. David had printed out the lyrics to a bunch of songs and Ken had some hats from Wal-Mart. We just walked into the courtyard between these big dorms and started belting out We Wish You a Merry Christmas. At first there were just 5 or 10 girls standing around watching us but then we heard thus huge rumbling sound all around the dorm as almost every person in the dorm came out to watch us. They went pretty crazy with applauding and taking pictures as we stood their and sang. We decided to go up to the fifth floor and the hallways were so packed with students we had a hard time getting though. On the fifth floor we started to sing again to thunderous applause from all around the dorm. After about four or five songs we left and went to another nearby dorm.

This dorm probably had already heard about it from the first dorm so as soon as we started singing there was yelling and screaming form all around us. The crowd here was probably twice as big and a lot more intense. Clark said that there were probably some girls in the crowd crying and I think he's right. We went up stairs to look for someone we knew and as we went though the halls people were pulling on our cloths and pushing all around us in the halls. The person we were looking for lived in room 509 so when we got there we knocked on the door but no one came out so our huge mob banged on the door until some very confused girl came out. Apparently this dorm has at least 3 room numbered 509. We went around this dorm singing until an angry looking woman with a red armband on came out and basically made us leave something about them having a test in the morning. This video is from the second dorm. While I remember us singing pretty well we had all been drinking for a while. The crowd you see was only a small part of it as people were watching from across the courtyard:

After that dorm the people in charge of the dorms must have been calling around since we were physically blocked from going into the next dorm. The dorm after that we got one song in before the kicked us out then we found a place outside the dorm to sing where they could here us. People at all these dorms were shouting and waving and taking a ton of pictures. We stopped for more beer and went to one last dorm. Here the lady with a red arm band didn't want to let us in either, but we pretty much just walked around here and started singing. We did two songs, Clark tried to dance with her for the second song. During the second song she started smiling anf took of the official looking arm band. We were going to leave but she insisted we go to another courtyard and do another few songs. Brian said the Christmas spirit touched her. All in all I don't think I've ever been a part of such a crazy scene in China. I was shouting stuff like "Thank you China, you've been a beautiful audience," the whole time. It shows still how unusual foreigners are here and how interested they are in us that a little off key Christmas caroling drove them crazy. Brian compared it to being like Ringo Starr not the most famous member of the Beatles but still pretty big.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things Fall Apart

Quite a few things in my room are broken right now. I have four lights out, actually this one is partially my fault since I didn't mention it after the first two went out since I didn't really like the florescent lights, but now with four out I can't really see in my bedroom anymore. My water dispenser is broken, or at least the part of it that makes the water hot is. At first I didn't use it much since I didn't feel like a lot of hot drinks in the summer, but since its gotten colder I've used it more and more until a few days ago when it just suddenly stopped working. The biggest problem by far though is my shower has developed a huge crack in the bottom and water is leaking out of it all over the floor every time I take a shower. Teddy gave me the key to the empty room across the hall so that I could take a shower their if I wanted to, but I don't really feel like going across the hall every morning. This isn't though all that surprising. In China things just have a way of breaking faster then you'd think they would. I went though three driers until I got one that worked, and even now it only sort of works. The other day three men came to my room presumably to fix the lights but they looked around realized they lacked the bulbs to fix any of the lights then left mumbling something about coming back. I guess Chinese craftsmanship doesn't stand for quality here either.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown

I've received two packages in the last two days from my parents and grand-parents. Teddy must think my whole family is rich, considering one package was so large that Teddy didn't bring it to me he just told me to go pick it up. We are having some sort of Christmas banquet this Friday sponsored by the school Teddy's text message about it was priceless, "The main president will host a banquet for the coming Christmas next Friday evening. You are cordially invited to attend the banquet which will start from 5:30 at room 211 of Mingdu Shiyuan Hotel -Teddy" Well I'm glad I was cordially invited since I don't go anywhere unless I'm cordially invited. I took some of the wrapped presents from the packages and put them under my little tree. Some of the wrapping had torn pretty good, all packages arrive sort of looking like they've been beaten for a while with a baseball bat. It's really nice to get stuff from home that I can't really get here, especially chocolate that is hopefully free of industrial cleaning chemicals. I guess I'll wait till Christmas or Hanukkah to open some of the presents, since it's nice to see them under the tree. Thanks for all the nice stuff, a menorah would have been pretty hard to find, merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah

Monday, December 15, 2008

That's China

There seem to be a growing number of things for which the only explanation is, "That's China." I was on the bus this weekend going to the mall to do some shopping when I heard what I thought was the sound of some one coughing. I looked over to see who it was only to discover that it was an old woman not coughing but throwing up into a bag she brought with her. The amazing thing is that she wasn't throwing up a little, she kept at it on and off for a minute or two before I got off, and she didn't seem to be very bothered by it either. She wasn't exactly falling on the floor or clutching her stomach she was just sitting there quietly throwing up into a bag. I got off that bus as fast as I possibly could since I don't know what she had, but I didn't want it. I really have no interest in dying of a disease that is so rare or unusual that they have to name it after me. Why was an old woman throwing up on the bus? Why did no one else on the bus seem to care? Why? That's China.

I've been making plans for what to do with the six weeks I get off for winter break here. I think I'm going to go up to Harbin in the north with Ken and Dave first. Harbin is unbelievably cold but it has skying and some sort of ice festival. We wanted to try and get plane tickets but the school can't seem to tell us what are schedule will be for the last two weeks. Unannounced to us they seem to want to give just the westerners off for Christmas, which would just screw with my schedule, then the whole school gets off a few days for New Years. This means that for two weeks in a row the same classes will have to be moved. When they will be set for is not something the school seems to want to tell me. Why are they so slow in planning and disseminating information? That's China. We finally decided it would be cheaper to take the train there and back from Harbin, but despite the fact that the train system is clearly run by a computer, you can't buy tickets more then 11 days in advanced and can't buy tickets at all unless your in the location you want to leave from, which means there are no round trip train tickets. Why? That's China.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Little Bit Embarrassing

Well we had a party last night with some some of the Americans and some of the Chinese students. We actually played beer pong which was a lot of fun, and even got some of the Chinese to play as well. I got a bit drunk by the end of the party and started picking some people up. Being sort of drunk this didn't go so well and I fell while holding one girl and hurt my knee a little and broke her cell phone. Ken gave her some money for it and he knows her a little so I can pay her back whatever it costs. He said that she wasn't too mad and the money isn't much of a problem, it's just that I know this is going to get around campus. The students talk about everything when it comes to the Americans, I tend to know what Ken and Dave are doing before they tell me just from hearing it from my students. Also China is a bad place to be paranoid that everyone is talking about you since they are constantly, but I guess I'm just going to have to hear about this one for a while.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teddy Got Back

It was Teddy's birthday today. We got him a cake and Dave and Ken sang happy birthday to him in Chinese. Birthdays aren't really such a big deal in China Teddy said that his parents didn't even say happy birthday to him. Our cake had "Teddy Got Back" written on it since for some reason, which he tried to explain but I still don't understand, his e-mail is We hung around his office for a while and had some cake and talked with him and his assistant a student named Kerry. Afterwords Teddy sent me this text message, "Thanks for everything you did for me. This is the most surprising birthday I've ever had in my life. Teddy will come back in 100%." I'm not sure what the last sentence means but it was nice anyways. Ken also got him a poster of some Chinese pop singer he thinks is good looking. Here is a video of us surprising him:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

English Corner Revisited

I've mentioned English corner before the thing on Thursdays where a bunch of Chineese students gather around whichever American teachers showed up to talk to them. I say whichever but it's usually just Ken and David. I'd like to go, the students love it and I want to make nice with the school since I'm interested in staying another year, though I'm not sure they really have any idea what's up with English corner, but I just hate it. By Thursday night I'm tired and I've just completed all my classes for that week. Also I just don't know what to do. It started the first time I showed up with being mobbed by 100 students standing around me in a circle looking at me, I just don't know what to say. I felt like I'd have to start preforming magic tricks to keep them all entertained. I see other people talking to the whole crowed and making them laugh, but I'm just not a performer. I don't mind speaking to crowds but I have no idea how to engage that many people. I just end up answering questions from them until some one new walks by and asks me the same questions again. Even just going for like an hour seems like torture. One student asked me last time why I checked my cell phone so much, I didn't want to say that I was really impatient for this to end. I like teaching a lot at times, but English corner has such a different vibe. I guess I'm just not cut out for life as a street performer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guys and Dolls

The boys and girls in my classroom act almost constantly like there in elementary school when it comes to anything having to with one another. It's amazing that anyone in this country ever goes on a date with the distance they keep between each other. The only time when you ever see a boy sit next to a girl is when: A, I make them or B, they are already dating. In one class I needed everyone to be in twos for an activity and there were three boys so one had to be put with a girl. When I had the girl move over to where the boy was sitting she looked at me with such an expression of shock that you'd of thought I'd asked her to marry him. Not that it takes a lot to start these classes giggling but any mention of anything like, marriage, kissing, etc just sends them into convulsions. Dave suggested at one point that we should ask the school if we could teach them basic sex ed since I don't think they ever got a class like that. Part of it comes from the fact that China still has gender relations more like the US in the 50's then the west today. Before the Communist revolution here China was a society with little regards for any rights for women. The basic Confucian idea was that the women should obey their fathers, then their husbands, and if widowed their sons. The Communists pushed gender equality but it's come out unevenly. You still don't really see many women in the upper echelons of the party or in other positions of power. In fact its only recently that women were even close to half of the students at university. In my classes they make up about 90% and a girl is always the class monitor who should essentially be the best student.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's really starting to be Christmas time in China. I wasn't sure if they were going to celebrate Christmas at all since the country is officially atheist and they don't seem to big on most western holidays. But there is definitly a lot of Christmas spirit in China. The hotel in particular has a ton of Christmas stuff. They have a big tree outside, pictured to the left, and have decorated the lobby with a big Christmas sign some lights little reindeer and some small trees. Also the cold weather is making the whole place feel more like Christmas. The stores in particular are really into it, I guess any chance to embrace a holiday the involves buying decorations then buying presents is OK with all the big stores. I wish it would snow a little for Christmas but I think it doesn't usually snow here and even when it does it's a lot later. We are thinking of asking the school if we can go around caroling, I wanted to ask them since it comes a little close to religious stuff which they can really freak out about. I'm also planning on throwing some sort of little Hanukkah party, I found a grater so I can do Latkes for the people here. I just love the holiday season, even though I'm not at home, it's by far my favorite part of the winter. Plus I'm getting about 6 weeks off in about a month, and getting a bunch of extra money since I get paid while I'm off and I get a small travel stipend plus I get half my ticket reimbursed now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Strange Days in Nanjing

On Friday morning we met up outside the hotel to go to our train. A Chinese guy named Samson, who's a friend of Dave’s, drove us. Samson was a factory manager of some kind who got laid off not too long ago and decided he wanted to learn a bunch of English. I'm not sure exactly how Dave met him but he offered to drive Dave anywhere so he could practice his English. It's not too common to have a car here so it's pretty nice having someone willing to drive us around just to get a chance to speak with us. In the US I'm just a recent college graduate and an English major, not such hot in demand skills, but it seems as soon as I stepped off the plane here I was an expert who possesses highly in demand and valuable skill, namely that I grew up speaking English. We got to the train station and onto the D train, which is the faster of several trains that runs along the Nanjing to Shanghai route. Once in Nanjing we got on their nice Subway system, it's pretty easy to figure out since it's only one line that snakes around the city. We got to the hotel pretty quick with the idea that we would put our bags down then see what was around. That didn't so much work out, here Dave explains:

In Wuzhen we didn't have passports either but it wasn't a problem, I guess in Nanjing there just stricter about this sort of thing. We weren't really sure what we were going to do but we decided to see some of the things near the hotel we were trying to stay at first. There was a temple of some sort close to there so we walked in that direction passing about a million shops selling all manner of things, including at leant four KFCs. We saw a canal near the temple with boat rides and I thought it would be fun to take a little boat ride around so we paid about 50 RMB and got on one of the boats. There was no one else anywhere around the boat area and the people who were supposed to drive the boats just sort of looked at us and went back to their card game. Dave suggested that the boats might only leave when full which would mean that our trip to Nanjing would consist of not getting a hotel and then spending all day sitting on a boat to nowhere. It was warm on the boat though so we decided to wait it out. It has been getting colder and colder in China and I think this weekend was unseasonably cold on top of that. It was pretty much in the Upper 20's to low 30's all weekend, and while we had warm cloths being outside all the time just left us freezing.

A Chinese girl got on the boat eventually and after about another 30 minutes a tour guide of some sort and someone to drive the boat came to and we were off. The tour guide would occasionally say things in Chinese that we didn't understand and the only other Chinese person was busy talking to the person driving the boat. She may have been in training to be a tour guide, I've heard that some of the people go on the tours so they can learn what's up and try to get a job giving them. The boat ride was nice passing some interesting looking buildings by the side of the canal, and some really colorful ostentatious tourist crap that they had built there. The canal and the buildings beside it were much nicer and cleaner then the buildings and water I'm used to seeing. The water was a dirty green, but it didn’t' smell or anything. In fact Nanjing as a whole is a pretty fancy built up city with some really nice and clean downtown areas, a lot more like Shanghai then Changzhou.

After that we looked in the guide book and decided to go up the mountain at the edge of the city. You could either walk up or take a skiing chair lift type device to the top. Dave and Ken of course wanted to walk but there was no way I was climbing a mountain so I got them to take the chair lift. It was pretty cold out so there weren’t that many people up on the mountain. On the lift there was a beautiful view of Nanjing and the surrounding area. It was still extremely hazy, though with the weather this was probably the clearest it ever gets and we could see pretty far. The city is pretty beautiful and the haze actually had a sort of pretty mist like effect on it. The most amazing thing was that all the land around the mountain was green and covered in trees except for a few temples and what not. I don't think I've seen anything resembling a nature preserve in China and this clearly was since the city could have easily sprawled in this direction. The chair lift took a while to go up about half a kilometer but there was this once Chinese guy who seemed to be walking along the mutinous path underneath the chairlift and was beating us up the mountain. He was really kicking it up this path though we eventually overtook him once it got really steep.

It was really cold up on the lift with the wind blowing and everything. We almost accidentally got off at the half way point since it looked like a stop and you couldn't see from there that this was just the much lower second peak of the mountain. On top there was a little park with a beautiful panoramic view of the Nanjing and most of the surrounding area. Down a little lower was a big Buddha statue that we all took pictures with. There was one guy running around the park with no shirt on which was pretty amazing considering I was freezing in a T-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, and hat. As we came down toward the chair lift again a bunch of Chinese students saw us and all wanted pictures with us. With the number of different students and all the different pictures they wanted we must have taken 30 pictures before they left. It must be what it's like to be a celebrity to be just walking around minding your own business when all of a sudden you’re mobbed for pictures. It also shows just how unusual Americans are that where ever we go people want to take pictures with us to show their friends, "look no really I met an American!"

After we got back down we decided to go to the Tomb of Dr. Sun who is considered the founder of modern China by both the Communists and the people the defeated. To get there we took a bus, which in Nanjing apparently don't stop unless you jump up and down furiously to get their attention. Even when you do get on the bus they drive around these two lane roads on the mountain at about 60 mph and take every turn in such a way you think you're about to be thrown out of the bus. It took us a few wrong stops, the character for the tomb and for a botanical garden look similar until we got there. Like almost anything in China entrance wasn't free and they sold crap about every 10 feet. In America it would be pretty rude to sell toys, and food at a guy’s tomb, but I guess that's how they get 9% growth. The tomb was up a long walkway then up 400 or so steps. The tomb itself was nice and simple but the view and the look of it perched onto of all those steps was pretty amazing.

After the tomb it was getting late so we decided to go to the French restaurant owned by the French guy I met at the Changzhou Expo. It was pretty far across town so instead of just getting a taxi all the way there we took a bus that was going in more or less the right direction until we asked a Chinese person and she told us that we should probably get off here. We then tried to hail down a cab to get us there. For some reason it took us probably 30 minutes to get a cab including two that seemed to be empty but just drove on by. We were even starting to get worried since in China dinner time usually ends a little after 7 and it was getting close to 7 already. We finally got a cab that got us there though he had to study the little map on the back of the business card I had about four different times to find it. Les 5 Fens was though open until 10, extremely late for China, so we had no problem getting a table.

The menu was written in Chinese, French, and English and all the wait staff spoke at least some English, though they didn't exactly have the French pacing down. The restaurant itself was pretty with yellow walls, French pictures, and low lights. We each ordered three courses. I got foie gras for a starter, a lamb dish for a main course, and an apple tart with ice cream for dissert. They even had more European drinks and I had a glass of Kir. The food was all really good and very French. It was pretty expensive by Chinese standards, we spent 400 RMB total or about $60. I'm probably glad that there isn't a restaurant like this in Changzhou since I think I'd eat there constantly. It was just really nice to have something really western in the middle of China. After that Dave called a person he knows who lives in Nanjing and asked if we could stay with him for the night he was busy doing something," playing with my friend," so we went to a popular foreigner bar to wait for a while. While it took forever to find the French restaurant it took telling the cab driver two characters to let him know exactly were the bar was.

The bar was down a flight of stair almost exactly under a McDonalds. When we got there they told us there was a cover charge because an American metal band would be playing. We didn't have a lot of cash so we went a street over to an ATM. It was so warm in the inside area near the ATM that we hung out there for about 20 minutes before we went back to the bar. At the bar a Chinese metal cover band was banging out some music when we got there:

In between songs we got this mini keg and brought it to one of the table in the back. The bar was pretty empty. It was about four Americans presumably in the metal band, and about 10 Chinese people including two warm up bands. Some of the Chinese people were really into it banging there head in time with the music. China is not a really good country for heavy metal music. Here the most generic annoying pop I've ever heard is more popular then you could possibly imagine. The Backstreet Boys could play every city in China and never run out of shows to do. I think these 10 Chinese people may have represented every metal fan in a city of 6 million. After a few songs the American metal band, called Corrupt Absolute came on. Now some people stumble in cliché, some people just can't avoid cliché, and some people embrace it whole heartedly. Corrupt Absolute must hit every conceivable metal cliché I can think of. There songs are indistinguishable guitar riffs and drum solos. They yell every lyric in a voice designed to be as course as possible and there songs are all about death and suffering.

The singer introduced one song this way, "This is a song for my mother, it's called Fist Fuck Her." Actually I'm not sure if it was "Fist Fucker," "Fist Fuck Her," or even "Fist, Fuck Her." But either way he seemed mad. He then went on with, "Let's slow it down for a minute. This is a love song, it's called Postmortem Slut." The final song had a call and response section were he screamed "I don't care about you, fuck you," to which the small crowed would call back, "fuck you." I stole one of there posters off the wall and noticed that this is part of a whole Chinese tour there doing. I can't possible imagine there's any money in this, or that any metal band really wants to play China. After they were done a lot more people showed up, they were probably waiting for the cover charge to be lifted.

After a while we headed up to the McDonalds to wait for Dave's friend. He finally showed up and brought us to his house around 1am. His apartment was pretty nice with a couple of rooms. He is a student at our school in Changzhou but I think he's from Nanjing so his parents gave him this place to live whenever he's in Nanjing. There was a bed and a couch, Dave and Ken slept on the bed while I was on the couch. The bed was small but they got a blanket which I had a thin sheet. For some reason even when they have heat the Chinese don't seem to like to use it so despite that I had on all my cloth, my shoes, my hat, and my jacket, I thought I was going to freeze to death at night. In the morning the guy we were staying with had to leave pretty early so he wasn't there by the time we all got up. We wanted to see the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, about the Rape on Nanjing, so we got up and took a cab there.

The museum was actually free, though we did have to wait in a line to get in. The Rape of Nanjing was during World War II when the Japanese conquered Nanjing started raping and murdering a huge number of civilians left in the city. The Chinese say about 300,000 civilians were killed in the months following the takeover of Nanjing, in either organized extermination or just random killings. International estimates are somewhat lower but with maybe even double the number killed in the areas surrounding Nanjing. The museum itself is big and a lot of it is out doors. It is built around the mass graves of some 10,000 victims of the massacre a fact which they confirmed by the excavation the very top of the grave in one section. The museum is incredibly detailed and fiercely anti-Japanese, though this isn't quite so hard to understand. The Japanese have quite a history of not really apologizing for the massacre and for doing things to inflame the Chinese. In fact much of the museum seems carefully put together to respond to any claim that the massacre didn't happen or was exaggerated.

The most disturbing part comes from a series of photos by Japanese solders of people about to be executed with a sword or heads sitting of barricades. Another interesting note is the downplaying of the involvement of Nazi Germany in the relief efforts after the Japanese left. There is a flag from the Red Swastika Society next to two from various Red Crosses. One German businessman there who helped shelter some of the Chinese was also the learned of the Nazi part in China and was commended for his action by Hitler. The museum though takes almost no note of this. It was still a very powerful museum and interesting to see.

Finally, we went to a section of the old wall which is a huge 60 or 70 foot wall that used to stretch around most of the city. Constructed in only about 20 years and containing about a billion stones it's no wonder the Chinese were able to build things like the great wall. In fact Ken suggested that if we never get to the Great Wall then we could pass off the pictures from Nanjing and no one would know the difference. Besides this huge wall was a gate, actually a series of four gates that seemed so big and intimidating that it's a wonder how anyone ever attacked this city. Each stone in the wall was stamped with the location it was from who was in charge of it and when it was made so that it was easier to fix if it broke. Some sections of the wall have been clearly rebuilt, though the place we were at makes no mention of this, but it's really a site to behold. Probably more then half of the wall still exists today as well, an estimate to its engineering.

We returned to the train station and got a ticket back to Changzhou; though since the D trains are so popular we had to wait about an hour. The rest of the trip back was pretty easy and it was really nice just to get inside somewhere really warm for a change.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cold Classrooms

I may have mentioned it in a previous post, honestly with more then 80 posts now it sometimes hard to remember what I've already talked about and even harder to go back and check all the posts, but the classrooms here are not heated in the winter. Now at first blush that doesn't seem to be such a big problem since it never gets what I'd call Wisconsin cold here, but once I had been teaching for a while I realized that even though it never got as cold as in Wisconsin I can't get in out of the cold. It's one thing to be freezing on a walk to class and another to be cold the whole damn class. It means I can never really take off my jacket, especially for those frigid 8 am classes, and that sometimes I want to wear a hat also.

I asked Teddy how come all the students don't freeze to death whenever it gets down to like 1 or 2 degrees Celsius and he pointed out that that was one advantage of packing them 8 to a room. It seems funny when the school provides me this huge heated room with hardwood floors and the students are packed 8 to a room about the size of a closet without heating. I guess it just shows again how much the school likes having foreign teachers, and maybe they realize that if I had to live like the students I wouldn't have made it through a week here. It looks like me, Ken, and Dave are going to Nanjing this weekend for two or three days. I ordered the train tickets over the phone with the help of one of my students and like an hour and a half later a guy shows up at my door with all three tickets at a really nominal fee, plus in China you don't have to tip anyone.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Economic Slowdown

I hear more and more in the press, the foreign press reading the Chinese press seems to be mostly a waste of time, about how the economic slowdown is effecting China. Down at first from 12% growth to something like 9 it may be in fact lower then that, though it's always a little hard to gauge since the party doesn't exactly love transparency. What I wonder is what a slowdown or even a recession would look like in China. 8% growth may seem like a lot but when you've been planing on 12 it actually means people end up out of a job and building end up half built or empty. I see some of that here, though with the rate they build things I can't tell if that's just normal. I read a story about how there are a lot of labors from the country side who now that some of the work has dried up are looking to go back home which makes the local government nervious about a huge influx of unemployed people. I wonder how much blame the government here would git in a full fledged crises since they take so much of the credit when things go well and have built the system to make themselves totally responsible for everything. One story was about a guy from Wuxi who couldn't find more work and had to go home. Wuxi is probably the closest city to Changzhou being about a stones throw to the East. While my job isn't really all that likely to be effected, since there still aren't nearly enough foreigners to go around, it's not only the US that's effected by all this. Who new some bad homes loans in Dayton, Ohio where going to put people out of work in Changzhou, China; welcome to the global economy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

One Thousand Years of Moving Stones

There getting a lot of work done on the huge new library that is basically going to be the center piece of the school. It looks like it will be at least five stories bigger then the next tallest building on campus and given it's central location almost all of the roads on campus run either to or from it. In fact even the little canal which runs through campus is being diverted to better accentuate the building. One of the buildings I teach in is basically next to the library, though its actually a little distance from it, and has a road that leads right to it. The only problem is that while at some points that road is about three lanes wide by the time it get near the library it's tiny only about one lane. So they decided to widen it before they finish the library.

The only problem is that this extension runs right through one side of a little pond they have on campus. So starting about a week ago they took out all the trees lining the pond then drained the water out so that they could build some of it back up and extend the road. It looks like the first thing they are doing is building a wall made of stones and mud and what I hope is some concrete in the middle of the pond so that they can fill some of it in and build the road on a solid foundation. This all sounds pretty normal, and it is, except for the way they are building it. In America they would have brought in cranes and bulldozers and jackhammer and whatever else, here they build this road the same way they've probably been building it for more then a thousand years, with man power. I To put these stones in place in the bottom of the drained pond two guys attach a rope around one of the stones, which must way more then 100 pounds, and the ropes attach to a big piece of bamboo which is then hoisted on the shoulders of two men who carry it to its place in the dry pond. In less then a week they managed to build a wall about 80 feet long and about 10 feet high using not one visible piece of machinery.

For all the changes people say have come and are coming to China there are still people in one of its most central industrial cities who build walls in the same way that there ancient ancestors where probably building walls. It usually seems that everything today is different and that even a farmer of 50 years ago would barley recognize the modern implements of his trade there are still people moving rocks in the oldest way in the world, by carrying them. In one sense it has this great feeling of tradition that if it ain't broke don't fix it. In another it just proves how cheap labor here is that it's much cheaper to have a ton of people moves rocks by hand then have a machine do it for them. But in another sense anyone who thinks that the time of China's ascension is at hand, anyone who thinks that in the next 50 years China will supplant America as the worlds hegemonic power should come to Changzhou and see people moving rocks the same way they did a thousand years ago.