Tuesday, March 30, 2010

QQ Friends

QQ as I mentioned in some past post is a Chines chatting program with more users than there are Americans. My students, and various other people from English corner have been very excited by the fact that I use QQ. But try as I might I just can't stand to spend more than a few hours a week on QQ since I get inundated with conversations from students. It's fine to talk to one or two people while I'm surfing the internet, and useful to talk to people like Carrie who are away from Changzhou, but I seem to end up in 5-7 conversations at once. And these tend not to be easy conversations either. One person will just want to know more about what I'm doing on a minute by minute basis while another will be recounting some story of how their friends family will disown them if they don't do such and such, another person will be talking about their breakup with every hyperbole they can think of, another will be asking complex political or economic questions, while finally a last person will be having a conversation consisting only of emoticons, those little picture of a happy face and what not. It's exhausting to try to keep so many balls in the air all at once and I can't even read a news website while seven different people are trying to talk to me. It's not that I don't like QQ, it's just a chat program after all, but I just can't keep up with the volume. Maybe I should only get on at night after 80% of the students have gone to bed. It's nice to have so many people trying to talk with me but it can be a little much. They say that in the US most people surf the internet for news while in China its for entertainment and chatting, that's a fact I can certainly believe.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

For some time already I've been thinking about if I should stay in Changzhou next year, go somewhere else in China, or even somewhere else in Asia. At the beginning of the year my plan was definitly to go to some other part of China for a year or two, but the more I think about it I'm just not sure. For one thing the school here is really great. They treat me really well and I have a really low amount of work even by foreign teacher standards. Also the huge breaks and decent pay allows me to travel to a lot of interesting places in other parts of Asia. Finally it looks more and more as if a number of the teachers here may be staying for another year and I've really enjoyed hanging out with them this year. But on the other hand Changzhou just isn't as surprising as it used to be. Weird things still happen but I'm just getting more used to them, though this also could be I'm just getting more used to the oddness that is China. Also if I moved somewhere else I'd have an opportunity to see a part of China that's very different from where I live right now. I've been looking at job posting on Dave's ESL Cafe and a few of them seem really interesting so I guess what I'm going to do is to apply for some of those and just see what happens. If I don't like what I get, or if I'd just rather stay in Changzhou I can always stay for another year, well assuming that the school hasn't gotten tired of me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Sights and Smells of Changzhou

Before St. Patrick's Day I went with Sean and Sarah to Metro, the really big foreign supermarket up in the north of the city, to look for some Guinness. We didn't find any, someone must have been there earlier and cleaned out their stock, but on the way there I got a taste of the sort of thing that only happens in China. One little kid who was on the bus with his father decided that he couldn't hold it and dropped hid pants and peed right on the floor. Now the kid wasn't a baby, that is to say he could have held it long enough to at least get off the bus, and he didn't do this by himself, his father helped. What's amazing besides the fact that there was a little kid peeing in the corner of the bus was that no one seemed particularly disturbed by this. I basically ran as far away as I could once I saw what he was up to but no one else even seemed to shy away. When he was done the dad just went to the front of the bus got a mop and tried to clean it up a little. They got off a stop or two later and for the rest of the trip I just had the urge to yell to anyone standing over there, "No! Don't put your bag there a little kid just peed there." I think if I stay in China long enough I'll never be able to be in polite society in the US again since living in China just erodes my manors. I am though used to oddness and disgusting things that would have terrified me before coming to China. It's not uncommon to just be walking down the street and be hit by a horrible smell, something like an open sewer, with no obvious source. After coming back from India I spent a while feeling that China was really clean and civil, but China has a way of reassertion itself that's hard to ignore.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thailand – Imagine

The next day we really didn’t do anything besides sit on the beach. We sat on the beach and we read, we sat on the beach and dried, and we sat in the water, that was about it. Since there’s not much to talk about about what we did I want to focus a little on some interesting observations about Thailand. Thai people seem pretty laid back in general. Maybe it’s a tropical climate thing, but no one seemed too rushed, this is especially noticeable when coming from China whose main export is hurrying. The Thai do share some things with the Chinese despite, or because of, being darker skin than the more northern Asians they still use skin whitening cream, and most of the girls in the ads seen barely Asian. If KFC is the national store of China 7-11 made its homes squarely in Thailand. It’s possible to go into a 7-11 and get a Slurpy and by the time you’ve drunk it be standing at another 7-11. Maybe the only thing to distinguished Thai 7-11’s from their American counterparts is the greater liquor selection.

Haggling is omnipresent in Thailand. Even sometimes when you get into a metered cab you’ll end up having to haggle with the driver. That touts are also present in much stronger force than I’ve seen in China, maybe because tourism makes up such a large part of the economy in Thailand. Thailand has all that tourism for good reason, it’s just riddled with spectacular beaches. Pretty much anywhere there is coastline, and going all the way down to Malaysia there’s a lot of coastline, there are great beaches, especially just offshore on all the islands. The bus system in the country is really good also so getting to those beaches isn’t a problem.

Our beach was pretty long, the island actually had far more coastline where the jungle just came down to the water than beaches. A number of hotels were situated right along the beach and I rented a chair for the whole day for about $1. There were a few young people on the beach but mostly besides us it was just old European tourists. The water was amazingly clear and when the sun was out turned almost translucent blue. The beach had an incredibly gradual slope so I could wade out and get more than 50m offshore before I had to swim. There were no real waves to speak of and while I’ve seen beaches with warmer water before they’re pretty few and far between.

Later in the day Peter, Sean and Sarah decided to rent motorbikes and tour around the island a little. My response given that none of them had ever driven one of those things, and that the roads on the island twisted up and down hills enough that we once even saw a local slide and fall off their moto was to ask them what music they wanted played at their funeral. Sean wanted “Only the Good Die Young.” They did make it back OK, as is evidenced by the fact that as you are reading this more than a month has passed since the day in question and you surely would have heard about one of my friends dying in Thailand, so we went to dinner.

The place we wound up that had a nice mix of American and Thai food, pretty common in tourist places, including some of the better egg rolls I’ve had in Thailand. When I first came to China the one food I hoped that they really ate was egg rolls, and I’ve never really got over my disappointment that they don’t, so on this vacation I tried to eat egg rolls with every meal. The restaurant was really great though for its cover band who thankfully didn’t interpret playing for the dinner crowd as one step away from Madison Square Garden and weren’t too loud. The band did good covers a pretty much every classic 60’s and 70’s song from John Lennon’s “Imagine” to Johnny Cash’s “Cotton Fields.” They had pretty heavily accented English but they played with a lot of heart, changing up the songs enough to make their unusual voices work with it. At one point a few people even got up and danced. I’ve been wondering why it is that I listen to my parents’ generation’s music but they didn’t listen to their parent’s music much. Is it that people today are more accepting of a wider variety of music, or was there just something uniquely better about 60’s music? Will the next generation go back and listen to Nirvana or will we all still be listening to “Hey Jude?”

Finally got some photos up both here and on Flickr

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Socratic Method

It used to be that it took me almost no time to do my lesson plans. Oral English just doesn't take a lot of work to plan out. Especially once I got the hang of what worked and what didn't lesson plans took maybe an hour at most. Sometimes I'd basically still be deciding what to do on my way to class. But now with all these lecture courses I probably spend at least four hours a week planning. My lesson plans have ballooned from maybe one full page to more than five. What really gets me is sometimes I don't know if all this extra planning really helps so much. I was preparing my lesson on Ancient Greece for this week and I got to the part about the Socratic Method, asking a lot of questions, and I realized that I was asking the students almost no questions this week. I'd like to think I'm getting better at these lectures, it's certainly getting easier for me to do them. But half the time I still have a hard time knowing exactly what is getting through to the students and why. I find a lot of this stuff interesting but that doesn't necessarily mean that they do or that I'm conveying it in an interesting way. I try to include more stories and questions with my history, but I still don't know. There are some classes where I can see that half the class is really engaged, but I just can't tell about the other half. My classes this semester are also a lot bigger than my ones last semester which makes checking up on all the students just that much more difficult. I've also been struggling with coming up for a topic for a speech I'm supposed to give this year. Last year I did sex education, and now I just can't find any way to follow that up. Or at least any way that won't get me kicked out of the country.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Time is Here

Well the weather couldn't possibly have taken a nice turn recently. Starting a few days ago it's gotten progressively warmer and warmer every day. Today I had my window open all day and it was warm enough I could have worn shorts. Of course the students were still bundled up like it was the middle of winter while I was sweating. I used to think the cloths were just all about season and not about what the weather actually was, but really I think it has more to do with a fear of the cold. In the hottest part of Summer the students will be wearing shorts and t-shirts but if it's even a little cold, or if it's cool at night but hot during the day, the students will be bundled up. The worst is always with babies who seem like they are about to suffer from heat stroke in the middle of the winter. It's really common on the buses to see little kids with bright red cheeks since while it may be cold outside they are wearing about seven layers of clothing. I managed to almost completely avoid the winter this year by being in Thailand and India during most of it. Oddly though I'm sad I missed all the snow in DC this year. I'd love if it had snowed a little in Changzhou while all the students were around just so I could go throw some snowballs at them. I wonder what there reactions would be?

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's Old is New Again

I ended up getting another class, bringing my current total up to a whopping 8 hours a week, from Sarah as she got a new Oral English class from the school. The class I got from Sarah was the same type of Society and Culture of English Speaking Countries that I taught last semester. I checked to make sure they weren't literally the class I had last semester which would have made a lot of the material a little repetitive. Now of course the students haven't been told that they will suddenly be having a new teacher, why should anyone inform them of about anything, but I was quite surprised when I walked in the door and recognized a class that I had taught in my first semester in Changzhou. Now there are both good and bad things to having a class that I already taught for one semester. On one hand I know some of the students better, and they know more what I expect as well. But it can also mean that it's a lot harder to control the class. In the beginning there's a lot of distance from the students but as I get closer to them it actually makes them more difficult to control as they see me less as an authority figure. Also despite my belief from years in public schools that control is necessary for education I really a softy when you get down to it, I just don't really like punishing the students so I usually avoid it if I can. When they know more about what exactly they can get away with it can create problems. In an odd way having the same class again can actually be a very different experience.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The People You Meet in Changzhou

Now there really aren't too many foreigners of any stripe in Changzhou but most of the ones I've meet, whether it be in the DvD store or at the train station, are also here teaching English. Besides the school I teach at there are several other colleges, a number of high schools, and a couple of private companies in Changzhou. But from time to time I meet some foreigners who aren't here teaching English. Yesterday me and most of the other JSTU teachers were at a restaurant/bar that caters pretty heavily to foreigners serving things like salads and pizza that you don't see much around Changzhou. The owner of this place a French guy is one such type of person I've seen who doesn't teach English. There are some, though not many, people in China who run restaurants which cater mostly to foreigners. Often these people have other jobs also but are usually seen at the places they run. Yesterday I also meet a couple of people who were in Changzhou as high school exchange students. Two of the students were basically on a gap year between high school and college and they did actually take some classes at a real Changzhou public high school. The other category I see sometimes is business people. They are usually easily distinguishable from the teachers by the suit and tie they wear. Ken meet with one the other day who had e-mailed him after reading his blog. Finally I occasionally meet the closest thing we have to foreign tourists in Changzhou when some foreigners come to stay with friends who fit into one of the other categories. Now of course 90% of all the foreigners I meet are here to teach either English or some other foreigner language, and I meet few enough of them to begin with, but there are at least a few other types of people in Normal City China.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

United Breaks Guitars

It's sad that I can tell stories to people who have only started flying more recently about the old days of air travel. Back when the stewardesses still pretended to be nice to you. Back when you still got a snack on pretty much any flight, and a meal on every flight more than three hours. Back before the airlines had even taken the pillows and blankets off of most planes. But these certainly aren't the halcyon days of air travel. The airlines have taken everything and the kitchen sink out of planes, and the people who still work for airlines, be they stewardesses, the check in people, or the Indian's you talk to on the phone, basically hate you for have the audacity to patronize their business. When I came back to China this time I came back on a frequent flier ticket, now normally this really shouldn't make any difference, you can't book the return more than a few months out usually but you can change it later. When the tickets was booked my dad booked the ticket he even asked them to make sure that I could move it to a more appropriate date later in the year. So the other day I called up United to move my ticket to the middle of July. The very confused guy from India after first informing me that there were no tickets at all in the month of July said instead that I could only book the return flight within one year of when the ticket was issued instead of the much more sensible policy of within one year of when the first flight was.

This he said was true despite the fact that you can book tickets something like nine months in advance. On normal tickets it's the date of the flight not when the tickets was issued, but United makes a special effort to screw any customer who has the gall to use them enough to accrue a decent number of frequent flier tickets. So basically United screwed me. By telling me one thing on the phone the first time and then refusing to take any responsibility for it they made my return flight totally worthless. The only good thing to come out of this was that while getting a new return tickets with American Airlines there was some promotion going on so for less frequent flier miles than United would have charged for a one way ticket I ended up with a business class ticket. Now that's how you reward a frequent flier. You may have already seen these but about a year ago this guy who had his guitar smashed on a United flight made a hilarious video and song about it and posted it on YouTube. Now it has more than 8 million hits and there are two more songs to boot. So here is "United Breaks Guitars" and it's two follow up songs, trust me if you haven't seen them they are very much worth watching.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

School Days

Well classes have finally started again bringing my three odd months of vacation to a close, or maybe I should say they have sort of started again since right now I only have 6 hours of class a week. I might get more hours, I'll know by the end of this week, but for now I have basically nothing. My class this time is called "Introduction to Western Culture," though the book says European Culture, which is different from my class last semester as it focuses more on things like ancient Greece and Rome, and more on writers and artists then on historical figures. This class could be fun and I hope I can apply some of the lessons I've learned from teaching a lecture last semester to this class. I had my first class Monday and I liked the students in there. I've met a few of them before, they were Ken's students last year, in fact one of the students in that class is the one I dropped while somewhat intoxicated at a party a year ago. They're juniors now and they have a pretty good command of English and even in the first class were willing to raise their hand when not called on. It's funny that now in the middle of my second year of teaching with classes that I'm much more prepared to handle I still feel really nervious before class. It's always worst before the first class of the week but even before the last one I feel a rush of nerves before I walk in the door.

The weather here has been surprisingly cold in the last week or two. As soon as I got back from India it rained for about 6 straight days, just to remind me how cold China can be. After the rain it actually snowed a little on two different days. One day the snow was like rain and didn't stick, an interesting fact is that people in China use umbrellas when it snows as well as rains, and for the sun of course, and another day it only snowed a really small amount but it was cold enough that it stuck on some of the bushes and trees. Certainly not the weather I've been getting in Thailand and India. I also calculated how much money I had to start the semester compared to what I have now and it's really close. I'm either up a little in actual dollars or down less then $100 if you count the fact that I got reimbursed for a plane ticket that I bought with frequent flier money. Either way it's good to see that with my salary here I can not only afford to buy the things I want in Changzhou, but also to go traveling for months at a time. In this next semester I may also get a part time job sine I have so much free time. I calculate that only working another 6 hours or so a week I can probably save another $1500 to help pay for a new computer.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thailand Day 4 - An All Terrain Vehicle

Besides the white beaches, actually the beach we were staying out was called White Sand Beach, Ko Chang also boasted some thick jungle in the interior. We found any easier hike in the book up to a waterfall and decided to go. We get a ride in the pickup trucks with benches that served as the island’s taxi service. We were dropped off in the town we asked for but at about the city limits so we had to walk a ways down the road. As we walked by I noticed just how thin the strip of buildings were separating the jungle from the beach. In most places there was only one row of houses or businesses, the road that ran all along the island, and then one more rows houses, between green jungle and white sand. If there weren’t any houses the jungle would usually come down to touch the water.

We finally found the turnoff in toward the waterfall only to have to wait while the series of elephants walked leisurely across the road. On their backs were basically small benches with a couple of people riding on them and one Thai guy of riding on the elephant’s neck more or less steering. We decided we had to give this a try and signed up for a one hour ride. Peter rode alone on one, Shean and Sarah on a second, and me and Ken on the third. Me and Ken’s elephant was the only male one I saw around with big white tusks. In Asian elephants only the males have tasks. Our elephant also was sporting a big chain around the top of his neck that was attached to his front feet. It’s hard to tell exactly what it was for since it wasn’t particularly tight, but I think it was to stop him from breaking out into a run.

Before you feel too bad for the elephant he apparently had it pretty good as there is something of a glut of elephants in Thailand ever since the government banned logging where elephants were used to be pull logs around. Leaving aside questions about how a country has so many elephants they use them as 4x4s these elephants just pretty much more go around a circle few times a day. The elephant wrangler riding it in front of me was constantly talking to it and urging it onwards. The path we walked over went up and down the small hills shaking us around pretty good on the elephant’s back. Sometimes the elephant would stop to do elephant stuff like eating leaves or rubbing its tusks on a nice looking tree. Sean and Sarah’s elephant even decide to take its own path at one point veering off into the underbrush.

The skin of the elephant was incredibly rough with little hairs that felt more like bristles than hairs. A lot of the point of hair is to feel stuff, but I wonder if something as tough as an elephant could feel my foot moving across its back. After walking along hills for a while we came to a stream where the elephant’s mostly submerged themselves, ours took the opportunity to blow a trunk full of water at Shean and Sarah’s elephant. When we finished the ride we walked over to a pen with a mother and baby elephant that had just then born on Christmas eve. The baby elephant was a darker color and more covered in hair. It sort of hid in between its mother’s legs so it was hard to get a photograph. We were able to feed the mother sugar cane which she stuffed it into her mouth before having really finished what she was chewing like a two ton chipmunk. The most interesting moment was when she deftly snapped one piece in half by placing it under her foot and breaking it with her trunk.

After the elephant ride we continued toward the fall. About 1/2km from them we came to the entrance to a national park and the rest of the way was a trail instead of a road. When I think of a jungle I think of a place with a lot of strange looking plants and animals of enormous size like in the movies, but most of the jungles I’ve seen just look like really dense forest. The waterfall wasn’t that big, though that could’ve been because this wasn’t the rainy season, a stream of water cascading down over several stone ledges until it formed into a pool below. We got a truck taxi back from the entrance and spent what was left of the day relaxing on the beach.

Still problems with the pictures.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thailand Day 3 - Yet Another Tropical Paradise

The next morning we got up and headed over to the bus station to go off to Ko Chang an island not four from the Thai-Cambodian border. The bus was cheap and much nicer and then these sort of intercity buses in China. It had air conditioning and relatively nice seats and no one playing loud music on their cell phones, though there were a group of Australian tourists putting away the beers at about ten in the morning. I once mentioned to an Australian that it must be five o’clock somewhere to which he responded, “What the fuck is five o’clock?” It took about five hours to reach the city near Ko Chang making very few stops.

Once there we had to buy tickets on a ferry over to the island. I could just see the island from the coast though it was so big and mountainous that I thought I was just looking across to another part of the mainland. The ferry took cars as well and perceived to cross over to the island at an extremely leisurely pace. The island was big maybe 36km across and 15km wide. The whole interior was a series of mountains covered in extremely dense jungle. Some islands I’ve been to just are entirely ringed by beaches but this one had a lot of space where the trees came right up to the edge of the water. We got off and got some lunch from one of the ubiquitous little food shops that seem to have only one person cooking so by the time the last meal came the first three people would be finished.

We got a taxi to one of the beaches. The taxi had a sign on as showing a price per person to the various beaches but due to the worst negotiating I’ve ever seen we actually paid more than the listed price. The driver wanted more from everyone since a few of the people were going somewhere further. Before any of us could say anything a few of the other people agreed. As we were still trying to argue for what his own sign said the price should be one of the other people gave him a 200 baht tip. I’m don’t know what sort of budget of these people were traveling with, but mine generally doesn’t allow me to pay twice the listed price than tip the same again.

Even though we had to pay far too much we got there eventually. We add a few hotels and eventually settled on a nice one right off the beach. The sun was already setting but we took a dip in the fairly warm water of anyways. I’m not the world’s biggest beach fan as I tend to just get sort of board after few hours, but the jungle running up to the sandy beach was really gorgeous. We went to a nice restaurant that had a Thai band doing covers of pretty much every popular 60’s song. Looking around the tables at all the white people sitting with Thai girls we started playing “Prostitute, Date, or Mail Order Bride” where we tried to guess the relationship between people. To keep it covert we just would look over at a couple then turn back and say something like, “They’re definitely a one.”

There are a lot of good part about my job teaching English in Changzhou but maybe the best part is just how much time I have to travel. In some ways being in Changzhou just sort of seems like a permanent vacation, and not just because I don’t have very much work to do. I also get enough time and enough money to go to some really interesting places. Since I’ve come to China I’ve had time to go to Vietnam, Laos, Korea, Thailand, and soon all have been to Cambodia and India as well. It’s hard to think about just having four weeks of vacation when here it seems like I do more traveling then working. It’s also been nice to find some very easygoing people to travel with. It can be hard to get along with people when you spend so much time together, but all the people I’ve been traveling with have been able to get along great.

That’s even more amazing when you consider how many different places and backgrounds are now represented at our school. Ken is from Iowa and went to school in Oklahoma. Sean and Sarah are from a little town in Michigan, actually the same place one of my roommates in Australia was from. Peter is from the hills of North Carolina. But we all get along really well, Alisa the time of this writing.

We still get along well.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thailand Day 2 - The Real Bourbon Street

I’ve been trying to think about what I really like to see when traveling. I think the number one thing is anything unusual or unique, the old Viet-Cong tunnels in Vietnam, the pandas in Chung Du, or the Siberian tigers in Harbin. After that though I like old things, old palaces, old temples, old cities. That’s not to say any old building is interesting, seen one cathedral seen them all, but I like a lot of that sort of stuff. There are plenty of traditional tourist things I don’t like as well. I find nature pretty uninteresting, I like very few museums, and I can’t stand that jumping out of or off of something adventure tourism. But when Ken suggested that we should visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia I was excited, Angkor Wat is a gigantic in ancient temple ruin not far from that Cambodian-Thai border. Since we had read that there are a lot of scams and delays at the border we decided to go and get our visas from the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. We hailed a taxi and made it all the way across town to the embassy before we’ve realized that we had not remember to bring up passports with us.

Luckily for us the taxis in Bangkok or cheap even by Chinese standards. The Airport which is close to 30km from the city cost only about 300 baht or about nine U. S. dollars. So it only cost us two or $3.00 to get to the embassy. We took another taxi all the way back, picked up our passports, and headed back to the embassy. This time though as we got close our taxi got a flat tire and we had to pull over. The driver was really nice about it though and didn’t charge us for the ride. We finally got there and went into get our visas. Ken had read somewhere that the price was much better in U.S. dollars than in baht and he was certainly right. The visas were 1200 baht, 36 U. S. dollars, or only $25.00 if you had dollars. On top of all that the visas were supposed to cost $20.00 but the guy at the counter mumbled something about expedited service. The thing is that the guidebook suggested that all the extra fees are just scams and sure enough when we got our visas back they said $20.00 on them. I suppose it could have been a real extra fee but also is quite possible we got ripped off at the Cambodian embassy.

After we finally got our visas as we joined Peter to go take a tour of this fancy house which was built by an American in silk exporter who moved to Thailand as part of the USS, the precursor to the CIA, during WWII. He made enough money that he was able to build his dream house using several hundreds of your old houses he bought from various villages and move to Bangkok. The house was very nice, each village house made up one room, and he had some interesting art and plants. To get their we took a very nice elevated train which ran to a bunch of places around Bangkok. The house though was a little bit away from the station so we got a tuk-tuk to take us the rest of the way. A tuk-tuk is basically a motorcycle with three wheels and a little seat on the back. I remember them as a really cheap way to get around the city from my last trip to Bangkok, but there’s been a big change mainly last time I was in Bangkok I has a Thai person with me to do the negotiating. This means that the price of the tuk-tuks went up exponentially and we ended up paying almost as much to go five blocks to the house as we did to go across the city to the Cambodian embassy.

Later we met up with Sean and Sarah who had just gotten off their plane. After dinner we decided to check out one of Bangkok’s famous red light districts. As I commented on earlier the prostitution certainly isn’t confined to any one area, but a few places are just all prostitution. Though not the oldest the place which is maybe the biggest is a street called Soi Cowboy. Soi Cowboy looks sort of like Bourbon Street in New Orleans with intense neon everywhere, but while Bourbon Street is pretty much for college kids and tourists with cameras Soi Cowboy is the real deal. Every building on the street is a bar, and every bar is just a really thinly disguised front for prostitution. The only thing on the streets besides these “bars” are a few food vendors and a couple of kids pedaling flowers. We walk down the street taking in the intense neon glow until we came to something that really stopped us, a bar with football on. It was the second week of the playoffs but I couldn’t think how long it had been since I’d seen a football game. I like baseball more than a football, but I really missed watching football on TV. We bought some beers and sat down to watch for while. Ken and Peter want to check out what was going on inside but I was more into watching the game. Not long after they went inside were met a couple of guys who are on leave from a military posting in Okinawa. Like us they were pretty much just taking and the extreme neon-sex glow of the area. Ken and Peter came back out saying that inside it was even more direct than outside. This being Bangkok the more surprising thing was that the Jets beat the Chargers.

This one was supposed to have some pictures but I can't get the internet to cooperate.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fire Lantern Festival

The other day in Changzhou it was Fire Lantern Festival, a holiday that takes place during the next full moon after the Chinese New Year, and people were setting of fireworks on mass. At one point I thought it must be wind or thunder since I heard fireworks from my room going off for two solid hours in the middle of the day. What made it even more odd was that it was so foggy that I couldn't see any of the fireworks, I just head the constant barrage of popping sounds coming through my window. I think I wouldn't have even know it was Fire Lantern Festival if I hadn't gone downtown later in the day. Hours of fireworks just are common enough that I didn't immediately think it was some holiday. On my way downtown though I saw the fire lanterns themselves. They are basically just some fabric and a small holder for a little fire whose hot air inflate the fabric and sends the lantern up into the sky, sort of like a do it yourself hot air balloon. They were dotting the sky over all the big parks in the city and even out in front of Wal-Mart people were just setting off there little lantern kits without waiting to get home. People also were setting of firework every five feet downtown at the ends of most of the streets, though again that's not so unusual.

As you might be able to guess form me posting again I made it home safely from India. India is a really intense place to travel having as many people as China but none of the organization. I never thought I'd say anything like this but India makes China looks clean and organized. Still it was quite and adventure to go there and the whole place was really interesting. I got a preliminary class schedule and so far I only have 6 hours, though Steve seems to think that number will go up. I'm teaching a class sort of like my one from last semester on Western Society, though this book focuses more on things like Ancient Greece and Rome. I think that could be interesting to do since the books has a lot of stuff on religion, a topic the kids here know almost nothing about. I've had a hard time in the past trying to explain various wars in European history since the kids don't have a basic grasp of the different types of Christians. Instead of just posting only the stuff from my trips, I still have Thailand to post, I think I'll interrupt it when ever something interesting happens now so that I don't have to save up all the things from this semester for the end. So unless there is a thing in the title of the post that says "Thailand Day - "
or "India Day - " the post will be about things happening now.