Monday, September 26, 2011

Little Annoyances

I was hoping when I came to Guangzhou the internet would be faster than it had been in the other places I'd lived in China. My dad's internet in Beijing was faster than mine in Xinjiang and Guangzhou was a big modern city. Alas that isn't to be. The internet here is slow, slow, slow. I'm sure somewhere in the city there are fast internet connections but I'm forced to use the school's internet, I don't think I have the option of getting something different, which is slow even by slow Chinese standards. Some of this is a matter of degree, it now take three hours instead of one to load a short Youtube video, but I notice the difference and it's really annoying. I left my computer on overnight to try and download this 400MB program, not exactly a huge file, but when I woke up the morning the download had failed at about 30%. In the US I could have downloaded this in about 30 minutes. In Alaer maybe a few hours but not nearly so long as here. Actually despite it's remote location, and tendency for the power to randomly go out, I had a faster connection in Alaer than in Chagzhou since I didn't have to use the school's crappy internet connection. Here though even calling people in the US has become a crap shoot with it just not working sometimes. Browsing simple websites isn't that much of a problem, besides the whole Great Firewall issue, but anything else is a pain.

One other annoyance of coming to new city is that I don't know how to do any of the stuff I used to take for granted. One example is that my phone recently ran out of credit and I'm not sure how to fill it up again. I don't know how to find a store which sells the right sort of phone cards and even than it's hard to do that without someone helping, the phone menu is mostly in Chinese. Also since my phone is out of credit I can't call anyone when I'm in the store and ask them to translate.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jetting Around

One nice thing was that since I was flying through Hong Kong I had my choice of airlines, which meant I didn't have to fly on an America airline, or a Chinese one for that matter. Cathay Pacific is one of those more and more rare airlines where the service is still good and the seats comfortable. They had a couple of neat things I hadn't seen before in the economy section of a plane. First every seat had a power jack, though my laptop is way to big to use on a plane since the screen wouldn't be able to open all the way. They also had a really good selection of shows and movies on the little seat back TV. One interesting thing is that the seats didn't really lean back. Instead what happened was that your seat just sot of slid forward if you pushed a button putting you in a more vertical position. It worked great for me but I wonder if it cuts some f the leg room for really tall people. The best part though was that you never end up with someone else's head in your lap. Also for the first time ever the little pillow on the back of the seat, for when you lean your head back, was actually comfortable, something I thought was impossible. Of course for every two steps forward airlines have to take one step back so there were a few inexplicably annoying things. First The head phone jack wasn't the standard kind so I could only use the crappy headphones they gave me, not the much better ones I had brought, there is simply no reason for this. More annoying was this was one of the new planes with the seat belt airbags, pictured here. It's not a bad idea I guess but the design of it takes away some of the valuable inches from the width of the seat due to its balky and inflexible nature. I'm not against airbags but they could put them in the back of the seat in front of you, more like a car. Also if the plan goes down an airbag isn't really going to help unless its also a parachute.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Waiting Around (Part One)

After I made the decision to go to Guangzhou I knew it would be some time before I would get my visa and actually would be able to go to China, I just didn't know how long. When I first asked David, my new Foreign Affairs Department guy, the same job that Ma Ming and Teddy had at my previous two schools, when the semester would start he said something vague about the 1st of September. But in July when I asked him what was up he said that he was going on vacation soon and wouldn't be able to deal with the visa stuff until sometime in August. I would have been more worried about that but I dealt with the same dithering last year before going to Alaer. When mid-August rolled around and I hadn't heard anything from David I began to get worried. I tried e-mailing him but I didn't get any response. Finally I called him on his cell. He said that he was in his home town and he hadn't seen my e-mails because they didn't have the internet there, but that he would get back to his office in late August and could do the visa stuff then. He also entreated me to not worry about it.

When late August rolled around and still nothing I was getting worried again. My parents who are planning on moving to Beijing had rented there house from the beginning of September, though do to more Chinese visa nonsense they are still to this day in a hotel in DC, and I would have to move to a small hotel with them if I was still in the US on September 1st. On top of all that I was just bored. I didn't think that I was going to be home as long as I was and I ran out of stuff to do. I called David again he said that he was working on it but it would take some time for him to get the forms he needed form the government there. When September 1st came and went I moved into a hotel near GW with my parents. David also told me that the school didn't really start until mid-September, which is sort of true, so I shouldn't worry so much. This, of course, would have been nice to know a lot earlier. Finally in early September I got my visa papers from China, they actually had to be delivered to a family friends house since the renters were living in my parent's house.

I went down and used the papers to get an actual visa in only one day, the easiest part of the whole process, and bought a ticket for China. Unfortunately when I told David when I was arriving he said that it was a Chinese holiday so it would be tough to get someone to meet me. I was pretty annoyed but I was able to change the ticket to a few days later. The flight itself was long, DC to New York, New York to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to Guangzhou, but I was just happy that I was finally going to China.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Old is New Again

Well I'm back. I've finally settled in my new home and got my internet working, mostly. A lot has happened since I last posted, too much for one post, so I'm going to take it slow. First I should start with where I am. I didn't really post anything about where I was going after I finished i Alaer since I was considering a lot of options and didn't want any group to hear about the other groups through this blog, but now that I'm settled down I can shed some light on what's been going on. When I first started looking around I doubted that I would return to China. There are a number of countries in the Middle East that hire people to teach English. The problem with these I discovered was that they usually wanted a teaching certificate, something in teaching English as a foreign language, and even with my experience I got very few responses. I was also considering the Peace Corps but the place they offered me was just too remote.

I also applied to a number of places in China, in parts of the country I hadn't been to, and when the other two things fell through that's how I ended up back in China. After spending a year in remote Xinjiang I wanted to go somewhere a little bit more cosmopolitan. Guangzhou is a city of between 13, if you just include the city, and 40, if you count all the area and cities around it, million people. It's situated very close to both Hong Kong and Maco. Actually it's more accurate to say Hong Kong and Maco are close to Guangzhou since they were both settled there for there proximity to Guangzhou not the other way around. So I'd say I got something a little more cosmopolitan. Guangzhou is an old city that used to be known as Canton, where the word Cantonese comes from. It was also one of the first cities to be opened up to more outside trade after Mao's death. Since I've only just gotten here I can't say much about the city but I'm looking forward to an eventful year.