Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I love China Shopping!!!!!!!!!!

Things here in China are relatively cheap once you find out where to shop. We have found cheap clothes and snacks and such, but our favorite things to shop for are movies. The movies here range from about $1 to $5 American dollars. Every time we go to the movie store we always come back with a few good finds, but today we had great luck. We had already purchased a few movies each, and then we noticed a little box by the counter that was full of CD sleeves with the DVDs in them. We started to browse and found a few good ones. The lady at the counter noticed us and she told us that each of those were 2 Kuai each (29 cents). Then she took us over to a corner at the end of the counter and she showed us 2 drawers full of these case-less DVDs. The next half hour or so was spent digging thru the rejected movies. Little did the movies store owner know what treasures they had. I ended up getting 16 movies for less than $5 American dollars. I love China shopping!!!

Vacation to Guongzhou

We got to go on our first vacation last weekend, and it was tons of fun. We started off the day with a little visit to Shamian Island, where we ate American food at Lucy’s, it was heavenly. Next we were headed for the White Cloud Hills. We had to split up and take two taxis there. I was part of the first group with 2 other girls. We got dropped off and we waited at the entrance for the other group… and we waited, and waited. They never showed. The head teacher with the map, and all other useful information was with the other group. Since we were fine, and there was no possible way for us to look for them if we did leave, we decided that for the time being we would ignore the fact that we had no way to get back to our hostel and do some exploring. We had been dropped off at the entrance of a garden, and we had a great evening hiking around and taking fun pictures with the statues. When it started to get dark they turned on all these fun lights, it was beautiful. Getting back to our hostel didn’t turn out to be too hard, we did have a Chinese book, so we showed the taxi driver the word metro, and from there we backtracked to our hostel. We ended up getting there just 15 minutes after the other group, sadly though they did not have as much fun as we did. They had been dropped off at the other side of the mountain where all the hiking trails start, and after waiting for us for a while, they started a trail just before it was getting dark so they did not get to see much. We all had more fun the next day. We caught a bus to Foshan where we saw a Buddhist Temple, and a really cool European style alleyway that we had fun climbing around and exploring in. Next we were off to the pottery village where we saw tons of cool ceramic pots, statues, bowls, and whatever else you can imagine. We even got to tour a 500 yr old kiln, and try our hand at making our own pottery. The next day while making our way back to Shamian Island we got caught in a typhoon. We were soaked, but it was actually pretty fun splashing around in the huge puddles and the waterfalls going down the stairs. Here in China you are always wet, whether it is from sweat or rain, you can always count on being wet. Anyway we had tons of fun bartering in Shamian Island for great souvenirs. We found this store that was going out of business, so they would barter way low with us, it was great. It was a heavy walk back to the apartment from the bus station with our new treasures, but it was a way fun vacation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yesterday was National Teachers Day here in China. The school was all decorated with balloons and ribbons, and there was a big assembly. We got to go on stage and get flower leis from the kids, and one girl even brought little paper cranes for all the teachers. It was so fun. Then last night we were invited to a dinner at a nice restaurant here in Xiaolan. We were was excited to go, a little nervous about the food and not really knowing Chinese etiquette, but mostly excited. Then they tell us that, “Oh by the way we would like the ILP teachers to perform an American dance at the dinner.” What?? So our free time this week has been spent learning “Thriller.” (There were hints that they wanted Michael Jackson). I was way nervous, especially considering the fact that I cannot dance and I didn’t already know parts of the dance like the other girls. I did manage to learn the dance though, so then I just had to be nervous about getting on stage and drawing a total blank on the moves. When we got there, we were quite surprised by the amount of people in attendance. There were over 250 people there made up of teachers from other schools and Government Officials, ya know nothing to really be nervous about. We were told that we were the 4th group to perform. Although we did not know beforehand that the other performances would be people talking or singing a nice calm song, then all the sudden we bust out “Thriller.” I wonder what these people think of us crazy Americans. It was really fun though, and we did great for the beginning and the end, with only a few minor mistakes in the middle. I wish I could post the movie for you to see, but alas, China has blocked all means to make that possible. I will show anyone who wants to see in December when I get home.
Now on to the dining for the evening. The food was sooooo good. They just brought dishes full of different foods out and put them on this plate thing in the middle of the table. Then you just roll the plate thing around and everyone takes what they want. We struggled a little bit with the chop sticks. We are fine eating with them, but it is hard to serve yourself with them. There were many dishes, and even though our coordinator Annie was there, we still did not always know what we were eating. Some of the ones we did know were: fish and water chestnuts, large shrimp, fried tofu and cabbage, cantaloupe with peppers and cashews, chicken, chicken and shrimp soup, some sort of bread cake, and watermelon (no rice in sight). Oddly enough our favorites were fried sweet and sour fish and pigeon. The Chinese like to do cheers a lot, and you don’t just cheer the people around your table, you get up and cheer everyone. It is pretty funny because everyone goes at different times, so you keep having to get up to cheer people while you are trying to eat. We had a great time trying the different foods, and it was a way fun night. We love National Teachers Day!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This weekend we have done lots of really fun things. On Friday night 4 of us ventured out to try a Chinese restaurant. It was pretty interesting trying to order because our waiter didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Chinese. We just pointed to what we wanted on the menu, and then we even pointed at the table next to us to tell the waiter that we wanted what they were having. The food actually turned out to be really really good. We really lucked out considering we had no idea what we were eating, but we never really know what we were eating. The meat here has lots of bones though, so it is a little hard to eat, and I learned the hard way that is it not a good idea to pop a piece of ginger into your mouth (I thought it was a potato), it was so strong that it burned my whole mouth.
Saturday we went out for pizza at “Little Italy’s” for Skyla’s birthday. It was so great to have cheese again! Next we headed off for karaoke night with some of the teachers from the school. We had a great time. The other teachers even got Sklya a bouquet of roses, and there was a cake and everything.
Now for our next adventure, which I will start off by telling you that my hair has never been as clean as it is right now. Annie (our Asian coordinator) took us to get our hair cut, but it we got so much more than that. We started off with about an hour long head massage and hair washing. They even washed our ears, and massaged our necks. Next we went on to get our hair styled and cut. I must admit that I was way nervous because I have heard horror stories from the other ILP teachers about getting their hair cut here in China, but I was determined to be brave. We looked thru the pictures, and I was still way skeptical and just kept thinking “I so do not want a Chinese mullet.” My cut ended up being really good, and we all had a great time. Now for the best part… the whole thing cost less than $4!!! Definitely can't beat that in the states.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happenings in a Far and Distant Land!!

Greetings from China!!!

After lots of traveling on planes and thru Hong Kong I am now safely to mainland China. Hong Kong was tons of fun to see. We felt kindof spoiled that we got to start out our trip there (more people speak English in Hong Kong). We went to see this big Buddha and some monasteries and stuff. It was really cool, and we have fun pictures. The next day we did a tour. The tour took us past Jackie Chan's office and house, and up to Victoria's peak where we could see a lot of the city. We lucked out and it was a clear day, so the view was amazing. Later we went to a jewelry factory, and that was pretty fun. After that we got to go do baptisms at the Hong Kong temple. That was way fun. When we got there they were doing some baptisms in Chinese, and they speak soooo fast. They did ours in English, but again they go sooooo fast, almost so fast you still think they are speaking Chinese because you can hardly understand them. The poor little Asian man was probably very overwhelmed with all of these giant girls that he had to baptize. The font was really little, and it was not very full, so it really was quite an experience trying to get totally immersed in the water. I bashed my knee on the front of the font the first time I went down. Anyway it was a really cool experience, and I feel very privileged to have gotten to help these people with that important work. After baptisms we went to a laser show on the pier. It was pretty cool, but honestly I was expecting it to be a little bit better. They had these lasers on the top of the building and music playing, and it was all choreographed and stuff, but the lasers were so far apart sometimes that by the time you noticed where they were you saw them for about 2 seconds, and then they moved on to another spot. Anyway it was really fun to be out on the pier, and take in the fun atmosphere. We spent all day Sunday traveling from Hong Kong to Zhongshan. It is pretty funny to watch our group travel around. There are about 30 people and 70 huge pieces of luggage as well as many carry ons. We took a ferry over, and then I of course am one of the 2 from our group who almost got quarantined. They took me and this one other kid away to this little room (of course speaking to us in Chinese the whole time so we had no idea what was going on), they took our passports then gave us facemasks and shoved thermometers in our armpits and left us to sit there. I actually managed to stay rather calm, and told myself it wouldn't be that bad if we had to stay there, I was also really glad that there was another kid with me. Well the other kid's thermometer fell out so he had to start over, but after a long while they finally came back and gave me my passport and let me go on to join the rest of the group. We both made it out fine, then we loaded the vans and headed on to the new kindergarten for or first official dinner in mainland China, which ironically enough was broccoli, watermelon, and spaghetti. Then we went on to our part of the city to see our apartment. We lucked out and there are enough rooms for everyone to have their own, except for 2 girls. There are even 4 bathrooms and 2 kitchens. It is way humid here. We had to haul all of the luggage up to the 4th floor (no elevators), afterwards we were soaked, it is rather disgusting.

We got bikes and locks yesterday for 148 kuia, which is 21 dollars. Mine has a few problems (we already had to go back to the bike shop because the chain broke), but they are fun. The little man at the shop just laughs at us now as we take turns going back to get new problem fixed. China has a bit of a smell, and we are already joking about how excited our families will be to have us all come home smelling like China. There is also a taste to everything that is a hint of China, we will probably get used to it soon. Some things don't have much flavor, but we really haven't gotten to try much Chinese food yet. Annie (our cute little Asian coordinator) orders us food for dinner and lunch everyday, sad thing is it is all pretty much the same, and we are getting sick of it. It us usually just lots of steamed rice, and either potatoes or some other vegetable with a little bit of meat. Yesterday we got peppers, and it was a lot like my moms pepper steak, I really liked it, it reminded me of home. Today though we got tofu (one of the girls here is vegetarian). BLECK it was nasty. The texture was so gross. It was really hard to pick up with chop sticks (which I am getting good at), and it sort of melted in your mouth but was hard to swallow because of the nastyness. I am trying to be brave though and to try everything.

Today we started teaching!!! wow was that crazy. We were on a weird schedule, so we only ended up doing 3 rotations. tomorrow we should do 6. The classes are a little strange. I am teaching gym, and the first class didn't go very well. The second class was great (both of those classes were older 5-6 yr olds). My last class was younger kids (4-5) they were well behaved, but they would not repeat what I would say, in fact they mostly just stared at me like I was an idiot. Oh well, they will get better, and hopefully I will get lots better too. For gym we are supposed to have a huddle after we play a bit, the first time I said ok guys huddle up, one girl ran up and just gave me a big hug. lol I guess she thought I said cuddle or something. Anyway it is a very interesting experience. We all thought that we would be in tears by the end of the day, so we were doing leagues better than we thought. The kids are way fun too, and I figure even if I am terrible, they can't complain too much about a volunteer

Sthere are no pics. I am working on it, but with the China blocks, I was lucky to even get to blogger.