Friday, November 27, 2009

Yangshuo Vacation!!!

Last weekend we went on a super fun vacation to Yangshuo. (A little side information about Yangshou. There are hills and mountains that pop up randomly everywhere; it is like living in Dr. Seuss world. We were so excited to see mountains again. Also they have a great mixture of Western and Chinese food. We would usually order something like a burger, and a Chinese dish, and then split up everything. It was great!) Ok on with the vacation…We took a sleeper bus, and ended up getting dropped off at a random street corner at 5:00 AM. We immediately ran into the con artists that our travel books warned us about. They tell you that they work for your hostel, or that they can get you tickets or tours to places, then they either try to sell you things, or they take you to fake destinations. The one we ran into actually almost got in a fight with the guy that was really trying to help us. Anyway we did make it to our hostel, and after some breakfast we rented bikes and started out for the caves. These are water caves so we climbed into a boat and they take you deeper into the cave. After a little tour of the cave we put on our swimming suits and were ready to play in the mud. The mud is not very deep, and it was pretty cold, but it was lots of fun to play in. After getting all nice and muddy, we were ready to hit the hot springs, and boy did they feel good. After the caves we grabbed lunch, and then headed off to hike to the center of moon hill. It was definitely colder in Yangshuo than it was in Xiaolan, so we were pretty cold and ready for a nice warm dinner after all the biking and hiking. The next day it was raining, but we were determined not to waste our vacation, so we did a bamboo raft tour in the rain. It was freezing!!! I am still glad we did it, but I would not have complained if it had only been half as long. That night we geared up with hats and gloves and coats so that we could tackle the rice terraces the next day. On our way to the terraces we stopped at the long haired village. They do a little show, and 4 lucky guys from the audience even have the chance to get married. Strange cultural quirk; in the village pinching someone’s bum means you love them, so we got pinched a lot, and let me tell you – they really go at it. Next we go on up to the rice terraces. It is a bit of hiking to get to the top, but since I love hiking, I did not mind at all. The hills look so cool; they are completely covered with terraces for farming. That night we decided to go dancing. Fact; Chinese guys cannot dance, but it is sure fun to watch them try. The Chinese get pretty excited about Americans, so they all wanted to get to dance with us. Guys kept offering us shots and beer, but we were just there to dance. Some guys even tried to get us up on the pole with them, but we were definitely not having any of that. Interestingly enough, the guys have no problem dancing on the pole with each other. It was a pretty funny night. The next day we rode a freezing cold sleeper bus for 13 hours and got back in Xiaolan around 1:00 in the morning very disappointed to find that it was just as cold as it had been in Yangshuo. Unfortunately we don’t have heat, so we now wear our coats, hats, and gloves all the time, even when we teach and sleep (it is really annoying). Pretty strange since just the week before we were in shorts with the AC on. Fun times in China!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Kids!

The kids that we teach at the school are super cute. We teach 3 older classes, and 2 younger classes. It is really fun seeing all the different personality traits that
they have. In fact one of the number one topics that our conversations focus on is the kids and the funny things they do. (Well sometimes we exchange tales of the horrible things they do too)
The kids love to yell "Teacher, Teacher," and they run up and give us big hugs, or even group hugs where we feel like we are going to fall over. It is so fun.
We got to give all the new students English names when we started. Of course much ingenious planning went into the names, as we of course had to cover all Harry Potter characters, and there was even an attempt to get one kid named MJ for Michael Jackson. As time has gone by though, those well thought out names have been modified into little nicknames. For example:"Crazy Crack Crystal" (yes we think she is on crack), and the most famous, "Sweaty Sue." (Pictured above).Poor little Susan sweats constantly, more than any other kid, she will seriously have beads of sweat just rolling down her face when we are just sitting in class reading a story.
Most of the lessons just consist of playing with the kids while we make food or do crafts and such. Last week I even got a "you so good teacher," with a thumbs up, as we explored the wonders that food coloring and shaving cream will do on paper. It is fun to hear their English progress. It is also quite amusing to hear the funny... well we will just call them grammatically incorrect phrases.
For example, “I go buffalo teacher?”
Translation: May I go to the bathroom.
They are so fun, and I am going to miss them all when I go home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Well Balanced Breakfast!!

Today we had house visits with some of the students in our classes. Becca and I trekked out early to meet 2 of the other Chinese teachers and be on our way. We were scheduled to meet with 5 students. We knew that there would be breakfast at the second house, and then lunch at the last house. With this in mind we stop at the first house where we are immediately offered a big bowl of miniature apples. To be polite we take some, and munch away not realizing at that time that we would not be allowed to leave the house until all of the apples were gone. We were also given chestnut soup in the middle of the apple munching, so we left the first stop already full as we headed off to breakfast with the next family. So now you will find out what the Chinese consider breakfast food. First off there are chicken feet, dumplings, beef balls, and bean paste filled steamed buns wrapped up lambus bread style. Oh and we cannot forget the carrot-apple puree, pistachio pastries, and bok choy (a cross between broccoli and celery). Then the meal was topped off with a nice steaming bowl of kidney and intestine soup. Yes we ate all of it: chicken feet, kidney, intestines and all (intestine is really chewy). We left feeling very full, and of course we were given more food at the other stops.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!!

Halloween here was awesome. We dressed up on Friday for classes with the kids. After teaching only 3 classes, we got our classes back, and once the bags were decorated the Trick-or-Treating started (or the madness as it is more accurately titled). It was so funny to listen to the kids try to say Trick-or-Treat, and they kept coming back over and over for more candy. Next we did the donut on a string game, a game that is a little lost on the Chinese because the donuts here leave a little to be desired. Anyway it was hilarious to watch the kids try to eat the donuts. Some of them were concentrating so hard, but they just could not manage to succeed at getting the donut into their mouths. There was a little sprinkling of sugar on top of the donuts, really not much at all, but the kids still managed to have sugar all over their faces. It was a really fun day.
That night we had the big party at the bond office with all the kids and their parents. The kids performed some songs we taught them, and then we performed “Thriller.” Then it was time for the main event… the Haunted House!!! We spent many afternoons for the last 2 weeks slaving away in the dusty rooms at the bond office building a SCARY Haunted House. This was quite a feat, considering the lack of human resources that we had, and the lack of physical resources that we had. For example, we asked for a strobe or a black light, they brought us Christmas lights. Anyway after much ingenuity, we created a truly scary experience. It was really fun getting to be in the haunted house scaring people, although I did get hit right in the face with a plastic sword by a very scared child. Our kids knew we were in there, and it was way sad to hear them say, “No teacher, no,” when they were scared.
Much of the fun happened after all the kids were gone, and we were headed home. You see Becca’s face was painted like the Joker, mine was pure black, Chelsey was a Zombie, and Keara was a skeleton. The Chinese do not celebrate Halloween, so they are not used to seeing strangely dressed people walking down the street. We got quite a kick out of sticking our faces silently in windows until the people turned. Of course many times we got the desired reaction of terror. Some people really did look terrified like they had seen a real ghost. After the initial scare we would wave, and be on our way (most times they would laugh and wave back). Then people would want pictures with us, and they would watch us to laugh when we scared other people. What is normally a half an hour walk home took us two hours. I hope everyone had a great Halloween!!!