National Week is now over...

Trip Start Aug 05, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang Sheng,
Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday 7:15 AM:  Today is a makeup day for not having classes on Thursday,  tomorrow we work since we didn't have classes on Friday.   Then we have this Tuesday and Wednesday off for the Special Olympic equivalent to be made up next weekend.  Fortunately next weekend will consist of three classes total.   Weird to keep up with the scheduling,  but nice easy schedule for the first time in my life of work.   Third "Hell Day" (Thursday schedule),  where I teach 3 90 minutes classes which adds up 240 teaching minutes or almost the same as a full day instruction back in Utah,  where I taught 250 minutes per day.   Of course this is stand up instruction which needs flawless lesson planning.    I teach much less than this the other three days I work, but Thursdays can be tiring since my feet hurt like hell all the time.  Tomorrow is a 180 minute schedule and with a recently acquired box of Ibuprofen, it should be much more pleasant.   I actually taught my last class with my shoes off,  but the students didn't even ask or notice.  This is also the end of my second month of living in China. 

   From what I've read that I am now in Stage 3 of culture shock.   Stage one is like being in a dream or honeymoon everything is new and fascinating,  this usually lasts for two or three weeks.  Stage two is pretty negative where you are sick of the culture and nearly shut it out completely.  You don't enjoy walking around in public.  You just stay in your apartment and wish you were back in your home country.   After 4 to 6 weeks Stage 3 hits where you accept and enjoy the culture and slowly begin to work on your communication skills and the new country starts to feel like a home for the first time.   Stage 3 lasts for years in China,  unless you are a great linguist or something.   I know nothing about the language but I know how to communicate,  I feel comfortable with my surroundings,  I know the area quite well.  Nothing really surprises me.   China is now my home and probably will remain so for a very long time.

There are many things about China I haven't mentioned,  some nice, others annoying.  The most annoying thing about apartment living is the ubiquitous sounds of bicycle alarms going off every half-minute.  These bike alarms go off if you look at a bike or e-bike funny,  the wind sets them off.  The thunder of the equally ubiquitous firework displays will sound off hundreds of alarms.  Me being on the 5th floor is a godsend compared to those on the first three floors,  but still the cacophony of the bike alarm persists as the number one annoyance of apartment living in the blue collar apartment blocks of China.   Had I moved up to the 19th floor of my dream apartment (2000 extra per month or $300),  I would have none of the alarms,  plus a beautiful balcony in which to view the city from.  But then I would miss out on the other loud noises of the children playing down below,  to me that is the happiest sound one could possibly hear.

   Unlike the bike alarms the noise of children ends around 9 PM. .   The R2D2 sounds of the bikes slow down,  but manage to continue all through the night.   I like to sit on my front porch and listen to the sounds and actually can watch the movements of 30 or 40 families who live in the apartments next to mine.   I don't mean to spy but since I am a self-avowed porch sitter,  and the only view is the apartment in front of me,  I tend to notice the life-style of a modest blue collar Chinese family.   It's all good,  rarely hear yelling or violence,  generally just folks eating, doing laundry, playing video games, watching TV,  playing with their kids.  I get a cross section view of many Chinese families every night whether I want to or not.   Something about being crammed together in small apartments makes these people extra gentle in the way they deal with others.  There are no boundries.   As I've mentioned before,  the Chinese will start going though your grocery cart just to see what items a Westerner will buy,   they are very curious about all things Western.   But aside from this and strangers sitting next to you at restaurants they do leave me alone on the floor of my apartment.   I think the word is out that the 5th floor is the domain of the "Laowei",  and strangers avoid our marble covered porch like the plague (the other front porches are dirty concrete so I guess our University installed the marble on the 5th and 6th floors of their floors which I assume they own.   

Students are still a joy to work with and so are many of my colleagues.  I missed getting to talk English with people in person for the past week.   I did visit some of my Kiwi friends to buy some specially designed jewelry from my friend "Diane",  and another taylor-made button down shirt she got for me.  I am invited to return to Shanghai for an above ground trip with Diane and Chris (her husband), and a few other New Zealanders.   This trip  will include a tourist bus ride above ground so I can catch the main sites.   I don't plan on spending much,  so I will probably only bring a few hundred extra yuan to keep me from going crazy with the shopping.  Hopefully I can take a lot of pictures when I go there.  If my feet don't get better  I might cancel going this time and try again next month.   I'm also invited to go on a long day/evening trip to the Hongzhou "Safari" Animal park (I really don't like caged animals no matter how well done),  but we also go to  Songcheng Park to see  "The Romance of Song Dynasty",      which is considered a world class show.

Got up Sunday morning to teach Fridays' class that we missed due to National Week",   I got up in time to hit the Casa Miel,  for some jolting Cafe' American and a couple "bean rolls" (trust me they are good and include protein),   Then waited at my Apartment for a few minutes for the driver who arrived at 7:45 in order to take us to our "Xincheng Campus" (pr.. "che chong")   Nice 40 minute drive.   Once there we did some group discussion half the period and interviews the other half.   I really have to speak one on one to each student each class period from what I've read,  and the slower speakers can be tough to talk to.   I am having pretty good luck with it since I disallow making fun of others speech issues.  I do require the rest of the class to pay attention,  but I do understand that this is boring to them.    I did have to shut down a few gigglers, in a way so as not to cause them to lose face.  This is all a juggling act really.   I am currently researching more ideas and fun games that we can play next time.   I just want them to expect boredom for now,  so they don't expect fun and games all the time.   Does this make sense to you?

Came home and ran a few errands,  then slept for an hour or so.  China fully believes in the "Siesta"  which agrees with me for damn sure.    I did do to the market and buy some leeks since the bulb onions I'm used to were more than rotten.  (they don't throw anything away around here,  merely put it on a discounted shelf).    So tonite I'm back to the red pepper/potato/tomato/spinach curry,  with chopped garlic/ginger/and probably something else.   I really do enjoy buying a bag of filthy odd shaped veggies, clean them, then  chop them all according to species and put them in little bowls to keep them separate.  (order out of chaos) After that I recombine them,  all at their specific heat and timing range,  and strive to make something wonderful out of all of it.    I believe I have done this many many times.  But perfecting it is what the Artist in me wants to do.    Plus, there is no better food in town for me, anywhere I go in the world,  so its necessary.   I love to cook.    I consider making a curry as a type of therapy for patience.  The curry is always good, but I'm constantly trying new ways to improve the taste.  So far all my curries are vegetarian.  I do plan on learning a fish curry at some point.  Last week I probably had less than 8 ounces of meat total.  I never want to be a a confirmed vegetarian,  but I do believe meat should be a condiment and not the main course.  

For some reason I have been craving "dumplings" of all things.   I did eat last nights leftovers for lunch but around 4 Pm,  headed way out east of my place looking for a large used bike, some bread (there is a "Casa Miel" branch out there),  and a thin bamboo floor mat for my entry way.   "Dumplings" started at the bottom of my list.    The used bikes were all too small and beat up for me,  so I drove to the "Casa" and bought a few days worth of bread for a buck fifty.  Then headed North while looking for the floor mat. 

   I did hear from Lil' Al, whom I haven't seen since before the holidays,  and he wanted to be my used bike agent.   We couldn't find bike that could carry me,  so I suggested him call up the place I bought my other bike and have them order a taller seat post.   I like my foldable but the seat post needs to be another 2 inches longer so my legs aren't cramping so bad.    Then we went to a local "Dumpling" restaurant,  and I got a butt load of dumplings (literally) for 80 cents and a 60 cent giant sized bottle of cold beer.  Since the waitress brought me no bottle opener,  I quickly pried off the bottle cap using the teeth method; which impressed all 25 people in the restaurant (yeah I was showing off, but acted like all Americans open their beers with their teeth).   These thin Chinese bottle caps make it child's play.  [Some of the German beer caps would kill me if I tried to open one of those].   The dumplings were made out of that same black skinned bird meat that I had a couple months ago in Hangzhou.   I'll never forget the stench of that stuff.   I did manage to scarf some down using large amounts of vinegar for a "funk drowning" medium.   Probably won't crave the dumplings for awhile.   I prefer the Chinese Moslem dishes for the most part.   I like their seasonings.   The local stuff tastes all sweet and fishy to me,  but the locals love it.   Lil' Al went back home in order to get ready to view some pandas in a bamboo forest tomorrow.   I am at home hoping my feet will shrink enough to go to Shangers in the morning.   If not,  my N.Z. friends are going to buy me an android powered tablet computer which I really need for work.   It should do things that my current laptop can no longer do,   and will weigh 1/4th of the weight.   I hate to spend $130 for it but I can justify buying it so there.

Tuesday Oct 11th, 2011:   Bummed around the apartment all morning and headed to the University's pool around 1:00PM  hoping to get some exercise.   The pool had competitions going on so I went shopping for large frame, inexpensive, hybrid, bicycles.    I love my foldable,  but it just isn't quite tall enough.   I want to go on long trips with the locals and I really need a bigger bike.  But all I found today were 17inch frames.   I saw 1 high end 19 inch frame which would almost work,  but it was about $500 US dollars and far from what I want to spend on this.
I have plenty of transportation,  I'm really looking for a flying pidgeon old school bike,  but I test-drove a similar bike and it almost fell apart on me,  the dealer told me that it wasn't strong enough to carry me...   of course she had to make the "your a big fat guy" motion,  so I could understand her correctly.

I think I am just going to live with the bike I have.   I do like it,  it just needs a taller seat post.

After that I had a coffee at my favorite hangout while reading more of "Walden".   The loud families were hanging around so finally the noise drove me off.  The parents are some loud talkers  the kids were bratty but not as loud.   So I found a great spot near the 6th street bus station with a decent bench,  a large canal behind me, plenty of shade, and a long, wide, nearly vacant sidewalk going past.   This sidewalk had high curbs so no cars could get up there.  While sitting and reading more of "Walden", a couple girls drove past on their bike, jumped off,  and ran up to me asking where I was from.   I chatted with them for a few minutes and continued reading Thoreau's excellent book. Once Thoreau stopped his judging of the rest of the town, the book "Walden" becomes an excellent work of art.   Sure the language is so lofty it can "shit marble" (got that line from the movie "Amadeus")   but it is much more fun to read than his judgement against the rest of the people in town.  I really dislike being judged,  those who do it are usually the most "F'd" up people.  Theroux's writing is very descriptive and clear (minus the lofty parts),   and one can go back in time and to the place he is talking about.   I see that he inspected, categorized,  and learned everything there was to know about Walden pond,  before he left the place and learned about other areas.    I need to find some of his lesser known works, some reputed to be better than Walden ("Cape Cod" is next).   Walden was popularized  during the 60's for his "My Generation" message,  not for his nature writing, public schools in the US have this as standard reading material at the high school level.  

I just now found "Cape Cod" online:

This is an interesting article I just read:

Looks as though many of the middle class in the US are leaving for jobs overseas.   I did point this out before.  The US is only about the rich and the poor.   The middle class is being squeezed.   The middle class has no political party that backs them.    Funny,  I read that the main liberal states,  I.E. New York, California, Massachusetts,   had the biggest disparity between the rich and poor.    I can see this.   Imagine being able to pay rent in those states.   

Picked up my Android based, IPAD 2 look-a-like.  It clearly says Android on the machine,  but is shaped like the IPAD.   I'm sure it's also weaker than the I pad.   I do like a computer which  uses  Flash memory instead of a hard drive.  Sure the capacity is less,  but flash can be replaced and has no moving parts.  I feel I can drop this and not harm a thing. I do wish it had a bit more RAM since this one is painfully slow,  even compared to my 6 year old Apple g4 ibook. I like it just to toss in the brief case,  have my music, calulator, alarm, scheduler right there, plus it can take pictures and make phone calls if you need to.   It's Wifi and Ethernet compatible.   It's other main use will be an E-reader since many of the titles I wish to read are on project Gutenburg (maybe not named after Steve Gutenburg  but we can't be sure...(hehe).   The droid system seems more user friendly than my Apple computers,  and I like avoiding the virus and software issues that seem to plague Microsoft. I can also write and upload blogs on the thing so it does have some purposes.  Plus it costs only $140 so no major

  investment.    I do recommend Droid 2.1 or higher as an operating system,  there are plenty of free apps available through Google.     I am lucky to have friends like Chris and Diane for picking this up for me in Shanghai.  I hope I can do them a favor before they leave.  I still regret not relocating to New Zealand when I had the chance 7 years ago.   Now I'm past the age limit for dual citizenship... but I could just go for a year or two or six...  hmmmm something else to consider down the road. 


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JoAnne on

Enjoying catching up on your blog! Like the analogy of making curry to therapy in patience. Ha! A Chinese man once told me that fishing with a straight hook was good therapy for patience. Maybe I should try both as I'm not the most patient person on this planet.

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