My little china life

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

it's been a long time...and I've been feeling the weight of guilt for not blogging.  Ive lots of pictures to upload and I'm sure..despite the fact that I don't think I have anything to say, this will get rather lengthy.  
Its not like I've been doing nothing.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  My little China life has picked up speed.
For starters I took a solo mission to Yangzhou.  This was a very big step for me.  I intend to travel in China for 2 months before heading back to the states....and as of right now, the majority of it will be alone.  I'm fairly confident I will pick up other loners, like myself along the way.  However, I will be the captain of my ship.  
Yangzhou is only a 45 minute bus ride away and would offer me an opportunity to see what its actually like to get around by bus knowing only about 5 Mandarin phrases (and none of them have to do with getting around!)
 As I have said in the past...the best thing about working in a foreign city is the students! Some of my mot trusted and dearest, escorted me to the bus station, instructed the driver to ensure I got off at the city center stop and even wrote a note in Chinese characters that said:  "i need to get to the Yangzhou city center."  In case I got lost along the way.  
It was such a liberating experience!  I needed to get out of this city where I have been feeling trapped lately...and I needed some Independence.
Yangzhou was beautiful!  I'm not sure if I think this because I was super needy for change, or if Elizabeth and Kelly were the best tour guides or if it was the extra boost of Vitamin D I received during the glorious weekend.  All I know is that I had an amazing time!  We rode along on bikes through the mayhem of the china streets and I ate my weight in street food.  That was my favorite part:  wanton soup (so delicious; delicate little pillows), some pork sizzling on a spit that was carved off for me and stuffed into an English muffin type thing, fried chicken (yea, rivals the south), and some yummy flat bread.  Top it off with pineapple skewers.  I was so happy!  
We dangerously picked our way through the streets to find gardens, temples, and DVD shops (i have been so desperate for movies lately; i bought 104 movies for 94 Y- that's 14 bucks!!  Julie and Julia, the hangover and sex and the city to name a few...I am fully satiated now!).  We finished our tour with a stop to the grocery store to load up on beer (finally found some decent lager!), Kahlua, vodka and.....CHEESE!  We had a pot luck with some other foreign teachers that night and made White Russians, tuna melts with Monterey jack cheese and mango salsa.  It was delightful!  Someone made a pizza and I just about died from sheer delight.....i haven't eaten cheese since I left the states.  it was heavenly.
As much as I didn't want to leave Yangzhou, my time had come.  I didn't give much thought to the trip home, however, this did give me quite the opportunity to get a real taste for the difficulties of foreign travel.  I must say, it did take me about 2 hours longer than it should have but I made it home OK.  It was a series of buses, a taxi (where the conversation included me pointing to various pages in the phrase book:  bus station, west station, inter city bus and i don't speak Chinese) and a daunting busy bus station.  Somehow it all happened...all thanks to my new phrase:  Wa yow chu Zhenjiang.  I want to go to Zhenjiang. This was something I repeated over and over again in the bus station..answering every question with that same phrase.  Eventually, there was a transaction between money, a ticket, a forceful hand gesture to the gate and I was off.  I felt pretty good.  Hopefully in 3 months time, I will have acquired a few more phrases!
that was last that time I have picked up a tutoring gig in the city center.  I have mixed feelings about this.  Its some extra money..which is always good.  In fact, what I make tutoring has worked out to be my weekly spending money.  However its far away from my school and from 7-9 at night.  This week I am tired and wish to not tutor, but last week when the weather was warm and i needed the pulse of the city, I loved it.  So for now I will stick it out.  Plus I NEED to get out of this school and this neighborhood.  I love cities and crave a little action!  I hope to get a student to accompany me around the neighborhood of my tutoring center and show me some shops and street vendors.  That is really the best way to pick a safe and reliable spot (however, I have been quite lucky here in China on my own.  What I go on is a motherly smile and clean cooking area-so far so good!)
The students in the tutoring center are college age and professionals.  usually a company has set up some sort of continuing education classes and I am the foreign teacher that gives them oral english lessons every 3rd class.  Its pretty easy.  I give writing prompts and have them create dialogs. They really love speaking English to each other.  And especially like it when I teach them slang.  Tonight I taught the phrase:  Just chillin'.  It was hysterical to hear them, in their choppy English-Chinese accent say:  just-a chilling-a.  HAHAH!  Sometimes we play games and usually talk about travel, food and leisure activities.  I love teaching.  And thanks to the brilliant teacher I have for a mother, it comes naturally to me. 
I also spent 3 days in the police station for about 3 hours each day!  That sucked the life force outta me too.  There was a major screw up with my visa that needed 3 days to figure out.  Lucky for me, i had nothing to do with it.  It was some paper work the school needed to provide...and yadda yadda yadda..I just sat there while Chinese was shouted all around me.  After about hour one of trying to look involved, I surrendered to journaling, listening to my ipod in one ear, or on the last day, blatantly reading.  I did enjoy watching all the goings-on in the police station.  Since I was trapped in an interrogation room inhaling second hand smoke, I saw a lot of action.  Mainly traffic stuff and shouting about possessions like car, scooters and fruit carts.  Oh china....
The big event was my recent trip to Shanghai.  I know I am a dramatic person...but I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS CITY!  From the exotic way the name rolls off my tongue to its peppered history of opium dens and global trading port-i loved its energy.  I have decided that I am indeed...a city girl.  Me and Laurel both!  We ( the fabulous four, Tif, Matt, Charles and I, accompanied Marion, Allison and Meg-who had all been there before and therefore knew the ropes) stayed in a lovely hostel on a busy street filled with merchants selling everything from sandalwood combs to huge huge huge hunks of agate, turquoise, marble, jade and malachite.  Instantly I knew I would love it here.  I thought of Dad right away.  he would be happily overwhelmed and would probably explore this street for hours!  I wish I knew how to tell the difference between real jade and glass....because I want a jade bracelet.  Anyway, we were about a 5 minute walk from a huge park.  And this park provided 2 days worth of entertainment.  I have to say, that I have never had a more organic China experience as I did in this park.  Please please read Matt and Tiff's blog.  they will be able to express the true delights this park held far better than I.  Their blog's are listed on my opening page....just look around and you will find them.  It is worth the extra time to read it.  Matt is a fantastic writer!  (and funny too!).
I decided that I think everyone should retire in Shanghai.  This park was filled with older people.  And they were happy as could be.  Around every corner and speckled in every square of this park, people were totally enjoying themselves!  From the dancing lessons (square, traditional, flags, drums, ballroom, line, waltzing and interpretive) to large group Thai Chi, from massive card games stretching sessions, from playing traditional music to a large singing session- it was a feast!  Every where we walked we witnessed something new.  For example, a bunch of women were playing jump rope...not young girls, older women-so naturally, I joined in!  Then there was a corner where people brought their beautiful, caged song birds.  I wondered if they needed to air them out, or just to show off.  but this particular corridor was filled with the chorus of birds and they all hung in trees in these beautiful antique cages.  Amazing.  Some people were even writing poetry on the sidewalks with a big brush and water.  Huge crowds would form to read and watch this gigantic display of Chinese characters.  I was truly dumbfounded. was this park where I realized that you need to visit me here!  I though of you so often on this trip!  
After our park expedition we went to visit some traditional Chinese gardens, battled throngs of Asians in the crowed pedestrian streets and chilled out with a refreshing brew on the Bund, overlooking the huge buildings in the downtown Pudong (financial section) area.  We made a mini dream of Matt's come true when we found an English pub and watched a football match.  It was splendid!  Later we found a great club filled with foreigners, swanky drinks and good music.  We danced the night away!  
 The next day was much of the same, but it started out with....STARBUCKS!  I know, I would rarely drink it in the states, but I was sick of instant coffee.  However, i applied the 50% rule ( know its not going to be everything you dreamed it will just think that its going to be about 50% of what you are hoping it to be and your probably right on...example:  Dorritos...I want them to be amazing, I need them to taste exactly like Dorritos do in the states, I am craving Dorritos...alas, they taste so weird, oh god, they are roasted shrimp flavor, of god, I'm so disappointed! I did not apply the 50% rule)  and didn't get my hopes up...because half of my enjoyment in coffee is the half and half.  Which, of course, they had none of.  but still I was pleased.  
Just when I thought I couldn't get any happier....I did!  Charles and I broke free with a wild burst of energy and dashed up to The Highest Bar in the WORLD!  yes, we had a very expensive for China ($14-ha!) but totally worth every penny Cosmo on the 87th floor of the Jinmoa building in downtown Shanghai.  It was absolutely spectacular!  We arrived just as it was getting dark.  The city came alive before our very eyes and I was giggling with enjoyment.  I was truly contented and felt so alive being up there, relaxing while looking over this amazing city.  Dave, since you make the best Cosmos, i thought of you up there!!  What a treat.  This "high" was followed by an equally lavish Italian dinner on the banks of the river overlooking the city.  Charles and I really did it up in style that night.  I was so glad to NOT be eating Chinese that I almost fainted when I tasted the real mozzarella and fresh basil in my perfect delicate pasta. We talked of love, life, food, wine but most of all, our shared passion:  travel- 
Oh my, I LOVE Shanghai!  
I am eagerly planning my next trip back....
enjoy the pics and videos...there are a lot of them..but well worth the wait. i have hand selected the best!
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bob bumstead on

Are you sure you didn't major in English? A fabulous blog.

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