A Turkeyless Thanksgiving

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Shandong,
Thursday, December 6, 2012

Well Halloween has come and gone, now thanksgiving is past as well.  It was pretty non-climactic.  I didn't even realize it was Thanksgiving till a friend invited me to her thanksgiving party after work.  I even initially texted back a question wondering why she was having a party a week early, thought she may have been going home over real Thanksgiving.  But no, I was totally off.  Sometimes being here really is like living in a vacuum, there's activity and advertising everywhere, but I can't understand 99% of it.  The only bits of external stimulus that I'm able to consume are often ads for clothing or food in Chinglish.  Actually I'm grateful in some ways for the experience, whenever people in the US cry foul that something other than English is used on signs or official documents I certainly won't be among them.  It would be phenomenal if I was able to go to the visa office or bank and have the documents in English, or at least be provided a translator.  As it stands I'm entirely reliant on the other Chinese teachers here, and one or two Chinese friends I've met, to help me out.

Anyhow, I haven't been entirely sedentary.  A popular custom here in China is to "treat" foreigners to a meal or a short trip or whatever, so that you can have your kids hang out with them and practice English.  At first I was a bit offended to be "set-up" with just such an arrangement, I thought it a waste of time and like I was doing a valuable service for nothing.  I mean people make big bucks tutoring here.  However, as time progressed and my routines became dull, I'm increasingly happy to indulge in these little excursions, gives me an excuse to break routine and see some sights and get a great meal, well except for the dumplings experience.  New chopstick users beware of certain foods, and don't wear nice clothes if you're in for a challenging eating experience.  

 On our first outing I'd put on nice, business casual type stuff for a good first impression, and at the end of the day we went to eat dumplings.  Well traditionally you pick them out of a bowl or off a common plate, dip them in some soy sauce or other dip, and eat.  Well dumplings are slippery and probably the hardest damn thing I've tried to get a hold on with two sticks.  Couple that with me being tired and sick and my motor functions were woefully incapable of the task on that fateful evening.  I successfully grasped several dumplings and got them to my dish only to lose them 3-4 inches above the dish and be splashed liberally with soy sauce across the front of one of my favorite button down shirts.  My kingdom for a bib!  Lesson learned, ask for a spoon, or just give up courtesy and stab them (not supposed to do that).  On our last meeting we had traditional hot pot which is totally delicious, you have control of what you throw in there so less surprises, and it's getting cold so it warms you up nicely having hot food and a boiling kettle on the table.  Also, I wore a long sleeve T-Shirt.  WIN!

At one point our school brought us on an excursion to a valley known for it's red leaves.  I have no idea what it was called so that's how we referred to it, the valley of red leaves.  Once more as with anything the school organizes there was grumbling about "having" to do something like this, but as usual it turned out much better than we'd thought.  The place was packed, a whole mountain valley of people (ren shan, ren hai - mountains of people, seas of people).  It was cold, but nice.  At one point there was water cascading from a rock fall, so I hopped and skipped to the base of it and climbed up, leaving my camera on the other side of the little valley with a friend.  When I came back one of the little Chinese teachers started yelling at me!  At first it really pissed me off, to be told as an adult "you can't do that!" like a little kid, but it made me more angry that she said if I was hurt it would damage our principle's reputation.  Oh that was game on!  But I kept a lid on it, and realized later she was just worried about me, and had to come up with an excuse for yelling at me that would save face, so she latched onto the boss's rep. as a quick out.  Later we had a good lunch, a few too many "traditional" and Chinese dishes, but we got fed.  Took some more pictures, and back to Jinan.

Besides getting out some with my new little buddy and his mom, our chauffeur, I've explored quite a bit more in my little corner of China.  Last weekend I was in Nanjing once again, this time to visit a teacher who had been at my school last year, but left for a much better paying (albeit much harder) job.  He also has an amazing apartment.  We didn't do too much, it was cold with freezing rain and all I had brought was a hoodie.  But we did make it to the Nanjing Memorial Museum, which commemorates the slaughter of 300,000 Chinese by Japanese forces when they finally took the (then) capital of Nanjing during WWII.  Holy depressingness, how I could come out of college with history degree and not have known about such an event is amazing.  I'd heard about "the rape of nanking" before I know, but it never really registered how massive the carnage was, or how fast.  It took only 6 weeks.  

 Now it's easier to understand the Chinese animosity to the Japanese and why this Daiyou Island thing is such a big deal.  There are excavated pits showing skeletons from mass graves on the site, which comes after a very informative museum tour which includes a peace or humanitarian award for Adolph Hitler.  Germans had been heavily involved, along with many Americans, in trying to protect Chinese refugees within Nanjing during the slaughter.  How very ironic.

Well on to happier topics, I found a Christmas tree in my local supermarket!  How awesome!  I was thinking what a waste it was, but maybe not.  It's not a real big expense and it's a good taste of home.  I even found a string of lights that actually works, which slightly amazed me.  If nothing else I can pass this on to some one next year if I move.  We're planning a Christmas party right now, that'll be interesting to see how it turns out.  The bummer is that while we were given Christmas eve off, which the administration here considers a huge charity act, we still have to work on Christmas day.  Can't win 'em all I guess.  

 Well, if any one reads this who is thinking about taking a position in China and you have the time, I have two bits of advice.  First see if you can score some gifts before you leave, and them give them to different family members to keep secret.  You won't have to worry about looking online or spending too much of your first few paychecks to get things home.  Secondly, don't count on getting things from home, it's waaayy to expensive to ship things to China.  So if you need something, have a Chinese friend buy it online and have it shipped to them, they can give it to you, because it's also hard for you to figure out where to pick things up.  I live on campus so packages just come to the front gate, but the guards there don't know my name, just my face, so if I get something there's no guarantee I'll be able to pick it up, even if it makes it through the crazy Chinese mail system.
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evin furlong on

hey man, how have ya been? let me know. 651-434-7552

Sam on

Just ask for a spoon.

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