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V, that China Doll

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Monday, 01 August 2011

Location: China

Ah--the Maglev. A true engineering the Germans. The seats are uncomfortable--I'm not sure about the VIP area; I wouldn't spring for the extra money. The top speed varies depending on the weather but both times I rode it, it reached 301 km/h. It begins at the airport and goes to a Metro stop which no one is interested in so it's no surprise that mostly people flying into Shanghai take it and then get a cab. I wouldn't have taken it with all my luggage but with nothing, it was kind of fun. The Metro station is just across the street so I made a trip to the pedestrian mall. It was fun to be somewhere with no cars. The stores were too upscale for me, though--Guess, Levis, etc. I ate at a good restaurant, though, and the food was much better than here at the airport restaurant where the food is both terrible and expensive.

Here's hoping I get out of here tomorrow. I'm out of ideas about what to do in Shanghai.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Location: China

My faith in Delta is restored. I rebooked myself online but then called this morning in China, someone answered right away! They couldn't rebook me on the flight to Atlanta this afternoon so I'm keeping what I booked but they are refunding the $150 I paid for the change ticket from Detroit-Cincinnati. So, same flight, different day.

I'm bored of Shanghai so I might take another ride to the airport and ride the Maglev just for fun.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Location: China

Now ain't this a bitch? In typical Delta fashion, they cancelled my flight--I wouldn't have known it since they didn't email me but I tried to check in and got the message. I didn't care about checking in for the international flight but I wanted to check in to the Detroit-Cincy flight. Don't worry, they said, we've booked you on another flight at an inconvenient time at NO CHARGE. Of course, they didn't notice I had another flight booked from Detroit. The China office isn't open today so I made a run to the airport but Delta doesn't have a ticket office there. Finally, I figured out how to change the flight to the same time the next day (they had me arriving in Detroit at 9 p.m. but of course, there wouldn't be a flight to Cincinnati that late.) So, theoretically, I'll be home at the same time, one day later. I'll have to pay $150 to change the Detroit-Cincy flight but I doubt I can get thru to them on the phone since everyone else will be calling. I'm register a complaint but I doubt that will do any good.

That made me so mad, I almost ordered "streaky meat with green chili" for dinner or "deep fried strong-smelling preserved bean curd." But I had been to the Italiano Gelato place and already had Hazelnut Kissing ice cream.

Another thing I love about China is that you can get a great meal for $4 or a coffee from Starbucks or an ice cream from Dairy Queen--your choice.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Location: Shanghai, China

I really like the fact that all Chinese hotels, even the cheapy ones, give you a toothbrush and toothpaste and a comb, besides the usual stuff. Everything is wrapped in plastic and then put into a box. If you use any of these things, they restock them immediately. The Chinese are a little wasteful in terms of their paper products--but didn't they invent paper to begin with? Seriously, if you go to China, you don't need to take your own toothbrush.

I had wanted to go to one of the canal towns today but had a failure to communicate with a travel agent so I settled on going to the Shanghai Aquarium and then up the Oriental Pearl Tower (290 meters). I guess I wanted one more encounter with the sea of humanity. I really like aquariums but I forgot about the 1 million Chinese who would be there, each of them taking a picture of their "angel" in front of every fish in the aquarium. The guidebook said the aquarium is considered one of the best in the world and it is truly spectacular. A highlight is going through the longest underwater aquarium tunnel in the world. You can run through it screaming like half the Chinese children who were there or take the travelator (moving sidewalk). Isn't that a great name?

I was surprised at the efficiency of going up the Pearl Tower--it has a number of elevators so the wait isn't too long. The views are spectacular although it was overcast today, as usual. It's like the Sears Tower except on one level, you can walk on the clear viewing corridor and look at the gardens and streets below. Everyone was getting their picture taken sitting on the corridor--I wouldn't even step onto it. I found it terrifying. The buildings in Shanghai are ultra-modern and beautiful so it was nice to see the skyline again. It occurred to me today that all these magnificent buildings are...banks.

I got my hair washed and styled here at my "fancy" hotel for the price of -gasp- $11, not the $2.75 I'm used to. Plus these guys weren't nearly as good as the ones in Wuhan. It wasn't a 40 minute hair wash either, but all the Chinese hairdressers have the good sense to wash your hair on a board--the sink is the usual salon sink but your neck and head are straight on a board, not hanging over the sink as we do in the States.

So I'll be traveling 24 hours tomorrow--leaving on the 1st, arriving on the 1st. It's too confusing for me to try to figure out how much sleep I'll need on the plane. Whatever the case, I'm sure I'll have major jet lag for the next month or so. See you all soon!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Location: Wuhan, China

Last day in the furnace of China. I can't imagine a hotter, more humid climate...but wait, I'm coming back to Cincinnati.

The closing ceremony was three hours long. Each homeroom did a performance, with mixed results. My homeroom was good--two of the students could be professional singers but the students chose 6 soloists, 4 of whom can't sing very well. It's that equality thing.

These students are absolute delights; on the other hand, it's like teaching 12 year olds. As a joke "award," I gave my students rubber bracelets that say "Terrific Student" on them--they've been wearing them for two weeks. Although they can sing and love karaoke, they have no rhythm, clap any time but on the beat, and have no sense of showmanship. They're also not very athletic--I learned that they take P.E. two days a week throughout their education but I don't know what they learn, outside of badminton. They're really childish but it's refreshing to teach students who are delighted by the simplest things. They love games like Simon Says...well, maybe they only like it in English.

Apparently, it was a banner year for the Wuhan program. Every one of the 30 teachers managed to stay well for three weeks and not need a sub. No sprained ankles or such, either, which would necessitate going home--this university is not accessible at all, even for people who can walk. Despite all that, I would definitely recommend this program to people who can tolerate the heat, the stink, and the workload...and can learn how to dodge cars and scooters.

Back to Shanghai just for two nights and then the LONG trip back.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Location: Wuhan, China

This experience rates in my top 5 of all times--having my hair washed and styled in China. The other teachers raved about it but I hadn't had time to go because it takes an hour. No exaggeration--this guy had his fingers in my hair for 40 minutes straight. They have some magic shampoo they use and they give a head massage as they wash your hair. They also massage your neck, temple, and do accupressure--honestly, it will cure what ails you. Then they serve you hot water as they blow dry and style your hair. I don't know why we have to drink hot water, but I did it.

The usual cost for this service is about 25 yuan which is around $4 but one of our teachers who speaks Chinese came in with me and negotiated it for 15 or under $3. She told them all the teachers will come but will only pay 15 yuan. They will not take tips. I can't wait to try to negotiate this deal with my hairdresser in Cincinnati.

My Mexican teacher friend has an interesting story--she speaks Chinese because she spent a year in China when she worked for a Mexican marketing company. Mexico was trying to sell coffee to China so she and about 100 other salespeople spent a year here. Unfortunately, China didn't want coffee at that time. Now there's a Starbucks on every corner. Same prices as American Starbucks but very popular. Now even the cold tea and fruit drink stands carry iced coffee drinks.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I'll never understand why it takes the Chinese so long to make a decision--I guess it's because every decision must consider the group, but even for your individual dinner order? Three teachers and 11 students went to a Chinese "fast food" restaurant. It took the teachers 5 minutes to decide what to eat and the students about 40 minutes. In every restaurant, the waiters give you the one menu they have (or one per table) and stand by the table waiting for your decision. To us, the decision is simple--rice or noodles, but I guess it's much more complicated. Similar situations occurred for choosing a bus to take home and where to walk to.

It was actually a very nice time. The restaurant wait was fine given it was 100 degrees out so we cooled down a little at the one hour dinner. We went across the river on a ferry that also allowed bikes, scooters, and motorbikes. When the door opened to let us all out, the motorized vehicles won the race, as usual. The river walk is more beautiful than the Bund (really, Stewart) because it has a lot of trees, kite-fliers, and entertainment. At one point, the students took us to a couple who were singing to a crowd. They told us it was "traditional Chinese folk music." They started singing "Red River Valley" in Chinese. Then, they made us three American teachers get in the center of the circle and sing. First, I don't sing and (b), I don't know the words. The song went on for about 10 minutes. Everyone applauded loudly and acted like they were thrilled to see Americans. There were many fancy kites flying, including a lot with lights. My students say old people and children fly kites.

On another day, we went to a park in Wuhan with the biggest Lotus Pond in the world and a few temples. Luckily, we were able to rent golf carts and were driven around the park to see all the statues, etc. The whole weekend showed me a different side of this city, outside of the university and the ugly old shopping part that's close to the school. I know Wuhan is becoming the new economic center of China, but really...couldn't they choose a cooler spot?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Location: Wuhan, China

It's after 8 at night here and the temperature is 96 with a "feels like" of 107. I guess this is what the weather is usually like. Luckily, we have private hotel rooms where we can adjust the a/c but I must say, these are the most uncomfortable beds in the world. I put one of the comforters over the mattress for some kind of padding. After the first night, I actually looked to make sure I was sleeping on a is indeed a mattress but I don't know how they make it so hard.

Yesterday, some of us went to Tailor Street and some people were measured for silk pajamas. The tailors thought the big-boobed Americans were pretty funny and we're sure they were saying stuff like "look at the knockers on that one." Not to mention, bellies and hips. I decided against custom made anything--I just couldn't think of an occasion where I would need tailored pajamas.

So, two weeks down and one to go. We newcomers are a little disappointed that the students are (a) dropping out; (b) falling asleep; and (c) being rude. We thought Chinese students are used to giving the teachers their utmost respect and would be "rapt" with attention. Not true. I think it's a case of "these young people today." Either that or someone told them, it was a fun summer program where they didn't have to learn anything. Theoretically, we're teaching the Chinese teachers to conduct more interactive classes but I'm not convinced we're any more successful than they are.

We have big plans for the weekend including seeing yet another temple and lotus pond but there's a distinct possibility that activity will be rained out. On Sunday, two people are having a birthday party for themselves complete with pizza. Since I feel like I'm starving to death on our hotel food, that will be nice. We had Chinese pizza last night at a bar and it was a welcome change from noodles. Tonight, I went to a restaurant where they served The French Goose Lives Cow Select. I didn't order it. I did have chocolate milk tea which was as bad as it sounds. Apparently, the Chinese have only crazy straws because that's what you get with every drink.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Location: Wuhan, China

For some strange reason, we continue to have cooler than normal temperatures here in the midst of China. Cool being about 83 degrees but overcast so not so hot. We've also had very little rain--just sprinkles and it could be a tad less humid than normal but that's hard to tell when you're dripping in sweat after a 5 minute walk.

Today, the students were playing Pictionary and one team wrote the clue "naked marry" for the other team to draw. I found out that the real term is "naked wedding" which means a couple marries with no house, no car, no money. Apparently, this practice is frowned upon. Here in Wuhan, there are also "matchmaking" sites in the parks just as I saw in Shanghai. The young people are nowhere in sight as the parents scream out the attributes of their children. Since each child has a set of parents and two sets of grandparents to support, it's important to "marry well."

We are all struck by the old people in the little parks all over the city. They're out every night doing "Chinese line dancing,"--there's a leader, music, and it seems everyone knows the steps. One of the dances is a Bollywood type. My students tell me that's just for old people--they're retired so they have time to practice Tai Chi, dance, and "just enjoy life." The young people do have to learn the traditional 24 step Tai Chi routine when they're in high school and yes, there is a test. It's funny how parents, but especially grandparents, throw their children at us. If we take a picture of one, the grandparents want us to take a picture of their cute child. They also want to show off the kids' English, so we hear a lot of "May I have your name please" and "My name is Tommy." Some of these students don't have English names but among our favorites is Darwin and Smooth Tiger. All Yaos refuse to take English names since they figure we know that one.

On the weekend, I went to three temples. Two were close to each other--one Buddhist and one Thai. At the Buddhist temple, they gave us books about Buddha in English. Then later, someone gave us the books in Chinese. When we tried to explain that we couldn't read them and didn't want to take them, we heard the Chinese word for "learn." The school also gave us a tour of Wuhan--their museum and the Yellow Crane Tower, both of which are spectacular. We had a tour guide who told us he couldn't speak English but was sent because there aren't enough tour guides to go around during this vacation season. He told us we should learn Chinese if we go to China.

Tonight I taught my speech club and I was struck by how the students never use notes--they memorize everything. On the other hand, students in high school divide themselves into science students or arts students. Science students learn no geography. Two students told us one night not to ask about north, south, etc. because when they describe directions, they just say "right" or "left." We asked a girl where her province is compared to Hubei and she had no idea. She just knows what train to take. She thinks it may be to the left of Hubei province but she's not sure. The stereotype about girls hating math is true in China, also, but most of my homeroom girls are math majors.

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Recent Messages

From johnny
I'll put on a batch of tea eggs for your return. Safe travels.
Response: Thanks. Haven't had a tea egg for awhile. Our hotel just serves them hard-boiled.
From marcha
I want that hair experience but hot water? So, how did your hair look ?
Response: Everyone's hair (even mine) turns out super-soft. The hairdo is beautiful...and then it falls. A smart teacher had hers done every two days--cheaper than buying shampoo.
From marcha
Exotic =uncomfortable and highly interesting. Have you played whiffle bal?
Response: No sports for me. Someone is trying to teach the students frisbee and I think they've never seen one before. Little children skateboard on those "split" boards and they all have in-line skates. On the track, many old people walk backwards for exercise. Some walk forward and they all swing their arms and hit themselves to improve circulation.
From Bob
I don't know if it's today or tomorrow over there, but Happy Birthday! Do you get a rice cake for your birthday?
Response: Big Cake! And Happy Birthday in Chinese.
From Daughter
Happy Birthday Mom!!!!! I hope we all get a blog post as a present....
From Donna
Darn, I hate that responsiblity part....guess that's why they call it work. The rickshaw sounded fun, and everything else. You are skill-building for the Amazing Race. Practice your water skills.
From johnny
Big story about Wuhan on the NYTimes front page today. The mayor is known as "Mr. Digging around Town". Look him up. I'll master the tea eggs before you get home.
From johnny
Okay...did you make it to Beijing?
From K
Is that ''tea eggs'' or "tea, eggs and seafood noodles?'' Because I want to know what tea eggs are if there are some. And no i'm not just being a comma nazi. There could just be such a thing. And I really want to know about it. Also, have you heard of this word in Chinese (don't have my book handy to tell you what it is) but it means "'broken matchstick"' or something like that - it's for men who have no prospect of getting married and never will because of the uneven ratio of men to women? It's really sad that it's in the vernacular. When I shared it with my students in a Chinese program, most of them laughed heartlessly, except one boy, who cried. It was a pretty sad day.
From stewart
great pictures. The Bund was a sardine can full of people when I was there at night.
Yes, it was hot, humid (like Cincy this weekend) but with more smog.
Response: Yes, surgical masks are the new fashion statement.
From mom
glad you sent this. It's great
sure ope you feel better soon.
Response: Look everyone--even my mom can use this site!!! Yay mom!
From Nicole Wiesner
Hi mama.
From Lola
Thank goodness you found pizza!