Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Week four in China...

A photo of me at the downtown English First office.

Wow! My last blog post was 2 weeks ago! So sorry for the delay. I have been so busy with work and such. I almost don’t even know where to start. Over the last 2 weeks I taught 20 classes, went to the Guangzhou theme park, moved into my apartment, attended more work training, studied Chinese at our twice weekly lessons, and hung out with my new found friends. So, needless to say I have been on the go.

Let’s start with my apartment. I moved in on Thursday, November 13th in the evening. It took me only 3 hours to get all of my things unpacked and put in to place. I was so ready to finally feel as though I had a “home” in Guangzhou. The journey from my hotel to my apartment was for sure an “experience” all on its own, but I made it in one piece. Miraculously I had acquired so much stuff in my first two weeks with preparing for my apartment that all of my things barely fit into the taxi. Space issues combined with a language barrier made it a moment to remember.

Anyhoo…My apartment is on the 27th floor and is a studio. It has a western style bathroom, kitchen, living space, and balcony. The apartment came furnished with all of the furniture: bed, couch, coffee table, built-in desk, and computer chair. The apartment has a washing machine on the balcony, but of course no dryer. It actually has worked out quite nice because I am able to just hang my clothes out to dry on the rod on the balcony.

I have curtains for my large sliding glass doors that lead to my balcony, but rarely use them because I LOVE how the sun shines in throughout the day. The night scene is unbelievable as well. My apartment is on the 27th floor (the building only has 29 floors). The view of Guangzhou is spectacular from my balcony and even more so from the apartment building rooftop! I feel so incredibly blessed that I was able to move into Dina’s apartment. Dina is a teacher at my school who is leaving on the 30th of November to return back home to Georgia. It has been so nice taking over her apartment because she has left a lot of things for me to use. I am SO blessed!

Speaking of blessings… I have met some amazing people here. Everyday there is someone inviting me out to go shopping, to go eat, or to go grab a coffee. I am definitely not feeling lonely here. It is just so wonderful because there are a total of 11 foreign teachers at my school and all of us get along. There are Dan, Rob, and Ashley from the UK, Liz from Illinois, Mike from Colorado, Lani from South Carolina, Sean from New York, Becca from Utah, Garrett from Massachusetts, Dina from Georgia, and me from California. (6 guys, 5 girls)

Last Monday, November 17th, a teacher from another school named Ben, Lani, and I all went to Chimelong Amusement Park in Guangzhou. It was a lot of fun. There were quite a few similarities to American theme parks, but also some differences. The main difference was the feeling of being a celebrity the whole time we were there. We had so many random people, sometimes even mobs, approach us saying, “Hi” and wanting to take our pictures. For the most part I played along and posed for pictures, but there were a few times that I just wanted to walk around without being approached by strangers. I can’t even imagine how a true celebrity deals with it day in a day out. However, I must admit that it did make me feel kind of special.

The moment that made me feel most special was when I was approached by a beautiful woman in her early 30s. I was sitting on a bench waiting for my friends to get off a ride when I saw a woman and her husband walk past me. The woman did a double take of me and stopped her husband. She said something sheepishly to him and then he approached me with camera in hand. He asked me in broken English, “Wife take picture with you?” I smiled and replied, “Yes.” The wife came over to me beaming from ear to ear, put her arm around me, and smiled for the camera. It was one of the sweetest moments I have experienced in a while because of the woman’s pure genuine excitement over taking a picture with me. I mean, who am I? I am just a small town American woman over in China teaching English. But perhaps that was enough for her.

The other moments at the theme park that were cool were the mobs of Chinese middle school girls who would approach me wanting to take their picture with me. These girls were able to speak a little bit of English since they study it in school. Their facial expressions were priceless when I would say a simple expression such as “Hi” or “How are you.” They knew enough English to respond, “Hi. Fine thanks, and you? You are beautiful.” I am sure that they were more captivated by my “American” look more than my beauty.

We rode on quite a few rides while at Chimelong theme park. Some were little kids rides that we went on as a way to shock our many spectators and provide for them a good photo op. Other rides were quite scary ones that made me question China’s safety regulations. I of course questioned China’s safety standards after Ben pointed to a ride and informed us that it has been closed for some time after several people died as a result of faulty equipment.

While at the theme park we saw a lumberjack show, a magic show, and a show they call “The Dangerous Show.” I watched the lumberjack show thinking that Chinese people must think that lumberjacking is something all Americans do. The people in the show wore jeans and flannel shirts. There were quite a few Philippine men in the show along with a few white-haired American men. The magic show was just plain creepy. The man looked like Michael Jackson (he may have just possibly BEEN Michael Jackson). He danced with a puppet, tried to do a sexy dance with a scantily clad female assistant, and he sang. I was so distracted by his makeup, costume, dancing, and singing that I didn’t pay much attention to his tricks. The Dangerous Show was actually pretty impressive. There were fireworks, explosions so close that I had to shield my face from the intense heat, motorcycle stunts, 4 wheelers, boats, ski-doos, etc. The whole time I kept thinking this show could never happen in the US because of the safety issues and possibilities for people to sue the park. Overall, I was impressed.

I have already been in Guangzhou, China for almost 1 month. That is just so hard to believe. I am so glad that I practiced my Mandarin by listening to my Mandarin CDs before I came here because it has helped with picking up on the accents. Today when I said, “xiexie” (thank you) at the grocery store the Chinese people around me smiled and said that my Chinese was very good. I may have the accents down, but I am nowhere near being able to read characters or produce any sort of conversation in Chinese! Oh well, I am sure that with my next 49 weeks here I’ll be able to practice a bit. *hehe

I will conclude my blog with some pictures from Beijing Lu. Lani and I took the metro one day to Beijing Lu which is a very popular pedestrian street lined with shops of every kind. After walking around for so long, we went to a place that Lani knew of to get a pedicure. To help illustrate how inexpensive it is to live here I will explain that my pedicure cost 45 kuai, which is the equivalent to about $6.00 US! I have a feeling that I will be making pedicures a bi-weekly thing here. *smiles

Well, until next time my friends! Zijian!

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