Saturday, 27 September 2014

Money for Nothing

So school this week was a bit more exciting. The students have almost all of their textbooks now, and we've started planning field trips and stuff so it's pretty sweet. Monday and Tuesday next week are a track and field day, we then have 7 days off and the first day back we are taking the students on a field trip to see a movie. Keinan is away for all three days as he is flying back to Canada to see his family so Denise and I are running the show with the help of the Chinese staff.

Denise has been recruited because as part of the track and field events there is a jump rope event where you have to run as many people as you can through a rope, each person jumping once, and you keep going until your team is eliminated. The jump rope contest is legitimately the only event anyone seems to care about because I have not seen anyone practicing for any other event plus that. We have also been told that near the end of Tuesday, they do teacher events, that are mainly the running events of track and field, so apparently this guy is going to be trying to beat all the Chinese teachers at sprinting and long distance. We'll see how that goes.

I also confiscated one of my student's phone for the weekend. This is the 4th time her phone has been taken during school. Once by Keinan, once by Denise and twice by me. It was actually kind of amusing to me how distraught she was because she had been told she would lose it for a week next time...but with the National holiday on Wednesday I wasn't keeping it through the holiday. She gets it back on Monday.

Thursday was Radisson Blue night. We had a great buffet with Anthony and the three of us, but even two for one, it was freaking pricey.

I have found one thing about Chinese culture I really do not like. When it is your birthday, you are expected to pay for everything!!! I was invited to dinner tonight through Misty by the sales and marketing manager at the Radisson. It's a woman who I hadn't met yet, but her name is Liz, and she's from Michigan and teaches at a college here. I met her when I arrived at her birthday and didn't know this custom until she's paying the entire bill. I saved $300 Yuan tonight ($60 Canadian) on drinks because the birthday girl, who I didn't know until tonight, paid my bill along with everyone elses. That is a pretty raw deal. Good thing that if things go according to plan, I'll be in New Zealand for my birthday with Loewy and Alana. I better go to bed because I have to be up early on Sunday, because Denise and I are going to go watch Anthony and Misty recite Confucius in Chinese with their school tomorrow morning, bright and early, and I don't foresee an early night tomorrow either.

Keep the questions coming, I'd love to answer any of them if I can.

Until next time,


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Have a Drink on Me

While we've been here Keinan has put a couple of texting apps on his phone, and on one of them he was added by two girls that go to college in town here. He responded to them a couple of times and asked if they would show the three of us around the city. On Sunday we met up with them, had a home cooked brunch in Keinan's apartment and then went and toured around. We've been trying to find a beach in town so asked if they knew where to take us. It turns out they haven't actually been in town for that long so they don't really know the city. We took two cabs down to a beach area, but it was really small and definitely a family beach (read: tons of kids under 7 years old). Not quite what we were looking for. We ended up right near a place where the water taxi is though, so we took the water taxi which took us about 10 minutes further down stream. We decided, why don't we take the gondola up to the top of the mountain in town. We started walking towards it and came to a massive park area.

One cool thing that happens a lot here is people in the parks, dancing. Huge groups of them, all kinds of different styles and music. We stopped to watch a bit, and apparently Keinan and his wife dance a fair amount, so he took Anne (one of the college girls, the other is Rainbow) out and danced a waltz with her. Well people were pretty amazed by the big white guy out on the dance floor so he drew quite a crowd and after dancing with Anne, he ended up being dragged out by a Chinese man who was about 8 inches shorter than him, but the Chinese man was trying to lead Keinan. It was hysterical to watch, and instead of any of us trying to save him, I started taking video with Keinan's own phone of him dancing with this Chinese man. It was a sight to behold.

We kept on going and there was all kinds of music, dancing, singing and crafts in this park. We walked through, got to the Gondola and went to the top of this mountain. My goodness this city is huge. I am going to climb the mountain next week and take my camera with me because it is amazing. After taking the Gondola up, we decided to walk down. One thing you notice here, is that there are stone steps absolutely everywhere. All these mountains have steps built all the way up them. It boggles my mind how tough some of these projects must have been. The steps are quite small, narrow and steep. It doesn't actually take that long to climb down, because you feel like you are going straight down.

About two thirds of the way down, we come to this cave, and there's a whole bunch of artifacts and stuff inside. Then I realize, they built a Buddhist temple into this cave. It was absolutely incredible. So many cool things inside, and just kind of eerie being in it.

We then decided to go and check out the girls' college. It's a science and tech college quite a way out of town so I see why they haven't seen much of the city. We walk around the college a bit and then saw their basketball area. They had about 20 hoops in this area, and Keinan being a big basketball guy, we decide to go shoot around with one of the guys on the court. He's wearing an Oklahoma City shirt, and says his favorite player is Kevin Durant, and this guy was a pretty good shooter, and a fairly physical player. We ended up playing three on three when a couple other people came over and wanted to play basketball with the three white people. Keinan, Denise and I all found out just how out of shape we all are, because we were huffing and puffing pretty quickly but it was a ton of fun.

We then went to a western restaurant near our place. Decent food, good price. Denise and I are waiting outside when Keinan comes out and says: "Did you guys say hi to the black guy inside?" Denise and I hadn't even seen him. We went back inside and talked to Drew, who is from Mississippi, and is teaching English at the college we had just come from. Talk about luck, meeting another westerner after meeting Anthony and Misty the day before.

Monday, we're at school and Keinan tells us: "Anthony sent me a text and said there's a foreigner night at the Radisson tonight, and invited us." The Radisson is one block away from where we live so pretty damn close. Keinan was getting sick so he wasn't going to go but Denise was, and despite the fact I was pretty close to broke and the price was around 150 Yuan, I wanted to go so decided to, despite the fact it was close to all I had left. So we went, and a couple of great things: It was only 129 Yuan, which included unlimited drinks and food.The staff at the Radisson was amazing, and all the big wigs were there. I met a sales executive, the executive assistant manager, and sat and drank most of the night with the General Manager, and the Director of Sales and Marketing. There were about 30 foreigners there, all worked either for General Motors, a construction company in the area or were part of a restaurant. Mostly Americans, but also a couple people from France, who are opening a French restaurant in town (and we're (Anthony, Misty, Denise and I) invited to the soft opening at the end of October, as well as a Swiss man who is working in their restaurant, and then two people from Greece. It was a pretty amazing night, although the night they picked could have been better. I probably shouldn't admit either how much I had to drink, nor how late I was there, but let's just say neither felt great when I got out of bed on a little more than four hours of sleep to teach the next day. It might also be a factor in why I've felt sick the last day and a bit, (also pretty sure I caught it from Keinan) but I'm battling, because tomorrow is Radisson Blu(spelling intentional) night where if you wear a blue top, you get 2 meals for the price of one. I also have my blue checkered work pants from Predator with me, so I told Denise (the GM for Radisson, not my teaching partner) I would be wearing those as well, so she intimated I might get a drink or two out of the deal. Should be fun.

I've had a couple of questions from people so I figured I'd answer them here:
1. I haven't overly felt the culture shock...yet. The language barrier is definitely the toughest cultural difference, but you learn strategies to get by. My charades skills will be much improved. We'll see if the culture shock hits me later, but it isn't as different from Canada as I thought it would be.
2. Least favorite things here: You can still smoke virtually anywhere you want in public. It drives me up the damn wall, dealing with people smoking in bars and restaurants right around you. Even in places you're not supposed to, people will. I've had people smoking in the elevator of my building, and Keinan had people smoking in the dressing room at our gym.
Also the air quality. We're in the green province, and it's definitely nothing like Beijing here. Some days are clear, and great and the quality is fine, but others, the smog just sits and it sucks. It's been about 50/50 good days and bad since I've been here.
3. Things I've liked: No tipping. It's kind of nice, not that I mind tipping, but it's neat the way service is here. In restaurants the servers are definitely abrupt, they don't kiss your ass but still provide decent service. I haven't had bad service anywhere, and it's just a different way of doing things. If servers didn't depend on the tip money in Canada, and if it wouldn't cause service to go into the toilet (which I think it would for 70-80% of places, just look at retail stores like sportchek when they switch from commission to can't find anyone that works in those stores for help, ever.)

Feel free to ask about anything you're interested in, I'd love to answer your questions.

Until next time,


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Born in the USA

So I really haven't posted much about school, because there really hasn't been a ton to post about. It's been busy, but right now we're doing grammar and writing work in English and Socials is an introduction to Canadian culture before we get into the swing of things. The two weeks have flown by, and I went out to one practice with the basketball team so far. They need a lot of work before they are game ready. We might be losing a few students from our school as there are a few that I really question how they qualified for an English immersion school when they can't read, speak, write or hear the language. Hopefully that will be sorted out shortly.

In extremely exciting news though: WE MET ENGLISH SPEAKING FOREIGNERS TODAY!!!! We were sitting in bank while Denise and Keinan were making transactions, Denise had finished, Keinan had not, when I heard someone speaking English. I tapped Denise and we looked over and we saw a white person!!!!! You have no idea what it means to see this until you have been in a city for two weeks and not seen another white person except the two you work with. This was a "Holy Shit" moment for us. So I make eye contact with her and then she and the man she, as well as their Chinese guide come over and say hi. Turns out they are teaching at the Liuzhou High School in an immersion program there organized from the States. Anthony, is from San Diego, originally from Texas, teaches history and is part Mexican, part native american (I only mention this because I only mentioned that she was white, and not him), and Misty is from New York and teaches English literature. The Chinese woman with them is Martina, and she is their "handler" as we have taken to calling our great staff. Funniest thing is, as we're talking she asks: "Do you know Seven?" We get all excited and she tells us that her and Seven worked together the previous year. Even in a city of 2 million people it's a small world. We talk for about half an hour and then they invite us to join them for KTV.

KTV is their version of Karaoke. They take you into a room where you are with just the people you came with. Then you load up the songs and they play on the screen in your room for only your group. It's a neat way of doing things and these things are incredibly popular. There are four of them within a ten minute walk of our apartment. Oh, and adding to the list of stereotypes, I have yet to hear a Chinese person who can't sing. So yes, we went with them and did KTV for five hours before going for dinner. Martina is an incredible singer. One of the options on KTV is to choose whether the person sings along with you, and I swore the first two songs Martina did, she had the person singing along with her but nope, she didn't. Oh and the first two songs she did were Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. We just sat back in awe every time she sang. Incredibly powerful voice.

We went for dinner and then walked along the waterfront and got a tour of our area from Martina and Anthony (Misty had a dinner date with an American girl she met on WeChat). We also found out the Liuzhou high school is only fifteen or twenty minutes from our apartments and Misty and Anthony live on campus, so we're already making plans to see them again. So that was wickedly exciting.

Until next time,


Friday, 19 September 2014

Heaven is a Place on Earth

I know I said I would write this yesterday, but I had a rough day yesterday so this had to wait till today. I had to have a health examination done yesterday and I passed out when they were taking my blood, and I felt like shit all day. On the bright side I had my first fantastic sleep last night since I've been here. Okay, on to Yanshou.

Yanshou is a place Denise and Keinan had heard about and decided we should go, and at this point I'm just trusting that they know what they're doing because we've seen some pretty cool things so far. The buses to Yanshou from Guilin are hilarious. It seems like the buses are independently owned, because you pull up to the bus station and a woman walks right up to us and asks "Yanshou?" We say yes and she beckons us to follow here. We walk for a few minutes and then she leads us straight onto a bus, points to our seats and tells us to sit down. She comes back about five minutes later and asks us for the money, which is 20 yuan each (so 4 bucks each for a 90 minute bus ride). She then tells the driver five minutes later to leave, and she hops on the bus. We then proceed to make five or six stops through town where she is just yelling out the window at people on the side of the road with luggage whether they are going to Yanshou or not. We actually do stop and pick up eight more people from these various stops, so kind of a weird set up. So we take the bus to Yanshou and then we proceed to get dropped off at a fairly weird spot. Basically we just got dropped on the side of the road. Eric had told us that cabs aren't totally frequent in Yanshou but if someone offers us a ride for no more than 20 Yuan, we should take it. We wait about five minutes and no cab, but a guy in a van pulls up and asks if we need a ride. Eric had sent Keinan our hotel address in Chinese, and Keinan shows it to the guy. He says 20 Yuan, and we hop in. Definitely not a taxi, but he takes us right to the front door of our hotel, and he spoke a little English so Denise had a chat with the guy (we almost always let Denise take the front. Keinan does if he has to give the phone or multiple directions. I think I have yet to sit in the front when it's been the three of us).

We get to the hotel and it's beautiful again. We are all in separate rooms this time, so we each have a shower and meet half an hour later. Denise and Keinan had talked about how there was a street where all the foreigners go so we figured we would wander over there. Well this place was amazing. It reminded me a bit of Whistler village, except narrower streets, and way way way cooler shops. Tons of bars, hostels, restaurants and places to buy cool souvenirs. Definitely made for tourists. We go into a place called the "Bad Panda, rooftop bar and hostel." In there we meet to British guys, William and Damien. They've been in China for two years, one year running the bar. The hostel is more or less one dungy room, and they don't charge for it usually, because more often than not it's the place they "can toss the drunks that can't remember where they're actually staying." Two great guys, very personable people. We stayed for a drink and then went for dinner at a place that had both chinese and more western dishes. I had a hamburger that tasted so damn amazing. I enjoy the food here, but each time I have pizza, or burgers or even McDonalds, it's actually a nice delight. Peanut Butter is actually fairly easy to find too, so I have peanut butter and jam in my apartment. The only problem I have with the food here is that despite the fact you have rice or noodles at every meal, every meal feels heavy. So having that change up is pretty nice.

Denise is still battling with sleeping properly so she went back to the hotel after dinner while Keinan and I continued to wander (It was about 9:30pm at this point.) We wandered through all the shops and Keinan bought a few things for his kids and I only bought one thing and it was actually a present for Denise. We had been joking earlier about getting posters of Mao and starting dictator hall of fames, and Keinan and I are walking past an artist that does pictures on t-shirts and I bought this great one for Denise of Osama Bin Laden. (I'm thinking next time we go, I'm getting one for myself too.) Keinan and I went and grabbed a drink which cost us ten and twelve bucks each. We were wondering what were getting as he ordered a drink with rum and I ordered vodka. The waitress literally just brought us each a glass filled with rum and vodka with ice. We did get good bang for our buck as there were at least three or four shots in this glass but man that is tough drinking straight like that. Takes me back to Grad kidnapping ;)

Keinan and I went to bed after that. The next morning we took a bamboo boat ride down the nearby river into Fullytown. It's a neat little village that we wandered through. There was a tourist market but we didn't find it till we'd wandered for just about two hours and by then, we were all too tired to walk through it. The amazing thing was, we got to see some really amazing stuff. People in their houses with all the doors and windows open, and this is a pretty poor looking village. The one major difference was we saw tons of Mao stuff hanging in people's houses. I haven't seen as much in the cities but there was lots in this place. The other thing was, even though it's not a huge tourist attraction, there were a ton of people selling artwork out of their houses. I bought a book of quotes by Mao, and Denise and I both bought fans that had artwork of Mao on them. Cost me 35 Yuan total. (Two great buys imho). After that, we took a bus back to Guilin. Keinan wanted to hang out till 4:30 and catch the last bus back to Liuzhou (a three hour ride) but Denise and I both wanted to be home earlier so we left Keinan in Yanshou and headed back. We went to the bus station but they only had buses to Liuzhou at certain times there, and the other times were at the other station, which we had no idea where it was. Denise and I started wandering and then after about 20 minutes we saw a bus on the side of the road and a woman saying "Guilin?" So we paid 20 Yuan and headed back to Guilin and caught the bullet train from there to Liuzhou and then got home. We were home by about 6pm, Keinan got home around 10pm so we were quite happy we left early. Yanshou has some great scenery, and we've all decided we're doing at least two more trips to Yanshou so I will have pictures of it next time. Such a great place though and another amazing weekend. If anyone decides to visit, I have some pretty sweet places to show you.

Till next time


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What Do You Do For Money, Honey?

After my First week of work, which was a four day week, we (Keinan, Denise and I) set off on what would be another three day weekend. We left straight from school on Friday and took a taxi to the Train Station to set off for Guilin. Cabs here are great. They start at 7 Yuan and they don't move for the first 2KM so most cabs are fairly cheap. The exchange rate is 5 yuan for a Canadian Dollar so it cost us basically $1.50 for a cab to the train station. We catch our train and it's a little over an hour to Guilin on a train that goes 200km/hr. Such a great way to travel.

We get to Guilin and things are a wee bit different. The cabs expect to get paid up front so you have to negotiate with them right away. Fortunately, Eric (works for a school in Guilin, run by the owners of our schools but not officially affiliated) was on his way with their cab driver to pick us up. The cab driver gave me one of the greatest moments ever. He is a Chinese man who speaks zero english and his phone goes off, and his ring tone of his phone is: "Baby one more time." I still laugh every time I think of this forty year old Chinese man with Britney Spears first hit song as his ring tone. He gets us to our hotel and what an amazing hotel it was. It was 468 Yuan/night ($80ish/night)  for a room that all three of us could stay in. Denise had her own room and Keinan and I each had beds in the main area, and they were actually soft. Finding soft beds here is not easy. We had a great dinner with Eric that night and he had set up the next couple of days for us.

The next day we set off to a nearby village that had a great cave in it. This cave was incredible. It took us two hours to walk through it and then we had lunch in the town before heading to nearby waterfalls. This cave was big enough to have housed the Transformers. Incredibly cool spot and of anyone dares to visit me, I will definitely take you to see it.

We made the mistake of underestimating Eric on the waterfalls. He showed us a video and we were all basically like "it's nice, but a little dinky." You can climb up the waterfalls for an additional fee to the park but we all declined as we weren't sure it'd be worth it, and we were all hurting for money at this point.
The park itself is huge, and we finally make it the waterfall area and see the small waterfall and start the climb up. Well it is a huge series of waterfalls and you can climb up the waterfalls for a long ways. We should have done it as it was 35 degrees and humid but we didn't. Keinan jumped out half way through the hike and started swimming in the ponds at the bottom of the waterfalls (not allowed. You can climb the falls but not swim in the pools, go figure.) Keinan got yelled at by a couple different security guards, but no big deal. There was a zipline, a cart that drives you for the climb down the hike, and some other cool things, although you have to pay extra for all of them. Second great moment of the weekend comes as we're walking out of the park. Keinan had worn his regular shorts and then his swim trunks underneath and had walked without his regular shorts for the entire hike, just his swim shorts. He tells us in a dumbfounded tone that A) He had dressed himself with his boxers over his swim shorts and B) Denise and I had walked with him for over an hour and neither of us told him he was walking around with his underwear over top of his swim shorts. Denise and I both start laughing hysterically and can say that neither of us actually noticed that Keinan had his boxer over his swim shorts for over an hour. So awesome.

At this point we are all running our of money (I had already been borrowing from both of them, but now we are all low.) I attempted a Western Union transfer from my Canadian bank account but had only informed my branch and not Scotiabank that I was going to China so they locked my account, and I don't have a phone. Shit. So I emailed my wonderful parents and asked if they would wire me some money and my Mom did, and that transfer was confirmed by Western Union online. So Sunday we are getting ready to head to YanShou and all we need is for me to get the money transfer. Western Union online says to go to a certain branch of the Agricultural Bank of China. Perfect. The three of us checkout and head to the bank by cab. We get into there, and I'm about 18th in line so Denise and Keinan head to a nearby coffee shop. After waiting for half an hour someone comes over and I tell them I need to do a Western Union transfer. This is around 1:00pm. They tell me they can't do it at this branch today and give me directions to a different Agricultural Bank. A woman who spoke just enough English to help me worked there. They even write the directions in Chinese to get to the next bank which is a five minute cab ride away. I tell Keinan and Denise, and Keinan gives me 100 Yuan, which is half our remaining money to get a cab.

I get to the second bank and walk in. I walk over to the teller and she tells me they aren't open to do Western Union transfers either. She gives me directions to a third Agricultural Branch and writes it for to give to  cab driver, a further five minutes away. The third branch is not doing the transfers either. I'm starting to get kind of pissed off at this point. She gives me directions to a fourth branch, I pay for another cab and head there. That branch she sends me to a different bank altogether, the China Everbright bank across the street. I get there, and they won't do the transfer either. I left Denise an hour and a half ago, and I'm trying to figure out what to do because we need this money to keep our weekend going. I start walking and think and try a Bank of China to no avail. Then I remembered that when I was looking at Western Union in Liuzhou, they said Postal Services Bank of China. I go to the nearest one and walk in. All five windows are open and one of them is specifically labelled "Western Union." I actually shed a few tears of relief. After completing the transaction which took about 20 minutes I had the money to keep our weekend going. The Teller probably also thinks I'm nuts because I gave her a XieXie (thank you in Chinese) with a bow and then blew her a kiss. She definitely thought I was weird.

I now had a new problem. How to get back to Denise and Keinan. I didn't have anything with their location written on it, as Keinan had gotten Eric to text him the bank location in Chinese (Keinan is the only one with a phone at the moment.) It took me three cabs and another 45 minutes to get back to Keinan and Denise. I left them around 1:30 and got back to them at 4:10. They were inside a little pizza place and when I finally got back to them I stood outside the window doing a happy dance until they both noticed me. I was freaking exhausted. Anyways we are finally making our way to Yanshou at this point. And that will be the post I write tomorrow, as I am finally almost caught up now that I have internet access to this site, facebook etc. Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

New Kids on the Block

So we have finally started teaching. My last post was leading up to this, and this is my first week in the classroom. We got into the school, which is about a 30 minute bus ride for us each way. I am teaching Socials Studies 10, to a class of twelve Grade 11 students, English Development 10 which is basically an ESL course that leads into English 10, which has 31 students, and Communications 11 which has 23 students. We only have 43 students, and they are split into three groups: The Grade 10's, the Grade 11's who are repeating certain subjects, and the Grade 11's.

The english speaking ability of the students is lower than I expected so that presents a challenge right away, especially in the class of 31. Apparently we will be getting four ESL teachers, we just don't know when. The students are pretty typically grade 10/11 students. Disorganized, don't like taking notes, and they will talk any chance they get. Another big problem we are facing is them falling asleep in class. The Chinese school is quite a bit different than ours but we have had to give the school certain concessions. The students start at 8:30 where all 4,000 + students go outside onto the field for DPA (Daily Physical Activity.) They come back in around 8:50 and start class with us. Our blocks are 8:50-9:45, 9:50-10:45. 10:50-11:45. Then we have lunch until 1:00pm. 1:00pm - 1:55pm, 2:00pm -2:55pm and 3:00pm - 3:55pm. We have double blocks everyday so our schedule either looks like: AABCCD or ABBCDD. The order of the blocks never changes, so I get a double block prep to end the day every second day, as my prep is in D. After we are done teaching the students have PE for an hour on Monday, Tuesday, (Run by the Chinese School) or Basketball Wednesday and Thursday (Run by Keinan, and I am going to start helping him) and Friday I believe they have free time. The students have to be back in class at 7:00pm for homework time which run from 7-9pm. We had to negotiate on that as the Chinese school runs from 7-10pm. The problem we are figuring is that the students are probably not going to bed at reasonable times, and with how long of a day they have, their biggest chunk of free time is after 10pm. It is a daily battle with kids falling asleep and it doesn't seem to matter what class, because all three of us teachers are battling it (no it's not just that I'm a boring teacher.)

The first week was like any first week, it was a feeling out process. Our school laptops weren't available, the wifi wasn't connected for the first few days, then didn't reach our classrooms or office, so we couldn't do much work at school. We also didn't have textbooks in, and my projector didn't work for the first week, so I ended up having a couple of days that were pretty creative, and admittedly a couple days that were fairly lecture based and boring. Fortunately we have all of the stuff in now, so it should be a lot smoother sailing.

The other problem I am dealing with is that my sleep is still a disaster. I am going to bed at 9 or 10pm and waking up at 4:30 or 5am right now and not sleeping soundly through the night. A great sleep would be lovely right now. The beds here are also extremely hard so that doesn't help.

The first three days of the teaching week were still bloody hot (35-40 degrees, huge humidity) although it has cooled off a bit. It was pretty awful as you basically walk out of the apartment building and are instantly sweating, and I mean full out, I feel like I should be running a marathon right now for the amount of sweat pouring off of me.

One thing that has blown me away is the ability of the support staff at our school. We have Jane, Seven, Shannon, Jerry, Wesley and Eric in our area and they are absolutely amazing. They are extremely organized, and when you ask for help or something to be done, they are on it. They also help with personal stuff too which makes life so much easier. Shannon showed up at the apartment on the first day of school to help Denise and I with the buses, Seven has set up train tickets, taxis and helped us figure out the bus routes for our main points in the city. Seven also came to the gym where the three of us are going to work out to translate, read the contracts and help us get set up. We took a trip to Gulin and Yanshou (I'll talk about in my next blog post) and Eric picked us up from the airport, took us to dinner and then set up a driver for us to take us around Guilin and then set us up to get to Yanshou. We're constantly on the phone with these guys to translate for us to cab drivers, servers etc. and they are just absolutely amazing.

Jane is our main support within the school, and is referred to as the secretary/receptionist although she plays many roles in our school. She will be in the classroom helping both Denise and I at times, she does printing and photocopying for us, she helps Wesley, who is the students' homeroom teacher and really is just the force at the school to help keep things organized.

Wesley caught me off-guard because one thing about the people over here is they are not very fit. Most of them are skinny, but you realize they are not in good shape, as most of the women have arms you could snap between your pinky and ring finger, and most guys are pretty small, especially in the upper body. Most people have pretty fit looking lets as you definitely do a lot of walking while you are here. So Wesley caught me off guard because wow, he is not the usual Chinese man here. He is an inch or two shorter than I am but he is an intimidating man. He is a solid, well built man and kind of reminds you more of a soldier than a teacher, but he works extremely well with the students and is a great homeroom/homework time teacher for them.

The first week was pretty uneventful school-wise but man did we have an eventful weekend, which I will write about tomorrow because I am needing to go to sleep. I am now on Facebook/Twitter etc so send me messages, let me know how you're all doing and I will talk to you soon.


Hot for Teacher

I am finally in China!!! It was a bit of a painful process to get here and now it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I got here.

I met the other teacher (Denise) at my school in Vancouver, since she went through the same problems I did so it was great because we did manage to get to sit beside each other for the flights so I had someone with me which was pretty awesome.

We land in Beijing from Vancouver and have a four hour layover before heading to Nanning. First thing we notice is the smog is real and quite incredible. It reminded me of when we have really bad forest fires around Vernon and the smoke sits in the valley, except it’s that way all the time. The second thing we notice is the heat. We step off the plane into the tunnel and the heat hits us like a wall. It was amazing. It was 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity is overwhelming.

Anyways, we get off the plane and start trying to get through customs. I pick the wrong line and get the guy who takes forever sending people through. It takes almost an hour to get through customs. Then we have to take a ten minute train ride to get to the part of the airport to pass through security for our transfer. Once we pass through security, then we have to take a five minute bus ride back to an area we passed on the train to get to our gate. Altogether it took us two hours from landing in Beijing to getting to our transfer gate, so the four hours was whittled away pretty quickly. We both had a bit of a snooze in the Beijing airport before our flight, which was the most sleep either of us got during our travel day.

Our flight is forty minutes delayed but we get to Nanning and there are two guys from the school waiting for us to take us to our hotel. The first thing I notice is that driving in China is absolutely nuts compared to Canada. There are very little rules, and basically whatever vehicle is further ahead has right of way. Denise has travelled in Asia before, so a few days later I asked her what the rules for pedestrians were, and she said “Don’t get hit.” Alrighty then. First thing I thought of after she said that was “If you can dodge a car, you can dodge a ball.” Thanks Patches. Needless to say I have zero intentions of driving here, and have had even the desire to bike here all but drilled out of me, because I think the anxiety of trying to bike in traffic here would be too much for me. Plus public transit costs the equivalent of $.20 per bus so I’m not exactly breaking the bank to use transit.

We get to our hotel at about 10pm, and man the school is looking after us. Very nice hotel, nice sized rooms, and right in the downtown area of Nanning. We’re also told that our principal, Chris is taking us to lunch the nice day before our orientation. We go to bed and just as I’m drifting off to sleep I hear a knock at my door. Keinan, the Vice Principal is at the door to say hi. Great guy, but I probably wasn’t the nicest to him then, because I was a little perturbed and tired. Finally get off to sleep, although a very scattered and poor one at that. Slept for two or three hours at a time so I wasn’t overly well rested the next day.

The next day (Saturday) the school has one of the guys that picked us up the day before, pick us up again and take us to the restaurant. Keinan, Chris (Our Principal for the three campuses), Denise and I have a great lunch and then we head upstairs to meet the other teachers from the other two campuses. We are a pretty spread out groups with a few from BC, and then teachers from the maritimes and everywhere in between. I am definitely the most inexperienced of the teachers here but they are a great group and have been extremely helpful when I’ve needed it.

We have our orientation and some discussion in our subject groups before we go to dinner at a restaurant owned by the man who also owns our school. I get my first introduction to Baijo (I think that’s how you spell it.) It’s an alcohol that is a shot and it is a tough one. I think they said it’s 60% alcohol. I just kept thinking that the shots have to get easier, but they never do. We also get served budwesier (lol) and some absolutely incredible food. I got my first time trying Goose Liver, which was actually quite tasty. So goose liver was my first real adventurous food. On a side note, I absolutely love the food here. Some of it is a little weird, and they don’t take nearly the care in presenting it that is taken in North America but it is awesome. You are often fighting with bones and the like because they don’t really care about cutting around it, but it’s a minor inconvenience. The food is well cooked, tons of meat and rice, and tons of vegetables. If you don’t like spicy food, you’re going to have a tough time though, but the spiciness has been fabulous. Everything pretty much has a kick to it.

The next day (Sunday) we cab downtown with one of the people from the school (Jerry) and he takes us to the biggest mall in Nanning. It felt pretty much like a mall at home other than the fact it had six levels, and a freaking skating rink in the middle of it! It’s 38 degrees outside, and people are skating on the fifth floor of a shopping mall. All the brands were the same, except the brands I wouldn’t usually shop at in Canada. Armani, Swarovski etc, very high end brands. There were also the Gap, H&M and I think three Starbucks in the mall so those are okay. We then have lunch then head back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to catch the bullet train from Nanning to Liuzhou (pronounced leo-jo). The Chinese service industry is quite interesting because it’s not really focused on the ass kissing like the Canadian one is, but they refuse to allow you to do anything. It was really funny because the front desk people at our hotel also serve as the bellhops, and I’m pretty sure my luggage weighed more than the woman trying to get it onto the bell cart, but she managed to get it on there.
We get to the train station and holy crap, it’s a freaking madhouse. It’s like going through security at the airport, except nobody lines up, so you have force your way into line, you don’t take anything out of your bags as you pass security but do put them through a scanner, and they are pushing you through incredible quickly. I may not mind it as much when I don’t have 130lbs worth of luggage with me when I try to do it. It’s also close to 40 degrees again, and incredibly humid. I don’t mind when Vernon hits 38 degrees but the humidity here just kicks the crap out of you. You approach a doorway to outside and are basically in a full out sweat. There is no deciding, “eh I probably don’t need a shower today.” It’s trying to decided, “Was my two showers today enough? Probably not, I probably do need a third.”

So we catch the bullet train in to Liuzhou and then get picked up at the Train Station by two employees of the school. Seven (that’s his chosen English name) is the guy I ride with and Denise rides with Shannon. Seven is probably three or four inches shorter than me, and pretty slim, but just a bundle of energy, and pretty funny. He’s also a go-to for us at the school to get things done.
We get to where we are living and they show us our rooms. My room was bigger than advertised. I am actually just in a hotel room, but it’s a pretty significant size with room for a desk, table and couch and bed area. The school also provided a nice wardrobe for clothing storage and a small washing machine. It will be quite comfy once I get organized (which will probably only take 6 months)

That night (Sunday) we got to dinner with Seven and Shannon and her husband. Another fantastic meal. It pretty much seems to be expected that you have beer and wine at every meal here. This time our beer turns out to be Pabst Blue Ribbon, which I don’t think has ever tasted so good. (Side Question: Can a beer taste bad when it’s 40 degrees?). I also tried my second weird food: Pig’s hoof. I can’t say I was a big fan of it, as it was kind of rubbery and tough, but I can now say I’ve tried pig’s hoof. They show us around a bit, including the supermarket. Denise and I head back to our respective apartments as neither of us have really slept well to this point. Still neither of us are able to sleep passed 6 or 7am.

Now to Monday, which mercifully was a holiday here, Denise and I go to Pizza hut for lunch with Seven and Belinda (she teaches English, but in the Chinese part of the high school.) Belinda loves having us there because her husband doesn’t like pizza (huh?) so she’s happy to have some pizza buddies. As much as I’m loving the food here, pizza was fabulous. They show us around a little more and then we head back to the apartment. We were also informed the school had set up for us to go for dinner at the house of one of our students. We had some confusion about the time this was happening, (we thought it was at 7, they were there at 5:30.) so I was in my apartment just going to have a quick nap when there’s a knock at my door. Even in Liuzhou it’s still close to 40 degrees with huge humidity everyday so when I’m in my apartment, even with air conditioning, I am usually wearing very minimal clothing. I scramble to throw some pants on, not worrying about a shirt and my future student is at the door telling me they’re there to pick us up (crap). I am in the 18th floor of the building and Denise is on the 12th, but they have different elevators that service the 13th floor and above, and 12th and below. I go down to the lobby and then up the elevator to Denise’s apartment and sure enough, no answer (double crap). Denise had gone for some groceries so we found her about ten minutes later, she went and quickly changed and then we headed for dinner.

This was the mid-autumn festival which our student informs us is basically like our Thanksgiving, and is their second biggest holiday after Chinese New Year. I felt like a bit of a jerk because we’re late for a holiday dinner, when it’s pretty humbling in the first place for them to invite us for dinner on a pretty special day for them. We get there and the food is amazing. Our student’s grandmother had cooked, and there were probably eight different meat dishes and then three or four dishes of vegetables. It could have fed a small army. It was all immaculate, and they had a really nice Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and German beer for us as well. I kind of laughed at that, drinking an Australian wine and a German beer in China. We stayed for about an hour and a half, with our student translating both ways and then his parents toured us around the city for about twenty minutes before we went back to our apartment.

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever had that easy of a time filling 2000 words. It’s been a pretty amazing time so far and that’s all before I even started teaching. Looking back at the first couple days, I can’t believe how much we actually did in that time here.  I will write a post about my first week once I am finished it. The biggest surprise for me so far, is I haven’t really felt all that culture shocked. There’s definitely noticeable differences and maybe it’s just that I’m pretty flexible but I haven’t felt too out of my element, other than the fact I can’t speak the language or read it. The school has been fabulous so far and I’m having a great time right now.

I miss all of you like crazy, and wish you could all be here experiencing this with me. Tata for now.