Saturday, 27 September 2008

Hanging out with students

This has been a really good week. Wednesday-Curtis, Katie, and I went to Beijing for the day. Katie's mom is here visiting and they went to the airport to pick her up, we went early so we could go out to eat at TGI Fridays and go to Jenny Lous. It was a fun day and I was super happy to go to Jenny Lous-they had everything I wanted (except powdered sugar), but that's ok. TGI Friday's was delicious and I made it back to Baoding by myself, so I figure that's a small accomplishment.

To celebrate two of my student's September birthdays, I made a chocolate cake (from scratch) and invited my IELTS class over Thursday after class. They all loved the cake-the boys kept coming back for more.

Today, most of my IELTS students took me to the former Baoding governor's home. It's not like a governor in the States and no one has lived in the buildings for over 200 years. All of my IELTS students are pretty fluent in English-they are all taking the Internat'l English Language Testing System test this semester. They have to pass it in order to study in England for their Master's degree. Their majors vary-some are communication majors, electrical engineer majors, etc. Sunny is taking her test next month-I think she's ready. Peter is the only one that can understand me when I talk too fast (which is too often-I'm working on it). It's funny-when I talk too fast-he'll translate to everyone else what I want them to do.

We had a lot of fun today and they are all super knowledgeable about their country's history, so I learned a lot from them while they acted as tour guides. I'm pretty close with my IELTS students because I have them 4 days a week. They're all super sweet! Poor Peter had a fever today, but came anyway. We did a little shopping afterward and went to McDonald's. McDonald's was interesting-they were excited to have a foreigner visiting and had us sit down first and came to the table to take our order and brought us our food. It was really nice and they gave me a McDonald's/Olympics fan. Sunny said is was because I am an American and since McDonald's is American food, we got special treatment.

Tomorrow, I'm going to play badmitton with them-I haven't played badmitton since high school, so that should be interesting.

I'm headed to Beijing next Wedesday until Saturday. We don't have class next week for National Day, so I'm staying at a spa hotel. I'm looking forward to it. One of my students, Sabrina, is from Beijing, so she is picking me up at the train station and showing me around. I'm definitely taking her out to TGI Fridays and Starbucks!

Here are some pictures of my apartment and random pictures from today!

Living room

TV and wicker drawers


Bathroom (my least favorite room-the shower is kind of a pain)

The teeny-tiny drain that all the shower water has to go into

Kitchen (check out my chocolate cake!)

Kitchen (other side)

A cute dessert my friend, Shannon, gave me

Sugared Hawthorne-it's like a candy here-one of my students gave me a bag full.

Miss Bonny in the cab (sorry the picture is the wrong way)

Getting organized outside the former governor's home (Steven, Peter, Bonny, Sunny, Philip, and Vincent)

Vincent and Peter


A canon

Hanging lanterns

Inside the courtyard

Philip (in green) and Steven being silly (big trees are rare here)


Entrance into the governor's sleeping quarters (I think)

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Josh, JinJing, Lindsey and I went to Beijing last Sunday. We started out super early, our train at 4:55am was canceled, so we had to take the 6:15 train. We made it to Beijing around 8am. We started at the Temple of Heaven-we didn't go inside the temple, but I think I will when my mom comes to visit-it looks cool. Around the temple is a park that older people come to do Tai Chi, play hackey sack (that's not what they call it), dance, etc. The elderly are much more active and fit here than they are in the US. I loved watching the Tai Chi leader-I had to stop myself from trying to do it with him. He was so graceful and calming to watch. Temple of Heaven does not have western toilets, which didn't make me happy. I thought they updated most tourist spots for the Olympics. Nope-they still have the squat toilets, which I refuse to use.

After Temple of Heaven, we went to Tiananmen Square. There was a huge line of people waiting to see the preserved body of General Mao. I'll pass. Then, we walked to the National Center for the Arts, which is super impressive. I plan to go to an opera there next month. By then, it was lunch time and we went to Outback Steakhouse, which I was super excited about. I had chicken for the first time in 3 weeks and not just any chicken-chicken strips and french fries (I had to eat off the kid's menu, but that's ok). It was delicious and I was super happy! We met up with one of Lindsey's friends, Sid, at Outback. He's a Chinese American who works for Google and was recently transfered to Beijing. He took me to a mall-a real western-type mall-I was so excited. It has stores I recognize, a Dairy Queen, a movie theatre, and a nail place-the perfect place for me! Then, we went to the Pearl Market, which is quite the experience. It has hundreds of clothing, shoe, handbag, etc stalls where you have to barter for everything, which is exhausting. I did buy/barter for a knock-off D&G handbag.

I really like Beijing, but I wasn't that impressed with their tourist attractions. Don't get me wrong, they're cool, but not London or Paris cool. I'm probably just bias for a European flair. I did like Beijing though and plan to go back on our 5 day October holiday. I want to go back to the art galleries and eat at TGI Fridays. We were all ready to head back to Baoding that afternoon-even though it isn't as westernized as Beijing, it feels more like home.

I still love all of my students-they're so sweet! I'm very slowly being up some Chinese. I don't need my picture book now to get back to campus-the cab drivers understand me. However, that's about it. We're all hoping to take a course at the university, so maybe that will help.

Also, Verizon and I are fighting, so no calls. I'll let you know if something changes. The best way to get a hold of me is email, Facebook, or Myspace or SKYPE if you have it.

Lindsey at Tiananmen Square

National Center for the Arts

Josh at the Temple of Heaven with the dancing fan ladies in the background

Tai Chi leader-super cool to watch (sorry the picture is the wrong way)

Josh and JinJing at the mall


Temple of Heaven

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Moon Cake Festival

We have a three day weekend due to the Moon Cake Festival. I've asked my students why they celebrate the Moon Cake Festival, but I didn't get many specifics. They said it's a tradition where you bake and eat moon cakes, eat grapes, and spend time with friends and family-sounds good to me. The university gave each of us a nice set of moon cakes-when I first saw some in a grocery store, I couldn't believe how they were elaborately decorated. One of my students also gave me some that his mother made. They look pretty good, I haven't tried any yet, Josh says they're kind of bland, so that sounds like something I may like.

We went to the fabric market yesterday-it was crazy cool. Thousands of different types of material. I wanted material to cover my couch that matched my new rug. I found it, but of course, it was more expensive that most materials. In American money, it was only $10.00 for a large sheet size amount of material, but it was 70 yuan, which Jinjing thought was too pricey. I didn't care, I wanted those colors. While we were walking around-we bought cantaloupe on a stick. They sell it on the street on a stick. Weird, huh? It tasted good and I'm branching out by buying and eating fruit off the street. I also bought frozen chicken strips-I haven't tried them yet, but I'll get brave soon.

I love my IELTS students-they're so sweet. I have my first class tomorrow for juniors writing. This is a big class, so I hope it goes smoothly.

Street market outside the fabric market (Jinjing is in green)

Fabric market-it's huge

My pretty Moon Cake box from the university

My moon cakes from the uni and my student

A home made moon cake!

Monday, 8 September 2008

First Day of Class

My IETLS classes that were supposed to start September 22 got moved up to today. It went well-the students seem super sweet (I hope they stay that way). I just wanted to "test" them tonight to see where they are with their English. I had them fill out a sheet that asks them hobbies, major, etc. It took them over a half hour to do that, so I'm going to have my work cut for me, but that's why I'm here. A few of them were too cute-I asked him what he had for dinner and he couldn't think of the English words and said he was too nervous to remember. Well...we'll work on it-practice makes perfect. My IELTS classes are smaller-9 students tonight and 12ish tomorrow. I have IETLS 4 days a week. My writing class for juniors has 32 students and starts Friday.

Oh and because I'm clumsy and kind of accident prone-I fell and hurt myself today. My class isn't until 7pm, so I decided to go shopping at Shi Dai this morning. I was taking a cab, so I decided to wear flip flops. It had rained earlier, but wasn't at the time I left. I'm walking along and get to the main square and it's SUPER SLICK and I have no traction with my flip flops. Sure enough, I fall hard on the concrete and I hopped up super quick because it was embarrassing and I didn't want a bunch of students to flock to me. Anyway, I have a big bruise on my back and I think I bruised my tail bone-it's super painful to sit, lie down, and go up stairs (did I mention I live on the 4th floor and there isn't a lift). I'll live, but I'm moving super slow and getting up and down is more trouble than it's worth.

I went to Shi Dai anyway and I'm including some pictures. Shi Dai is pretty cool-they have clothes, bedding, housewares, shoes, etc on the upper floors and the ground floor has electronics, huge meat section, and a grocery store. AND, I made to and from Shi Dai without my picture book. Josh gave me a photo album that's a virtual tour of Baoding. When getting a cab, I've been pointing to the picture and that's how I get places. Well, I pronounce Shi Dai correctly, but getting back to the university hasn't been going well. It's called Hua Dian yi xiao, which is pronounced Huow dien e sheow-I know-what a mess! Anyway, I'm finally picking it up better because the cab driver understood me.

I'm also including some pictures of the light/water show they have on campus. They do it the evenings-play music and the fountains "dance" to the music and change colors. It's much prettier live than in the pictures.

Water/Light show

Shi Dai shopping center

Meat section at Shi Dai-it's overwhelming-I don't even know where to begin looking for chicken. Then, I get so grossed out looking at the other meats, I figure just forget it. Probably why I haven't had meat since I got here.

My IELTS classroom

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The eternal struggles of a picky eater...

Well, I haven't even been gone 2 weeks and my food struggles are in full force. I knew food would be a problem as did most of you reading this blog. I had planned to become a vegetarian, which I'm not opposed to, but I never came up a solution as to what I would replace chicken with. I miss chicken most ardently. It's here, but it looks questionable and I'm not sure if I know how to make it. I'm going to branch out next week and buy some kind of chicken breast and try to bake it because I'm getting desperate. I'm going through my American food stash way too quick. I'm currently living in a society where noodles and rice are staples-I don't like noodles and I only like my mom's rice. Fortunately, I did learn how to use my little toaster oven-I've made banana bread twice (from the Jiffy boxes I brought-I only have 5 boxes left-so sad). In my defense, I have branched out of my "food bubble." You would be proud. I buy and eat fruit off the street, I have tried numerous foods that I would normally never touch with a 10 foot pole with the hopes that I might like it, and I stand in long "egg lines" to purchase eggs that look far to fresh out of the chicken. I'm grateful that I have a loving mom that is willing to send me $50.00 boxes full of food on top of the 2 packages she has already sent. I've already warned her that she's going to have to bring an extra suitcase full of food when she comes to visit in December.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Nights out

Katie took Lindsey, Jada, and I out to eat at one of her favorite places-I did not eat the food. You can look at the picture and probably know that it isn't something I would eat. I did, however, try the dessert (the little pastry balls in the picture)-they were ok-kind of like a funnel cake, but not as good. Katie loves them though!

Tonight, Black Wolf (that's his chosen English name, it sounds Indian to me, but black is favorite color and the wolf is his favorite animal-hence his name), invited all of us out to dinner. He plays basketball with Josh and Curtis. We had a lot of fun-we went to Sandy's, which is Italian-I finally found something that I would eat-cheese pizza! It was delicious! Then we went to KGE, which is a karaoke bar (of sorts)-it's actually really nice and fancy. Each party has their own private karaoke room that comes with a flat screen tv, leather couch, and cool lighting. Chinese friends are super sweet and generous-if they invite us out-they pay for everything. I haven't paid for a meal yet. When my apartment is all put together, I hope to everyone over to repay them for all their generosity.

Katie and Lindsey with Curtis in the background

The group at Sandy's

My cheese pizza

Josh at KGE

Curtis singing with Black Wolf beside him

Monday, 1 September 2008

Survived the Chinese hospital! And, my class schedule-

So, we had to get our physicals today-they have to make sure we're 100% healthy before we can get our residency permits. I had a physical in the States before I came, but it wasn't near as extensive as this one. We left early this morning for the Hebei (provence) capital-I don't know the name of the city-it was about 2 hours away. We had to fill out paperwork, get our picture taken, then the fun stuff. I've never had blood drawn (at least not while I was awake), so I was nervous. I did great, but Curtis psyched himself out and had to lie down before they could even take it, Katie did great, Josh started out ok, but then passed out (he said it felt like he was dreaming even though it was only for a matter of seconds), Lindsey started out ok, but they had trouble finding a good vein, but we all made it. Then, we had to have an EKG, sonogram, eye test, full body x-ray, and more. We all passed, so I must be healthy, which is good. They took us for lunch afterward to this lovely hotel that had a huge buffet. I had watermelon, a plum, a banana, and mango jello. I love that they have fruit everywhere at restaurants, I wish we had that more in the States. I'm glad the physical is over and everything went well.

As for my class schedule, I have it really good. I only teach about 10 hours a week, but I have 5 preps each week. Monday-Thursday I have my ELTS (English language testing system or LETLS) classes-I will prepare upper-class engineer majors to go to England to finish their schooling. I will also teach an English culture and history class with these students. And on Friday I have English writing for juniors. My writing class is from 3:00-4:40pm starting September 12 and my ELTS classes are from 7:30-9:20pm starting September 22. So, probably the best time to get a hold of me would be in the evenings (after 7pm Kansas time), which would be the following morning for me.

Hotel Lobby

Josh and Jong