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Day 100: An Adventure in Review

We have officially been here for 100 days and a third of our time in China is already over! To celebrate, this post will be a recap of the 100 days we have lived in China!

We have visited:
Shanghai – French Concession, The Bund
ZhouZhuang – “Venice of the East”
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, The Summer Palace, The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Hutong alleys, Olympic Park, Lama Temple, Confucius Temple
Baoding – The Lotus Pond
Tai’an – Taishan
Mutianyu – The Great Wall
Shijiazhuang – The train station
Quyang – Lake trip with other foreign teachers
Pingyao – Pingyao City

We have eaten:
Baozi, jaozi, pigs’ hooves, cow intestines, lots of noodles and rice, kabobs, tofu, strange mushrooms, a lot of street food, and innumerable other things we do not know.

Unique experiences:
We put a lock at the top of Taishan and tied well-wishing ribbons to it inside of a Daoist Temple.
Saw (and heard) a saxophonist in Pingyao playing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic:

We celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving (without Trick or Treating and without Turkey).
Fireworks set off in between high-rise apartment buildings were so loud we thought the building was collapsing have woken us up.
We’ve used the Beijing subway system and taken several bullet trains.
We teach more than 2500 students every week:
(Here is one class of my eighth graders playing outside with me)

We have seen more German Shepherds than we can count at an outdoor dog sale every Sunday.
Celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival with moon cakes and our students:

We have become accustomed to:
Using chopsticks
Squatty potties in public bathrooms
Teaching classes of 50+ students
Street food
The ground is lava! (Seriously, don’t touch the ground.)
Traffic and the constantly blaring horns
(I’m not quite accustomed to the interesting fashion choices)

As a result of living here, I am grateful for:
Heaters and A/C units
Having a refrigerator
Having clean and drinkable tap water
Internet and technology that makes communicating across the globe possible
Our motorbike (even if it got a flat tire last night)
My Kindle

What’s left?
More traveling
A lot more studying of Mandarin Chinese
Cold weather
A haircut at some point
Christmas
Duncan’s birthday
Chinese New Year
Spring Festival
Lantern Festival

My perspective from the back of our motorbike, Kuai Long, of the ride down the road leading to our school:

Thank you so much for taking this journey with us! We’re having a great time and couldn’t be happier with our decision to come here. Thank you, also, for your continued support and encouragement, especially during the homesick holiday season. And, as always, thank you for reading!

Until next time,
Alyssa

A water show in the nearby Military School Park:

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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Baoding, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Day 78: Baoding in Teaching (Teaching in Baoding)

Hello everyone!
I can’t believe we’ve already been here for 78 days and have completed our tenth week of teaching.
This week’s classes were a lot of fun! We had fewer classes than usual because morning classes on Wednesday for primary school students and Friday morning classes for middle school students were cancelled because the students had exams. This meant that I saw only one fifth grade class on Wednesday and only taught five eighth grade classes this week.
My lesson for the sixth graders covered months, seasons, weather, appropriate clothing, and seasonal things to do outside. Though most of the vocab was review, they seemed to enjoy learning “swim suit” (which they would not stop calling a “swimmy suit”), “umbrella” (aka “umbreller”), “rain boots” and “rain coat” (which they called “rainy boots” and “rainy coat”).
The past several weeks I have been teaching two or three different lessons to my seventh grade because cancelled classes have made it so that all of the classes have not had my class the same number of times. For some classes this week I combined two lessons and for other seventh grade classes I just played games all of class to try to get everyone on the same page. All of my seventh grade classes have now had the same material, but because of the class cancellations this week (and last), now I have one fifth grade class ahead of all the other fifth grade classes and another class two weeks behind the others (on top of them already being the class of transfer students that have a lower English level than the rest of the grade).
I played the same game with all of my classes this week just at varying levels of difficulty appropriate to the most recent lesson material and grade level. It proved to be a very successful game that I will definitely play again in the future. I divided the class into three or four teams depending on size and divided the chalkboard into sections according to the number of teams. I then wrote down some words that the students had to unscramble into a grammatically correct sentence in order for their team to get a point.
Before I played the game I was doubtful that they would see the game as fun and would see it more as a classroom exercise, but their enthusiasm (in all classes) astounded and encouraged me. My most advanced seventh grade class played it almost the entire class period because they were enjoying it so much. It really seems to be a great game because the entire class gets engaged and really into telling their teammate at the board how to write the sentence correctly and they all end up speaking in English without even realizing what they are doing. For this reason, I used more practical sentences for my eighth grade (such as “I would like a ticket to Beijing, please” and “I am learning English”) to give them practice saying phrases they are likely to use in real-life rather than the lesson-appropriate sentences I used with my sixth graders (“Fall is cool” and “I like to go swimming in the Summer”). One of my favorite moments from this week’s game was when I had the students unscramble words to form the sentence “Alyssa is my favorite English teacher”. As I went through checking each team’s sentence I said, “thank you!” as if they had done it on their own and they all thought it was very funny.
On Wednesday when I had my one fifth grade class, the Chinese teaching assistant never showed up so I taught the entire class by myself. I was very proud of my students for how well they did understanding what I was saying and participating in the class without relying on a Chinese translation. When I started the class with my usual routine of asking them what they did over the weekend, one girl told me that it was her birthday. After she sat down, another girl stood up and said in front of the class that she went to her friend’s birthday party. It seems like a simple situation but keep in mind that these are 10 and 11 year olds telling me in correct English about their weekends. They really do astound me.
I’ve started hanging out with my students in their classrooms in the breaks between classes rather than reading in the hallway or in the teacher’s offices and this has proved to be very valuable and a lot of fun. During this time, I always have some girls messing with my hair, some boys pointing at different things either around the room or in books asking me for the English words, and other students just trying to tell me different things in English and Chinese. I get so encouraged by my students’ attempt to speak in English with me about normal everyday things rather than just following a memorized script or only talking in English when they have to in class. The more relaxed interactions with me in between classes rather than just with me as the English teacher at the front of the class is probably more valuable than anything I could teach them as a class.
My eighth grade classes, usually a source of much worrying and anxiety for me, were hugely successful this week and I couldn’t be happier with how they went. Some of the students are still troublemakers and seem to spend the entire class talking, throwing things, or messing with people, but as a whole they were all great. Because of the game I played with them, even the kids that normally sit in the back scowling at me with teenage angst came to the front, participated, and did really well.
I had a lot of funny moments happen in classes this week too. One eighth grader kept trying to flatter me however he could in English so that I would give his team more points and another kid’s voice cracked so loud and high that it scared me and I jumped. One boy, rushing back to his seat after writing on the board, slipped and fell on his back in the middle of the aisle in between desks as if he had slipped on a banana peel. And in another class, in the middle of the game I heard a loud pop like a mini explosion from the back of the room and I couldn’t figure out what it was. There were a group of students (where I suspect the noise originated) that kept looking at me and telling me “don’t worry about it” while all the kids around them were staring and pointing at them. I asked what the noise was (assuming a stool had broken, but no one seemed to be missing a stool) but I still have no idea what happened. It was pretty funny though.
I am so excited about this week because it seems I finally learned how to connect with my older students and play with them at the level they want to play at while (sneakily) forcing them to use English. Next class I am going to take my eighth graders outside – an option I gave them at the end of class that immediately made their eyes bug out of their heads and get super excited and become well-behaved.

For non-teaching news, it’s really cold here. I clearly wasn’t using my brain when I packed because I left my smurf suit (a blue wool body suit), leather gloves, and long underwear in the States. It seems that I forgot I was moving to the North of the globe when I was packing and, for a reason I cannot explain, decided it was better to pack a couple of sundresses rather than my winter coat. I’ve always thought I was a good and practical packer but after this oversight, I’ve decided I’m never allowed to pack by myself again.
But, we do now have heat in the room and it is the most amazing thing I think I’ve ever experienced. We were getting so cold at night before our heat was working that we were genuinely concerned for our safety come winter. Our washer was also fixed this week and now we can do a load of laundry in half the time and without the bathroom flooding because there is no longer a missing pipe on the underside of the sink (you have to turn the faucet on to get water in the washer). We discovered how to dry our clothes fast when we moved the drying rack by the window in our living room and turned on a fan that sucks air out of the room (like bathrooms in the States).
And though happy baozi man still hasn’t returned, as we’ve seen more and more street vendors disappear with the changing weather, we have become more confident that we will see him again in the Spring.

We’re spending the weekend in Baoding again just resting and staying warm. Soon, I am going to make another post about cultural differences I’ve noticed and more about what it’s like living in China as a meiguoren (American).

Have a good weekend and thank you for reading!

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 50: Dinosaurs & Popsicles

Hey everyone!

Another week of teaching has flown by and we’re spending the weekend in Baoding. The weather (in the classrooms) is no longer the stifling heat it was the first couple of weeks we were teaching and is progressively getting cooler. Though not time for our winter coats just yet, the evenings (especially on Kuai Long) necessitate a little something more on our arms.

Remarkably, we still haven’t found facemasks yet. You would think that with the smog being so bad so consistently that they would be easy to find and relatively cheap but this is, unfortunately, not the case. In the near future we may be pooling our money with two other friends to buy a case of high-quality masks off of Taobao. We just can’t go the entire year without facemasks of some sort (especially considering the smog gets even worse in Baoding winter).

Low lying smoke in the field next to the school:
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My eighth grade classes were enjoyable this week – something that I’m very relieved about. I taught them the same Hoobastank song lesson that I used on my seventh graders and it seemed to be successful. I also learned that the students are much more engaged in class if I begin by asking them personal questions such as “How was your holiday” and it encourages them to use their English in a natural and individually constructed way rather than just using the memorized sentences they’ve learned in their classes. I’d like to believe that it will encourage them to want to talk to me and in turn will motivate their English learning.

The Hoobastank “The Reason” lesson:
IMG_1976

I was certainly encouraged when in several of my classes, some students took the conversational style I started the class with and were asking me how to say certain words in English. I’m not exactly sure what was going on but in one of my eighth grade classes, students kept drawing turtles on their paper and asking me what the English word was. As soon as I told them “turtle” they all immediately pointed to one kid in the back of the class and said, “his name is turtle!” Right after that, they spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to say, “Dinosaurs with small eggs lived in a big forest”. (I figured this out through pantomiming, drawing on the board, and having students write the desired characters in my phone’s Chinese-English dictionary.) They seemed quite content when I wrote down the dinosaur sentence so I assume that’s what they were after though why, I have absolutely no idea.

When I asked another class what their favorite music was they kept telling me about some artist that is very popular in China and in Korea. They did not, however, know the English word “Korea” and so they pulled out a map and started pointing to Korea over and over again. And, again, another class, wanted to know how to say “Popsicle”.

After one or two classes, I realized that asking the kids what their favorite music and computer games are at the end of class was super successful and I did it with all my classes, including some seventh grade classes. I was very amused by the favorite music answers I got in every single class of eighth graders – Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, PSY (Gangnam Style), Backstreet Boys, and Avril Lavigne. Who would have thought that Avril or Michael Jackson would have been on their list of favorites. Their favorite computer games were always – LOL (a DOTA game), CF (Cross-Fire), Angry Birds, and Plants vs Zombies. I was surprised that none of them knew what WOW (World of Warcraft) was seeing as it is pretty popular in China as a whole.

After classes were done for the week, we went out for dinner with a whole bunch of other foreign teachers at a restaurant called “Philly Story”.

The GIANT pizza from Philly Story (one pizza took up one whole table):
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It’s so much fun to hang out with this group because we have Americans, a British guy, an Australian guy, Chinese people, and one Chinese guy that has lived in New Zealand, South Africa, and, of course, China. It really is an outstanding group of people with so many interesting stories to share and with such great perspectives on life. Really, it is a unique type of person that decides to embark on an adventure such as this and as I meet more and more interesting people doing the same thing as us, I’m encouraged to think, “Hey, maybe we’re interesting people too!”

But speaking of food, earlier in the week we found a new restaurant that ended up being pretty cool! It’s a hot-pot place, which in our book is always a good thing, but it ended up being a nontraditional hot-pot place which was even better They take a glass hot-pot dish, stick a melon inside of it, and then they put all sorts of delicious meats and vegetables inside the melon. The one we got came with chicken and celery inside the melon but we also ordered a side of mutton slices to cook in the hot-pot. If you put the meat inside of the hot-pot dish, it takes on the taste of the melon but if you put the meat inside of the melon it, interestingly enough, takes the flavor of the meat. We will definitely be going back there again!

Melon Hot-Pot:
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Today started out as any normal Saturday in Baoding should start – with coffee and fireworks. We slept in a little bit and headed to QLH planning on having a quiet day of planning and hanging out when all of a sudden we hear what sounds like the rope of a bomb going off and then hundreds of fireworks exploding. We look out the window and, sure enough, people down the street are setting off these fireworks on the sidewalk in between cars (because the sidewalk also means the parking lot in China). The best, though, was when one guy had a whole roll of firework tape that he accidentally lit all at once, and he threw it and ran across the street before it started going off. You could see his eyes from down the road they were so big!

Fireworks, of course:
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And for one more food story, tonight we went out to eat at a Sichuan style restaurant we frequent. We ordered our usual stir-fried green beans and rice but we also decided to try a new meat dish and they brought us “hua cha” (flower tea). The meat dish and the tea was good and the green beans were great as usual. Last time we went we got a “special friend price” (a discount they gave us because we’re frequent patrons), but this time I got a juice box with my change! It seems to be a normal box of peach juice but the lady behind the counter looked so pleased with herself I couldn’t not take it. Maybe it will be a midnight snack.

For some unhappy news, happy baozi man’s food tent and neighbors have been missing recently and we’re quite saddened by our lack of baozi from him. We do, however, believe he will return and when he does we will tell him “we missed you” and “women hui lai” (we have returned!)

For some happy news, Duncan has started drinking coffee with me, which is a dream come true for me, so to celebrate (and to prepare for the coming winter) I bought a coffee maker for the room! I also got a “special friend price” on it from QLH because I’m probably keeping their business alive despite the new competition down the road.

To everyone in Asheville, go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the leaves for me before it starts getting too cold. I hear Nutcracker rehearsals are starting soon and, with me already missing dancing, I’m sad that I am not there to participate. If anyone knows of some phenomenal Nutcracker ballets to see here in China, let me know. I need to continue my annual Nutcracker tradition even if it’s just as a spectator.

Have a lovely weekend!
Alyssa

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 20: First Long Weekend

Today was a happy day minus the time spent in class. Every other Thursday I do not teach in the mornings and I am supposed to teach three seventh grade classes in the afternoon. This means that today I should have started teaching at 2:30. So I spent my morning video chatting with the best friend and my Dad, caught up on emails, and finished my second Kindle book since arriving in China (The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory if anyone is interested). It was a very productive and relaxing morning.

During lunch, Duncan and I went and got some street burrito things and hung out with some Chinese friends at the coffee shop. They, as natives of Baoding, pointed out some places we should visit on our new Baoding map and where we might be able to find some things we are looking for. And, because of the Wi-Fi there, I have now started playing Candy Crush as well as Jewel Mania. Such a great way to spend my time!

When I headed to the classroom to teach my first seventh grade class of the day, I noticed it was oddly quiet. After walking down the hallway and seeing classroom after classroom of testing students, an older woman came up to me and in broken English explained to me that I didn’t have class that period because of some testing. So I went back to the room, relaxed some more, and returned to the classroom building at 4:15. It turns out that I did have class at the 4:25 class period, but I was supposed to teach the class section that I should have taught at 2:30 (I have no idea where the correct class section was or why I taught the section I did).

The students were pretty awful and it was definitely the class that has felt the longest to teach, but it was an unusual day for the students and I’m not going to dwell on their terrible behavior. Despite their sleeping, using the desks as drums, or wrestling in the aisles between desks, I had a few students who were eager to participate and I had a decent time with them. None of the students wanted stamps (the first class that has been that way) and keeping them engaged was difficult but I’m sure that has to do with the fact that they’d been testing all day and were having a class they normally wouldn’t have at that time.

I did not end up having a third class of the day either (I have no idea why) so I returned to the room and Duncan and I went to visit happy baozi man for dinner. After dinner we went to the Military School Park as sun was setting and took an evening stroll. The park is huge and there are clearly developed areas for certain activities. One part of the park is filled with older women dancing (kind of like Zumba only with less hip-hop influence) and other parts are for little children, a jump-roping class, young couples, roller blading, laser toys, and some weird giant spinning top things with LED lights on them that older men kept spinning by literally whipping the sides of them, sending loud cracking noises throughout the park. I’m sure before we leave China, I will get a jump rope and join in the jumping to techno music and eventually I will join the older women in their dancing. We walked back to our apartment contented with a lovely evening.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how we have a new awareness of ourselves here that I’m going to call foreign consciousness. Recognizing that we both stand out obviously as foreigners and that more people are observing us on a regular basis than would ever occur in the States, we have become particularly aware of how we look and act when in public. It’s not just about how we look physically, but more how we have an increased awareness of what we do because we are aware that we are serving as ambassadors and representatives of America and American people. We may be the only Americans, or foreigners, some of these people in Baoding ever meet and thus we have the possibility of shaping their ideas of a huge group of people, based on one impression. I can’t help but think about the cliché of lasting first impressions. It’s very interesting to me how that consciousness can affect your behaviour. For example, there have been a couple of times since we’ve been here that Duncan or I have been getting frustrated and even a little angry by things going on around us, such as the incessant staring, but when we have remembered that there are a lot of people watching us and judging us as foreigners, we do not act or express the anger or irritation as we might otherwise do because we don’t want to reinforce the negative stereotype of the angry American. The same could be true for other stereotypes, positive or negative. This consciousness I think has been a great learning tool and is teaching me a lot more patience, tolerance, self-awareness, and control. I am grateful for this unique experience that is providing me with the chance to have these thoughts and learning and growing opportunities. This is a prime example of one of the reasons I wanted to come to China for this adventure.

Tomorrow I do not teach so I am technically on a long weekend. Tomorrow we should get our residence permits so we can explore outside of Baoding and we are beginning to plan a weeklong excursion for an upcoming holiday break. Once we get a hold of a high-speed rail map and schedule, we should be good to go!

Thank you for reading and Happy Friday the 13th!

Alyssa

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Baoding

 

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Day 15: Motorbike on a Whim (Welcome to China)

Today was a really great day! We got to sleep in for the first time since we’ve arrived in China (only until 8am) and then we got on our bikes, rode into town, and started our day. We got these delicious egg/bread packets filled with green things for breakfast and headed to our favorite coffee shop so I could have coffee to start my day (also for the first time since we arrived here). Since it was before 10 am, we got two mini pastries filled with custard for free and we ate them outside while enjoying our drinks, food, and the cooler weather (even though today was even smoggier than yesterday).

While walking around a park, we stumbled upon a very loud car show. Every car company was there with their own shows going on and massive tents filled with people and information. Every company had their own stage with performances continually happening while being blared out of tremendous speakers. Truly, everything in China seems to be excruciatingly loud because everything is trying to drown out all the other already too loud noises around them. So you end up across the park from a performance but it sounds as if you have your head to the stadium-sized speaker. I might be deaf by the end of this year.

(I wanted to post a video I took of one of the performances but it would not load. The performance is of two very angry-looking Chinese girls in neon green costumes like you see in dance competitions dancing to an old school Britney Spears song I believe is What You See Is What You Get.)

Also at this car show, we found huge tents filled with all the different brands of motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, and motorcycles. The past couple of days we have been jokingly toying with the idea of buying a motorized bike to use to get around town instead of the bikes we were given by the school so we went into one of the tents and looked around and got an idea of prices but soon left when we realized we couldn’t speak enough Chinese to actually get enough useful information.

So we rode our barely-held-together bicycles down the street quite a ways and found Dong Feng Gong Yuan (East Wind Park but also known in our minds as “the watery park”) where we parked our bikes and had a nice stroll along a waterway. While there, we found the coolest kids’ playground in existence. It’s basically an obstacle course but scaled down to fit 5 year olds (or me).

(Please ignore my finger.)
Kids' Obstacle Course

After strolling around, we rode our bikes back to the coffee-house to meet a friend and ended up resting there for a while and enjoying the Wifi. I also had my most exciting Chinese language moment yet when I asked if the lady behind the counter had a pen. It turns out that I told the lady she had a pen instead of asking her, but I spoke in Chinese and they handed me a pen so I consider it a success!

One of the downsides to being in such a rural place is that, for many people, we are two of the only foreigners they’ve ever seen. The two of us, in particular, stand out due to Duncan’s height and curly hair and my mane of light blonde hair.

Which brings me to the stares…
Our presence, though certainly noticed, was never an issue when we were in Shanghai because it is a major international city and the people there are used to seeing foreigners. But our uniqueness in Baoding has made leaving the apartment a bit of a nuisance. Everywhere we go, even riding our bikes down the street, we are stared at. If a person knows any English they will come up or yell to us and say “hallo” and try to have a broken conversation in English. Normally, though, “hello” is all they know so it ends up being kind of awkward. People will pass us on their bikes or in their cars or while walking down the street and continue to look back behind them at us until we are out of sight. The other day, even a dog gave us the lao wai (foreigner) stare as he was running down the road. Some people have even pointed and said “meiguoren” (American) or “waiguoren” (foreigner) while staring right at us. Before the end of this year I might just point back and say “zhongguoren” (Chinese person) at them.
The whole situation actually reminds me of when you were little and you said you wished you were famous until some adult told you that you would have no privacy and that wouldn’t be very fun at all.

We met our Chinese friend, who speaks impeccable English and hopes to one day become a translator, and we walked back over to the park with him. And then, after some negotiating and translating on his part, we bought a motorbike!

Meet Kuai Long (Fast Dragon):
Kuai Long

Total, it cost us about $200, which we split between the two of us. It’s pretty awesome. Those of you who know me, I am against motorcycles. I think that they are loud, polluting, dangerous, and all about getting people to pay attention to you. But this motorbike, has all the positive qualities motorcycle people use to try to get me to change sides, but with fewer negatives. It’s electric and the battery is removable and will charge in our room at night so it is cost-effective and eco-friendly; It doesn’t go stupid fast; It gets us both around very comfortably; It’s quiet; And it’s not flashy.

The one we got, somewhere in between super fancy and basic, is basically steal-proof. Not only is it so heavy that I cannot pick it up, it has three different locking mechanisms on it (including a battery lock and a wheel lock) but it also came with an external lock like a bicycle lock. The bike also has lights for at night, blinkers, and an obnoxious “get out of my way” horn (perfect for contributing to the noise chaos all around us).

Of course, I am still hoping to ride our bicycles around occasionally (especially after our really wonderful rides today) for the exercise, wind, and fun, but this motorbike will cut the time in half to get anywhere and isn’t likely to fall apart underneath us in the middle of the intersection. And we will still take walks when the weather is nice and the air is somewhat more breathable. All this considered, we’re super excited about our new motorbike!

We rode back towards our apartment and stopped at the happy baozi guy’s food stand to have dinner. He was very happy to see us again and kept talking to us in Chinese but we couldn’t catch any of it because his accent is really thick. He did, however, hand us what I’m calling “handmade Chinese English muffins” after saying to us that they are free and only for his friends. Tonight’s baozi were even more delicious than last time and, to make things even better, I found my new favorite drink after coffee – pear tea.

Chinese English Muffin Pear Tea

So today was a really good day and we are both very happy and content. We are even feeling inspired and comfortable with the idea of our yearlong stay here. Tomorrow we are going to do some exploring on Quay Long and at some point attempt to do laundry. Other than that, we’re going to rest up to prepare for our first full week of teaching.

And as I finish this post, I keep thinking of two things – a Chinese person saying “this no problem” in very heavy Chinglish and the scene from Moulin Rouge where Ziegler says “everything’s going so well”!
Indeed, both are true. 🙂

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Baoding, Uncategorized

 

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Day 10: Tandem biking and fruit Oreos

Once again, today started out frustrating but ended up being a good day. We had to go to Shijiazhuang for another foreigner medical exam despite the copious number of exams we had to do in the States just to arrive here. Shijiazhuang is about three hours from Baoding by car but is only about a 30-minute ride by high-speed rail. (Today was the first time I’ve ever been on the high-speed rail!) It’s really very cool because it’s like a space-ship and a land airplane rolled into one, it went up to 293 km/hour on our trip, is pretty cheap for us, and is super comfortable. Now that we know where it is, we will be embarking for our many other traveling adventures by high-speed rail if possible.

 

The Shijiazhuang rail station:
Shijiazhuang rail station

Once in Shijiazhuang, it turns out the entire block that our hospital was on, plus another hospital, had no electricity and we were basically told to come back tomorrow. Though extremely frustrating, it ended up being a good trip because we learned where and how to use the high-speed rail and the Baoding bus system. We also found a mall-type building right down the street from where we live that we plan to explore tomorrow after we return from a (hopefully successful) trip to Shijiazhuang.

The afternoon was a lot of fun. Because Duncan’s bike’s back tire is bent and flat, we only have my bicycle working. I’m a small person, but this bike is even small for me. So imagine Duncan riding and steering the bicycle with me straddling a wire “seat” above the back wheel, going around downtown Baoding for the afternoon. We went to the coffee shop and the super market and then we found a super friendly local selling really delicious baozi for dinner all while riding tandem on a single bicycle. It actually was a really great time and I was laughing or had a stupid grin plastered across my face the entire time. If Duncan’s bike doesn’t get fixed, I’m not complaining because we have a more entertaining way to get around town. (That, by the way, is the way many people ride their bikes here. Whether it’s a couple or a parent and child, one-person drives and the person on the back sits on a flat metal grid that’s used as a seat.)

Our tasty (and cheap) street food meal:
Baoding street baozi

And for a final adventure, we were given some “Oreos” in a collection of groceries the other night. Though the cookie part is the same as normal Oreos, the inside is a peach and grape flavored cream filling. We decided to give it a try. It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. I opened the bag and was immediately struck by an intense smell of perfume. Duncan and I both tried a cookie, and had to spit it out because it tasted like eating perfume or really intense and disgusting medicine. But, I did try the banana juice that was also in our grocery gift. Even though I was initially more skeptical about the banana juice than I was of the fruit Oreos, the banana juice is good and just tastes like banana pudding with vanilla wafers.

Fruit Oreos and Banana juice:
IMG_1614Banana Juice

So today had a lot of exciting food experiences and was the first solidly enjoyable day I’ve had here. Everyday we’re learning something new and growing from all of our experiences.

 

Thank you for reading and subscribing! Have a good labor day everyone! 🙂

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Baoding, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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