Archive for August, 2009

25 Aug 2009 – shopping and more food

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Today was a really cool day.  I got to explore Dalian some more, and today I saw the commercial aspect of it.

Dalian is organized by squares (think DuPont Circle) in somewhat of a linear fashion.  One of the squares, called Friendship Square (Youhau Guangchang), marked with a giant globe in the middle, has this place called Victory Plaza- a gigantic area filled with malls…outdoor malls, indoor malls, and malls underground that go for five floors beneath surface level.  The department stores are pretty expensive, but when you start hitting the shops underground, the further down you go, the more likely you are able to negotiate prices.

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When I took a taxi to Friendship Square to meet the other teachers, I noticed something about how the Chinese drive – they are reckless and ruthless.  They do not care for the well-being of others.  They do not obey basic driving etiquette we learn in the U.S. (I don’t think they have a Chinese word for “yield”), they like to create their own lanes, and they especially are indifferent towards pedestrians.  It is quite dangerous for people to cross streets, so you have to be quick and aggressive.  Thank god my company pays for health insurance.

I ate out a lot today too.  For lunch we ate at this pizza restaurant, but I paid 30RMB for a small (aka tiny, aka child-size, aka my usual-size snack before I go to bed) pepperoni pizza.  If I had the money, I would have gotten a pizza that has a crust made up of pigs-in-a-blanket.  For dinner, though, we went to this hotpot restaurant (a chinese take on fondue) that was VERY good.  You order raw meat and vegetables, and they bring out a communal pot with boiling soup filled with flavor and spices, and you cook the food in the pot.  I know I’m going to have dreams about that meal.

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29 Aug 2009 – Night Life, TV, and Internet

Friday, August 28th, 2009

So Friday night a couple of the teachers went out to dinner.  It was a similar style of place we went to for the Welcome Dinner, but this was nice b/c it was just teachers.  It seems like the majority of the restaurants here go like this:  if you eat out with a group of people, you just order like 8-10 dishes, the servers put them on this rotating glass setting, and everyone picks from the dishes.  Our meal cost about 30RMB per person (so…less than 5 bucks each).  I also met two former F&S teachers, both who are still working as teachres but for different companies.

After hanging out at the restaurant and drinking  a couple beers after dinner, we decided to move the party along to this “expat” bar called Bobo’s.  There were a lot of foreigners here (not just Americans).  It was nice, nothing outstanding about the place.  There were some younger Chinese guys playing PS3 at the bar, which I thought was kinda cool.  After a couple drinks there, we moved to another expat bar called Friends (American-owned, but unfortunately not named after the TV show).  This one had live music…mainly one guy on the guitar doing American cover songs, but he was good.  Also a lot of drunk Americans and one old, smashed Irish guy.  Generally a good time.  The bars stay open late, you can take your beer from the first bar and walk it over to the next one, and the people have been nice so far.  I wonder if the Chinese bars are the same.

I’ve also noticed some things about Chinese TV.  First off, I am one of the lucky ones that actually gets American channels, so I abuse that privilege as much as possible.  Secondly, when I watch American movies on HBO or Cinemax, they look like Chinese TV; like, the way it is filmed.  I hope you’re getting what I’m trying to say.  Finally, I love the fact that I get ESPN.  They do show a LOT of soccer, though.  And when they do have SportsCenter (usually late at night, not all day like in the US), its mainly soccer highlights.  They also show some baseball, but so far I’ve only seen Yankees games.  They also have random segments like “Where Are They Now” and stuff about athlete’s personal lives (they chronicle a balance of American and international athletes).  CNN and BBC here focus a lot on international news, as they should.  But MSNBC is the closest to strictly American news.  They’ve been covering a lot on the death of Ed Kennedy here.  MTV is also pretty cool because they show American artists and Chinese ones (a lot of pop music).  No reality TV, thank goodness.  The Chinese channels can be interesting, but I haven’t seen anything unusually funny or weird yet.  I will definitely let you know when I do.

Before I left, I know I was getting a lot of warnings about the internet here.  The restrictions are not as limited as publicized in the US.  The worst thing I’ve experienced was not getting Facebook (which I know could be horrible for some).  I think that it is blocked, but some American teachers have found ways around it (like downloading and paying monthly for proxys).  Also, when looking for blog-sites, some were blocked as well, but this UMW one works just as fine.  I’ve heard that its a myth that there are people literally monitoring everyone’s internet use.  While the Chinese could hire the man-power, it would also be overwhelming to keep track of that many people.  The other teachers who have lived here longer say that a database just searches for key words and if they find them, messages or posts just don’t get sent.  That’s all.  Despite that, I can get on the usual sites I get on in the US, my internet is pretty fast, and overall everything is a-okay.

Oh, one more thing.  I’ve noticed that Jackie Chan is on nearly every product and advertisement here, with his boyish smile and his approving thumbs-up.  I love it…

13 Days and Counting…

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Hello all, and welcome to my shiny new blog where I shall be chronicling the ups, downs, and inbetweens of my three months in Salzburg, Austria. At the moment, thirteen days and the impossible task of packing stand between me and my transatlantic flight. As that does not make for very interesting reading, I’d like to use this time before departure to encourage you all to keep in touch and have a lovely fall!

27 Aug 2009 – first chinese meal and a long hike up a mountain

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

What a day today.  When we had a break in our orientation, a couple of the teachers went on a stroll to Tiger Beach.  We walked maybe a little more than two miles up this mountain and overlooked the beach.  Very beautiful.  On the way up, we also saw marijuana plants growing.  Kevin, a fellow teacher and one who has been in China a couple months, says that it grows openly here without the Chinese knowing exactly what it is.  So, something to think about if you want to visit this country.  Also, when walking around China, you’re allowed to have open bottles of alcohol.  This could be dangerous information I’m giving out…

We also ate lunch at the private school we had orientation at.  The food wasn’t that great, just some tofu concoction over rice, a bowl of soup, and some unappealing entrees.  But, when we had our welcome dinner at this restaurant, I finally got my first real Chinese meal.  It was delicious.  Kung Pao Chicken is an original Chinese meal, too!  And Gracie, if you are reading this, they refer to American food the same way we refer to their Chinese food.

Another cool thing about eating in China are the way they do toasts.  You have to say “Gan Bei” before drinking, and most people down their drinks in one swig (the glasses are pretty small).  And whenever my glass was empty, someone was always re-filling it.

Below are pictures of Tiger Beach and Mary Jane (no, that’s not the girl’s name).

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We also learned today how they want us to develop our lesson plans.  All the students have Chinese teachers who teach them English.  Our purpose here is to supplement what those teachers teach them. We have textbooks, but we don’t have to strictly follow them.  We basically need to find creative and interesting ways for the students to apply what they learn, and give them a perspective on American teaching methods since most will eventually continue their education in the States.

During orientation, we got to meet some of the students.  These were private school kids, about 16 years of age, and most spoke English well.  A lot of the girls like Harry Potter, Twilight, and World of Warcraft (haha!).  Basketball is also very popular among the kids.  I couldn’t get excited about teaching them, though because I won’t be teaching at any private schools.  I really liked this particular school we had orientation in.  Pretty upscale, had a lot of resources.  Oh well, maybe next semester.

26 Aug 2009 – going into the city

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

So I had orientation this morning.  John, the IT supervisor, was sent over to pick me up from my apartment.  He showed me how to take the bus from my apartment and into the city.  I only live two stops from the office where I had orientation today.  It also only costs 1 yuan to ride it (the exchange rate is about 1RMB to 0.14 dollars).  I found out that crossing streets can be dangerous.  There aren’t many crosswalk lights, so people just kind of go at will, and drivers do not do a very good job of yielding.  Such is the life here, gotta be on your toes.

Orientation did not last long, so after mingling with the other teachers, some of us went to the supermarket just to grab something (many of us did not eat that morning nor the night before).  I got yogurt, bananas, two big bottles of water and a bottle of orange juice for under 20 RMBs.  Then, John and April took some of us to get a cell phone.  They helped us shop around for some good deals.  We all just got a simple one, cost 430 RMB’s for the phone and sim card (about 60-65 US dollars-pretty sweet, huh?).  If you want to know the number (and my address) just send me an email and I’ll let you know, but I’d be hesitant about calling international.  It’ll be expensive for the both of us.

After that, John had to take me to the Police Station to get my resident permit.  This took awhile to do (as did getting the phone), which John said was a usual thing here.  Not sure why yet, but he said one needs to develop patience to live here, and I agree.

I rode the bus a lot today, and I’m only familiar with going to the places I went.  Not sure what else is around.  It also rained a lot, which reminded me of the Philippines.  At the end of the day, John came back to my apartment to fix my internet, so now I can get online at home.  I’m very fortunate to have people willing to take us around helping us do the little things here.  Without them, my life would be a mess right now and I would be on the next flight home.  But it looks like the teachers here are surrounded by good people in the program, so I’ll be fine.

I hope I can tell you more about the city tomorrow.