A Travellerspoint blog

Oh yeah, I remember my blog page...

I'll try and do better next time.

sunny 75 °F

I realize it has been quite a long time since my last entry, but things here have been quite busy. No, wait, that’s a lie. I think I am just a slacker when it comes to this thing a bit. Anyway, I’ll try to sum up the last two months here for everyone.

First of all, we moved to a different apartment when the old teacher’s left after their term (March 1) and the new teacher’s came in. The new apartment is much nicer than the old one. The floors are tile, the kitchen is a little nicer and there is more room, but definitely the nicest thing about the apartment is the fact that we have a legitimate washer for clothes now. I do not miss that old thing at all. Overall we are much happier in this apartment.

Along with moving to the new apartment, we also had a huge change in the teacher’s as well. 7 teachers for the previous term including Liz and I stayed here while 8 other teachers left to go to another city or back to their respective homes. While I do miss some of the teachers from our first 2 months here, the new group is also fun to hang out with. The current group is definitely more mature than the last which makes things must nicer to deal with at school. Two of the teacher’s taught at Daliyan (North of Beijing) for a year which gives us more experience, another worked for a bank in California, and another is an older gentleman who was looking for any way to see more of China.

The group is therefore much older and things are seemingly much more relaxed than the previous group.
Over the last few months we have become quite familiar with our city. Between each of the teachers someone seems to find a new interesting shop or restaurant every week. Since the last blog, I discovered a Dairy Queen (ice cream side only), several other western markets, and a Pizza Hut was built in the downtown area. I have not been to Pizza Hut yet because there is another place here called Uncle Robin’s that imports cheese and pepperoni from America and makes a pizza quite well. It’s no Papa John’s or anything, but it will do. Also, I have been told that Pizza Hut here is very expensive, so I’ll hold on that for a while. Now only if they could build a Skyline and a Chipotle here….

The weather has been fantastic. For almost 4 weeks straight now the temperature has been in the 70-80 degree range. We also had rain in the city (off and on for 3 days) for the first time on over one year. I was quite funny to see the Chinese people’s reaction. The teacher’s at school were extremely excited about it and the drivers on the road… well that’s another story. Speaking of that, I had a streak in March where I saw a crash for 6 days in a row. One of these happened right in front of me and Liz one night which prompted us to just laugh because we have finally adjusted to their traffic laws and basically decided that there are none. Getting back to the weather though, things have been perfect. No flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, or anything else that is seemingly happening everywhere else in the world. Sitting outside in a lawn chair has been very comfortable.

Of course with all of the good, there is always the bad. And of course, in China, the bad relates to health. First it was me with the problem again. One day we were supposed to go into the mountains with the other teachers when I received yet another illness I have never suffered before. Full on food poisoning hit my stomach with a vengeance. I made close friends with my toilet for three days straight. To say the least, it wasn’t fun. Approximately two weeks later, it was Liz’s turn. Liz’s nose started bleeding one night just randomly. This was not a normal nosebleed though. When it came, there were large amounts of blood. When it did not stop by the next day, she went to the hospital. To make a long story short, 4 trips to the hospital were made in 3 days. She had to take off work for 4 days also. We have been told that since it is so dry here this commonly happens. The only problem is that their hospital sucks and they will not fix it the way we would in America. However, after several tedious days Liz if seemingly fine now.

There is not too much else to report. The last two months have really been spent just relaxing. We will get out and visit other areas soon so there will be more to write about. I hope everyone back home is well. Way to go UConn!!! Go Reds/Indians/Rays. This would be the year that all 3 teams are good, and last week were all in 1st place. Feel free to send me an e-mail to let me know how things are going! uconnhuskies99@hotmail.com . I’ll write again soon.

Posted by xumuskie 19:08 Archived in China Comments (0)

Hong Kong

What an interesting ride...

sunny 67 °F

Hong Kong
I have waited to write about Hong Kong for a while now because I was so overwhelmed with it when I was there that I could have written a huge novel. Now that things have settled back down I shall begin.
We started by leaving on Sunday morning for our 2 day trip to Hong Kong. We had a flight to Xi’an followed by a flight to Shenzhen, right on the border of China and Hong Kong. We had been told that getting to Hong Kong form Shenzhen would be quite easy. We took a bus which took us to the border, went through customs, and took another bus into Hong Kong. Entering the city at night was absolutely amazing. For approximately 10 minutes on the bus there is not much to look at with the exception of a huge suspension bridge. Then it hits you. This is the real city of lights. Las Vegas may still have more, but the setting of Hong Kong, next to the water and directly in front of Mt. Victoria was absolutely amazing. I found myself scrambling to get my camera out of my bag and of course, as soon as I did we entered a tunnel and could not get another good picture. This of course is just my luck.
Once off of the bus I felt like I was in another world. What an amazing place. The city was clearly Asian, having the same type of residential structures as in China. For the most part however, the similarities ended here. I looked up and down the street on a Sunday night and observed the huge towers and the lighted buildings. The city seemed absolutely massive. Not only this, but one of the greatest parts for me was the diversity of the people. I later learned that not all of these people were tourists, but rather residents. People were from all over the globe living here and it was so interesting to see it. It was also quite refreshing for me to see a 7-11 on the corner. Already I felt like I had returned to civilization.
We immediately began to search for a cab to take us to our hotel. While attempting this feat I realized that something was very odd about the city. Since the British occupation of Hong Kong some of their trademarks still remained. The first most glaring one was that they drove on the wrong side of the road and the driver’s seat was on the right side. This really threw me off when attempting to cross the street and looking the wrong way for cars. I found the next day that apparently this is an issue for all tourists as many intersections have “Look Left” or “Look Right” to remind you. The other most glaring icon from England is the double deck cable cars. They run all over Hong Kong Island and are definitely the cheap way to get around the city.
Upon our arrival to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I realized that we were in for a treat as soon as we entered the building. Liz’s mom travels frequently with work and had spare hotel points which she graciously gave us to have a comfortable place to sleep for a change. Little did we know what we were getting into. We arrived in the room and my mouth about hit the floor. I had never been in such a nice hotel room let alone slept in one. The view out of the window was amazing, overlooking the area of Times Square Hong Kong. The room came equipped with a flat screen 3D television, nice work space, very comfortable bed, and a shower that had glass walls so you could see the television while taking a shower. My favorite part about the room oddly enough was the shower. Not only can you see the TV, but the speakers were wired into the bathroom as well, and the water came out of the ceiling. As a 6’10” person I find myself wondering why this isn’t the standard for showering. We stayed in on night one after a long day of travelling and ordered room service. It was quite refreshing to have a Caesar Salad and a hamburger.
Morning two came along and we woke up early to get to the Chinese Consulate first thing. One we arrived, passed through security, and got to the window, we soon found out that there was once again another problem. Our school had done it again. My 3 pages of paperwork were fine. The first page was an instruction from the Chinese Government on where to apply for our work visa. My paperwork said Hong Kong. Liz’s said USA. The consulate would not take her paperwork. We later made contact with school letting them know about the issue. They phoned the consulate and were dismayed to hear that they could not fax over a new copy as each page had an official seal on it and it had to be the original. This meant that Aston would have to send the correct form by courier. Back to the hotel we went and later to vent our frustrations began to tour the city.
The first place we went was nearby Times Square. The square was seemingly smaller than Times Square in New York, but the amount of people/businesses was definitely not. The main mall on the square is 9 floors and it contains all of the high ends brand names that you could think of. Not only this but the floors were all divided into categories which I found to be a very novel concept. For example, one floor was all outdoor stores such as North Face, Columbia, and Patagonia all next to each other. The only place I have seen this type of organization in America is a food court. After checking the listing of stores we decided that we would return here later.
Our second stop was to get on a ferry boat ride on the Star Cruise line. The boat was very simple (Nothing bigger than the B&B boat on the Ohio) and had a recording playing explaining the history of several of the buildings that we could see. The boat went right down the middle of Hong Kong Harbor and the iconic view of all of the major electronic buildings could be seen from here. We also had a great view of the convention center which was very oddly shaped and quite interesting to look at. In total the cruise lasted 1 hour and was well worth the ride. Though it was a bit cool (I still wore shorts and a T-shirt on principle) we had quite a good time on the boat and getting to see both of the islands. After the cruise we went back to the hotel room to rest.
We decided that we would go up to Mt. Victoria that evening to get pictures of the city at night. We again took the subway train a couple of stops and walked to the seemingly gravity-defying trolley car that takes you up the mountain. The train ride was very interesting and fun due to the fact that it felt as if it could tip over backwards or fall back down at any time. Upon reaching the summit, we were greeted with the closest thing to a tourist trap that Hong Kong had to offer. We quickly left the shopping area and went outside to take in the view of the city. It was quite amazing to see such a large city with so many lights tucked into one small area. After obtaining a few pictures, we had dinner at a place recommended by our tour book which turned out to be not so great in our opinion and way too expensive. We returned to the hotel to sleep after dinner.
The next morning upon waking up, tragedy had struck. My throat had felt sore the late in the previous night and it was only the beginning for what was to come. I woke up with an extremely sore throat, horrible cough, a fever, and an inability to move out of the bed. For the 1st time in my entire life I had the flu. After an hour of sitting around I got dressed and attempted to get my paperwork completed at the consulate as requested by our school. After walking the 6 blocks and hacking up flem at least 20 times in the streets we arrived at the consulate. I immediately found a chair and sat down. I had never felt so bad in my life. When we were called I think the attendant was confused as I was sweating profusely and struggling to stand in front of the window. After receiving my receipt we returned to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel it was straight into bed for me. Liz managed to find some medicine for several different things and I took some of each. I am usually extremely stubborn about taking pills but this time I would take anything I could get my hands on. I flipped on the television and had plenty to watch as the uprisings in Libya had just began in the morning so news coverage was quite interesting. On day 2 of my sickness (yes, 2 days basically spent in bed) the earthquake hit New Zealand. Due to these events plus the fact that I felt like death I had no desire to leave the bed.
On the second night of the sickness I went upstairs for a short while to join Liz at the patio bar above the hotel. The bar was very modern and enjoyable. The view was also amazing. The bar overlooked the Hong Kong Horse Track and the horses were racing this evening. It was nice to watch the races even from so high up in the air. We took several pictures of the bar and the horse track and then went to bed again.
Day 4 of our stay had finally come and I felt much better at this point. Liz’s letter from the courier had finally arrived so we went to the consulate again to turn in her paperwork. I obtained my passport with the work visa inside of it and was good to go back at any time now. We planned to go and see the Big Buddha statue one of the other islands that day and upon our arrival to the cable car that takes you there found it to be closed for maintenance until the next day. Pulling out the travel book we found several shopping areas to hit as well as an electronics market unlike anything I had ever seen before. I felt like I could spend hours there so it was a good thing that we arrived just before their closing time. We returned to the hotel and went to the upstairs bar again for a drink and went to bed.
Day 5 had finally come and we immediately returned to the cable cars to go and see the Big Buddha. The cable car system was extremely next and we took many pictures from the cars. It overlooked a small harbor and the Hong Kong airport as well. Upon arrival to the top we thought it appeared touristy however not nearly as much as on Mt. Victoria. It was a very interesting site. I enjoyed this area very much and wish that we had more time to spend there, however we had to get back to the consulate one last time to obtain Liz’s passport once and for all. Once it was obtained we took the subway to the border and spent the night back in China in Shenzhen.
Being in Shenzhen was quite frustrating. After a week of people understanding everything I said and then going 20 minutes by train to a place where nobody understood really made me angry. Not only this, but of course the television channels were all Chinese except for one. The only story on there was that China was bringing home 20,000 migrant worker from Libya but provided no explanation to the people as to why they were doing it. The television was quickly turned off and we later went to bed.
The next morning we woke up at 5:30 am to catch our 7:30 flight. It again stopped in Xi’an and while we were there my Chinese cell phone rang for the first time in days. I was instructed by our manager that after getting back we were to immediately head to school to pass out flyers to promote the school. Both Liz and I were extremely upset that we could not just relax, however it turned out that our plane left too late and we could not make it anyway. We arrived back safely in the afternoon and went home to rest for a couple of hours.
That evening we went to dinner with one of Liz’s students. Neither of us were in the mood to do so because of our early plane flight but it was planned 2 weeks prior, it was the girl’s birthday, and we were supposed to have been back 3 days prior to this. Both of us decided to suck it up and go anyway. This later proved to be a bad idea.
We arrived at the dinner and had our first experience with hot pot. Hot pot is small pot that you get with a burner underneath it. You have your choice of no spice, medium spice, or very spicy broth. I of course went with very spicy and was extremely impressed. The meats and vegetables to choose from were plentiful and after three hours of nibbling on all types of food I had finally finished eating. The food was excellent and I definitely plan on eating there on several occasions.
The bad news came after dinner. The student’s parents invited me, Liz, and the Chinese teacher for the student named Liza to the dinner. The parents wanted to thank them both for helping their daughter learn more English. They felt that Liz and Liza had done an excellent job over the term. After dinner the adults from the other table came over to ours and tried to have us drink some beer with them. Neither of us wanted any however we had to try some as to not be rude.
After and couple of “gambe’s” pr “cheers’” the student’s father asked where we were from. I told him Ohio in America. Then he asked what we did in America. Liz explained that she was an auditor and explained her position in simple English for Liza to translate for us. I told him that I was a police officer. It was then that I was immediately swarmed by him and two of his friends from the other table with demands for more beer. Liza then told me that all three of them are also Chinese Police Officers. Due to the fact that I was still recovering from being sick and extremely tired from the long day, drinking so much was not a good idea. I , however, had no choice in the matter. After getting sick once in the restroom the others finally agreed that it was time to go. We left after having a very good time but were very excited to go home to bed. This ended our long week and we were excited to take the next day off and do nothing.

Posted by xumuskie 04:47 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Spring Festival and Chinese New Year

Kind of glad it's over...

Over the last two weeks we have been celebrating the very long Spring Festival. The celebration began on February 2nd and has finally ended on February 17th. At the beginning of the festival, I was very excited for what was going to happen. Our friend named Harrick, an adult student at Aston, invited us over to his house with his family for Chinese New Year's Eve. Upon our arrival we met Harrick and his wife, both of his parents, and his niece and nephew as well. The Chinese celebrate New Year's Eve by getting the family together and making homemade dumplings as well as many other dishes. At their house we had fish, beef head, beef with noodles, lamb on the bone, beef tongue, mushrooms, and my personal favorite, the mutton dumplings. The dinner we so great and definitely unique. We were also introduced to Bijou, the local liquor that can be very cheap and tough to drink or very expensive and quite smooth. At their house they had a bottle that was over 1,000 kwai (about $200 American) that they continually kept pouring us shots of. To say the least we were so grateful to this family.
After dinner was finished we sat and watched a television program with the family. The program is done live in Beijing and broadcast over every major station in China. It included the top Chinese comedians, actors and other celebrities, as well as what I consider to be circus/carnival acts. Though we had no idea what was being said by anyone the show was still somewhat entertaining. The real crazy part began at Midnight. At midnight the Chinese go outside of their house and shoot off firecrackers. I know, it sounds like America, but rest assured this was nothing like the American New Year's. A standard strand of firecrackers in China is 1,000 firecrackers long. Combine this with the fact that EVERYONE lets them off and you have what sounds like a war zone. There are still your standard fireworks from home such as Roman Candles and other fireworks that you could find at any stand in America, but the amount of them here is unbelievable. Not to mention the cost. For $2 American I purchased 10 M-80 fireworks. There are also fireworks that would compare to those shot at baseball games or festivals in America. To sum it up, fireworks were simply everywhere for approximately 2 hours.
Chinese New Year and Spring Festival is like a combination of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and American New Year's rolled into one huge festival. On top of all of the fireworks, the vendors also sell fake money. This money (which oddly enough is usually depicted as American $100 bills) is burned in piles to remember their ancestors. The superstition is that the ancestors still need money in the afterlife and the family can give them this gift by burning it. It's not only money that is burned though. On top of all of the fireworks, there were also burning chairs, paper of all kind, and even a sofa that one family put on the side of the street and lit up. It was quite the scene.
Since this is their longest holiday, they try to make the most of it. All government offices close for a week. The post office takes off a week and a half. Most store owners also go a travel to see relatives throughout China as this is their one chance all year to do it. Due to this fact, most of my favorite places to eat were closed and I therefore had to eat way too much KFC this week. The bars were still open at night however and there were still plenty of things to do. Several nights were spent hanging out with our fellow teachers Kai and Anne at the bars.
The day after Chinese New year it was quite warm. This was the first time since I have been here that I could go outside with a t-shirt and not feel cold. Liz and I walked through the park to go play basketball at the gym and were overwhelmed by the amount of people there. The park had all of the amusement park type rides going and the lake (still frozen over) was also crowded with people riding different types of sleds and bikes all over it. There was even one part of the lake where there were bumper boats.... on ice. That was entertaining to watch.
We have played basketball at the local gym several times now. The gym costs approximately $1 American to play for each hour per person. The Chinese stare and giggle when we walk into the place. Whichever court we wind up warming up on we never have an issue finding people who want to play with us. They all want to play with me obviously to try their luck. Anyone who has ever played basketball with me knows that I am simply not good at it, and the Chinese have exploited this. The competition is honestly quite good compared to what I expected. Liz on the other hand is quite good at basketball. Here in China, girls do not play. The girlfriends or wives come to the gym to watch their boyfriend or husband play, but that is as close as they get to the court. Due to the fact whenever a game starts, they refuse to guard Liz. It's not until she has scored 7 straight points that someone finally puts a hand in her face. Only once so far has a Chinese player attempted to push her around. It is really quite comical to watch.

By Wednesday, February 9th we had finally returned to school. The week off was nice but it was simply impossible to sleep. Since the Spring Festival goes for 15 days, the Chinese continually shoot off their firecrackers every day. The superstition states that there is a mythological monster that used to come and eat the Chinese people. Somewhere along the way the people began shooting fireworks and it scared the monster away. Ever since everyone has to shoot fireworks. Each day of the 15 day festival has it's own sub-holiday. Anyone familiar with the Mardi Gras traditions will understand how it works. Since each day is a new holiday, the fireworks never end. They go until 3 am and start by 7 am. I cannot tell you how many times I have woken up to firecrackers.
On February 12th I went with my manager Phil from school and our friend Anne to a rock climbing wall here where he also works at. The wall is located in the Yinchuan Convention center. The building itself is absolutely massive. I was told that it is the largest center in all of Asia, holding approximately 1.3 million people. We stayed for approximately 1 hour to do some rock climbing which I have not done for years, and then left the building. As we left we saw thousands of people gathered on the street for a show of some sort that was happening in 5 minutes. The building across the street was the headquarters for the power company here and they sponsored a huge (big surprise here) fireworks show. As if I wasn't totally burnt out on fireworks before I came here having seen them every night for the last 7 summers, now I was thoroughly bored. The show at the power company was a good show though. It was definitely of the quality of a Rozzi's show in Cincinnati on Labor Day. It lasted for a half an hour and I left somewhat impressed with fireworks for once.
February 17th had finally come. The lantern festival. The end of Spring Holiday. Each of us got tickets to go to a huge festival at a large park near the convention center. At the lantern festival the Chinese light huge lanterns and let them fly into the air. Thousands of them were going up and it was really quite neat to see. On top of this there was also, get this, a 2 hour fireworks show. Big shock there huh. The festival itself was quite boring. There were several lighted inflatable balloons and many games and food stands. Nothing of interest for anyone so we all left soon after arriving. The funniest part occurred when we had left the park. There were many people lighting lanterns just outside of the park gate when a police officer with a megaphone began yelling at people for lighting them. The officer went to the lanterns, pulled them out of the air, and stomped them out. He continued his yelling into the megaphone as he was doing this. At one point there was a lantern approximately 10 feet in the air and he ran, jumped approximately 3 feet into the air, grabbed it, and stomped it out. It was at this time when all of the teachers could not stop laughing at this guy. His continued rampage against the lanterns, at the lantern festival, was extremely amusing.

Outside of all of these fun events there have also been some situations of bad luck as well. One day while at the gym playing basketball we went outside to discover that our bikes had been stolen. We had just purchased the bikes 2 days prior and the locks which we used had been picked. It was very frustrating, but we now have 2 new bikes with motorcycle locks that should not be able to be picked. We are hoping that these will hold up. Another scary situation occurred yesterday. I was about to start cooking lunch and turned on the vent over the stove. It came on for a second, and then burst into flames. I quickly went to get water as there were no fire extinguishers in the apartment and managed to eventually get the fire out. I unfortunately did not get to it quick enough to prevent it from melting the plastic ceiling tiles above it so now the kitchen smells like burnt plastic. Everyone loves that smell. The repairmen for the school is coming by today however to fix it up for us. Chinese electrics absolutely suck here. I have been told several times to be careful of them. They apparently do not understand the importance of a ground wire and therefore fires and electric shocks happen frequently. I find it mostly idiotic.

Outside of those issues everything is good. Tomorrow we are leaving for Hong Kong to obtain our work visas. I plan on taking many pictures and videos of the trip for everyone to see. I am really looking forward to the trip. Stay tuned for an update in reference to this trip. I hope all is well back home. Take care everyone.

Kenny

Posted by xumuskie 18:18 Archived in China Tagged festival_fireworks_bars_parties Comments (1)

Weekend/Spring Festival Preview

Ready for a day off...

sunny 28 °F

I wanted to get let everyone know where the videos for our trip are of you haven't seen them yet. Liz's blog address is shown below.

http://nowelem.travellerspoint.com/

This weekend has been like every other so far. I worked 5 hours of overtime yesterday and have another hour today. The hours however are still not that bad. The coming week cannot come soon enough. I have class through Tuesday morning and then am off for a week. I'm really looking forward to Thursday. The teachers fro England and Australia came up with the idea to have a cooking night at their apartment where each of us makes something from home. I of course will be making Skyline Chili while Liz makes something along the lines of Peanut Butter and Jelly.... This will be an awesome day to just hang out with everyone else.

There are approximately 5 foreign teachers staying in the area or the holiday, while the rest are travelling via train/plane around the country. We look to use the week to try and find some new places to eat/drink and find other stuff to do. One of the teachers known of a rock climbing facility and I think we will check that out this week too. I anticipate a fireworks show unlike I have ever been around here just by the number of vendors selling them. Not only that, but they're dirt cheap. I can buy and equivalent of an M80 back home for $.50 here. There are also two teachers, Kai from England and Matt from Arizona, who constantly bicker about who is the better country and then get into fireworks fights throwing firecrackers at each other and then shooting roman candles at each other. It is quite the spectacle to see, and the Chinese people all stop and stare at them like they are pure idiots. I do the same. Liz runs for cover.

All in all everything is well here. The weather seems to be very slowly warming up and once it does I don't think I will be home very often. There is so much to see here and due to the extreme cold I have been very unmotivated. I'll post again probably during the festival week. Until then, have fun everyone! Hope all is well!

Kenny

Posted by xumuskie 18:39 Archived in China Tagged festival Comments (1)

Before, During, and After the Flight

Two weeks down...

17 °F

I'm finally caught up enough to the point that I can finally write an entry in the blog. I suppose it's best to explain to everyone the arduous task that was in getting here in the first place.
The craziness began the day after Christmas. We had been planning to go to Chicago to obtain our Chinese Visa's from the consulate there. This was the last step to officially getting to go. Unfortunately, we found out that day that the Chinese consulates have jurisdiction maps for the US. We found out that the Chinese Government required us to go to New York to obtain the visas. Due to the fact that neither me or Liz had been to New York, we hoped we would not have to go. After a phone call to Chicago, we found that we actually did have to go to New York. Great.

Saturday Jan 1st: We left for Cleveland to stay at Liz's parents house. A new apartment overlooking Lake Erie and The Cleveland Browns' Stadium is quite awesome and it cut our long drive up a little. We spent the night there and decided to stick around for the final Browns game.

Sunday Jan 2nd: We decided to watch it from the apartment as the Browns were playing the Steelers, and if the game was a blowout, we could just get on the road. A tailgate party was held in the apartment (awesome) with approximately 12 people, and everyone else went to the game. By halftime, Liz and I had everything cleaned up and were gone as the game was indeed not worth watching. We finally arrived at the hotel in Newark. The hotel was very nice. Newark (and the rest of New Jersey) was not. What a dump. Walking into the hotel lounge, 5 televisions were all playing the Jersey Shore. I knew then it was time to go.

Monday Jan 3rd: Checked out of the hotel and went into New York via bus line. We arrived not far from the Consulate which was nice. I would have to say that if New York does one thing right, it's public transportation. Very easy to get anywhere you want to. We put in our applications for the visa, and then had to wait 5 hours for it to be processed. We walked through the streets of New York and found Times Square (a bunch of advertisements, quite boring), Broadway St. with all of the theaters, and the Empire State building. The best story was at Rockefeller Center where Liz saved some guys life by alerting him of a punk NY driver who was going 25 mph in reverse and almost ran the guy over. Afterward several construction workers saw what happened and began cussing out the driver which was quite humorous. We then found a small irish pub and had a beer. ($8) and later found a $.99 pizza shop and had a total of 3 slices. One trip to NYC, $10.99 in expenditures. Victory. We returned to the Consulate, obtained our visas, took the bus back to the hotel, and drove back to Cleveland.

Tuesday Jan 4th: Got up early at Liz's parents again and headed back to Cincinnati. Finished packing up most of the house as the movers were coming the next morning.

Weds. Jan 5th: Moving. (Enough said). 1 last stop to say goodbye at work also.

Thurs. Jan 4th: Moving finally finished. Watched my cousin at NKU play 1 last basketball game then drove to Cleveland again for our flight on Sunday. As much driving as I did in this week, I was convinced that it would make up for the year that I would not have to...

The next 2 days were used to relax a little before the big trip. We had an outstanding dinner at Guarino's in Little Italy in Cleveland and left in the morning.

Sun. Jan 7th: Plane from Cleveland to Chicago at 9 a.m. It was a little cramped on this flight, but it only lasted an hour. After this we sat and waited for our flight to Beijing. The flight was on an enormous plane which made me excited. Maybe I would have some legroom. That theory quickly diminished. Our seats were in the last row of the plane. My seat was an aisle seat but I had to continually put my left leg into the aisle to keep room for the right one. 13 hours of this... Each time I attempted to fall asleep a flight attendant would come by with her cart and smash my knee. This only happened about 22 times on the flight...

Outside of the cramped space, the flight was very entertaining. We a a television with a selection of 16 different stations showing tv shows and some newer movies. There was also an audio selection of 22 channels. Perhaps my favorite channel though was the map. It showed us going over the North Pole (very close to it) and seeing all of the snow and ice caps was very neat. It also showed that at our altitude of 30,000 feet the temperature was a toasty -58 degrees.

Upon preparation for landing in Beijing, my knee was purple (kidding) and the captain said that we could see the great wall out of our window. It was quite cool to see. We landed and then prepared for our transfer flight on a Chinese airline to Yinchuan. Little did I know how hard this was going to be.

After trying to get our luggage checked 5 times, we finally found an airport attendant who could take us to where we needed to go. He said that we needed to be in terminal 1. He requested $30.00 american and Liz quickly obliged just to get this over with. He took us onto a bus similar in size to American airports and then we went to Terminal 1. However, VERY unlike America, Terminal 1 was a 20 minute bus ride that took us across down a highway and two side streets. I thought O'Hare was bad... We arrived and had plenty of time to relax at that point.

Once on the Chinese Airline I found myself quite disappointed again. Not at the fact that there was no space, but at the fact that on a CHINESE AIRLINE I had AT LEAST 3 inches of extra legroom as opposed to my flight on United. I was dumbfounded but quickly went to sleep on the 2 hour flight.

We arrived at Yinchuan airport at 10 p.m. their time. We met our manager Phil who took us to our new apartment and then out for a quick bite to eat. We then had to be a school for training at 8 a.m. the next morning. No rest for the weary.

We met with the head manager the next morning who took us to breakfast before training. Breakfast in China apparently consists of steamed pork dumplings. They were quite tasty however. Training was as any other, long and boring. Only 2 days of it however and the teacher did the best he could to make it entertaining. By day 3 we were teaching. I currently teach M-F from 10-12 and at night from 8:15-9:45 on Monday and Wednesday. Tough schedule huh. I was thinking to myself that once I get settled in I won't know what to do with myself. That later changed...

Come week 2 we were also assigned to hours by leading certain students of the school on a field trip. On Tuesday we went to a place where they made pottery. Wednesday they made Chinese Pizza (Quite gross). Thursday we took them to a orphanage where they all played some games together. Unfortunately I was sick on Thursday from the Chinese Pizza but I still attended anyway. All in all things went ok with the trips. On the following weekend I was preparing for my first day off in 2 weeks but was advised that another teacher had been sick. I was asked to work for overtime on Saturday and Sunday and did so for a whopping 2 hours each day. Now as I am writing it has been 2 weeks and 2 days without a day off (this feels familiar...) and I'm very much looking forward to Saturday. Even still, the hours are not extensive at all.

Teaching

Teaching here is great. Right now all Chinese students are on a long break for Winter Holiday from their public schooling. The students here have several weeks off in the winter and several in the summer as well but that is it. When they are in school their lives consist of being at school at 7 a.m.until 6 p.m. and then have tons of homework to do until about 11. They then wake up and do it all over again the next morning. Weekends are used for secondary schooling. The students will come to the school where I am teaching to reinforce their English or will go to a private tutor for other homework. Our school's philosophy is to make the classroom as fun as possible. We teach by using games like charades, hangman, throwing a ball around a classroom, and many others. In one aspect in is the only fun time that the kid's have all week. They are all so nice and willing to learn the language.

I also teach adults on Monday and Wednesday nights. In these classes the students are usually business people looking to get ahead in their field of work. My class for example has 2 students from the Yinchuan International Airport, 1 from a pharmaceutical company, and another who is transferring to Germany in March for his job and needs to know as much English by then as possible. The adults are fun to teach in the fact that they really want to learn. With the kids, it is usually the rich parents who are forcing their kids to go. (Sounds like home but for different reasoning) All of my adult students are very intrigued in my life back home and have continually asked questions about life in Ohio. The kids could care less. They just love that I am so tall.

Apartment

In case you haven't seen it, there is a video on Liz's blog about the apartment here. The apartment is small but plenty big for what we need. The toughest part is getting used to the different cultural rules about the bathroom. First, toilet paper is not be flushed. There is a small trash can to put it in and later taken out with the normal trash. Quite disgusting but hey what can I do about it. The bathroom itself is a tile floor so you take a shower on the floor. No tub. It was weird at first, but now it makes quite sense for the size of the apartment. The water is hot immediately too which is nice.

The kitchen is quite small but I haven't had to be in there too much anyway yet. The most frustrating thing there is that there are no ovens here in most apartments. Baking is simply not used often. For me this is an issue as my go to lunch of chicken fingers and fries in the oven is no longer possible. I do have a stove with a wok and an overhead vent so I predict cooking some awesome foods later on.

Both bedrooms provide plenty of storage space and room for us to work and sleep in. The only part that sucks there is that the beds are as hard as a rock compared to back home. Nice to work on, terrible to sleep on. I won't even go into laundry. Watch the video for that.

Neighborhood

This is by far my favorite part so far here. The neighborhood is so awesome. Right outside of my house there is a pool hall which charges by the hour. Very cheap and you can bring your own beer in too. Just under the pool hall is a small market to get essentials. Again, very convenient. Just past that in the day hours is a farmers market unlike any other I have seen before. Not only are the choices of fresh fruits and vegetables huge in number, but it is all EXTREMELY cheap too. I plan on making a homemade salsa at some time here. The total cost of making approximately one gallon of it will be about 3-4 American Dollars. The market is not only fruits and vegetables though. There are several butchers, fried bread stands, and tons of stands who have peanuts, grains, and other spices for sale. Again, these are all extremely cheap. Recently, the market has transformed with Chinese New Year coming up next week. Many of the normal stands have also started selling fireworks. and I'm talking LOTS of fireworks. They have been going off everywhere for the last week so I can't even imagine what next week's going to look like. You can't buy a string of like 5-10 or 50 firecrackers here. The ropes are all 1,000 or more. The roman candles look like bazookas. (again, see Liz's video) Next week will be very interesting.

Driving

Driving in China definitely deserves its own category. While we have only seen 1 crash here so far, I can't believe for the life of me that we haven't seen more. In China, the vehicles have the right of way. ALWAYS. They are not afraid to let you know about it either. In almost every video you can hear the honking of some car somewhere no matter what time of day it is. The four way intersection that we cross through every day is like most others here. NO STOP SIGNS. Yes, there are crosswalks, but again, the vehicle has the right of way. I have taken it upon myself to just walk out into the road and dare them to hit me. Most of the time there is no other option and everyone else does it also. Every time it happens, the driver lays on the horn forever. I made the comment the other day that I SERIOUSLY believe that there are tons of cars here that probably have their car taken into the shop to fix their horn. There is a good segment of the video devoted to driving in China.

Transportation/Downtown

In our city, which is still tiny for China standards, Downtown Yinchuan is quite busy. The amount of stores everywhere is quite unbelievable. You can't go a block without seeing a store for something. It is a 10 minute walk to school and you will pass 5-6 restaurants and 6-7 barber shops on the way. And these are all side streets. Taking a cab downtown is the best for now. It is not far by bike and when it warms up, we will use them more often. The cab is great though. I will talk us into the heart of downtown for a grand total of $1 American. Downtown has a huge mall which I haven't visited yet and tons of outdoor stores. There is a huge movie theatre there and we also found this cool bar the other night too that serves Budweiser :). There are many restaurants, including the ONLY western chain in the city, KFC. I have been there twice now and I still don't like it (not that I'm a fan at home either).

Nightlife

Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy the occasional drink, as does Liz. By day 2 we were introduced to the local brew called Xixia. The beer tastes more like water then Natural Light does. Though it does come in a 1.5 liter bottle and costs about $1.25 American, the beer is only 3.5%. The beer is brewed locally and therefore is pretty much the only beer you can come across at every store. There is one competitor called Snow but the same characteristics apply. During our travels we found a western market store that sells some foods from home and Heineken. The problem is that everything is expensive there. Bars here are everywhere though. We found a very nice bar downtown as mentioned above that sold Heineken and Budweiser. Though expensive, the bar was very clean and reminded me of a bar like MLT's in the daytime. The bar was not crowded but it played music in English of a huge variety. There is also a Paulaner German Brewhouse here in the city which just opened recently and serves the dark Dunkel beer and will also be hosting Oktoberfest in September. That I have to see... I have been anxious to check it out but as it remains I have not had a day off yet.

Two night ago we were invited by the teaching alcoholic known as Kai to go to a bar that he and his Chinese friends had just found last week. We joined and was it ever worth the trip. Perhaps the last thing I ever expected to see here in town was a Reggae bar. The place had Bob Marley pictures and posters everywhere. Jamaican flags were hung all over and advertisements for the bars' self proclaimed Bob Marley day in March were also posted. The bar at first played some music in English but quickly switched to Reggae. It felt totally out of place for that bar to be here which made it awesome.

People

The people of China could not be any nicer and receptive to us during our time. Everyone including myself believed that the people here would be either fascinated or terrified of my height. However this is not the case for 2 reasons. First, the Chinese people here stare at all foreigners. It doesn't matter where you are from, how tall or big you are etc. They know a foreigner and they will constantly stare at you. Liz has found it to be interesting, where as I have found it to be no different from home. Walking around at work I got the same stares that I do here and most of you all reading this can attest. The second reason is that our city is somewhat close to Mongolia. Many Mongolians have moved into the city and they are must bigger and taller then Chinese, so my height is not that big of a deal. I have been told that if I visit southern China to be prepared to get treated very differently on this front...

For every store/restaurant/bar or market stand that we go to the employees there are more then helpful. They are always kind and those who know just the tiniest bit of English will be sure to show off their skills. There is nothing funnier then walking in a huge pack of people and someone walking the other says "Hello!" and giggles hysterically.

Weather

It's cold. Very cold. -6 degrees F last night. In the day however, it gets to be about the same as at home around 28 degrees F. The good news is, no snow. One of my fellow foreign teachers here told me that she has been here since September and has not seen rain or snow once. The air here is so thin and since we have this desert climate the temperature drops about 30 degrees every night. We are slowly adapting to that. In the summer (can't wait) the temps will be near 100 almost always but there is NO humidity here. I will not be missing that from home that is for sure. And no having to wear polyester pants in it either....

I'm sure there are things that I have missed over the last 2.5 weeks that I have forgotten but I want to get this first long post up. I will try and keep up with this better and I'm sure the updates will not be this long. Next week is Spring Festival so no work for anyone all week. We need to get to the store to stock up the fridge soon.... I hope things are well for everyone back home. Please check out Liz's blog (I will post the web address when I know it) and check out our videos from here. My only contact to America basically in via this blog, Skype (kenny.voskuhl) (it's free video phone people get it), and email. My email remains uconnhuskies99@hotmail.com. Please email me any updates from home. Don't have too much fear though, ESPN.com still works just fine here and I can still keep track of my Xavier Musketeers and UConn Huskies. Keep in touch everyone!!!!!

Posted by xumuskie 06:48 Archived in China Comments (0)

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