Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bob

We have a new friend. He didn’t have an English name, so we named him Bob. Not the most profound name, perhaps, but it works, and it’s easy to say. For us, at least; Bob kind of struggles with it... Bob didn’t really have a place of his own, so we offered to let him crash in our living room for awhile. He’s kind of rough around the edges; maybe not the type a lot of people would choose to take in, but really, if he put a pirate patch over that eye that doesn’t work, he wouldn’t look too bad... Anyway, after realizing that he couldn’t use a western style toilet (neither can some of our students; yikes!), we told him he really needed to find a new hangout. It was kind of sad, though, because Bob was one of the coolest friends we’ve made yet. He said he might drop in on one of my lessons though, because his new home is really close to one of my classes, so hopefully I’ll get to see him again soon. Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you? Bob is a Bihu.




P.S. “Bihu” is the Chinese word for “gecko.” My students in one of my classes presented me with one that they had caught in the windowsill, and I brought him home to show Ryan. We wanted to keep him, and actually let him hang out on our windowsill for a couple hours (he needed to warm up; he was VERY cold and lethargic, which is how they were able to catch him), but then we realized he would poop, and so we took him back to the classroom and put him up on top of the projector screen. After using him to scare one of my students, of course. I must say, though,Ilike this windowsill-found gift better than the last one; the last one was cool and all, but a spider the size of my palm is not something I want for a pet. They did present it in a water bottle, however, which made it less intimidating, but also made me think of those ship-in-a-bottle things.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Addendum A

So, I finally found out why we can eat the food at our favorite little hole-in-the-wall. They're NOT FROM HUNAN!!! :D They're actually from just south of Shanghai. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Also, if you're reading this, I want you to do something for me. If you read a post, and you like it, comment on it. I have no clue if people read my blog unless they comment. So far, our friend's mom has commented more than anyone else, except for maybe Ceebs (love ya, Ceebs), and my good friend Alison. Also, I have yet to have a member of my family post.... What the deener is goin' on with that?

Also, ask any questions about things you want to know about from China. I would love to tell people the stories they want to hear. I hope to hear from you soon!!

~Cools

Monday, November 10, 2008

Windfall

"To the King Mart!"

This has been a favorite phrase of ours for much of the time we've been in China. What's at the King Mart? Food we can actually eat. The King Mart is a grocery store, but we rarely shop there. We go for the little eatery in the front corner. There we can buy cheap lamb skewers that are amazing! There we can tell them to give us fried rice that's not spicy, and they'll actually do it! There we can also buy these amazing drink things that are one part milkshake, two parts slushy, and five parts heaven.

The King Mart recieves regular patronage from us. As in, it's not uncommon for us to be spotted there at least once a day. Food has been a frustrating thing for us here, because we can't eat at the school canteen (too spicy and makes us sick), we can't cook much (lack of ingredients and an oven), and any food we buy goes bad if we don't cook it within the first day or two. So the King Mart restaurant gets our business.

Now, the grocery store we usually shop at has a similar eatery, but we prefer the King Mart for two reasons: the food is better, and the people actually care. The people there treat us like royalty. They know we can't read the menu, so they make recommendations based on what we've liked in the past. They don't make us pay up front, and they have us go sit down, and then bring our food to our table (everyone else pays up front, and then just gets a holler when their food is up, like a fast food place). They always listen patiently when we try to speak Chinese to them, and they help us with anything they can. I can't tell you what a nice change that is from some of the restaurants and stores.

The only downside to the King Mart is that it's in town, and to get there we have to hop on a moto-taxi. Don't get me wrong, I love moto-taxis, but it can be expensive to take them every day, and when we're exhausted from teaching classes we really don't want to haul ourselves into town anyway.

But now, that problem is over.

A week and a half ago, our friend who's in charge at the King Mart came over and sat down across from us. He asked what school we taught at, and was excited when we told him. He proceeded to explain something in Chinese that we didn't quite catch, but it had to do with him and our school. We thought maybe he graduated from there or something. But the next day, we came out our front door, down the stairs, and... there, in front of us, was our friend! Opening a garage-style door into an old, run down restaurant. Over the next couple days, we realized what was happening: he was going to open a restaurant right outside our door! I think he was as excited to see us as we were to see him; wouldn't you like to have your best and most frequent customers living twenty feet away?

It took them about a week and a half of intense work, but they got the place cleaned up and ready to go. And today for lunch we walked out our front door, down the stairs, and into a restaurant where we could trust the food and the people; two very, very wonderful commodities.

Will we eat there often? Let's just say we'll probably single-handedly offset their startup costs.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

This will probably sound cynical and unhappy. :)

Just a warning.

For those of you who think that we're in an ideal happy land of happiness, let me explain a couple of things. We're tired. Both of us. I don't know if you know how it feels to give everything you have to 1,700 students every week. Maybe we're tired because of the horrible march music that turns on at 6 am every morning, playing the same minute-thirty-second clip for 30 minutes. Maybe it's not being able to buy hardly anything without arguing with the seller. Maybe it's things breaking when you touch them (I broke a screw-driver in half with one hand....). It could be the broken promises made time and time again by our school. Possibly things like being called at 9pm on friday night and being told that you have to teach on Saturday and Sunday the classes you would have taught on Monday and Tuesday (complete with a new lesson yet to be prepared). Or maybe it's the lack of teaching resources:we have a chalkboard, and some speakers in most classes if you bring your own cords. It's probably not the apathy of 90% of the students toward the class, or constantly having them wake back up, or making them put away their homework. Or the constant battle for food that we can actually eat. Or the inability to actually "get better" from being sick due to the mold in our apartment that keeps coming back after we clean it because the school won't fix the underlying problem. It's probably just that school wants us to teach until the 30th of December, when we fly out from Changsha (5 hours away) on the 31st. Or possibly the fact that our Chinese isn't improving very quickly because they only speak dialect around us, and rarely Mandarin. The list could go on, but we want this post to get through.

Oh, my friends. :) We've seen the real China. Not the touristy China you get through a semester abroad, or through ILP, or even just vacationing. We're living in Culturally Undiverse China, with all of the greedy and self-serving people we could never want. We are in a beautiful place, with some of the sweetest and best people. Those are the stories we usually tell, because they are the ones people want to hear. We put up pictures of the days (usually 1 or 2 per week) that are fun, or interesting, or exciting, and gloss over the rest, because we don't want people to worry. Don't worry. We'll be just fine. "Just Fine" has become a euphamism for, "yeah, we got screwed again, but there's nothing we can do about it, and we'll be gone in a couple of months. It won't sting so much then."

I warned you this would be a dark post. Shannon is sitting with me as I type (she proof-reads with me so I don't sound like an idiot). We are not in a land of butterflies (or any kind of butter for that matter) and flowers. We are in the land of burning garbage, hot peppers, and abusive attitudes. I'm remembering from Argentina what it's like to be discriminated against. It hurts. Politics aside, props to President Elect Obama for overcoming what he did. Some people won't even acknowledge us or listen to us because we're not Chinese. Others just stare. Or pull out camera-phones. We're somewhere between the Red Carpet and the Freak Show.

Welcome to the real China.

We might be counting down the weeks.

Maybe....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

DOG!!

So, I finally fulfilled my dream.... While in China, I was able to eat DOG!! That's right, friends. That furry little thing that they call "Man's Best Friend" was served in a steaming bowl of broth and squash. Our translator explained that it was "very old dog." It was clearly someone's pet for a long time. That's how a dog gets to be old in China. ;) The ones at the market are all puppies....