First day of school eve

August 31, 2011
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Back in high school, I would always lay out my clothes the night before the first day of school.  I did this because 1) the school bus often came as early as 6:00am, and it’s no fun to try to find clothes while you’re still half asleep, 2) I’d have all year for my classmates to figure out I have no fashion sense–no need to reveal that on the first day, and 3) I love school, especially the first day, so picking out my school clothes is kind of like dressing up for a holiday, only casual.

Well, it just hit me that teachers have to pick out clothes for school too.  Teachers have it hard.  We have to look presentable to administrators and fellow teachers, plus kids notice (and gossip about) EVERYTHING.

As a student, probably nobody really cared what I wore, but now, it’s kind of in my job description to look presentable.  I’ve settled on black pants and a light blue shirt with white vertical stripes.  As long as I don’t spill food on myself at lunch, I think my outfit should be pretty foolproof.  Comfortable, conservative, presentable, clean.


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A stroll around the village

August 31, 2011

Today I finally left the school campus.  Only took me what, three days?

I walked down the 老街 (lao jie, literally, old street) with my fellow foreign teachers and a historian we met in Hong Kong.  He’s an American who specializes in researching old Chinese towns.  With him, he had two Chinese helpers.  One was a man who had lived in the village until he was 17.

First, a bit of clarification.  I always refer to my new home as Xiuning, but technically, I don’t live in Xiuning proper.  I live in a small village called Wanan.  Wanan has two main streets.  The lao jie and the main road.  Before the road was built, the lao jie, which runs alongside the river was everything.  All the shops and businesses were there because just about anything that came or left Wanan came by way of water.  Now, everything comes and goes on the road, so now almost every business (save one dentist and one barber) is at the roadside.

It makes sense, but it’s a shame the lao jie is so deserted.  It’s beautiful and must have been amazing when it was the bustling community hub of the village of Wanan two hundred, even one hundred years ago.


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That other blog

August 31, 2011
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Finally the last of my formal blog posts has been published.

This is it.  No more official blogging for me in the foreseeable future.


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Birds and other fears

August 30, 2011
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Got an email from home warning about recent cases of bird flu in China.  Walked outside my door and took a good look at the mangy crow that the neighbors keep in a cage by their door.  Supposedly it can say “Ni hao!” but I have yet to hear this.

“You don’t have bird flu, do you, you mangy old thing?”  No reply.  Not even “ni hao!”  There is a family of birds living in the vent above the stove as well.  We can always hear them fidgeting and we can see their silhouettes as they come and go.  We like them, but we’ll have to evict them tomorrow when we clean the kitchen and turn it into a safe cooking space.

While having dinner with the second year fellows, I asked about whether there’s milk for sale in Xiuning.  I was told there are boxes of unrefrigerated, but magically unspoiled milk.  Sounds creepy, but hey, that’s how they do it in Paris too.  Then again there was the whole carcinogenic milk scare here a few years back.  But, as the wise second year fellows put it, “if you’re going to be scared about everything in China…”

So yeah, wash your vegetables well, peel them if peelable, cook food thoroughly, wash your hands frequently, and live your life.

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First night in Xiuning

August 29, 2011
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Neither Sabrina nor I could sleep without doing a little cleaning first.  In our cleaning, we found some really sweet 3M masks, which will become a regular part of our wardrobe for the next few days as we sort through some moldy stuff.  I’ve got some sweet rubber gloves, too.

When we finally went to bed, we just kept the masks on.

Today, we’ve continued our cleaning.  Two of our neighbors have come by and poked their heads in to see whet we’re up to.  They say some things I understand and can reply to and other things I don’t understand so I just smile and nod.  Sabrina and I are under a lot of scrutiny, and apparently it’s bad for our image if we look like “wasteful Americans,” but we are both determined to make this place nice and clean whatever the costs to our reputation.  We’ve already taken four trips to the junk heap.  Slow progress, but good bonding.

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Home sweet home

August 28, 2011

Well, here I am!  Xiuning!

My apartment is huge and not too moldy (I heard a lot of horror stories of moldy walls, ceilings, bedding, everything, but this really isn’t bad at all).  The Internet apparently works just fine.  It’s almost midnight, and if I go outside and look up, I see stars (not the case in Beijing).  Fantastic!

Tomorrow will be a major cleaning day.  Sabrina and I both see a lot of potential in this place, and I’m hoping to make it a clean, simple, uncluttered apartment.  There’s a lot of stuff that the previous teachers left, so we have lots to sift through.

For now, bedtime.

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So long Hong Kong

August 28, 2011
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I’m back in the Mainland!

It’s great to be back.  It’s comforting to hear Mandarin (and speak it!).  I don’t even mind being back to the realm of squatting toilets and byotp (bring your own toilet paper) bathrooms.

Right now I’m in the Shenzhen airport.  This morning, a staff member from my program escorted Sabrina and I across the Mainland border and helped us get on the right bus to the airport.  Now here we are, enjoying free airport wireless and our last McDonalds meal for a long time.

Things have gone so smoothly thus far.  The only issue was that I realized my work visa was only for single entry, so I can’t leave China until I figure out how get a new (preferably multi-entry) one, otherwise I won’t be able to get back in.  I’m exhausted from all this moving around, though, so I don’t mind being stuck in Mainland China for a while.

Plans for the rest of the day: board airplane (hopefully without them realizing my luggage is overweight—this airline has a ridiculously low weight limit!), nap for 2 hours, land in Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) City, possibly be met at airport by second year fellows/possibly catch a cab independently, take cab to school, haul my stuff up the stairs, take a good look at my new home, fall asleep.

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Getting out of here

August 27, 2011
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Tonight is my last night in Hong Kong (until I come back here for Spring Meeting).

I am one lucky, lucky person.  My visa came in, and despite the fact that there were less than 30 hours left before the convenient flight from Shenzhen (that my friend was already booked for), I was still able to get a ticket for it.  Therefore, no Guangzhou, and no traveling alone.

At this time tomorrow, I will be in Xiuning!

I was told that the first year students (my students!) arrived today and began their mandatory military training.  Can’t wait to start meeting them.

In other news: Hong Kong has Ikea.  Went there with a friend today and ate Ikea food (so good and so affordable!) and then we wandered around, looked at candles and house plants and sang Christmas carols together (between the two of us, a Jew and a Buddhist, we were missing a lot of lyrics, but it was fun regardless).

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Pancakes? Check!

August 26, 2011

To my knowledge, there are 4 restaurants in Hong Kong that serve pancakes (other than McDonalds).  I’ve done a lot of research on the subject via the Internet, so I consider myself something of an expert.

I’ve been thinking about pancakes for a while now, but wasn’t sure I wanted to go out of my way to some place where I may or may not actually be able to find the restaurant I’m looking for (since I have a pretty bad sense of direction).  Tonight, however, as my friends and I walked from an MTR station to one friend’s grandma’s home, I saw one of the restaurants I’d been reading about.

The Flying Pan.

It was just as I’d imagined it (with the help of google image search).

Leaving my friend’s grandma’s house around 9pm, stuffed with delicious Chinese food, I decided that I couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity.  I was going to eat a pancake.

My friend Lina accompanied me.  We each ordered a milkshake and a pancake.  Both were delicious.  Mission accomplished.

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The chop

August 26, 2011

Good news!  My visa is in Hong Kong!  I just need to go pick it up tomorrow from the FedEx office.

This means that, if all goes as planned, and if there’s still an open seat on the Sunday flight from Shenzhen, I can not have to deal with going through Guangzhou or traveling alone!  Woohoo!

The FedEx office is requiring me to not only sign for the package, but also, to chop for it.  A chop, as I just learned, is an official stamp. Or at least, that’s what it is in Hong Kong.  So, I had to go borrow my company’s chop from the office today (since the building is closed on weekends).  Now, I feel very official and am working hard at resisting the urge to stamp all of my notebooks, my hands, my forehead, etc, with “the company chop.”

Hopefully, 12 hours from now, I’ll have a working visa and a plane ticket for Sunday.

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