Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Coming Home

In Summary

As frustrating as my days have been, looking back, I still do not regret my decision to come here. There are days, when I have to admit to myself; the many difficult challenges that I’m facing are what I have asked for. I have always wanted to understand what it is like to be without many of our luxuries back home. Silly me, now I am getting my wish. It is one thing to want something in your mind and another, to experience it with your body. Even though, I have been here for only two months, I have learnt a great deal. I understand what it’s like to be judged because of my skin colour and I know what it’s like to face language and culture barriers. I am starting to gain an appreciation for what is truly important in life. There are many shiny gadgets and plastic toys that what we can do without in order to live. I think, that this experience will teach me to rely more on my spirit and mind than on the masks and social pretences we value too highly in our culture. In order to continue to exist in life and among others, in life we are all learners, and I must find ways to embrace the lessons set before me.

Unhealthy Days


My health seems to have its ups and downs. As I mentioned before, the weather here is dam hot, it look a long time for my body to adjust to it. It is getting closer to winter, so the days are getting cooler. The climate here is odd, one day it’s really hot and the next it’s really cold. When it rains, it just doesn’t sprinkle lightly, or rain like it does in Vancouver, the rain crashes to the ground in thick droplets, leaving water pools at least a foot deep. The rapid change in weather has taken a toll on my body. I think my internal body temperature is out of order. Some days, I have very little energy and so I sleep during my four breaks. I have been sick a few times, which is too many by my health standards. One weekend, I had the worst sore throat and felt very weak. I was given Chinese medicine to take which helped. The medicine... You don’t want to know, but I will tell you anyway. I drank this red thick syrupy medicine that was sickenly sweet. The ingredients, snake bile!!!! The next weekend, I woke up with a weird mark that looked like a scar on my face, I thought it was another bug bite, but it turned out that it was a symptom of a virus. I went to a Western Doctor, who gave me too many pills to count and a cream application, which seemed to cure me of whatever the virus was. It also accounted for the reason I was had lacked energy. Yes, I can definitely say that China is an adventure. I have started taking Kung Fu lessons, and will continue to run and do other exercises. Hopefully, my health will improve.

My Tourist Days

Travel in China?

I have not been to very many tourist spots because my hosts are often busy. I have been to Yongquan Temple, which is at the top of Gushan Mountain. The hike wasn’t that bad, it only took a few hours to get to the top. The temple was beautiful; there was a pond with swans in it and a tall statue of the Buddha fertility goddess. The halls had great statues of Buddha Gods. My favourite hall had the four statues of the gods of protection. The statues were massive; I was in awe of them, I’m sorry that I can’t give you more information about Gods; my host did not know how to explain the Gods to me in English. In the halls, I couldn’t take pictures, because it would be considered disrespectful. There were many people that were there to pray to their Gods. There were other wonderful sites at the temple, but I lack the words to describe them.

I have also been to a primary school in Lanqui. The school is not like our schools back home where the classrooms are contained in a building. The classrooms surround a large courtyard. You can access each classroom from the outside. The classrooms are small, and have tiny wooden desks. There is a black board at the front of the room and a teacher’s desk. I felt like I was sent back into time in the late 1900s.


Celebration Time!

Since, I have been here; I have celebrated Moon Day and National Day with the Chinese people. The Chinese use a lunar calendar, so the holidays change according to the moon. This year, Moon Day was on September 11. No one was able to enlighten me, on the origin of moon day, so far as I know, it is a day for families to join together, eat moon cake and gaze at the moon in wonder. The Chinese have many legends and poems about the moon. Moon Cake is a small round egg made from flour, eggs, red beans and sugar with a fruit center. I have had, strawberry, egg (yuck), lotus flower, and other kinds of moon cakes. On the first bit, my taste buds were not overjoyed, but after three or four, they were hooked. We did nothing special on National Day, most of the celebratory activities occurred in the major cities. In Fuzhou, most people go shopping because the prices of products are driven down.

The Media

The Internet in China

Before, I came here; I was mistaken in thinking that China has implemented strict communication policies. I have learned that there is no risk, in expressing your opinion about the political or economic conditions of the country. I am not sure if the government restricts content that networks broadcast, because I can’t understand Chinese but none of the teachers seem to be aware of previous limitations that China imposed upon people in the 1980s (not everyone is politically minded). There is no federal firewall on the Internet; I am able to access any internet site that I want to go to. However, there was a recent meeting among the leaders in China where the topic of discussion was, how to regulate content on the website to ensure that citizens receive information that is accurate and not misleading. I am sure that many countries are faced with the same problem. I am confident in stating that in the future, lone individuals will not easily be able to manipulate the Internet as they can now. A lot of money and power can be gained by monopolizing the Internet. Sorry for the rambling, it has been a long time since I have engaged in a hearty political discussion with anyone. As you all know, this is something that I thrive on in order to pacify the constant chatter in my brain.

Economic & Social Observations

Culture Shocked?

There are many beggars in the city, but I have yet to seen any in the town of Lanqi. Unlike homeless people back home, who sit and wait for you to approach them, beggars here push and tug at you insisting that you give them some money. I have yet to give anyone money, out of fear that I will become a constant target in high-populated homeless areas. There are lepers and other disabled homeless people who, will lie in the middle of a high-traffic area, crying out for you to help them. It is a hard site to see and it makes me uncomfortable. The really sad thing is seeing children beg for money. There is this one girl who I frequently see near the shopping mall. I think that she is about eight years old. She is has a dirty face and hands. Her face is shrunken giving her the look of wizened old woman. She has angry black eyes. Her hair is tangled and matted into two pigtails. She stands on a corner and will open the door for taxi passengers. She will then expect money from them; she will grab on to you and not let you go, until you give her money. I have been told that a woman watches her and collects the money. Sadly, she is a child of bonded labour. There is nothing that the authorities can do for her, because she always runs away before they can catch her. There are organizations in China who collect children and get them to steal or beg for them. Bonded labour for children is especially common in the country, where people sell their children to farmers who need extra laborers.
Chinese people do not hold the same traditional beliefs towards woman as their neighbors in Japan, however; there is quite a large equality gap between men and woman. Woman has the option of working in any career field but there is still an expectation for them to marry young and stay at home and raise their children. The words stay- at -home dad have yet to enter their vocabulary. Most of my colleagues are not interested in getting married right away, because of this notion their parents hold. Most marriages here are a business arrangement, even my forward thinking colleagues want to marry someone who is handsomely financially stable. I have seen many young beautiful women holding hands with old fat men with rich pockets. China still has population laws, but they are not as strict as they were a few years ago. About two years ago (not sure of the exact time), after a woman bared her child quota, she was forced to have a hysterectomy. This is no longer the case, in the countryside, families are allowed to have a second child, if they pay a fee, which is over five thousand yen (a great deal of money). The government has become more flexible with the law, because they recognize the fact that many farmers need extra hands to help with the labour. The government monitors the child law by making it a requirement for married women to have a physical exam once year to ensure that they are not pregnant.

Like most cultures, Chinese people are very family oriented. Those children that are cared for are very spoiled and have little independence. I visited the culture palace, which is a place for children to take art, singing, painting, dancing and other culture lessons, I observed that children’s parents will accompany them in the classroom and watch over them as they learn. If a child fails to get it right, the parent will do it for them, so that the result will be perfect. Parents expect a lot from their children. Children here go to school on Saturday and Sunday and are flooded with homework. They are required to learn Chinese, Math and English.

It is customary for a husband and wife to live with the man’s family. Grandparents often play a bigger role in raising their grandchildren. They do have nursing homes here, but it is not as common as North America. Children are expected to care for their parents, when they reach the age they can no longer live independently. Of course, older people are healthier here. I see them often at the park, playing Chinese cards together, or exercising with each other. They are not as isolated as the elderly in Canada.

Homosexuality is talked about here, but it is still a taboo subject, there is not a Davie Street Village, but like most traditions, the younger generations are coming to accept these things. Of course, when I have talked to my students about North American couples, some of them still turn their noses up at the subject. Surprisingly, most of them are open-minded about this way of life for people. Young people are not afraid to show affection towards each other. Young teenage boys will hug each other and young girls will hold hands.

The Big City

Fun in Fuzhou

On the weekend, I head off to Fuzhou city, which is about a two hour commute from Lanqi Island. Fuzhou is not anything like Vancouver; after all I am in China. Of course, the general differences, between rural and urban areas, are the same. The traffic is heavy, people walk the streets at all-hours of the day, and there are more things to do than in the country. There is one department store, which has eight floors in it; you can purchase anything from groceries to clothing. Prices in the department store are much more expensive, than the local businesses. The local businesses have lower prices because many of them don’t declare their total revenue to the government. If you want a receipt, you have to ask for it. Oh yes and for all you WAL-Mart fans, there is a Wal-Mart here. I did my shopping in a market place and did not realize, until way after, that I was in a Wal Mart (no obnoxious greeters at the door to give it away). I have yet to discover how Wal Mart managed to weasel its way into China. Once you get past the general things, you will find yourself in a city full of Chinese culture, there are temples and not churches, the local stores are still garages and the residential areas are under-developed Most of the apartments are not the same as ours back home. What we consider to be a poor area, would be thought of as a middle class, over here in China People empty out their water into the streets, so you have to be careful about where you step. I have finally managed to be courageous enough to cross the street by myself. I must say that I have been hesitant because I have had three close calls between manic bus drivers and my person. I am thankful that I have only felt the wind of the busy on my face and not the bus itself! As crazy as the driving is here, I have seen only one accident, several near hits, but no fatal mishaps. There seems to be a mutual understanding between pedestrians, motorists and drivers as to know how to share the roads. Crossing the roads here reminds me of the computer game, Frogger. I still haven’t cracked the code yet. I survive by shadowing someone that knows what they are doing, so I don’t wind up as road toad.

As for city entertainment, the choice things to do are: disco dancing, karaoke, drinking beer in a pub, or going to a tea bar. I have yet to go to a club, because my host fears for my safety. I have been to one pub, which has attempted to create an American atmosphere. The walls are decorated with pictures of Jimmi Hendrix, the Beatles, and the Marlborough man. It is my opinion that Chinese beer tastes just the same as Canadian draft; of course I am biased, after a month, the taste of beer in my mouth, felt too good. Right now, my idea of a good Saturday night is drinking beer and treating myself to a spicy lamb skewer.

It is very unsafe for woman to go anywhere at night, without being in the company of men. One of the dangers, believe it or not, is the cab drivers. Mrs. Zhiaow and I need to take two taxis in order to get home, on Sunday nights. The city cabs are restricted to carry passengers only within city boundaries this means we have to take a black cab to reach the ferry port. These black cab drivers are desperate for money. They will push you, grab you and corner you into their cab. If you’re not careful, they will actually physically push you into their cab, drive you to God knows where and force you to pay the cab fare. This is an interesting way to create entrepreneurial opportunities for oneself. Miss. Zhiaow knows how to handle them; I think they are afraid of me. I have shouted at them to stay away, if one comes near me, I have no qualms about kicking them. Unfortunately, one of teachers was not so lucky. They forced her onto a bus, drove her to her destination and made her pay. There are other dangers, my host fears that I may encounter during my travels. This has imposed a great barrier upon my freedom as there is a limit as to what I can and can’t do here. As I am a guest, in this country, I have to respect my host’s wishes and suck up what I don’t like.

The Boonies & Language

It Dosn't Sound English

In the country, entertainment is sorely limited. In my free-time I will: run on the farm roads, watch the news on the only English Channel, learn Chinese, or attempt to read an English book translated from Chinese (very difficult). Such a thing exists, called Chinese-English. In Chinese English, words that we don’t normally use are used in literature and speaking. I have discovered that the benefit of learning another language opens up the world in a different way. A new language gives you new ways to express yourself, and learn about life, it’s almost like being a child, you are given new was to learn and open your mind. Whether, it’s learning Chinese-English or Chinese; I am learning about the world from a language that comes from different beliefs and values. My Chinese has improved, I can decipher the breaks in a sentence, what word is what, and I understand how to read Chinese Phonetics I can also speak a few basic sentences. When I hear a conversation, I can understand the gist of it, from key nouns, or pronouns. At the moment, I am only learning how to speak Chinese, learning how to write will come after I become confident in speaking the language.

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Our kitchen is outside of the school; so, everyday I trundle off to the kitchen with my metal bowl and chopsticks anticipating the cuisine of the day. I continue to be greeted by fish heads in my soup and other odd ethnic dishes. One popular dish is gelatinous cubes of pigs blood, it‘s supposed to be good for your health. I have yet to brave the taste; my stomach turns at the idea of ingesting cold slimy hardened blood cubes. If you are wondering, yes, I eat rice everyday. There was this one rare day, where rice wasn’t served, I was actually disappointed. My diet consists of rice, fish, bean curd and bamboo shoots. On some days pork with potatoes is served or other dishes such as: fish balls, squid legs, chicken feet, and duck. It is not advisable to eat anything fried, because it is so hot here. The human body does not react to hot (not spicy) food well. You can easily get a soar throat, or acquire other physical aliments. When we go to a restaurant, lobster, crab, and other more elaborate seafood dishes are served. For snacks, I have taken to eating dried olives, dried plums, coated in sweet and sour powder and drinking almond juice. Food has now become a necessity to eat, rather than a celebration of gluttony. All of this low fat food has dropped my weight considerably; I am now down to less than 120 lbs. A friend has told me that, Chinese people have a lower cancer rate because of the food they eat. I have a feeling that, upon my return, I’m no longer going to want to eat at A & W or Dairy Queen.

China & Other Living Things

Other Living Things

To date, my living quarters have been invaded by coach roaches, spiders, an innumerable number of mosquitoes, moths, crickets, and other disgusting flying insects I have seen many rats or mice scurrying away in the dark and a bat has nearly brushed my nose. Every creature imaginable has bitten me! One morning, I woke up with a bite the size of a Twoonie, on the back of my leg. I don’t know who the dinner patron was, but it certainly put my leg out of shape. After a visit to the Chinese herbal doctor and an application of brown herbal paste, my leg was back to normal. Yesterday our class was visited by one of the spiders. It was big, black and gave me the creeps (shudder). To give you an idea of how big it was, you could see it very clearly from the other side of the room. I was leery of it dropping on my head during my class instruction. That had to be the godfather of all spiders. The other day, I saw a baby rat. It was no bigger than my pinkie finger and had a short stubby tail. I think its mother abandoned it, or somehow it lost its way, I’m sure it’s some other creature’s dinner by now.

Life in China

The Life

As for the living situation, I will be honest with all of you. I have been going through many emotions since I have been here. I guess I can say that my emotions are a by-product of culture shock I won’t deny the fact that I miss home. Having this experience has made me into a patriot. I will admit that my living situation is less than desirable. The school was just build this year, in February; as a result there is a limited amount of classroom space. What once was a boardroom outside our rooms is now a cramped classroom. When I leave my dorm in the morning, I will see students milling about. As, all the teachers live together, I never really experience the luxury of privacy that I had at home For a while, our hang out room was converted into a make shift classroom, but another classroom has been built, so we have our TV room back (thank goodness). The other minuses are that our electricity often cuts out on us, some days we have no water and unwanted company (spiders, cockroaches and mosquitoes). In order to preserve a cheery front, I try to look at the situation positively I never had to worry about being alone and there is always a teacher around to gab with. Perhaps, this experience will make me more of a tolerable person to live with.

My Classes

On Saturday, I will have been in China for two months. There is so much to tell that I think I will start with the reason, I decided to come here in the first place; teaching English! The number of students in the school has grown considerably in the last few months; we now have approximately three hundred students. I have four classes with an average of thirty-five students; my largest and most challenging class has sixty students. About 90% of the students who attend Ming Quiao are planning to work in a relative’s restaurant, in the USA. The majority of them will be living in New York. Initially, I was surprised at the level of English, the students possess. For the most part they have a rich vocabulary, but don’t know how to structure sentences or construct their own. It is my job to teach them how to use English to express themselves; we work together on pronunciation and conversation exercises. It has taken some time for my students to get used to my teaching methods. They have been conditioned to learn English by repeating, the same sentence over and over again. My big challenge is teaching them how to think about the words they are familiar with. They seem to share a similar attitude where they don’t want to attempt to use words for themselves. They impose unreasonable expectations upon themselves by wanting the finished product to be right. It has to be perfect or they won’t > do it at all. They find a lot of my exercises difficult because I keep pushing them to figure out how to use the words they already know. This is a problem for them, because they are liable to make mistakes. They are even uncomfortable with some of the games we play because they are not as orderly or will not get the results they want. I tried the create a story game, where each student says one word to create a story together Many of my better students didn’t like it because they couldn’t control what was happened in the story. They also like to work independently (trying to get them to worth together in groups is like pulling teeth). I have finally found ways to overcome this, but it has been a very slow process. In time, they are growing accustomed to my western ways.
The other challenges that I have are typical for a teacher to face: noisy students, sleeping students, shy students and disinterested students. Of course, these students pay to come to school, so traditional disciplinary methods are ineffective. Like every other challenge, I am finding ways to handle the problem students but sadly, I have to ignore some of them. Another challenge, I am faced with is learning my students names, they are all in another language, and not easy to pronounce them.

One of the biggest things that concern me is my ability to effectively evaluate my students. When I first started teaching, I was taking attendance and monitoring each student’s progress, but because my class receives about three or four new students a day, I have abandoned all evaluation methods. I am just focusing on my immediate concern; teaching them how to think in English. Most days, I tend to constantly remind them about the importance of learning English if they want to live abroad. I fear that some of my students will end up in isolation and not be able to adjust to western life (if they don’t start taking language classes more seriously). I guess this is what being a teacher is about: being concerned about my student’s ability to fend for themselves in the ‘real world’ and encourage them to follow their dreams. I hope that they will not want to be waiters their entire life.

I have also had my battles with the administration. The head teacher is concerned that the students need to be entertained, and if for some reason they are bored, I hear about it. Since, when is learning as fun as an amusement park ride? As, I live in the school, I have been woken up from my peaceful sleep twice, to hear that some of the students were not happy. Of course, these are the one or two students in my class that don’t pay attention in the first place. The disadvantage of living in the school is that work is home for me.

As this is a developing country, computers are a limited resource. The teachers prepare their lessons the old-fashioned way, on paper. As this is the case, I have had troubles using the computer to create my lesson plans. It took them one month to finally get a printer, another two weeks to get printer paper and then another week to get the right paper. And the chalk that we use makes this horrible screeching sound. I feel like a teacher back in the pioneer days, the only difference is that students are using notebooks and not slates.

Complaints aside, I am happy teaching, the students like me as a teacher, and they have improved quite a bit in their conversation skills I know I have had good teaching day, when we can laugh together and still make progress learning.

Tuesday, September 3, 2003 & Wednesday, September 4, 2003

Typhoon Coming!

Today, I woke up to begin what has now become my morning routine. After my morning class, I was told that afternoon classes would be cancelled because of a pending typhoon. Typhoons are a common weather disaster that occurs here in the summer. Unfortunately, because classes have been cancelled today and tomorrow, we have to teach over the weekend.

No Classes & No Typhoon

It looks like we will not get a typhoon today, thank goodness! Believe it or not, there are many more things to tell all of you about China but they will have to wait until another day.

Monday, September 1, 2003

First Day of Teaching

My first class begins at 8:20am and ends at 10:30. We have a twenty-minute break in between the hours. The classes here operate by levels, there is:
Level 1 - beginner to minimal English skills
Level 2 - medium, has some knowledge of English but poor grammar
Level 3 - advanced English
We have a break from 10:30-2:30pm and then classes resume from 2:30-5:30. On Monday, I taught level 3 and level 2. The material we covered was the same because it will take the students quite some time to get used to my Canadian accent. My students are very kind and eager to learn English from me. I was surprised to discover that their English skills are quite strong for ESL students. My senior class is quite big; there are thirty+ students in it, which makes for a challenging lesson plan. I have been asked to work on their pronunciation, which is quite difficult to do when you have thirty or more students to listen to. My middle class, is quite small, it was perfect because we could sit in a circle and conduct a dialogue with each other. The other teachers have told me that they have heard the students tell each other that they are very excited to have me as a teacher. In knowing that, I have more confidence in my ability to teach them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

First Day in Lanqui

On Wednesday morning, I woke up to be greeted by a crowing rooster. I looked out my window and saw a bull in the field across from us. I saw a family of ducks walking in a line down a path. It was like something out of a country fairytale. The landscape here is very magical. The school is surrounded by hills covered with plush greenery and there are mountains in the distance. There are grape fields in the back of the school. The buildings here are tall and made out of brick and something that looks like tile.

In the afternoon, I was taken in a rickshaw to the marketplace, where I saw my first Chinese Buddhist temple. The temple was very beautiful; it had pillars with stone carvings of dragons. The ceilings were very high and colourfully decorated. There are statues of the Gods and Buddhist mythological creatures, such as a turtle and a crane. The altar was richly decorated with gold. Two of the statues, a boy and a girl had a lotus flower on their head, which you are to touch if you wish for prosperity. Across from the temple, there was a Chinese funeral, taking place; I am told that the place was not a special religious place, just a place of convenience for the local country folk. The stores here are all connected to each other with walls that divide them. There entrance way could be likened to a garage door. There are many shops on the side of the street. It is not like Canada where, merchandise is neatly organized and displayed. They just have items randomly strewn about the shop floor. I picked up some necessities with the help of my colleagues; all of the products were quite unfamiliar to me. I imagine that eventually, I will grow accustomed to the local goods. Next, we went to Mrs. Zhiaow’s mother's place to rest. Mrs. Zhiaow is one of the owners and a teacher that runs the school. There are many narrow dirt alleys that twist and turn though dimly lit areas that you have to walk down in order to get to her house. You have to walk though a very narrow dirt path to get to her house. The houses here are square and are made of brick. They look very poor on the outside but on the inside they are quite modern. They have air conditioners, TVs and computers. The temperature gets quite hot here (today it is 38 degrees).

After tea, I was taken to see the Ming River, it was too hot to venture outside, so we had to stay in the car and admire the scenery from a distance. After the beach, and lunch I had a rest in the comforts of Senior Mrs. Zhiaow’s air-conditioned house. Then, I returned to the school, where the heat was still quite ghastly. I was introduced to the students, whom I have been told are quite excited about having a foreign teacher. Many of the locals here have never seen a foreigner before. The students are quite shy but very respectful; I think that I will enjoy teaching them. In the evening, we had a Chinese supper outside, which consisted of bean curd soup; shrimp (heads attached) bell fish, and various Chinese vegetables. Everyone treats me very well; they are being very generous and are doing everything possible to make my stay comfortable. They have installed an air conditioner in my room and have purchased a water cooler in my room, so that I won't get dehydrated. Last night I had my first chance to truly appreciate what we have in Canada. I have discovered that there is not a washing machine or dryer. We have to hand wash our clothes, tonight; I had my first lesson in washing clothes by hand. I enjoyed the novelty of it, but I'm sure that is one of the chores, which I will dread in the future

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Travel Day & Arrival

I arrived at the Beijing airport at about 5:30pm, Tuesday evening. Once I stepped out of the plane in Beijing, a wall of humidity hit me. The temperature was only 29 degrees but oh my goodness did it feel hot! I had no troubles going though customs or the quarantine check (they are still on the watch for SARS). On the other side of the boarder, I was under no illusion as to what country I was in there were Chinese people everyone, hardly a foreigner in sight. I could hear talking but it was all in Mandarin and Cantonese. I had a hard time finding my departure gate for my connecting flight to Fuzhou. There were very few people who spoke English, and those that spoke English didn’t speak it very well. This surprised me because Beijing is a major international airport for China. After paying airport tax (again) and going though another security check, I eventually found my departure gate. The waiting areas were very crowded and noisy, I was very glad to move on to the next plane.

My flight to Fuzhou was very pleasant; the people were very kind, not aggressive and pushy like those at the airport. I met a nice man on the plan who was returning from a business trip in New York with his wife and daughter. He gave me his contact information, should I need anything during my stay here.

Upon arriving at the Fuzhou airport, I had to go to the washroom (too much green tea). I was shocked when I discovered that the toilet was missing its trunk, there was no place to sit, I gathered I would have had to squat. I decided to skip the washroom and wait for one at my new home. There is only so much adventure that I can take at a time ;) Once I cleared my baggage, I received a very warm welcome from my future colleagues. I was very overwhelmed, there were six people (teachers etc.) waiting to greet me as I sleepily stumbled though the exit gates. At the time, I knew by the heartfelt greeting that I received; I would enjoy my stay in China .

So far, by what I've seen of the Country - Hollywood has done a pretty good job of mirroring what the country and the people are like. There are people playing cards on the side of the street, rickshaw men that wear grass hats and stalls on the side of the road, where you can get a meal or pick something up at the store. We stopped at a few places to find something to eat (they wanted to feed me) but everything was closed. In front of the restaurants, they have security police, I guess to keep things safe. We finally stopped at a stall to get some fried chicken and fries (tastes like KFC), which took about half and hour to prepare (not fast food).

We arrived at the school shortly after 1:00am. The school is very big; it is made of cement to keep the rooms cool. There are two floors, which contain classrooms, and one, which has dorms (the teachers live in the school). There is also a common room, which has a TV, and a couch. My living quarters are quite big, considering the stories I’ve heard about apartments in Japan. I have my own private washroom (flush toilet included). The bathrooms here do not have separate stalls for showers, the showerhead and faucet is attached to the wall. There are bathtubs in the city apartments similar to back home, but they bathtubs are too small!

Monday, August 25, 2003

Vancouver - Beijing

After, rushing around in the morning to complete some errands, I headed off to the airport. After getting lost and loosing valuable check-in time, I rushed to the Air China counter to check-in my baggage, only to discover that my flight was delayed. I didn't end up leaving Vancouver until 3:30pm. A soon as the plane was in the air, I was living in China. Everything about the plan was Chinese from the stewards to the TV programming, even the airplane food (which was less then desirable). The trip itself was pleasant enough, thanks to the choice seating that I lucked out on. I had the very first seat at the aisle, so I had all the legroom that I needed, an essential thing to have on an eleven-hour flight. Unfortunately, the TV programming was not that great (they have an idea of what entertainment is), so I slept for the duration of the flight.