Monday, February 23, 2009

Second Week in Huai Hua

Monday, February 23rd
So I haven’t written in my journal for a few days. I have been busy preparing lessons and teaching them. And on top of that I have been really sick too. So those factors combined have made me lazy with my journal writing. My goal is to write in my journal everyday. Today I had two classes. But before we get to classes I must mention that the gate to our apartment was shut and we couldn’t get it opened. Before we never closed it all the way. But some shut it and we couldn’t get out. Elvis and Mike and I were all trying very hard to get the darn thing open. We just about gave up when I get my key out of the lock and Elvis tried his and it opened up. My first Monday class is excellent. They seem to understand what I say and they seem to very much enjoy my class. I tried something new. I had the class study in class and I assigned them numbers one through three. And I had two people from each group present in front of the class. It worked well. We finished up New Zealand. I showed them three short video clips. One was of some Maori dances at the Polynesian Cultural Center. One was of the Haka from a PBS program I believe. And the last one was a tourist video of museum. I also showed them pictures and they seemed to like that. During lunch I talked to Taylor and the family in Pennsylvania. Then I talked to Kristen on skype for a while. I wrote an email to Ciera. It was simply a reply to an email she had written me earlier. It was very good to hear from her. And I also texted her. She never called back, that punk! Oh well, maybe one day she will write back. I guess her and Jessa are having a rough time where they are at with no toilet and being sick. I wonder how all the girls are doing in these conditions. Its good for them, I’m sure. I also downloaded QQ today. It was good to practice my Chinese character reading and writing. But I don’t know how well I will like it in a few days when everyone of my students wants to talk to me. Jenny C got mad at me today when I was talking to Bobbi. She called me a bunch and told me she always tried to talk about something “serious” but she will never tell me what it is. Finally she told me that she wants me to participate in some kind of broadcasting interview or something. Bobbi asked me about racial discrimination in China. He seemed to be in favor of affirmative action. So I tried to talk some sense into him. It was a fun conversation. I also wrote President and Sister Elmer about my journeys and my experience in Hong Kong with Elder Hong and at the Hong Kong temple. Later Mike and watched the first half of Tames Bono Thunderball. Oh one more thing, I saw a GLK 300 today on the way to school. Its really odd, there will be a really nice LS460L in the midst of all the tractors and bikes and strange three wheel rickshaw looking trucks. It typifies the ginormous wealth chasm between the rich, even by western standards, juxtaposed to the poor Chinese farmer. I watched a Rueters Business News Asia podcast today that talked about this exact issue and they said in China you have “the affluence of the lifestyle of Europe next to Chinese peasants that are living in poverty like those in sub-saharan Africa” or something to that effect. While most people for the most part here seem to be pretty middle class for China, you still get the poor people and the very rich people and the differences are significant.

China Explanation

I decided I had just better put my "events" journal on a blog so that people can read it if they want. Hopefully this satisfies the curiosity of certain friends like Cindee, Megan, and Stephanie. You are good friends! And I appreciate the razzing you gave me about not keeping you updated and informed. And now hopefully I have overwhelmed you with a wealth of information you didn't want to know. Enjoy.

An Extremely Exciting First Week and a half in China

February, Wednesday the 4th & Thursday the 5th
A few from our group went to downtown San Francisco. We checked out the cube structure fountain and Pier 1. While getting a picture at Pier 1 we met a man named Leonard who talked to us for a half an hour and gave us advice about China. The fifteen-hour plane flight was long. But I was able to sleep for a good portion of the flight. I watched the onion news, the 12th Episode of the 1st season of Flight of the Concords (which was hilarious!), and I attempted to play mini golf but gave up after three holes, as the game was nearly impossible.

February, Friday the 6th
We arrived at Hong Kong airport very early. After passing through customs we waited for Jake to do something and we used the free wi-fi to email home. From there we took a bus across the Tsin Ma bridge (sp?) to the temple in Kowloon Tong. After exchanging some Hong Kong money we bought some food. I was pleased to find some Tim Tams, which I bought and enjoyed. We stayed across the street from the temple at the Patron’s housing. We had four guys, myself, Mike, Clark, and the other Mike, all in one tiny room. Later we did baptisms at the Temple. I baptized Amber, Ciera, Jessa, and Veronica (if I recall correctly). Sam counted 32 “Tung Si’s” that I baptized. The Cantonese pinyin was a bit difficult. We got to meet the Temple President as well at Brother Heaton, the second counselor in the mission presidency. After that we took the metro to Tsim Tsa Tsui where we got to view Hong Kong island, which was absolutely breathtaking. We went and got something to eat at some fried noodle place then went to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone. We got on the “star” I think which is a ship and viewed the light show from the harbor. The view was absolutely spectacular. Finally we went home. We were exhausted.

February, Saturday the 7th
We got up and did baptisms at 8:30 AM. I met Elder Poon from Alberta, Canada who spoke English well. I sat and assisted in some confirmations. I also witnessed some baptisms. There were probably more “Lum Si’s” baptized today. After that the four guys (myself, Jake, Mike, and Sam), did an endowment session. We were given headphones for translation but I tried to listen and understand the Cantonese the best I could! The Celestial room was beautiful. It was furnished with many Chinese things. Afterwards, in the locker room, I asked Brother Moore, of South Jordan, if we could see the sealing room. I really wanted to see the sealing rooms because Ivy had just been married there in December. He took us on a quick tour. The steeple is somewhat hollow and from the top floor you can see upwards quite a ways. Around the steeple area there are paintings on all four sides that depict the four seasons. The sealing rooms were beautiful. Elder Moore told us that although we can’t preach in China, our best tool would be our smiles because people will see the warmth and the spirit radiating from us. After the temple we came back and ate some lunch. I also saw Polly (Zhong Peng Peng) who was Elder Bookout’s convert. It was so crazy to be able to see here there! I got a picture with her and her email address so I can send it to him. The group left without me to go email and then go to Victoria Peak. I was going to wait until three o clock for Elder Hong to come meet at the Patron’s housing. But when I called him at 2:30 he had just left on the boat from Macau so I was a little frustrated, as I did not want to miss what was going on in Hong Kong. Fortunately, Jessa and Ciera came back to drop off their laptops and I returned with them with the group. We walked around Hong Kong island to get to the trolley that took us up to Victoria peak. The trolley was really neat as the hills were very steep and the scenery was a mix of super tall high rises and jungle like vegetation. The view from atop Victoria peak is amazing. I do not know how to describe it. The mountain is beautiful but below is the densely packed city of Hong Kong and its numerous skyscrapers. I borrowed a phone up there from a kid to Elder Hong and I was unable to talk to him for very long. I group enjoyed being up there so we just stayed and chill axed for quite some time. When we came down we caught taxi’s to eat at the Peking Shuijiao place. That’s where we had dumplings for the first time. Yum. From there we took the train to the temple street market place. I called Elder Hong and he had me meet him there. Oh it was so good to see him! I hadn’t seen him in over four years. He looked about the same and our conversations were similar—my Chinese was poor and his English was not very good as well. But it was fun to reminisce about old times and to catch up on each other’s life. We met up with a couple of his friends, whose names I can’t remember, at the Mon Kok market. This market was much better than the Temple Street Market. There were so many shops and people, it was unbelievable. One of his friends was a girl and a member and engaged and the other was her friend. We ate at some desert place that fed us brightly colored liquids and slimes. Ok it wasn’t that bad but it was just weird Chinese desert. Both Kenny and his member friend were surprised that I would go teach English in China for so little money. But the Chinese just don’t understand things. I really enjoy serving and living in China is a life experience. I want to live in China and I want to travel about China. Elder Hong walked me all the way back to the patron housing.

Sunday, February 8th
Church started at 9:00 AM. The Cantonese Branch is held on the second floor of the Temple. We stayed for Sunday school which was about how to recognize the Holy Ghost and how in what ways it communicates to us. It was very good. Priesthood was much like priesthood in other parts of the world. In sacrament meeting and Sunday school we were able to use headphones to hear some translate what was going on but in Priesthood we had Elder Parkinson of Twin Falls translate for us. I asked him where we should go visit and he told us we should go to the temple of the Ten Thousand Buddha’s. So a decent size group of us headed off there. It was really interesting. We had to climb several hundred stairs to get to the top of this temple. All the way up were statues of Buddha’s. Up at the top there were several buildings with Buddha’s all over the walls. At the very top there was a man working on a Buddha and I talked to him a while about what he was doing. He had me tell the group a bit about this inscription he had inscribed on a part of a fountain. We then went down to the main area where the temple was. They had a large shrine, a pagoda, and more Buddha statues. We left this temple and headed to another temple. A lot of it was under construction but we found dozens of fortunetellers and we had one fortuneteller who spoke English tell Kevin his fortune. We then went and walked around and saw many people burning incense and worshipping. The temple was crowded and filled with police. We didn’t like this place as much. When we got back we went to a park and had an orientation with Jake. He explained a lot of technicalities to us and had us fill out some forms. But more importantly he read to us a very well written story by a teacher who taught the semester before us for China Horizons. The story got me real pumped to be living in China. After our orientation I went on the roof of the Patron’s housing to get a good look of the temple up there. I took pictures of the building that is being built by the church to expand the size of the church to take the space of the chapel used in the temple. The bamboo scaffolding around the building was interesting. Jason was up there also taking pictures. Then Mike Alger came up with his big dawg video camera and we helped him film a small segment.

Monday, February 9th
We woke up really early to get to Shenzhen airport. We lugged our luggage from the Patron Housing to the train station. From there we took the train into Shenzhen. Then we had to pass through customs. We then took the train to some stop in Shenzhen where we boarded a bus. From there we took a ride to the Shenzhen airport that was forty-five minutes away. Finally we made it to the airport and took off from Shenzhen. An hour later we landed in Changsha. Lanny, the China side of China Horizons, picked us up at the airport with her husband. We took a bus to our hotel in Changsha that is right across the street from the main train station. We checked into the Tai Chang hotel which looking back was a pretty good hotel although initially I thought it was a little shabby. We ate lunch downstairs in the restaurant. The food was different but really good because it was spicy Hunan food. Afterwards I lead a group on a search for an internet café. We couldn’t find anything at first, and my Chinese was still very much rusty at this point, but finally a girl decided to lead us to a hidden internet café up a strange staircase. I paid for everyone as I did not know what was going on and the girl didn’t speak any English. Turns out we got charged 10 Yuan and we could have got the remainder of our time back. I was on msn messenger and found that Eric Dai was still my friend on messenger! So I talked to him for a while and I hope I can go see him sometime. Later we returned the lobby of our hotel to have interviews with President and Sister Lewis of the International Branch that spreads across China. My interview was short with President Lewis who is an international lawyer who is 6’7 and went to Taiwan on his mission years ago. We had dinner with the Lewis’ and a small testimony meeting. I was surprised to find out how well the international branch is organized. We have call in telephone meetings every 2nd, 4th, and 5th Sundays. That night was the last night of the Chinese new year so we decided to go out and check out what all was going on outside. We took taxis to Yue Shi Gong Yuan where we found a zillion people walking around. A few of us road a roller coaster for 20 Yuan. Chinese people everywhere were excited to see us foreigners in big groups. We had many pictures. The place was a zoo when we were trying to leave. A lot of our group got separated and taxis were impossible to find. So we took motorcycle taxis. Wow that was one of the wildest experiences of my life! I rode on the back of motorcycle with Jake Harlan. The motorcycles obey no traffic laws as they buzz in and out of lanes and nearly hit buses, running red lights in busy intersections. One time we had to stop abruptly behind a bus and a bus behind us nearly squished us. What a wild ride! And for only 10 Yuan! Also I should mention I met John Higbee today. He was here last semester and his Chinese is coming along very well. He seems like a really cool guy and I think we will get along well.

Tuesday, February 10th
Today we woke up and went straight to orientation. We met in the conference room on the fifth floor. We went over some technical things and then Jason taught some Chinese to everyone. After practicing some phrases we broke up into four workshops where we taught phrases of our choice. Jason, Jacob, John, and I taught the workshops. Afterwards we went to lunch. Mike Alger, Amber, Sam, and myself ate at some fast food restaurant that was pretty good. We were late getting back to the hotel but we made it in time to catch the bus to the Hunan museum. They had many things on display there including a lot of archaeological finds from the Shang and Zhou dynasty including some very impressive bronze works. But most of the museum focused on the findings of the tomb of the wife of the Marquess Dai who was a type of governor of the Changhsa area in the Han Dynasty. I think the tomb is called Mao Wang Dui. I don’t think they found his body but her body was placed in some liquid that “pickled” here and her tomb was air tight and buried far below ground. She was very well preserved and it was very interesting to see. From there were traveled to a “tea house” which is a kind of place where Chinese people used to sit and drink tea and eat all kinds of food and basically just sit around and talk. We had all kinds of food. We talked forever about a bunch of things. From there were walked back to the hotel. I walked around the hotel for quite some time and spent some time talking with Amber. That night I read Mom’s and Taylor’s and Cindee’s letters. I just couldn’t find time before then to read them but I finally found some time. I was on the computer writing in my journal when I started to smell a funky plastic smell. I thought maybe it was just some weird Chinese smell. I had charged my computer before with the electrical converter even though my computer doesn’t need one. But I had never been working on my computer while I was charging it. I smelled a weird plastic burning type smell again. When I glanced over at the converter I noticed smoke coming out of it! I quickly unplugged it and took the converter into the hallway where I found an open window and placed it on the ledge at there as to not set off the fire alarm and to keep that awful smell out. When I went back the next day it was still out there although I am yet to try it out again. Come to find out, my computer already has a converter and it can take up to 240 V as can my camera battery charger which means both can work in the plugs here in China. The only problem I have is getting a converter for my razor. I guess I will just have to see what I can do about that!

Wednesday, February 11th
Today was the first day I felt like I could be lazy and sleep in. All other days so far we have been busy with one thing or another. So I took the opportunity and slept in until 9:30 AM. When I got downstairs everyone was meeting to go to Wal-Mart. Now usually I don’t care for Wal-Mart but I decided I had better go since everyone else was going that way! We were going to take a bus but then decided to just walk. Wah wah that was a mistake. We had no idea where we were going and the supposed ten-minute walk turned into a long hour and a half journey. Finally we made to Hua Xing Lu, which is a bit of a fancy place in downtown Changsha. I bought a kind of adapter for my razor but I don’t think it will work. I should have looked for hangers and a small notebook since they have none here. From Wal-Mart we went to McDonald’s where I had my first bit of American food since I arrived in China. It tasted soooo good! I never go to McDonald’s in the states but it is a glorious place in China. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like the food here so far but it has taken my palette some getting used to. Even more adjusting than my palette needs is my stomach who has been cooperative so far but I can tell it is a bit confused by this foreign food. I actually felt like I was eating real food of substance at McDonald’s. I never thought I would say that! In light of the excursion on the way to Wal-Mart we opted for a taxi ride back. I decided to walk around a bit before we were to meet back to sign contracts. I searched for a small notebook and a Chinese-English dictionary. Neither was to be found. We waited around for a while in the lobby of the Taicheng Hotel, as we so often did, while Jacob and Lanny passed out the contracts. Yes, I get 3500 Yuan a month. Not much by American standards but that is more than 100 Yuan a day which seems, at least for now, to be pretty good for Chinese standards, especially considering I don’t have to pay rent. We ate dinner again at the Taicheng Hotel. The food was good again but still very strange, and very spicy. After dinner I helped Mike Alger film some stuff on the roof and I snapped some photos. I went to find the group afterwards who supposedly went to McDonald’s for ice cream. Instead I found them out near a busy intersection playing big booty. Now I am usually not one to be “too cool” but in this case I think I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I opted to observe in bewildered awe with other Chinese passers at this strange group of foreign devils. And I took some pics. At Micky D’s I got on the internet and using google, google maps, and my Chinese writing tool on my Macbook helped Jacob find a Chinese cinema in Changsha. I didn’t want to go because it sounded expensive and I risked falling asleep in a show I didn’t even understand. They decided to go back to Jacob’s room to play games or something fun. When we arrived somehow the conversation brought up some guy someone knew who had made a playlist for a wedding. The girls thought this a little strange but also sweet. Without thinking about it I proclaimed that I, too, had made such a list. The girls then insisted to see my list! At first I was excited to tell them this bit of news but then I realized how embarrassing it is to show people songs you want to hear on your wedding! So a few of the girls went through my playlist. When they started playing cards I decided to go to Amber and Lauren and Alisa’s room to see what they were doing. They weren’t doing much but we had a good conversation about dating and guys and girls. I was tired after not too long so I went to bed.

Thursday, February 12th
Today was a sad day. Our group has grown so close and we have done so many things this past week it feels like I have known each one of the people in our group for a year of college. It is funny how that is. I like everyone although they are all so different. We met in the lobby at 8:00 AM for a final breakfast, which was at McDonald’s. After breakfast we went back to the hotel lobby to await the directors from the schools to come pick up the teachers. Mike Strawn and I were the last to have our school arrive so we watched as our friends all left. Oh it was so sad. Lawrence, who I think is in his late twenties, is our foreign affairs official. We stayed for lunch with Amber, Alisa, and Lauren. Also, Veronica and Megan don’t leave until Saturday I believe. After lunch we hopped in the black Buick with a huge hood ornament and furry seat covers. Driving in China is as crazy as it was in Egypt and Nicaragua. At first the scenery slowly turned from city to a more rural setting. I took a nap for probably a little less than an hour. The things that impressed upon my mind were the small farm buildings that had Chinese style roofs still, the many fires burning, and the tiered farming. It was fascinating to see Chinese people working out in the fields, hacking away with tools in their fields. None of the fields were very big. They all were odd shaped. The farmers make use of the land wherever they can find space, including on slopes and mountainsides. It was most interesting to see so many tiers with such small places on steep mountainsides but with crops growing on them. Even in the country side the sky is still a hazy grey from the pollution, which is unfortunate. However, this makes for some interesting scenes as the hills here are so dramatic and looking out on the horizon you find overlapping silhouettes of misty mountains, just like a Chinese painting. The mountains grew bigger as we progressed and we began to travel through many tunnels, one of which, as Lawrence informed us, is the longest tunnel in the world! It went on forever through the mountain. Finally we arrived in Huai Hua. Lawrence showed us to our rooms on the west campus. The building we are in is three or four stories high and Mike and I have the two apartments on the second floor. We randomly chose keys to determine who would get which apartment. I got the smaller and less luxurious of the two apartments, surprise surprise. In fact, my apartment is the only one out of all the apartments in China Horizons to have a Chinese (squatter) toilet. We shall see how that goes. We only dropped our stuff off and then Lawrence gave us a quick tour of the surrounding area. Mike and I took the bus into town to shop at Bu Bu Gao, a large mall in downtown Huai Hua. I bought an electrical shaver since my electrical converter may or may not work anymore and I don’t want to fry my old razor or learn how to use a normal razor. We then bough groceries and ate dinner at KFC. On the bus home a student named Andy Chai started some conversation with Mike and he walked with us to our apartment. I made my bed and tried to get the internet up and running. But, alas, much to my dismay, the internet isn’t working. Hopefully we can get that fixed soon so I can email and hopefully talk to the fam on Skype. I will try to keep writing the events that happen from day to day but I doubt my days will be as eventful as each day has been this past week. I am getting tired. Good night Huai hua!

Friday, February 13
I have never been one to believe in superstition but today was probably the hardest day for me in China so far. It wasn’t that today’s activities were not fun but rather the lack of activities that happened later in the day and the accompanying stomachache that made it such a hard day. I am still adjusting to the conditions here. I couldn’t figure out the hot water heater today so I took a cold shower. Lawrence came by at 9:00 AM to see how things were. I told him about the shower, the air conditioning unit, the internet, the fridge, and the bed. Come to find out the water heater needed a little longer to heat up and that the fridge was just slow getting cold. I still can’t figure out the air conditioning unit. It works for a short period of time then it just stops working altogether and a yellow light just starts blinking. The bed will probably have to wait as will the Internet. But I can still use the internet on the sick and slow computer in my room. We went to the east campus today by taxi. Lawrence showed us the English building, the building we will be teaching in. He also introduced us to Shelly Tang, one of the main directors of the English department. They didn’t seem real prepared for us. We were informed that one of us would teach English while the other would teach American Society and Culture. I told Mike I wanted to teach American Society and Culture. It looks pretty interesting other than I don’t know how much interaction I will get. From there we went to the China mobile place where we purchased sim cards to go in our phones so finally I have a phone to use! We also opened a bank account so that they can have a way to pay us and we will have a way to retrieve money. Following that we went and got lunch, which was fried rice. I didn’t think it tasted too bad but hasn’t sat well with my stomach. We came back to the apartment and I tried to get the fam to call me but they were busy with Jonathan. They bought a phone card but they needed to wait to verify the card before they could call me and there just wasn’t enough time. Perhaps tomorrow morning they can give me a ring. I used facebook for a while and then Lawrence came over to check on us again and to see tell us our schedules. I have two classes Monday, none Tuesday, two classes Wednesday, one Thursday, and three Friday. I was hoping I could have long weekends but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. After Lawrence left I fell asleep accidentally and slept from about 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM. When I woke up I didn’t feel well. I had a bad stomachache I went and walked around the campus for a while and then I talked to Mike for a bit. The stomachache continues as I write this. I hope it goes away!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ok so I finally made a blog, but I am sure it won't work

So blogging is new to me. We will see how this goes. I think it will be good. It will be both a journal for me as well as a place to reflect. I hope to discuss a variety of topics which will include national politics, international politics, state and local politics, China issues, economics, foreign policy, history, cars, reflections on dating, reflections on single life, reflections on my life, current events, and pretty much anything that I am thinking of on a certain day.
How does blogging work?