Dec
20
2006

A Week in Shanghai, China Part 4

bya Gabrielle at 1:01 AM

This is a bit on the late side of things, but hey, late is better than never. These pictures of course come from the time we spent in Shanghai during the National Holiday – aka The Golden Week. Since pictures say a thousand words – I’ll keep this nice and short.

A common thing you’ll see in China is the way garbage is carted away. If it isn’t the little garbage truck that sings “Happy Birthday” over and over again it’s the cart/bike you see stacked as high as possible with trash. When I took this picture, the guy peddling it down the street was aware that I was about burn his image into my memory card for all eternity, so I had wait until he was blocked by the cardboard box. People make me nervous when they know I’m taking their picture and I’m sure that feeling is vice versa. On average, I see about ten of these a day. I always think they are going to topple over because they have so much stuff on them.

It doesn’t matter where you go in Shanghai – this is the scene you will encounter on every street corner. Shanghai is something like 8 times bigger than New York City. If I ever make my way there, NYC will look like a small but busy ant hill.

Nanjing Road, and all of its madness, is a long pedestrian road in Shanghai. Once was really enough for me because it’s just one big, expensive name brand store after another and more people bombarding you than you can shake a stick at. It was a sea of black heads all around me. I’m just glad that I was taller than most of them so I could see what was to come. If you look closely you can see the KFC sign on the right.

It was a little like being in Vegas. This is just one of the buildings on Nanjing Road. At night, the entire road is lit up and it’s very beautiful. At about 10 or so at night they turn off all of the lights to save energy. I wonder if they do the same in Vegas. I had some pictures of the Bund(another touristy place in Shangahai) as well, but they came out all fuzzy and blurry. My camera doesn’t like taking night photos. This one didn’t turn out so bad, though.

And this here is how the Chinese keep out people they don’t want coming onto their property. I ran into a lot of things jumping fences when I was meter reader, but I never came across glass shards. I’ve actually seen this quite a bit in China. Hey, if it works, use it.

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Dec
14
2006

China or College?

bya Phil at 8:02 PM

One would assume a professional teaching job is completely different from the glamour and excitement of college. I’d say this is true for the most part….if I was in America. In China on the other hand, the transition from Clemson University to teaching in China has been less than difficult. The Chinese have a good grasp of the American college lifestyle. The strongest being in a common drinking game I learned in CU…. “Drink till you can’t stand up.”

The Chinese are pro’s at this game and have actually expanded on the rules and made it more exciting.

A typical college night of “Drink till you can’t stand up” would begin with a quick run to the store for some beer.

Next would be designating a spot among friends on the 10 year old couch passed down from a well to do family to a small Good Will or thrift shop, which was then passed down again to a college student in need of an extra guest bed, which was then passed down countless times from student to student, semester to semester. Like the Chinese, college students understand the value of relics. The next step of course is to flip on the good old boob tube (TV for you non-fogies). You must find something entertaining but not too entertaining. The most important part of the game is an emulsified mix of friendship togetherness and TV entertainment to fill in the gaps. The rules are simple, stay seated, and drink and drink. Soon you will find, although you feel okay, that short walk to the bathroom is more of a journey.

The Chinese of course like I say have this down to a T. In college you only have a year or so prep for this sorta game. The Chinese have perfected it over countless years. They have also improved it.

They’ve replaced the shallow television with a table of food, and they’ve converted the simplistic beer cans/bottles to large bowls.


The rules are pretty much the same, but they embrace the standing as a cause and a creed. If someone’s not drinking enough, they all stand up and “Gombei”. Ya gotta polish off your beer and then you can sit again. This game is an international one. Language is secondary. There’s no TV, just lots of food, and if you don’t know the word “Gombei” the Chinese of course know the word “Cheers”. And you’ll know you can’t sit down until you finish because they’ll show you their empty bowl with smiles and laughter. The Chinese like college students understand honor. You have to finish your beer in respect to your fellow friend who just “Gombei’ed” you.


Thanks to Clemson University, I showed a lot of respect and honor to the fellow Chinese. Thank you, college!

And thank you, China!

Categories: America,China,Fuyang
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Dec
13
2006

Movin’ On Up

bya Gabrielle at 2:57 AM


Well, it seems we’re moving and leaving that which is wonderful Fuyang. I didn’t mean that to come off so negative, but I’ve just been frustrated lately with the school, its administration, the students, and the whole kitten caboodle. Even though I have voiced my opinions about how wrong some things are – ie – no heat in my room, even though it is 40 degrees in it, mice living in the heaps of trash the students constantly leave behind, even though I threaten to eat their souls, and the student’s never ending assault of “I forgota to-a bringa” paper, pencil, and attentive minds to class, nothing has changed and I now know 8 weeks before I have to leave this place that it never will. To think that I could have made it any different makes me such a donkey’s ass. As our Aussie roommate would say, “Have you noticed that all the wheels have been falling off lately?” Oh, yes. I started taking notice about our second week here. So as much as I will miss the small things of Fuyang – ie – the view from our balcony(it’s quiet picturesque), the surrounding mountains(we’re cradled by them), the quaint town of only 600,000 people(compared to where we’re going, that is a very itty bitty number), and the mild weather in both summer and winter(once again, where we are going things will much different) – it will be nice to go else where in this wonderful, sprawling country that is China. I mean, after this is all said and done with – who is to say when and if I will ever come back. It’s best to see as much as China as I can before I have to leave and say goodbye.

We are leaving Fuyang because our American company and our Chinese company had a little falling out of sorts. One said one thing and the other said another. What it all boiled down to was that our Chinese company was not going to pay for our return ticket home even though the contract said they were supposed to. Contracts don’t mean diddly here. Since Phil and I are poor individuals. our American company decided to cut ties with the Chinese company and send us to a place where someone would pay for our return plane ticket. And that place(drum roll please) is no other than . . . Shenyang, China.

Where in the lollipop is Shenyang you ask? It is about 27 train hours north from where we are now. If you look at the provincial map that you saw at the beginning of this post you’ll see the word Zhejiang. That is where we are currently living. Shenyang is the capital of the Liaoning province and is located about 8 or so hours from Beijing. The only thing I really know about the place is that is currently really cold, there are about 7 million people camped out there, and it’s pretty darn cold. If you want to get the full scoop on it you can go here.


Above is the map of Liaoning. You can see how close we are to North Korea and that makes me a bit nervous. Not only are we going to freeze our butts off this winter, but it seems we run the risk of being blown to bits as well. At least there will never be a dull day. : ) There is a city called Dandong where I can go and look over the border and into N. Korea. I’ll have to make a visit there just so I can say that I did it. How many people can say that they’ve seen N. Korea? I’m not sure when we have be at our school – which presently I know nothing about. All I know is that is an English Training School, but that could mean anything. The only thing I do know is that my last full day of teaching is on January 19th. After that Phil and I will have a 3 week long Spring Festival holiday. On Thursday, we are supposed to get a call from Richard Guo, a man who will be able to answer all of our questions.

The only thing I want in my new school and city is an actual feeling that I matter and that I’ve done something meaningful for my new students. It is a lot to ask – I know, but one can hope – right?

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Dec
10
2006

Yes, I did it. I ate DOG!

bya Gabrielle at 6:10 PM

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You read that right. I did indeed munch on a poor defenseless little dog. Did it taste like chicken? No, not exactly. It was more of a mix between roast beef and turkey, but a little more tough. It wasn’t as nearly as bad as I thought it might be. When I took more than my one intended bite, Phil asked me what in the world I was doing. I ate the dog because I could not go back home and say I passed up on the opportunity. I mean, really, how often are you offered dog on a plate back home and know that is dog that is being offered to you? My point exactly. If I went home without trying that particular Chinese custom, I would have been very upset with myself. Also, after being a meter reader, part of my soul was craving it. If you are or know someone who is a meter reader, than you know what I mean. I’ve seen dog before, but I just couldn’t bare to eat it, let alone order it with a clear conscious, but last Thursday, Phil and I got invited by Lilly, one of his co-workers at school, to go to some festival out in the country. Phil had been wanting to go to the country side, and to me it just sounded fun.

We were picked up at 5:00 pm on the dot by 3 Chinese men that could not speak a lick of English. The car they were driving was black and all of the windows were tinted. We got in the car only because it was the exact time Lilly said she would pick us up, but she was not in the car. We silently prayed in the back seat that we hadn’t just been picked up by the Fuyang Mafia and were being driven to our doom. After several minutes, we stopped and picked up Lilly. Yes, that now meant that this small 4 door sedan like car now had 4 Chinese people and two Americans. We weren’t entirely sure how we were all going to fit in the car, so I jumped up on Phil’s lap. We were both in the back seat. Lilly told us we couldn’t do that and that we would ALL have to sit on the back seat together. Four butts don’t fit easily in a 4 door sedan like car unless you all happen to be between the ages of five and eleven. Some how I squeezed down between Lilly and Phil. Poor Phil’s leg was being crushed, and I am sure that my hips were killing Lilly. I asked how far away the festival was, and she said something like 50 minutes. Thank God it was more like 15 minutes or else Phil’s leg might have fallen asleep forever.

We got lost a few times, but the driver finally found his way. We were pretty much in the middle of no where, so if Lilly had brought us to be sacrificed or something, we were pretty much screwed. Lilly lead us to this one building that looked like a mix between a restaurant and an apartment. The two main front rooms both had a big round table in them. Big round tables are the norm for when a lot of Chinese people get together to eat and be merry. They usually have a glass top that turns so that you can have a taste of everything without leaning across the table, but these had no glass tops. The 5 of us and 5 others joined us in the far most left room. Almost as soon as we sat down, the beer, wine and hard liquor started to pour. Phil had eaten anything all day, but decided to partake anyway because they would have hassled him until he had anyway. Me, I don’t drink(at least not that often), so they focused all of their attention of Phil. He was pretty much gone in the first 20 minutes or so I’d say, even though it hadn’t hit him yet. That will happen to you though if you Gan Bei(bottoms up) about 4 shots of the hardest vodka in the entire universe, followed by another 4 or 5 Gan Bei’s of Cheerday beer.

Soon the food was brought out to us. For awhile there, it seemed to be never ending. It was just one plate of food after another. They ran out of room in some places and so they just started stacking. We didn’t know where to start or what anything was, so we just started to pick up pieces with our chopsticks. Every fourth bite or so someone would toast someone and we would have to put our chopsitcks and drink whatever was in our bowl/cup. I was lucky. I only had to drink sprite the entire evening. Phil on the other hand – well, you know what he had to deal with.

That was pretty much the entire evening. Not much English was thrown around the table due to the fact no one but Lilly could talk to us. We tried to speak what we could in Chinese, but we were mostly just smiles and thank yous for the next few hours. There came a point in the evening where the Chinese people started filling Phil’s bowl to the very tippy tippy top. At first we thought they were just trying to plaster Phil(and they did), but it turns out that they were filling his bowl for him and ME because I wasn’t drinking wine, beer, or any other hard alcohol. That was the main reason Phil got as drunk as he did. He was drinking for the both of us.

It was a fun evening, and I’m glad that we got invited. After about 30 different pictures with them, my cheeks hurt from smiling. Everyone wanted a picture with the Americans.

And that was our trip to the country side. I hope we get invited again. Hopefully, they won’t serve us dog again though. Once was enough for me. :)

Categories: China,Chinese,Food,Fuyang
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Dec
06
2006

Funny Freaky Wednesday

bya Gabrielle at 4:02 PM

As much as China can stress me out sometimes, it also makes me laugh really hard. I have two prime examples. One is a little funny and the other just plain freaky.

After a long day of teaching, I went to Phil’s school to wait until English Corner began. English Corner is a time when the serious students can come and talk to us and practice their English. It is a great concept and all, but it just doesn’t work too well. There are a hundred good reasons why it doesn’t, but I’ll get into that another day. After EC was over, Phil and I went outside to talk to Holy about the trip we are going to try to take with him during the Spring festival. Because we won’t be staying in Fuyang for our second semester(long story and I promise I will post about it soon)it is now becoming more difficult to organize our trip. It’s frustrating, but because we promised him, we are going to do everything we can to make it happen. As we were talking this is what happened that made me laugh so hard. Let me preface this by saying that Holy is 17 years old and speaks English very well. The fact that we can talk, understand, and joke with one another in the same language even though he is Chinese and we American shows how good he actually is.

Looking out over the wonderful and very polluted Fuchun River I asked Holy,”Is there anything on the other side of the bridge?” It is the one place we keep saying we are going to go but never make it.

“What do you mean? Something interesting? Something to see?”

“Yeah.”

Holy paused for just a second, and then said. “Maybe in 20 years.”

Now after typing this I can see how you may not be laughing very hard, but at the time, and even after hearing it, I still find it funny. It was probably one of the first jokes that I have heard a Chinese person say that I both understood and found funny at the same time. It totally made my day. I needed a good laugh after dealing with little devils all day.

Now for the freaky creepy moment of the day.

I won’t talk too much about this. I’m a little tired tonight and talking about it still freaks me out. On the way home from Chinese Class, Phil and I ran into a guy that I think lives in the apartment building adjacent to us. Every time he sees me or Phil, he yells ni hao(hello in Chinese) and runs over to us. In the past he has asked me to eat with him and wanted to know who I was waiting on. He’s always come off as a nice young guy, but doesn’t speak any English. I’m sure that I misinterpret a lot of what he says and that is the only reason I haven’t told the head of the school about him yet. Keep reading and you’ll understand why. Phil and I think that he was he either A) asking to pay 100 yuan to sleep with me, 100 yuan to sleep with Phil, or 100 yuan to sleep with us both. We concluded this because he showed us his wallet, did the sleeping motion with his hands, pointed to me, pointed to Phil, and even tapped Phil on the bottom. We were all really confused. We also picked up on something about tomorrow which we could only think meant that the 100 yuan would pay for services rendered until tomorrow. I’ll be avoiding that guy for some time now – at least until I can have some figure out what in the world he was saying and asking us to do.

Ah, you gotta love China. Gotta love the beast.

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Dec
04
2006

Hangzhou Safari Park Slide Show

bya Gabrielle at 1:03 PM

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Here is a slide show of our trip to the zoo with a few pictures of my 25th birthday party. I will add the commentary that I know you all love and live for later.

Categories: Animals,China,Hangzhou
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Dec
04
2006

News Headlines From Home – God Save the South

bya Gabrielle at 1:13 AM

I occasionally check the news back home to see what is going on. For the most part it’s normal. Car accident, shooting, stabbing, blah, blah and blah. But then there are days when I get to see headlines like these . . . I think these are all self explanatory. I at first thought they were all from South Carolina and thought “go figure” – but instead it is retarded news from all over the country. The last one in bold did happen in Columbia, South Carolina. It doesn’t surprise me at all.

If you think that is bad, I heard that some drunk rednecks bet $20 on the Carolina Clemson game. When the one that won didn’t get his money, he walked out to his truck(cause all rednecks have trucks) grabbed his gun and shot his best friend to death. Only in South Carolina, I say. Only in South Carolina.

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Dec
03
2006

Spiders, Roaches, and Scorpions! Oh my!

bya Gabrielle at 12:00 AM

Phil and I were invited by one of Phil’s students to go to a festival in Hangzhou several weeks ago. Because we had nothing else better to do on a Saturday, we decided to tag along. Before we went, we had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know what kind of festival it was or what it was celebrating. It could have been a “Slaughter an American Foreign Teacher Festival” for all we knew. And it almost was that for a split second, but thankfully we were able to avoid death in China for at least one more day. As you can see, it was a food festival that we were invited to enjoy. And here you can see Phil doing what he does best – stuffing his face full of meat from an unknown animal. Whatever it was it was good, but I think that I would rather not know what it is that I swallowed. If you can imagine an animal, I saw a picture of it and its meat crammed onto a stick much like the one in the picture with Phil.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, those weird things in the picture to your left are starfish, scorpions, roaches, and my very favorite – tarantulas. I’ll get to that later.

We were picked up by Paul’s father and his supposed Uncle, who I think was actually his “driver”. He actually almost called him that, but caught himself. I’m pretty sure that his family has money and that they could afford one. The car was fancy and black with dark tinted windows and nice comfortable leather seats. It was the first car that wasn’t a taxi that we had been in since someone from Babel Language Center took us to Fuyang. Paul’s father, who spoke no English at all, had booked a hotel room for us for the night in Hangzhou. It was really nice gesture and we would have liked to have stayed, but we had to be back in Fuyang on Sunday morning in order to have lunch with another one of Phil’s students and his parents. Can’t you tell Phil is popular among his students? None of my students would ever invite me anywhere unless someone was threatening their lives or something. Maybe they are starting to like me a little though. I had two students ask for my autograph. Heh, I must be famous.

But anyway . . . They drove us the long way to Hangzhou. Not that I minded. We got to see some spectacular views of West Lake at sunset. I would have paid money to have stopped the car at one point to get a picture of It. We even saw some people in their wedding attire taking pictures. They will probably be the most beautiful pictures they’ll ever take together. If you could have seen it – you would have said the same. We finally, after about an hour and a half scenic tour of Hangzhou, arrived at the festival.

It was several degrees cooler than it was when we left Fuyang, but the hoards of people and all of the food stands letting steam roll over the crowd was about to become our personal heater. We didn’t really know where to start. Paul had money in hand(somehow we got away without spending a dime the entire time) and asked what we wanted. We pointed to a random stand with some kind of meat on a stick and said we would give that one a go.

And that is when I heard the bottle break. I looked up and there was this Chinese guy shaking the biggest shattered beer bottle I’ve ever seen at this Chinese cook. The freaky thing about the fight is that it was happening not ten feet from me. In disbelief, I got Phil’s attention and made him look. And that it when the bottle got thrown. How the guy who was throwing the bottle missed his intended target, I don’t know, but it whizzed over the top of the other guys head. The fight unfolded quiet quickly. Before long, pots and pans were being hurled at the poor Chinese cook. He looked so dumbfounded – like he didn’t know why they were so angry at him. Then there were more bottles thrown and one actually smashed into the cook’s temple. Blood started to pour down his face. More things were being thrown. Lights above the stand were being smashed. A group of interested people began to gather. All the while Phil, Paul, and I were just standing there wide eyed. We finally snapped out of our amazement and began to walk away from the fray. A random girl jumped into the big mess and tried to break up the fight, but that didn’t really work. There were some more bottles thrown, a lot more screams, the rest of the lights broken, and then the fight dismissed. The ones that started the fight ran off and in just a few minutes all was almost back to normal except for the poor cook whose head was streaming with blood. Needless to say, we didn’t eat at that stand.

The three of us walked around for about an hour. Paul kept asking what we wanted to try and kept buying more than we could eat even though it was all pretty tasty. There was so much food we didn’t try. It was like one big fair in America – except that the food section of it never seemed to end. I took the picture of the guy to above because apparently his job for the evening was to dance with the sign and advertise one of the stands. He was making some weird faces and dancing pretty wild, so I had to get a picture of it. You really had to be there to appreciate him fully.

After we finished stuffing our faces Paul told us that we would be going across town to a restaurant to have dinner. I don’t know why we went to a food festival to eat just so we could go out to dinner, but that is the Chinese way, I guess. The place we went to was nice. We were lead to our own private room – as is normal for people who travel in large groups. I can’t even remember what kind of food they brought out. I just know that it never seemed to end. A lot of it was too Chinese for me to eat – ie the crab in this picture. They don’t eat the legs, but they do eat what ever is inside his body, and whatever that orange and yellow stuff was – I don’t know and don’t care to learn. The little I tasted didn’t taste very good. It tasted a lot like many dishes I have eaten and describe simply as the “Taste of China”. If you are living in or have been to China, I am sure that you can relate to that comment. They wanted to keep feeding us long after the fact that we were full. Paul’s father kept toasting Phil(ganbei) which involves downing your entire glass of beer or wine or whatever else it is you are drinking. I thought that Phil was going to get himself drunk, but the ganebeis finally stopped and he was able to get a hold of his head.

After dinner, Paul had his driver, I mean, Uncle drive us to his house. What a nice place he had. He gave us a tour of his two story penthouse like apartment that consisted of three bedrooms and three baths. His kitchen even had a oven. I would do anything to have an oven. And, you should have seen the walk in closet this boy had. I know some women who would be supremely jealous of him- ie – ME! After I nearly killed myself falling down his stairs, it was time to go home. His driver, I mean, Uncle . . . heh – drove us all the way back to Hangzhou so that we would be able to have lunch with Holy’s parents. It was of the most interesting Saturdays that we have had since we got to China. I hope that I have many more just like this – minus the brutal fight that is.

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