Beijing and All It’s Glory

bya Gabrielle at 2:50 PM

Ah, Internet.

After much searching and aching to feel these little keys at my finger tips while ones and zeros clammer through the world wide web, I have at last located an Internet cafe. I never knew how reliant I was on the Internet until just now. I’m sitting next to two Chinese men. The one on my left is busy blowing up bad guys in World of War Craft and the other is downloading and searching for things I’m not quiet sure of. I do see some weird scantily clad Chinese cartoon characters on his screen . . .

Well, I guess you may want to know how our train ride went. I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

At about 4 pm on Tuesday, we began taking our luggage down the 40 some odd steps that led to our hostel room. Phil was nice and took down the bulk of it. I played the weak and dainty girl and carried down our back packs. They weren’t light, though. Each had a lap top computer and some other odds and ends that we deemed important enough to bring with us. We stood out like the white Americans that we are as we rolled our bright purple, orange and turquoise bags down the streets of Hangzhou. Thankfully, the train station was just a few streets away, but it felt like miles with all that weight. I’ve made a promise to myself to never bring so much junk with me if I ever go to another country for an extended amount of time again.

Our train was due to leave at 6:03pm, so we made it to the train station in plenty of time. It’s always better to be early than to be late, you know, and it can’t be more true than it is in China. As we rolled our bags into the soft seat waiting room, I crossed my fingers and prayed that the ticket takers wouldn’t forbid us to bring all our crap in. They didn’t say a word and I was very much relieved. We plopped a squat and waited the hour an half for our train. The time passed quickly, and soon we heard the call for our ride – train number Z10. I was very pleased to find out our platform was on level ground and that there were no more stairs to drag our crap up. We hopped on the train and found our seat without too much of a hassle. Again our bags caused chaos. The aisle was small, and everyone else wanted to get to their seat, too. We got a lot of stares as we tried picking up our bags one at a time and placing them on the racks above our heads. I am sure that they were wondering why we had so much stuff and where in the world we taking it. Of course, they had no idea that we weren’t tourist, but instead residents like themselves and that everything we had with us were our worldly possessions.

Tired and hot, we finally got everything settled and took our seats. It wasn’t long before two Chinese people came to their seats(directly across from us – like looking into a mirror). They took one look at us and said, giggling of course – “Foreigners” – in English like we weren’t there to hear them. They then looked at the rack above us and saw there was no room for their two little bags and had to find a place to put them. Come to find out, they were on their way to Beijing to study English(they knew some English already). I think that we couldn’t have sat by better people. Talking to them made the trip go so much smoother. The 14 hours was tough, though. 14 hours on any form on transportation is hard. I managed to get about 2 hours of shut eye towards the very end, but it wasn’t enough, really. I wish that we could have traveled during the day because the only thing that I could see out the window the entire time was the light of the buildings and cities that we past. I can’t imagine the scenery would have been spectacular. I rode on a train to Shanghai once, and the scenery didn’t change at all. It was just farms and run down houses for 2 hours and some change.

We arrived in Beijing at about 7:30, just like we were supposed to. Our two new friends asked if they could have a picture of us and we obliged. We said our goodbyes and waited for the train to empty before exiting ourselves. Before we could do this, four Chinese men appeared and asked us if they could help us take down our luggage. We said no, that we could do it, but they insisted. They took down the four suitcases and started rolling in down the aisle. I thought they may try to run off with it, so I kept up with them as best as we could. As soon as we got off the train and started walking a little bit, they stopped and asked for 200 RMB. Phil and I both laughed hysterically and demanded our luggage back. They dropped the price to 100 RMB and we still laughed saying we didn’t even want them to take it in the first place. The price got dropped again to 40 and that is when we decided to take our luggage back into our possession and head for the exit. They weren’t happy with us, but I didn’t care.

We got to the exit with no problems, and met the people that were supposed to pick us up. In the world wind of everything, I forgot to take our tickets back from the ticket taker, and as a result, lost our ability to be refunded, but hey, it could have been worse. It was cold outside, but I had expected worse. Our greeters didn’t say much to us. All I heard way Morning, Cook, and Phillip. I thought maybe they didn’t speak English. They took the majority of our luggage, so I was happy. The trip to our next destination was a bit of a weird one. We seemed to be going the backward ass way, and through the worse part of town. Once or twice I was sure that the person driving was lost. The thought crossed my mind that these weren’t the people that were supposed to pick us up and that we had been kidnapped in Beijing, but that was my imagination running away with me as it normally does. Heh.

We arrived at a sketchy looking gated community that reminded me of a military base. It was actually a college campus. Beijing International Studies University. WECL, the company we will be working for in Shenyang has a sister-school here. They dropped us off at the dorm building that would become our home for the next several days and made us happy by helping us take our luggage up another 40 stairs to the third floor. Let me remind you that up to this point no one had said squat to us in English, so we didn’t have a clue what was going on. We were starving and tired, and couldn’t decide what to do first. There was a place at the front desk to buy drinks, so I got some liquids in me to hopefully quench my hunger. When Phil and I stepped out front to see where exactly we were staying a Chinese woman came out with our room number 310A and started speaking Chinese that we couldn’t understand, but we knew that she wanted us back in our room. My first thought was that we were under house arrest or something like that. Yeah, my imagination running off with me again. Heh.

We went back to the room thinking that maybe we had a telephone call, but the phone never rang. I laid down on the bed trying to figure what in the world was going on and why our room was so cold. This is the point in which I started to panic – but just a little. When I am hungry, cold, and tired, I am just not a happy person. I was all three of these, so you can imagine what I was like. Soon there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find two Chinese men holding a sink. Apparently, our sink was faulty, and they were there to fix it. A few minutes later, we had a new sink, and they left. I was too tired to care what was going to happen – whether the room would start warming itself up or how we would get food – so I did the only thing that seemed like a good idea. I slept. We both slept.

We slept for several hours and awoke to our bellies threatening to start eating anything our eyes saw. It was time to get out and find something of substance before we died. I didn’t care if the guards at the gate refused to let us out – I was going anyway. It wasn’t a problem, thankfully, and the guards let us out without even a word. And what did we see right outside the gate? The most beautiful site to a starving person . . . a McDonald’s.

More or less, we ate, we walked around a few blocks and came back home. And that was a first day in Beijing. Today is our third, and nothing that spectacular has happened. We went to the Beijing Zoo. All most all of the animals were put up because it was freezing outside. On the up side, we only spent 30 RMB to get in, so I didn’t feel ripped off or anything. Also, we went to a pedestrian street and had some yummy street food. I had some fried banana that tasted like a funnel cake. And my favorite – fruit on a stick with sugar drizzled over top.

And what is in store for us now? We will be in Beijing until the the 8th or 9th of February. Then we have to go to Hong Kong to get ourselves legal. That’s a long story; not as long as this one . . . but I’ll leave it to another day.

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One Leg of the Journey Is Finished

bya Gabrielle at 5:03 AM

We’ve made it to Hangzhou in one piece, but it wasn’t easy. Of course, nothing in China is easy. And I mean nothing.

Our trip began by carrying 6 pieces of rather heavy luggage down six flights of stairs. We each took a piece down one flight at a time. Even though it was cold enough to see my breath, by the time we were done I was hot enough to take off all of my winter clothes. After catching our breathes at the foot of the stairs and waving goodbye to our lovely abode, we began dragging all of our suitcases to the front gates of the school. We ran into some Chinese folk on the way. In Chinese, they asked us where we were going. I think they were a bit surprised by how much crap we had with us. We left our stuff at the gate so that we could go give our key and gym pass(which we never used – hence why I am a fatty now) to Mr. Zhou. He wasn’t there and the entire English office was asleep. We had to poke Peter, Mr. Zhou’s man servant, and give him our stuff. He looked completely out of it and I think that he may have forgotten how to speak English there for a moment.

Once that was done, we pulled our suitcases up the only hill in Fuyang and down the other side. We didn’t have to wait long for a taxi. It was a bit of a chore getting all of our stuff in the taxi, but we somehow managed. Two in the trunk. Two in the back seat. And our backpacks on our lap. We’ve both gotten pretty good at saying how to get to the bus station that takes us to Hangzhou, so that wasn’t a problem. There is almost always a bus there. It is a popular route, so we more or less jumped right on. At first Phil thought that he had left all of his money at home, and that gave me a heart attack, but he found it. Thankfully.

The hard part began when we actually got to Hangzhou.

It didn’t take us too long to find a taxi. We flagged one down and he asked where we were going. I showed him the address, but he didn’t seem to know where it was. He called a few people, but still didn’t seem to know. I tried telling him that I knew where it was and that I could direct him. He understood a little of what I said, but it didn’t look like we were getting anywhere. Phil tried putting two of our suitcases in the trunk, but only one would fit. The taxi driver already had something back there. So, we then tried putting it in the back seat. That didn’t make him happy. Phil threw one of mine back there anyway and shut the door. For some reason, the guy didn’t want to take us both even though we could have fit everything in like we did in our last taxi. I let the taxi driver look at the card one last time and gave it to Phil. It seemed that we were going to have to separate to get to where we needed to be. I got in the front seat, closed the door, and off we were. A part of me thought that the taxi driver was trying to kidnap me and had been playing dumb the entire time just to get me alone. Thankfully, that was not the case. He did manage to get me to the PSB. When I got all of my stuff out of the taxi, I made sure to look at my watch. If Phil wasn’t there in the next 15 mintues – I was going to flip out. It wasn’t too long before another taxi showed up and Phil appeared. Whew.

I grabbed the receipts that we had gotten a week before and ran up to the second floor of the PSB while Phil watched the luggage. I got in line at one place, but was soon directed to another line. I went to that line, and was told something in Chinese I didn’t understand. The girl in line next to me said that she told me to wait for a minute. So I did. A few minutes passed, but nothing happened. I waved my receipts again to get someones attention, and was told to take a seat – that someone would call my name. My first thought was, ” These people don’t even know my name!!” I sat down anyway. A few minutes passed, and then a few more, and finally I couldn’t take the fact that 50 other Chinese people had gotten in line and received their documents. I marched back up to the counter and demanded that I get our passports. The lady didn’t say a whole bunch, but when she got done stapling some weird papers together – she ripped the papers out of my hand and stalked off. Not even 5 seconds later she had both passports in hand, told me how much they cost, I paid and out the door I went. It was so frustrating that it took that long to get something that simple.

We had to get another taxi to get to our hostel for the night. I flagged down maybe 5 or 6 taxis and they each told me “no” they wouldn’t take me. There was no way we could roll our stuff there. By this point, I just wanted to scream. It was cold, drizzling, and I was hungry. More taxis went by, and none would agree to take us. Phil flagged one down, and even though the guy was confused on where we wanted to go – he let us put all of our stuff in his taxi. We made it to the hostel, as you can tell since you are reading this. We were so happy that we tipped the taxi driver and said thank you about 100 times.

If only that was the end of the story, but it isn’t. We got a room on the 3rd floor and there was no elevator. We were lucky, though. There was this little Chinese girl that insisted on helping us take it up stairs. We told her we could do it, but she still insisted. With all of our powers combined, we got everything to our room. I gave the gril10 RMB even though she probably deserved more. I just didn’t have any other small bills on me. She said thank you, and off she went.

For dinner we went to Pizza Hut and had dessert at TCBY. It was yummy. Ever so yummy. After that we came home(hostel) and crashed.

The real humdinger will be later today when we go to the train station. As long as they let us take all of our stuff on board, it shouldn’t be a problem. But like I said before. Nothing in China is easy. Nothing. At least if all goes semi-well, I will have 13 hours to calm down before we hit the next leg of our journey . . . Beijing.

– G

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It’s Official.

bya Gabrielle at 2:18 PM

It’s official. Both mine and Phil’s obligation to the next generation of Fuyang has come to an end. Today was Phil’s last day, but I was lucky, and was able to stop teaching a week ago. Today I ran down and picked up my last chunk of change from my school and said my final farewells. Phil will get his tomorrow.

We’ve pretty much finished everything that needs to be done in order to move. We just need to pick up our passports and new visa from the PSB office in Hangzhou and possibly send one more package up north so that we don’t have to carry so much with us. We sent one today to our new school. It weighed about 44 lbs and only cost 110 RMB. That is about $14. If only that is how much it cost to ship things back to America. Going from Fuyang to Shenyang would be like going from Columbia to California. There is no way a 44 lbs package would cost 14 bucks to send in a million years. A few days ago, we sent two packages back home filled with some odds and ends that we have purchased in our travels. The biggest box weighed about 20 lbs and cost $204. We did send this the fast way, but still . . . that’s a lot of money and hurt our wallets. Mine is still crying about it. I just hope that it gets home. Apparently, they did not know where to send it even though they had all of the information on the box. They said that the zip code was wrong, and we had to repeatedly tell them that we lived there and knew our post code like we know our names. Of course, this was all said to people who really couldn’t understand us. Thankfully, there was a random man there who spoke a little English, and without him I don’t think we would have figured out what in the world was going on.

I don’t really know what else to say. My mind has felt tired and uninspired for awhile now. Everything I type seems so forced. Maybe it is that I can’t really put into words what I feel or express what it is that I am experiencing here. That is frustrating. Hopefully, it will pass, and I can resume my normal writing of this blog for the few people who do frequent it. The Internet is slowly getting repaired but it isn’t perfect yet. I am going to give it a while longer before I attempt to post pictures. I really, really hate posting pictures and not having it work after spending a lot of time on them.

Well, I’m signing off. I’m going to play Fable until I turn blue in the face. Tomorrow we finish or rather start packing. I can see Beijing on the horizon. It won’t be long now.

Goodbye Fuyang. Nice knowing you.

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A Letter From One Of My Students

bya Gabrielle at 3:03 PM

All was not wasted at Yongxing. Most of my students didn’t give a lick about English and could have cared even less that I traveled 7000 some odd miles to come teach them, but there were at least 2 students that made my teaching worth all the pain and agony I had to endure these last 4 months. Let me give you a prime example. Below you will find an email that one my students sent me a few days ago. Grey is a very bright and wonderful girl and will be going on to High School next year. She was one of the few students that would stay after class to talk to me, and would ask me to help her with her English. The email just about made it cry. The one thing it made me remember though, is that teaching is about the one or two people that reach and care and all the rest don’t matter. Read on and see what I mean. I won’t be posting in the next few days because we will be traveling, but I will try to post about our travels soon as well as some pictures.

Miss Cook,
When you told me that you may leave Fuyang,I really feel frustrated.This term I have joined many competitions and English speech.But do you know,when I was in primary school,my English was very poor,my English teachers didn’t like me, it made me sad.When I was in junior six, I attended
a foreign language school entrance examination,because of my poor English, I was failed in that exam.From then on ,I made up my mind to learn English well.
Time flies,now I am in junior three,sometimes I thought maybe I wouldn’t practise English more ,because of the arduous task of learning,but I didn’t.
Since you came to our school,you regards me as your friends,you tell me a lot about English and English culture,I think you are not only are good teacher,but also a good friends.Thank you ,Miss Cook.
Perhaps we will not meet in the future,but I will still remember the wonderful time we spent together,I wish you to have nice days,wonderful weeks,purple years and a successful life.
Best wishes from Grey

Makes you smile doesn’t it? Emails like this make teaching worth while. I’ll have to print it out and frame it and read it when things get tough up north. It will make me remember what teaching is all about when I start to forget again.

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Riding the Bus

bya Gabrielle at 9:45 AM

I complain a lot on this blog, and for that I apologize, but I sometimes think that if I keep it all bottled up inside, I may just go berserk, and find myself sitting in the dark depths of a Chinese prison for whatever it is I did in the heat of uncontrolled insanity.

But I do have some fluffy news that may warm your hearts.

On most days, I take the bus to and from school. It’s convenient when I am not in a hurry(or freezing my little tushy off) and even better than that, it’s cheap. I only have to shell out a mere one yuan for each bus I get on, and I only have to get on two of them(that’s just 24 cents if you’re curious) to get to me to the school. I wish there was a direct bus, but hey, you can’t have it all.

Just recently though, Fuyang got new buses. They’re much better than the ones that they used to have. They’re bigger actually, and have two doors so that everyone is not trying to get on at the same time that everyone else is trying to get off. They’re even so modern now that they have invested in a coin box that sits by the door. If you only have big bills on you, there is still the ever trusty person(I can’t think of a name for it) that sits closest to the door and will break them for you. I’ve seen one hundred dollar bills broken before. It’s funny watching the person(again the name for this occupation escapes me) digging through his/her change purse for 99 yuan in change. The most I’ve ever broken is a 10.

On the number 8 bus, the one that everyone swore wouldn’t take me anywhere near my school, there is one of the nicest Chinese people I’ve ever met. She speaks maybe 4 words of English, so we’ve never really had an in-depth conversation, but I’ve always felt that if we could understand each other we would be the best of friends. I have no idea what her name is.

She is always smiling. Always. Every time she sees me getting on the bus she says hello, smiles at me, and waves. For the few minutes that I am in her presence, she looks at me and smiles some more. When it is time for me to get off the bus, she waves, smiles, and usually says bye-bye, but just recently I heard her say see you tomorrow.

Yesterday, I decided I would try to talk to her in Chinese and try to let her know that I would be leaving Fuyang. It didn’t work very well. She didn’t understand my awful Chinese, but it didn’t matter. She kept on smiling at me. After drawing some pictures and repeating myself a few times, I think I finally got her to understand that I was moving to Shenyang.

She will be one of the few people that I will miss when I go. I don’t even know if I will see her again because there are many number 8 buses and I never know which one she is on. I always come across her by chance and only realize that she’s there when I hear her familiar voice as I put my one yuan in the box by the door.

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I’ve reached the end of my rope.

bya Gabrielle at 8:56 AM

The Internet is still down, and it won’t be another two or so weeks until it is working properly. I can access some American sites, but others are just so flipping slow. So, until the seven boats full of men and woman can get the underwater wires back in order again – this will be the only way to update about our lives her in China. I know that pictures make my stories better, but I do have one story that does not need any photos. Just use a little imagination. Read on.

I have started teaching in a bigger classroom that is equipped with a computer, a screen to project on, and big speakers(even if they don’t work properly). I moved to this classroom because instead of teaching just one class of thirty, I have to teach one class of about sixty.

My former classroom was too small for all of them. Kaliah and Neil used to teach one bunch of thirty, but they left to go back to Australia right before Christmas. And now since there is only one foreign teacher remaining, it is my responsibility to teach them all. I was relieved to find out that I would only have to deal with year 2 students and not year 3 as well. That means only 14 classes, not 28. I also chose this classroom because visuals help. When my students don’t care what I am talking about, they have something at least to look at and keep them entertained.

But anyway, I digress. Let me tell you why I about went commando on my students today.

On Friday, I was teaching(if that’s what it’s called in China) for the first time in several weeks. I had been showing movies because I thought that was probably the best way to deal with sixty devils, but when the school found out – I got yelled at and had to stop. So, the day after I had been scolded, I went back to “teaching”. It only took a few classes to realize why I had decided movies would be best option for my final four weeks. As usual, no one cared what I was saying, no one brought paper or pencil, and they were rowdy as ever. I thought that I could deal with this just for two more weeks, but when a little piece of some strange Chinese food bounced off my jacket and landed on the desk – my sanity broke. Somehow, I convinced myself that the kids were just throwing it at each other and that I somehow ended up in the cross fire and went on about telling them about modern heroes.

After today, I’m pretty confident that it was intentional and that I was always the intended target. I was continuing with my heroes lesson(well, it was really Phil’s and he gave it to me, but who really cares) when at one point I turned my back on the class to hit the next button on my computer(the lesson was a power point presentation). That is when I felt the small object hit my head and bounce onto the desk. I snapped. I turned around and said,”That’s it. Class is over.” The kids had no idea what I had just said because the majority of them are retarded and don’t give a damn about learning English or who teaches it to them. I sat down and started writing a note to the head of the English department, while the students sat there and went on conversing with themselves as if nothing had happened. I tried to figure out who had done it, but no one would confess.

I don’t care if my job is a joke to my school. This is just unacceptable. I should not have to deal with things like this. The sad part is that even though I wrote a note and demanded something be done – nothing will happen. The kids may or may not get a talking to, but they’ll just laugh and go about the rest of their lives being little shits. (Sorry about the foul language in this post – but I am pretty ticked off.)

And that is another wonderful day in the world of Gabe in China. Makes you want to come here doesn’t it?


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Don’t Blame Me – It can’t possibly be my fault!

bya Gabrielle at 6:38 AM

I’m not really sure if this method of posting will work, so I will keep it short.

You can blame my lack of posting in this particular order:

1. I’m a lazy, but only because I’m freezing in my apartment which may lead to reason # 2.
2. I seem to be constantly infected with Chinese bacteria. Horray me! Thank God antibiotics are cheap here. My last batch cost $1.75.
3. And there was an earthquake that has severed the Internet connection between US run websites and China. When you are stuck in the 80’s – things work like you are in the 80’s. Horray China!

I am not sure how long it will take for the Chinese to drop down to the ocean floor and fix this problem, but it appears that it may take at least a month if not longer. I can barely check my email, let alone connect to blogspot to bring you the ever so interesting days of life here in China. So, if you could – please remain calm, and keep you seats. I will try my best to bring you more stories and adventures soon.

We are moving soon and I imagine that I will lose the ability to post at all for awhile. Do not fear though!! I will be back. It just might be awhile. Please be patient.

— Gabby Girl

Categories: America,China,Fuyang
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