bya Gabrielle at 2:45 PM

If you have ever wondered what you would look like in a claymation cartoon or movie, all you have to do is go to any large market in China and say the word. That’s what Phil and I did and look what happened. They are pretty freaky, but remarkably good.

Phil is so suave.

We had seen something like this in Hangzhou, but to save money and space in our suitcases, we decided to pass them up at the time. The kind we saw in Hangzhou were made of clay too, but didn’t come in color. When we saw the guy making these at the Silk Street Market in Beijing for cheaper than the variety in Hangzhou we couldn’t pass them up. I think that Phil looks more like his than I do of mine, but they are still very cool. For the two of them we paid 160 yuan and it took the guy about 25 minutes to recreate us in clay. Neat, huh?

Gabe will never be as beautiful as she was on the day she was made.

Categories: Beijing,China,Hangzhou
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Blocked Again

bya Gabrielle at 9:41 AM

Well, it appears that China has decided to revoke my freedom again.

A few days ago Phil and I were trying to update our blog and make it pretty by adding new features when the ever familiar and loathed message – The connection has timed out – popped up on the screen when I deviated from the page I had been on for a while. I thought perhaps that the internet was acting a bit funny for a second, but when I tried reloading my blog again, the same thing occurred. My next thought was, “What are the odds that China blogged blogspot at the exact time that I was using it.” So I waited a while and tried again. Same message. Hrm, strange. I tried using a random proxy and poof – my blog reappeared. What I feared seemed to have actually happened. My blogged was now blocked/banned in China again after being unblocked since Thanksgiving. I thought I’d give it a day or so, but it seems it’s back to using to access my blog if I want to read anything written by anyone else.

The picture up top is my favorite yogurt here in China, and not only because of the funny little story that the top container of four tells. I thought it was pretty funny though, and that is why I took a picture of it. Poor little Raspberry. Or is it a Strawberry? Being jumped by a pair of crazy grapes sure has to suck. Heh.

As for news on our situation in China: We are still in Beijing. We will either leave on Tuesday or Wednesday for Shenyang by plane and then go on to Xiamen a day or two after that by plane aw well. I am so looking forward to going. Richard says our apartment is beautiful, but I’ll have to wait to see it to believe him. Maybe he’s rented us a beach front apartment or something. Oh, ha, I know, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it is at least as nice as our apartment in Shenyang. It was small, but cozy, bright, and clean. And that is all I want of our new apartment in Xiamen.

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More Drama

bya Gabrielle at 12:49 PM

I want to preface this post by saying this story starts bad, but ends well – at least as well as a story can in China. Okay, continue.

We had been told that we might be able to leave today for Shenyang, but when I called Richard this morning he said that our paper work wouldn’t be done until next Tuesday. I sighed at that, but continued to listen. Not two seconds later, he decided to reach into is big bag of that he carries over his shoulder and hand out another dose of bad news. Richard is like an evil version of Santa, but instead of just working one night of the year, he puts in a full 365 days.

After talking with the Xiamen school, Richard found out that the school has enough teachers for the amount of students enrolled and wouldn’t be needing us like he thought. On top of this information, he wanted us to go get our stuff in Shenyang and come back to Beijing where he would somehow find work for us. He said he would call us later because he was in a business meeting.

I lost it. I’ve tried really hard to stay positive these last 70 some odd days, but I couldn’t keep it up any longer. I laid back down in bed, covered up my head and cried. Beijing is the last place in all of China that we would want to work/live. This city has become our center of hatred, for everything bad that has happened has stemmed from this city and the WECL school. Maybe if our transfer to Shenyang had gone smoothly, we wouldn’t feel this way. Some people love this city. It just isn’t our cup of tea.

When the phone rang a few minutes later, I made Phil answer it. I was still crying and didn’t want to deal with Richard anymore. It was a short conversation. Phil told Richard he wanted to meet with him and discuss this madness. He agreed to a 2 o’clock meeting in the WECL office. I spent the time provided to calm down. The last thing I wanted to do was meet with Richard and start bawling my eyes out like a two year or go ballistic on his ass. If he had told this news to our faces I might have done just that.

At two o’clock, Richard strolled into the office and we sat down for a chat. Richard continued to explain the problem. There were too many teachers in Xiamen and not enough students. Like Shenyang, Xiamen’s WECL school is new and they haven’t had time to get a full load of students. Richard said that there were other places in Beijing, another University, where we could teach until they got more students in Xiamen, but all that meant was that there would never be enough students in Xiamen and we would be stuck in Beijijng for the rest of our contract. He said that our work load would be small, and that it would be easy to get to the University by subway or bus, but that didn’t make us any happier. He tried very hard to paint the ratty, 2 quai picture he pulled out of the dumpster into something it could never be to convince us Beijing was the way to go, but we didn’t budge. I think at this point he realized he’d lost. Maybe some where in his soul he understood our frustration and knew that he couldn’t push us much further without making us completely insane, so he looked at us and said, “What do you want?”

This question was a shock to me. I don’t think anyone in charge of me has asked me what I’ve wanted since I’ve come to China. I’ve always had to follow what other people have told me to do even if it sucked hardcore. So, given the chance to give our opinion, Phil and I took it like it was a piece of candy and ran with it.

I looked at him and said, “Richard, I’m stressed out, frustrated and sick and tired of bouncing all over China. I want to go anywhere, anywhere in China, except for Beijing, and live in a place that I can call home. I want a roof over my head, a job and a paycheck.”

A lot more was said of course, a lot more, but in the end, we won – if you can even call it a victory. Even though they don’t really need us in Xiamen, that is where we will be going. We may have only a few hours of work, if any, but we’ll have a home, a roof over our head, a job, and a paycheck no matter if we teach or not.

So, what began as a sucky day that made me cry like the little girl that I secretly am – everything seems to be okay for now. But nothing is permanent, and I am not about to get my hopes up because tomorrow is another day and anything and everything changes on a whim.

Maybe things are finally starting to look up. I can hope I guess. Hoping never hurt anyone.

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Just What Have I Done, God?

bya Gabrielle at 2:20 PM

Where do I begin? How many times have I had to say that? And how many times has it meant that something else bad has happened? Too many.

As my last entry stated, we’ve had to go back to Beijing. (Insert a stream of bad words and a few huffs and puffs of pure frustration.) We arrived on Sunday evening after spending 9.5 hours on a train. We were supposed to have gotten soft sleepers, but all of them had been sold out or at least that is what our support staff said. They had to buy us some soft seats instead. It wasn’t too bad. The train was nicer than the others we have been on. It was a double decker for one and the soft seats seemed much bigger than usual. I think it was a new train. We were lucky because the seats facing us weren’t taken so Phil and I each had two seats to ourselves. I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t possible. Instead, I started and finished the book I had brought with me – Thief of Always by Clive Barker. I haven’t been able to read too much lately with all the insanity that has been going on. So that was nice. I miss reading.

Once we fought our way out of the train station we hunted down a taxi. We found one sitting on the side of the road with the cabbie and a few of his friends chillin beside it. We told him that we wanted to go Er Wai and his immediate response was 100 kuai(yuan). That was an insane an offer considering we weren’t that far from the school and that he was a taxi and had a meter to go by. We told him that was too expensive and he dropped it to 80 kuai. Again we told him it was too expensive and decided to go find another taxi driver down the street. He stopped us and said 50 kuai. That seemed like a better deal even though it was a little more than it probably would of cost. Whatever we paid was going to be paid back, so it didn’t matter, but being ripped off is just wrong! We took the 50 kuai offer and off to WECL we went. I tried getting a receipt of some sort, but the cabbie kept saying sorry that he couldn’t. I gave up and we got out. It seems that so few Chinese our legit. That bothers me.

No one at the dorm speaks English, so we had to call Richard, his Incompetentness, and tell him that we were there. He told us to call Joe, his lackey, and that he would let us in. So we did. The person that answered the phone was not Joe, but instead some poor Chinese man who didn’t know what I was saying. I hung up and told Phil to try. This time an angry Chinese woman answered. Phil hung up. I tried calling back Richard, but his phone was busy. I waited a little while and called again. It was still busy. I did this countless times to continue to get the Chinese message of, “Sorry, the subscriber you have called is busy.” Phil and I sat down on the couch trying to figure out what to do when Joe came into the lobby. I guess his Chinese instinct told him someone was looking for him. He didn’t even know we were there yet. He got the key and took us to our room, brought us some health forms to fill out and left us to our favorite place in the world(you can hear the sarcasm in my words, right? – Room 110 – our on and off again home for the last month or so. This time though, they changed our sheets. They thought Beijing had released it’s grip on us too, but they had been fooled as well.

Starving after our long journey, we went to the closet and fastest place – McDonald’s. We stuffed ourselves and then made our way back home. We had to go to bed in order to be able to wake up at 6:00 am. Joe had told us that we had to meet him in the lobby at 7:00 am so that he could take us to get our health exam. Like the good Chinese man that he is, Joe was and our driver were there right on time. When they want to be, they can be Kings of Punctuality. We entered Beijing’s rush hour and began our journey across town. After 30 minutes of nonstop stop and go, my eyes began to droop. I layed my head of Phil’s shoulder and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I awoke almost 45 minutes later to find that we still hadn’t arrived. I didn’t think we would ever get there, but not long after I woke up, the driver pulled over and we hopped out.

I don’t what it is about Chinese people, but they are always in a freaking hurry. As soon as we got out of the car, Joe took off for the front door of the “Inspection Building”. He ran up the stairs, threw 1300 yuan reception desk lady, and rushed us like we were on fire from one room to the next. It was like he was being timed or something and if we stayed there too long something really bad would happen to us. This is how is always is when we go somewhere with a Chinese person in the lead.

The exam was much like the one we got in Hangzhou – fast and stupid. It took 30 minutes for the both of us to get a ECG, blood drawn, our weight, height, eyes, and pulse checked and to get an x-ray of our chest. They didn’t even check my eyes. The “doctor” just pointed and said, “Ok?” I could have had the worst vision on the planet and he would have never known. I know why we had to come back though. Every time you get a new visa, you need a need health inspection. It has something to do with the rules. Even though we had one in Hangzhou six months ago, it doesn’t matter. And the reason it had to be done in Beijing, is because we are being registered as Beijing teachers at Er Wai even though we won’t be teaching there. Why they are doing this – I have no idea. I’m just shaking my head and praying this all works it self out.

Joe took us back to Er Wai after our health exam was over and told us we could get some sleep. I decided to go to the WECl office and see if I could find any of the teachers I’d met previously. I knew that they would shocked to see me since they thought I had finally left for good and was Shenyang at least for the next 4 months. When Gloria and Donnie walked in and saw me they did a double take. “What in the world are you doing here?” They asked with great big shocked expressions on their faces. They couldn’t believe everything that had happened. As Gloria put it, “I’m flabbergasted.” They all were. Heck, so am I. So is Phil.

After telling Gloria and Donnie and their family everything that had happened since we left I decided to go take a nap. A few hours later our cell phone rang and woke me up. It was Richard. He wanted to know where we were. He said that all of our documents should me done by Thursday and that we could probably go back to Shenyang this weekend.

And this is when all the S**T hit the fan. This is when I looked up at our white ceiling and said, “Just what have I done, God? Tell me what I have done wrong so that I can fix my ways. Please, God, tell me, and I will stop whatever it is that displeases you.”

Because we have no students to teach in Shenyang(Phil actually has one student) and because they won’t be getting them any time soon, Richard has decided that it is best to relocate us all the way down to the city of Xiamen. This means that we have to go back to Shenyang and repack everything that we just got done unpacking. We seriously just finished making our new home “home”. We only just got there a week ago and now we have to leave. And our poor adopted fish, Pi Jiu(Beer in Chinese), what will we do with him?

I don’t think Richard even has room for us in Xiamen. At last check, Xiamen had more than enough teachers to operate the WECL school there. They’ve already started their semester. I have no idea what this means for us or how in the world we can start teaching students who already have teachers a month into the curriculum. At least Richard is paying for everything. I guess I can be thankful for that much. And, on top of that, Xiamen is a very pretty place in China to be.

I’m actually a lot more calm than I was when we first found out. It’s all more frustrating than anything really and to be bounced around China like we have just adds to it. I know that nothing in China is easy, but this is becoming quiet ridiculous.

There are only so many times that you can act like a duck and have the water run off your feathers and back into the water before you really start losing your mind.

I think I lost my mind today.

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You Won’t Believe This

bya Gabrielle at 10:40 AM

We have to go back to Beijing.

Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, an idiot named Richard forgot to mention that we needed a new health inspection. The original one that we got in Hangzhou doesn’t seem to have done the job. So, in three hours we have to get on the 8 hour train and go back just to have someone draw our blood, take our pulse, and make sure we aren’t dying or have any infectious diseases.

I’m am so pissed off.

Richard had a month to remember that we needed to get this done. I can’t believe that he waited until we got here to realize that this needed to be done.

Well, in the middle of writing this we have gotten word that there are no train tickets available to Beijing tonight, and there won’t be until Sunday. On top of all this, we are technically illegal. We entered the country on the 13th of February and we had 30 days to get all of our paper work in order. Today is the 15th. You do the math.

Anyone have a safe house we could stay in if things turn real ugly?

And the craziest thing is that we don’t have our passports in our possessions because they needed them to get our resident permits. Because we don’t have our passports, we are forced to take the train when the plane is the most obvious choice to get back to Beijing. I just can’t believe this. I really can’t.

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Revisiting Hong Kong

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Here are some more pictures of our little excursion down to Hong Kong.

Smoke Scene.

Now before I go any further, I want to say that the smoke in the above picture is not my smoke. The picture is not even mine. It all belongs to Tim, our fellow American friend, who taught with us in Fuyang and is now teaching in Jinhua. He didn’t mean for this effect to happen. He just happened to puffing away when he snapped the picture. When the smoke got in the way of the flash it was illuminated. I think it gave the picture artistic flare. The buildings in the background are of course just a few of the many giants Hong Kong has hovering over the bustling population.

Remind you of game? Think of red and black checker board full of holes and sits up right.

Here is another picture belonging to Tim. He always takes the coolest pictures; makes me jealous. My camera is hit and miss. Sometimes is takes a good picture and some time it doesn’t. My camera has a hard time dealing with light. A lot of the time my pictures come out to dark or too bright. I can’t seem to win in anything it seems. Picture taking or children games. Does this particular building make you think of an old game that maybe you used to play? As soon as we came across it in Hong Kong, the first thing that came into my mind was that checker game that came out a long time ago called Connect Four. It would have been really awesome if I could have climbed on top of that building and played a game with someone. Those checkers would have been freaking HUGE! But regardless of how big they would have been, I would have still lost. I don’t think I have ever won a game of Connect Four. After playing and losing a dozen games against the computer in the past few minutes, I know that this is still the case. Heh.

It’s Connect Four. Like the lottery in South Carolina – I can’t seem to win.

I tried taking pictures of the lit up buildings as I walked past them because some of them were pretty amazing. If my camera liked taking night pictures better and could deal with all of the flickering “Vegas” lights, more than this one would have come out. Like most of my China pictures, my little Kodak camera just doesn’t do the lights justice. I don’t think any camera or picture could. There is always so much more to the picture than it shows you. I just wish my memory could always stay as fresh as the day I experience something. I hate how memories fade.

Everyone needs a pet dragon. Wouldn’t you agree?

Once again, this is not my picture. It belongs to Tim. This has been one of the few dragon heads that I have seen since coming to China. I haven’t seen any of the dancing dragons that you see plastered all over the TV as a symbol of Asian culture. I wonder what part of China I have to go to see one? Maybe there is a festival where they have them. We found this dragon in the middle of Hong Kong Park. When we first came across it, there were a lot of people crowding around it and we couldn’t figure out why. Then we saw the drum sitting out beside the dragon. Everyone was waiting there turn in a unorganized line to beat on a few times. I waited my turn behind a little girl.

Random lit up street in Hong Kong.

I think the above picture is pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a street, it’s dark, and all of the lights are on. I took the picture because I liked all the neon and the Chinese characters. And I guess that’s that. We are still waiting to get Internet in our apartment. When we do, I’ll start posting about Shenyang. These just happened to be the only pictures I uploaded before we left Beijing – the city that would never let us go. I think I may rename the capital of China, Black Hole, for it sure as heck acted like one for several days. Sometimes I think I am still dreaming and that I will wake up to find myself still sleeping in my Er Wai(Beijing International Studies University) bed. Although, if this is a dream, this is one realistic dream.

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Reflection: Lost in Translation

bya Gabrielle at 5:32 AM

Ray, a native of Beijing, asked me to correct the mistranslations of the signs I took pictures of so that he could have a better understanding of standard English. He was referring to my recent post entitled Lost in Translation. For all I know, there may be other native Chinese people reading my blog trying to enhance their English ability. Because of that, I will now translate them in what should have been their proper form or what would have made more sense.

The first picture on my original post was of the back of our hotel door in Shenzhen. It was instructions on how to get out of the hotel if a fire occurred. In it’s original form it was as follows:

When the fire occurs runs away to,Must use the wet towel clothes, the cloth class and so on to cover up the mouth nose, bends the waist lowers the head the advance by creeping.

Leaves the scene of a fire through the security staircase.,

This is how it should have looked like:

When a fire occurs, use wet towels or clothes to cover up your mouth and nose. Bend at the waist and crawl on the floor to the nearest exit. To leave, use the staircase. Do not use the elevator.

The other picture was of a business in Hangzhou:

Hangzhou Local Famous Specialty Monopolized Store

Perhaps it would have looked more proper if it had been written like this, but there are a half a dozen other ways it could have been done. This way there isn’t so much redundancy. Hangzhou and Local cancel each other out, as well Specialty and Monopolized. You could technically throw Famous in there somewhere, but it isn’t completely necessary.

Hangzhou Specialty Store

with Famous: Famous Hangzhou Specialty Store or Hangzhou’s Famous Specialty Store

Hope this helps, Ray.

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Quick Shenyang Update

bya Gabrielle at 12:27 AM

Just wanted to say that we FINALLY made it to Shenyang. We’ve only been here 2.5 days and I already have enough stories for a lifetime. I’ll post them later, as I am at school right now and have some students to test. When we either get Internet in our apartment or am given time to type at my leisure here at school, I will post all about my experiences so far which include . . .

  • The dead Pigeon in our co-worker’s first apartment and the condition of ours.
  • My first trip to a Chinese hospital.
  • The story of mistakenly ordering 2 kilos of dumplings.
  • Being run over by a cart of DVDs running away from the cops.
  • And the pictures of our new cozy apartment.

I’ll get to them soon. They are all very interesting. Until then, use your imagination.


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Lost in Translation

bya Gabrielle at 6:31 AM

Anyone who has been to China or any other country where English is the second language knows how humorous a translated sign can be. I come across them a lot, but I don’t always have my camera handy. My New Year’s resolution is to carry my camera wherever I go and to take as many pictures as my battery will let me. I don’t want to go home to find that I don’t have as many pictures as I should.

I know that whomever is translating these from Chinese to English tries very hard, but sometimes I think that they should hire a more fluent speaker of the foreign language if it is going to be in the public eye all the time. There are enough expats here in China who wouldn’t mind taking over the job for a small fee. But then again, if all the signs were proper, I wouldn’t have some much to laugh at as I walked around town.

Below are just a few of the many humorous signs I’ve seen. I have a pretty funny picture that I got from inside of a taxi in Shanghai, but that I don’t have it uploaded to Blogger yet. It said something to effect of not allowing psychos in the taxi. Heh. I’ll make a point to start taking more pictures as I see them, and I’m sure I’ll see plenty.

On the back door of our hotel in Shenzhen.

One of the stores in Hangzhou. Do they know what monopolized means?

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Walking Around Hong Kong

bya Gabrielle at 2:36 AM

Here are a few pictures from our little trip down to Hong Kong. We were only there a few days, but I must say that I really liked it there. It was a bit too expensive for my blood, but the city was clean(and I mean very clean), easy to get around(I loved the subway), and it had many interesting things to go see(even though we were only able to see a few of them). One of the things I really liked was the big buildings. I’ve never been to New York City, but I imagine that Hong Kong is a lot like it. As soon as I got off the subway and walked out to the street, I could feel the buildings hovering over me. I felt like a little bitty ant. At night the buildings were really fantastic. The light shows they put on were something else. I liked walking down the streets just to see all the different displays on them.

One of the cooler buildings we saw. It almost doesn’t look real.

One of the days that we were there, we decided to go to Honk Kong Park. It was listed as a good place to visit in one of the maps we picked up(that cost 50 Hong Kong dollars!!!) so we thought we’d give it a go. It looked interesting to me because it had a huge aviary with more than 800 species of birds. Ever since I volunteered at Carolina Wildlife Care, I’ve become very fond of birds. We got there to find it closed because dead birds infected with the avian flu had been found within 3 km of the aviary. How very depressed I was. As we walked around though, we saw some birds flocking to an apartment building. To my astonishment, they were Cockatoos! I know that Hong Kong is a little tropical, but Cockatoos?! I have no idea how they were out flying like they were, but if I had to guess, I would say that they are much like the birds in California – the Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Everyone has their own idea on how the parrots took up residents there.

Nice photographing skills, Phil! I wish these were the birds visiting my bird feeder!

This is another picture taken at Hong Kong Park. We don’t have arches like these back home, but they are nearly every where in China. I remember hearing about their significance at one point, but my memory fails me right now. If I ever have a big enough garden in my backyard, I am going to put a slew of these in it. They are like gigantic frames and the scenery of the garden are their pictures. Gotta love Chinese architecture.

A nice place to wander around and get lost.

Okay, this doesn’t have much to do with Hong Kong, but after Phil took a picture of it at one of the McDonald’s we ate at, I couldn’t resist putting it on here. You have to admit that it’s pretty freaking hysterical. Before you go thinking that this is just some more Chinglish, I have to tell you that the original message on the box was – Sweet Taro Pie. Taro is a potato. Phil just thought it looked much more interesting the other way and photoshopped it. After giving it the name, we’ve both had a hard time calling it by it’s original one. You must know how nick names stick, especially if they are funny ones. The real kicker is the picture of the girl kissing the guy. The expression on his face is just great. The “Caution, I’m hot” adds to the humor as well.

Oh, my Sweet Tard Pie.

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