Vacation Just Around the Corner

bya Gabrielle at 4:03 AM

There is no use in apologizing, so I’m not even going to try.  Let’s face it.  I suck at blogging.

I will however play the blame game.  The internet here just blows.  Some days it works and other days, well, it doesn’t.  What is a blogger to do?

Well, tomorrow is our last day and then it is VACATION TIME!!  A whole two months worth.  Why can’t we have awesome vacations like that in the States?  Oh, wait, we do, but you have to be teacher.  Hrm.  I suppose possibly being knifed or shot could almost be worth two months of vacation, but not quite.  :)

Our vacation is going to go something like this:

Linyi to Shanghai – Stay in Shanghai for 3 days, possibly see the Expo, get some good food.

Shanghai to Hangzhou – Spend a few days in Hangzhou, reminisce, eat some Dairy Queen.  Yum.

Hangzhou to Fuyang – Hang out with our good friend Jin for a few days and reminisce some more.  I am sure Fuyang has changed a lot since we left.

Fuyang back to Hangzhou – Catch a train or bus to Nanjing and see what Bo and Nashville have been talking about.

Nanjing to Guilin – We have to take a plane.  There is no way I am spending 24 hours on a train, even if it is a few hundred yuan cheaper.  Stay a night or hop on the first bus to Yangshuo.

Guilin to Yangshuo – Relax for a week and take in the sights.  Yanghshuo is mostly definitely the most beautiful place I have ever seen in China. Phil did say he would foot the bill if we stayed longer . . . so who knows how long we will stay.

Yangshuo back to Guilin – Catch a train, bus or plane to Kunming. I hear it is a pretty nice place.  It will be the first time Phil and I have been there.

Kunming to Dali – Once again, I have heard nice things and we have never been there before. It is always nice to adventure and see new places.

If at this point we aren’t completely broke, we may try to make our way to Qingdao, spend a few days there, experience Beer Street and then come back home to ever so wonderful Linyi.  If everything costs what we think it is going to cost, we are going to have to eat rice and noodles and nothing else for an entire month before we get paid again.  :)

Okay, moving on . . . Last weekend Phil decided it was time to have a new Chinese experience.  So, we went to the massage parlor down the street and while I got a standard oil massage, he got ba guan.  Ba guan is when the chinese take glass cups, light them on fire, and then stick them to your back – 16 of them to be exact.  They suck up your skin and break every blood vessel known to man.  After 5 or 10 minutes, they take them off.  It looks something like this . . .

Since I was getting a massage, I couldn’t take a picture of the glass cups on Phil’s back, but I took a picture of a friend who did it a week or so ago.  It was her first and last time.  I have no idea how she got the courage to do it.  There is no way in a happy hell that I would ever submit to it.

Song Hui and ba guan

And this is what it looked like after Phil had his little procedure.  It looks likes someone either sucker punched him over and over again or took a purple marker and went to town.

Phil and ba guan

A close up of the damage . . .

Phil - Ouch

And another . . .

Phil - Ouch - 2

I don’t think that Phil will be getting it done again any time soon.  And not because it hurt, at least he said it didn’t, but because he didn’t really feel he benefited from it.  It is supposed to suck out the toxins from your body.  They tell you not to take a shower for 24 hours afterward, but I am not totally sure of the reason.

Oh, and although this has nothing to do with vacation or self-induced pain, I thought I would post it any way.

There is an Australian in our building who has decided to turn the roof into his very own garden/farm.  He recently just added 4 baby chicks that he will either use for eggs or if they suck at that, he’s gonna eat them.  I really hope they are great egg layers.

Here they are . . .

Baby chicks

When he tends to the garden, he lets them out of their cage so they can run around.  They run so fast.  He says they are easy to catch and put back, but I don’t know if I believe him.

And the garden . . .

Roof garden

If I have internet connection during our travels, I will try my best to keep whoever it that reads this blog of mine up-to-date.  I can hardly wait.  This vacation is going to be a blast!

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A Gift for Phil

bya Gabrielle at 10:00 PM

Not long after we arrived and started teaching English in Fuyang, we got to experience the holiday known as Teacher’s Day.  This is a day when students thank their teachers for all of their hard work and sometimes present them with little gifts.  I knew of the holiday before coming to China, but I didn’t expect the students to give either Phil or I anything, for like I said, we had just started teaching.  I didn’t think it was possible for them to like us enough to by anything for us, given the amount of time they had known us.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I came home from work and found a carved watermelon wishing Phil a Happy Teacher’s Day sitting on the kitchen table.  I’m sure I imagined several gifts that the students might give us, but I don’t think that a carved watermelon was one of them.  I was quite impressed.  The student put a lot of work into it.

During our six months there, Phil got all sorts of gifts from his students – ranging from greeting cards to Final Fantasy posters to Hello Kitty stuffed toys.  Phil’s students were loads nicer than mine ever were.

And just in case you don’t know what a carved watermelon looks like – here you go!

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Mid Day Fireworks in Fuyang, China – Zhejiang Province

bya Gabrielle at 1:30 PM

Fireworks were a common occurrence in China, both during the day and at night, and even more so during holidays like Chinese New Year.  I felt all of the fireworks shot of during the day were wasted, though, because you couldn’t really enjoy the bright, exploding colors.  You could never escape the big booms, though, which always made me think I was in the middle of a war zone.

The following video is of some fireworks being set off right outside of my apartment in Fuyang during the middle of the day.  I have no idea what they were celebrating – perhaps a marriage or something like it.  It went on for sometime.  I wish it had been at night, for at least then there would have been something to see.

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Update: Gabe is an Idiot(Phil Too For That Matter)

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Okay, we all know that I am a bumbling idiot, so what is new you ask?  Well, nothing much really, except I need to much a correction.  A few days ago I posted a little story about how Holy, a friend who we had met in Fuyang, China, had come to visit us during his fall break. In that post I said that his name was pronounced like Holly.  While he was here though, and after I had made that post, I found out it, after nearly two years of knowing Holy, that is name is indeed pronounced Holy – as in holy shit, your kidding me! :)

You can imagine how stupid I felt.  I then tried to figure out how the confusion started.  Some point when he Holy met Phil, he told him his name and showed Phil how to spell it.  I am pretty sure Phil double checked and made sure it was what he meant, but I guess our English minds wanted to hear Holly, and so that is what we called him.  I asked Holy why he never corrected us and he said he didn’t know.   Perhaps it is was the same reason I never made the scores of Chinese people say my name correctly.  I knew calling me Gabrielle would be difficult, so I opted for Gabe.  To most people in China that year, I was known as Gabe-a.  I should have simplified it even more and gone by G.

I told Holy how hard it was going to be to retrain myself to actually say his name correctly.  The last few days he was here, I had to catch myself mid-name so many times.  Hopefully, it won’t take too long to learn.

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First For Everything

bya Gabrielle at 5:56 PM

I’ve heard a lot of strange names in my life, but I think this story tops them all.

At work the other day, I had to call and see if an applicant would be interested in applying to a position similar to one she had applied to before.  The name was normal enough – Tiffany.  I called the number and let it ring a few times.  A moment later, a man with a rather deep voice answered the phone.


“Hi, may I speak to Tiffany?”

“This is he.”

I nearly fell out of my chair.  Never in all my life have I met a male Tiffany.  I’m still trying to figure out if it his parent’s hated him, or if he changed his name as he got older.  Either way, it’s weird.  Very weird.

Another thing that I never imagined happening occurred this week.  Holy(pronounced Holly), who attened the high school that Phil taught at in Fuyang, China, decided to take his fall break and visit us for the week.  He is attending Troy University in Alabama this semester.  Well, instead of taking the bus to get to us, like we would have in China, he actually drove.   Holy bought himself a car and passed the Alabama driver’s license test.  I must say, it was very strange to be driven around my city, by a guy I met in China and who has only lived in the States for 9 months.  I guess it would be like me moving to China, buying a car, and driving Holy around where he grew up.  I dunno, I guess i just find it weird – and a bit funny.

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 8: The Story of the Accidental Emergency

bya Gabrielle at 3:53 PM

I can’t believe I have never told the story of when Phil and I stayed in the super fancy, 5 star hotel right next to our apartment in Fuyang. You can click to see the picture of the hotel here.  The outside doesn’t look that great, but the inside looked really nice.  I can’t remember if I took pictures of the room, but I know I have a brochure of the hotel somewhere.  I’ll try to find it.

Phil and I couldn’t decide what to get each other for Christmas, so we decided to treat ourselves to our first ever 5 star hotel – South China Hotel Fuyang.  We walked past it nearly everyday and got sick and tired of dreaming what it would be like to stay there.  So, about a week before Christmas, we walked into the lobby to find out how much money we would have to burn through to enjoy ourselves.  Apparently, several weeks prior to this, we had been at the same bar with the lady behind the desk.  She remembered us, and decided to drop our room charge in half.  We couldn’t decided if we wanted the regular room or the suite for a few more dollars until she let us see what latter looked like.  We had seen the other one several weeks earlier, when Tim’s(another teacher) parents came and stayed there.

As soon as we walked through the door we were wowed.  It was huge. It had two bathrooms. The one with the bath tub was almost as big as the bedroom – the room not the tub.  :)  The bed was equally as huge and super soft.  In addition to that there was another large room with a couch and a table – the kind you eat at.  It was sorta like a living room, and I think there may have been a TV(there was another TV in our bedroom.)   I guess it was your typical suite layout, but since I had never seen one before, it looked super awesome.

The room ended up costing us 870 RMB – at the time that was about $108 – not bad for a night in a five star hotel suite.  Without the discount it would have cost us 1500 RMB – more than I would have paid to sleep in a bed anywhere, even if I could take a bath for 24 hours.  And that leads me into what this story is all about.

A week later we showed back up at the hotel and were given our respective keys.  The first thing either one of us wanted to do was take advantage of the huge garden tub.  Our apartment didn’t have a tub, just a shower, so it had been nearly 3 months since we had had a nice American bath.  When you don’t have access to a tub, you really start to miss them.  Our shower was pretty kick ass though.  It was a sauna/shower, and had it worked 100% like it was supposed to, we would have had jets of water coming out of the walls to clean us.  We never could figure out how to get them to work though.  :(

Well, anyway, Phil and I were standing in the bathroom, taking in everything it had to offer us.  There were all sorts of bath related items that you could use for a price, of course, big lush towels, heat lamps, and a button.

We both looked at it, curious as to what it did.  There was no sign or anything.  It was just a button, sitting pretty as it pleased in the wall, next to the bath tub.

“Should I push it?” Phil asked.

“I dunno.  We don’t know what it does.” I replied.  I saw Phil’s eyes grow wide with wonder and excitement.

Phil has a history with buttons.  In a DnD game that I dragged him to a long time ago, he decided in his inebriated state of mind, that it would be a good idea to push the button that read 13, when we all clearly knew that pushing a button would make a monster appear.  Number one had made some stupid kobold appear and we killed it in all but two seconds flat.  Anyone should have been able to understand that pushing a higher number would make an even larger monster appear, but Phil didn’t care.  He wanted excitement.  So, he pushed it, and the biggest, meanest, ugliest, most difficult creature to kill appeared.  We ran for our lives, and barely survived.

Phil doesn’t play with us anymore.

So, yeah, Phil was standing in the bathroom, staring at the button.  For a brief second he was five years old again. I could tell by the way his eyes were glowing and twitching – like he had found the mother load of mischief .  Oh, he was going to push that button.

And that is exactly what he did.  With his index finger he stabbed the button.

There was silence for a moment and then I started to think that maybe it is like our light switch in the hallway back in our apartment.  Maybe it doesn’t do it’s job anymore.  And then there is a voice.  An English voice.  Talking to us in our five star hotel bathroom. In China.  In Fuyang.  Where 9 times out of 10, people can’t understand what the hell I’m saying. And vice versa.  But I understand this.

“Gentleman, are you in trouble?” (I can’t remember exactly what he said.  I just remember it sounding awkward.)

I looked at Phil and Phil looked at me.

“Oh, we are fine,” Phil said

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, we are fine. Just accidentally pushed the button.”  (Accidentally my ass.)

“Ok. Have a good evening.”

“Thanks, you too.”

As soon as the voice was gone, Phil and I bust out laughing.

Apparently, Phil had pushed the emergency button.  It made total since afterwards, but you still would think that an emergency button would have emergency written somewhere on or near it.  Hey, at least they didn’t come barging into our bathroom.  I can only imagine what kind of comedy would have ensued if they had.

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Globe Trotting Maple Extract

bya Gabrielle at 9:50 PM

When Phil and I lived in Fuyang, we really wanted some syrup to go with the pancakes we were trying to make.  Our attempts at making the syrup ourselves never produced Butterworth results.  So, we did the next best thing – we asked my mom to send us a bottle of maple extract to help give our concoction some maple flare.  We didn’t ask for a bottle of syrup because it would have made the box weigh too much and a heavy box sent to China isn’t cheap.  Sending just the syrup probably wouldn’t have cost that much, but our wish list always seemed to grow when we found out someone was going to be sending us some western goodies.  :)

The extract did help with the taste of the syrup, but we could never get the consistency we wanted.  Eventually, we gave up and decided we would just have to wait until we returned back home to get the good stuf.  When it came time to move to Shenyang, we packed it up with all of our other stuff.  We weren’t about to scarifice any of our western goods.

A week after we got to Shenyang, we were told we would be moving again.  Phil and I weren’t particularly pleased that we would be uprooting ourselves again, but we repacked all of our goods up anyway, including our maple extract, and headed to the beautiful city of Xiamen.

In Xiamen, we unpacked everything and refused to pack again unless we were traveling or moving back home.  And for the next three months our maple extract sat quietly on our shelf, unused.  When it came time for us to go back to the States, we offered up all of our western goods to our dear friends, Patty, Eddie, and their daughter Elisa.  We knew they could get some good use out it. Elisa swore it was Christmas when we brought all of our stuff over to them.  :)

Well, up until a few days ago, I would have thought that our maple extract had finally run out of gas and found a permanent home in a landfill in China or some other needy westerner’s cabinet.  Interestingly enough though, neither happened.

Instead, our maple extract jumped on a plane back to the States stashed away in a suitcase – destination Miami – when Patty and her family decided to leave China.  After a short stay there, it decided that it wanted to do some more traveling, and hopped on the next flight to Colombia – the country, not the city where I live.  For the next four weeks our maple extract took in the sights and then decided it wanted to settle down for a spell – somewhere else.  So, off it trotted to the airport and booked passage to Argentina, where for  at this moment in time, it still resides.  At least until Phil and I travel to Argentina next November, pick it up, and bring it back to the States with us.  :)

I don’t know how many miles our little maple extract has traveled, I just know it’s a lot.  Perhaps, there is a section in the Guinness World Records that it would qualify for.

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Paper Making Village Videos

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

I’ve written about the paper making village I visited while I lived in Fuyang, China, before, but I never put up the videos. You can see those posts about the village here, here, and here(but the slide show died – sorry).


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Here we have step one.  My voice over should cover all the bases.

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Here we have part two. They take the smashed bits of paper and throw it into the water to be filtered out one sheet at a time. I wonder how much those guys get paid.  Surely, not enough.

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Here we have part three.  After they have made the sheets, they have to dry them.  They put them up on a very hot surface and “iron” them until they are dry.  Later, they cut it and then either paint on it or turn it into books. Pretty interesting process.

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Why I’ll Never Win American Idol – Take Me Out to the Ball Game

bya Gabrielle at 12:23 PM

I was invited to my school to judge an English competition on my birthday. At the end several students and teachers sang songs. They asked me to sing, too. I don’t know any songs by heart, especially with out the music, so I sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Laugh if you will, I was just having some fun.

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Chinese Students Doing Their Daily Excercises

bya Gabrielle at 3:01 PM

I’ve been going through all of my Chinese videos and pictures, trying to find some interesting things to blog about. I’m mad at myself for not taking more videos, and better pictures while I was there, but oh well, I’ll just have to deal with what I have. The next time I go somewhere, even if it is to a Braves game, I’m going to use my camera a lot more.

The video I picked out for today isn’t amazing or anything. It’s just the students at the primary school running their daily laps with my strange voice over, but I thought someone out there would enjoy it. I’m talking so slow in the video because I had just finished teaching. Talking slow is basically a requirement for teaching English in China, especially if your students don’t understand most of what you say. It took me awhile to teach myself to talk like that. I sound very robotic. Every time I hear it, it makes me laugh. As the video progresses, my speed picks up. It’s only in the very beginning that you can tell.

The students both at my school and the primary school did exercises just about everyday, unless it was raining excessively hard or something. I’ve got a video of my students exercising somewhere. I’ll try getting that up soon, but for now you can see a picture of them – here. Enjoy!

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