Sunday, July 18, 2010

Busy season

Not much time these days, summer session has begun. I work 6 days a week, and my classes are spread out just enough to make coming home on breaks tempting but more work than it's worth. Lesson planning takes more time now because all of my classes use the SmartBoard.

I have two private students for 14 days, and I will be3 so grateful when that is done. There is no curriculum provided, so I have to create every lesson from scratch for them. Lessons are 90 minutes and they are 10 year old boys, so this is a real challenge, as their attention span is extremely limited. Creating their lessons is really time consuming as I have to find appropriate topics, materials, images and games to keep them entertained for such a long time.

There is a swollen gland on my throat, and one of the Chinese teachers was sick last week, so I'm drinking vitamin C like mad and hoping I won't catch the worst of it, I really really really really don't want to get sick again!

Anyway, until the private lessons are over I'm not likely to be making much in the way of blog entries. To my friends and family, I love you all and miss you so much.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday, changing gears

This morning when I got up it was actually cool outside, so I opened up all the windows to let some fresh air in. Since the apartment is long and narrow with windows just at one end, it's hard to get the air to circulate. I bought a second little fan today, that should help.

Summer classes begin on Monday (which is what the "changing gears" in the post title refers to), so I got my lesson templates for the summer copied to the laptop and one lesson prepped before going out to meet a Chinese friend for lunch. Turns out his idea of lunch is to take me to a major food street downtown that all the locals know about... AWESOME. There are restaurants of varying price ranges all down both sides of this little narrow street, and food vendors on a side alley. We ate spicy barbecued mutton on a stick, and drank some juice that is apparently an appetite stimulant and which tasted sort of like grape juice but was dark brown like strong coffee. Then we headed down the food vendor alley and I got some kind of funnel shaped open topped dumpling that had a big chunk of smoked duck in it, yum, and a sandwich with what my friend told me was donkey meat, I prefer the pork version as this was rather dry. Finished all that off with a small flat salty bread that is a local specialty, what I thought was so special was the oven. It was a cylinder with heat down in the middle, and a round flat griddle lid over the top that swung to the side, so that the bread rounds could be put down inside the oven against the slanted sides after browning on the griddle. Will have to go back with my camera as this street was full of wonderful and weird things... dumplings with squid tentacles sticking out, crabs and crawdads on sticks, bread that looked like balls of noodles...

Lastly we headed back to Spring Square in time to see the Lotus Fountain's choreographed water/music show. It was surreal when it played "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with everyone standing in the hot sun in July. Kids and even some adults were all over the fountain playing in the water. I'm told that the fountain show is more beautiful at night, so will have to make sure I get over there at night one of these times.

And now I'm home, showered, and need to settle down and work on some lessons before I crash. I feel like if I lay down right now I would fall right to sleep...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My New Apartment

Here is a photo tour of my new apartment. I took these pictures yesterday after I've been unpacking and settling in for a few days.

This is the hallway on my floor (13, hahaha!). It is kind of grubby, and the lights go out when you don't move for more than 60 seconds. The first floor landing is really yuck, so I was a little trepidatious by this time.
Closer... there are 4 doors on each end of the hallway. Mine is the first on the right, not seen in this photo but you get the idea.
And, looking into the door... yay! It's beautiful inside!
The living room as seen from the entry hall. The kitchen is on the left, master bedroom in the middle, small bedroom on the right.

Looking to the right, you can see the small bedroom doorway and the big decorative bookshelf.
Turning more right, looking back toward the entry. The bathroom door is in the entry hall.
Turning more to the right, the wraparound sofa. I have covered part of it with sheets to make it more comfortable.

Looking straight into the bathroom doorway.
Looking to the left, my washing machine and hot water tank.
Looking to the right, the shower. The floor in here is not slanted properly for the water to go down the drain (normal in every bathroom I've seen here so far), so I have to mop the floor after each shower. BUT, I am still grateful to have a shower.
And the toilet, which, since the water to the toilet is currently out of service, I flush using the pink basin. Apparently the water is on a different line than everything else, and there is apparently no estimate as to when it will be operational again. I wonder if it means the toilet uses reclaimed water.
The kitchen, just big enough for me and the cockroaches. The new microwave is still in its box on the floor because I don't want to give up my tiny counter space for it. Looking for a small table to put it on.
View from the kitchen and bedroom windows, from right to left.
And looking straight down.
There is a tiny sitting garden at the base of the building.
The master bedroom from left to right.
My laundry area.

My computer desk - the hard metal stool has now been replaced by a wooden chair which both looks and feels much better.
This apartment has lots of closet space in both bedrooms. Since the king bed takes up this whole room, I use this closet for storage and have my clothes in the other room.
The head of the bed, and you can see there is a lovely opaque etched glass window between this and the other bedroom (which is pretty, but makes me glad I live alone).
The etched glass window as seen from inside the smaller bedroom. The left wall of the small room is also opaque glass (or plastic) and is the back of the decorative bookcase in the living room.
The closet of the small bedroom. The box from the refrigerator is still in there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Settling in, travel plans canceled

The Chinese teacher who lives in Qingdao sent me a text message that it is 41 degrees Celsius (100+ Fahrenheit) there and I should not go, and also she can't take me to the tea plantation this week as we had hoped. So, since I'm really still so tired from the last few weeks of travelling and moving, and I haven't anyone to meet there, I decided to cancel the trip and go some other time.

I enjoyed my trip to Qufu last week, and it was nice to meet some friends there, but the heat really was awful and I probably would have enjoyed Qufu more in better weather. Still have to post pics from that trip.

This morning I spent about two hours cleaning in the bathroom with bleach, managed to get the worst part (toilet area) clean. the bathroom has no window, so even with the apartment windows open and the fan blowing in the bathroom doorway, the bleach ws too much for me and I had to stop, it made me cough and feel like vomiting. Did I mention that I hate moving? Anyway, it's a relief to have that part clean.

It wa super hot today, about 39 degrees, but the humidity is down to 16% so it actually feels better. I got some vegetables yesterday but can't get up the energy to cook them. The last 3 days I have had no appetite, if this continues all summer maybe I can get slimmer, yay!

This evening it was cool enough to walk home from the bus stop on the main road instead of riding another bus, and there is a lot more nighttime activity here than there was in my old (industrial) hood. There were a lot of old people sitting on little stools visiting out on the street (and this is a MAIN street, they have walked some distance from home just to hang out on the sidewalk). And I found a fruit and vegetable open market which I'm happy to know is nearby, SO much cheaper than the supermarket. And a few shops and restaurants in another part of the apartment complex, I grabbed some dinner in one of them. I have had so little appetite for the past several days due to the heat, I guess I ate more at dinner this evening than I've eaten in a day lately, and dinner was just stir fried egg and tomato over rice.

My lungs are feeling sore from the bleach, I should do some yoga breathing before I go to sleep. Speaking of which, it's much later than I usually like to stay up, so I will close and go to bed. Night all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I and all my things are now safely moved across town to another apartment. I can't say "new" apartment, because it's a pretty old building. The living room and bedrooms are nice, new flooring, lots of closet space, and a fancy shelving system in the living room. The mattress, washing machine, refrigerator and microwave are brand new. However, the kitchen and bathroom have seen better days, and come with little pets (cockroaches).

Last night, of course after the school guye had left, the toilet decided not to fill up anymore. After checking to make sure the water was still on in the apartment, I proceeded to open the tank, at which point the flushing knob broke, or rather, was already broken, as it was a bunch of strings tied together that broke. Thankfully there is a wash basin, so I can flush the toilet by pouring water down it until it is repaired. The school guys and the repairman will be here this afternoon.

Last night and this morning I've unpacked almost everything, done a load of laundry, chased some roaches, and made a halfway successful store run. I say halfway successful because I turned the wrong way out of the drive and walked farther INTO the complex rather than out of it; that was the unsuccessful part, as the plan was to go out to the main road and catch a bus to a big supermarket. The successful part is that in another set of buildings there was a small mom-and-pop supermarket and I could get a few things and some popsicles.

This is a "community" of apartments, in other words, a whole lot of them. There are lettered sections of buildings, each with its own street and gate and parking garage. I'm in the E section, building 1, 14th floor. Outside the window are more apartment buildings, and more apartment buildings. The view is beautiful at night.

After the repairman leaves, I want to make another try for that supermarket, as there are a number of items I would like to get for the apartment, as well as having very little fresh food on hand.

Tired. Back hurts. Hate moving. Happy to have air conditioning and light blocking curtains. Time to try to nap until the repairman arrives.

Kissed by an Angel

Today was my last class at the university. On the final day, we give an oral exam by the Chinese teacher and the foreign teacher each asking a few questions of each student individually. It's probably the closest one on one time I have had with my students (except for the really little kindergarten kids) all semester. I finally have the chance to speak to each student without the entire class looking on, look into their eyes and watch them thinking.

This particular class is level 1, and the students are 7-8 years old. One little girl's English name is Angel, and she was wearing a bright pink shirt with "Angel" on the front. While I was writing out her congratulatory "diploma", after I wrote her name on it, she surprised me by giving me a hug and a kiss. This small hug and kiss from Angel has me watery eyed and feeling like it's all been worth while.

It's also a source of inspiration, as I am now wondering how I can create a more meaningful contact with the children on a daily basis when teaching.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moving Day

Even in China the moving bug seems to follow me. I am being transferred to a branch school in another part of town, and today I'm moving to the new apartment. I am excited about working for the new branch school, but I still hate moving!

Will tell more about the reasons for the move etc. after it's over, too much to do right now.