Archives for the month of: August, 2013

2pm here and I’ve finally recovered from my supermarket experience!  Now I KNOW that I’m in China and whilst I don’t expect to see western-style food, I did have a vague notion that I might recognise something in the supermarket apart from chocolate and crisps!

A taxi to the supermarket costs 50p – sharing it with a random person as that seems to be what happens in Jingian (it was the same on the way back, the taxi stopped to pick up a random person and then dropped him off at the bus station which is very close to my apartment).  I had a list – of essentials.  Toilettries are on the ground floor, and to say it’s un-nerving being followed around by at least 10 shop assistants whilst you’re trying to work out what is shampoo or conditioner, and having various bottles of stuff shoved in front of you is weird,  I think I bought shampoo and body lotion but then again, I could be in for a surprise in the shower!

Upstairs to the food section.  This is no Walmart, the only supermarket I’ve been in in China.  After around half an hour of trying to identify food stuffs, I managed to buy yogurts, some sort of processed spam type of meat, coffee (again), pepsi (for Susan!)and another pile of the pot-noodle type of meal that I feel I’m living off.  Goodness know what the microwave in the apartment is for as there are no ready meals, nothing that looks even like chicken or pork that I could stir-fry and to my shame I couldn’t even find rice.  I’m craving foodstuffs like vegetables, mashed potato, soup, simple plain comfort food – lunch was some sort of sweet bread thing with what seemed like sausage in it.

During the week it will be fine as I can eat at the school but I will have to ask Mark my FAO about buying food.  However on the plus side I did buy new towels, a little saucepan to boil eggs in, and a new bowl and plate as that sort of thing is very limited in the apartment.  Now if I can only work out what on earth milk looks like then I can attempt scrambled egg!

Thankfully around the corner from the apartment is a little supermarket that I know sells eggs, and a fruit shop a little further down.  But even the bananas are odd – they have what seems like a stalk going through the middle of them so it’s so difficult to eat them.  But hey, I survived the supermarket, it was extremely cheap and I was photographed about six times!

On the much more positive side, thanks to the help of some friends, I’ve now ascertained that M&S, ASOS and Lands End will all mail to China and I remembered that a lot of ebay sellers are from China, so emailed someone last night and got a lovely reply back this morning saying no problem in mailing clothing to here and sh even gave some recommendations for warm jumpers and coats from her site.

So once I’ve spoken to Mark the FAO on Monday and found out to where anything I buy should be sent, I’m going to order a lovely dressing gown and winter coat as unbelievably it’s starting to get really cold already at night here.  In the supermarket they had fleecy blankets for £2 each so a supply of them as well will be being purchased 🙂

So the rest of the weekend will be quiet.  I’ve found all my USBs with my teaching stuff on them apart from one which I know was in my purse at some stage but as the internet connection seems to be working all the time (at the moment) it’s not a problem for researching for lesson plans.  My first class is 10.30 on Monday and that’s the only one that day, and then two on Tuesday.

Oh the elusive deodrant didn’t appear in the supermarket…..although perhaps it did exist and the shop assistants were determined to scare me out of their department!

Whilst I have internet access I thought it time for another blog update – and I’m waiting for someone to come with my teaching schedule for the coming semester.

The other English teacher is Ukrainian but has a Chinese girlfriend, and she is so lovely – she comes in every lunchtime to see if I am okay – and she also gave me the all important internet update.  Apparently it goes off any time between 6-8pm each night due to too many users, and – goodness knows who – are working on it.  SO I’m figuring that I need to re-adjust my schedule here and get up around 5am each morning to be able to get internet access – not only for the all important facebook and news, but also to be able to prepare lesson plans.  That’s not actually too much of an issue as breakfast in the school starts at 6am. 

On that topic, the schedule of Chinese students is punishing.  Classes start at 6.30am and finish around 5.30.  I can’t really work out why but some students then have classes until 9.30 at night!  My apartment is right opposite the school, and to signal the end of a class or the beginning of a new one, there is a song played over the tannoy for about 30 seconds.  It’s not annoying in the slightest, it’s almost fun trying to work out what on earth the song is!

Max, the English teacher from No 3 school (I’m at No 1) took me out for a tour and dinner last night, and he said the schedule is unbelievable – some students will fall asleep during our English lesson because it’s not important to them – we don’t set homework and our class is basically seen as a break for the students, English Corner is for those students who voluntarily want to learn more English. 

On the subject of the tour of Jingbian – the place is enormous, literally on a par with somewhere like Aberdeen.  However no tourists ever come here and it’s very industrial as there is a lot of excavation of natural gas and coal – as well as a lot of wealthy people, there are more Discoveries and Land Rovers than I’ve ever seen before (all covered in sand from the desert!).  I can imagine however this place becoming more westernised over the next few years as foreign investment comes in.

So, there was me complaining about having to do a Xi’an run for supplies……there are about 3 massive department stores, all selling clinique and estee lauder.  About five supermarkets, the one we went into is three stories high and has a cool escalator to go up and down (it’s the small things that amuse me!).  You can get ANYTHING, from towels, books, food thankfully no turtles or fish in tanks hat I could see), milk, COFFEE (they even sold jars of nescafe!) as well as suitcases, sports stuff, clothes, it’s just like a massive Asda 🙂  

So tomorrow is a shopping trip – I’ve got basic supplies of food (the fruit is fantastic, so fresh – melon is a speciality in this area) but I want to just wander around and see what brands I can recognise – I’ve a weird craving for frosties at the moment, I remember in Beijing seeing Tony the Tiger with chinese writing on the box) but they had a massive chilled section so I want to see if they have any yogurts or meals of any sort apart from noodles.

The school provide my meals when I’m teaching, and whilst the meal I had there the other night was good, there was the usual problem of the meat not being de-boned, so you have to very undelicately sit chomping off bits of chicken off the bone.

I think I’m also extremely lucky with this position to be honest, compared to some of the stories I’m hearing from others who were on my orientation.  My apartment is super-clean, the tv works (watched a random Chinese history programme last night on Pu Yi – didn’t understand a word but the film footage was interesting!), the apartment is right opposite the school, the school is really good and my FAO’s are really helpful – one of them also came round this morning to check to see whether I was okay. 

I’m just taking each day as it comes – the cold is another month away at least, I’d forgotten that I’d brought some pictures to remind me of home, so I’m going to do some “nesting” this afternoon and actually unpack!  And I have the AC/DC story on my ipad for tonight and pea crisps to munch.  No matter what I buy tomorrow I’m not going to spend much – to put it into perspective, a 500 ml bottle of pepsi is 30p and a melon and 4 oranges cost me 50p!

Whilst Ive got internet access I’m going to try and write a quick blog.  Day two in the desert – literally, apparently I am five kms from the Mongolian border!  Jingbian is an emerging city, it’s very industrial as there is a lot of natural gas being “excavated” if that’s the right word.  So far I’ve ventured to the local shops, bought noodles, pea crisps and pepsi and through a process of hand gestures managed to buy shower gel, shampoo and essentials such as toilet paper. 

The apartment is okay, now I’ve worked out where everything is.  The water cooler does the hot water, there is literally two plates, a cup, a really scary massive gas cooker and a microwave – for all those noodles 😉  I was shown around the school yesterday by Mark, the Foreign Affairs Officer guy who is really lovely.  Teaching should be okay, I do 22 classes over two weeks, and there are two Chinese English teachers, James and Natasha who are unbelievably helpful – James is taking me this afternoon to buy a router which should mean the internet works better. 

I’ve met the two other teachers, one at my school and the other at No 3 School (I’m at No 1) and they are both nice as well, Tony and Max, from Ukraine and Czech Republic.  I also yesterday was taken to two different police stations to register for residency – or something, to be honest I’ve no idea what for.  First police station was fine, 2nd one I was like a zoo exhibit – being blonde, on the larger side and middle aged every single person I think came in to (a) look at me and (b) inspect my passport…….I just sat there, smiled and said ni hao!

I’m not so worried about the teaching to be honest.  I basically work from the textbooks that the Chinese teachers use, and plan my lessons around what they are taught each week – Book 1 is Friendship and it looks really interesting.  I’ve to do English Corner each week, where I sit and answer questions from the students, and there’s no need to plan for that apparently.  More worrying is the fact that the school is very sports-orientated……apparently I am expected to take part in sports (me!) so expect me to die of a heart attack whilst on a running track!  I politely declined and said I would do ping pong and thankfully plead the fact I am old and I think I got away with it.

The fact that I managed this morning to get the BBC radio on my netbook is life-saving, honestly.  It’s 11.23 here (0423 in Scotland) and BBC Radio 4 has been playing all morning – hearing an english speaking voice is so comforting. 

So upside so far:

1. no humidity – I was able to straighten my hair yesterday (so important!)

2. The FAOs are just so so helpful, any questions are answered and they text to make sure I’m ok.

3, Radio 🙂

4. The apartment is good, I’ve got a balcony, the washing machine is amazing, and clothes dry within a couple of hours.

5. At night I can sit outside and listen to the crickets and see stars – it reminds me of sitting outside my cottage in Scotland.

Downsides:

1. Dodgy internet – it’s soooooooo frustrating not being able to log in, not specifically to facebook, but just to get news or emails but I’ve worked out that it’s fine during the day, but at night when everyone comes back to the apartment block there is no access.

2. There is no where here that you can buy deodrant or coffee – it’s going to mean a 12 hour return bus journey once a month down to Xi’an to do a Walmart run – I can cope with that as Subway is opposite Walmart and Starbucks is along the road!

3. The cold here.  Apparently it gets down to MINUS TWENTY FIVE in the winter (who said the desert was warm!).  I have no warm clothes, a cardigan and my barbour jacket and a pair of boots is the sole amount of my winter supplies.  I’m told that I can buy warm clothes in Jingbian but the apartment is single glazed and where the pipes come in through the walls there are holes so wide you can see outside.  I wish I’d brought my panda jumper I bought from Asda now 😦 

But on the whole I’m extremely proud of how I’ve coped so far.  I’ve not panicked, rang Mark with silly questions, I’ve just got on with it and somehow fumbled through the last few days.  I don’t start teaching until Monday, I get my timetable over the weekend and I’m quite looking forward to the teaching aspect of the job and my monthly trips down to Xi’an.  Who knows when the next blog will be, but I’m doing absolutely fine, there’s no too many people in the world who can say that they’ve done what I’m doing, I’m not sure how this experience will translate back to a job in Scotland, but the memories will always be with me  🙂

Thanks to the help of a friend here I now have VPNs for the netbook and ipad and all my technology is working perfectly….at the moment.  So time to write a proper blog.

Yangshuo – I’ve seen nothing of it – the heat and humidity is absolutely killing me, to the extent I can literally walk from the hostel to Mr Happy (the shopkeeper at the end of the road) to get water and crisps and that’s it before I am dripping with sweat – literally.  Fat Scots middle aged woman are not built for heat in the high 30s!  Apparently it’s the second most popular tourist place in China after the Great Wall – from the little I’ve seen it full of commercial shops and bars – but no Starbucks!

The orientation itself is…..weird.  Three days of introductions, lesson planning classes and general stuff about China and still not the faintest clue where I will be being sent to teach, which is starting to worry me slightly as most of the places we can be sent are rural, like towns of around 250,000.  I know that sounds massive in comparison with Perth, but a small city in China will have around 3-4 million people.  Ive got a 20 minute presentation to do tomorrow in front of my co-students and around another 12 random people and after that I should find out where I’m being sent.  So basically on Sunday in theory I will be packing up my luggage and heading off on a train/bus/plane to somewhere I’ve probably never heard of in China.  Part of me is scared, there are 21 of us on this orientation and we’ve all bonded so well together – I’ve never had so many men in my room before (that’s due to my young and attractive room mates rather than me!) and we’re all from different parts of the world.  But it’s amazing how everyone has heard of Downtown Abbey or Jersey Shore – or the Loch Ness Monster!  The NZ couple here’s son stayed in Kilwinning for a year having met a Scottish girl, which really does show how small the world really is.

But sharing a room is tough, it’s literally like camping, I’m living out of a suitcase and for the first time in my life I rinsed my knickers out in the bathroom sink tonight!  I want to get settled into wherever I’m going, get my parents to send me out a MASSIVE box of clothes as I packed totally the wrong things, and praying that I can still get all my internet access.  You’ve no idea how important it is to get facebook and to see that the A9 at Dunkeld is clear…..or that the Kessick Bridge is closed. I’m probably 5000 miles away from Scotland, but being able to keep up with news and updates just stops me feeling quite so isolated. 

However I appear to be able to now get BBC iplayer on my ipad – please god don’t let me be forced to watch easties!

Another short blog as I’m having VPN issues .  I can get the VPN to work on my iPad so can get Facebook, etc.  howeverw I can’t get a VPN onto my NetBook and I can only type one pargraph at a time on this blog on iPad.    I’m sure somehow I can get it resolved but its another example of how hard it is to keep in touch from the other side of The world.  Because of the heat I’m also going through so many clothes and its impossible to buy western clothes here….so I’m running out of t

shirts

I’m just going to try this out – I suspect on the iPad I can only type one paragraph at a time…. I haven’t got my NetBook up and running yet so this is my only means of keeping in touch with the world.  Amazingly I can access the whole of the bbc website so I know that the forth road bridge is down to 40 mph and its important to know the things when you are on the other side of the world! 

 

A short blog as its hot and it’s been a weird day with our medical and then a random tour around Yangzhou.  Hot doesn’t even cover it here, you shower and the two minutes later you are dripping with sweat…..I’ve not been able to straighten my hair since I got here so it literally get washed and squashed back into a band – lovely! But everyone is so lovely

 

I’ve tried about three times to type this on the iPad tonight, in the single bed that is giving me so much back pain…….keys handed back to land agent, said goodby to more friends, tonight was a mug of hot chocolate and bed at ten thirty.  I am really missing my old life, where I could on my jammies whenever I wanted, sleep properly, eat whenever I wanted.  I know this is sort of like a holding pen if you like, thirty six hours until I go, but tomorrow is going to be a stressful okay of convincing my parents that yes I do need to take all this stuff, I.m not exactly going to be able to rush out and buy stuff, and I’m more than prepared to pay excess baggage. 

 

 

Today was so emotional – i moved out of the cottage.  Everything went smoothly, storage people came, parents helped to clean each room as it was emptied, and I managed to hold it together until I saw a deer in the field opposite about 1pm.  I have this weird thing about deer in that if I see one they are lucky and managed to hold it together for about half an hour and then my dad realised i was upset…..cue trying not to blub like a child on my dad.  My parents left about two and I had my final sit on the step remembering my life here (or there, now) and I think I cried until I reached Blackford (at least 20 miles from Murthly). 

My parents had unloaded their cars of all my stuff and were so so kind, making me a coffee, they did most of the sorting out what is going where in their house and it took me a couple of hours to feel settled in.  All my laundry is done,even laundry i didn’t realise needed done and I’m on the netbook which is quite hard to type on, with a precious glass of wine and New Tricks blasting out on the tv!  Tomorrow is meeting the agent at the cottage to hand the keys back which will be fine, emotionally, as the house is now a shell, and all I have are my so many precious happy  memories. 

It’s sort of like being in limbo just now….I miss my home, sitting at my desk being able to type properly, being able to eat whenever I want.  But I couldn’t have left the cottage and got straight on a flight, I need these couple of days to mentally prepare for the even more changes I am going to go through…

Short blog tonight – mainly because it’s not easy typing on a keyboard that’s on a box sitting cross legged on the floor!  I’ve also just realised I wonder whether this bog will still link to facebook and twitter in China, I could be sitting the other side of the world tapping out my innermost feelings not realising they’re being broadcast to the world (facebook is banned in China). 

Last night in the cottage – I’m left with a sofa, a bed and a microwave!  Everything is done, to the extent I’ve even packed a bag with the clothes I’m travelling in!   On my last night I’ve turned into the student I managed to avoid for four years, drinking warm wine from a mug as the fridge is gone and the glasses are packed and tea was a pot noodle because I thought the microwave was being taken away.

Such happy memories of this place, and I’ve been sitting outside for a while watching the sunset and the stars – the one star that comes out first always remind me of my neighbour Lesley, looking down on me.  Aged 37 this was the first time I’d ever lived on my own.  For five years I managed not to cut or burn myself – at lunchtime I managed to burn my hand quite badly shoving my pizza in the oven (I had to act fast as the cooker was being removed at 2pm!).

Everything went to people who I know will appreciate my things.  It was tough seeing my desk dismantled as that desk literally does bear the sweat of my brow from all those essays and exam study, but the lady is going back to uni to train as a nurse, and she was so appreciative.  The white good went to a guy setting up with his girlfriend, and the table and chairs and one sofa went to a Chinese guy living in Perth (why do I find these lovely people when I’m leaving!) and we’re going to keep in touch as he’ll be able to advise me as to the locations I’m offered for teaching. 

So tomorrow is waving off my life in my boxes, zipping the cases and going back to probably being a stoppy teenager again at my parents.  Tomorrow’s blog will be made around the time I’m sitting on their sofa watching the third soap of the night and declining yet another cup of tea!