A few Saturdays ago Qingdao Number Two held its autumn sports assembly. The day began with an opening ceremony in which each class marched around the school track wearing costumes. My fellow foreign teacher, Annie, and I were asked to participate along with our Year 1 class. They provided us with Qing era outfits and fans to wave as we marched along.
While our class’s performance was rather subdued, others went all out with balloons, streamers, and fireworks. One class released a cage full of white doves; another had life-sized inflatable costumes of the 2008 Olympic mascots. It was quite the spectacle.
After the opening ceremonies the sports events began. There were a variety of track and field events: foot races, high jump, javelin throw, long jump, etc. I wondered around taking photos. It was a warm clear day, perfect for a little friendly competition. The following Monday I asked my students what they thought of the events. Most seemed to enjoy it but many complained of being tired from the long day.
For more photo’s visit my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewsnews/
Nearly three weeks and no updates! I know what you must be thinking: Stew has gone off on some adventure and is too busy trekking along some wild road or herding water buffalo in southern China. The truth is I have fallen into the daily rhythm of life here at Qingdao Number 2, and while it is not always exciting it does keep me busy.
The student’s day begins bright and early at 6:30 when they leave their dorms for breakfast. I have quized my students about their living conditions I hear nothing but complaints, who could blame them; eight students share a cramped room. On Mondays there is a flag raising ceremony in the school’s main square. The first classes begin at 8.
Lunchtime can be a challenge, with 2000 students all making their way to the cafeteria at roughly the same time. Teachers have their own dinning facility, which leaves a lot to be desired. At least it is cheap; a meal typically cost around 4 Yuan (about 50 cents). The students tell me their food is not too bad but a little more expensive. I have yet to eat in the students dinning hall; I’ll provide a full report when I do.
My first class begins at 2 pm, which gives me the morning to prepare lessons and make photocopies (when the copier is working that is.) When I first arrived, the school told me the copier would be too complicated for me to figure out so I gave documents to an office worker who would return my copies a day or so two later. I have since made the bold move to make my own copies, without any problems.
I have 3 classes in the afternoon, and then a dinner break at 5:30. Sometimes I will hurry to the dinning room before it closes, but more often I eat something in my office. My last class ends at 7:30 at which time I retire to my apartment or go grocery shopping. The students study in their classrooms until 10pm. The campus fills with a cacophony of shouts and murmuring voices as they head back to their dormitories. They have about 20 minuets to get ready for bed before the electricity in the dorms is shut off.
So there you have a typical day at Qingdao Number 2. The school week is Monday thru Saturday. Students go home on Saturday afternoon and return around 6:30 on Sunday evening. Sometimes Saturday is filled with a school wide activity. Today was sports day, which I save for another post.
My apartment came equipped with a fairly nice view and a very small washing machine. While not the latest and greatest, it is completely functional. I must manually fill the basin with water, empty it after the wash cycle and repeat in order to rinse. There is no dryer, but a built in spinner which gets the clothes from soaking to damp. From there I hang my laundry on the clothesline strung across my balcony.
The other day, following bringing in the laundry, I prepared to head out and run some errands. Just before stepping out the door I felt a stone in my shoe, and after removing the shoe determined the rock was in my sock. Upon turning my sock inside-out a rather large beetle felt out onto the floor. I let out a girlish scream, and then grabbed my camera to document the offending creature. Below is the result.
I have the week off thanks to China’s National Day. It used to only be a two day holiday but the central government expanded it to 5 days in an attempt to stimulate domestic spending. All of the students have gone home and campus is quiet for a change. With a week off from work I have finally had a chance to take in some of my surroundings. My decision to come to Qingdao was fortuitous. It is a medium sized city and I have not felt the overwhelming crush of traffic/crowds/noise/etc. that I felt in Beijing or Shanghai. A large percent of the population is fairly affluent so I can find just about anything I want/need. Finally, while I am not being paid much, I am doing something I love. With all these positives I can deal with the occasional bug in my sock.
I had a wonderful weekend in Shanghai. It was great to see Peter, Lee, and Manny. The city is more like New York every time I visit. After staying out all night Friday we had a great meal celebrating Manny’s father’s 77th birthday. It was nice to spend time with a family, even though it did make me a little homesick. The meal was a real marathon of food, with more than 20 dishes. Highlights include plenty of fresh seafood, vegetables, and ducks tongue (worth trying but I didn’t go back for seconds.)
We wondered around the city all day Saturday and most of Sunday. The plant, animal and insect market provided lots of photo opportunities. Here are a couple of examples, see www.flickr.com/photos/stewsnews for more.
I’ve had a few requests for photos and more info about my classes. I’ll try to put together something soon. In the mean time please drop me an email!
Last Saturday I ventured to Lao Shan Park. What I thought would be a short trip turned into a major excursion. After an hour bus ride I arrived at the main gate, jumped off and started into the park along a beautiful beach. It turns out I was more than 10km from the true entrance. As I hiked along the narrow road into the seaside hills I admired the scenery less and became more concerned with oncoming traffic. Eventually I flagged down another bus and rode to the main “hiking” area. The trails will all paved steps, too numerous to count. I huffed and puffed my way up but gave up before reaching the top.
Still it was nice to get out of the city for a bit, and now that I have been once I know what to expect next time. This weekend I am going to Shanghai in order to meet up with some friends. Although I have only been in Qingdao for 3 weeks, I am looking forward to getting out for a couple of days.
As part of the process to get my residence permit I needed to go through a medical check. While I was full of anxiety about this, the entire procedure took a little over an hour and was mostly painless. In addition to filling out forms with my height, weight, and blood type, I had my blood pressure taken, an electrocardiogram, an ultrasound of my liver, blood drawn, and a chest x-ray. They haven’t kicked me out of the country yet so I guess everything checked out.
The clinic was set up to provide the medical checks for visiting foreigners and was very clean and efficient. While there I noticed a special section with a large sign: “Examining room for sailors. Vaccinations,” I guess the sea can truly be a harsh mistress.
As most of you know the site has been down for the past week. I’ll spare you the technical details and just say I am still adjusting to life without a regular connection to the internet. Hopefully I’ll have something worked out in the coming weeks.
I have been waist deep in teaching since Monday. The first days of any new term are always a challenge but these last few days have been particularly difficult. My fellow foreign teacher, Annie from Canada, and I are still without textbooks or an office. Our living situation continues to improve but getting things done in a timely manner has proven tricky. Such is life in China.
Three hours a day I teach seniors preparing to study in English speaking universities. We are slowly warming up to each other and while we have lots of work ahead, I am optimistic. I also teach a classroom full of sophomores for an hour in the evenings. I foresee a great many challenges dealing with their multiple attitudes, abilities, and personalities. Should be interesting.
The school’s English department has been extremely welcoming and friendly. On Saturday there was an awards ceremony and series of performances by various departments in honor of “Teacher’s Day.” It was followed by a huge meal at a nearby hotel. Both the food and company were superb.
Monday was the first day for most of the students at Qingdao No. 2 Middle School. (China midddle school= US high school). Like returning students everywhere folks were excited and more than a little nervous, myself included! Luckily I don’t start teaching until next week. I’ll try an fill you in on details about the school and my living accomodations in the coming days.
In the meantime there are more photos at my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewsnews/.
I have been thinking a lot about China recently. I am desperately trying to find my way back after a four year absence. It will happen; it is just a matter of time. Here is a photo I took of two men visiting Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. The temple was built in 1420 and used for ceremonies preformed by the Emperor. For more see the following Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Heaven.
For more of my pictures of China visit my Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewsnews/sets/72057594065783548/
During my first stay in China, as a student in 1994, there was a very popular television series titled Foreign Babes in Beijing. It was the story of two American women who come to Beijing to study only to end up becoming evolved with a couple of Chinese men and their family. It was social commentary thinly disguised as light entertainment. The characters were painted with broad strokes: stereotypes were plentiful. One of the women was all that was good about America and the West, the other just the opposite. The “bad girl” (Jiexi) was by far the more interesting character and when I watched the show it was for her storyline. A couple of years after the show ended I met the actress who played Jiexi, Rachel DeWoskin; she had a small role in a film I worked on, Restless.
Rachel has written a book about her time in China, titled Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China. Book came out last year and I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago. The book paints an appealing portrait of expatriate life in Beijing during the 1990’s. I found her experiences very similar to my own, even though I didn’t star in a television series. I suspect things are very different these days; the pace of change is one the things I like most about Beijing. For more info on the book check out these links:
NPR interview with DeWoskin
W.W. Norton & Company (Publisher)