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)
In September 2002, I was on a train in western China, a month into my six month around-the-world trek. I had left home with more than little apprehension about my security as an American traveling overseas. It turned out to be a great trip; I met some fantastic people, both locals and fellow travelers. Here is what I wrote at the time:
“Sept 10, 2002. I had a lot I wanted to write about Kashgar but I was too busy enjoying it. The Sunday bazaar was really incredible, especially the livestock market. 2000 yuan (~$250) for a horse, 800 yuan for a mule. I met up with a French couple I had run into in Turfan. We went to the bazaar together and spent some time at the Caravan Café over coffee. We left Kashgar on the same train, unfortunately they could only get hard seats. I helped them upgrade on the train, what a hassle.
I would like to return to Kashgar someday and see Karakul Lake and possibly Tashkurgan. Maybe a trip through Pakistan? As the train pulled out from Kashgar there were a lot of tears; a young Uyghur girl saying goodbye to her grandmother, and a Chinese woman waving to her boyfriend on the platform.”
It is not unusual to see street barbers in China; I have occasionally seen street dentists. This man was getting his head shaved in the city of Kashgar which is in the far western part of China. I visited there in 2002. Here is what I wrote:
“Sept 4, 2002. The train from Urumqi to Kashgar is one of the newest lines in the entire country. It also must be one of the most visually dramatic. The scenery charged no less than a dozen times during our 24 hour journey. Five hours into the trip we were among canyons rivaling the American west. In the morning I thought I was on the wrong train, outside it looked like eastern China with lush green fields and tall trees planted in straight rows. Just a few hours later we were in the desert with very sparse vegetation and rolling dunes in the distance. As the train sped on the hills in the distance came closer and I could see their orange colors become fiery red.”
You wouldn’t know it by looking at this picture but Yangshuo is a bustling little town with lots of little cafés catering to tourists. I visited in 1995 and then again in 2002. I was struck by the changes. Here is what I wrote in my journal:
“Nov. 13, 2002. Yangshuo is the perfect cure to many long weeks on the road. I feel as though I could stay here forever. I am sure I’d grow tired of it eventually but for now it suits me just fine.
I have managed to fall into the community somewhat – the staff at the 7th Heaven Café have befriended me. It is a lively place with a fun staff and great food. There is a roaming population of foreign tour guides who make 7th Heaven home, plus the usual collection of travelers coming from/going to S.E. Asia.
So much has changed since I visited in ’95. There are many more cafes and the food is much better. There are far more elderly foreign tourists; mostly part of groups but some solo. The most telling change is the huge numbers of Chinese tourists. It is the growth of the Chinese economy and the leisure class that will have the biggest impact on life in Yangshuo. Already much of the town is scrambling to meet the demands of Chinese business interests. I cannot knock people here for chasing this money; it will mean a better life for many of them. It also means a different Yangshuo for everyone.”
An overloaded hay truck I came across during an grueling bus ride in China’s Qinghai province back in 2002. From my journal at the time:
“Sept. 15, 2002. What I thought would be 12 hours on the bus was instead 9. Normally this would be a very good thing but it landed me in Xinning at 3am, very tired, cold, and no place to go. After paying a taxi 15 yuan [< $2] to drive me all over town I found a hotel where I crashed for 4 hours (also 15 yuan).
The bus ride was awe inspiring and also very uncomfortable. For the first several hours I was blasted by the hot air form the engine. When the mountains came into view my mind lightened, we climbed along treacherous roads passing rushing streams. Dark came too soon and I could only catch moonlit glimpses of craggy mountains and valleys. At one point we passed a sign reading ‘elevation 3943m’ and I noticed snow on the ground. We stopped for an hour in a nowhere town. Everyone from the bus piled into several restaurants, all with TVs blasting. I had a look around and introduced myself to several shopkeepers. I hear the same conversation numerous times a day: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Why are you here’ ‘America is good –better than China’ ‘How much money do you make?’ ‘China is too poor’…
…After the dinner stop I could not get warm again. A few hours later I was freezing and cursing my decision to travel at night, missing the view and chilled to the bone.”