Saturday, December 11, 2010

Still Alive.. Barely

13 weeks into the term and I have already slacked on my blog numerous times, falling behind and forgetting to update all those back at home. But just be glad that it is my blog I'm falling behind in and not my studies. During the first week of the term, we had 43 students post their assignments online . This week, the total was 27 at the time when it was due, one of which was myself. It seems that many of my classmates have fallen behind and at one point or another and has been a little late on their assignment... that is except me. Working at the school 40 hours a week and exploring the city and nightlife on the weekends I feel that I have been able to get a well rounded experience thus far. I can confidently say that I have been living up my time in Shanghai and making the best of it.  I find it kind of ironic that I am so busy being social, yet I am up to date with all my assignments while others who sit around and seem to have no social life, are the ones who are slacking.

some highlights of the past 2 weeks included playing basketball with a guy named Kevin who I played with last time. Planning my day, I figured this would be a relaxed little game of pick up basketball and would only take up an couple hours out of my day, little did I know that it would take up the whole day!  I met up with Kevin and a few of his friends and we played pick up games for about 4 hours straight. It was really fun and nice to get away from all the stresses of school and work. Afterwards, we went to dinner at a very traditional Chinese restaurant in which they ordered food for days. For the first time ever I had pigeon soup which was actually pretty good.

This past week of classes have been full of observations. On Wednesday, I had  parents watching me teach one of my classes. I’ve decided that I absolutely hate teaching in front of the parents because they it is a bit nerve racking and looking at their facial expressions they always look so mad. They have little emotions shown and it is hard to tell what they are thinking and not to mention the killer of them all, the electronics. Being Asians, the parents love to bust out their cameras, cell phones and video recorders and record everything, which can be overwhelming when there are about 20+ of them  going off in the room. The following day I was observed by my teacher Prof. Wyman who sat in on my class to see the progress I was making. To say the least Prof. Wyman is an interesting character that can be VERY socially awkward. After my class he invited me to go with him to lunch. Thrilled at the chance see my college tuition going towards a good cause, I took him up on his offer since it sounded much better than the school lunch. Last time he did an observation with Leila, who worked at the school I am at now, he took her to Pizza hut, so I was hoping that I would get to go there also.  Unfortunately for me there was no quick trip to Pizza Hut, but rather a sit down Hot Pot lunch, which was down the street from my school. Hot pot is a very time consuming meal in which there is a burner in the middle of the table that cooks up a broth and you put meat and veggies in it to cook it. Prof. Wyman picked all the items that we were going to eat, which included a horrible variety. He picked 2 different kinds of meats and noodles, Cabbage, lettuce, and spinach, sweet potato, potato. As I ate thinking what a horrible meal this was filled with tons of salt and essentially the same food, he raved about how wonderful it was and how he would love to make another trip back to it. For an hour and a half, I painfully sat there with him in what was one of the most awkward conversations I have had. It was so bad at some points that I acted like I was eating so that he wouldn't talk. After we parted ways I went back to the school and had 2 more classes to teach. My first class went fine but about 10 minutes into my second class I felt like I was going to vomit and and i knew it was linked to eating the hot pot. As I look back on the situation, I should have declined the offer to go out to eat with Prof. Wyman because it would have saved me an hour and a half of awkward conversation and from getting sick. On Friday I had one of the busiest days all term. In 4 of my classes, I had parents observe my class, which made me exhausted. Trying to impress the parents with the student’s performances I did everything in my power to make the class run flawlessly.  Unfortunately enough for me some kids will always be bad regardless the situation but the feedback I received was positive and a lot of the parents were smiling at one point or another.

My roomate mike is an adventurous guy and a big advacate for Couch Surfing, in which people offer their couches for others to sleep on. He has updated his profile and allowed people to stay on our couch in the mancave. A few weeks back we had 2 Chinese girls stay at our places, but this week we were blessed with the opportunity to host 2 Blonde SWEDISH girls named Ellen and Matilda to stay a few nights on our couch. Fresh out of high school they have spent the past 3 months traveling the world with plans to travel for another 6 months. It made me very envious of the opportunity and the adventure that they were going on. They were very nice girls and I'm glad I was able to meet them. We also had another girl from South Korea come visit. She was a friend of one of the Chinese girls that stayed before. Unfortunately for her, someone took her bag and her passport was in it, and  she will have to wait a few days to get a new one so her stay is a big longer than anyone expected.

It is hard to believe that in less than a week I will be picking up Scott from the airport. It seems that it was so long ago that we were talking about him coming to visit me and how far it was. Well now it is right around the corner. In preparation for his visit, I have been busting my butt to finish all my homework before he gets here. The term will finish on Saturday, but he gets here Thursday so I need to have my work done so that he wont be sitting around while I do it. I am down to 3 assignments left, but two of them I will have to wait until later to do. I am not sure that words could describe how excited I am to have him come, it will be such a nice breathe of fresh air and a great way to close out the term.

For the longest time, I have wanted to get a massage and today after working on homework for 5 hours, I decided that it would be well deserved. Directly right in front of my apartment a message place opened up less than a month ago. I decided that I would test it out and see if it was any good.  Having minimal Chinese, I went in there hoping that I would be able to get a good old fashion rub down. Inside they had a big board filled with all the prices and services but everything was in Chinese, luckily for me some of the staff could speak a little English and I was able to get the gist of what they were saying.  Rather than trying to figure out what the board said, I ended up getting an hour-long oil message since it was one of the first things she said. Essentially it was just giving me a message using baby oil.   I was escorted up to a room and told that I had to shower before I got my massage. Hoping that I wouldn't get a massage by the old lady that I passed when I entered the place, I was relieved to see a young pretty girl appear in the room, which made my massage that much more enjoyable. Oddly enough, she knew who I was and asked if I was the same person that passed the store a few days earlier and waved with another guy (Mike). I told her it was me and she giggled and said I was silly. After laying on my stomach and getting massaged, I was flipped over and this is where things got weird.  As She stood by my head I looked up towards the ceiling, she insisted I closed my eyes, so I did. As she was massaging my head I could sense her face very close to mine sniffing me like I'm a bouquet of roses, taking deep breathes as she inhaled my aroma. With my eyes closed and trying to figure out if this was creepy or sexy, even though I kinda liked it,I did my best not to make any facial gestures or laugh. After a good five minutes and switching from my left side of my face to my right, she finally stopped. Once finished I paid upfront and then gave her a tip. She looked a bit startled that I tipped her 30 RMB($5), since tipping is very rare in China, but was very grateful for it, especially since it was about 3% of her monthly salary.  To say the least, this was definitely an interesting massage but it was much needed and not bad for for $35.

Thank you China for Spoiling my Thanksgiving

Whoops! I thought I had posted this awhile back but I guess I didn't but here it is!

Another weekend over and I am back on my grind. As always it seems that my weekend was not nearly long enough. Filled with loads of homework and as much sleep and relaxation as possible, I find the weekends do not do nearly as much justice as they used to, but they are still what get me through the week.  One of the cool things I did this weekend was go to a bar called shelter.  Located in a once bomb shelter, hence the name, the bar is about 30 feet underground. There is a main room, where the bar and dance floor is located and then various tunnels that lead to other lounges and rooms. Although it was not particularly my scene as far as music goes, it still was a good time.

While many of you were blessed with the opportunity to spend thanksgiving with loved ones and a nice day off, and not to mention the mounds of delicious foods, I on the other hand had to work since obviously they do not celebrate here. After putting in a 9-hour day I met up with some of my friends from the Cohort to have a thanksgiving at a bar/restaurant called Bubba’s Texas BBQ. Craving mash potatoes, turkey and Pumpkin pie, the rest of the essentials of a thanksgiving dinner, as always I brought my large appetite. Originally we had booked a table for 11 people to come but after various issues and people bailing, it ended up only being 5 of us.  Bubba’s was pretty full, with a layout of a house turned bar, the place felt very crammed. We had reservations for 7:30 but to our disappointment after going to the buffet and scrounging up some niblets out of dire hunger, they wouldn’t put more food out until 8 o’clock. Once 8, it was a mad dash to the buffet with loads of expats waiting to get their taste of Thanksgiving dinner. While the food was decent, it was not nearly worth the $45 paid to get a little taste of home. The food had no Tender Love and Care and it was nothing special. Although it did somewhat fill a part of my heart that was missing, nothing will ever compare to a Gregory Thanksgiving which is the most hyped up event of the year, and a guaranteed good time.
 On Friday morning, I woke up early to call the family and video chat with them during Thanksgiving. Everyone seemed to be having a good time laying around hanging out together and of course eating wonderful food. It was so nice to see everyone but at the same time a disappointment because I wasn’t able to be there.


For the first time in a few months and in China, I played basketball. I met up with one of my friends named Jackson and his girlfriend Mariyana, both who are from New Zealand for lunch. We went to New York Deli cafĂ© and got these monster burritos that were probably a foot long and weighed 2 pounds. Rather than sitting in the small little eating area, we decided to go to the park and eat outside since it was a nice sunny day out. At the park there was a gated basketball court filled with people playing pick up games. Thrilled at the chance to play we   ate and then went onto the courts. Not properly dressed to play, I was wearing jeans and Jackson was wearing flip-flops but were determined to play. Jackson ended up playing bare foot and the Chinese guys thought he was crazy.  Regardless, it was a good time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly update


                  A week into the job and I’ve already been faced with a few interesting situations. For starters, unlike the previous classes, some of my new students are consistent troublemakers. Over the past week I have been trying to think of creative ways to punish the students such as making them doing jumping jacks all class period, but nothing will top how ridiculous the Chinese teachers are with their mind games. In one of my classes one of the kids would not shut up and one of the teachers approached him with a roll of duct tape. She gave him a terrifying mean mug and started to rip off some tape. The kid was scared out of his mind and was screaming “Bu Yao”(I Don’t want) repeatedly. In another incident a teacher threatened the kids with a hot glue gun, which shocked me as much as the kids. In times like that I find myself struggling not to smile or laugh because these teachers are so crazy.
                 Like a bad movie, I am a bit scared of the voice that one of my students has. In one of my third grade classes, I have a boy named Mickey who has this screechy voice that creeps me out and sort of sounds like Hannibal Lector when he says “Hello Clarice” In the Silence of the Lambs. Mickey loves to talk and consistently will be calling my name through out class, which I intentionally ignore. The worst part is when I enter the classroom and he repeatedly says “Good morning John”, it is like a voice in bad dream that just wont go away and creeps me out of the whole class period.
                Speaking of bad dreams, on Friday afternoon, I was trying to take a nap during my break in the office when one of the Teachers Assistants named Hannah; Short for Hannah Montana (Yes, Seriously) tried to make a move on me. As I peacefully rested my eyes, I was abruptly woken up to her tongue in my mouth, slithering around like a snake. Half a sleep I yelled and ran out the room. Moments later as I woke myself up; I went back into the room to figure out what just happened. Having spoken minimal words to her over the course of the week it turns out that she likes me and wants to be my girlfriend and that was the way she thought to tell me that. After I kindly denied her request. She started to make outrageous crying/screaming noises like an ape. This was not quite the picture that I had in store for my first encounter with a Chinese girl, but I guess you have to start somewhere.
            With that being said, As Thanksgiving rolls around the corner, I have gotten a bit sad that I wont be able to have it with my family and close friends. To make matters worse, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here obviously so rather than going into a food coma all day, I have to work. To treat  myself and make it feel somewhat like home, a few of my cohort members will be going to Bubba’s Texas Saloon http://www.bubbasasia.com/ to have a thanksgiving feast after work.
            Although I cant be with any of my close friends from home for thanksgiving, I am very excited for my best friend Scott come to visit me in less than a month for Christmas. He will be here from the 16-29th of December, which is 2 weeks. During that time he will have to explore on his own while I am at work but after work I will  get to meet up with him. I have taken a couple days off to go to Beijing for Christmas and see the Great Wall with him, which should be a fun and memorable trip.
         In more exciting news, my friend Jenny from Iowa, who I worked with in Camp Adventure when I was in Japan, is going to come and visit me at the end of December!  She is visiting her Grandparents but is going to make a pit stop to come see me. With one wild week out of the way, I am ready to see what is store for me this week.

First day at new School

      
  Today was the first day at my new School QSCH. I am a bit sad that I have new students, but I do I enjoy the company and companionship that QSCH has to offer. This school offers another staff member from Shane English, which is very nice because previously, I worked alone and felt like a loner since most of the teachers cannot hold a conversation in English. Since Ann, an Australian is on leave for the week to attend a wedding, my good friend Andy has filled in for her. The school also provides the teachers with a Teachers Assistant to help regulate during class and escort you from class to class. My TA is named Lulu; she speaks decent English and seems to be very shy but from what I’ve seen is very nice. Unlike my other schools, the teachers are very young and some of them are actually pretty cute, many looking like they are in their 20's.
        The classes I am teaching are now 45 minutes rather than 30, which will take some adjusting to. The students I teach are in grades 2 and 3. I have found thus far that I enjoy the younger kids (Preschool/ Grade 1) more because ironically enough, they are better behaved. These older kids are full of energy and are much larger and capable of creating more trouble and are not nearly as cute nor innocent. Since their personalities are starting to come out, some of them like to cause trouble.
      During my classes, I spent the whole time getting to know the kids and trying to get a feel for what they are like. I introduced myself and asked them their ages and names, while also reviewing some old information that they should have learned. I feel that my classes went well but in a couple of them the kids were bad and I had to regulate. At first I was picking out kids individually and making them switch spots so that they would not be distracted but that didn't seem to work so I proceeded to make them stand in the corner. One by one students were being bad and thus I removed them from the circle in which I was teaching to.  The Chinese teachers were not having any of it and were slapping their wrist and yelling at them but found humor in the situation after they dealt with about a quarter of the class.  After awhile it eventually turned into a game to see how many kids would get in trouble. Overall I have found that today was a good day. While I know it will take some adjustments, I think I will like it here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Slowly dying inside

          Breaking news from Shanghai. After only having my "Superbike" for less than 2 months, I am sad to say that it was stolen from the metro station.Just like any other day, I rode my bike to the metro and locked it up, only this time it wasn't there when I got off the metro. It is a bitter sweet event because now I am free of the P.O.S bike that had a broken pedal and seat, but it now means I have to buy a new one. Out of all the bikes on the bike rack it seems a bit odd that mine would have gotten stolen.

To create better air quality for the EXPO, China limited the number of factories that were in operation each day to reduce the toxic pollution and smog within Shanghai. They also fired missiles up in the air to help eliminate the smog and stabilize the weather. This tactic was similar to the one used for the Beijing Olympics to help improve the air while millions of guest visit the city for the event.Now that the Expo has ended, China has removed the ban off, which started November 1. The side effects have already shown. The city has much more smoggy and at times you cannot see buildings within the distance. Like the heavy Oregon fog, there is a hazy overcast created by the smog that shadows the city.

The weather has also been very odd of late. This past week it was so cold that I had to bust out my Winter snowboarding coat,facing the devastating cold front from the North, it has made its way down to Shanghai. Though the temperature has been in the 50's which is almost t-shirt and shorts weather in Oregon, there is a lot more water in the air, which makes it feel colder than it actually is.

In a unfortunate chain of events, I found on this past Thursday that I would be switching  schools with a fellow coworker at work. I am a bit sad because I really enjoyed the kids that I taught and after struggling for the past two months to get the approval  and friendship of the Chinese teachers, they have finally opened up to me. I feel this change is a bit ironic because on Monday during the teachers meeting, the teachers were talking with me and asking how long I would be teaching in Shanghai. When I told them that I would be here until next September, they were very excited and relieved. Less than three days later, I am now leaving.Although I really did not have a choice in the decision, I feel that I have let teachers and students both down.  On Friday, my last day with the kids, I had to break the news to the teachers that it was my last day.While most of the teachers were very sad, one of them actually was fighting to hold back tears. Rather than teaching for most of the class, I decided that I would sing songs and play games with the kids. I wanted to make things fun and memorable so  I handed out stickers and candy.

Here are all of my students that I teach every day




Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Halloween!



          This week has gone by very fast. In my classes I have been teaching my kids Halloween phrases and passing out Halloween candy and they love it. Halloween like many other places around the world is just starting to become a trend in China with the younger generations but has been a big hit. The teachers  in the school have been working hard to create by hand, Halloween decorations, which is ironic because in the States, we purchase decorations at the store and where do these goods come from? That's right ,China. So it seems kind of odd that they wouldn't just buy it also.

      The search for a Halloween costume has been a nightmare. Unlike the states, there are no temporary Halloween consume stores like Spirit that have a wide assortment of costumes to choose from. Rather it is just a select few costumes in certain areas. I have spent hours trying to find the perfect get up for Halloween. I've realized that a lot of people end up making their own outfits piecing together an assortment of items, but I had found that it is too much work. I originally though about having one custom made but since I cant speak Chinese that idea went out the window. Without further ado, I present you the masterpiece that I found online and then physically went to the booth in this huge shopping center size market to find.  For a whopping 138 RMB (roughly $20) I found this beauty of a Tiger/Lion = Liger  one piece Suit. I was so excited that it fit that I didn't even try to barter.
        Once again I realize how much I hate teaching. For one of the schools I teach at, they were having an observation class in which all the parents would come and sit in while I taught. Supposedly this was a huge deal and I had to make a lesson plan, with the help of my boss ahead of time and send it to the  school's administration to review it. Upon arrival, and wearing my costume, the parents and kids, who were all dressed up in costumes were excited for my class. I had a set schedule that I would be passing out awards for the best costumes and then teach them a few phrases and then teach them a song and lastly pass out candy, which sounds so easy on paper, but in reality it was far from it. The teachers decided to move the class into an auditorium and then decided to pick apart lesson at the last minute and change virtually everything. Once again, working on the fly I was suppose to teach in front of all these parents. With the kids riled up, they were a nightmare to teach, not only did they not listen to what I had to say, they were all over the place running around the room as the parents admired how much of a doll their kids were. Having no classroom management I continued on with the lesson trying to do the best as possible. With the teachers in the back trying to tell me what to do, they insisted on blasting the Halloween song before I even taught it to the kids. Life would have been so much easier without them there to continuously mess things up. After that nightmare of a class, I'm sure I have tainted the prospective of many of the parents as far as my teaching abilities ago.
        Later that night, we had a Halloween party at my house,which was filled with cohort members, coworkers and a few others. It was a great time and nice to get a way from work and all the things associated with it.  There was a good showing of people  and the place was packed. All in all it was a memorable night.
         On Sunday, I had to work  at my other school since they changed the date of the party. I was feeling horrible the whole day which made working even that much worse. I was the announcer for the school performance, in which the kids danced, sang and played games in front of the parents. Afterwards the classes split up and went into their homerooms to have dinner. With some standard dishes provided by the school, each classroom was  different based on what the parents brought. Being the wonderful teacher I am, rather than stay put in one room, I went through all 4 classes to visit and of course in each class they insisted I take a plate and eat, which I politely accepted. I was able to speak with a few of the students parents, one of which I had a long conversation with. His name was Ray and his daughter was in 1st grade class. he was very kind and welcoming and was asking all sorts of questions, I reckon we spoke for 20 or so minutes but he worked in the aerospace industry and kept insisting that I meet some of his friends with the potential of hooking onto one of their companies, which was sorta exciting.

Here are some pictures I took of the events














     

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Day another dollar


          Lately I’ve been constantly working and doing homework for school. In the little moments of free time I have, I’ve been going to the gym and exploring the city. On Tuesday, I went to the Expo again with fellow cohort members Sherry and Paulette, and one of her coworkers Caleb. Having already been twice ive seen most of the country pavilions but I still have some exploring to do.  With each time I find myself for the most part impressed with all the designs of the different pavilions. As the countdown of days to the end of the EXPO nears single digits, the attendance of visitors has significantly increased.   Last weekend there were over a million visitors for the day, which was 1/75th of the expected amount of people to visit over the course of the 6-month event.  I have come to accept that entering the pavilions is almost impossible unless you want hour upon hours. With that being said, ive gotten great satisfaction out of just looking at the pavilions. One of the coolest ones that I saw and went into was the Netherlands. Filled with bright lights and very odd works of art including a Vincent Van Gogh piece, there was a lot to look at and be amazed by even without the remedies that the Netherlands are known for. The biggest disappointment of the day and possibly the whole Expo was how terrible the US pavilion was.  While many pavilions are filled with timelines of their history and to set the environment of the country, the US was far from it. The main attractions were 3 movies about how the US is trying to be innovative and trying to work together as a team to make the world a better place, and sucking up to the theme of the World Expo, Better City, Better Life. They also featured a room covered with advertisement from American brands. To top off the Epic failure of the US, in the gift shop everything was significantly overpriced and were straight up garbage, and to make things worse, half the products had stickers on them that said, "Made in China". Never in my life have I felt so embarrassed to be an American. The shame and disappointment of being a world power and having the pavilion look like it was created in a day. I do understand there were budgeting issues and that the pavilion almost wasn’t built, but common people! I think the Expo has been very amusing and entertaining and has been a big success not only in China but also as a whole. One thing that I wonder is, what will happen to all the Expo advertisement when the event ends. I feel that every street corner is filled with something linked to the Expo and so far has been the decoration of the city, so when it is gone, what will the city actually look like since its been this way for a couple years.

         Today has been a bittersweet day. Yesterday I told that my morning classes was cancelled which I was excited about, only to find out that I have to teach another class, which was suppose to start early than my normal class.  With that big disappointment I arrived to school and found the place packed with parents, cameras, and camcorders. It turns out that today is observation day and the parents sit in on the classes as the teachers show them what the kids have learned so far.  I’m glad that the principle did not inform me of the this slightly HUGE detail yesterday, as well as tell me that I would be teaching my horrible preschooler class for not the normal 30 minute class but rather an hour. By chance, I am very grateful that I changed into a button down shirt at the last minute and didn't follow through on my casual Friday attire.  To make things worse, I let one of the teachers borrow my fake fruit to use in her class yesterday. The only problem is I needed it for the class I was about to teach, but just my luck she was using it to demonstrate in front of the parents.  After waiting about 10 minutes She said it would only take a few minute longer but of course it was much longer, making me late for my own class. Once in my class I had to teach with the eyes of the parents staring at me like a hawk watching my every move. Sweating profusely, I continued on with the lesson which was essentially the Chinese teacher yelling at me in broken English that I needed to do this and do that, some of which the students had never even learned. After essentially being a puppet, and successfully making a fool of myself to the parents the class ended.
         I went to the grand opening of this fancy “Members only” club called Prive (pre-Vay). One of my friend was able to get my and my roommate might on the guest list so we were able to go. There was a huge line outside the club that wrapped around the block with security everywhere. It was a “Dress to impress” red carpet theme. After waiting about 25 minutes in line, we finally got in through security. There was a red carpet walkway that led to the door of the club. There were photographers everywhere and as you walked down the red carpet, there were 2 beautiful girls dressed in big fancy white dresses that stopped you and took a picture with you as well as give you a sharpie to sign the wall. I never in my life have felt like celebrity as I did here. With hundreds of people lined up outside the gates peering in and security personnel and photographers everywhere, I kind of felt like a big deal.
         Once inside they had free flow (all you can drink) until midnight. They were popping bottles like crazy and every 20 or so minutes, they would bring out Champagne bottles that were lit with sparklers to certain people. There were photographers and a video crew that were walking through taking footage of the special event. The place was very fancy and classy and featured leather couches and 2 different stages 3 different rooms and a balcony. At one point in the night they had so many people in the club that they exceeded maximum capacity and stopped letting people in. The club can be seen here http://prive-shanghai.com/To be a member of the club, just to get access, it costs 10,000RMB, which is about $1500; it goes all the way up to 50,000 RMB. This is the kind of place that im sure a lot of the business people take clients to wine and dine them. Overall I had a great time and it was a nice break from work.
  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The World Expo






Having problems previously loading pictures into my blog from the World Expo, here  are some of the pictures I took.



Coke Mural









The Entrance to the Expo







Happy Birthday Mom!


In Honor of my Mom's birthday I made her a video since I couldn't be there celebrate with here:  Take a look at it

Hong Kongin and Singapore Slingin it


The struggle to reunite all 5 of us on the trip continued.  Having lost service with our phones when we went to Hong Kong, we were out of contact with Kirsti. Having miscommunicated some details, we finally met her on Saturday, a day and a half later than expected. Known for its wonderful shopping, diverse culture and modern architecture, Hong Kong has a lot to see and do. Some of the highlights of our visit included going to the “peak”, a massive mountaintop that overlooks Hong Kong. While waiting in line to buy tickets for the tram to go up the peak, there was a huge collision as one of the double decker busses came crashing down the hill, bouncing off 3 taxi cabs and veering off   the street headed directly at the crowd waiting for tickets. With a blessing from above, the bus stopped within 20 feet from the massive crowd and was about 50 feet away from me. It was like a scene out of Batman (which was filmed partly in Hong Kong) except there was no super hero to save the day.  On top of the peak, it featured a huge shopping center area with a gorgeous 360 view of Hong Kong, as well as some fancy houses.
Where the Bus Crashed
Fountain outside the Tram
Hong Kong and Chinese Flag
The city from on top of the peak

We also went to the mid level elevators, which are supposably, the longest continuous stretch of escalators in the world. Located on a hill in this ritzy shopping area, escalators after escalators lined the streets, saving you from having to walk up the hill. What comes up must also come down but unfortunately for these escalators, they only go up.

The Covered area is the escalators




   To celebrate China’s birthday and showcase the modern architecture of Hong Kong and its skyscrapers, we went to the light show by the river. For this huge show, the streets and metro were marked off and the area was packed with thousands of people. We sat with our wine and watched as the night skies lit up with an array of colorful lights from the skyscrapers. The show was topped off with a firework finale.
    Our next stop on the trip was to the small island of Singapore. Just a hop and a skip away from both Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore is roughly 4 times the size of Washington D.C. After a 3hour flight south from Hong Kong, we arrived in Singapore. We were picked up by a wonderful driver who gave us essential a tour of the city as he took us to where we were staying, “A Beary good hostel”. Ironically enough, spending our vacation away from China, we stayed in Chinatown.
         
Laterns outside our Hostel


 Singapore was a very clean city, which probably could be linked to that fact that you can get a fine for almost anything.  Forget to put the lid down on the toilet seat? No problem, you won’t forget next time because you will have spent $500 to remind you. Want to Jaywalk? That will only cost you $300. What about eat or drink on the subway?  Just a measly $1000. But wait there is more, if you can’t control that urge to smoke in the designated for a limited time only, at the cost of $2000, you can do it!
One of the many funny cartoon signs


     We went to the world’s first night safari, which was essentially going to the zoo at night and riding a tram around to see the animals. Unfortunately to protect the environment of the animals no pictures could be taken with flash, which defeats the purpose of taking pictures at night. The night was highlighted with the fire dance performance. As half naked muscular men danced around with fire and did tribal dances, it created quite the crowd obviously. Standing in the front right next to the barrier taking pictures to document the experience, one of the men was searching for a participant for the next act.  Walking towards our direction Kirsti began to freak out thinking that she would be picked. Oblivious to what was about to happen next I laughed at her as she acted like a little girl. Searching for someone who could get the crowd pumped up and be the main event of the show, the man stopped right in front of us. Who did he pick? None other than yours truly. If that wasn’t a shock in itself.  They made me take off my bag and shirt and join the half naked Asian club, which made the crowd hoot and holler. Once on stage I had to do a little jig and then follow the lead of one of the guys and blow out a lit torch. Unable to do so, as performers laughed and tried to make fun of me in a jokingly manor, as they say in the show business “The Show must go on” in a attempt to redeem myself and win back the crowd. I took my torch and did a show of my own. Like a ninja I jumped off a rock and swung the torch like it was my numb chucks. After about a 30 second performance I ended it with a few of roundhouse kicks and tossing the torch in the air. After I threw in my audible into the performance, which caught everyone by surprise, we carried on with the show.

    
         The layout of Singapore has been very will thought through. With the nice mixture of greenery and buildings the city flows very nicely together. The taxi driver even said that the streets by the airport were built specifically to be turned into an emergency landing strip if need be in a matter of 30 minutes, which is quite impressive. Even the trees were planted accordingly.

During our short trip in Singapore, we were able to cover quite a bit; we visited the Asian Civilians museum, went to little India and hiked through the Bukit Nature reserve, which was a rainforest, filled with monkeys and other wild animals. As well as walk around the city explored the city. One of the spots we tried to visit was the presidential palace but was unable to do so. Upon our arrival to Singapore, the wife of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Kwa Geok Choo passed away. A very knowledgeable woman, she was a Queen’s Scholar at Cambridge University and graduated first in her class, with her future husband, the Prime Minister being second. Like they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. With thousands of people paying honor to her, the palace was under tight security as the lines went around a few blocks.
Known for the wonderful food and of course the Singapore Sling, an adult beverage that became a worldwide sensation, Singapore offered delicious meals for a very low price. While the food was very cheap everything else was expensive. I tried for the first time ever Shark fin soup, while I hate to say it, it was pretty tasty. My heart was won over on our second to last night, when we went out for a fancy dinner and all had the traditional Chili crab. Quoted as a “small crab”, I would hate to see what a big one looked like. Although it cost an arm in a leg, it was very delicious and well worth it.
Chili Crab
Singapore Sling
Exclusive Mega Mac, Can't find these in the states


Only the Strong can Squat
Overall, I had a wonderful  trip. I was able to continue my travels and see the world, while  clearing  my mind of working and school.