Saturday, November 19, 2011


        After the long awaited trip, I finally met Jd at the airport in Thailand arriving to Bangkok a few hours after him. It is hard to imagine that it had been over a year since I had last seen him, a very rare feat considering I usually see him every couple weeks at the least. We gathered our things and took the newly opened train to the city to our hostel. What seemed like a simple task turned into a long ordeal as we ended up getting lost, a very common occurrence I have found when traveling. Walking around with our big Bags in the middle of the blazing heat, we finally found the guesthouse in a hidden alleyway, of. Staying 3 days and three nights in Bangkok, our days were filled with sightseeing and soaking up the culture and most importantly the food. While I thought China was cheap, Thailand is even cheaper making for a good ole time. The people were very friendly and best of all, they spoke English!! One of best experiences from Bangkok was riding around in a tuk tuk with a guy who showed us all the highlights of the city and some of the offbeat things for free, essentially driving us around the city for 4 or so hours. In return we had to go into different shops around the city and act interested in what they were selling. Business owners and tuk tuk driver’s work together by having the tuk tuk drivers bring their passengers to these stores en route to their destination. For their efforts if the people seem to show some interest, the tuk tuk drivers get vouchers for free gas or food. The next day we hopped on a bus and went to Ayutthaya, a small ancient city on the outside of Bangkok. Known for its famous ruins it was quite the sight to see. Unfortunately for us, there was a heavy rainstorm that ended up flooding the streets with water but we were still able to see the sights.

Our next stop was up north to Chaing Mai. We hired a driver for the day who took us up to the tourist areas in Chiang Mai. Located on this long strip of road about 10 minutes drive from the city, it was a death trap for tourist attractions. you name it and they probably had it. from Water falls to go carts and bungee jumping, they had it all.  Our first stop was to Tiger Kingdom, Yes you heard right, Tiger Kingdom, a refuge for about 30 tigers and other animals. This is Chiang Mai's most popular attraction as you get to go next to tigers and pet, lay, hug, Kiss, the tigers. Of course there is a guy who is there to assist in the process but none the less it was unbelievable.  The tigers were distributed into different caged areas based on their size. From full grown tigers to just born babies, you picked which ones you wanted to see. Jd and I both Went into the full grown Tigers and the baby tigers cages and played with them for about 15 minutes in each cage. Its mind blowing to think that we were this close to such a ferocious animal. Our next stop was to the Snake farm where I saw some of the craziest people ever, who were the snake tamers. There were about four of them playing with deadly snakes of all sizes including pythons and rattle snakes. As they jumped around doing tricks with the snakes they had enough balls to kiss the snakes on the head, even though the snakes still had their fangs. It was  great entertainment but the idea that the snakes still hand their fangs blew me away. After the snake farm we moved on to the monkey school, which had about 10 trained monkeys who did performances in what was like a talent show.  Picture monkeys riding tricycles and shooting hoops and  other various tricks. Although PETA would have a fit, i enjoyed my  day filled with dangerous animals. The next day we went on an Elephant Trek/ Bamboo rafting adventure. We took a bus about an hour and a half outside the city  where rode elephants through the forest, throwing bananas left and right to avoid getting slapped with their wet and slimy trunks. It was the first time I had ever ridden an elephant but I think it is safe to say that there are plenty of more comfortable modes of transportation. After riding elephants, we went down the river on long chutes of bamboo, literally tied together with a few piece of rope.  Like every adventurous thing that I have done in Asia thus far, I'm not sure this would fly in America as it would never pass the safety regulations, which makes it that much more enjoyable. 
            Although Chiang
  Jd and I both rented Gas scooters and rode around the city for a day, going all over the place and visiting the National Park outside the city.   I had a blast  getting to drive around the city and seeing things by scooter Although I was safe driving, my only mistake was that I got a "Motorcycle Kiss" as I parked my biked. Walking next to another motorcycle, I barely touched the hot metal muffler and it left a nice big burn on my right leg, right under the one I got earlier this year. I swear I have gotten more burns this past year than I have in my whole life combined.
The next leg of the trip was to Phuket, home of the beautiful beaches. Although it was rain season in Thailand, the weather we had was fantastic. This is probably my most favorite part of the trip as we live like compete kings and laid around on the beach.  On our first night we found this restaurant  literally on the beach that served delicious food  and drinks.Jd and I became such a big fan of the place that we ate there at least 1 a day, which usually was dinner because of the ambiance that it provide. Picture sitting 50 meters away for the waves and stuffing your face with  various flavored crab and pad Thai, washing it down with mango smoothies and then watching the sunset as you eat. Sounds nice right?  Well this was a nightly occurrence for us and I love every single minute of. While I never have been to Hawaii, I imagine this what it would be like but only better as it is only the faction of the price. While in Phucket, I picked up a routine of getting at least an hour full body message each day, I splurged a little and got hour massages for a whopping $6-$9 lol. It was ridiculously cheap and felt amazing. Beside the lounging on the beach. We went one day on a boat tour to the Phi Phi islands and all around sightseeing and snorkeling at various locations.This was the first time I had ever snorkeled before and I really enjoyed  swimming next to all the tropical fishes and marine life. It crazy to think of how many different types of fish and other marine life that there are in this world and when I was snorkeling, I was able to put this in to prospective. The nightlife in Phuket was a bit ridiculous there was a street called Bangla road, which could be my all time favorite place for people watching. the Street consisted of bars on top of bars on top of bars next to bars which are next to bars. There were so many bars next to each other it was a bit mind boggling. While I though Vegas had a bit of flare, this puts it to shame as the street is filled with bright lights, street shows and of Course LADYBoys.
     The last and final stop of the trip with Jd was to Kuela Lumpor, Malayasia where we spent 2 days there and it was 2 days too long. While it was nice to see the Petronas Towers, there wasn't much more to see.  I was not a Big fan of Kuela Lumpor as the people were mean and there was not many activities to do and is up there for least favorite places I've visited.
       I had such an amazing time in Thailand and I loved it there and will for sure want to go back in the near future. The place was beautiful, full of history and culture, the people were friendly and they spoke English and it was cheap and not to mention Jill is from there. Unfortunately for me, as I was moving, I lost the CD that had all my pictures of Thailand and Malaysia on them. While I hope to find it, i feel that there is a very slim chance of this happening.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One ballin Weekend

        On my last weekend before my big trip, I was blessed with an overload of American Basketball. In a promotional tour for their newly opened campus in China, Duke University toured China playing exhibition games Vs Chinese Teams. One of their games was held in Shanghai. I met up with my friend Ralph and we were able to scalp tickets to the game. We got great seats that were 3 rows back from the court, but was behind all the press. As we sat down, we were surprised to see another one of our friends Rob,  which made for a good time. Duke played the Chinese National team, which sounds like an exciting match up filled with quality basketball, but in reality it was as sloppy as a 6th grade girls basketball game. The game was fun but the highlight of the night was getting to shake hands with former Duke great and NBA star Grant Hill.
Grant Hill

             After the game, I was reminded why I enjoy China, because you never know what to expect. As people mobbed their way into the subway after the game, one lady thought it was necessary to push and shove on the way out of the metro, which was uncalled for. As  waited for the door to open, she pushed me out of the way to get a better position to exit, rather than waiting her turn. I  clear my throat with a cough, in a excuse me kind of fashion to which she started hissing at me  like a cat with an evil glare on her face. Yes, I said it, a grown up woman hissing at me. As we exited the subway and made our way to the next transfer, she continued to hiss at me until I started  barking like a dog back at her. If only the basketball game was as entertaining as this lady, my night would have been complete.
            Having finished my lease in my apartment, I had to  move out a few days before I took off for my trip. Since I have been homeless, I have been crashing at Mike’s place. I’ve realized that being homeless is one of the most horrible feelings as I slept on the floor and had to work around his schedule to be let into his apartment. For future reference, I hope I never have to do this again for an extended period of time.
            To top off the weekend I had a spur of the moment busy day which included going to breakfast with 3 of  my classmates, Jenny, Paullette and Sherry. From there went to the graffiti wall that has the famous “Shanghai” graffiti, that  has been on our to do lists all year .

          Next stop was the Nike festival at Shanghai Indoor Stadium, which is a sports facility that Nike has taken over and sponsored which features nice basketball courts, soccer fields and a smaller area used for volleyball and other sports. To promote this renovation and gain exposure, Nike created this weekend event that was highlighted with multiple exhibition basketball games and guest appearances by NBA Stars who are sponsored by Nike including Lebron James. On the day I went I was able to see  Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Kyrie Irving ,Portland’s finest, Lamarcus Aldridge and  shook hands with Amare Stoudemire. The marquee match up was the college team Georgetown Hoyas vs.  The Chinese Basketball Association’s Bayi Rockets, but after a brawl during their game in Beijing,  a few days earlier, they played  the Jiangsu Dragons  another CBA team.

Teams Exchanging gifts
Group Photo after the Game
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III

        After watching what felt like a want to be Rucker park match up, I walked the wrong way and was amongst the large entourage of George town players  staff and family who were being escorted out by security as they as they were overwhelmed with the Chinese fans. It was a pretty fun experience as I was able to speak with some of the players and  I felt like a somewhat celebrity as people pushed their way to take photos of us and were asking for autographs. It was amazing to see how persistent and over the top some of these Chinese fans were for autographs and pictures. One of the Georgetown assistant couches was mistaken as a former NBA player and people bombarded him with photos and autographs, blocking his way and causing him to get lose track of the rest of the Georgetown team.
The "famous" Georgetown Assistant Basketball Coach

          To complete the day,  I met up with Jill and her mom, who made a last minute, spur of the moment trip to visit her and travel around china with a  couple of her friends. As expected, Jill’s mom was just as sweet as her.

Life Comes Quick

      Rewind 2 months ago and I was unsure of what my next move in life would be. Set on coming back to the states, I decided to test my luck with jobs in China and applied for jobs in the masses for the satisfaction of knowing I tried. For weeks I applied for jobs without any replies until suddenly, one day I heard back from 3 companies, two of which sounded interesting enough to set up an interview. Having the mind set that I would  return home after my contract was up in August, I sent almost all of my belongings home including all of my dress clothes, keeping only a only a few things I was going to travel with and things I would leave behind.Scambling to find clothes, but not wanting to buy new clothes, I  scrounged up an outfit that would be presentable for an interview. I had one dress shirt that was going to leave behind  that I used and  borrowed a tie from my roommate Mike, and then found a pair of slacks and dress shoes that  my roommate Miles left behind that I was able to squeeze into. I managed to impress one of the people in my mess of an outfit to get a call back for another interview with a senior partner from Austen Morris, a financial firm that work solely with expats. This interview though would require a “formal” business attire so unfortunately I had to buy a new suit. With that being said, it all paid off and I received and accepted the job at Austen Morris as a Business Development Coordinator  for the firm and start on Oct 10.  It is amazing to think that within a 2 week gap my life plans took a complete 180 turn.Although I’m not exactly sure how I will fare at this job, it will provide me with hands on experience that would be hard to receive in the states. So,for time being,  I guess i'll be in China for a little bit longer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get me out of here!!!

            Caught in a lie, I have not been very pleased with my work this week. I was told that I would be going back to the school I have been teaching at all year and suddenly I get a schedule change going to a new school. I asked Rosa our head Chinese staff why I am not going back and she said that they do not start a new school year until September  so no teachers will go there.
            As Monday rolls around I found out that Sam, the other teacher who worked there with me is going back to teach there but does not want to teach there . I on the other hand want to go back and told the teachers I would be back. As I tried to switch schedules, I was repeatedly shut down via text by Rosa because she said she told the principal at the new school that I would be teaching there and if I changed schedules she would have lied to the principle and lying of course is bad. But the fact that she lied to me and the fact I told teacher I would be back and now wont be was didn’t matter to her . Furious I called Rosa demanding an explanation of why she lied to me and how it is bad, and asked how many holidays I had left in attempt to boycott Shane. See in an attempt to save money, Shane let 6 teachers out of their contract early as they figured they would not need them, but now the problem is that they do not have enough teachers to teach so, if one of the teachers calls in sick, they are essentially screwed as they are understaffed. I have enough holidays to cover the rest of the days remaining on my contract. In my contract
I am entitled to these days.
            If I were to take these holidays Shane would not have enough teachers to teach the classes and would be loosing money. After being hung up on, I later I received a text that I breached my contract as I have falsely added hours to my timesheet due to an error on their behalf, as I copied and pasted my hours from what they sent me. As a result, I am essentially getting blackmailed to work as they say they will take away all the bonuses that I have earned this year away which is a hefty sum along with the fees for “breaching the contract”, in which I would have to pay the company back money. It is a bit ridiculous at what a corrupt company Shane is and how badly they treat their employees to get them to do things and since I have to fulfill my contract for graduate school I feel hopeless as I cant do anything about it. It will be interesting to see what happens come next Wednesday when I finally am free of this horrible company.
            For the past few weeks my landlord has been very adamant on us moving out. On multiple occasions, I have been surprised to see him either walk in to the apartment on his own with potential renters or had him banging on the door because the door was dead bolted and he cant open it with his key, both of which are with no prior warning. I feel this is a bit of invasion of privacy and also annoying, as it is usually early in the morning, especially on weekends but its China. With that being said, my lease ended on August 19th, yet he kept trying to get us to move out before then.  All of my roommates downstairs moved out early so it was just mike and I upstairs, on the 17th he sent in a cleaning crew to clean out all the downstairs, even though mike and I still were living there and were packing, but made sure to tell us not to make a mess downstairs as it is now cleaned. He also was set on us moving out early Friday the 19th even though I had to work. After begging him multiple times, he finally allowed us to check out at 5 after I got off of work to which at 4:55 he was waiting for us to leave.
            On my schedule, I had Friday morning free but was on cover, which would allow me to pack my things up and move them over to mikes apartment before work, but of course since Shane is ridiculous, they call me up the day before and tell me I need to cover for someone who put in a request awhile back for an interview but they forgot about it until just now. I told them that I cant cover as I had to move out of my apartment and that I would take a holiday if I had because I needed to move at of my apartment. I get a call from my boss telling me send my landlords number to Rosa. She will tell him that I need to move out on Saturday no problem. Little did they know my landlord wouldn’t budge. The landlord was actually in the apartment inspecting things so I handed him the phone and she tried to negotiate with him but he was not having it. As I laugh while Rosa is getting shut down, the landlord hands me the phone to which Rosa says “Ok, John the landlord says that you have to move out tomorrow, but you still can work in the morning. You have all night to pack up your things and you can get up early and finish”.
             Holding my ground I said “No”, I refuse to work in the morning as I need to pack but I will work my normal shift in the afternoon. I told them that if you keep forcing me to work in the morning, I will take a day off you and you will need to find someone to cover both shifts. Finally Rosa says that I will not have to teach in the morning, and another boss confirmed this. I then later receive a text from one of my bosses Robert saying that they do not have enough teachers so I will need to cover in the morning. I told him that both Rosa and Caesar confirmed I do not have to work and he kept trying to insist that I needed to work. Finally at the end of the day, after having my messages ignored, I wanted to confirm that I was not working in the morning. After 4 phone calls Rosa finally picked up and said that Robert told her I was still working. After I repeatedly told her I wont show up she finally got the message. Although this is a little   issue I find it a win in my book as I have held my ground against the evil Shane. How hard is it to understand No means No! Well with that being said, less than a handful of days until I am finally free of Shane and get my soul back!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady, Who are you?!?!?!

            For work, I am on a temporary loan, filling in for 2 weeks whilst my school has its 2-week  "Summer Vacation".  Since I am filling in, I have no material to teach them and have been winging my lessons and reviewing basic information since there are a few new students who have joined the classes this week. It down time right now so the classes are half full as people are families are traveling or taking a break from school. With less than 2 weeks of work left before I bask in the sun on the beaches of Thailand with JD, my motivation to teach is at an all time low and the fact that the school refuses to turn on their air condition makes it that much more difficult to teach. Considering these students are not my normal kids, they are unfamiliar of my demands and do not listen and to make things worse and the worst part is one of the teachers a complete ... Think of a word that rhymes with yahtzee. Ill give you a hint, think holocaust. While I understand good teachers are usually a bit eccentric, she’s over the top as she’s always in my business and essentially is trying to teach the class. I wonder from classroom to classroom teaching English to the students and the classes are on all parts of the building. Theoretically, I am supposed to teach her class at 9:25 but considering that the classroom before hers is on the other side of the building and ends at 9:25, I usually arrive at 9:26 or 27.Heaven forbid I am a minute or two late considering I usually stay a few minutes after the scheduled time to compensate. But, she insists that I teach the full 30 minutes of English for her kids as she makes comments like “oh what time is it, yeah your late” or “class starts at 9:25?” as her clock  is running a few minutes early and making me look bad that much worse.
            As I teach her class I can feel her presence creeping behind me to make sure that I am doing everything properly. She sits there analyzing every move I make and ALWAYS has to butt in and interrupt the class if something is out of synch with what she believes is correct. While I must admit, her English is half way decent, there have been times when she has tried to correct me with my pronunciation stating I’ve said the words wrong. Remind me who’s the native speaker and English teacher?!?! That’s right.. me, but that doesn’t stop her from interrupting and trying to tell everyone what to do.
          Making sure that I fill the 30 minutes of teaching, I have used songs to fill the gap. Over the course of the year, I have been able to manipulate how long a song lasts based on the actions I use and the speed I sing the song. Typically, I can sing the “wheels on the bus” or” if your happy and you know it” and it will run about 5 minute which is great for killing time. Over the course of the past few days, as I am singing the song with the kids, the teacher interrupted me by either telling me to stop singing, then blasts the song off the computer or just turn on the music without saying anything. While I’m a big advocate of making things easier and not having to sing, the songs on the computer take roughly half the time it does for me to sing and does not include all the movements that the kids enough, which makes me run out of things to do and since I have to teach the full 30 minutes this causes a problem,
       Having accumulated a collection of songs on the computer, I’ve tried to sing songs that she does not have yet on her computer. Each day he makes me write down the songs ive sang and then goes tries to find it on the Internet, but I’ve switched up the songs each day so she is unprepared for what I am going to sing. It has become sort of a game as I try to sing songs that she has not downloaded so that she can’t interrupt me while I am singing. What really has thrown her off is I have thrown in a few Camp Adventure songs which the kids like but she cant find it anywhere on the internet, to which ive been able to sing multiple times and it makes her flustered.
       In my classroom I have these medals that I give to “good Students” who are paying attention and not talking and listening. In reality, it is a tool just to keep the kids on their best behavior because they really want the candy and sticker that I give them as a reward. While it is my special thing I do for the student, the teacher kept telling me who and who I shouldn’t give the medals to, to the point where I have just given her the medals and told her to pick the students.
       Towards the end of the class, I play games with the students, which vary from day to day. The other day I taught the kids Duck Duck Goose and she butted in telling the kids her interpretation of how to play it. As my 30 minutes were up she continued to organize who was picked and who wasn’t and had yet to give out the good students. After making settle hints to her to give out the good students so I can get my medals back and leave for my next class, she was oblivious and continued on yelling at which kids were to be picked. Finally after a few minutes waiting I took the medals from her and called up 2 kids to which she argued that they didn’t deserve it. I can confidently say she’s on a power trip but Mercy Lady just let me do my job!! On the bright side I only have one more day of teaching at the school and less than 2 weeks of teaching and then I’m free to travel, but lord help me get through this!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Well this is awkward

While my School goes on a whole two-week summer vacation, I have been temporarily relocated to another school to teach. Currently in Shanghai its been in the mid 90’s every day but the heat index puts the weather around 105 degrees making it extra hot because of the humidity. As I sat in the blazing hot computer room with 3 big air condition units surrounding me, I ponder to myself why the Chinese are so cheap and all show.  In an effort to save on  theelectricity bill they have turned off the air-condition units and hid the remotes so that only an elite few can use them. With the rickety  old metal overhead fans going, I sat with beads of sweat dripping down my face as I try to write my thesis. Suddenly, one of the teachers comes in with the precious remotes and turns on the air conditioner and relieving me of this heat; I think to myself how nice she is.
            Little by little teachers start to storm into the room and I begin to realize the air condition was not turned on for me but for them. Figuring there was a meeting about to happen I sat quietly at my computer typing away trying to go unnoticed as long as I am quite. With the room filled with about 30 teachers and staff from the school, some random elderly lady who was not the principle grunts at me pointing to my computer. I closed my computer and gathered my belongings and started to head out of the room and back to the “office”, but on the way she insists that I stay for the meeting. Waving her hands for me to take a seat, the teachers tell her that I am the English teacher, but that did not matter as she was determined for me to stay, grabbing my hand as I tried to exit the room. With all the staff watching and trying not to make a scene I put my things down and take a seat.  I sat there and watched as she rambled on for about 20 minutes continuously without out a peep from anyone. Bored out of my mind, I watched the other teachers look at me and smile, using there facial expressions to try talk with me. Finally the lady takes notice of this and stops talking for a minute to ask what’s so funny. The teachers laugh and tell her that I am the English teacher and don’t speak any Chinese and have no idea what she is talking about and I shouldn’t be in the meeting. Embarrassed and turning red, she insisted that I leave the room since I did not need to be in the meeting, exactly what I was trying to do 20 minutes earlier. I stood up and smiled and nodded good-bye to her and escorted myself out of the room as the teachers all smiled and laughed… whelp that was a bit awkward. Just another day in China.


A beach in Shanghai?!?! What?. One of the best things about China is that they are known for producing fake things. If they don’t have it, they will be glad to replicate it. Right off the dirty Nanpu river lies the  “Beach” once a docking area, now filled with imported sand from Sanya.  Some call it the sand pit by the river, other call it paradise. Regardless, it was a nice get away from the concrete jungle of urban Shanghai.  I met up with a couple of my friends to go to this beach party that was produced by the entertainment company “Ice Cream Truck productions” who provided multiple djs on the turn table. With the sun out and at hot, as ever, it was nice to finally soak up some Vitamin D while playing sand volleyball, sipping on some drinks and relaxing and  of course hanging out with friends. You know what they say. The best things in life are free.

Monday, August 1, 2011

再 见少朋友 (Bye bye little friends)

      After 10 months of teaching my little rug rats, it was finally time to say goodbye as the school year came to a close. In the last week of class, rather than teaching I decided to watch Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar with them in a win/ win situation. Instead of them learning boring information and me having to teach, we both won by watching movies.  On the last day of class I brought my camera to take pictures, but, being the airhead I am, I forgot the charge the camera that was on low battery.  Sadly, I was unable to take very many pictures. After taking pictures I made a poor mans piñata and filled up a trash bag with candy and other goodies. Having never experienced a piñata before, the kids went wild as candy flew everywhere. Though we’ve had our up and downs, they will be truly missed.. On the Brightside, I have less than a month of teaching left at SHANE English and I can be free again and have a soul as I am a slave for that company.

Tossing the Pinata after it was broken

Kids Scrambling for the goodies

The Mad Dash

Class #1, My favorite class


Class #2 the Devil Childs

Class #3

Class #4 for showing their goodies

Class #1 Modeling

Class #4 Striking a Pose

Class #5


Two of the teachers

Riding Dirty

            Just like those wonderful nights in high school where boring nights always turn into epic adventures, I sat in my apartment bored, figuring out what I should do. In weekend mode and not in the mood to work on my thesis, I decided to pop in a movie and clean my room since oddly enough I like to organize things when I get bored.  Over the course of the year, I have accumulated a large amount of coins that I have thrown into a jar. It seems that in china, they love to give you coins any chance they can which is a pain in the butt because they weigh down my pockets always fall out. With that being said, whenever I do have change, I dump it into the bowl so that I do not have to carry it.
            From time to time, I will go to the store and purchase things using only coins, while I might feel like I’m back in middle school after scrounging the house for enough change to buy a candy bar, it relieves me of the burden of the change and using my bills to get more change. Since I am leaving China in less than a month, I decided I should make another middle school run and go grocery shopping with coins. Dumping the pile coins on the grown, Jill and I started to separate the coin by denomination. Similar to pennies, the yi jiao are a hassle to handle and it takes 10 of them to make a jiao. I decided to take all my yi jiao and make a Chris Slezak 7-11 shopping spree and just buy any drinks, candy and junk food that I fancy.
             To make thing easier on the cashier, we counted out 10 yi jiao and taped them together to make them into a roll and then tossed them into a little bag. We had about 100RMB worth of these rolls, which made for some Good Friday night snacks. As the clerk rang us up, expected us to pay with bills, we threw him a curve ball and poured out the sack of rolled coins. First looking flabbergasted at all the yi jiao, he laughed it off as he counted each and every one of the rolls.Trying to find room in the cash register to store them, he eventually stored some under the counter.
            After devouring out snacks, we decided we should go on a late night cruise of the city. My roommate Mike was out of town and left his scooter for me so we decided to take a 1 am drive to the bund, which is about a 20-minute drive from my house by taxi.  Having cruised around on the scooter previously without charging it, it said that there was still about 80% of battery left, which I figure would be enough to get us there and back. As we roamed the streets avoiding all the crazy taxis and Chinese drivers, we finally made it to the Bund. This adventure turned out to be one of the best times I’ve had in Shanghai as it so random and speractic. We decided to drive down the riverfront and people watch at different locations as people stumbled their way out of the swanky clubs and bars. Before we knew it the battery suddenly used up all the power and we were stuck about 8 mile from my house.
            On the scooter there are bike pedals which you can use to turn the scooter into a bike, but with 2 people on the scooter it is very difficult and tiring to manuver because of the weight and the proximity of the pedals to where you are sitting. After trying to bike for about 15 minutes and barely making it off the bund, we decided to see if we could flag down a taxi to take us home as it was already 3Am and at this rate, we wouldn’t be home until at least 5 or 6. Standing outside one of the nicer clubs in shanghai, we tried to flag down a cab but kept getting rejected as they said they couldn’t fit the bike in their car, or that it was too heavy. We even offered to pay them 100rmb, which was more than double the normal price, but still no one bit on our offer. As I kept peddling on for about another half mile, we tried our luck again and still nothing.  Thinking we would either have to park the bike somewhere and come back and get it the next day with the recharged battery, we flagged down one last cab for the heck of it.
            Without offering him the 100rmb like we told everyone else, we just said that we would pay him extra and he agreed to take the bike with us but he would go extra extra slow so that it wouldn’t fall out. I.e. milk the meter but of course in our best interest. We threw the scooter in the back of the car and off we went. The taxi driver really meant he would go slow as we were going about 5 miles per hour ,while the other cars were flying past us making it seem like we were at a standstill. As I looked outside I saw people walking past us at a faster speed, but in retrospect, it was fine by me because I didn’t have to pedal the bike. Finally, after about an hour trip, we arrived at my apartment. I pulled the scooter out of the trunk only to have the taxi driver standing there asking for more money. I looked at him and laughed and off we went.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Welp See ya later

         The time is finally come and everyone that is leaving China has left except for the 5 people who work with my at Shane and must  painfully finish out our year contract unlike everyone else in the program who only had a 9 month contract. I must say that my phonebook has significantly gotten smaller and so has my social life which is both a burden and a blessing as I need to finish writing my thesis before I leave. My apartment started the month with 5 people in it and now is completely empty except for myself for the next month. 2 of my roommates have gone their separate ways with no intention of returning while the other 2 are traveling  around with the intention of returning right before the lease ends on Aug.19. As I spend my last month in China trying to embrace it, I find myself surprisingly busy doing absolutely nothing to show of it. Lets just hope and pray that I finish my thesis before I start my travels!

International Day

The other day I stumbled on a blog that I forgot to post a few months back  about international day.  At my school each year, they have international day, which is where the kids get to eat food from a different culture for lunch. This year, happened to be America. Straying away from the white rice and pork and tossing out the bowls and chopsticks, the students were presented with an assortment of “American” food as well as plates and utensils to which many did not know how to use.

Menu for the students:

Grape Juice
Toast with Jam
Mushroom soup
Egg Tarts
Chinese Hot dogs that taste nothing like Hot dogs

Menu for the Staff:

Dinner Rolls
“Fruit Salad”
Rubber tasting hamburger patties
Mushroom soup
Hot dog
Egg Tarts

I am not sure where they got the idea that this is what we eat in America, but I found it humorous.

hmm Chinese hot Dogs

Staff lunch

Pants off Dance off

In all of my classes, students are assigned a number to go along with their name,which they put on all of their assignments. I am not sure the purpose behind this as their numbers are not used in my classroom, but I am sure there is a reason why the Chinese teachers do this. A few months back a received a new student who was the 31st kid in the class so he was granted the number 31. When I asked what his name was, the teacher told me that he does not have an English name so I decided to name him Bryan. After numerous times of calling him Bryan without any responses from him, Ive realized that he  doesn't respond unless I call him "31", which makes me believe he thinks his name is 31.To confirm my theory, in his work book he was asked to write his name, so what did he write Bryan or 31? 31, of course! I can only imagine what the school teacher will think next year when there are not 31 kids in the class and he goes by a number rather than a name.

The heat has taken over Shanghai in a hurry and the students are wearing less and less clothing by the day. This past week I was surprised to see one of my students named Jackie who showed up to my class sitting in his chair with out his pants on and his legs opened wide. After unsuccessfully trying to figure out an explination for why he doesn't have pants on, I decided to make the most of the situation and provide some entertainment by getting him to dance in front of the class, to which he refuse. But, as with most guys, with the help of one of my female students, he caved in and performed part of their dance routine for their upcoming performance.

Cheap Entertainment

For the past 3 weeks I have been on my own without any set curriculum as my students have finished their assigned books of English vocabulary.  Rather than making my own flash cards and picking out the words my self, I have decided to take the easy way out and rummage through flashcards from different books that are laying around the office. Since teaching kids the same 3 words a week is very boring, I have picked words that are entertaining to teach but essential to have in your vocabulary.

The list of gems that I found

As you can imagine, these are very descriptive words and kids being kids are brutally honest.  With each word that I taught, the kids loved to point at each other and share their opinions on who best fit these characteristics. While some characteristics are nicer than others, it was entertaining to see the reactions that were gathered as students pointed at each other.

Posing as "Ugly"

Posing as  "Pretty"

Posing as "Handsome"

Funny Shorts my Students were wearing

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yellow Mountain

              With little time left to travel, my friend Rob and I decided to make a spur of the moment trip to Yellow Mountain before his work schedule changed as this would be his last weekend to travel. Having planned this trip for a holiday a while back, it was cancelled because of the bad weather. Initially, we thought that that we would be hiking this trail, but later realized that it was at a different location called Huanshan, not Huangshan, where we went. Yellow Mountain is about a 6-hour bus ride or a 12-hour train in the ahui province in China. Friday afternoon we booked tickets for the train that left later that night. Unaware of how horrible the seats were and trying to save some money, we booked seats, rather then the sleeper, figuring they would be like the normal seats for the trains we’ve traveled on, which weren’t too bad. Boarding the train, our seats were right at the entrance next to the onboard ticket counter. These seats were hard metal and sat at a 90-degree angle with 4 seats facing each other with a mini table in between. The train was filled with so many people that some didn’t even have an actual seat and had to sit in the isle. Like everywhere in China, people were smoking at the entrance, which in return made the cabin smell like smoke along with the noise of all the other passengers and made for a horrible sleeping environment. A few minutes into the trip, I realized this would be a long ride and tried to upgrade our tickets to sleepers but the guy said that it was not possible, so I took a seat and tried to take a nap. After 2 hours of uncomfortably napping, and getting woken up to people trying to buy tickets and other seatless passengers trying to share my seat, my back was stiff as a rock and aching. I had enough of these darn seats and insisted on buying a new ticket as we had 10 more hours on the train and if this is how I felt sleeping for 2 hours, I can only imagine what it would be like for 10 more. 
           Like anywhere in China, money does the talking and this time I went back up to the ticket counter and flashed the cash pointing to my phone that I wanted a sleeper bed. With money in his face, the guy understood what I was talking about this time and upgraded me and robs ticket, which was the best move of the trip. Excitedly, we got out of our seats and gave them to 2 guys that were annoying the heck of the ticket person as they kept trying to talk to him and put their crap behind the ticket counter so that they could have room to sit. All in all in was a good deal as we got sleeper beds and they got seats and the ticket guy was free of their pestering. Once inside the sleeping cabins we set up shop, unfortunately our beds were not next to each other but that was the least of our concerns. We both had top bunks, which were fine, but it did get cold as the beds were directly under the vent for the air condition.

       After a decent nights sleep, we could only imagine what it would have been like to be stuck in our old seats for the night. We hopped off the train and hopped on one of the many buses headed to Yellow Mountain.  The hour bus ride took an unusually long time to get to the mountain as it kept picking up and dropping off people on way there. Eventually we made it to Tunxi city, which is the base camp for Yellow Mountain. As people kept getting dropped off to different hotels on the way, Rob and I were the last ones on the bus. Eventfully some guy named Mr. Chen jumped on the bus speaking English told us the bus stopped here and that we can go to his restaurant that was mentioned in Lonely planet. We jumped in his car and rode down the street to his restaurant where we ate lunch. Afterwards for an overcharged fee, he dropped us off at the bottom of 9 dragons waterfall where we started our hike. In what was supposed to be a 2 ½ hour hike turned out to be much longer as ¾ of the way through, we encountered the map telling us one thing and the sign telling us another. Initially we followed the sign for about 2km before turning around and heading the other way, as the map suggested. Finally after 6 hours off the train we finally were at the East entrance of Yellow Mountain. Due to the recent landslides we were unable to hike the trail and had to take the gondola up the mountain. The gondola ride was quite interesting as it started to heavily rain and fog covered the mountain making everything disappear as we elevated.

They call this the stairway to heaven, if you fall you will go to heaven

          Once at the top of the mountain, we tried to hike a trail but soon realized this was pointless as the rain was pouring down and the viewpoints were covered with fog. We hid under this little awning but others soon followed our lead waiting out the rain. Once the rain stopped we tried to hike some trails but once again the fog took over all the scenery and we couldn’t see anything. We eventually walked around the trails but it was boring since all we saw was fog. During this time, we bumped into a creepy girl who was surprised to see Rob, who is white, and even more baffled that I was an American since I look Chinese. After about a 10-minute conversation of me yelling “Wo Shi Meigueran” I am an American, she insisted on taking pictures.

        Rather than staying at one of the hotels on the mountain, which was about $120 for 2 twin beds, we decided to camp in a tent, we set up camp with a few others right outside of the bei hai hotel on this somewhat flat surface that had a basketball court on it. We decided to splurge and go to the $25 buffet at the hotel, which turned out to be a horrible idea. While it was nice to sit inside in the warmth, the food was disgusting and tasted worse than Chinese school lunches, which are pretty bad to say the least. I left the dining hall feeling hungrier than I entered it in and my pockets were also lighter.

The Yellow Tent is our tent


        We decided to go to bed, and call it an early night as we were waking up to watch the 5:13 sunrise. Laying just on the in the tent on the hard ground with no pillows or blankets, I can confidently say ive had much better sleep, not to mention the voices of the crazy Asians yelling at the top of their lungs to hear themselves echo during the middle of the night constantly and the sounds of people trekking back and forth right outside my tent. With the amount of noise coming from people, you would never have thought it would be in the middle of the night.  The dreadful alarm clock went off and Rob and I jumped out of bed to catch the sunrise, only to see we weren’t the only ones with this idea. We hiked up to the highest peak near us only to find hundreds of people standing around taking pictures. After waiting around for about 30 minutes without any sunrise we decided to head back to our tent and get a early start since you could actually see the scenery. Sadly enough as we headed down the trail, the red sun came out for a brief moment, but at that time I was not in a good position to take pictures with crowds of people in front of me.

Rob & I

         Rob and I went on a tear, hiking through all the trails and viewpoints that we could not see the day before. Having an early start, we were able to see some of the thing before all of the tourist groups got the mountain and before others woke up. With all the fog gone, we could finally see all the beauty that the mountain had to offer and realized what the hype was. Almost as impressive as the landscape of Yellow Mountain is the fact that all the resources and materials used in the hotels and on the mountain are all brought by hand. All the food, blankets, sheets, beds, decorations are all brought by hand up the mountain. It is said that these men are able to make 2-3 trips a day, getting paid only $5 a trip. While I complained about how heavy my 20 pound bag seemed after walking up and down the endless staircases, I can only imagine what it is like for these guys who consistently are carrying these heavy bags while weaving in and out of tourists.
The guy in the front is carrying 210 ponds of rice

one of the many tour groups

         Being adventurous, Rob and I decided to take the Western Sea Trail, which was said to be one of the most beautiful trails on Yellow Mountain, which I would have to strongly agree with. Since we had plenty of time to kill with our early start, we figure this would be a good idea. This trail essentially followed the creek from the start of the mountain all the way to the bottom of it. This trail is only hiked by experienced hikers and is very strenuous as it ended up being almost 20km long weaving in and out of the mountain. Essentially this trail sends you up a peak and then back down it, which means that were thousands of steps. We followed the trail all the way to the West entrance, which was in a rural town. Having not gathered our bearings, we were just as surprised to find out where we were as the people were to see us. We were out in on the boonies almost 15 km outside of the main entrance.

              While in Shanghai, I can fake my way around acting like I know more Chinese than I do and get around fine, but, in rural China this does not work, it’s a hit or miss kind of situation and lets just say I struck out trying to speak with these people. I'll be honest, for the past few months I have slacked on learning the language and ive resorted into pointing to things rather than calling them by names, causing my Chinese to become incredibly bad. Being in the middle of no where and having a train to catch, we were in quite the predicament, get ripped off and take a  “cab” ride with one of the guys to the bus station or back track another 15 km to get to the main entrance with our legs feeling like Jello. Obviously, we bit the bullet and went with option one but only angered us more as this cab ride would have been about a 1/4 of the price at most if it were using the meter. The guy took use for a little joy ride and kept trying to swindle us of all our money.  We had to make multiple stops due to cow,chickens bulls and oxes crossing the street, which gives you an idea of how far out we were. After about a 30 minute ride, we arrived at the bus station to which the guy “offered” to take us another 10km to Tunxi, the base camp where we were dropped off at earlier for a small fee of 200rmb, to which one of the people in the bus station said in Chinese of course, are you stupid? They can just take a bus for 10rmb, which made me giggle a little bit. As we showed the guy our train ticket of where we needed to go, we created quite the scene in the bus station, as they probably have never seen a white guy in their life. 
            With the simple task of telling us which one of the four buses do we hop on to, it turned into everyone in the bus station huddling around us to look at the tickets, including the bus drivers, ticket sellers, passengers and even the janitors. With a bunch of Chinese people yapping at each other for about 10 minutes, we finally figured out where we needed to go and hopped on the bus. An hour later we arrived into the city at the bus hub, where we had to catch another bus to the train station. Thank goodness that we did not run into anymore trouble as Rob and I both started the trip with 1000rmb($150) and ended with 5rmb for him and 20 rmb for me. Although it was a bit stressful, it was a wonderful trip that added on to my experience in China.