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Walking Street

Sunday


Arrived yesterday. The cold air really smacks you in the mouth. So cold the fillings in my teeth are aching. Desperately trying to get warm enough. Have put on so many layers of clothes that I am afraid if I fall over I wont be able to stand back up cause I cant bend on the middle. Will just have to roll me in the snow! The small pond at the front of the school is frozen solid. The large pond is about half frozen. The water lillies in the pond certainly look bleak.


Zibo, is a bleak city. Covered in a layer of centuries of dirt and grime. Nearby Petro Chemical plants and paper mills choke the air with toxic fumes. I imagine in the spring and autumn it is probably a prettier place. But not now, not in the middle of winter. All life is frozen and dirty.


So, what am I doing here.

Brooms
.. I am running our first TESOL training course at our new Sea English Academy franchise. We only have a few students but its a good start.

 

The hotel is just endurably okay. Weird to be back (this is my third trip to Zibo in just 2 months). At least my room this time has a cover for the drain so the slugs don’t crawl out like last time. The bed is so hard that my hips ache and feel bruised.

The morning is shattered before dawn with the loud crashing of firecrackers and cannons. A wedding, an opening, early celebrations for spring, it is a ritual that only ends after the sun is well and truly risen. Maybe the cannon is to remind the sun to rise.


My Earl Grey is quite insipid.

kids are cute wherever you go
My water heater just doesn’t heat hot enough. Nothing worse than a semi warm limp cup of tea in the morning. I bought some honey for my tea but had bought a sugary syrupy thing instead. I should have realised my mistake earlier. It is as thick as water. Not good in tea that is for sure. Will have to hunt down some real honey today.

We only have one student on the course, so I am paying like crazy. I would really like another 2 students at the least. Obviously more would be spectacular. I will spend the day in the office setting up.


Goodness, it all sounds bleak. I have to be honest and say I have found it pretty hard, but China has plenty of redeeming qualities too. I have made some great friends - both Chinese and Expats - and the shopping is wonderful. The people in general are wonderful. There is a little man who sits at the end of my street selling goats milk who gives me a resounding "Nee How!!" every morning.

 

Tuesday


We started the course with 2 great guys.

Dragon dance
Two of the other Aussie teachers visited the class to introduce themselves. They insisted we come and have lunch with them - so we did. The beauty of such a small class is how flexible we can be. We went to a Korean place that serves rice and stew in clay pots. It was really really good. The girls and Marc are old friends so we all laughed and had a great long lunch.


I bought some real honey so things are looking up. Still cant get warm. I feel completely miserable. I don’t think the temperature has risen over zero. My face is wind burnt and painful. My teeth are constantly aching. I am thankful that my feet at least are not frozen and very glad I bought the snow boots from the States.


Wednesday morning


Miracles do happen. Jean knocked on my door at 8 am to tell me there would be another student. Hooray. I had just spent half an hour pacing the floor and pouring my heart out to God and he answered instantly.  Wow.

Dragon men
Very excited.


Our school here has been very well received and we are fairly confident that it will be successful in time. Living in China and setting up a business is not the stuff of travel brochures and certainly not for the faint hearted.

 

My hips are red and sore from the hardness of the bed. Its been great for my back though and I haven't had any problems since moving in here. So that is something good.


I had a complete culture shock melt down in the supermarket today. I wanted to buy some salt. I cook an egg almost everyday for lunch or dinner when I am at home and a little sprinkle of salt would make all the difference.; Anyway, I found packets labelled MSG. And then I found packets labelled sugar. But there were whole aisles of packets with only Chinese writing and I just couldn’t tell if it was sugar, salt or msg. So frustrating.  I spent an hour examining it. Wanted to taste it but no one would let me open a packet.

Shopping with one of my teachers
So, I just walked out feeling completely overwhelmed.

Two weeks later….

 

I have been here for 2 weeks already. I do apologise for being so quiet of late but the internet has been difficult to go onto due to an earthquake off Taiwan. Amazing but true. It is also snowing which slows everything down too.

Tomorrow I will move out of my damp and crusty hotel into a tiny little apartment  on my own.

 

Monday


Well, I survived my first night in the apartment.

putting up the sign
Slept fully dressed but at least I was warm. I couldn’t get the shower to work, so boiled some water in the wok and had a sponge bath. Couldn’t wash my hair. At least Earl was comforting and the drinking water heater is hot enough to make a decent cup. The hotel hot water thingy was only tepid which was why Earl didn’t taste so good. So, I have at least one thing to be thankful for.

It's very overcast and the snow is on the way. It will be a minus 8 tomorrow. Hooray. Not. I cant get my Sea English Academy work emails to work this morning. Will try later.


Why am I doing this again??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Its been a bit of a culture shock even though this is my 6th trip to China.

Andy, one of our best students.
I am also not very good in really cold weather so have suffered trying to get myself warm enough. My little home is pretty dismal from the outside but once inside its not too bad. My first night here however I couldn’t work out to heat the water and have a shower, so I had to boil some water in the only cooking utensil - a wok (of course!) and bathe in a cup full of water in sub zero degrees. Thankfully I have managed to adjust and make do with what little is here. The food is great - if you like Chinese food. I mean real Chinese food - not the western version of it. Big pots of little scraps of meat. Some tofu if you are lucky. Thankfully I found some chocolate - Snickers and M & Ms - so I can indulge in something familiar every now and then.

 

I found a great little dumpling shop right around the corner from my apartment. It's really yum and so cheap. I had walked past it before and had seen a queue of people so I thought it must be good. So tonight I just walked in. No one could speak English and it took a lot of pointing and laughing to buy one vegetable dumpling. And it only cost less than 10 cents.


I am boiling the wok to make myself a hot chocolate. So my dumpling for dinner and a hot chocolate is just perfect when its zero degrees and I am in the middle of China. :-)

Sunday


I think am finally adjusting. I found a great little bakery that sells delicious custard egg tarts. And of course, the local dumpling shop. It's the little things that make a huge difference. Still no salt however (I have been searching).


It's actually a little warmer today. It is a whole 5 degrees. Almost a heat wave. I will never take one degree of temperature for granted again.  I do remember now to put the hot water system on at least an hour before I need to have a shower, and have also worked out how not scold myself (most of the time).

The walk from my apartment to the office is a hive of activity and a thriving community. Right outside my gate are 2 families who collect and sort cardboard, plastic, anything really. They are an industrious little group who successfully turn what looks like a garbage dump into neat little piles by the end of the day. In the other direction, outside the gate, is the guy who sells water. He is constantly loading full water bottles and restacking the empty ones. At the first corner is a little grass areas. It is here that old people come out to sun themselves and do their Tai Chi stretches. It is also where the dogs poop.  I turn left and head towards the main road.

 

At the corner is the milk man who broods over crates of yoghurt and goats milk. He also sells little sausages and small loaves of sweet bread. Opposite is a little shack that sells daily newspapers and magazines.  At the main road I turn right and perambulate past a vast array of merchandise and businesses. There is a curtain tailor, a lady who sells jumpers, a guy who makes DVDs to capture your home moves, a seedy little adult shop, a shop full of tacky glass ornaments, the dumpling shop, a mobile phone shop, and more little shops that I have no clue what they do.


In the other direction is a thriving little shop that sells nuts and seeds. Across the street, through the ubiquitous honking traffic and overcrowded buses, is an open market selling fresh meat and vegetables. I walk past a lady sitting on a rattan stool trying to sell 4 shivering puppies, as a street sweeper produces a cloud of dust that quickly settles again behind him.

I cross another side street and am greeted with a line of mannequins displaying women's undergarments. Nothing unusual about that, except one of the lady mannequins is a man mannequin resplendent in a woman's wig and make up and dressed in ladies underwear. They must have run out stock of lady mannequins and were just hoping that no one would notice. Continuing past the line of plastic ladies, is China Post, A China Bank, and a shop selling live sea creatures.  All seem busy all the time.


Then I arrive at my building. I walk past a row of dusty cars on the right and a frozen pond on the left. I push my way through the double glass doors, brightly greet the receptionists who always seem to be reading a newspaper.

"Good morning!" we echo each other.

"It's a beautiful day!" I declare. The girls screw up their noses,

"No, I don't think so."

"Oh, it is a beautiful day somewhere!" I reply undeterred,

"Therefore it IS a beautiful day."

Which confounds the girls completely.

 

I leave them to dwell on my profound joy and walk briskly up a flight of stairs and under the Sea English Academy banner. Yep, it's a beautiful day somewhere!

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Walking Street
Walking Street
Brooms
Brooms
kids are cute wherever you go
kids are cute wherever you go
Dragon dance
Dragon dance
Dragon men
Dragon men
Shopping with one of my teachers
Shopping with one of my teachers
putting up the sign
putting up the sign
Andy, one of our best students.
Andy, one of our best students.
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photo by: theonionlady