Friday, October 30, 2009

Beijing Cough and Halloween

About a week ago I developed a cough. I thought that I was starting a cold or, hopefully not, the flu. But I'm not sick. Not really. I just can't stop coughing. There is nothing sick about my cough or anything to indicate an infection, and then last night someone told me about the "Beijing Cough". Apparently it is quite common for newcomers to Beijing to develop a cough not unlike a smoker's cough. This morning I decided to do a little bit of google researching and as it turns out there are others who developed a similar cough while in Beijing, and most of them report that nothing helps except for leaving Beijing, which won't be happening anytime soon. I don't know how long I will be able to stand myself with this cough. Hopefully it will go away on its own once the change of season is finished.

Other than the coughing fits, I am having a great time here. Yesterday we celebrated Halloween at school and the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. Tonight the teachers are celebrating with a Halloween party and then many of us will likely hit the town. I will be sporting a funky blue wig, skinny jeans and hilarious shades along with a blue cape and flashing guitar pin. My theme song for the evening is "So What" by Pink.

Last night I went out to the most amazing restaurant. It was fairly expensive costing 258 RMB a person (roughly 40$), however it was an all you can eat/ drink buffet. And it was a buffet like I've never seen before. The food was incredible and very diverse. I tried as many things as I could. The Sushi was amazing, not to mention the crab legs and pasta and steak and deserts. I think we spend about 4 hours there sampling all the delectable foods and drinking wine. Afterwards we went out a tiny little bar called Swing, a favourite amoung the teachers. They have an amazing band and we danced ourselves into a frenzy.

Hope you have a fantastic Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Birds in the school

Situation: It's Sunday afternoon, and I am in my classroom working on report cards. I hear a squeaking noise coming from down the hall. At first I think it's maintenance pushing around a squeaky cleaning cart. But the noise continues for some time. A funny idea comes to me, but no, it couldn't be. Could it? Birds? In the school? The sound is surely coming from outside. I decide to investigate. Alas! Two birds flying around by the windows and plants at the end of the elementary hallway.

I should mention that birds make me nervous. For a while I couldn't hear them anymore and thought they had made their way back outside. I discovered I was mistaken when I went to the staff room to make myself a tea. On the way back to my classroom one of the birds flew over my head and almost gave me a heart attack. Somehow I managed to only spill a drop of tea and thankfully not on myself. It could be worse; one of the teachers had a bird fly into her apartment the other week.

Only in China!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Made in China

One thing I learned very quickly after moving to China is that things here are made very cheap. Sometimes it seems as though nothing works. I've already had the school maintenance in my apartment about 3 times to fix things and I haven't even been here two full weeks.  First it was the glass door on a show cabinet that broke.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and it came right off. I was just lucky that it didn't shatter.   Next I couldn't figure out have to use my washing machine (who knew that it has its own faucet that has to be opened??), then my tub wouldn't drain, and today I had to tape my living room window closed with packing tape.  I hope that it holds because it is very, very windy right now and the last thing I want to hear all night is the wind banging my window open and rattling my door. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining, because I'm taking it all in stride- it's just the way things are here.  I've decided that living in china is going to take a really good sense of humour, a lot of patience and a few good friends to laugh at all the absurdities with you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

One week down!

I have been in China for more than a week now and am really beginning to settle in and enjoy myself! I cannot say enough good things about the people that I am working and living with. I just finished my first full week of school, and although it was overwhelming at times, I feel very good about my week. I still have a million and one things to do and learn, but I am taking it one day at a time.

Tonight I am feeling brave and I think that I will try real Chinese food for the first time. With the jet lag and workload I just wasn’t feeling up for the adventure during my first week here. I am not a horribly picky eater, but I can’t stand fat, and I’ve been told that the Chinese love fatty meats. On the plus side, it means chicken breasts are EXTREMLY inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store.

Last night I went to a German restaurant with a few of the other teachers and ate delicious mashed potatoes- comfort food at it’s finest. We walked home and stopped to ride the glass elevator at the Starlight hotel. The view was amazing (even if I am terrified of heights). At the very top is a rotating restaurant. Then came the awkward part: explaining to the restaurant hostess why we were there. We thought about sitting down for a drink, but it was getting late and we all had to be up early for work today. Eventually we said that we would make a group reservation after consulting the rest of the teaching staff. They must have thought we were crazy, which I guess now that I say it, wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

One thing I find very interesting here is the billing customs at the restaurants. In China only one person pays for the bill. This either ends by us splitting the bill, or sending the waitress back to make a new bill for each of us.

Hope all is well on the home front!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Busy as a bee in Beijing

I just can't believe how busy I've been lately.  I am finally getting over my jet lag, I have a pile of work, and I go out for supper and a drink almost every night. I am really starting to love the lifestyle here.  The only trouble is I've been hanging out more with the retired teachers and less with the other broke young teacher. As a result I'm probably spending a bit more money than I should be considering where I am living.

Today I worked until 4, had a mandarin course offered by my school, then worked another hour. I could easily pt in a few more hours but I'm still just trying to get used to everything including my class and school routine. I gave up around 6 (when I knew I would waste a lot of time being unproductive) and went out to supper with some fellow teachers to a German restaurant about half an hour walk away.  It was a really wonderful walk and I wish I had brought my camera.  On the way home we decided to go into a hotel just to take the elevator. It was a glass elevator that rose into a rotating restaurant.  Even though I'm terrified of heights- the view was AMAZING! I think we will go back sometime to actually eat there.  .

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I discovered a way to access my blog- yippee! I'll write more soon, and post some pictures of my apartment. But for tonight- a 2 hour massage for about 25$ Canadian... I think I could get use to this!

With love from China

I have arrived in China! I have actually been here a couple of days now. I just received my school computer Friday, and was disheartened to discover that blogger is, in fact, blocked in China. To overcome this, I will simply type up my blog posts on office, and ask my sister to post them for me from time to time. This post will be a bit delayed because my sister is gone to a camp up river (in the woods) for Thanksgiving. Another traumatic discovery I made while trying to access the Internet in China is the ugly fact that Facebook is also blocked. It certainly makes connecting to home much more limited.

On another note, the teaching staff here is amazing. They are without question the most helpful and generous group of people that I have ever encountered. They also love to party, which has helped me to feel right at home! I have been taken out to supper, brought to grocery markets and taught how to cross the street. Crossing the street here, I should note, is the scariest thing I have ever, ever had to do. The cars do not stop for pedestrians here. Pedestrians are on the bottom of the traffic food chain. We have to stop, often midway across the street to let the cars turning left pass. Then, we have to scuttle the rest of the way across before the light changes and the oncoming traffic begins. It’s a seriously terrifying experience that I once heard compared to playing Frogger. It was no exaggeration.

In case anyone is wondering- I did not end up going to the Great Wall on Thursday, on account of the all you can eat appetizers and drinks the night before. I will make it there sometime, as people are always planning trips to go there. I was suppose to go visit some caves outside of Beijing today, but the school has my passport in order to finish my Visa process and I guess I need to have my passport with me if I want to leave Beijing (just in case they ask for it). This sucks because I was really looking forward to this day trip. Hopefully I will be able to convince someone to go to Ikea and grocery shopping with me today to pick up some desperately needed items instead.

I’ll write again soon! I will receive comments through my inbox, but will not be able to reply because of the Internet block. So please send comments!