Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So at BaiYun Mountain, the mountain (or "mountain", maybe a hill) in the northern part of GZ, which gives the airport and district its name, has an "extreme sports" area, including a bungee jump. Trever had done it a week or so earlier, and said he had a blast (after aging 1o years!). So the other Thursday I went ahead and did it, with the intent of just jogging up the part of the mountain to the "x-sports" area, checking it off my "China list," and heading back home before I went off to Hainan (see next post). As I signed up to get in the queue, I met some really cool American high school/college students that were studying Mandarin at the South China Univ. of Technology (SCUT, where Faye and Susan go), nearly all of whom were going to jump. So for about an hour I watched, still not nervous. Then one of the students, from Fairbanks, AK, told me about what it was like, and compared it to when he jumped in New Zealand...and that's when my heart started to beat more quickly. Then it was my turn to remove my wallet and shoes, and harness up, on the 50+-foot blue metal plank sticking out of the mountain, with the city in the background and trees far, far below. Techno music playing in the background, the 2 Chinese guys with broken English clicked in my foot-harness and said, "Listen to me. You start, count to 3, hold arms out, go forward. When finish, [demonstrates fastening lift carabiner] and say, 'OK.' Understand?" Then that was it. I stepped out, literally into thin air, asking myself, "Why did I just step into thin air?!?" as my body slowly flipped upside down, while falling 45 meters, then stretching the cable, then springing back up and plunging back down again maybe 6 more times...the whole time flailing my arms like a lunatic. It's all on video! It also gave me horrific dreams of jumping miles over Hong Kong at night, that night on the train to Hainan...but it was so worth it! If you haven't bungee jumped yet, put it on your "bucket list."

Macau, originally a Portuguese trading port, established several hundred years ago (the first fort was built in ~1528), is now one of two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) in China. It is also known as "the Las Vegas of China," as gambling is legal there, and there are many many casinos. I went there with Boss John and a teacher, Alex (about my age, originally from California) on the 8th (also the day Julien left China). We first drove to ZhuHai, the city next to Macau, and then hopped the border (after paying some guy to drive us to another entry port with a waaay shorter line). We entered Macau really close to the ruins of the St. Paul's church (Sao Paulo); it's just the front stone wall of this old church that burned down. Yep, just the wall. We also had these really good egg tarts (a Portuguese introduction), which are available in KFC's and bakeries in Guangzhou, but aren't as delicious and crispy as they are in Macau. We also walked through an art museum, and the Macau Museum, which had a lot of traditional Chinese displays that Boss John said reminded him of his childhood in GZ, such as getting drinking water via well and bucket. On top of the Macau Museum are the old cannons that used to fortify the building that the museum now occupies. Then we had lunch (coconut curry chicken, it was delicious!) and then walked to the Grand Lisboa, the tallest casino in Macau. After that, we took a taxi (all of which are brand new, with leather interior) to the black sand beaches...yes, beaches with black sand! But it just looked more like a dirty beach to me. Alex and I saved some sand in a water bottle. Finally, we checked out The Venetian, the grandest and most expensive hotel in all of Macau. It even has escalators that curve, and a miniature river with gondola rides! After that, we took the free casino bus back to the border and drove back to GZ.
Some fun facts: While Macau does have its own currency (the Pataca), Hong Kong Dollars are accepted, and seem to be more frequently used. There are also these creepy-looking red sheets of meat, like beef/pork jerky, sold on the streets. Cantonese, English, and Portuguese are the languages of choice, so between the three of us, it was super easy to get around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey everyone, it's time to fill you in on the last few weeks. I have a TON of stuff to write about. I now have over 1,500 pictures (and still growing by the day), 5 kinds of currency (American, Taiwanese, PRC, Hong Kong, and Macau), some weird knockoff clothing, and a taste for these cool little bakeries that are everywhere. It seems that every time I want to write something at length, I'm already out the door and doing something else! That's awesome; but then again it takes some discipline to just write (thanks Jon and Matt, and others...you know who you are).

I'll start with Yuexiu Park, which Julien, Trever, and I visited with Faye and Susan back in the beginning of August. I was pretty much recovered from being sick then. This is the park with the famous goat statue that is seen on all of the Guangzhou City posters/Asia Games propaganda around town. It's a large (maybe 20 feet tall) gray stone statue of 5 goats. This is from (or maybe represents) where Guangzhou gets its "nickname", the "goat city." No one knows why this is! But it's really popular. This is also where some more Chinese girls asked to get a picture with me (and Trever, seperately); one girl was super nervous this time. So funny!

There's also a monument for Sun Yat-Sen and a museum (the Guangzhou Museum) in the park, full of historical artifacts like paint powder, models of Western and Chinese trading ships, and a model of the solar system from maybe 100 years ago. Did you know, "Uranus" (I think) translates into Chinese as "asshole"? I'm learning a lot here!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

  • Well, the biggest difference between the US and China...there are many, but among the two major spheres of nature and people, people are the most different, of course! The natural landscape is neat; hot humid weather (I was literally sweating INTO my soup at a restaurant the other day), and palm trees! The sun shines a little more intense here in MN, but not deathly by any means (except at the water park with minimal sunscreen :) ). The people can be super duper nice and accommodating, especially since I'm a foreigner. I've rarely, if ever, felt hated against; foreign people are stared/looked at/ photographed, like I'm a fascinating kind of animal! But the ignorant "country folk" here in Panyu can have bad manners. Cantonese people WILL cut you off in line; coming from a Western perspective, this does NOT make me happy! At KFC, in the store, waiting in line anywhere. Ok anyways, my favorite Chinese food? Rrobably fried noodles (Chao Mian, aka Chow Mein), And egg tarts (a Macau/Portuguese thing), and JiaoZi (dumplings) with peanut sauce. In my free time, I usually hang out with my new buddies (Chinese and foreign), traveling around the city; I've also been to Hong Kong and ShenZhen, and I plan on going to Macau next Sunday, Aug. 8th. What I miss most (besides friends and family) are: Duluth, Subway, real grilled hamburgers, American flags, GOOD cookies, motorcycles that are NOT driven on the sidewalk, clean air....I think of new things each day, but I'm by no means aching to go back; I think China's pretty sweet.

Friday, June 23 I went with Julien and Trever to the Western breakfast in this gated community called Clifford. It was in a "Vietnamese" restaurant called Jessica's, which served Vietnamese (spring rolls), French (baguette, croissant), and American (pancake/egg breakfast) food, with Latin music. It was very...international? And by that I mean confusing. I had an omelet (ordered off-the-menu) with 5 "toppings," was quite refreshing and filled me up for half the day; then went to the "foreign" store and bought gravy mix and shredded (Sargento) mozerella cheese for the Poutine. I also got a Kinder egg (the German/European chocolate eggs with a toy inside) and some random candy bar. I also bought a deck of cards, which do have Chinese writing on the box and Jokers, and have a motorcycle on the backs (as opposed to a cherub on a bicycle or something) but other than that, are just like your average playing cards. Then before work I tried looking for this store that sold games like Settlers of Catan (in Chinese!), and couldn't find it, but found a store that sold semi-Chinglish (unintentionally) signs (Gentlemen, No Fireworks, Push/Pull, etc.), Go, and a HUGE PRC flag! Why do I buy these things? Then after work, Julien, Kate, Alex, his wife Lulu, and myself all went to the arcades! They had a reallysweet-looking Drum Master (?) game, basketball hoops that give you tickets, Ski-ball, racing games, a Japanese cartoon drumming game, and this animal crane that grabs not stuffed animals, but stuffed turds with smiley faces!

I'm sick today, so I'm going to update the blog; yep, it's about time.

A few weeks ago (Sun, July 18)Julien, Trever and I all went to this amazing water park called Hanxi Changlong (Chimelong) Water Park; it's actually one of Guangzhou's biggest attractions, and only one metro stop away from ShiQiao! The park is one of two parks at Hanxi Changlong, the other is Chimelong Paradise, where all the roller coaster rides and lumberjack shows are. The park opens at 9:30am, and we arrived at 10. There were almost no lines in the morining! So we hit up as many as possible in those first few hours, especially one called the Behemoth Bowl, where you sit in a raft for 4 people and go around this toilet bowl. That was probably my favorite ride. The lines were the biggest in the afternoon, which was a good chance for the Chinese to get a good long look at us 3 odd-looking foreigners. In one line this one girl was poking Trever's blue-and-green eyes, and called them, "piaoliang," or pretty. Then when the line zig-zagged back again, she did so once more, etc. On another line, Julien rubbed his super-hairy chest and a bunch of Chinese people cheered.
The lockers cost a 20RMB (~$3 USD), with a 20RMB deposit, which isn't cheap by Chinese standards, but they're a necessity; but what surprised us was that the inner tubes cost at least 20RMB, as opposed to coming with the package when you enter the park. They were worth it; the park didn't have merely a lazy river, it had an Action River! The river had a few different themes (one for each section of the river), one of which was a "winter-land," with Christmas decorations and ice-cold water dripping on you, and another was a wave-pool like area of the river.
The water park also had 3 speed slides, which were among my favorite rides. We met a Russian guy, on vacation from Vladivostok, in line. From the line we could also see the brand new, high-end White Tiger (the mascot of Changlong) Restaurant, with a banner advertising such things as "Fresh Sesfoods." Sesfoods! Really, China, no spell check?
For dinner we had fried noodles and spicy squid-on-a-stick, it was all quite delicious! After sundown the wave pool had a concert (the stage sticks out into the wave pool), but the three of us took advantage of the lack of lines to fit in some more rides before the park closed. We met and rode on the "Tornado" (another huge raft ride) with some Columbian people. And by that time I had realized that the sun had completely burnt me to a crisp! I am still peeling just a bit to this day. Altogether, we were there for 12 hours. It was a great fun day!

Friday, July 9, 2010

In short: it's a blast! I've taught the D1 three times now, and the B6 about 5 or so times. Basically, with the D1 class I announce the new vocab. Words (pen, pencil, next to, Do you have my cell phone?...), ask the students to spell it out loud, and I write it down. Then I'll make up some sentences/dialogues and write them on the board, and we'll all say them out loud; then the real fun starts and we ask each other questions like, "Hi, my name is Apple, who is he? Where is he from?" The main point (and challenge for me) of the classes is to get the students to speak about 80% of the time. For example, last night I wrote a list of personal descriptions (tall/short, talkative/quiet, handsome/pretty, etc.) on the board and had my students and I each choose 3 things that describe them, and 2 things that don't, and practice asking other students about each other.

That brings me to another point: Like I may have mentioned before, the Chinese generally want to adopt an English name that sounds like their Chinese name, regardless of its English meaning. While many students have fairly common English names, some students here have some pretty amazing names, especially the kids: Yucky, Yuki, Yo-yo, Monkey, Banana, Apple (that one's

common), Candy, Roy, Moon (who happens to be dating a Sun), Ziva, Evan (for a woman), Jerry, Eisa, Kate, Cathy, Cat, Christine, Christie, Christa, Herman, Jackie (as in Chan), Peter, Zoe, Coco, Eva (pronounced Eeva), Lily, Winnie (popular name), Sunny, Gen (short for Genuine), Jessica (popular name), Mushroom, Queen, Pig, Carrot, Cherry, Cool, Wing (at least two of them), Sky, Ant, Bingo, and Enson. Apparently some of the other AIESECers at the other school (English Journey) that named one of their students Limousine. There also two tiny dogs here: one crusty and friendly one that lives in the canteen, and one clean dog that lives at the Huangs' house; both are named Lucy!

My B6 class has about 4-5 students, almost all of whom are ~18 years old girls that tell me I'm handsome every single day, bar none. It's basically two, 2-hour sessions a week where we can do whatever we want, as long as it's in English; the BBC Learning English has been a hit, and so are just discussing American and Chinese culture. I'm going to try to throw in some more games, I think they had a bit too much BBC last time.

Teaching the little kids has also been an awesome learning experience; I followed in the regular teacher, Chris', shadow (he happens to also be from MN!), and he's probably the best teacher at Bart. The kids were about 6 years old, and we had them practice asking each other's name and birthday. Then we played games practicing months of the year, like throwing a sticky suction-cup ball on the board sectioned off 1-12, and to recite the corresponding month. For break-time I was the gatekeeper, and had each student say all 12 months before they could leave the classroom. We finished off with a game of Twister in English, and the winner got a "point" (a Bart sticker that goes toward a prize).