Archive for September 7th, 2005

Super Long Post

7 September 05

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with sights, sounds and new experiences and I haven’t had an opportunity to sit down and really blog about everything. So I will try to catch you all up on my happenings. Let me first say that I really, really like it here. We are basically living in a rural area with lots of peasants, and we are the first westerners many people have seen. Everyone is friendly, or at least curious about us, but never malicious. We are like celebrities; everywhere we go people watch us. We are 30 Kms from the big industrial city of Shijiazhuang, but there are several buses per day that we can take into the city. It is a new city, growing rapidly since the 50s, so there are not a lot of antiquities or old buildings. But variety there is. Everything can be found here. We went to a supermarket today that had everything you could want, except maybe deodorant. Maybe not the exact brand, but I was surprised to see Herbal Essence Shampoo, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and all kinds of Post cereals. But more about that later!! Now let me tell you about our arrival here, our last few days, and various thoughts and observations.


The airplane ride from Vancouver to Beijing was excruciating. If you ever do this flight, go first class if at all possible!!!!! An economy seat is just too small for 12 hours. Neither one of us could really sleep, so we were exhausted by the time we arrived. And what a relief to get off that airplane! The Beijing airport is very modern and easy to navigate – there are signs in English and Chinese. We passed through immigration and customs without any problems.


We were met by Ted, the Chinese guy who is a sort of liaison between the academy and the Chinese world. He speaks English, which was a relief. We went to a hotel close to the airport to stay the night. The drive from the airport reminded me a bit of Costa Rica. There were lots of small industrial brick buildings, like auto repair shops and who knows what else. The street was tree lined – Most of the streets and highways are planted with flowers, shrubs & trees.


DH and I decided to take a walk around the hotel, to have a look at the neighborhood. It was probably working class, but we weren’t too sure. Everyone just stared at us. I’m surprised there weren’t any bicycle crashes the way they kept their eyes on us and not the road. (By the way, there were bicycles everywhere!) We had dinner at the hotel. The restaurant was comical to us, because we were not used to having a waitress standing over you waiting for you to decide what to order. Basically we just pointed to a picture of what we wanted – no English. We had some sort of stewed eggplant which was incredibly delicious. We went to sleep at 8 PM! DH went for his medical exam and immigration paperwork in the morning, and I watched an English movie on Star TV. He came back with Ted at 11 and we left for Shijiazhuang. On the way, we stopped for lunch and had the famous Peking Duck, which is so good!! You sort of have to look past all the duck fat, and just eat it. The duck comes sliced up. You take a very thin pancake and add a few slices of duck, hoisin sauce, cucumbers and onion, and then wrap it up and eat it like a little taco.


Now we are at the Shijiazhuang Airport, living in a hotel. The aviation academy DH is working for is brand new and very impressive. All of the classrooms have top of the line technology, computers, overhead projectors, etc. DH says it really is a dream teaching situation, better even than anything he saw in the US. (Mind you they have Western management). There is an assortment of instructors here from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, France, Italy and now Spain. Everyone seems nice, young and I’m sure they all have interesting stories. The students are mostly well-to-do Chinese and speak English fairly well. There is a gym, a “canteen” for meals and a lounge area at the school. There are a few more restaurants in the area, including a Russian style one we have eaten at several times. Evidently, there are several flights that come in from Russia, I think they must be cargo. So, one can always find Russian Vodka at this airport!


There is a small village, about 200 people, close by that we are going to venture to soon. We can buy a bicycle there for anywhere between $1 to $100. A bicycle is a necessity here at the airport, in order to get between the hotel and the academy quickly and also to explore a little bit. So far we have been into Shijiazhuang proper a few times. I like the city. Today we went there to the supermarket to buy some Nescafe, cereal and milk. We had some “street meat” which was a delicious burrito-like thing of shredded carrots, noodles, and a fried egg. It is made right in front of you on an old griddle pan set on top of a wagon, pulled by a bicycle. It was super hot which reassures me. I won’t drink the water, but I will eat food that is very well cooked. Anyway, it was delicious and so far I’m feeling fine. We ate in the botanical garden, across from a huge statue of Chairman Mao. With his hand raised in a salute, I felt like he was welcoming us!

Now here comes the bad news. My job with the school in Shijiazhuang didn’t work out. They wanted me to live at the school full time, and it was very difficult to get from the airport to the school. I didn’t come to China to be separated from DH, so I couldn’t take the job. But, there are a few possibilities for me still. There is a female doctor at the academy. She is here to provide care & first aid to the teachers & students. She speaks very little English, so I thought I could work with her and maybe teach her some Medical English. I know one thing for sure – I definitely want to learn Chinese, and as quickly as possible. Very few people speak English here, and then only a few words. The best purchase I ever made was a Mandarin Phrasebook which has been INVALUABLE, and I’ve only been here less than a week!

My impressions? I LOVE the food. I like the people. I like the language. I don’t like the pollution. (And we haven’t seen the worst of it, because for some reason it all cleared up the day we arrived – must have been the rain.) I feel very comfortable and safe. I’m happy. Everything is so cheap. DH and I ate at the canteen yesterday for $2, and we were full. Our breakfast burritos today were 12 cents each. I had a delicious yogurt drink for only 50 cents. I’m telling ya, life in China for a westerner is total luxury!

Well now you are caught up, I plan to blog more often and keep you all up to date.

Take care and I hope everything is great wherever you may be!

Oh one more thing – other than the internet, which we should soon have in our room, – I don’t have any access to news and what is happening out there in the Western world. I feel very isolated because of that. For example, I don’t have a very clear idea of what is happening in Louisiana and Mississippi, only that it is very bad. Unfortunately some of my friends have been directly affected by Katrina and I just want to express my concern and sympathy. Being on the other side of the planet, I feel completely helpless. I hope to be better connected soon.