Archive for October, 2005

Conservation in China

30 October 05

I read other blogs about China that include a lot of political commentary. This blog doesn’t include those kinds of things because I don’t have the time for all that newspaper reading and commenting. Today I was reading a blog I like, The Peking Duck, and I came across an entry I would like to share with you. In this entry, The Peking Duck discusses an article by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in which Friedman writes about environmentalism in Southern China. I think it is a fascinating read, as I had no idea these sort of conservation initiatives existed in China. If you are interested in reading more, here is the link: “Green Dreams in Shangri-La”

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Because 3 Stars is Never Enough

27 October 05

Today is turning out to be a nice, somewhat blue sky day. I love these days! With the cool weather and the sun shining as brightly as is allowed in China, I feel happy and invigorated. Looking out the window, I’ve noticed that the once brown, barren fields surrounding the hotel are now green again. A few weeks ago, after the corn harvest, I noticed the farmers tending to the fields, now I know that they were indeed planting something. The visibility is good, so that means the students will be flying.

Down the street from our hotel workers have been constructing a mammoth mansion-looking building. We have been hearing all sorts of rumors about what the building is supposed to be. Turns out that it is going to be an “international club” with about 70 hotel rooms. (5 star rooms) Supposedly it will have a restaurant, lounge, gym, swimming pool, turkish bath and who knows what else. Some of us instructors (the first 20) are going to get some of the hotel rooms. I’m very curious about this, as we are in the group of 20. Sometime in the next 2 to 3 months it should be completed and then we’ll see if these rumors are true. Personally, I’d love to live in a 5 star hotel with a pool and turkish baths at my doorstep. (Our current home is a 3 star hotel.) Here is a photo of the mansion about a month or so ago. There has been a lot of progress since this photo was taken, I’ll try to get some updated shots.

mansion_hotel

It’s 12:15 and I am off to work this afternoon. I hope wherever you are, your day is beautiful and blue, too.

Chinese Phlebotomy

27 October 05

This morning I awoke bright and early to get some blood drawn. Just the sort of thing I love to wake up to. I’ve been meaning to get an Hepatitis A vaccine since we arrived, and finally the academy doctor organized a massive vaccination sweep for the whole academy. First, though, we had to have blood drawn to test for anti-bodies to Hep A & B. The blood draw was relatively painless. The technicians, or nurses, or doctors or whoever they were, knew what they were doing. Believe me, I’m a pretty harsh critic having done the job myself. Everything was clean and the needles were brand new, of course, as I expected. I was amused by one thing, though, to clean the skin before the needle stick, the techs dipped a cotton swab into a small glass jar of iodine, cleansed the skin, then used a second cotton swab to dip into another jar of alcohol to remove the iodine. The cotton swabs were hygienic and new, but I am not too sure about the little glass jars. Back in the west, I was used to ripping open a small, individually wrapped cotton square. We should have the results in the morning and get the first dose of our vaccines after that. I hope I don’t get deported when they see I have anti-bodies to Hepatitis B! (I’ve been previously vaccinated!)

Another little note, last night we went shopping for food at the big supermarket in the city. I am happy to report we are now the proud owners of a bottle of Tabasco Jalapeno Sauce. I know, doesn’t seem like much, but you find yourself ridiculously happy to find western products you didn’t even know you liked all that much.

P.S. Ten points to the readers who know that phlebotomy means blood draw!

Hmm… I Guess My Life is Boring Right Now

24 October 05

Sorry about the lapse over the last week, I suppose I haven’t had too much to blog about. Today is DH’s birthday. Over the weekend we celebrated both his birthday and the arrival of a good friend, M, from Spain. It has been three years since we have seen him and it is great to be together again. When we lived in Costa Rica, M was our roommate. Here we are again in a developing nation!

By celebrating, I mean we ate at our favorite City Chinese restaurant and went out to a popular club for dancing. We were quite surprised to see about 15 Americans there, who are all English teachers in the city. It was nice to chat in English about our shared experiences in China and how they found the city to live in. We have heard rumors that we may be moving into apartments in the city soon. Rumors are best ignored until they are no longer rumors, however, especially in China.

We spent very little time in the city over the past week so it was nice to get out. I’ve been working very hard (yea, I know, 4 hours a day is such a trial…) and we’ve been homebodies, spending our time reading or cruising the internet.

I’ve noticed some fall foliage around the airport, so I will try to get some pictures uploaded this week!

Life with Animals

16 October 05

Another Sunday morning and I find myself in front of the computer, reading the “newspaper” and sipping some good old nescafe. One thing that I love about China is that there is always boiling water available – all the hotels and restaurants have these big metal water heaters with a tap for dispensing the perfect temperature water for tea and coffee. Many people fill up a thermos to keep hot water with them through the day. I’m not a fan of drinking plain hot water, as the Chinese do, but I do love tea and instant coffee.

Perhaps I should call this week’s posts “animal week,” as I have more animal related news. This time it is happy. We have pets! I’d like to introduce you to “Greg.”

Greg just appeared in our room one day, and we’re happy to have him, since Geckos

greg_gecko
eat bugs and all. Besides, he’s quiet and doesn’t require any care!
We’ve also been looking in on our neighbor’s pets while he is away. So here is pet #2, Roxy, an adorable kitten.

Roxy
Roxy is a cute little cat with a ton of energy, which contrasts nicely with pet #3, a nameless turtle.

turtle_sun
This turtle climbed up a little porcelain mountain that is sitting in his bowl in order to maximize his sun exposure. Interesting animal, but not nearly as cuddly as Roxy.

Our final pet of the day is a bit of a surprise, really. Yesterday the power went out at the hotel for several hours. Out of boredom we did a little exploring and went up to the roof. There we discovered that the rooster who wakes us up every morning at 4 AM actually lives on our roof, not at some distant farm as we had thought. Here is a pic of him, taken from our room window.

rooster
So as you can see, animals are becoming a big part of our life, and not just for eating! 😉 (although I think the rooster’s days are numbered.)

Dog, No Longer Just Man’s Best Friend

13 October 05

Warning! PETA members, animal fanatics and the overly sensitive may not wish to read any further…

I’ve just heard some rather distressing news. It seems that “dog season” will soon be upon us, and no, I do not mean that it is time to buy a new pet dog or the time to take your pet dog out for a walk. What I mean is that dog will soon be a menu choice at many of the restaurants around here. I really don’t feel very happy about dog season. I understand that here in this part of the world, it is just another meat, as is donkey, but I just can’t come to terms with it. From what I’ve seen and heard, the preferred breed for eating is German Shepard. I know, it just seems so wrong. Gives new meaning to “Chocolate Labrador” doesn’t it? Now, don’t get too freaked out, many Chinese do keep dogs as pets, particularly the small Pekingese and the Cocker Spaniel variety.

The saying goes “When in Rome…,” but I think I will pass on this one, as I have done with the donkey, I will never be that Roman.

And You Thought I Was Joking About the Pollution!

12 October 05

I’ve taken some pictures out of my hotel room window so that you have an idea about what sort of weather we get around here. The first photo is of the most beautiful day that I have seen yet in my 5 weeks in China. In the distance you can see a mountain, something I had never seen until the day the photo was taken. In the second photo, you can see the same exact shot, but taken today, when it is foggy and heavily polluted. To be fair, I must say that it is not only pollution that makes up this misty veil. It is very humid and likely to rain tonight, so much of what you see is actual fog. Still, this is what heavy pollution days are like, with visibility at just 1 kilometer. Could you learn how to fly an airplane in that?

mountain_view no_mountain
Pretty dramatic!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

10 October 05

To all my Canadian friends ~ Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all enjoy the day and eat lots of good food! For those of you working today ~ yea! Time & a half!

Swan Lake on the Backroads

9 October 05

Friday evening we took a taxi into the city. The driver chose the backroads, something we try to avoid, but since it was still light we decided it would be okay. Not okay. The backroads are scary, and let me try to explain what I mean by scary.

Chaos, mayhem, terror – words I use to describe driving (or at least being a passenger) in China. Every driver is very familiar with every square inch of their vehicle. They know exactly how much space they take up and how  much room they require to pass another vehicle, and they take full advantage of this knowledge.

Imagine a two-lane road with small shoulders on either side. Add to the picture large trucks, overloaded to the max with who-knows-what, (and believe me, you do see all sorts of interesting things). Add a few crazy taxis, regular passenger cars and big buses. Add some tuk-tuks and tractors pulling small trailers loaded down with so much plant material (or something random like empty boxes or styrofoam) that you can’t see around them. And just for fun, throw in mad motorcyclists, hordes of bicyclists and the occasional lady sweeping the shoulders with a handmade broom. Take all of these objects on that little road and shake them all up. Make sure that everyone is trying to overtake the vehicle in front of them while another vehicle barrels straight-on towards them. Make sure none of the motorcycles or bicycles have lights or any reflective material at all if riding at night. Make a suicidal pedestrian dart in front of speeding cars. And make sure everyone is calm and accepting of this mayhem, because for some reason this crazy system actually works. People here don’t seem to mind being inches from death at any given moment. It is all like a highly-choreographed ballet. Except for, trust me, you don’t want to buy tickets to this one!

We survived and made it to our destination – yet another Brazilian-style, meat-on-a-skewer restaurant, except for this one had a brewery on site and really good German-style beer. Chinese people must really love meat, because this is the third such place we have been to in our month here.

Corn Harvest

9 October 05

I’m experimenting here to see if I can post a picture in this space. I took this photo yesterday, in the village. The corn has been laid out to dry on the street in front of some stores. It was just a random shot and I didn’t expect it to come out so well!

corn_harvest