Archive for November 21st, 2006

Blighted Homeland

21 November 06

This doesn’t have anything to do with China, but I thought that some of my family from the 4 corners area of the US might be interested in this story I found in the LA Times.

Uranium mining was huge in the 4 corners – where Colorado, Utah, Arizona & New Mexico meet. I remember distinctly my father talking about his friends who worked in the uranium mines in New Mexico. I also remember hearing about tailing ponds that were lakes of viruntly radioactive material.  (I’m not sure that viruntly is a word, but you get my idea.)

The LA Times newspaper is running a four part series about this uranium mining and how it has affected the Navajo Indians in the area. The Navajo are a group particularly close to my heart and I was just horrified to read the articles. Again, another case of humanity’s reckless disregard for both the planet and her people.

Blighted Homeland 


So Here We Are Again in China

21 November 06

As I posted yesterday, we’ve arrived! It seemed very natural coming back to China. I guess after our year here, I grew quite accustomed to the Chinese and the language. (Having lived previously 3 years in Toronto’s Chinatown helped, too.)

We spent our first day in Qingdao, meeting some of the head office workers and doing our visa medical checks. Then we explored the city a bit with our new Chinese friends – Ivan’s assistant in the Flight Operations Department, the girl responsible for getting our visas, and one of the company drivers. Qingdao is a very nice city located right on the coast of the Yellow Sea. The city has a German feel to it because the Germans colonized the area. It also has a modern feel because the city will be hosting the sailing events of the 2008 Olympics and there has been a lot of investment in building houses, apartment buildings, office towers and more. It seems to me like a great place to be in China. Unfortunately, we do not live in Qingdao, we live in Linyi, about 3 hours to the South.

The location is good for a flight school because Linyi has a small airport with only about 3 commercial flights per day, to Qingdao & Shanghai. This means that the ATC doesn’t have to worry about fitting the small trainer aircraft in between airliner landings and take-offs. (Although in the West this is no problem, in China small aircraft are a new thing and ATC likes to treat a Cessna 172 much like a Boeing 737.) There is also less pollution here because the area is not really industrial. (I’m not really sure about the pollution level yet because both days here have been cloudy with some fog. There is a high humidity level here.) The airport is also mostly owned by Shandong Airlines, which is the airline that the flight school is associated with. These things SHOULD make running a flight school easier.

The flight school is just getting started. We are here to witness and participate in the beginnings and growth of the school, which is very interesting. Since things are just starting, we are using offices in a building that belongs to Shandong airlines. To be honest, it is not new, nor is it very comfortable. The company plans to build their own office building, with classrooms, offices and dispatch area. DH is now the Chief Flight Instructor and Manager of Flight Operations. Me? Well, I haven’t figured that out just yet, but I will be doing some management work of the ESL department and some teaching. In fact, tomorrow I start teaching a class in Radio Telephony Communication – something I know absolutely zero about!

We are living in the airport hotel, and I am not sure if it has stars or not. Our room is small, but adequate, and it at least has heat. The TV has only Chinese channels. (They don’t even have CCTV 9, the Chinese English Channel.) Our bathroom is a pre-fabricated bathroom, exactly the same as the one I had on my Yangtze River cruise. It feels a bit like I am in a trailer when I am using it, but it is fine. The only problem is we haven’t figured out when the hot water is on. (The water was hot last night, but freezing cold in the morning.) As usual, the mattress is rock-hard. (We MIGHT get an apartment in the city sometimes soon!)

The airport only has one restaurant, which isn’t very good, but the good news is that the city is only a 5-minute cab ride away. We took a taxi to the city center yesterday and it cost us 17 Yuan (2 USD). So it is very easy to go to the city if we want to shop or eat. For now, all the company workers live in a few apartments in the city and the foreign instructors and students live at the airport. (Well, right now Ivan and I are the only instructors.)

Linyi is a small Chinese city, and in China, small usually means 2 to 3 million people and less sophistication and modernity. I’d say that is about right. The city resembles Shijiazhuang in some aspects, but I think that basic Chinese city layout is more or less the same. The traffic is crazier than Shijiazhuang, if that is possible. We are used to it, so no big deal. We are also major celebrities here. Everyone, I do mean everyone, stops to stare at us. We got quite a lot of hellos and goodbyes and even the occasional where are you from. I am really oblivious to the staring. It doesn’t bother me in the least, which is strange, I think.

Last night we were invited to eat dinner with the other company workers. We went to a restaurant in the city that serves traditional food. To our surprise, the restaurant was of the biological variety (the biological restaurant is the Chinglish name of a restaurant at the Shijiazhuang airport that resembles a greenhouse, full of plants and a meandering concrete stream with fish.) It turns out that these types of restaurants are common in China. I had no idea. Anyway, we were a large group, all Chinese except Ivan and I. We ate some really delicious food; I’d say the best food I have ever eaten in China. We toasted each other (a must in China) and tried to carry on conversations. Some could speak English, some only a little, and others none.

At Panam, we were among a large group of Westerners. We really didn’t have a lot of social contact with the Chinese. I’m not sure why. The culture within the school just put a lot of distance between the Westerners and Chinese. But not here. Here, I think we are going to have constant social contact. I have a feeling that my Chinese is going to improve drastically, because there is a lot less English spoken here and because we have closer relationships with the Chinese side of the company. I guess I shouldn’t have renamed the blog, because this time I think we really are going native.

Well, these are my first impressions, let’s see if they change any in the coming weeks.  I plan to update the blog everyday, internet connection and sneaky Tor-ing willing.