Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wow, that weekend flew by.

This weekend came and went SO quickly! We didn't really do much. Saturday evening we went to a BBQ at a friend's home. Yummy burgers and veggies, and interesting conversation. Some of it was quite heavy, discussing the political situations in America and South Africa. But interesting nonetheless!

My little sister turned 22 over the weekend. Happy birthday, Bec!

Other news? Our tickets are bought, and the hostel is reserved; Beijing, here we come! Now we just have a little over a week to teach and wait. I suppose we can do that.

The weather is becoming much nicer. It's cooler, with a nice breeze. I can wear jeans now without being TOO uncomfortably hot. I'm hoping I can even wear a fleece in Beijing, since it's quite a bit north of here. I think I'm getting into that fall/winter holiday funk I fall into each year. I've got a craving for Woodland Mall. I love walking around the mall by myself around this time of year. I got into the habit when Matthew and I worked different schedules and only had one car. If I didn't feel like sitting at home for the evening, he would drop me off there. I would try on the pretty dresses at JC Penney, see a movie at Cinemark, walk laps around the mall, sit down with a new magazine and a salad from that yummy salad place. It was my "thing". It's so odd; I'm not missing THINGS so much now... it's more that I'm missing experiences. We won't be making our annual trip to Frankenmuth with Matthew's parents this October. We won't go apple picking together... we won't go to Battle Creek when it snows. I could get stuck on this, but...

Who knows what we WILL do! What is Fuyang like in the fall? The winter? What will people wear? Eat? Do? Will it snow? Sometimes it does. Last winter it didn't at all; but the winter before, there was a big snow. The whole city was at a stand-still. I would LOVE that! Michigan is trained. If the clouds dump on us, we push it out of the way and keep going. I would love for the world around me to actually pause; for people to look at the snow and go "Aw, crap. I guess we'll just wait." Here's to hoping!

This week not much is on the agenda. We are going to dinner with the Fuyangren (fuyang people)tonight for Larissa's birthday. I'm sure it will be a good time!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Construction, Construction, Everywhere!

Fuyang is growing... very quickly. The main road between Hangzhou and Fuyang has been torn up since we arrived, but now it's really bad. Even busses are finding ways around it.

Our apartment has overlooked new construction the whole time, too. There are buildings upon buildings of beautiful new apartments being constructed. We are pretty much on the outer edge of the "city" of Fuyang, so there were fields and such there before. Now, there are buildings. We've watched new solar water heaters being installed on the roofs (I have a desire to type ROOVES!), landscaping being planted, new guard shacks and gates being put in. It really is amazing to see. They are also building a road right next to our building that gives us a direct route to the Da Run Fa, our salvation/supermarket. We won't need to walk down the creepy-yet-endearing alley road anymore! I think the road should be finished in a month or so. That gives us three months of good use out of it.

There are also plans in progress for a train from Hangzhou to Fuyang. Oh, my, GOSH. I would LOVE to be here when that was here! Hangzhou is so close... a 45 minute drive by private car. But taking a hot, bumpy, smelly public bus takes `1 1/2 hours (sometimes 2!) and it makes it frustrating. Hop on a train and be there in 20 minutes? Wow. We'd blow ALL our money at the movie theater and Carrefour!

It's wierd. The friends we've made here all have different goals and plans for their lives. Some plan on staying in Fuyang forever. Some plan on traveling through China and living in different places. None of them have a date set to return home besides us. It definitely makes me feel a little out of place. We've had this wonderful experience, but it's very likely that once we leave in January, we will never see Fuyang again. We won't see the city grow. We won't see the new schools being built, or the train coming in.

Fuyang is a silly, wierd little city. We've had our share of frustrations... but it's home. Sure, maybe not as "home" as Grand Rapids, but I feel a connection with this city. I couldn't ever be one of those people who will stay here forever. I miss blue sky. I miss family. I miss Target. I miss Michigan weather. The list goes on. But what will I be saying in a year? "I miss Fuyang. I miss the Music House. I miss my friends. I miss the smell of BBQ on the street. I miss the Chinese songs I love so much".

Yeah, this post is a little bittersweet. But hey, sometimes you need that. Today is 9/15. On 1/20, our contract ends. That means, that in a week, the countdown will be "three months and some-odd-days". Jeesh.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beijing, anyone?

Does anyone read this anymore? I think we may have killed the blog by being blocked for so long. But hey, what can ya do?

We might be traveling to Beijing in October! We're trying to get the trip figured out (which mainly means, how can we do it dirt cheap?). We'd be going with our two good friends here, Jarvis and Larissa. A couples' trip to Beijing definitely sounds like fun to me. We'd take an overnight sleeper train round trip, and stay in hostels in the city. Visit all the tourist traps... the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, all that. Oh, and definitely eat us some Peking duck! We'll see. It's in the beginning stages. And traveling during the October holiday (Oct 1-7th) is a NIGHTMARE in China. Pretty much everyone gets the week off. That's a lot of people. So streets, trains, taxis, planes, busses... they are all packed (even more than Chinese stuff usually is). It'd be an experience, huh?

In other news, we recieved a care package today from family. I've never been so happy to see dryer sheets, deoderant, american gum, and KRAFT MAC & CHEESE!

Yeah, we've already torn into our Razzles. Thank you, McDonalds and Shaheens. You've sent smiles all the way across the world :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Things I Love about China

So... I seem to rant a lot about what I DON'T like about China... either here, or in emails. Really, I do love it! So I'm taking today's post to think on the things that I love about this great country.

1. The people are so friendly.
-People in the U.S. are rude. Really - if you bump into someone at home, you get a dirty look. Here, sometimes they don't even turn around. Also, people are so accomodating. We don't speak the language, but they are patient and kind with us.

2. The food is amazing.
-I'm not talking about our cafeteria stuff. I'm talking restaurant food. Or, better yet, HOMEMADE Chinese food. The couple here that own the Music House had several of us over for dinner one night. The food was honestly some of the best food I've had in China. Vegetables here are amazing. I even like tofu here!

3. Friends.
-We've made some great friends here, both Chinese and foreign. It's amazing to be in a place where there's such a melting pot of people to spend time with. Chinese, American, English, South African, Canadian, German, Phillipino, Czech, Korean, among others. It certainly makes evenings interesting!

4. The language.
-Honestly, I still only know enough words to fill up my fingers (and maybe toes... if I stretched). So... I don't SPEAK the language, but I love listening to it! I had stereotypes about what Chinese sounded like. When you are surrounded by it day in and day out though, you realize it really is a beautiful language. If it's spoken softly, it's very melodic and flowy. Of course, any language turns ugly if it's spoken harshly or loudly (which many do here).

5. Our apartment.
-It's tiny. Probably about the same size as our studio was in Kentwood; but it's home. The water heater always work, the stove works, we don't have bugs, there's not much noise... and it's just so darn cozy. I was surprised by how much I was looking forward to being back in my "home" towards the end of our vacation.

6. The nature.
-There isn't much in Fuyang, besides a few really pretty parks. Once you drive out, though, the hills and mountains are stunning.

7. Hangzhou.
-I've fallen in love with this city. There is SO much history here. The West Lake is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen when the lotus flowers are blooming. There is beautiful stone work, willows around the lake, flowers, bamboo, Chinese architecture...*sigh of contentment*. Plus, I love the shopping, the movie theater, the restaurants, the bamboo forests. No wonder it's often considered one of the most beautiful cities in China.

8. I love myself... here.
-I'm freer here. I don't have to plan ahead, don't have to stress about school and work. I'm able to kick back and relax. Matthew and I can spend more time together. I can spend time with friends, or with the girls. I'm healthier... despite the ever-present cloud of smog. I'm more confident, which tends to happen when you become used to people watching every move you make. I'm realizing that life is so much more than growing old, working, having a home. I'm free to dream here.

9. I've gained a strong respect for the Asian culture.
-Yes, China is crowded. It's got a funky government, crazy cities... but somehow it works. They make jobs for their masses. All of the stores are ridiculously overstaffed, with a person in almost every isle just waiting to asist you. At McDonalds, people wait in the corner to come clear off your tray when you leave. The "lawnmowers" at our school are 7 middle-aged women who go out on the field with a stool to sit on and a basket for the grass. They pick at the grass all morning long. Sounds ridiculous; "just buy a mower", you might think. But then what would those 7 people do for a living? There isn't such an emphasis on "cutting corners". People need to work, so why not create the jobs? People can actually make a living off of a tiny storefront selling only ice cream bars, or a little cart selling ramen noodles and veggies to mix in. People adore their families. They see the importance of activity; every night parks are filled with free dance lessons. Every morning, people gather for Tai Chi. Public transport is amazing. You can pretty much go anywhere in the country you want by bus or train. Taxis are cheap. The list could go on and on!

10. The children are amazing.
-I LOVE teaching these kids. I don't always love TEACHING, because the content I'm giving is sometimes lacking; but I love the kids. They are so happy and bright. They are curious and (for the most part) well behaved. They are content to run around outside during their break time, or to play rock-paper-scissors. They don't seem to be consumed by TV, video games (although they do love them!), barbies, etc. They love exercise; they like aerobics and dancing.

So there it is... 10 things I love about China.

Matthew and I have both finished our classes for the day. We're sticking around awhile to do some internet stuff, then going home. One of two things is gonna happen tonight... either Matthew will go to Boy's Poker Night, or we're going to hang out with the neighbors. Nothing too crazy for us... we're feeling so tired and lazy this week!

Monday, August 31, 2009


We can get in through a proxy again... even this site was being blocked at the office. So anyway, we are in. But still can't post pictures. At least we can tell you that we're alive, though! We're in the process of finding an online photo album site that will let us post from China. Most say that we can't from our location.

So... what have we been up to in the past couple months? We finished the summer school, and then sat around for two weeks doing nothing. It was wonderful. After that, we jetted off to Malaysia for two and a half weeks! At the risk of being long winded, I'm going to make a list of highlights.

1. Visited a couple malls in Kuala Lumpur that were 6 stories tall. And HUGE.
2. Felt almost at "home" because of the western comforts. Ate at Burger King. A & W. Outback Steakhouse.
3. Took bus through the mountains. One mountain was so big we had to back down in reverse and try again.
4. Took a boat 3 hours down the river to the entrance of the national park, Taman Negara
5. Spent a couple days in the rainforest. Saw many hugemongous insects, spiders, lizards.
6. Visited the Orang Asli, the native people of the area. Matthew blew a blow dart better than anyone else in our group. That's my hubby!
7. Went "rapid shooting" Which pretty much meant splashing the boat next to us. One grumpy man in front plugged his ears and pouted the whole way.
8. Ate chicken and rice for every meal there.
9. Took a bus to the ferry station for the Perhentian Islands.
10. Took a boat ride to the islands.
11. Sat on the beach for a week and a half doing nothing but sleeping, reading, swimming, and eating. Well, pretty much nothing else.
12. Snorkeled with sea turtles, huge fish, and SHARKS! Well, we snorkeled. They just swam around.
13. Matthew ate stingray, barracuda, and shark. I just ate chicken.
14. Met up with our good friend Larissa from China, and did more sitting, sunning, reading, sleeping. swimming!
15. Took an 8 hour bus ride back to KL. Did more shopping, more eating, more flying.

Now we are home, and school has once again started! It feels wierd to be back... and to know that our time here is over half done. We're settling back in, teaching classes today, and enjoying cooler weather.

More will be written later this week. For now, just know that we are safe, happy, tan, and looking forward to a Chinese autumn!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Plans

Summer is here... we have a month or less left of school. We can't seem to get a "for sure" date from anyone. What we DO know is that we will be teaching a summer English school here at Yongxing. It will be from June 10-25th... no days off. BUT, the good thing is that we will have no morning classes... just afternoon stuff for a couple hours a day. It'll make us a wee bit o'money, and let us get to know some more kids. Why not, eh? Apparently there will also be 4 canadians and an american coming to teach with us. So... the 6 of us already here, plus 5... 11 foreign teachers! Unheard of here. :)

We're learning more about it this afternoon. Beyond that, who knows. We are both procrastinators... we want to see Beijing at some point this summer. We'd also like to go out west, into the more undeveloped, deserty-ness of China. There are lots of trains that go out that way. We'll see... we want to find out when we can go, how much money we'll have, etc. We can also get into most countries around us (Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, the Phillipines, etc) without a visa if we are there 15 days or less... so maybe we'll add another country or two to our "where we've been" map. One thing I do know is that we'll be online much less frequently.

It's been a good week. Not much goin' on... our internet at home is on the fritz. We got to talk to the Matthew's parents on Skype yesterday. That was fabulous! It was great to see familiar faces on the webcam and get to talk to them. Love you guys! I hope more of our family can get some webcams and chat with us!

Anyway, I never thought I'd say this... but there's nothing interesting to report. We're alive, we're a little cooler (the weather's been cooler and rainier this week) and dragging a bit. I think it's just the hot summer blahs. Nothing like a fantastic watermelon to cure that! We bought one yesterday for 5 rmb... can't beat that!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer in Zhejiang Province

It's hot. Very hot. Some days it's not so bad, but others are miserable. Luckily, we have great air conditioning in our little apartment/cubbie. At school, though, everything is open. Windows, halls, etc. There are a/c units in the classrooms, but they don't seem to use them... too much power maybe? Sometimes they use the ceiling fans. Mostly, we just sweat through it. The poor students come in pouring sweat, and heaving from gym class outside. How can you expect them to TRULY absorb the intricacies of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns when they are so hot?
Most of my family knows that I do NOT do well in the heat. Actually, I'm doing much better than I thought! Sure, it's hot... but I'm not really having the terrible headaches I had back home. My headaches are mostly gone. Honestly, I think staring at a computer screen 8-10 hours a day was my biggest issue. So the heat doesn't's just HOT!
People here deal with the heat in a few different ways. One is naps. The school schedule changed once summer started, and now we have a 2 hour gap for lunch/naps at the hottest part of the day. If we stay in the office to do work, you will see teachers with their heads on their desks, or laying down on a reclining deck chair. People in the canteen sleep at the tables. Also, men hike up their shirts. When you walk down the street, it's common to see men with their shirts bunched up around their armpits, and their bellies showing. Girls just wear short, flowy dresses or shorts. I haven't actually seen any naked babies yet... it seems like even in this heat, they like to bundle!

Enough of that...

I've had a few people ask for a "care package list". So, here it is... the "I wants" And "I needs"....

-deodorant (you can't find it here!)
-cheesy skeezy tabloid weekly magazines for Amy(oh, how I miss my weekly dose of gossip)
-National Geographic for Matthew
-Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, People Magazine...
-mac n' cheese (you can NEVER have enough!)
-dryer sheets (most people don't have dryers... so no dryer sheets here. We have CLING!)
-gum (we've got a small hoard thanks to my uncle, but it'll only last so long! Chinese gum loses flavor really fast)
-letters from home... these are the best!
-Spam (ooooooohhh I miss spam)
-pictures of home... people... we wanna see your faces!
-Women's shoes size 9.5... CANNOT FIND here. Dressy sandals. They are all teeny here!!!

That's all I can think of for now. The address is in a past post... and we know it works. We've gotten a letter and postcard already!

Anyway, have a fabulous weekend. We plan on staying out of the heat, watching some horror movies borrowed from the neighbors, and just relaxing. As all the little ones here say,