Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I know that some of this is a little repetitive if you have read this blog, but this is my introduction blog for Cultural Embrace and I figure I might as well post it here. I wrote it on the train to Beijing...
So, I've been here in China for almost three weeks, but I'm now starting the third leg of my journey. First I will be returning to Beijing for the Cultural Embrace teaching orientation and then, a few days later- Inner Mongolia! I'm really excited to meet not only the other teachers but also the students and faculty I will be working with for the next month. I think the thing I'm most excited for about Cultural Embrace is meeting new people here in China. I've worked at a preschool/summer camp for a few years, but teaching English will be a whole new ballgame. I can't wait to have, as Emlyn Lee says, "twenty pairs of eyes looking up at me", waiting for me to start a lesson.
China has been fantastic so far! I got the travel bug last year when I studied in Cambodia and Vietnam in May, and I am so happy to be back in Asia. I have been traveling throughout China and studying Contemporary Daoism and Eastern Religions since June 8th. As an International Studies Major concentrating in Asian Studies I have some insight into Chinese culture, and it has been awesome getting to put some of what I have learned at the College of Charleston (in the great state of South Carolina) to use. I have definitely used the few weeks I have been here to learn as much as possible about everyday life. Now I feel pretty comfortable ordering street food or buying things from stores, but there is always room for improvement.
In just a few hours my bullet train from Shanghai will arrive in Beijing and I'll have my last night before I meet some of the other participants. I have gotten to do a lot of the "touristy" things in China like see the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Panda Conservation Center, and the Great Wall, but I missed the Forbidden City. That will be a great trip during orientation. See everyone soon. Here's to new friends, interesting experiences, and a great summer!
So, my College of Charleston classes and Daoist tour of China have officially ended, and I bid my friends farewell as they head back to the US or to a Daoist Conference. I will go back to Chengdu with Dr. Siegler and find my own adventure there because the border to Tibet is temporarily closed. Most likely this is due to the 90th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (July 1). While in Chengdu, I stayed at the Dreams Traveler Hostel in the Wuhousi area. It was pretty nice, but one of the first things I noticed was that there were fewer western patrons than I would have imagined. As I was figuring out where the closest ATM was, an Irish voice greeted me. I guess the most surprising part was that it had come from a Chinese guy! Ben, who had moved to Ireland when he was young, became my good Chengdu friend for the week. After booking a flight to Shanghai for later in the week and checking out the huge Chengdu bookstore, Ben and I got Indian food and explored some of the bars in Chengdu. We found that the crowd at Shamrock's was a bit too old, but Jellyfish was really fun. I ran into Will Cutler from my Chinese class there. Out of how many millions of people there are in China, and the hundreds of cities, I ran into one of the 20 kids from my Chinese class! Unbelievable!
I'm loving the hostel living experience, but the lack of English speaking guests made it difficult to meet many people. My roommates were silent sams, but I used the most of my second day to send out emails and then go to the Chengdu Panda Center with Dr. Siegler and his kids. It was pretty sweet to see pandas up close, and the red pandas were being fairly active. I tried to find out how to hold one, but couldn't figure out where you could do it, even though it's advertised almost everywhere. I guess there will have to be a next time! Today I also had a bad experience with doing laundry in a Chinese washer, but am pretty thankful that when it all dries I will have relatively clean clothes for once (albeit still with grease spots from food).
On the 26th, (my third day alone) I got all the Cultural Embrace stuff squared away! Totally excited to go and teach and meet all the other teachers in Beijing! This morning I also discovered the rooftop area of Dreams Traveler which has a tv and tons of relaxing couches and a nice view of the area. You can even see Jin Li street if you look from the far side of the roof! For a treat I went to dinner at the Sichuan Opera and saw the mask switching and firebreathing acts. It was such a phenomenal show, and I kept thinking that a show like this could do pretty well for an American audience, too. It would have to be altered a little, but still enjoyable for most people. A girl also played some bluegrassesque songs on a Chinese instrument that looked like a two stringed banjo. Also, I have run our of deodorant, and because no one in China knows what it is, have given up on it for the time being. I don't smell too bad... hahaha.
For most of the 27th I thought how cool it would be to travel around China or SE Asia with friends. I'm really enjoying hostel life (thank goodness they have western toilets). Also, I have discovered that some emails are also blocked so their recipient never gets them. Seriously, China?!? Are you kidding me? No. I checked out Jin Li street again in the daytime. They have some crazy food stands and tons of little shops. It is created to look like old Chengdu (except they have a Dairy Queen!) I'm getting really tired of all the spicy Sichuan food; it's killing my stomach, so I've been getting western food at the hostel or not-spicy noodles from down the street. I'm leaving tomorrow for Shanghai to meet up with Helene, and so for my last night here, Ben and I got Tex-mex and I tried to teach him to do a Southern US accent. It's pretty amusing to teach someone from Ireland to speak with a southern accent. I would say I have a pretty neutral accent, so it was kind of difficult even for me to talk like a Texan. I also tried to speak like an Irishman, but there wasn't much success there. The bars were dead because it was a Monday, but we met some interesting people.