Wednesday, September 17, 2008

made in China voyage

Over the last two months, you might have been asking yourself this question: Did Jon leave his blog in Missouri? The answer is no. But I'll tell you what I did leave in Missouri : an incredibly comfortable pair of Eddie Bauer slippers, a cable that hooks my Macbook up to an HDTV, and most importantly, a 90-pill box of Lactaid. All remain tucked away in the Learfield corporate apartment in Jefferson City, waiting to surprise someone who enjoys all of my favorite past times; loitering in front of the TV while my body breaks down lactose. Don't worry, I replaced the Lactaid when I arrived in Virginia as soon as possible and I couldn't be more satisfied with the replacement; Kirkland Signature lactaid! I stopped in at Costco a few weeks ago and found the holy grail for the lactose intolerant; a 180-pill box of knock-off lactaid for $15; that's roughly 8 cents a lactose ingestion! Costco has done so much for me, I wish I could repay them. Maybe I'll donate some money...

Unfortunately, half of that box of Costco lactaid is now sitting in the Allison medicine cubpoard. The other half is with me here in Baoding, China, and I imagine it will be used just as much as its stateside counterpart.

"You need to buy milk over here, guys, to keep up with your dairy intake," Newt, our IECS Director, told us last night over a delicious Chinese meal.

"It's too late for me," I said, "you guys go on without me." Why Newt laughed at me when I said, "It's the worst thing that's ever happened to me," I'll never know.

The dairy is scarce over here, and generally unappealing. The milk is not kept cold at the supermarket, leading me to believe it's not actually milk, while the cartons of what looks like milk from afar are labeled "Yoghurt." I still swear it's really milk (it's so liquidy), but my Chinese friend, Gary, advised me that it is actually yogurt. However, I did find some imported Land O' Lakes cheese yesterday, and it was being kept cold, which is a good sign. It was over $6 (US) for a stick of sharp cheddar cheese, a price I will gladly pay when I begin to miss cheese.

I'm sharing an apartment with a gentleman named Ryan, a saucy Virginia Tech graduate and fellow IECS employee. Don't worry, he loves Virginia Tech just as much as the rest of you hokies out there. Ryan, Newt, and I were invited to be introduced in front of an English class at the Hebei College of Finance yesterday (the school where we will be teaching starting next week). I explained that I was excited to be a teacher and was a graduate of Old Dominion University. Ryan followed by carefully anunciated the fact that he graduated from Virginia Tech, home of the greatest American football team in the world, followed by applause (they like to do that).

I was also given the opportunity by Ms. Zhao, the Dean of the English Dept., to be introduced in front of one of my future classes, much to my surprise, as well as the students'. The freshman class of about 20 girls and 2 boys picked their heads up from their workbooks as I walked in (with Ryan), looking confused. I explained who I was and that I was from Ver-jin-eea and that I was excited about being their teacher next week. Silence. Their mouths gaping, as if they were all waiting for spoonfuls of cough syrup. This is consistent with several aspects of Chinese culture: students know their place in the class room; they sit quietly and wait for a lecture, pen at the ready, with no expectations of having to vocally participate; it's also not common to see white foreigners in Baoding, let alone have them as teachers; also, at the halfway point of each class, Chinese students expect to be fed a collective spoonful of cough syrup. Speaking of syrup, soda tastes much better here. As is the case in many countries, the soda in China is made with real cane sugar, as opposed to corn syrup in the US. Hooray for empty calories! But back to teaching, all of my classes are freshman Oral English classes, while Ryan's are all sophomore Writing classes. Each class is about two hours, and all of my classes are in the same classroom, which is quite convenient. The campus is brand new, with nice facilities; there's even a western coffee restaurant on campus (Ryan and I were served french fries there yesterday, even though we didn't order them).

Ryan and I aren't the only teachers on the IECS team in Baoding. There are three other teachers teaching at another school in the area, Hebei University; Tim, Amelia, and Emily. While the Hebei College of Finance has about 10,000 students, Hebei University has nearly 50,000. All three of them are wonderful people, and, like Ryan, are already becoming close friends, except for Tim; what a jerk. Just kidding. Tim has been a close friend since 9th grade, and I'm so blessed to have him here with me. Soon the ten minute walk in between our apartments will be cut down to 2 minutes after we both buy Autobikes.

Ryan and I's apartment is very adequate. We each have our own room and our own TVs, complete with ridiculous Chinese commercials; there's a kitchen with a stove, microwave, refrigerator, and toaster oven; there's a shower with hot water, and a western toilet. One lesson we learned the hard way is, you can't flush your toilet paper. Newt, Tim, Amelia, and Emily all wanted to come see our apartment for the first time yesterday. We brought them over and as we began the tour, our steps made splashing sounds, which wasn't there when we had left that morning. So, the tour mostly consisted mopping and sweeping up water which covered half of our apartment. It's all dry now, but we having gotten a chance to buy cleaning supplies; so, the floors are quite dirty, and we are definitely walking around in sandals until we remedy the problem.

The next few days will be spent doing several things: We all need to do some shopping to buy essentials, which will also help us get to know Baoding better. We all begin teaching next week, which will take a lot of preparation. Luckily, all my classes are once a weekers; so, one lesson plan a week should do just fine. I need to work on ways to get my students to loosen up. Hopefully, I can use Newt as a resource while he's still here; he's amazing at getting them to open up and be themselves. My mornings will also be spent getting up progressively earlier. Yesterday morning I woke up at 5am and this morning at 3:30am. At this rate who knows when I'll be waking up next week!

Thank you all for thinking about me and these things.


Also, my sister, Faith's kidney transplant went extremely well yesterday! Her new kidney, which was inside my mom just a few days ago, is successfully producing urine, which sounds gross, but is great news! Continue to be mindful of her and my mom as well.


Zachbot3000 said...

HOLY CRAP YOUR ALIVE! I was getting worried. I almost removed you from my reader the other day. Thank goodness I did not. PS It is ridiculous that you are dominating our fantasy football league when you missed the draft and am now in China. I am pissed.

Jarred D. said...

I can't believe it. I had written you off. I'm glad you're still alive.

Starbuck said...

Don't drink the milk, it's poisoned!

Glen! said...

Glad to hear about your sister's new pee machine... very very good news.

Drink up on that milk.

Oh, by the way, these slippers are INCREDIBLE!

Christine said...

I'm a big fan of Costco... big fan...!

Great to hear about your life over there. Sounds pretty sweet. I'm excited your back on blogging. Your entries are so fun!