Getting lost seems to be a common problem for me. I guess it’s good because it means I’m getting out and exploring. My friend Chris tells me that I will look back on these experiences as cool adventures, but it doesn’t seem quite so cool in the moment when I can’t find my way around a new city.
I’ve gotten lost on campus two days in a row, but both times the Chinese students have helped me find my way home. The problem is there is construction going on in the campus so one day they just built a wall right where the gate was that led me from my apartment to the center of campus. This is the zebra building. If I can make it that far I know my way back to my apartment.
The wall is such a problem now because now a 15 minute walk to class has become 30 minutes and I don’t have a bike or anything to get around. It wasn’t so bad today walking but if the weather is bad it’s going to be a really terrible trip. The building itself is a clock tower. I love the architecture.
These are the stairs I will climb up for class on Monday’s and Wednesday’s. I guess I won’t need a stairmaster.
Here is my classroom. It’s a really great University. It’s one of the top schools and because of that there is heat and AC in my classroom. That is a luxury that is not standard in China. After checking things out I asked a Chinese student where the bathroom was. She replied “I’ll show you” and smiled brightly at me. That’s one of the great things about China, everyone smiles all the time. The students seem so happy when I ask them for help. The bathroom was a squatty-potty and I don’t have strong enough thigh muscles yet to hold that position. I went home instead.
Yesterday Mary (who is quickly becoming my adopted grandmother) and Sabine and I went to Wal-Mart. I asked how far it was there and everyone said “just a little ways”. A little ways in Chinese time is about a 45 minute walk or maybe 3 miles or so (I’m not really sure how far because I don’t have a pedometer or anything to clock the distance). I didn’t wear my sneakers so the ballet flats I had on quickly became very much like walking barefoot on concrete and my feet and hip sockets were sore this morning when I woke up. I’ll get used to it though… this is China.
Everyone here shops at Wal-Mart, it’s always super-packed. When we were finishes shopping (and putting everything in our reusable grocery bags), Mary suggested we take the elevator back down to the first floor. There was this little Chinese girl who got on and her mother smiled and pointed at me. I waved at her and she grinned back. I think we may be the first foreigners she has ever seen (or at least enough of an oddity to draw attention).
I’ve told you all the great stuff about China, so in all fairness I think you should see the not-so-great as well. The pollution here is terrible. Andrew was telling me today that there was an incident last year where the sky turned orange for a day and the pollution level was at 800. Everyone was ordered not to go outside, and the one American that did go out wore a gas mask. Standard pollution levels in big cities in the US is 50. Anything more than that is considered hazardous, then again… this is China.
I found this today on the way home. The fish smell was overwhelming, and huge dead fish were all over the lake. There were also fisherman fishing on poles a little ways off. It makes me wonder where the fish at the market come from. Hmmm.
There is a road from the gate to my apartment but it is totally curvy and about an extra half mile long so I normally take the shortcut along here to go home. At least they recycle… kind of. There are several old men and street cleaners (considered the lowest class of people), who will go through all the trash looking for paper, plastic or glass because they can turn it in for money. Most of the English teachers try to separate the recycling so the people can find it easier.
Lastly, I told you I was not going to eat fast food in China. I’ve already broken that rule. Some of my family lives off campus and works at another school here in town. They wanted McDonalds for lunch so I got chicken nuggets. Matt drove me over there on the moped. It was a life changing experience because the streets here are crazy and people don’t stop if they see you coming. Also one of last year’s teachers left and Matt inherited their apartment to keep it in the family. They had a huge bedroom full of stuff that they were giving away. I got plates and bowls, a laptop bag, aprox. 40 DVD’s, a Scrabble game, and several books including some really good ones that are bi-ligual.
That’s about it until next time. I have to work on my lessons tomorrow so I will be prepared for Monday.