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Hey all, we are ready for another weekend of teaching starting tomorrow, so I wanted to make a quick post about some random things. Not a whole lot is new since we came back from Beijing, but I went out for the first time to some real Chinese night clubs last night. We started the night getting dinner at a restaurant with our boss, Eddie, and the other teacher, David, and had a nice meal. Eddie was pretty drunk by the time we left the restaurant, so Erin made the wise choice of staying home instead of going to the club called the Toy Bar. David (the other teacher) wanted me to go and I felt bad leaving him with a drunk Eddie (again), so I tagged along. It was a pretty hilarious experience, especially considering all the horror stories the Chinese teachers at our school told us about massive fights, drug use and other things at this bar. Don’t worry, this would have been the tamest club in the USA, so it is incredibly edgy for Chinese standards. There were 3 dancers that came out every 15 minutes to do a little dance show, involving some bad hip hop dance moves that was quite amusing to watch. Random guys kept coming up to me and trying to buy me drinks or talk to me, and were touching me a LOT which was a little awkward, but is totally common in China. It was deafeningly loud and the room was filled with smoke, but it was still funny to see the Chinese people dancing horribly and singing every lyric to some of the worst English pop music I have ever heard. Why they are playing English pop music in a Chinese dance club is beyond me, but every person knew every word, so I guess they really like it. We left pretty early, before Eddie could do any serious damage to the place.

Overall we have adjusted to life here pretty easily and are having a good time. There are some things that are really starting to irritate me though. Nobody here looks before they cross the street. Cars just go before they look to see if things are coming. People will walk right at you until the very last second, then stop in front of you, THEN move out of the way. I truly do not understand why they do this, and it is a miracle that people aren’t killed constantly while crossing the street. I have asked Chinese people if they look both ways before crossing the street and they all say “No, we don’t do that.” Don’t do that?! Why? WHY? WHY?! It makes driving, riding a bike, and even walking that much more difficult, dangerous, and time consuming, because you have to always move out of the way of people that are paying no attention to anything. In America this is some people, some of the time. In China this is all people, almost all of the time. I have seen lots of traffic accidents the past few weeks, almost all involve a taxi and someone trying to turn. People just turn, they don’t look. They just go and hope traffic stops. Most of the time it does, but again, why not just follow the obvious (to an American) rules of the road, which will save you time and cause less accidents. For now, I just keep both eyes on the road at all times, because you never know what people will do.

Only one more complaint, I know everyone is probably really enjoying my whining. I do not think a single person in China turns their cell phone on vibrate. You can be sitting next to someone on a bus that will get 50 text messages in 10 minutes, with their phone making lots of noise each time, and the only person that it appears to annoy is me. It is not just in those situations, though, because the Chinese teachers and the parents of students that are in class will let their phone ring away in the middle of class, and it is like nobody even notices. Obviously this is not a big deal most of the time, but it is pretty annoying when you are trying to teach and have to start screaming to talk over the noise. It is to the point that I think it is perhaps a sign of status to have your phone make a ton of noise, the more often the better. My mind often tempts me to grab the parents cell phones in class, smash them against the wall, but I try to remember good ol’ Kung fu Tze (Confucius) saying, “Let there be no evil in your thoughts.” Serenity now, as Cosmo Kramer would say.

Alrighty, we are going to watch an episode of our new TV series that we got, Madmen. We finished The Wire a few days ago, and if you have never seen it, you should watch it (it is for mature audiences only)! I have attached some more pictures for your viewing pleasure from our trip to Beijing. Time to teach all weekend for us! Get on skype so we can chat. Zaijian.

Ran Qiu said, “It is not that your Way does no commend itself to me, but that it demands powers I do not possess.” The Master said, “He whose strength gives out collapses during the course of the journey (or the Way); but you deliberately draw the line.” The Analects, 6.10

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So we had nothing at all to do today, so we decided to try to see a little bit of the city we will be living in.  We went with Eddie and Sally (owners of the school) and the other teacher, David.  The first place we stopped at was one of the major outdoor markets, which was an interesting experience.  It started with 4 of us getting in the back of a 3 wheel, motorized cart.  These things are all over the place, and they are just really cheap taxis.  You can see a picture of 3 of us and the driver all crammed into the little cabin.  At the market, there was a huge meat and fish market which was a little depressing, and I don’t think it would have quite passed the US’s food and health inspection.  Everyone was pretty surprised to see a bunch of foreigners walking around, and would laugh at our attempts at speaking Chinese (except for Sally who is Chinese).  They sell lots of random things as well, like mops, gloves, batteries, light bulbs, video games…pretty much you name it, they have it.  It probably isn’t authentic or high quality, but they probably have it.  I got a pair of gloves and a mop for about $3.00, so it was a successful trip.

The street food here is something to experience in itself.  It isn’t your typical American street food, with hot dogs, nachos, sausages etc.  They do eat hot dogs, but they are usually either fried or served on a stick.  One of the primary street food items, at least up here, is the baozi (pronounced bow-tze), which is a small dumpling filled with meat.  It kinda looks like a big hershey’s kiss, only it is filled with meat.  They are everywhere, and are pretty good.  Most of the food has a distinct and very different flavor to it too, similar to cumin and also with lots of bean paste.  Most of it isn’t bad, but I don’t particularly like it, although I do really like the prices.  None of it costs more than 50 cents, and most of it costs between 20-35 cents.  It is pretty incredible.  We sampled a bunch of different street foods at the market, such as cookies, fried sweet potato balls (very good), vegetable baozi, and a chicken pancake wrap.  All for less than 3 bucks (before I am asked, I did not eat the meat)!

After stopping by our apartment to drop off the mop that we got, David, Erin and I decided to take a bike trip downtown (isn’t it great that the other teacher is also named David).  I wanted to see the earthquake memorial, which is in the center of the city, so we hopped on our bikes and started riding.  Getting around in China is different from in the USA.  It is best to think of transportation as a food chain; buses and trucks are at the top of the food chain, followed by cars, motorbikes, bikes, and lastly pedestrians.  The rule of the road is “Don’t be in the way of something higher than you on the food chain.”  If you are lower on the food chain, you are expected to move out of the way of the bigger vehicles, and it is a little scary at first.  People also honk their horns CONSTANTLY, for all sorts of reasons.  Usually it is a warning of some kind, such as “I am going through this red light!!!!!!!” but sometimes it is hard to find any reason for the blaring.  You will see people hold their horns for 10 seconds, and then drive straight through a red light or make some crazy left turn through pedestrians.  It works though, so who am I to argue that the pedestrian has the right of way.  That is not the case here, and even if it is, you would be killed in a day if you lived by that.  Luckily our bike trip was successful, and we made it downtown safely.  I have attached some pics of the earthquake memorial, it is a park with one big obelisk.  Nothing too special, but it also had a huge fountain so it will be cooler in the summertime. (quick aside: in 1976, Tanghsan had the deadliest earthquake in human history, killing about 250,000 people.  That is the government reported number though, and most think it was actually 700,000+.  Kinda scary, especially considering I have felt a tremor already.)

After the memorial, we wandered over to the dinosaur market (photos attached), a collection of stores that were nothing particularly special.  Again, everyone was very amused by us, especially when Erin and I bought some street food.  Within 10 seconds a crowd of about 25 people had gathered just to see what we were saying, which was “I don’t understand, what are you saying?  How much does this cost.”  It was exciting for them though!  We wandered the market for a while, then headed back to our bikes, stopping at Pizza Hut on the way.  We didn’t actually eat at the Pizza Hut, because it is THE MOST EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT WE HAVE SEEN SO FAR!!  The menu offered meals with multiple courses, had classical music playing, and was connected to a 4 or 5 star hotel.  Somehow American fast food has convinced the Chinese that they are very high class establishments in the West, but to us it was just bizarre and over-priced.  Have they never heard of the $5,5,5 deal?!  I don’t want soup, salad and pizza from Pizza Hut.  I have also read that KFC has somehow convinced the Japanese through advertising that the typical American meal on Christmas is a bucket of fried chicken!  There are weeks long reservations to get a BUCKET of KFC in Tokyo on December 24th and 25th!  Ahh, the power of advertising.

That was the extent of our journey pretty much.  I added some amusing pictures from today, of the Glory Palace, with random Statue of Liberty on top, and two signs from bathrooms that I thought were funny.  Men smoke pipes, women wear high heels, got it?  Erin and I bought some fried bread that we used to make little pizzas, which turned out very well, and now I am starting round 2 of mopping our floor.  Exciting!  Order some Pizza Hut for me!

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