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Today we had a bit of a surprise when we woke up to a lack of electricity in the apartment. We called Eddie, and quickly found out that our apartment and about 5 blocks around us didn’t have power either. We figured this would only last a few hours, as even the huge RT Mart Grocery store was operating off generators, but to our unpleasant surprise we didn’t have electricity for 12 hours! It just came back on, and probably most people with a typical working schedule didn’t notice, but needless to say we had a very lazy day of cleaning, sleeping and reading. It was probably for the best though, because we both have sore throats again. Also, the shower is working amazingly well at this point, for which I am grateful. O yea, and my manager got a new motorized bicycle so I can ride her girly bike with a basket, woo!

This week I went to my first yoga class at the gym. It was all in Chinese, but not difficult to follow along because the instructor is actually up on a small stage in the class, so I could see her easily. The class was mostly older woman and it wasn’t too difficult, but I got in some good stretches before running and learned a very good, new, neck stretch. I think they have hot yoga at the gym too, which I want to try. Last week I was stretching in the studio before another class, and was approached by a few college girls that spoke pretty good English. They asked me for my QQ Number, which is like MSN or AIM chat, but unfortunately I didn’t have one. Fortunately, they were not discouraged and I gave them my email and took their QQ numbers. Inspired by my new potential for Chinese friends, I now have a QQ and am officially part of the Chinese social networking community! They have a really easy international/English version to install, and I have given the number to a few of my higher level classes too. I am hoping that the ability for them to chat in English will encourage them to learn more, as they can see a real-life application of learning English! I am also hoping that David and I will be able to meet some university students and maybe get to know some of our kids on a deeper level.

One new class I started last week is a one on one session with two 14-year old girls named Mary and Crystal. They speak really good English because they attend the Tangshan Foreign Languages School, and it has been really fun to meet with them. Mary actually let me know that she was a hostess on a local television show, and I watched her on the show last night! I still also enjoy my public school classes, as the kids are energetic and a little older than at Aston. They taught me a kung foo game that they play, which is similar to rock, paper, scissors but involves full body moves like “energy ball,” “cut,” “X or the big one,” etc. I’m not sure what the game is called, but they get really into it and so I spend a lesson teaching them the English words for these moves. Also at this school (XY) I attempted to say the Chinese word for apple that I learned the day before, but I butchered the pronunciation and the kids all laughed at me. I said to them, “I don’t laugh at you when you speak English!” and they promptly began clapping for my effort. I thought it was so respectful of them, and maybe we bridged a little language barrier. Also, when I walked out of class that day it was raining pretty hard and as I exited the school on my bike two parents came running at me with umbrellas for cover. I don’t them “no thanks,” but felt so appreciated for coming to their school.

Only one more week of classes before Hong Kong…and I am really looking forward to checking out the food and beaches over there. That means that David only has ONE more week to hit his goal of $1,000 for his big shave, so please donate at if you can! Also, one of my favorite Avon Walkers, Lauren Lucas is in second place nationally for a recipe competition. Lauren is a senior in high school and is not only raising all of her funds to walk, but also trying to save money to put herself through cooking school in NY next year. She wakes up at 4am on the weekends to bake bread for Great Harvest, and if she wins this competition, they will give her a lot of money for school! She’s currently 93 votes behind, so PLEASE take the time to send an email to portland_dessert_works@yahoo.com with the message: “Panna Cotta with Chocolate Tuile Cookie
Lauren Michelle Lucas
LML_Lucas@yahoo.com”

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I tried for nearly 3 hours last night to get the photos up, but it just doesn’t seem possible right now.  The pics are loaded onto WordPress, but I think the connection is just too slow.  We are trying to figure out how to get to American sites a little better…but unfortunately it may be a while.  (Anyone know a good, free proxy?!  Hopefully I can write that…)

Today was tough for a few reasons.  I (Erin) woke up with a sore throat and itchy nose, and have been sneezing all day.  I have never had any allergies in my life, but now I have fully joined the realm of ‘the allergic’, boo.  It snowed a few inches last night, and we have been tromping around in the slush.  I have heard that most visitors experience the “China cold” when they arrive, which is probably due in large part to the pollution, so hopefully my body will start to acclimate.  The pollution is definitely bad here, and many people really do wear masks whenever they go outside, pretty sad.  I am worried about being able to exercise outside, but fortunately I am keeping active with my yoga mat in the hotel room!

Our classroom was also freezing cold, which, as you may know, is basically my death knell.  I wore a hat, gloves and a winter jacket all day.  The icing on the cake in the cold school of doom was that as cold as the classrooms were, the bathrooms were even more freezing.  And now…a quick  lesson about Chinese bathrooms: they are a stinky hole in the ground, and don’t provide toilet paper. So, word to the wise, bring toilet paper in to each bathroom, and limber up those quad muscles for some serious squatting.  Considering the smell now, I can only imagine what is in store for the summer….be thankful for Western toilets and cleanliness!

Anyway, we survived and there were still some significant highlights to the day.  We taught our first adult class, which was very interactive and enjoyable, we had a great ‘end of course’ dinner with our classmates and other teachers at the school, and David’s favorite student, Hilda, came to visit us at lunch.  Hilda was SO cute, bringing us traditional (and really good) bean-curd stuffed gluton balls and taking all 5 of the TEFL students out to lunch!  She ordered nearly 100 dumplings for us, which proved to be 3 entire plates too many, but her generosity (and love of David) was really touching.  Did I mention she’s only 15 and walked all the way from school just to give us our presents and buy US lunch?!  We tried to pay, but she insisted that she must treat ALL of her friends.

I’m off to bed, because I need to feel better for tomorrow, but it looks like we will be spending a few more days in Jinan before we move to our permanent residence in Tangshan.  Sorry about the pictures, hopefully this will suffice for now.

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