Homeward Bound (and Ten Days of Exploration)

I apologise for my lack of posting anything the past month. Things have not gone exactly according to plan. The short version is: Although I enjoyed the people at the school where I was working, I found that I wasn’t a good fit and the sake of my own happiness and mental health, I decided to resign. I succeeded in finding a kindergarten (preschool) that was a good fit but the visa clock ran out of time. (By the time my passport was through being processed by the local government , and the contract with the new school would be signed, I wouldn’t have time to complete the application for the new employment visa.)

So, I’m headed home. For now. My globe trotting days are not finished yet. It is good to be coming home. I’ll have only been gone for four months, but it feels like so much longer. Funny how time distorts when everything is uncertain and spinning around you. 

I have ten days left in Dalian as of today. Now that Spring has arrived in full tree blooming, warm breeze, bird nest building force, I plan on exploring the city as much as I can. My good buddy, EnQuan, is visiting me for the weekend. Today, we’re going to explore the greater XingHai Guangchang (Star Sea Square) area. Lots of photos will be taken and posted. Tomorrow we might take a day trip to the historical Lushun/Port Arthur on the southwestern point of the peninsula. 

Notice of Blog Permanent Suspension

Hi! Thank you for reading and following to those who read and follow this blog.  I will no longer be posting to this blog. This blog documented my stay in China between August 2010 and July 2011.

After a brief three year long break from China, I am back. Please click the link below for my new blog focusing on my adventures and misadventures in Dalian, Liaoning.


Mr. Alex Goes to China


Thank you again for following. Happy reading!

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Tomorrow is the Dragon Boat Festival. YAY! But in Northern China the only thing the people do is eat special holiday sticky rice cakes. The festival is primarily a Southern tradition. My plans are to go the lake district and eat lots and lots of sticky rice cakes stuffed with pork, vegetables, sugar, dates and whatever else the Chinese culinary mind can fit into a fist sized pyramid of sticky rice. Yay for adventurous eating! I am currently compiling another list of strange and or interesting foods that I have consumed or attempted too consume.

Happy Holidays!

A day in the life

I wake up in the morning in theory at  6:30 Brush teeth, iron the clothes- got to look good- (you never know when someone will snap your photo) put on clothes, grab a bite for the break between my two hour blocks of teaching. Fill up my thermos with hot water from the water “cooler” and run out the door. And then I run back in to make sure the iron is off. Cruise the 3K on my electric bicycle between the Foreign experts buildings and the School of Foreign Languages. On my way I pass the dorms where the staff of the Dong Hu Hotel live. Compared to the ritz of the three star hotel, the staff dorms are shacks. There must be at least 16 of them sharing living quarters, bathrooms and kitchens. Their uniforms hang to dry across the street on clothes lines stretched between trees.  Past the hotel, I pass the peacock house on my right and farms on my left. And then I go across the bridge that connects East and West Campus. Under and to either side of the bridge lies: a highway, a cemetery, a river, farmland, a park under construction and tennis courts. It is a long bridge.

My students are always lined up at the door even when I am fifteen minutes early for class. I unlock the doors and the students stand gobsmacked for a second mareling at the new desk arrangement- I try to mix it up as often as possible, keeps ’em on their toes.

Mondays and Fridays are my favorites because the classes on those days are the most rambunctious. They are quickest to get out of control but also the only classes that police themselves and thus settle down the quickest too. These are the classes where a horde of students charge my desk after each class to ask me questions. Lots of questions. “What does ‘good for you’ mean? I pronounce ‘singing’ and ‘sinning’ the same way- help! Is American food really sweeter than Chinese food?” and so on and so on… These classes also have a sense of humor which makes my job both easier and rewarding.

Lunchtime sometimes means eating in the third floor of the “Knowledge Canteen” (It’s a poor and simplistic translation. It should something more like “The Place Where People Gather to Discuss Philosophic Ideas” but I guess that takes too long. Mandarin is very useful for taking big, complex ideas and communicating them in a few short characters.) The Knowledge Canteen is restuarant style serving up good quality standard fare Chinese food at University student prices. If the weather is nice and we have adequte pocket change we might go to the West Gate…

The West Gate is a snack street- an integral part of Chinese cultural for at least 1000 years, probably for much longer. A t-intersection with the University’s west gate is home to a community of street vendors, snack shops, fruit stands, running children with ice cream dripping down their chins, old men playing mahjong, domnioes or chess, college students gobbling privincial style fried baozi. It is a wonderful circus of color and noise. Very Chinese. I like it here. Except for the staring…

Every where I go in this city I’m met with the stereotypical stares and excited shouts of “hello!” or the mildly offensive “Laowei!” (“Foreinger!”) The older people look at you blankly or frightenedly until you say “Ni hao!” and smile- they usually smile back. “If you speak my language,” they must be thinking, “then he must be ok.”

Around two o’clock as the students are headed back to class, I get on my bicycle and head home.

Shopping the Chinese Way

Just came back from a short shopping trip. I’ve taken to shopping the Chinese way which means going to the market once a day and picking up the supplies that you need immediately. I used to shop the American way and go downtown to the modern (western style) super market and pick up supplies for the whole week. Now I go to a local grocery designed for the locals by the locals.

The shop ladies are always very friendly and welcoming. I ask them things like “Is this spicy?” (“Zhe shi la ma?”) or “what is this called?” (Zhe shi jiao ma?”). A typical day at the vegetable market:

Me: Is this pepper spicy?

First Vegetable Lady: I don’t know. (turns to other vegetable lady) Is this spicy?

Second Vegetable Lady: It isn’t spicy.

First Vegetable Lady to me: It isn’t spicy. (BTW that whole exchange was in Mandarin)

Today the first vegetable lady tried to sell me some strange vegetable that looked like a head of lettuce that had been frankenstiened onto a daikon radish. I kindly said “bu yao.” (I don’t want [that]). Then she tried to sell me something else that looked like leathery spinach. During the vegetable lady’s tour of Chinese vegetables, the other vegetable lady came up to her and said “ta ting bu dong!” (“He doesn’t understand what you’re saying!” but really “leave the poor boy alone you meshugener!”). My vegetable lady swatted at her friend and pushed her away playfully. I get all of my vegetables from these two ladies now. They are just the right amount of crazy and helpful.  I ended up buying green chili peppers (the vegetable lady told me that they are good with fresh eggs which I also bought), lotus root, something the lady called “suan” (garlic) but clearly is not, the Chinese version of arugula (kuju-“bitter lettuce”) and  Chinese cucumbers which are covered in viscous spikes.

On a sad note, one of the eggs broke on my way home from the grocery store.

I’m currently sitting by the lake enjoying the humidity and eagerly waiting  for the promised thunderstorm.