Please ignore the incessant kvetching that was the last few posts. I am greatly enjoying my life in China. Every day is a little adventure. There is always some new food to try and someone new to meet. This is a wonderland. Noisy, gritty, unmerciful, but a wonderland all the same.
I have made a few good friends here. Real friends, not the face value friends that are all too common in this place. In fact, me and my new buddies are going to a party in town hosted by a foreigner in his restaurant. Can you imagine? A restaurant owned by a real life, english speaking foreigner in Small Town, PRC! And it’s a European style cafe to boot! I will be sure to fill you in after the party. It should be interesting…
I’m finally getting a hang of this whole teaching gig. Perhaps I have found my calling. Every class, except my most difficult class, was highly successful this week. Perfectly timed lesson plans, productive class periods and students that are passionate, attentive and most importantly, talkative! Usually I feel drained and exhausted at the end of the day, but not this week. The students respect me and still laugh at my silly antics. Balance has been achieved. One of my friends here noticed my upbeat mood after a class and said, “So, you’re beginning to like teaching?”. “Yes, I am.”
Fall has set in in Liaocheng. Every day is magnificently autumnal. The leaves are beginning to change and the breeze has picked up, blowing the dust and pollution away. We actually have blue skies most days now! Every morning, on my way to work at 7:45 am, I remark out loud “Ah, another beautiful day!” and stop grumbling about having to bicycle two kilometers to work 7:45 every morning. Life is good.
I was on this campus for ten hectic days last summer. The campus came at me so fast I wasn’t able to process it all.
During the first three weeks of living here, everything looked familiar. It was as if I had had a vivid dream about Liaocheng and then the dream was made real. I am living in my dream world. Deja vu every day.
Riding back from the Foreign Language building at 11:00 at night is a foreboding experience. All the lights on campus are shut. Deathly silence. This night the mist was colder and thicker than usual. I could barely see the front wheel of my bicycle as I slowly pedaled towards home. One emergency light was on on the one kilometer bridge. I focused on that weak blue light and it guided me home like the north star.
Coming around the bend after the bridge was akin to a small plane descending into a cloud bank- the mist swallows objects whole. The road twists around the eastern lake- A lone car was crawling towards me from the other side- its headlights lost souls gliding through the misty night.
The first time I saw the janitor of the foreign language building he was teetering jovially down the hallway, little bright eyes and wide grin shining from his dusty face. The second time I met him, he was climbing out of the crawlspace like some subterranean monkey, his smile gleaming even in the dim light. Vance, the TA (a quiet man who means well) asked him if he knew where the keys to my office was. The janitor shrugged his shoulders and guffawed joyfully. I couldn’t have been angry with him if I wanted to. That little monkey of a man radiates silly happiness. His words burble out of his mouth like a merry stream over rocks. Vance and I set out to look for the keys elsewhere with the janitor bobbing behind us, burbling as he came.
Yvon, a good friend of mine who is Chinese, asked the janitor a question, who responded and tootled off. Yvon turned to me and whispered “I couldn’t understand anything he said.” Does the janitor even use real words at all? I have had conversations with this silly man without either of us using any intelligible words. We speak in clown language.
Yvon and I had come back to the campus after a shopping trip. My bicycle was locked inside the Foreign Language Building and the janitor was nowhere to be found. It was quickly approaching ten thirty and Yvon had to go back to his dorm or be locked out. I stationed myself in front of a window of the janitor’s office, which is also his home. It was ten forty-five now and the street lights on campus had all been turned off. When the janitor walked into his off and saw me standing helpless in the window he nearly jumped out of his skin and fell backwards. I said “I didn’t mean to scare you. I locked my bicycle inside!” and gestured wildly. He knew exactly what I was talking about. He unlocked the building and turned on the lights in the hallway where my bike was stored. He didn’t understand a thing I said and vice versa, yet we understood everything that was said.
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Liaocheng is a very small, busy and incessantly growing city in the western part of Shandong Province (Shandong=East of the Mountains). Liaocheng is known as the ‘Water City’ because of the great lake in the center of the city home to the old city and the ancient governor’s palace fortress and for the Grand Canal that cuts through. Liaocheng translates literally to “Talking City” to everyone’s confusion.
Liaocheng University has the foreign teachers living in garden apartments on the south side of East Campus, about 2 kilometers away from where we work on the West campus.
The apartment is mostly beautiful and large by Chinese standards. Everything except the bathroom. But even that it excellent, i’m sure, by Chinese standards. The apartment was cleaned before I arrived, but by American standards, it wasn’t. Oh well, what can you do?
The apartment comes complete with a master bedroom, spare bedroom with crank powered clothes line, a small kitchen stocked with wok, broken frying pan, microwave, rice cooker/steamer and two gas powered ranges. Also included are a spare bathroom for when the master bathroom’s plumbing fails (which is often), a dining room, a study AND a very spacious living room! I’ve never had so much space to myself before!
The previous tenant was kind enough to leave me a half eaten tub of kimchee in the refrigerator.
The apartment is located on a scenic lake which is very scenic indeed, but fills my apartment with mosquitoes every night.