Published: June 18th 2010June 17th 2010
It’s been an interesting few days here in my new home. My guards arrived at my room at 745am and helped me carry all my things down the five long flights of stairs. I think they were amazed by how much stuff I had. I was a bit apologetic, but only a little. My school driver (from Shenzhen) and I left around 830am on Wednesday. We got lost twice, but between asking for directions a few times and calling the FAO office here, we sorted it out and arrived around 1130, only half an hour later than I’d predicted. A student came to meet us and escorted us to my new apartment building and she helped me carry my things into my new home. Then my driver left, just in time for the rain to start.
I started settling in after a lunch with Arnette, the nice woman who helped me out so much when I visited in May. She gave me some freebies left by previous teachers, so I’m now the proud owner of gladware, mugs, and a new SIM card (with local number) for my phone. Since I hadn’t realized Guangzhou was roaming distance from Shenzhen, I filled up my phone before I left, so I won’t be changing phone numbers just yet. After lunch she showed me around the area across the bridge from us, and I now have 2 fruit stands to go to, a vegetable shop, and a store that's a cross between a PDQ and a hardware store in that it has a little bit of everything.
I am struggling with the door to my apartment—the lock likes to stick. As I was wrestling with it I met two other teachers, one whom I’d met previously in May, and one who later stopped over with homemade chocolate mint brownies, fresh grapes, and juice. We made plans for dinner so I could meet some more people and she’s invited me to raid her apartment since she’ll return to the US next month.
We rode bikes to dinner. Everyone here rides bikes, and since I don’t have one yet, I rode on the back of one. My friend’s boyfriend drove it while I sat sideways on a little rack/shelf/seat on the back, my legs dangling over one side. I was complimented on my skill since I apparently did better than your average beginner. Having good balance and strong abs pays off! We had a delicious dinner of Chinese food at a little place down the street, and everyone wanted to know more about me, where I’m from, why I’m here, etc. It’s great to be surrounded by lots of people my own age who have similar experiences to mine. Quite a few have studied Japanese, some studied in Japan, they’ve all been in China for a few years, and most are keen on learning the language.
After we all went out to dinner, we went back to another teacher’s apartment and watched the World Cup together. Our host is British and therefore quite knowledgeable about the rules and has all sorts of little stories and background to make a more interesting viewing experience. Since our commentators are Chinese, we wouldn’t get that otherwise. In between games we went to another teacher’s apartment to enjoy freshly made banana bread and cookies. Homemade baked goods are rare in China, so getting three of them in one day is amazing. One woman joked that this was, “the best day of Kris’s life!” I’m certainly off to a good start!
Today I rose early just in case the FAO called around 8am wanting to do paperwork. They didn’t, so I went to try and get my internet set up. I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s still not working. Hopefully someone will come out to look at it tomorrow. I went to observe Arnette’s class to get an idea what the students’ level is like and see how they do things here. Unfortunately, it’s the end of the semester, so there’s not a lot happening since they already took their final exam.
I got a lot more unpacking done; more than I’d planned to actually. My original plan was to unpack as little as possible so that things don’t get dusty while I’m gone for the next 8 weeks. But I needed to find things, and it just started to look so nice and homey I couldn’t help myself. I rearranged the furniture in my bedroom, swapping the bed and the desk. The desk was in the corner, away from the door, and walking around the bed every time I wanted to use it was irritating. My rooms are large, but not that large. Also, since I don’t have a short dresser or vanity, I have no place to put my jewelry, etc, so swapping them allows the desk to do double duty. I’ve hung a nice poster of bamboo (courtesy of my exiting neighbor) up in my dining room, and filled up my bookcase with my books, DVDs, and dishes. I'll post photos later, when I'm not typing with my computer on one dining chair while I sit on another. I want my apartment to look a bit more organized, too, before I put up photos for the whole world to see.
We all went out to dinner again and then settled in for some more World Cup action. It was another good game, with us critiquing the players for their abilities and their hair.
Tomorrow I leave for my travels. I’m excited, even though this year I’ll only be traveling for a week. This year my visa expires two and a half weeks earlier than it did last year, really cutting my travel time down. I was told that someone in charge thought we shouldn’t be traveling all over on a work visa, and we should instead purchase travel visas if we wanted to see more of China. Alas, that backfires, because while most of the foreign teachers I know are willing to spend the money to travel, they’re not willing to pay the extra $100+ dollars for a new visa to do it. So that money goes home or to another country instead of being spent in China. I’m lucky that I can return early in August and plan to travel for another week then before the term starts. Some places take longer than a long weekend, so this is really my only opportunity.
That about wraps up my past few days. Lots of eating, unpacking, new friends, and football. It’s a good start to what will be a great year.