Shopping centerNothing but clothing stores on the lower levels, but on the third floor there were some billiard halls and a PC gaming cafe.
-There are no pennies or nickles, just dimes. They round prices up or down to the nearest dime. I think it's a progressive idea! Also, tax is already included in costs, which is nice.
-leftover food from restaurants are put in plastic bags, not styrofoam boxes.
-the teachers are surprised that kids eat food from home in America. A sandwich, an apple or orange, some chips - they asked me, "Why do they eat cold food? It's not healthy."
-you know when you make a phone call and you hear a ringing noise? There's no ringing noise when you call someone. It's a song, like muzak for when you're put on hold. Except you're not on hold, you're just making a call.
-the fireworks don't end. Every day, every night, there are fireworks - far away to remain unseen, but close enough to be heard.
-There are some educational programs on TV and I don't mean like little kid shows, but the likes of algebra! Who watches them - high school students? I recently found out (March 16th) there are even 'How to speak Chinese' shows on CCTV4.
custodians in the traditional sense. Rather, the office assistants mop the hallways in-between classes. These office assistants also double as teachers, so the teachers are the ones who clean the school.
-There are no bathrooms or sinks to wash hands inside the school (besides the ones in the dorms). Bathrooms are located outside and are just holes in the ground; handwashing sinks aren't anywhere near the bathrooms (they're next to the cafeteria, and even then they're not really sinks for handwashing - they're for washing dishes, mainly). Personally I'm amazed more kids don't have pink eye. Now there are large bowls of water with some handsoap that people can wash their hands with, but is that any better? Reusing water to wash hands?
-I've learned the monthly salary (starting) for teachers is only 500 yuan. The school does pay for their rent, and three meals a day are provided (at very cheap prices), yet how do they survive? I see some of them have touch screen phones and I have no idea how they're able to purchase something that goes for thousands of yuan. So far, China isn't as cheap as I thought it'd be - so what
Chinese Sprite and OreosThe Chinese have different dessert habits from Americans; biscuits and wafers are more popular (and cheaper) than shelled candy (like M&Ms). Oreo cookies didn't sell well in the Chinese, so they revised the formula and turned the cookies into wafers - which are surprisingly good.
is their secret?
It's been a pretty busy month and in the past week I've gone on two fields trips - one to Beijing, another to Qinhuangdao. Beijing was with grades three to six, our first stop being World Park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_World_Park). It's a unique place with few rides, the main focus being replicas on famous places from around the world. My favorite part of the park is the New York City area, where the Twin Towers still stand! I had a fun time explaining why it's surprising to see them left up for the exhibit.
Now I know the kids love Ben and me, but it was complete chaos when we met up with 400 of them at the Eiffel Tower. Everyone starts screaming and taking pictures of us like paparazzi, asking us if they can take our picture. It seemed to be everyone's objective that day - get a picture with the foreigner! Give those students a camera and I can understand, but even the teachers wanted to get pictures with us...having a bunch of cameras taking pictures all at once, I know I have to look goofy in at least half of them.
BreakfastFor three yuan, the price is right. I had fun trying to order, some other people crowded around and were talking to me. Wo ting budong!
all worthwhile at the end when I was picked up by an elephant with its trunk. Look at the pictures to see.
Next up was the science museum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Science_and_Technology_Museum), which is right next to the 2008 Olympic stadium. Four floors of science! The first floor was mainly about China, but the others recognized the importance of the West's contributions to the world. My favorite area was astronomy, where I got to see a show about the Big Bang...unfortunately, I couldn't understand it in Chinese.
A couple days later we went on our second trip, this time to Qinhuangdao with grades one to three. Qinhuangdao is a little over 100 kilometers away, a coast city. The best part of the trip was probably the bus ride itself, where I sang a few songs on the mic and then some students would come up and sing - great bonding moment with students from my best class.
First up was Xinao Underwater World, an aquarium on the beach. It didn't look like much outside, but inside was something even better than what Baltimore's aquarium offered - lots of sea animals, and right out in the open! No hiding, and there's
always an opportunity for a great shot. Sharks, seals, penguins, tortoises, dophins...what the building lacked in style it more than made up with its great selection of aquatic life.
After the aquarium we headed to a botanical garden, I didn't get the name and it seems there are a few gardens in Qinhuangdao. Regardless, it was a lot more fun than I thought it'd be. The whole time the kids were holding my hands and asking me questions, with the teachers taking more pictures of Ben and me around various flora. Lunch was extravagant compared to our bag lunches in Beijing - with 400+ students, we all ate inside with a full course meal. Which turned out to be more than what the students were able to eat! A simply ridiculous amount of food but I certainly appreciated it. For something to drink, everyone dipped their cups into a bowl in the middle of the table - and some got refills. In China, sharing food is the norm, but dipping your cup when you've already drank out of it is where I stop.
All in all these field trips brought everyone closer together; the kids already love me
but now they've had the chance to have fun outside of school. Just making them laugh (the teachers, too) have made these some of the best fields trips I've ever been on, and I'm not even a student.
Now while these field trips were part of the school's spring break, it appears China doesn't understand the concept of a holiday - I have to work the weekend to make up for the days not working on the field trips, and that goes for the students. Too bad.
For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. A...more info
Chicken headI ate a chicken head. I literally cracked open its skull and its brains.
The Japanese call it I forgot its Chinese name...anyways, you have stones that you need to connect five in a row. A simple game that can get cerebral. Here we see Ben and Peter playing a game (Peter won).