Fuzhou - Finally


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December 7th 2010
Published: December 8th 2010
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Hwa Nan Nu Zi Xue YuanHwa Nan Nu Zi Xue YuanHwa Nan Nu Zi Xue Yuan

This is the view from my apartment across the "lake" of the main administrative and lecture building and the student cafeteria.
So is Marjie still alive over there?

September has come and gone, as has October, November, and the beginning of December and I am only now posting my first photos of Fuzhou. After some consideration I have come to the conclusion that teaching overseas and blogging overseas simply do not mix. To say that my first month of teaching was challenging puts it a bit lightly. I was teaching five classes (totaling 150 students) in three different courses for two different departments. Learning names was hard enough but just getting the hang of planning and preparing for my lessons took up the vast majority of my time in September. Add to that China’s interesting concept of holidays (when everyone gets a day off in the middle of the week for a holiday they are then required to come into school or work on the weekend to make up for it) and my first month of teaching was quite hectic.

In October I seemed to hit my stride. Though life was still very busy, it was more full of new and exciting Chinese experiences (like squeaking around town on my rusty old bike and meeting up with a motley crew
Dorm lifeDorm lifeDorm life

These are the student dorms behind my building. I love the fact that there is always laundry fluttering on the balconies.
of foreign teachers to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving) than stressing about lesson planning. I managed to find time to discover how to get to the beach, make a weekly trip to a calligraphy shop for free lessons, and introduce my students to the delicate art of baking banana bread. At the end of the month I made a trip to Hong Kong to get my work visa and I took that opportunity to post some pictures … from two months before.

November was full of making up the classes I missed for the Honk Kong excursion, and giving midterms to my second year students and finals to my third year students. I’ve spent the last week or so catching up on grading. Now that my third year students have left for their internships I’m down to 8 hours of class a week, and I feel like I can breathe. Well, kind of. I’ve started tutoring elementary school students on Saturdays, I’m trying to set up another class from my students who are trying to pass extra-curricular English proficiency tests, I’m showing English movies on Saturday night and helping out with an evening news class during the week. On top of
Foreign Teacher HouseForeign Teacher HouseForeign Teacher House

This is my building! It has apartments for the teachers, a dinning room, kitchen, classrooms, computer lab, "gym", and its very own cook. Oh, and also a pretty sweet bell tower.
that I’m keeping busy with running, calligraphy, tai chi, bike rides, trips to mountains, temples, and concert halls, as well as getting together with friends as much as possible.

Given the choice between carefully documenting my life and experiencing my life in China, I hope that you will understand if I choose the former over the latter. This being said, I will still do my best to sporadically shower you with pictures, and perhaps the occasional story if I have time. My heartfelt apologies to anyone that will be sorely disappointed by this news. I can only offer the consolation that whenever I travel away from school (like when I was waiting for my visa to be processed in Hong Kong) I might have time to catch up. In short, please enjoy these pictures, because who knows when I will get around to posting the next ones!

These pictures are from my first couple months in Fuzhou. More will come at some later date.



Additional photos below
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Wandering the streets near old Hwa NanWandering the streets near old Hwa Nan
Wandering the streets near old Hwa Nan

One day in September Kay and Laihar (two of the other English teachers) to me on a trip into town to visit the old Hwa Nan campus. (The previous pictures were of the new campus, still under construction in some areas, in the "University City" suburb of Fuzhou)
streetstreet
street

The neighborhood of the old campus has lovely winding roads, shaded by ancient banyan trees (Fuzhou is known as "banyan city" and the trees are highly respected) and creeping vines.
View from a classroomView from a classroom
View from a classroom

The old campus is tiny and cramped, but as a result all of the buildings are built up, giving a lovely view of the Min river and the city.
colorful shelvescolorful shelves
colorful shelves

Although it is possible do do most of your shopping at large department stores, I much prefer wandering through the narrow crowded aisles of the neighborhood odds-and-ends shops. Everything is so colorful! And you never know what surprises you'll find...
colorful shelves 2colorful shelves 2
colorful shelves 2

... like cowboy beer
ChinglishChinglish
Chinglish

One of the other great joys of living in China is the "Chinglish" found on many (usually informative) signs. This is an example from the Teacher's University that is across the street from Hwa Nan.
Camping - Chinese styleCamping - Chinese style
Camping - Chinese style

After hearing that I was a camping enthusiast, one of my students invited me along on a "beach camping trip" with "some of her friends. The beach turned out to be an island, and there were about 25 people in the entire camping parting. As you can see, it was quite a lot of fun getting to the beach.
Thanks Yunn!Thanks Yunn!
Thanks Yunn!

Yunn (the girl on the right) is my third year student who invited me on the trip. I was the only westerner, and very few of the other campers spoke English, so it was definitely a Chinese weekend.
Arty shotArty shot
Arty shot

The weather was gray, occasionally rainy, and usually windy for the whole trip - perfect for the coast.
Chinese weddingChinese wedding
Chinese wedding

Other adventures included witnessing a Chinese wedding (including life-size hello kitties, an Emcee, and an amazing violinest who had three costume changes and effortlessly switched back and forth from classical music to "Cotton Eye Joe") ...
Steak dinnerSteak dinner
Steak dinner

... and steak! Steak restaurants seem to be the fad in China right now, but the chefs are still learning how to cook such large pieces of meat. The first time I ordered my usual "medium-well done" (with the help of a Chinese speaking friend) it turned out to be soft and bloody. Sadly, by the time the second steak-eating opportunity came along (for Thanksgiving lunch!) two months had passed and forgetting my first unfortunate steak experience I ordered the same thing, with the same results. Oh well, better luck next time!
Cow at the beachCow at the beach
Cow at the beach

Another one of my most memorable adventures from the first couple months in Fuzhou was figuring out how to get to the beach (about 45 minutes away) - without a car. My friends and I ended up taking the airport bus, jumping off early, and walking about a mile or so to the shore. Along the way we met a friendly cow.
Empty hotelEmpty hotel
Empty hotel

The beach was lovely, almost empty (a rarity in China), and the day was blustery and overcast, but warm. We found an old abandoned hotel on a rock overlooking the sea.
Guess what these are?Guess what these are?
Guess what these are?

No really, guess, because I have no idea. Each of the sand "balls" is about the size of a beebee.
Windswept bridesWindswept brides
Windswept brides

After walking around a point to the next cove we discovered ... wedding picture parties. Wedding pictures are a pretty big thing in China. You pay a company a very large sum of money and they dress you and your intended up in a dozen different outfits, drive you to shoot locations all over town, and take hundreds, if not thousands of pictures. The pictures are then displayed at your wedding, bound into books, and framed and displayed around your house. Some companies even offer a lifetime purchase, where you get a new picture taken each year on the anniversary of your wedding.
Beach buddiesBeach buddies
Beach buddies

Aaron and Doc, my fellow beach enthusiasts.
The trip back homeThe trip back home
The trip back home

Figuring out how to get back from the beach proved to be a little more difficult, but we finally managed to find a motorcycle taxi ... a little rickety to say the least, but we all made it home in one piece!
Hwa Nan foreign teachersHwa Nan foreign teachers
Hwa Nan foreign teachers

Here is a group shot of the foreign teachers (as well as some of our department heads, secretaries, and FAO staff). The pictures on the wall are of the first three presidents of Hwa Nan.


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