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Published: March 11th 2008
Just got over a wicked cold that has been passed around between all the teachers in the school. Not surprising that everybody catches anything going around since we do lots of stuff together over the course of a week. But luckily the good weather helps in getting us all back on our feet in good time!
I had to include this photo for all you snowbound folks at home. Our apartment is on the right in the far distance. We went for a stroll tonight and it was almost too warm to wear a jacket..a beautiful evening. Found tennis courts in our complex during our walk so we are gonna get a couple of rackets in the next few days and start banging the balls around for fun. The mosquitoes are out but still not bad enough to be a big bother. Everyone here calls them "lazy" which we have yet to decipher. Does that mean they land on you and never fly away or just move slowly around? Only time will tell.
We have also discovered that it is a cash society which is probably a good thing. Credit cards are pretty much not accepted anywhere. Even most travel agents take cash for trips and flights. So we have got in the habit of carrying around wads of kwai. Our debit cards and credit cards are now gathering dust except for withdrawing money from our account. Cards for other things are another story.
You may wonder how companies deal with a billion customers. Well, there are no bills. Everything has a card. We have an electric card, a gas card, and a food card for the cafeteria. There is a meter on the first floor of our building that we keep an eye on. When it starts to approach zero, we walk down to the electric utility building and fill the card back up with credit. Then we come back and slip the card in this little slot in the meter and it refills our electrical credit. The onus is on us. If our little gizmo downstairs hits 0, well actually 10, it's bye bye electricity until we fill it back up. And you can sure tell when you are using or not using electricity since it is something you just have to check out every time you come in the building. And it works the same for the gas meter outside on our balcony. And the cafeteria at the school. I fill up my food card and every time I get lunch, I pass it over this little machine. The food place gets money somehow and my card credit decrease by the same amount. It is actually a very efficient way to do stuff. And when my card runs out, you guessed it, I need to go get a refill for cold, hard cash. God knows how many other businesses use this but I'm sure they must be out there. It seems a way of life for everyone.
Nancy went out to get a new purse today and was approached by four young girls working in the store who "wanted to be friends so they could practice their English"! They exchanged cell phone numbers and they said they would give her a call sometime to show her around and bring her to some "good stores" in exchange for talking English and being friends. So she waits in anticipation for their first call. Anytime we walk by anyone they will say whatever they can in English, which sometimes makes sense and sometimes doesn't. Two little kids went by on a bicycle tonight, one said,"Hello" and the other said, "How are you?" Last night a young girl said "Good evening." as she walked by us. And tonight as we went by a group of security guards doing some routines, one started singing "Happy Birthday". Go figure. We always get a kick out of it. But everyone is incredibly friendly and eager to help us out.
Well, gotta go and do some preparation for tomorrow. Hopefully we are soon going to expand our horizons and get to some of the museums and theatres in the city. We now know where they are located and just need to head out by taxi or bus. There are also several historic sites we want to check out in the next few weeks. As we get more comfortable travelling around, we will venture further afield! Over 8,000 square kilometers of city is a lot to discover...it will take awhile.
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