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Published: August 27th 2010
Yes, they park on the sidewalk
The other day, a girl from here took us around the city for a short tour. First, we went to the children's park, which isn't just for children. This park is amazing. It has workout stations that old people actually use. A lot of people frequent the park. Some just sit while eating pastries that remind me of Mexico. Others sit around concrete tables and play cards or Mahjong. It was great to see. They get really into it and yell something in Chinese as they throw a card down. I can only imagine what they might be saying. At this park, there is also a Chinese Opera. That's what Brooke called it. A lady was singing inside a corridor and people lined it watching and listening. Men fanned themselves with traditional Chinese fans, the ones I thought were just stereotypical depictions in movies. I've only seen men use them so far. People stare at us because we're foreigners. I stared back a lot at this park. People here don't try to hide the fact that they stare. In fact, their eyes will follow you and as you pass, they will turn their heads and keep staring.
Though there is
pollution here, the sun does come out and blue skies peak through. The other night, we saw stars. Anyway, I haven't seen a single Chinese person wear sunglasses, though I know they sell them at the supermarket. Instead, they use umbrellas. They're very pretty and come in different materials with various designs. China also has really pretty clothes. I shouldn't have brought so much of my own! The supermarket has all kinds of clothing stores. Along the busy streets, people will set up their own stores and sell everything from clothes to shoes to cds and movies, vegetables, household stuff, blankets, you name it. It's crazy, but I love it. In this aspect, China and I will get along very well.
There was another thing I found interesting as we made our way to the hospital (Brooke said we should know where it is, just in case one of us gets hit by a car...comforting). On the way, we passed many vendors. Some out on the street, but mostly they are businesses right next to each other. We had done this particular walk the very first day we were here, but didn't note the fact that as you get
closer and closer to the hospital, the floral shops become more frequent.
Finally, we grabbed some lunch at a little restaurant down the street from our hotel. We sat outside under a tent, like in Mexico. Brooke suggested we get sheep soup, which was the only thing they served anyway. She said everyone here eats it because it helps to fight colds. I drank all the broth and had some of the sheep. It tasted just like beef. The soup had other, questionable things in it, like blood chunks (looks like liver) that I chose to set aside. I'm glad I tried it, but I probably won't get that again. It only made me crave posole.
Later, we went to the school to "work". We are still observing other teachers. Afterwards, we all went out for dinner to say farewell to two teachers and to welcome me and Brandy. We had so much GOOD food. Here in Benxi, people always drink beer with their food. You're lucky if they have water. Cold water especially. Otherwise, it's soda. Sprite is the most popular. So anyway, at dinner, they give you a small glass cup which they fill to the
rim with beer. Once you cheers, you chug. And then you refill. It's a little intense. I've learned to always have water with me. After dinner, the teachers took us out to the local night scene. We went to one bar and it was completely empty. So then we went to a club and once again, everyone stared. You feel almost like celebrity status because they all want your attention. If you make eye contact, they wave. It's entertaining.
Yesterday we finally moved into our apartment. It's a shabby place on the 5th floor of an 8-floor building. There are some things we will need to adapt to. Like the bathroom. It has a western toilet, but the entire bathroom is a shower. There is no tub or separate stall. There is just a shower head on the wall between the toilet and the sink with a drain in the center of the small, closet-like room. Also, though we planned to cook, I think we'll stay out of the kitchen. There really isn't a stove. And I'm scared cooking will invite unwanted guests...plus, food here is super cheap. Probably cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries. My room
is pretty spacious, with two twin beds pushed together to make one. It has an armoire and a desk with a small end table. So far, so good.
David, my boss, said this is the real China. Big cities, like Beijing and Shanghai have become very western. I'm learning that this is true. At times, I don't think I can handle living here. I think, what have I gotten myself into?? But for the most part, I appreciate the simplicity of life in Benxi. It could be a little cleaner, but I guess that's just part of the music here.
Keep commenting and e-mailing! You have no idea how much it brightens my day! It's great to hear from home, especially when I can't call or text whenever I am reminded of something or someone. It makes things really hard on the homesick front.
P.S. I'm still trying to figure out how the photos work on here...
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