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Published: March 13th 2007
Hello and welcome to my blog!
I arrived in Jinan, China 2 weeks ago today. It is great to be here and feels good to be settling into a routine.
I was living and working in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) but was looking for a teaching job overseas. I found a job and was off and running! I moved my belongings back to Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA), my hometown. Then I was off to China from there.
My journey to China started on Sunday 25 February. Thanks to a major snowstorm in the Midwest, my initial flight was cancelled. It was beautiful but not ideal for flying! I made a later flight to Chicago and spent the night there. Then on Monday 26 February I was on the 13.5 hour flight to Beijing. WOW! A long flight over the ice caps and frozen tundra, watching several movies and dozing a little. We landed in Beijing on the afternoon of Tuesday 27 February.
I picked up my bags, since I was changing airlines, and went outside to get some fresh - or at least outside - air. I took in my surroundings. All the Chinese men smoking outside the airport. People coming and going all around. I just stood there for about half an hour. It's real, I'm in China!
I then had to make sure that I had a seat on the evening flight to Jinan. It's a good thing that I had a few hours to take care of this, since I arrived a day later than my original booking. It worked out fine, thanks to helpful airport staff. I slept for the duration of the one-hour flight to Jinan, I was exhausted!
I landed in Jinan around 8:00 PM local time. The airport was deserted, we were the only flight coming in at that time. I collected my luggage and met the other two Westerners that were smiling as I approached. I was Jon (Australian) and Gary (English) from Aston. Gary was holding my pink comforter and Jon had my pillow. Welcome to Jinan, here is your bedding!
We took a taxi to my new apartment, home sweet home. The apartment is near the city center, about 40 minutes from the airport. We chatted a bit on the way. I was tired but eager to see the city and my apartment and meet my roommates. Most of the teachers at my school live together in a dormitory on the eastern side of the city. I live in the middle of the city, about 10 minutes' walk to the main square, Quancheng Square (pronounced Chenchaung Square).
Once we put my luggage in my room, the guys and my roommate Andrea (Australian) were heading out for a drink. I joined them, figuring I could use some time to get to know them a bit and see a little of the street I live on. We headed down the street a couple of blocks to the local pub, The English Corner. Go figure, I'm in the middle of China and there's an English pub down the street from me.
After a couple of beers, Andrea and I headed home, the guys were heading out to the other favorite hangout down the street. I was really ready for a good night's sleep!
I met my other roommate, Kathryn (Scottish), who was leaving Jinan after having been here for 6 months. She showed me around those first few days, and I am grateful for her hospitality. I learned where the nearest supermarket is, as well as Quancheng Square, the DVD store, BandJo Music Bar (the other hangout for the teachers besides the English Corner), and some great restaurants right near home. My first morning in Jinan, Kathryn took me to RBT for some tea and breakfast. I had the most delicious mango tea with aloe and the red bean waffle. Yummy! My favorite restaurant is the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant around the corner from our apartment. I've been there several times already! Dining out in Jinan is quite affordable and I've been out for several meals already. Dining out is just as affordable as cooking at home, though I have cooked a few times in the apartment.
I, along with several other new teachers, had Aston teacher training on Saturday 03 March and Sunday 04 March. It was basically an overview of the Aston method and explanation of policies and what to expect. We finish off the training by demonstrating about 10 minutes from a sample lesson to our fellow teachers-in-training. Then we had a big meeting, old and new teachers together, to get our class schedules and get our textbooks and teachers' books. Aston is a private school, so we teach all weekend every weekend. Classes run from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
Sunday after the meeting, most of the new teachers went home. I stuck around and went to dinner with some of the old teachers who were going out. We went to a Pakastani restaurant which was fantastic. Then we went to Wei-Wei's, a restaurant around the corner from the Pakastani place and a favorite of the Aston teachers. After a beer and lighting some firecrackers out on the street, we left and headed down the the square.
I arrived in Jinan at the end of the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year holiday. It's a week-long holiday filled with festivities and fireworks. Since my arrival there were fireworks and firecrackers going off on every street, around every corner. The finale of the Spring Festival is the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the New Year. So the first weekend of March meant more festivities and fireworks. It also snowed that weekend, a highly unusual occurence in Jinan. As a snow-lover, I thought it was beautiful! But of course it was cold. As we walked along the streets of Jinan in the blowing snow and biting cold, I admired the beautiful decorations that were still up along the city streets. Lots of pig decorations, as this is the Year of the Pig. We got to a street near mine, so I headed home as I had had a long enough day at that point!
The next night there was a party at the teacher's apartments across town. We were celebrating Rebecca's birthday. She's a fellow American, from Florida. I had a great time meeting and socializing with the other teachers. There are about 35 foreign teachers working for Aston in Jinan. We hail from America, England, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Canada.
Hanging out with Kathryn before she left was great. She was done working and had lots of free time. She was a great tour guide and she introduced me to her Chinese friends: Pan-Pan, Gao Jie (pronounced Gao Jay) and David. I hope to see them again despite the fact that Kathryn has gone home. We went out one night for David's birthday and I met other foreigners: a few Austrians and and Italian. Who knew I'd be speaking German at a bar in China?
The third roommate for our apartment is Clare (Scottish), who moved in a couple of days before Kathryn left. Another teacher who finished teaching but was still in China, Kathryn's friend Kirsty (Scottish), came back into town for a couple of days. She had been visiting her boyfriend in Dalian before heading home to Scotland. It was cozy quarters having the five of us in the three-bedroom apartment for a few days but we managed. Now it's down to the three of us that are staying: me, Andrea, and Clare.
Our apartment is homey, with a nice living room, kitchen and we each have our own bedroom. I took Kathryn's bedroom when she left, which is large and has a small porch off the far side. We hang our washing to dry on the porch, which gets morning sun. For some reason that room has a huge bed, something like a queen size at home. The other rooms have a double be. I have a chair, a wardrobe/closet and a desk. The living room has a TV and Andrea bought a DVD player so we can watch movies or listen to CDs in the living room. The kitchen has a refrigerator, microwave oven (but not a real oven), a sink, two-burner gas stove, a clothes-washing machine.
The bathroom is unpleasant, it's small and often stinks of sewage. That's going to be fun in the summer! There's nothing we can do about it, we just keep the door shut. I'm eager to buy some insense to keep it smelling better in there. There's only so much that Glade air freshener can do. After a couple of cold-water showers, I managed to get a couple of hot ones. Whew! We never know when the water will be hot for our showers. We can always bring a pan of hot water in with us if we need to. I know that in the summer I will want a cold shower (probably several a day if it gets as hot as I think it will), but it's the end of winter/early spring and I'm not keen on the cold showers! I can always go to the other teachers' apartments for a hot shower if I'm desparate, they have big bathrooms and always can get hot water for their showers. I will always treasure hot showers.
The city is great, I love that it's big and there's lots to see and do. It is quite polluted, which I was told before I came. It's not unmanageable, but some days the air is thick with pollution. The first week I was here it was overcast and then rainy and then snowy. But the day after the snow the sun came out and it was beautiful! I took pictures of the city, which I will post when I have more time. The city is surrounded by mountains which I hope to climb soon. There is one that I think some of us are going to visit next week: Thousand Buddha Mountain.
Next time I will write about my classes and the students. I'm signing off for now. Thanks for reading!
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