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Published: October 4th 2010
The last couple of days have been a blur. My body clock is upside and needs new batteries.
I landed, was met at the airport and transported in a new, mid-sized Nissan to the small town of Yutai, which is south of Jining, Shandong. Try and find it on a map. Go on, I dare you.
My apartment is shared and dumpy, which is fitting. It's a three bedroom on the second floor of a dusty apartment badly in need of paint. I have my own room. It has most mod cons: Wi-Fi, A/C, washing machine, clothes line, TV, hot water dispenser. Right now, I am sharing the apartment with my mentor (Jasmine) and the school director, a young chap whose name sounds something like "Mr. Zheoung". Eventually, the other foreign teacher will arrive and a couple of Chinese teaching assistants will be my roommates. On the ground floor is what I would term "mixed retail". A motor scooter repair shop, beauty salon and crop seed sales outlet.
On the first day, I was dragged to a wedding banquet. Of course, I knew nobody except for my roommates. Jasmine and I sat with Mr. Zheoung's buddies. Two bottles
Joe gets a cut while Jasmine (background) fiddles around with her camera.
is a sorghum-based liquor that tastes as if it would be better off cleaning wheel bearings.
Being a wedding banquet, there was food. Lots of food. Your standard round banquet table with a "Lazy Susan" in the middle, and a server who kept bringing dishes until it was past ridiculous. Some stuff that you would immediately recognize, such as bowls and chopsticks, and loads of everything else that you would not. This is northern-style food, not Cantonese or Hong Kong style that most of us are familiar with. I particularly liked a slow-cooked pork leg, the Peking duck, soy sauce chicken and a cold salad that had tasty bits of pork that, in appearance, resembled bacon. Those "tasty bits" turned out to be sliced pig ear.
The only dish that I would not sample was the turtle. I don't eat turtles.
I was propped up and posed, smiling, in front of the wedding party, the father of the bride and random others for multiple photographs. My first "rock star moment" of many that I will experience whilst here in China. And you know
how much I like smiling and posing for photos...
Afterward, we walked off the effects of the midday baiju. Jasmine and I needed some provisions, so we went to a supermarket and picked up milk and bread, that sort of thing. The milk was UHT
, the bread was white and sliced sandwich bread. Oh, what I would give for whole grain right about now. Butter for my bread was (and remains) not available. How unavailable? There are "helpers" in every aisle who are supposed
to assist you and help you find what you need. They had never even heard of butter. Stuff that I need will have to wait until I travel to the Jining.
Today was busier. The three of us went to the school and I was given a crash course in teaching methods. Credential? Who needs one of those? I will be teaching mainly primary and middle school and the text books are fairly straightforward. My task is to keep them focused and to participate. I spent several hours in this crash-course of being an elementary school teacher, then we went off to do errands and have some lunch.
Lunch was al fresco
at a sidewalk cafe. Cold, spicy rice noodles (50 cents) and a Coke. Errands were centered around getting me a haircut; I have started to look shaggy again. The taxi (85 cents) took us to a salon that did a shampoo, cut and blow dry for $1.50.
I look vaguely human again.
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