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October 19th 2010
Published: October 19th 2010
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Teaching is going well. Apparently, I am just goofy enough that enrollments have spiked up well beyond expectations. I am surprised. My boss is very pleased.

I am not quite yet settled in. My apartment is more or less complete: I had to buy a multiple outlet strip as so to plug in all of my doo-dads, I now have decent speakers so that I can listen to KPIG nicely, I have a photo of Maggie on my desk and I have stockpiled a mess of Nescafe instant coffee (don't even start!), plus Skippy peanut butter, jam and yogurt. My brand new electric toaster is on the way, but obtaining butter is still beyond my grasp. And just forget about bacon. If this keeps up, I may drop a few kilos. Dang!

My regular days off are Monday and Tuesday; yes, I work weekends. It's not as though working weekends makes any difference to my social life, other than the (impossibly adorable) Teacher's Assistants, I know nobody here. To make matters worse, the locals insist upon speaking a foreign language, dammit!

I have made a few calls on Skype to folks back home, I listen to KPIG online (I am well informed regarding traffic conditions on Highway 17 where it meets up with Highway 1) and, of course, read Jon Carroll every day, and you should too. Other than my best friend (a Dell Latitude D600), I am pretty isolated here. This is both good and bad: I am overdue for some serious introspection but wouldn't mind having someone around who speaks English and appreciates my jokes. (There has actually been little change: nobody at home liked my jokes either)

Food is still very good. Any pangs for familiar, Western-style comfort foods soon pass (as does much of the Chinese food, but I'll spare you the details on that). Yesterday, Daisy (one of my Teaching Assistants) and I had lunch together. We ordered a delicious spicy pork entree and a cold, green bean salad that had been dressed with oil and vinegar and then with a dollop of spicy peanut sauce on top, plus rice and a Coke for me. Lunch for two was about $5.00 and would have been a lot less, if it were not for the Coke. Today, Anna (the other TA) and I will go window-shopping shortly and eat lunch somewhere too. Back home, dining out invariably included a "drive-up" window, but never a turtle.

As I type this, a quadzillion firecrackers are going off about a block away. Now, sky rockets. The explosions are quite loud. Either someone is having a wedding nearby or North Korea has just invaded. It's that loud. Every night, I wear earplugs when I go to bed. What with car horns honking, fireworks or a live band in the nearby park, China is one noisy-ass place.

I am used to the incessant horns honking, they don't honk in anger, it is just a warning that a car, bus or ginormous truck is warning a bicyclist or pedestrian to beware of their presence. But it is never ending, hence the necessity of earplugs. I live in an apartment house and insist upon keeping my bedroom window open for fresh air, so I hear all the city noises: car horns, street vendors, dogs barking, cats fighting and married couples squabbling from other apartments ("I should have married Gloria Goosby instead of you!")

The attached chalkboard photo? Well, we were invited to speak at a local middle school, and I was on the bill. I would have never known that, but my co-workers started laughing. I briefly scanned it, reminded myself that I don't read Chinese and was puzzled as to what was so funny until they pointed out the top, right of the chalkboard.



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19th October 2010

nescafe
I drank those instant nescafe packets while in China too. You get used to them, but, maybe since you will be there for long time you might want to consider switching to tea? I know, I know...
19th October 2010

Butter & Bacon
Years ago when traveling the Yucatan, there was both canned Butter and Bacon from Denmark available all the time thanks to nearby Free Trade Zone. Oh, also chocolate milk. If it still is made, would care packages mailed to you, actually REACH you? What are the chances?
20th October 2010

Probably not. Anyway, I am supposed to be visiting Jining this weekend, and it supposedly has a big store. My original plan was to "go with the flow", and that is working out fine. It makes for better stories!
20th October 2010

funny thing about introspection -- it requires some solitude, but when solitude turns to loneliness, it somehow doesn't work. My friend Barbara from Oakland wrote a poem about getting away from it all to write, and how a cat was her only companion for some long time, and the last line, which I love, is "Except for that cat, I was too lonely to write." Prolly not ex-pats in that remote city, eh? Hang in there.
20th October 2010

Teach On
I am not surprised that your humor plays well in China (and that nobody gets it all) Teaching aka Stand up non comedy every day can be gruelling -- how is it for you? Think you can eventually parley your growing success into teaching Chinese in the big cities where there are more honkeys to hang out with? Cool that you are comfortable with all Chinese food (except for your Skippy hoard). Do they have any foreign restaurants? Enjoy the adventure, Greg
8th November 2010

Joe, you look great in this photo
You really do look like you're having a fantastic time there. And your impossibly cute assistants...sweet!

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