The Adventure Begins

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August 22nd 2010
Published: August 22nd 2010
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heading out into the great unknown
I’ve tried and failed three times at getting around to posting my first blog during my first three weeks in China. Time has been going by so quickly here, both because it is a new place, with so many new sights and sounds and people to meet, but also because the Colorado China Counsel (CCC) training course that I took packed my days full of classes and lesson planning and teaching. There is not nearly enough time to recount everything that has happened to my thus far on my trip, and in doing so I would make my first blog much too long for anyone to actually finish reading, so instead I will give a brief synopsis of my first three weeks accompanied by a lot of pictures to help fill in the gaps. I promise my next posts will be much more substantial; rather than a running commentary on my life I would like to make this a blog of funny stories, substantial events, and the occasional insight into the vast complexities of life in China.

The journey to China went relatively smoothly. After Mom took a silly picture of me leaving the house, Dad dropped me off at
The viewThe viewThe view

Looking out of my hotel window on my very first morning in China
the airport for a quick hop down to San Francisco, and then the long flight to Shanghai. I managed to not forget any of my items at security this time (my track record in that arena has not been very good of late) and slept for a whole 45 minutes of the 11 and a half hour flight, so for me the inter-continental transit was a success. In Shanghai I stepped off the plane and met all of the other CCC teachers as well as our valiant instructor, counselor, and all around leader, Tim. We braved the sweltering heat for all of 5 minutes before being shuffled on to a very nice air-conditioned bus which carried us safely to our hotel. The hotel was right next to the Sydney Institute of Language and Communications (where we received our training) in a suburb called Jiading, which is a little over an hour outside of downtown Shanghai.

The time difference in China is 15 hours ahead of the west coast, and because I flew west across the international dateline I lost the majority of a day, arriving in china a full 30 hours after I left San Francisco - but don’t
Greg in the lobbyGreg in the lobbyGreg in the lobby

Check out that wall paper
worry, I’ll gain it back on my return flight. It took everyone in the group of ten teachers-in-training a few days before we could sleep all of the way through the night, and even three weeks later I was still waking around 5:30 or 6 am. But that had much more to do with the fact that the sun rises around 5am and it is soon joined by the people, cars, bicycles, and construction equipment of Jiading. My hotel room was very pleasantly situated facing a busy street with a skyline of apartment buildings, shopping centers, and construction, and I liked to start each morning gazing down at the hustle and bustle 6 stories below.

After one day of rest classes began first thing on Monday. Every day I took a (lower) intermediate Chinese language class and a teacher training and Chinese culture and customs class. If I had time in the afternoon I’d follow those up with an additional beginning Chinese language class to work on my pronunciation and solidify my vocabulary. After only one week of classes we began hour long “practice” tutorials for Chinese middle and high school students, which added hours of lesson planning and
Peter and Alex G. Peter and Alex G. Peter and Alex G.

In Huilong Tan Park near our hotel in Jiading
preparation, practice, and evaluation to my daily schedule. Between all of these engagements it seems that I shouldn’t have had time for anything else, but the other teachers and I managed to take many trips into Shanghai, play soccer with other foreign teachers at the university, shop for forgotten essentials, wander through gardens, visit the World Expo, and eat out at countless restaurants.

After three incredibly busy and happy weeks in Jiading I passed my course, said goodbye to all of my new friends and instructors, and caught a plane south to the slightly less bustling metropolis of Fuzhou where I will be teaching for the next year. I promise to post again soon with less glossed-over summary and more stories of my life and thoughts and feelings in Fuzhou. Until then, enjoy the pictures!

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Faded PropagandaFaded Propaganda
Faded Propaganda

On a cobblestone road in the old quarter of Jiading
Nanjing LuNanjing Lu
Nanjing Lu

Alex D, Peter, and Alex G in a street that is roughly the equivalent of Times Square meets Las Vegas meets Disneyland. Sort of.
The clowns of the groupThe clowns of the group
The clowns of the group

Alex G and Lela share a laugh
First day of (practice) teachingFirst day of (practice) teaching
First day of (practice) teaching

I pose with some of my students
The train into ShanghaiThe train into Shanghai
The train into Shanghai

The countryside around Shanghai offers a beautiful and startling juxtaposition between quaint farms and canals and dingy factories and towering apartment complexes

One evening I met up with my cousin Gus and had a delicious Shanghainese meal (he knows how to pick his restaurants)
Final day partyFinal day party
Final day party

On the last day of classes we had a party for our students
Alex G and Peter rock outAlex G and Peter rock out
Alex G and Peter rock out

According to Tim, our director, Chinese parties generally include public performance (read humiliation). He insisted that we use this opportunity to practice our "skills." Alex is actually quite decent at the air-guitar.
It's electric!It's electric!
It's electric!

Alex d, Jen, and I taught everyone the electric slide
Felicia and her GuzhengFelicia and her Guzheng
Felicia and her Guzheng

Some of the students put us to shame by displaying real talents
Mark, me, and TomMark, me, and Tom
Mark, me, and Tom

Everyone had a good time though

Me, Alex D, Tim, and Jen
Topiary Haibao Topiary Haibao
Topiary Haibao

Haibao, the mascot for the Shanghai World Expo (his name is short for "Shanghai's Treasure), cropped up everywhere we turned. He was everywhere you looked, from statues in front of stores, to billboards and TV adds, children's stuffed toys, sidewalk hawkers, and sculpted topiary.

22nd August 2010

Can't wait
Thanks Marjie! Can't wait for the next chapter...... but no pressure! Looks like you're having lots of good fun!
23rd August 2010

those are some great pictures marjie
23rd August 2010

how was teaching in china if i may ask? i am thinking about teaching myself!
23rd August 2010

Love living vicariously through your adventures
Marjie, thank you for letting me be a part of your adventure in the East! You are an amazing one!! Laura
26th August 2010

Emita - I haven't actually started teaching yet, but I can let you know next week. I have a little more experience with living in China, and I'd have to say it's a lot of challenge topped by a lot of rewards. The culture is very different from western countries (which can cause a lot of confusion and miscommunication), the level of sanitation can be a little off-putting (if you've never been to a third world country before), and the language barrier can be difficult - even if you speak mandarin - because the dialects and tones change from province to province. But the food is delicious, the scenery is breathtaking, and the people are some of the friendliest I've ever met. I'd have to say that if you have a decent sense of adventure, the rewards of China far outweigh the difficulties.

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