Sunday, January 18, 2009

Update - Incomplete... Written on Jan 7

Right now I am sitting in the Beijing Airport... I just lost my handy HSM2 hand sanitizer (why they wouldn't allow it on the plane, I don't know...), and my super-cool looking water bottle (when you try to fill a plastic water bottle with scalding hot water, it'll shrivel and shrink... RIP, water bottle). The flight has been delayed about an hour, I believe. There was trouble with the incoming flight (It was late), so we're bumped back some. I've been moved from the back of the plane to the front so that I can get off quickly to make my connecting flight... I hope it works... If not, I've got friends in NYC, so I'll try to spend the night with them... unless the airline offers to put me up at a snazzy hotel... snazzy hotels are fun... But it would be more fun (theoretically) to chill with some friends... we'll see.

So, what's been going on that I haven't written about? Lots of stuff. I've had a much busier (in a good way) schedule in China than I ever would have in the US. (Totally random thought: I wonder if OSU beat UT or the other way around...) Parties, meals, shopping... good times. I already realized that I forgot some things at H's: my little black dress (sniffle... that was a great dress...) and my Dublin jacket (it was so cozy and warm in FL...). C'est la vie. I think I updated you all until the Monday before Christmas... So we'll start there.

That Monday, I taught the writing lesson for the 3rd and 4th times, in the last class, one of the groups did a really excellent job - not only did they look up the assigned words, but they tied them to descriptive writing. It was ery exciting. We did not meet with H's Mon. afternoon Listening class - the English teachers were expected at a department party. The party was interesting. There was much more in the way of entertainment than there would be at an American dinner: Some of the English faculty did a "fashion show", some played instruments, one read a poem. Everyone was essentially expected to contribute to the festivities. As thanks for their contributions, gifts of detergent, toothbrushes, hand cream and other practical things were given. Plate after plate of food was brought in. It was the first 'feast' I'd been to. Only one thing was difficult to eat: cold noodles in gelatin... I definitely gagged on that one... I didn't try the fried chicken stuff because I wasn't certain where the meat was. I tried everything else, though. Some stuff I enjoyed (like the flaky coconutty bread at the beginning), some stuff I didn't (one of the soups). Alcohol was flowing, the other tables got involved in drinking games or something... I held my cup under the table when they came around with the beer, H and K were not so fortunate, so they toasted, but didn't imbibe. My protest when they went to fill my cup was that I was underage... They thought that was pretty funny. We paid our respects and left before the others became too drunk... I wrapped the presents after we got back, even though I was quite tired... I was pretty cranky by the time I was finally finished.

Tuesday... On Tuesday, we had class again I talked about Christmas while H gave the Oral exam, and wound up telling the Christmas story, which was pretty exciting. In retrospect, it was like skiing - I wasn't certain if I was doing it right, but I couldn't stop, and I didn't want to. I also got to meet the rescheduled Listening class. Tuesday evening was the party when I got my Chinese name. I also got to try a lot of neat snacks, including some I didn't like quite as much... I again went solo to the convenience store for drinks (for the party), this time, I found the grape. There were about 30 girls there, evidently guys don't do parties so much...

Wednesday was Christmas Eve. I don't recall what happened, exactly... No, we went shopping - My first trip to Gui Lin Lu (pronounced - Gway-lynn-lou or low)(It's not unlike Canal St. in NYC). H got a headache too quickly, and I tried one of her curry restaurants. After GLL, we made a stop at War-Ma (aka Wal-Mart), then headed home. There was a small gift exchange with some others when we opened our stockings. It was quite fun. (That was when I got my cool water bottle that just died...) H and I had been invited to Christmas dinner in the flat of a couple from the company. It was tasty, but I felt a bit guilty eating things I could get in a few weeks when the others hadn't enjoyed some of the dishes in months. Afterward, we chilled upstairs singing Christmas songs with some of the others. We also watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Thursday morning I decided to stay put when H taught her 8 AM class. Soon after we got up, we found the Skype video cards from the family, which we thoroughly enjoyed. (Especially a certain point when K made a perfectly-timed comment that would only cause hilarity in our family.) While H was gone, I cleaned in the kitchen. Kind of a Christmas present, I guess.

**At this point, it was time to wait to board the plane. I was able to make the connecting flight with time to spare, in case you wondered (despite a bit of fun with customs...). More to come, honest!

Friday, January 2, 2009


Ow. I am in pain. This pain was not caused by falling 5-10 times, nor by slamming into some random Chinese guy while traveling several mph on skis. The pain was not caused by walking several miles, nor by hauling skis up a slope 3 times. No, this pain was caused by attempting to slide down a huge pile of snow which had a notch carved into it not big enough to fit my hips... I'm certain I'll feel pain from everything else later, but for now, I feel bruises forming on my legs...

Today was a good day. I got up at seven, put together a lunch and piled on several layers. Then I walked out to the main gate, took a taxi to the Ching-way (sp!), and waited to meet a friend around 8. This girl is from H's company, she is from Singapore, which was a very good thing, since she speaks (and reads!) fluent Chinese, since everyone else is initialled, we'll call her R. So we met in the Ching-way station around 8 and took the train away from the main part of town. We rode (not really meaning to) to the end of the line. Our stop was the next to last stop, but the doors closed before we could get out. We just waited awhile for the train to go the other way. We got off, R had some trouble since she only had gotten a 2 kuai ticket, but needed a 3 kuai one for the distance she had travelled. We walked from the station to the park (we paid 30 yuan at the entrance), then over the lake (so much fun! Though it turned out to be less efficient to have done so... It was quite cold, too... so cold that our breath frosted the stray hairs near our faces.) to another part of the road, then down the road to the skiing area. (Our purpose overall was to go skiing, it was her 2nd time and my first.) Our first inkling that something was different came when we got to a stretch of road that had Chinese police posted every 10 feet. It turned out that today was a huge skiing festival/international 50k cross-country ski race that lasts four days. By the time we got there we were quite cold, and ready to warm up a bit. We went ahead past the ski lodge (sorta) to the area where the race fun was going on. On the way, we stopped at a vendor and got tea eggs. I was a bit hesitant about these strange brown eggs with bits of black stuff sticking to them, but I went ahead, shelled my egg, and tried it. It was good! I'm going to try to make them when I get home, but that was a good egg. (Essentially, tea eggs are eggs boiled with water and tea leaves.) It was also hot, which helped warm my hands for awhile. We wandered around the race area for awhile. Twice, people had their picture taken with me (random, but fun), and we took our picture with the mascot fellow for the race: an Alpen grandfather type guy. We walked some more, seeing the random things, including some neat snow sculptures, ice bikes, little sleighs drawn by reindeer without horns, little dogsleds with room for two people. We tried some food from another vendor: it looked like a piece of wood, but it broke easily and turned sticky in your mouth, R and I thought it might be frozen molasses, we're still not sure. We made a loop and wound up near the ski lodge, we bought 5 more eggs (2 for her, 3 for me (I told you, they're good!)) and went in the lodge. We discovered it was 200 yuan to ski (100 to ski, 100 deposit) for two hours. So first we had our odd lunch: Tea eggs, little orange creme filled cakes, lemon cracker sandwiches, and beef-flavored Cheetos (I also had a cup of nai cha (milk tea)). I didn't like the Cheetos as much as I thought I would. C'est la vie. After we were thoroughly fortified, I bought a pair of gloves (the ones I've been wearing were letting too much cold through, so we layered those over my new ones, and we went to ski. It took a little while to get suited up, get a locker, (me to learn how you put everything on... I was quite helpless at first) and get out on the beginner's slope. We stood in line for the ski lift, (I'll insert here that standing in line in China is about as cutthroat as you get, if you don't aggressively move toward the front, all kinds of people will just go in front of you... As I was hapless/helpless on my skis for awhile, it was a challenge...) which isn't a lift, rather there's a disc that goes between your legs connected to an overhead line which draws you along. As you take the lift, you aren't sitting on the disc, you're sliding along on your skis, so if your skis go the wrong way (say, out from you in a V), you're going to have some problems. Guess who had problems! I fell off, which was the second time (I'd already committed the V error getting to the lift), so R got off, too. There was some fun getting up (you have to take the skis off to get back up, and I kept trying to get up with them on...), and we coasted back down, allowing me to get used to the skis. We decided to just walk up the slope instead of standing in line again. Walking with ski boots is plenty of fun... They're not exactly traction-oriented, since you're supposed to be wearing skis under them, so you have to walk carefully, nay, nearly gingerly to get somewhere (and trying to ski up the slope was not an option, since to do that you have to pull yourself along on your ski poles, which is murder on the arms...). We finally reached the top, put on our skis, and rode down. It was at that point that I understood why people ski. I was sort of trying to go slower, to keep my skis in an inverted V and not let them get to the error V, but I flew along, all the way to the bottom of the hill. It was fun. We hiked back up, after trying for awhile to pirate a ride on the lift from people who fell off, and we went again. This time, I was trying to be more controlled, and to go slower, keeping a larger inverted V, but with that as my focus, I wasn't trying as hard to sort of steer, which is when I slammed into the random Chinese guy... yeah... There was a chain reaction: I slammed into him, we both slammed into the ground... It was kinda weird, 'cause it almost seemed like he was standing there waiting for me to run into him... He and his friend helped me back up, and I had gotten my ski back on and was fixing to coast down the rest of the way when some girl got tangled up with me, and I met the ground again. Finally I coasted back down (By that time, R had come back and helped me up) the slope. R decided to try the intermediate slope, while I gave the beginner's another shot, by this time we were 35 min away from 2 hrs. My final ride was great. I sighted early on where there were gaps in people and focused on a. staying up and b. not running into people. I decided against another run, even though there were 25 min left, and made my way back to the ski lodge. It was slow going, and I asked a Chinese lady on the way to take a picture of me on skis. It took a couple tries, but we got a good pic. I waited for R back at the lodge, since she had our shoe claim tags. I tried to claim mine, since time was running out, but the guys behind the counter, amid Chinese, asked me to "Wait a moment, please." I went back out to wait for R, and finally saw her. We got our deposit (and shoes) back, then went to try out the snow slide that other people (mostly kids) had been having fun on. We chickened out for the higher one, opting for the one that had the too-narrow notch... We learned our lesson and went down the big one next... it was terrific fun. We were tired from the skiing, so we started to walk back to the entrance. We hadn't gotten far before a taxi van driver asked us if we needed a lift, so we took the fast/easy option and took the van to the Ching-way station. After I got back in the room, I decided that a nap was in order, but it took a loooong time before my legs stopped emitting cold and I was able to sleep comfortably. I woke up later, started to write this post, then H and I went out with some friends and had a good (big) dinner, then came back, and now I'll probably take a long hot shower to forestall the aches which are sure to come (or as Jamaicans would say, "Soon come."). I'll do my best to catch everyone up on what else has been going on over the next few days, but for now, tsai chien (phonetic spelling), or goodbye, from China.

Check out pictures here: