Saturday, October 29, 2011


Yesterday I finished up teaching my lessons about Halloween. My final class of the week is really good and loves to participate. They also love to play hangman and I figured since it was Friday and almost Halloween, we could play for the final few minutes. The first phrase I put up was _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. I figured they might not even guess it, but about 10 seconds after I finished writing the blanks, a kid in the back guessed Jack O' Lantern as a first guess. They continued to guess every phrase without first guessing any letters (I just looked back and realized that I used "guess" a few times too many). They guessed "Trick or treat", candy corn, and werewolf, all on the first turn. They began to say things like "Wow...we are so clever" and "this is too easy", so I had to think up one they wouldn't get. I put up the blanks _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. They sat in their seats staring at the board for 10 minutes. I asked them if they would be late to their next class and one kid said super seriously, "this is too important." This time they resorted to guessing letters and they got to _ C T_ _ E _ _ _ _ _, but they only had one guess before their stick man died. Finally, one quiet girl in the back asked "October 31?". As I turned around to write it on the board, the entire class erupted into cheers. It honestly was louder in that room than a Penn State football game. One kid got up on his desk and began to dance. It was a great way to end the week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

she was die

So I am teaching about Halloween this week and one of my activities is to have the good students in the class write a scary story. This is my favorite one from this morning. (possibly more to come)

Once upon a time, a girl wanted a red Google phone and brought it home. Someone called her up at midnight when she turned off the phone already. But the phone was still ringing and then she answered. The man said "I'm on the first floor." The girl broke the phone, then the sound came out from the broken phone. "I'm out of the door!" The girl hide herself in the quilt. Finally, a sound said, "I am JUST BEHIND YOU!" Tomorrow, the girl were observed that she was die.

As the group wrote this terrifying thriller, one girl was so afraid that she wouldn't take her hands off of her ears the entire time.

and you?

On Mondays I teach two 25 minute kindergarten classes in the afternoon. Though these classes together add up to the same time as one normal class, they are what I least look forward to the entire week. It's not that the kids are bad (they are actually really cute), it's just that I hate faking enthusiasm for the whole class. Most of them are about 5 yrs old and the only way to keep their non-existent attention is for me to dance, sing, gesture, make noises, and otherwise make a complete fool out of myself. I realize that I should not care what the kids think about me and no one else really sees, but I think it just goes against years of instinct to preserve my self-image. The hours leading up to class are filled with regret and nausea, but once I'm in class it more becomes a tornado of regret, nausea, and just a bit of enjoyment. It is rewarding though and a good experience.

On thing that is obvious with 5 yr olds learning a new language is that they tend to memorize phrases that they are taught rather than understanding the parts of the phrase. I think I explained that pretty poorly so I will give an example-- "I am fine, and you?". In the maybe 10 kindergarten classes that I have taught since I started not a single student has answered my question "How are you today?" with "I am fine". The response without fail is "I am fine, and you?". Even if I ask a different question like "How old are you?", I'll often get "I am fine, and you?". This can often be tricky also because the phrase sounds very much like "I am five (which many of them are), and you?". My favorite, however, is when I ask a student another question like "What color is your shirt?" and he looks at me with bewildered eyes and responds "I am fine, and you?"

There is a joke that is particularly funny to English teachers in China which involves a Chinese person in America driving a car and they are hit by an American driving a car (this has nothing to do with the poor driving stereotype). The American person is not hurt at all and the accident was his fault. The Chinese person, on the other hand, broke his arm and his leg and can't move. The American driver asks if he is OK, and the Chinese guy responds (I think you know where this is going) "I am fine, and you?"

I know that probably could have better written but I'm still recovering from the gauntlet that is kindergarten and need a nap.

Friday, October 21, 2011

a little speed bump

Well, being too tall has let me down again. I showed up at the building were I was supposed to model and it turns out that they only had clothes for someone who was 185 cm (not sure why they didn't ask my height before I went). I'm 194 cm tall and, as I've only become too accustomed to, all of the sleeves were to short. So, I guess they are making some larger clothes for me and hopefully next weekend I will be able to go back. And they hired me a translator which made me feel pretty legit. So my dream has been delayed a little longer, but it is still alive.

A new career?

So yesterday afternoon a Chinese English teacher at my school asked me if I would be interested in modeling for a magazine (shirts, sweaters, vests, etc.). I said I was interested and sent some pictures to the person. I didn't really expect anything to happen (at least very soon). But this morning I got a call from the modeling lady and now I am working 16 hours this weekend starting in an hour from now. I'll post again when I am finished ( that is if I have not forgotten about all you "regular" people). I am certainly preparing myself for an interesting experience.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The camel

I was just outside getting some lunch today and I turned around and standing behind me on the street was that camel that I had seen out of my window about a month ago. It turns out it belongs to a beggar who walks the camel around asking for money.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday night feast

Last night we held our weekly Friday night dinner with the foreigners from the city. We had our normal group and some new people, including a girl from Spain, two guys from France (two too many for my taste :), a girl from Switzerland, and a guy from Sudan. The dinner was one of the best I have had since I've been to China; I really wish I had taken some pictures. In the end we each owed about $13 (which is way more than I normally like to pay), but we did get a feast. Steamed greens and clams, slices of cucumber with mashed potatoes on top and raspberry sauce, gongbao style shrimp, a shrimp omelet, fried potato balls, fried duck heads and wings, a whole fish, black fungus and turnips, prawn cakes, a sizzling platter of little steaks, and of course a plate of fried rice. When we thought we were finally done, the Sudanese guy broke out a kilo of dates that he had shipped over from Sudan (he told me his family shipped him about 25 kilos of dates which cost them about 500 American dollars to ship (something tells me his family is pretty wealthy)) and those who were able to fit anything else in their stomach had a delicious dessert. Here is a picture of the bag of dates that he sent home with me. (they are also great for breakfast as I just discovered)

And because of the lack of pictures at the beginning of this post, I will include a picture of my kitten looking like he/she (still not a 100 percent sure) owns the place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Final day in Qingdao

We decided to take it easy the final day and we just toured some of the streets famous for their German architectural influence. It was pretty neat even though I am not generally into that kind of stuff. But it was nice to see something other than gray apartment buildings.

As a random bonus I am including a picture of fried quail eggs on a stick.


On Thursday we took a 2 hour bus ride to Laoshan (a very famous mountain where the water for Laoshan Beer (a very famous beer) comes from. It was about $20 for a day pass to the mountain (which took us by surprise) which included shuttle buses between the different sites along the mountains. There was some interesting religious stuff along the way like this huge statue whose name I can't remember.

It wasn't the man made things on the mountain, however, that made us glad we spent the money to come here. It was instead the awesome views that we encountered during our expeditions into the mountain. We were hesitant to continue at one point to a cave high in the mountain because we had already been hiking a lot that week. We kept climbing past the cave until there was no path or people. We climbed some huge boulders and found an awesome view on top and looking down.

We stopped at a beach at the base of the mountains and (of course) found more herds of brides getting their pictures taken on the beach (and their dresses wet and dirty which surprised me).

So overall we were definitely happy that we decided to make the trip to the mountain and, if nothing else, breathe some clean air.

Monday, October 10, 2011

3rd day (cont.)

Later that night we stopped by an old German church constructed around 1908. Again there were about 5 brides getting their pictures taken outside the church (a common pose for the pride and groom in China is for the bride and groom to touch noses (they hold the pose for a while so it looks really awkward)).

After looking around the church for a few minutes we decided to go to Little Qingdao. Little Qingdao is an island (kind of, now it has a concrete pier leading out to it) a few hundred yards off the coast. It has a German made light house on it and is beautiful at sunset (as evident from the picture).

After we left Little Qingdao we stopped at a little restaurant 15 ft away from the ocean and got some fried clams (apparently a must try when in Qingdao( I think the clams we got, however, were steamed (or whatever you normally do to clams), though I'm not totally sure (they were good (not amazing)))).

Qingdao day 3

On the third day in Qingdao I found a really neat military post on top of Qingdao mountain. It had been turned into a public park (not with swings and stuff but just stone paths through the mountain. We didn't know at all what was on the mountain and we just stumbled across this huge cannon overlooking the city.

Further up the mountain we found an observation post that was built buy the Germans around 1899. The rotating part of the post (on top) weighs about 6 tons.

Further down the mountain we came across the entrance to the entire underground bunker (of course we got charged to go in (only about a buck fifty though)). The bunker had living quarters, command posts, observation posts, escape hatches, a water supply, and all sorts of nifty things. The second picture is of me in the rotating observation post.

The Qingdao Battery Fort turned out to be super interesting and was one of my favorite tours (probably because we weren't expecting too much from it). The area doesn't even make the top 20 tourist spots in Qingdao.

Second day in Qingdao.

The second day I checked into a new hostel in the morning. It is called the Old Observatory and is built on a top a hill on the location of an old observatory (where they apparently got the name). For about 10 bucks a night, you can't beat it. There was an open air lounge on top with an amazing view of the city.

On the second day, two fellow teachers joined up with me in Qingdao. We first went to a famous landmark in Qingdao which is a long pier with a pavilion at the end. I'm not completely sure why it is so famous but the pavilion is pictured on the Tsing-tao (very famous in China) beer bottle. This day was still during the holiday so the pier was absolutely packed with people

We then moved on to another famous landmark. I believe it is the St. Micheal's catholic church. The church was pretty neat, but what interested me more was the number of brides getting their pictures taken in front of the church. I took a picture that shows three posing for pictures, but in the whole square there had to be at least a dozen or more brides taking pictures or waiting for a spot. We were walking away later and were passed by a bus completely full of brides and grooms.

Several venders buy the ocean were selling a neat looking snack food, it had to be about four feet by three feet and more than a foot deep. It reminded me of a mix between a fruit cake (which I have never tried), granola bar, and a payday candybar. They made cool decorations on top of it with nuts and fruits. It seemed like mainly Muslim people were selling it (i'm not sure why that was).

Day one in Qingdao

The first day in Qingdao I mainly walked along the miles of famous beaches in Qingdao. The city comes right up to the edge of the beach which is impressive but not very relaxing.

There were tons of venders along the beach who were just plain annoying, they are especially bad during the holiday. There was a lot to see along the ocean. The next picture is a structure in the May 4th Square next to the sea. May 4th is the date when many in China rebelled against foreign influence in China after WWI. (I was by myself the first day so I had to resort to the self picture pose).

Train to Qingdao

Since I bought my tickets late and everyone is traveling during the National Day holiday, I couldn't get a seat on the 8.5 hour train trip to Qingdao. I figured I would be a man and give it a try (plus it was only like 15 bucks). It was miserable. The train was packed and I could only stand right near the bathroom door. This is a picture looking at the aisle between the cars.

I think it is not so bad for the Chinese people because they can take up next to no room when the squat on the floor. I really couldn't manage to sit without being a roadblock. After a guy left, I managed to get a seat on a trash can. This was nice except people would make me move every few minutes so they could throw stuff away (probably those stuck up people that could afford seats). Eventually I managed to get about a half an hour of sleep on the can. I got to Qingdao around 9:00, checked in to my hostel and started touring the city.