teaching life in a virtual world
Three weeks? I thought it was just a few days ago that I wrote a bit of a blog. It has been such a full-on section of life with non-stop everything. I look out the window and see (and hear) the 24 hour a day building across the street with eight cranes in one area and several a block away along with jack hammers, lines of trucks, and just so many workers and just like life in China it just does not stop. On the way to nearby Kai Fa Qu, Dalian counted 41 cranes working on buildings in the 25 plus story range – apartment buildings, then I saw as many a few kilometers further. And there is the new city they are building nearby that will not only host the new China movie industry but will have a yacht marina and housing for zillions or so people. The area across the street from us will be million dollar homes (yes this is China) in a walled-in area called ‘Chateau de Burgundy’ and a block away what they are building is identical to where we were touring a year ago in southern France. It is even being built to look old. french chateau next to Dalian American International School
french chateau next to Dalian American International School
As I sit here trying to get caught up from the past three weeks I hear the fireworks. It is 6.30 AM Sunday. This is China – fireworks and more fireworks. They love their fireworks. Anytime of the day or night there will suddenly be a barrage of them. Whether here in the countryside, or in downtown Kai Fa Qu or along Golden Pebble Beach, downtown Dalian, or where we shop locally in Jinshitan (which is also Pebble Beach – go figure) there will be smoke and ashes and noise of the fireworks.
The water to Pebble Beach (Dalian Golden Pebble Beach National Resort is the first National Resort approved by the State Council of P.R China, the main function of which is for hosting foreign guests) was turned off for a couple of days. We filled our bath tub and every bucket we could find but since it was Friday we decided to go into Dalian City (about an hour away) for the weekend when school let out. Two other couples went with us. We took a car in (our driver we call Jack, not that we know who Jack actually is, we just all have Jack’s phone number on our phone and we ring Jack wherever we are and a car soon arrives and we are taken where we want to go. It is often a different driver each time. We just go up to the car and say Jack? and they nod and off we go. We try not to look out the window when in a car. It is the scariest thing you could imagine. Where there are three lanes marked, ‘Jack’, or the shopping bus, or whatever we are in, often makes a fourth lane. Drivers rarely signal and everyone goes really fast, beeping horns and coming so close to constant disaster. I had to go into Dalian for some medical stuff last week and my driver was easily doing close to a hundred coming back – it was a van. We came to a blocked area of the freeway so instead of patiently (there is no patience in our neck of the woods) he made a sudden turn off the freeway up a dirt construction road around a hill and got back on the freeway further up where there was no traffic jam. It was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and he was on his cell phone most of the time. I suppose he felt he had to have me back at school as quick as possible so I won’t miss any work. And of course there are no seat belts.
So this past Friday, with no water into our building or the whole area we went into downtown Dalian. Outside of too many dealings with government officials to get my working visa finally through we had not been in Dalian, except for one night we had a school trip to Brooklyn, the expat pub and pizza diner in downtown Dalian. Once our driver fought his way through the heavy traffic going into the city (we went in two cars for eight of us, four couples, and six of us ended up at the same hotel) and dumped our bag in our rooms we went out in search of a meal. Our Chinese lessons begin next week so for now we depend on our electronic translator. We went into a restaurant that covered several stories. When we made enough gestures to prove without any doubt that we were starving we were sent up to about the fifth or sixth floor. After being herded into a small room the food started coming out and we cooked it in boiling somethings on our table. I have a video (and photos) that I will post soon on my Dalian Page http://dalian.neuage.us/ that shows what would be too difficult to explain. Needless to say the food was really good and we had some of the best laughter up to that time.
So after dinner everyone seemed to be in the mood for a drink (it is difficult to keep people over 55 from partying) and we went off into the night. Near our hotel was a 30+ story hotel with a name very similar to ours (so we initially thought we had booked into the wrong place) and we were riding up and down the elevator
looking for a pub type of area and on the fourth floor saw a sign that seemed to mean a place to have a drink. We barged into a room that had a bar and lots of alcoholic bottles on the shelf only to instantly be met by about a dozen women with tight red dresses. Realizing that we must be in the wrong area we looked into another room with the same response. (I have a video of this too but I think we were laughing so hard – damn rude Westerners, that it may be a bit shaky – it will soon be on my Dalian page in the video section). The third room seemed better as no women in red tight dresses greeted us. We sat down at a long table on comfy sofas and hoped that someone would soon be in with the drinks menu. Instead two people came in and started handing out microphones and put on the large TV screen, we realized then that this was actually a karaoke bar/room and Shawn, one of our traveling mates/teachers/new found friend, said that we had a friend downstairs waiting for us and off we went into the night again. We never did find a place to drink. Like pirated DVDs prostitution is illegal in China and like pirated DVD’s they are everywhere. We saw girls with flashing neon badges dressed to the nines and signs that read ‘sex’ with large arrows.
The next day, Saturdaywe headed to Zhonshan Square and had lots of fun shopping, hopped on a falling apart bus because we were so tired to go to the Ikea store outside of downtown Dalian. We showed the driver an Ike shopping bag and he held up three fingers so we paid the three yuan (47 cents USD, 45 cents Australian) and as all drivers he made his own lane which in our case was the opposition direction lane. Somehow he squeezed back into the lane that was our direction as cars came racing toward us and next we knew there was Ikea. I wanted to go see the aircraft carrier that China is building which is only a few blocks in back of Ikea but with all the bags of stuff we had purchased and five tired old people trailing behind me it was not going to happen. We ended up just buying lots of Swedish food because we need a change from Chinese food and then Narda and I went to the Decathlon sports store next to Ikea and bought really good bikes and helmets an locks and etc. which will be delivered in a couple of days. Hopefully we won’t get killed ridin our bikes on these incredibly dangerous road ways. We plan on doing lots of riding. Then we took the light rail, so crowded that we barely got in – New York City subway you hold nothing on a crowded Chinese tram.
[dudes with hats]
our new red-star hats
The shopping bus leaves Campus Village (where we live) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. It stops in Kai Fa Qu on the way into Dalian. We use to go in during the week but after a day at work we just go in on Saturday to Kai Fa Qu. Two weeks ago we walked the hour hike to the light rail that starts in Jinshitan (there is a planned station for our school but it may be another year or two before it happens) and took the 4 yuan half hour ride and fortunately got a seat in and after buying way too much stuff we took the shopping bus in the afternoon back home. Home is great. It is like living at a four star (five star for China) resort/hotel. We are sparsely furnished but it is OK– our heap of junk we shipped from NYC won’t be here until October. We have a two bedroom apartment with a balcony (there is or will be a video in our video area of my Dalian site) for some photos see http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/Aug%2012%202011/ (sorry about the URL will fix it sometime). We have a gym on the first floor, it is not the New York Sports Club which I took a liking to for the past five years but there are some machines and heaps of free weights so I get to stretch and groan every day. Then there are the guards. Not sure why. It is safer here than most places we have lived. The whole property, Campus Village and the school have a large fence all around and there are guards at every entrance and every building. Twenty-four hours a day. They are not the doorman they are guards usually dressed in army uniforms. Whether they are protecting us or being sure we do not suddenly move out I am not sure but they are friendly and we have learned to say ni hao (hello) but I said hee haw for the first couple of weeks – probably means something not nice.
Narda and I found a small shopping area twenty minutes walking away. It is so local, and so cheap. We both got haircuts for 15 yuan – about $2.50 both haircuts look quite Asian.
School so far is great. After teaching at the NYC Charter school, Ross Global Academy (the Courtney Sale Ross, widow of Steve Ross, the former C.E.O. of Time Warner, experiment in education which was closed down by the city of NYC for its momentous failure) this is such a contrast. The kids are behaved, want to learn and we are having a great time. I make big mistakes such as asking if anyone could speak Korean as my student was not following me at all only to be told by a Korean student that ‘he is Chinese’. And names? Forget it. Most of the Asians have taken on names like Tony and Oscar. Our life-saving secretaries, Snow and Sunshine keep things rolling. I still have not had time to set up a VPN so I can get on Twitter and Facebook and post my new lots of video on youtube but I have an eighth grade student who has found a Japanese VPN that he is setting up on my machine. I have several students whose parents work for Intel nearby. Campus Village not only houses the teachers for DAIS but for the big overseas companies that are moving into this area which is kind of a Silicon Valley of China. They live in townhouses and we live in apartments so there is a difference but we are not complaining. Narda likes having a maid and getting our house cleaned and clothes washed and ironed but I am not sure – though it is cheap, it seems a bit unnatural to me.
The building around our area makes me dizzy but in the midst of it all, across the road, five minutes away, is the Blueberry Farm. A very large area with a pub, tea rooms, lake, streams and a great restaurant. Nine of us trekked up to the restaurant a couple of Fridays ago. Nothing was in English, fair enough, this is China. I managed to get across I was a vegetarian and the first eight or nine dishes that came out were so amazing, some of the best food I have ever have had. There was so much food, and beer, and soda and at the en it came out to about eight dollars USD each. I have a couple of photos http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/BlueberryFarmDAIS/ and will put a video soonish in the video area of my Dalian page.
We rarely watch the news. There is just too much going on here. We get about 35 channels, mostly Chinese but we do get HBO, BBC, CNN and an Australian channel so I have gathered some of the males over to watch Aussie Rules Footy. It looks pretty grim in the States. I know we have lost about 15% on investments in less than a month and we have no intentions of selling houses. We are becoming quite removed from the rest of the world and we are happy with that. We have a two year contract which we may or may not renew or maybe they won’t want us. It does not matter now. We feel like we are on a holiday and life is just great. We have begun planning our trip to Hanoi for our October week break. Everyone here, being from the States, or in our case, Australia-States, the talk of travel is the number one conversation (after the academics of course – hey we are working) and where everyone is going is compared and shared. We are off to Australia for Christmas than to the ice festival in Harbin in January and maybe India for spring break then the States for a couple of weeks for summer than on to Australia then back here. I am so happy I managed to stay alive this long. There were some very rough years and for now life is great.
Well Narda is off with some ‘girls’ to get a foot massage in Jinshitan. They have rung ‘Jack’ and several cars are on the way to collect them. Me? I am finally having a bit of time to myself, think I will work on so many dozens of videos I have started and perhaps do some lesson planning for next week and edit some photos, go to the gym, take a walk, take a nap – it has been such a full-on three weeks, make tofu burgers for din din and try to figure out how to use my soy milk maker that Narda bought for my 64th birthday eleven days ago.
Next weekend we have been invited to a Chinese wedding so that will be fun. Apparently it is a good thing to invite or have westerners at a Chinese wedding and these are big events here.
Narda has a great blog – well she has posted some and more is waiting to be posted after her foot massage today. blog.narda.us
tri color city in Kai Fa Qu
just a pub in Kai Fa