Pit falls and hilarities

So early last week I ate something, what it was I could not say (I have a sneaking suspicion that it was a meatball that at the time I thought was delicious). What ever that something was, Monday night I awoke around midnight with the dreaded bubble in the stomach that your mind automatically uses to check if all the hatches are still water tight. I then proceeded to spend Tuesday in a suspended state of dread and on the toilet. All this has happened when I no longer have anything to read and no TV to entertain myself, leading to my imagination taking me away from my be only to be abruptly jarred back to reality by an unpleasant gurgling in my lower intestines. Over the next day I cat napped, in the same manner as I day dreamed, until Wednesday morning. I was able to get to the hospital accompanied by one of my Chinese counterparts and spent time being evaluated and questioned in a state of dehydration and exhaustion which led me to believe that some funny things were being said about me. During this trip I learned a few things; first and foremost Chinese hospital visits cost considerably less that the American counterparts. I spent a total of 350 Chinese RMB for diagnosis, lab tests, and prescriptions which comes out to around $35…another win for the arguments for social medicine in my book. Secondly, when they want a waste sample to evaluate, imagine trying to get that squating over a hole in the ground while exhausted from dehydration and diarrhea…and opening the stall door to see what can only be described as an adult sized potty training device. The shame and exhaustion I felt was further exacerbated. Finally, Chinese hospitals aggressively treat things such as this, I was given a shot in the posterior, and IV drip, and enough drugs to help a moose with bowel problems I’m sure and sent home. Those drugs had me feeling better by that evening, I slept fairly well and was back at work the next day. All in all the Chinese doctor told me I got sick because I ate something when I was cold, so I had to take my medicine with hot water to even that out, this yin and yang approach to modern medicine is humorous to say the least, it was the main topic of jokes amongst my western companions here for the last few days. Next time I decide to eat under cooked food, I’ll drink both hot and cold water to ensure that I don’t get sick….

Observations

While my time here continues to bring me joy, there are always oddities and weirdness which cause me to chuckle. Perhaps one of the best benefits of teaching history in China is the near reverence the people have for the past. I know that this is a byproduct of the Confucian beliefs regarding ancestors, but it still warms me to hold a position of respect for my field of study. The fact that during class Communist Party song blast from speakers adorning the school is a source of never ending mirth and frustration due to my mind constantly wandering and wondering as to the content of the songs. I learned today that sometimes the parents need to be cajoled to orderly conduct when picking up their child, I determined this after seeing the gate guard in a helmet with an honest to goodness truncheon. That forced me to reconsider the concept of American helicopter parents. The best part is I’m slowly learning some words, and being able to communicate more efficiently is important, especially when choosing food.

 I’ve finally gotten the heat working in my flat, the next step is to explore a little beyond my village…

The hard things

Moving is difficult…moving countries requires an exercise in patience, understanding, and masochism. I’ve endured meetings at police stations to register my stay, impatient people with whom there is a large language barrier, and all kinds of stares as I feel like a zoo animal freed to wander the streets at times. Perhaps the most annoying has been opening a bank account and getting a phone number. Each individually took over an hour, stateside those errands would have take 15 minutes each…minus sales pitches of course. While I understand that communication is a barrier, the amount of ID I had to show and the repetitive sign-in of my name made me wonder if I was enlisting in the military somehow. The sheer volume of bureaucratic paper necessary for what Americans would view as trivial is impressive. Throughout it all the patience of the people interacting with me has reduce the tension considerably. The humor some saw in the interactions mirrored my own and allowed me to relax even more. In reality I’m adjusting to the ways things are done with minimal culture shock. Instead I’m left to wonder aboutnthe culture shock I’ll receive when I return to the states…

A little time in.

So it’s been a little bit since I got here and here are some observations:

1. I live pretty well in a particularly shitty part of the city. My apartment is something I’d expect in a large city with limited space. A small, 2 room affair with all the amenities a westerner could expect, minus a stove for cooking though. While my furniture is sparse I don’t feel the need to augment it. I have what I need. But I am surrounded by what I would call a slum, multi-generational families living in what most in the west would term squalor. While a good part of me knows thatbthis is to be expected, I still wonder at the contrast in situations as there are Chinese families living similarly to myself surrounded by squalor in what can only be described as a construction zone. 

2. Beijing, like many cities is more expensive than what I had already experienced in China. While it is not wildly inflated, I a still annoyed by this development. 

3. I am less an anomaly here and more the casual happenstance. I don’t get the stares I did in Wuhan or Nanning, but I’m still a novelty for most Chinese. 

4. Holidays are taken seriously…a week off for some strange festival. Being new my sense of loneliness has increased and I’m excited to get back in the classroom. What am I going to do for winter break????

5. The people are as accommodating and friendly as I remember. I’m looking forward to learning and seeing more.

Old Trips

Old Trips

Every now and then we take trips down memory lane. I am posting my journal from my trip to China in 2012. I hope everyone enjoys it, I know I had fun experiencing it.

Travel diary

Day 1

May 24th, 2012 (Begin Date)

Started today with anticipation, I spent last evening with Rob hanging out and then Katie saw me off this morning. As I drove to the airport a sense of dreading anticipation grew in my stomach much like every other trip I have ever taken. This was only waylaid by the confusion at the airport check-in.

I pulled got to the terminal and the Air Canada sign. Everything seemed to be normal; I followed signs pointing me to my check-in counter. As I strolled down the walkway with my bags I was confident I was heading in the right direction. At the next sign I noticed that the sign for Air Canada had disappeared…where was I going?

“Maybe they just forgot to put the sign on this one,” I thought, hoping that the airline was sensible and didn’t hide its check-in counter from its customers.

I walked nearly to the end of row upon row of airline check-in counters…none were Air Canada. Now I was wondering if I was even at the right airport. I checked my reservation email and saw, “yep, PDX. So now what?”

I turned around and headed back, as I headed back I saw Air Canada signs pointing me the way I had come. Now I was convinced that my airline was operating a phantom operation. I reached my starting point and once again the signage for my airline disappeared. I decided that I was in the right area but where was my counter? I was standing next to the United Airlines counters, not an Air Canada in sight…wait! There squeezed in the middle of numerous United Airlines signs was a sign for Air Canada, I had found it! Once I found the counter the check in went easy, except for some other passengers who had been standing in line with me. One of the ladies behind the counter came out and stated loudly “This line is for Air Canada passengers only.” While pointing at my line, I shrugged knowing I was in the right place, but around 7 or 8 of the passengers with me got out of line and went one line over to check into United. Bless air travel right?

Once checked in I got through security, to my gate, and on the plane with no problems. As I sat there that sense of travel anxiety settled into my stomach once again. Only after takeoff was my brain convinced I was traveling and my stomach settled…briefly.

For as I had driven to the airport I had stopped for McDonalds breakfast; it’s fast and easy so why not was my brain’s argument. On the plane three hours later my stomach told me why not.

As I sat in my seat I tried not to squirm and hoped to wait to go to the bathroom when I got to the airport. But my body was rebelling against me. Forty five minutes into the flight the gurgling refused to stop so I sought out the restroom. Once informed it was at the fore of the cabin I got ready to exchange places with the flight attendant, then the little boy behind me piped up, “Daddy I have to go!” The father told him to get to the bathroom. While the flight attendant was arranging her station the little boy charged to the restroom, as the father passed me by he looked at me and with his mouth said, “Is this okay?” His eyes though, said “Too bad, my son is going first.”

I could do nothing but sit and let the little boy go first; my only comfort was that I wasn’t the last person. Someone behind me had to go too…

Once I landed in Canada, had lunch and got to my gate I was in a traveling grove, ready to get to my destination and see a whole new culture…about sixteen hours away.

Day 2

Having landed last night I was just a little tired. An hour to Portland airport, 2 hours in the terminal there, 2 hours in the air to Canada, 2 hours in the terminal there, 14 hours in the air to Hong Kong, 2 hours in the terminal there, and then 2 hours in flight to Nanning left me exhausted. 25 approximate hours of travel yesterday was nearly overwhelming.

But I digress to unimportant things. Upon my arrival I was greeted by Tracy, the assistant to my program’s director. She took me to my hotel; the entire trip was an orgy of new sights and smells. Everything blurred together as I try and remember it now. The most distinctive thing I can remember was the smells of the different foods as we drove by various restaurants, that and the fact that driving in China, as well as being a passenger, is nearly a contact sport. As our driver ferried us to my hotel I noticed a lack of rigidity in the traffic patterns as we drove. It seems that stoplights are suggestive here and that lane markers are ignored by a great many drivers. I guess these are some of the reasons that we in America feel that Asians can’t drive. I wonder how they view us????

Anyway, so I got to my hotel, showered, and hit the sack in order to acclimate myself to the time zone here in Southern China. I woke up at around 6 a.m. and decided to go for a walk. As I left the hotel I noticed that the smells I was taking in reminded me of several other cities I had been to; New York, Manama, Chicago, London, and Naples. I think that all large cities take on the smells of the world.

As I walked I looked for someplace to eat, most shops were closed at 6 so my choices were limited. I ended up in a little shop about a half mile from my hotel. I really think it was the local greasy spoon according to its décor; I entered anyway despite the obvious danger to my intestines.

As I walked in I saw the menu and there was no English…awesome. I got the attention of the proprietor and through non-verbal communication she was able to get me some food. I sat drinking bottled water and eating something that I have no idea what it was. All I knew is that there were noodles, meat, nuts, and some garlic on top of it. It was delicious. I hope that my intestines are in a forgiving mood. Following the meal I walked back to the hotel to do some reading for my classes that begin on Monday…dah, dah, DUM!!!!

I spent the rest of Saturday in and out of the hotel looking for food while getting some reading done. I did find out one great thing, the elevator doors close when you push the “close doors” button. How great is that? They got that feature right. I’m still looking for the great meal that I can write about. I haven’t had anything like that yet but I am sure it is to come.

Day 3

Around about 11 last night I was joined by my co-teacher Ermie Buncal, who by the way had missed his flight out originally with me. It seems that the people at the Air Canada counter had in some way messed up when scanning his passport and so he had to fly out the day after me. It sounds like a crappy story and it is. He had to fly through Shanghai and Xian in China, apparently changing flights there involves a process of going to get your bag, checking in at the counter, and then heading back through security once you’re checked in. He had to do this twice. He got in and we talked for a while, watched a movie because we are both on Oregon time and then he figured out the A/C problem! The room finally cooled down and became livable. We’ll be off to a new adventure today, this time I won’t be the hulking, white giant all by himself…yay!

Our first adventure saw Ermie and I waking up at 6 a.m. and leaving about 45 minutes later. We walked looking for food and a place to exchange money. Our journey took us across the river, to an outdoor market that we both want to go back to for fresh fruit, and then down the main walk way to a down town area where banks dominated the squares. We did the typical tourist thing and ate McDonald’s for breakfast; yep it was just as bad as at home. But having walked for several hours today I felt like I had worked it off so I hope to be fine. After breakfast we headed to a bank so Ermie could exchange some money, but he had left his passport in the room so we returned to the hotel to rest. Once there I touched up a small plan I had for the first day of class as we watched a little bit of the NBA finals. The walking was exhausting but being up early means I have to fill my day somehow and without any guidance from my students as of yet means we have been on our own. I am truly excited to meet my students in order to find things like laundry and maybe a phone for communications purposes, and of course for the interactions with them. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough in my mind.

For lunch we tried a restaurant that looked like a U.K. ex-pat place. On the inside flags of the U.S., Ireland, Australia, and France were hanging with a Chinese one. The booths were low but well-made of some kind of wood. There were 60 year old photos of Mao and Stalin on the wall, oh and the food was delicious. I had a bowl with some kind of beef with vegetables while Ermie had a seafood soup, in order to try everything we shared our dishes. For the first time I had octopus…much better than I thought it would be. The lunch was fun and one of stories and good food. Afterwards we returned to the room and promptly fell asleep at around 3 p.m.  which is normal time in Oregon (I think). We woke up around midnight hungry and to be honest, a little disappointed in ourselves.

Once we woke up we decided a trip to KFC was in order, we went downstairs and with help from the desk worker at our hotel we were able to find a taxi and get to KFC. Along the way we saw the shopping district and several stores that look very interesting. Once at the KFC we took one look at the menu and realized this isn’t a “normal” KFC. The menu looked like a cross between Arbys, McDonalds, and a selection of the KFC side dishes. Weird. Well off to bed to get some normal, China time, sleep for class tomorrow…if I can get to sleep, the time change has my schedule in a tizzy.

Day 4

Today was the first day of class for me, teaching interpersonal communications. It was quite possibly the most difficult subject I have ever taught. It was evaluation day and I was evaluating in the afternoon so the morning was filled with greetings, going over the ABC’s, and talking about the sounds of American English. Initially my impression is that my students are not as far along as I’d like, but following the placement test in the afternoon I believe that my estimation is crap. They do very well when I go slower so I need to go slower obviously.

One of my first thoughts in the classroom was “I’m up sh** creek, where’s my paddle?” But as I look at this like a challenge I get more excited. I think that is going to be the key these first two weeks, challenge myself to do a good job for the sake of the students in order to make myself feel like I’ve done an adequate job. Enough of my rambling about teaching English, time to talk about lunch.

At lunch Ermie and I were met by one of the program coordinators here in Nanning, Julia. She and some of her employees took us out for lunch. There is Lisa who studied in Georgia and loved it because it is hot and humid there like Nanning, her daughter actually studied at WOU for a couple of years. Then there is Ms. Li is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture and herbal medicine. Finally there is Ms. Guo who I think helps run the international program. These four women took Ermie and I to a restaurant next to our hotel that looked run down to me, but looks are deceiving remember? We were escorted into a back room where there was a table with a lazy Susan on it.  My stomach began to itch and I knew that we were about to be fed.

Once we sat down Ms. Guo began to order for us while Lisa, Julia, and Ms. Li talked to Ermie and I. I kept up the practice of listening until I was asked a question; I did this more so that I wouldn’t miss anything that any of them said due to their accents. Each one was unique so to follow I had to listen closely. I know from the conversation that Lisa is very proud of her daughter and enjoyed her stay in the United States when she was younger. Julia is from a Northwestern Province in China, but she is ethnically Han Chinese and enjoys talking culture and history. We chatted about the origins of the Han and the effects of migration as well as a little European history too. Ms. Li as I said does acupuncture and I volunteered for any future experimentation, which is something I would like to do some day.

When the first item came we were introduced to the Ginger tea native to Guangxi. It was very good; they added some Kix-cereal like things to it as well as cilantro and raw peanuts. Julia informed us that this particular tea is good for maintaining weight, cholesterol, heart disease and cancer prevention, and a multitude of different things. I did not complain because it was really good. A little while after the tea came the food followed. A spicy fish dish that Dad would love really made me start to sweat after I ate 3 of the peppers. I didn’t care, it was a really delicious dish. The second dish was a local bean that had been cut up into small sections and prepared deliciously. The third dish was a beef dish with more hot peppers that made my mouth burn a little more but this was perhaps my favorite dish as the beef was done in a way I hadn’t had before. There was a pork dish that was good but there were too many bones in it for my taste. A second vegetable dish had celery mixed with cashews…it’s like these women know what I like to eat. The final dish was a local water vegetable that I have had several times and it is amazing every time, I think it is my favorite dish that I have had here in Nanning so far, I know a vegetable! Anyways, I ate until I felt stuffed and then I ate some more. I was full but I didn’t feel bloated, I am wondering if that is the lack of preservatives at work here. Anyways, that was the best meal I have had; the food and the company made the whole thing an experience that I will not soon forget as I fell in love with Chinese food all over again.

Now I am off to lesson plan for tomorrow, I have decided on a mix of Geography, rhymes from my childhood to help them with pronunciation, and repetition of the ABC’s so we can get the letter sounds right. I hope that tomorrow is even more productive than today was and I have another fun adventure like lunch.

Day 5

Today’s entry begins after midnight last night; I woke up at 2 am instead of midnight! I say that is progress. I am becoming acclimated to the time change slowly but surely. When I woke up Ermie was already awake and hungry. He convinced me to head to KFC for a late night snack. We threw on shorts and t-shirts and caught a taxi outside of our hotel. On the way to our destination we stopped at a few lights. At one we pulled up next to a silver Mercedes. When we pulled alongside I glanced over and there was a young woman sitting in the passenger seat. As I looked she caught a glimpse of me and openly stared at me. I glanced away briefly, but when I looked back she had her chin in her hands with her fingers framing her face as she stared at me through her window. I looked at Ermie and said “This girl is staring at me.”

Ermie looked out the window and laughed “She is staring pretty hard!”

I tried to put it out of my mind, but once something like that is in your head it’s hard to let it go. As the light stayed red I found my eyes drifting back to the staring girl, as they did she waved at me and smiled a big smile. A little startled I smiled and waved back, at that moment the taxi started moving again. Though we got through the light first the staring girl’s Mercedes pulled past us and as it did she waved again as she continued to stare, I waved back and smiled. It is good to stand out sometimes; I finally feel what it is like to be a true outsider though. European-Americans are a rare occurrence here apparently.

After the trip to eat, Ermie and I headed back to the hotel and we were able to get some sleep before class. Once I woke up I was able to take my first hot shower! When I had arrived I had tried the shower, and due to the lateness of the hour had not been able to get the water to come out hot. In my tired state I had accepted that there was no hot water in my room and I took cold showers. Ermie had accepted my story and he too started out with cold showers. Then, yesterday morning after I had showered Ermie tried turning the shower handle to the opposite direction and, after a wait of which I apparently hadn’t had the patience for, hot water came out! This made my life immensely better as I despise cold showers. I waited until this morning for my first hot shower and it was in a word, wonderful.

My morning class was nearly a disaster as the classroom I was given didn’t allow me to connect my laptop to the internet. I was able to adapt and overcome, instead of a geography lesson I took the class over some pronunciation exercises and taught them Jack and Jill went up the hill. I have decided to teach them one nursery rhyme each day so they can use them to practice forming English words which seems to be their biggest challenge.

The morning’s class was followed by a nap; I might have to advocate afternoon naps for all jobs in the US as it was an amazing recharge. Having been refreshed I was able to go through my afternoon lesson with a renewed vigor. The students really enjoyed helping me learn some pronunciations of Chinese words for the geography of China. Overall the Geography lesson was a success and I think that I am going to stick with that one and do all of the continents so they will at least be aware of the world a little more. I think that is very important and something I didn’t realize was important until recently (in my life).

Once class was over Ermie and I headed back to the room and rested for a little bit. At around 7:30 we went out in search of food. Ermie’s class had told him about a place that serves barbeque named Zhong Shan Lu. In the taxi the driver knew where we were asking to go and we were off. Once we got to the drop off point it became obvious that it wasn’t a restaurant but a long street full of different vendors hawking their foods to the passer-byes. As we entered the street a multitude of smells assaulted my senses and my mouth began to water.

From the beginning of Zhong Shan Lu the food looked delicious, we could have eaten at the first place we saw but we didn’t because that wouldn’t be prudent. So we waded slowly into the mix of people who were all buying or selling something. Near the beginning of Zhong Shan Lu I saw someone selling something I had never seen eaten before, alligator. This I decided would be my first taste of the exotic foods that surrounded me. We communicated to the woman that we wanted some of what she was cooking and then, while we waited for it to be cooked, Ermie and I took turns taking pictures next to the animal from which our meat had been cooked. Once the alligator was done and we paid the woman, we took the skewers and headed up the street. As I walked I began to eat the alligator and it was delicious, the flavor of the spices was an excellent mix of spicy and pepper. The meat itself was tender and delicious, tasting like something I cannot explain, not quite chicken and not quite pork. All I know is that the snack was delicious.

As we continued down the row of vendors we began to look for a place to sit and eat once we got to the end of Zhong Shan Lu. The place that Ermie and I settled on was an open-air place where you picked your food from one of two display tables, and our waitress was even able to speak a little English to make ordering a little easier. I settled on Crab, beans, and rice. Ermie chose oysters, some muscle-like shellfish, vegetables, and rice. As we sat down to wait on our food a slight breeze picked up in the market and made the evening very nice. The food came in short order and we dug in. Everything was delicious as both Ermie and I decided to share all of our food. The crab was done up in a spicy Szechwan sauce with peppers and vegetables, the shellfish was steamed, and the oysters were barbecued with a garlic coating. The vegetables were similarly well done and we were full and satisfied.

Once we were done with dinner Ermie and I wandered around and found a Chinese Wal-Mart. To our disappointment Wal-Mart China is much like Wal-Mart America, just with slight variation in the products inside. Once we were done wandering around I hailed a taxi and we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. The night had been fun and the food delicious. I have noticed during all of my adventures here in China that, while some people stare at me because I obviously don’t belong here, no one has been malicious towards me for my ethnicity. Everyone I have encountered has been a range from cordial to delightful and I feel very at ease here. While I feel this in Nanning, a city that has perhaps not seen many Europeans or Americans, I wonder if this is similar to the experiences of those who visit the north. I suppose I will find out when I talk to my mom a little later, because I have a phone now, and a sim-card tomorrow!

Day 6

Today started at around 6 when I woke up, I think I am finally on Nanning time after a week. The morning was pleasant; Ermie and I ate breakfast at the school’s cafeteria and headed to our classrooms a little early. Class went as smoothly as I have come to expect it to run. Like students in the States you can tell the ones who want to be there and the ones that do not. Some things never change no matter what culture you are in.

In class today we worked on pronunciation, to do this I have begun teaching the students nursery rhymes. Yesterday I taught them Jack and Jill, today I used Peter Piper. The looks on their faces when I said the whole tongue twister fast was funny to say the least. I think that these little exercises are helping them, at least I hope they are.

I was also able to do some one on one work with them in small groups in an exercise that I am going to have them do every day. It will consist of them answering a few questions about a partner to me in English. I am really seeing that I need to aim the course at vocabulary building and pronunciation. I think I might even have them do individual speeches like Ermie is doing in his class, that way they can get used to speaking even if I have to force them to do it.

After class I ate lunch with six of my students and Ermie. I let them decide where we would eat and then we sat down and ate and talked in an informal environment. The lunch was fun as I was able to talk a little more with a small group of the class. The girls of the group, and class for that matter, seem very interested in whether or not I have a girlfriend. I am remaining professional during all of the questioning as I think it is natural but still its seems that they are more interested in that sometimes. Despite this I was able to talk more with this group and will do the same with hopefully every group.

In particular I was able to talk more with a male student named Evoll and his girlfriend. These two make quite a pair and laughed and joked with each other as much as with me and Ermie. They have asked me to go out and eat with them this weekend and I am taking them up on the offer, they seem very eager to take me to eat what they say is good food. Once we were done with dinner we headed back to the hotel to hang out in our room as it was raining. A nap and a movie seem like the right way to go right now.

After the nap Ermie and I decided to walk around the lake to check out what his students had told him were a series of bars. While the establishments were there, they were lacking in patronage and in any real type of bar atmosphere, this is yet another feature of American culture which does not translate. So after a couple of beers for Ermie and ice teas for me we decided to head towards a road and real food. We took a route as we left the water front that took us through several back-alley streets where we saw some interesting sights. Lottery machines, back alley-barbers, and homes with doors open to the world all gave us a peak into Nanning’s starkly different lifestyle. Once out of the back-alleys we headed towards Wanda Square near where we ate last night. Once there we wandered around looking at the sights, the girls, and a public performance put on by some local school children. The kids looked great in their costumes as they sang and danced on a platform for their parents and total strangers…I’m sure that is what they wanted to be doing at 10 o’clock on a Wednesday evening. Once we were done exploring we headed back to our hotel for some sleep thankful that tomorrow’s classes start at 3 and we get the morning off.

Day 7

So today was relatively uneventful. The day started late with the 3 pm class so I was in the hotel room until we left for lunch then class. After Class Ermie and I headed out to look for a place that would actually massage his back, you know not a “massage” place. Needless to say we didn’t find one, so we ate dinner and went back to the hotel room to sleep and get ready for class tomorrow. I am feeling a little unwell so I hope sleeping will put off this cold.

Day 8

Today’s class went well. We talked about body language and how it is used to communicate. After the body language we did some vocabulary building exercises to build on the students’ knowledge. Class finished with some new questions that they had to answer for me; I asked them to tell me what their parents do for work and what they want to do when they are done with their studies. The diversity in the class is incredible.

After class I went to lunch with the second group of students. They took me to a restaurant that served dishes from another province. This food proved to be just as good as the food of Nanning. We ate chicken, pork, beef, and vegetables all accompanied by rice. The female students all keep asking if I have a girlfriend but I think it is pure curiosity. An incident that occurred today really pushed my boundaries, one of the male students was talking with me and he put his arm around my shoulder. This really -violated my personal boundaries, but in China this is what friends do. They walk arm-in-arm and with arms around the shoulders. So despite my uncomfortable situation I waited until he removed his arm. I didn’t say anything to him and was able to really avoid any more contact like this.

While I know this is normal in China, I can’t help dwelling on the differences between US customs and those here. This is just one example; another is that on birthdays the person whose birthday it is usually buys things for their friends. How backward is that? Another is that in the classroom the students tend to sit and not speak until called upon, no matter how many times I tell them to raise their hands if they want to ask a question. These are just a few of the things that really highlight the cultural differences I have felt while I have been here.

The question “are you lonely” was posed to me here. I could honestly answer that because of Ermie I am not. But that led me to wonder, if it wasn’t for Ermie would I really have been able to get through this last week? And would I have the positive things I have to say about Nanning without him. Though we will never know I am glad I have someone to talk to while I am here. Tomorrow I am going to the Nanning museum so there will be some exciting pictures, I hope…

Day 9

So today got started really slowly. I woke up around 5 after falling asleep around 6 last night. What can I say, I was tired. After I got breakfast I watched a movie and laid in bed, this went on even after Ermie got up. I think we were both worn out from the week. We sat around until about 11 when we decided to go downtown and walk around.

Once downtown we walked around the main square and did some window shopping, Ermie bought a pair of shoes and a backpack while I looked for some gifts for people back home. I still haven’t decided what to get my brother but I have some other people in mind. We ended up eating at a local pizza joint and found out that pizza here is a luxury food. Once done there we walked around a little more then headed back to the hotel.

At the hotel we relaxed until dinner. Dinner was good as we decided to go light after the big lunch so we ate dumplings and vegetables. We had 2 types of dumplings; one dish was pork and the other had veggies in it. There was also an eggplant dish. I am finding that I like the taste of eggplant as they prepare it here. After dinner Ermie arranged for us to meet an exchange student that he knows that lives here in Nanning. We hopped in a cab and headed to a portion of the city that we’d never been to.

As we drove we noticed fewer and fewer tall buildings and more obvious apartment buildings around us. When we arrived at where we were going the first thing we noticed when we got out of the taxi was a lack of the noise that we had grown so used to hearing all the time. There were still a good amount of people, just less city noise. We met the student and headed towards a restaurant where we found he and his friends were eating and playing games while they socialized. None of the students’ friends spoke English I found out when I sat down. Despite the communication barrier Ermie and I spent the evening playing dice games with the student and his friends. Overall the evening was a lot of fun; I got to practice some counting in Chinese and joked around with the young men with the help of the exchange student. By the time the evening was done I had learned a fun Chinese game and hopefully made a positive impression of Americans on the young men.

Day 10

I’ve been here 10 days and I am becoming increasingly bored. I expected this to happen as it has been like this with every other place that I have been. But I know there is still so much to see, I have to save some for next weekend, I will plan on a trip to Nanning’s People’s Park for Saturday I think and then find another place to visit the weekend after. The weekdays are easy as I have work to fill the hours, it is the weekend when I feel the social loneliness as I am thousands of miles away from my family and peer group. But there will always be people to meet and have fun with right? I hope so…

I am spending this evening with Evoll and his girlfriend as he had offered to take me to a place that serves what is called a hot pot. The hot pot is basically a pan with liquid and spices in placed on a hot plate in the middle of the table. The liquid is heated to boiling and then the different meats and vegetables are added to the mix to cook. Once cooked you fish them out and enjoy.

The meal was tasty, we started with the different meats and moved on from there. The best meat dish by far was what translates to juicy meatballs. Included in the different meats was some beef and also some cow stomach…I know it sounds weird but the cow stomach was good. It was spongy but tough and tasted somewhat like calamari. With the vegetables came your normal assortment of goodies, but added into the mix was a leafy dish which I was told grows on trees, so now I find that certain leaves are added to the mix for edible foods here in China, will wonders never cease?

During dinner my student and his girlfriend asked me the normal question: do I have a girlfriend? Then the why not question came up, when I told them that they are too expensive my student nodded as his girlfriend hit him. Also included were questions about certain English words and the United States itself. When they asked me about the weather in Kansas I told them it was “cold in the winter and ungodly hot in the summer.” It was decided there that Kansas may not be the place for them to visit. The meal ended and we parted ways, they to their dormitory and me to walk for a while to help digest the food. I walked for nearly an hour past shops and businesses hawking their various wares. No matter how far I walked the same sights greeted me block after block. Finally after getting tired of seeing nothing but shops, people, and mopeds for blocks on end I hailed a taxi to head back to my hotel. If there is one thing I won’t miss it will be the endless blocks of shops that seem to line every street in this city, that and the smell of unwashed people.

Day 11

Today was a good class day, the morning consisted of more vocabulary work while the afternoon was for me to work closely with a group of my students. The interesting part was trying to let the other students know that they should be working on their group projects then, but not in the classroom. I don’t know if they didn’t understand why I was letting them go early or if they didn’t understand that they were to be working on their group projects. It took about 20 minutes to get them to understand that they were to be working in their groups outside of class.

After class Ermie and I embarked on a way to launder our clothes, needless to say in China there is no drop-off laundry service. We couldn’t even find a…, ahem, Chinese laundry…the school does have a washer, but no dryer. Ermie got his done and hanging up around the hotel room to dry, I am going to do mine tomorrow…hopefully. Beyond this we didn’t do much today, maybe tomorrow, I’ve decided to check out the People’s Park this weekend, there’s supposed to be a cannon from around 1917 there. Sounds like fun.

Days 12, 13, and 14

As you can see not a lot has happened during the past couple of days. They have been a blur of classes, dining with my students, hanging out with Ermie, and finishing up this Interpersonal Communications class. Some of the journeys we have taken have been fun. We’ve explored the town a little more, we went shopping and I got a shirt that is perfect for the hot climate here.

We’ve eaten a lot of foods to that I have never tried before; some of it has been excellent while all of it is good. I don’t think I’ve tried something that has been distasteful yet. One of the better dishes I tried was some pig knuckle, it’s one of those dishes I never thought I’d try at home, and it was excellent. I found a new way to cook…duck. The lemon, garlic flavoring was delicious and rounded out by some excellent vegetables. That is one difference between here and home; more vegetables are consumed by far. And I am not put off by it at all, in fact it is very natural and they are all tasty. In fact the children here seem to expect to eat veggies with every meal and there seems to be no one not wanting to eat a little healthy. That is a welcome difference in my eyes.

Last night we went with an exchange student of Ermie’s to a KTV…Karaoke TV bar for those of you unawares of the abbreviation. Let me tell you I expected a bar much like one in the States, and boy was I surprised. Instead of a wide open bar area we were greeted by two Chinese hostesses as soon as we walked into the establishment. Directly behind them was a counter which we approached, as we did I looked for the bar which was nowhere to be seen. Instead the walls were decked out in lights from the floor to the ceiling and there were doors up and down the corridors and stairs leading up to the second floor.

At the counter the Chinese student talked with the sales woman and paid her. We were then escorted to one of the rooms that lined the corridor. Once the door opened it became clear how the establishment was arranged as I saw a couch, table, touch-screen monitor, and big screen TV playing karaoke in a small room for 4-6 people. Karaoke is for friends in China and thank god for that as our voices would have led to arrests for lack of talent elsewhere. I had gone into the evening reluctant but I got into the act and sang some classic songs, some with Ermie and a few by myself. I found great pleasure in Rick Rolling my compatriots and then listened to some Chinese-language songs. By the end of the evening everyone’s pitch and harmony was off as we had had a few beers. This is something that I would do in the States instead of the macabre torture that Karaoke is there. No public pressure and lots of fun with friends, I find that to be a theme here. There is less social pressure in general, in fact I feel like the people of Nanning are in general more accepting…but hey what do I know? I mean I don’t even speak Chinese.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, we are having dinner with the director of the program over here and so I finally get to meet the other end of the people responsible for sending me on this great adventure.

Day 15

Diarrhea is a pain in the butt…literally. I felt a little under the weather yesterday but last night the stops were pulled out by my body. In a span of 20 minutes I visited the head about 4 times, each one was an excruciating lesson in agony as some bug decided to purge my body and all of the peppery foods I had consumed recently. Needless to say going into today I felt less than okay.

Despite this I attempted to go in and finish the class as today was the last day. I think it was a valiant effort, I really do. I was able to get to the class room and even waited several minutes for more of the class to appear. But as time went on my bowels told me how foolish I had been to think this was possible. So around about 30 minutes into the class I explained to them what was going on, dismissed them, and headed back to my hotel as the school only had hole-in-the-ground facilities.

As I began the walk back I felt sprinkles of water begin to drop on my head…I looked up and the clouds were a little darker than I remember them being earlier that morning. As I walked the drops came quicker and thicker…eventually a downpour came to teach me my lesson: never, EVER leave a good bathroom when your stomach isn’t feeling up to the challenge. I made it back to the hotel room looking like a drowned rat, some locals had a chuckle at my expense as I got into the elevator, if they only knew how tragic this really was. I got back to the room, did my business and laid down hoping that some rest would calm my stomach enough that I could attend dinner that evening with the head of the program on this side of the Pacific.

By dinner my stomach had calmed considerably thanks to several purges and I hope some eating of some bread around lunch time. So I carefully headed down with Ermie to meet Yanya and head to a restaurant. The original destination was one that I dreaded, a Hunan Province restaurant that specializes in hot, spicy foods. Needless to say a restaurant that my father would crave was not high on my list of must do’s at this point. Happily it was closed so we found another, milder place and had a pleasant dinner there. The director was very gracious and we all talked about, well Ermie and me really. They were very gracious and inquisitive as to what my education was and my impressions so far. The dinner was excellent and I enjoyed myself, but on the way back my stomach reminded me who was in charge. Luckily I made it back to the room without so much as a mishap.

Day 16

I awoke this morning feeling much better, here’s to hoping that yesterday’s adventure will not be repeated. The day began with a lazy morning followed by a nice lunch with Ms. Li, one of the professors at Guangxi Medical University, and her sister. I was picked up by the two at around 12:30 and we headed downtown to a very nice restaurant on the river.

Once there the décor held my attention; a high vaulted ceiling gave the feeling of an open-air setting but the air conditioning betrayed the reality of the restaurant. The main floor was dominated by a large fountain in the center that had what looked to be Greek-inspired water nymphs that was encircled with a wreath of Christmas lights that were attached to a cable from the ceiling. The fountain was surrounded by tables that were filled with diners who in turn were surrounded by the bustle of the wait staff of the restaurant. Towards the walls was a raised dining platform where we sat, two sides were private dining areas separated from a walk-way by a short bamboo fence-like barrier which allowed the diners to gaze out across the restaurant. One side was a platform with seating and a stage for what looked like dinner entertainment. The last side was dominated by several entrances and exits to the restaurant and a massive spiral staircase that dominated the whole room behind the fountain. The room itself gave off a vibe of something you would see in a movie more than something that I would normally eat in.

The meal itself was very good; apparently the restaurant and adjoined hotel are rated at 5 stars. We had Peking Duck and it was succulent, the skin was served to be wrapped in a crepe-like wrap with some sauce that tasted very good. The duck meat was served separate and was spicy and good as well. We also had some Dove too which was probably the weirdest dish I have had since I got here. The conversation was pleasant as I was able to learn more about Ms. Li and also help her sister practice English. Both sides were able to learn a little bit and tell some jokes. Over all it was one of the most pleasant meals I have eaten here in China and the company was excellent.

Once I was done and had been dropped off I took the customary afternoon nap, we’ve got to institute this in the states. Then I waited around until dinner when I joined Ermie, Ms. Guo, and the teacher from next week Lauren. We ate at a restaurant that is local to our hotel and then Lauren, who arrived today, crashed from jet lag. The evening ended with a trip to pick up a bag for me to use for work as the one I have been using is Ermie’s and he is leaving on Monday…it’s been a lot of fun with him, now I get a new exploration partner. We’ll see how this goes.

Day 17

I started off today with some laundry. There are no facilities in my hotel and a washer that spin-dries at the school so I have to do laundry before I run out of stuff so I have things like underwear to wear. I will continue to take my shirts and pants to the woman we found, she does a good job so that is fine. But underwear and socks…I don’t like anyone to do mine but me so I am stuck washing them and then hanging them to dry. The students here seem to hand wash their clothes every day, I guess a washer and dryer is just another thing that I just take for granted back home. Here the luxury of having multiple changes of clothes is something that doesn’t happen. Ladies say goodbye to your closets full of shoes.

Besides laundry I am going to be busy today; doing lesson planning and then Skyping with mom and dad tonight. I’m pretty excited. I haven’t seen mom since April and I know dad is appreciating her coming home for his award this week. I am really proud of him for this, and I know he deserves it.

Laundry was a breeze, I washed my clothes and then returned to the room to lay them out for drying. While I was washing I was able to do some planning for this US History course I am teaching. I’ve got the first two days planned out and it looks like I’m going to be able to do fairly well time-wise. I am eager to bring out US history to people who have never studied it before.

After laundry we went to lunch with Ermie’s student Chin, he took us to a traditional Nanning-food restaurant that was very good. The noodles were very wide, almost crepe-like and had meat and vegetables in them. Easily my favorite meal outside the spicy foods here, and it put the spicy foods in a run for their money.

Following lunch we took Lauren, the new teacher, to Wal-Mart for a few things. We found Peter Pan Peanut Butter there! I haven’t eaten that stuff in a long time and I have good memories of it. I might have to head back there for some before I leave. After our afternoon jaunt it was back to the hotel for a nap, then dinner and skyping with the parents. While today wasn’t exciting I am starting to see what life post-Ermie in China is going to be like and it isn’t so scary…

Talking with the parents is always so therapeutic.

Day 18

Today was more like it. I began the morning by showing Lauren where we were to teach and showing her the office. Then class began. The first hour went smooth enough, but hour number two showed me the precarious position I was to be in. The lack of advanced vocabulary will make this class a vocabulary building class in addition to a US History class. I didn’t even make it to the colonial period in lecture. But this is good. I have my students asking questions and participating in the class. Two staff members even sat in on the lecture as well. While I am going to approach the class in a manner of possibly teaching a 6th grade class, I still hope to impart to them an understanding of the richness of the last 200 years of American history. I know that I expected a lot and I am somewhat disappointed, but this will prepare me for anything come September…right?

As I sit here thunder is rumbling ominously outside and the rain is beginning. Thunder here is something more comforting I think than in Colorado or Kansas. There thunder is a rumble followed by a sharp and deafening crash. Everything I hear here is a low rumble that builds and fades away. I feel as though it would lull me to sleep on any other day. I feel odd that I find this, thunder, comforting in some way in this foreign and exotic place so far from home. You would think that it would be something else, but no. the subtle rise to a crescendo make the thunder a music to my ears, one of Beethoven’s symphonies lulling me gently to sleep with its beautifully composed chaos. Ah how I wish I could bottle this and bring it with me….

The rest of class went pretty well. Questions were asked and we got through the colonial period. All of the students seemed to be more comfortable with me as the day went on. In the afternoon we did reach the colonial period but are going painfully slow and doing about 15-20% of what I imagined us discussing. Tomorrow will be a movie day and then the Revolution! We are going to read the Declaration of Independence no matter how painful it is. Most likely we will tackle it line by line…

After class I worked out, this made me feel so much better and I was able to tackle tomorrow’s lesson easily after the workout. Once both of those were done I went and got some dinner and ice cream…have you ever just, craved something? You know, really wanted it but ignored that craving because you knew you didn’t need what you were craving. That is what the last couple weeks have been as there in the back of my mind was a small voice calling up from the depths “Yo! Go get some ice cream bro.” Today I gave in and had a small cone. While it was good I hope it shuts up that internal monolog for a while, at least long enough for me to get some sleep.

Days 19 & 20

The past couple of days have blurred together and then quickly by. I think this is mostly due to me having to find a way to explain American history to some people who have never studied it. Trying to explain the tension in the buildup to the Revolution was very hard, I have taken so much of what I wanted to talk about out of this class to present something I hope they will understand and even appreciate.

Yesterday was a good one as I talked about the French and Indian War, and then as a kind of break from the difficult English words and American history I had them watch Last of the Mohicans. I really love that movie,

hour and a half and I finally felt refreshed. For the first time here in Nanning it was a dip in a swimming such a grand sweeping epic, I need to read to book sometime so I can see just how different the movie is. Daniel Day Lewis is an amazing actor. I need to watch all of his movies, I generally love them.

Anyways beyond that, then after class yesterday I ran into Bebek and his girlfriend and they invited me to go swimming. They took me to an indoor pool that has lifeguards and was safe, and somewhat clean. We swam for about an pool that I needed to feel refreshed. After swimming I found dinner, did some work, and then went to sleep. Not too much of an active day.

Today class was only in the morning and I challenged my class with the Declaration of Independence. We read the preamble, most of the body, and the conclusion together and the pained looks on some of their faces told me how hard it was. But I think tackling some hard stuff is necessary, especially in the case of one of the most important documents in U.S. History.

After class I went and picked up something for Bryce and took a nice 2 hour nap, I really need to institute doing this when I get home, I feel refreshed and better every day that I do it. After my nap I stayed in the hotel just hanging out where I got a workout in before I left for dinner around 8 pm. I went to a restaurant that offers a mix between Chinese and western food, the wait staff seemed just a little confused when I decided to eat Chinese food rather than have pizza. Then I headed to Wal Mart where I was able to get some good old peanut butter and really just make life complete. Tomorrow is the day I think I am finally going to make it to People’s Park, I am also going to hit the pool again, I am finding more and more fun stuff to do here.

Day 21

ONE MORE WEEK! Don’t get me wrong, I am having fun and have had a lot of fun here, but I miss the air of the U.S. and I miss Oregon, and I miss teaching people who speak my language. China has been a great place to visit, I just don’t think I’d like to move here anytime soon. I woke up with a little more pep in my step because my brain reminded me of this fact, as soon as I woke up for crying out loud. So today has been cheerful.

I spent the morning mostly being lazy and sitting in bed delaying getting up. I knew today was going to be busy, at least this morning because I am headed to Ren Min Park (People’s Park). Around about 10 I finally got out of bed, showered, and got dressed. Once I was up and around I got the names of the places I wanted to go in Pin and Yin and headed out. My first stop was the hotel desk to get the name of the park in Chinese writing. Once I had this securely in hand I walked to the corner store, got a snack, and then parked myself on a corner looking for a taxi. I found one, showed him the name of where I wanted to go and we were off.

The interior of the taxi was nondescript the same as any other taxi in any other city in the world. I’ve found this to be the case, I don’t know about anyone else. I digress; we made it through the city to the park’s entrance. Almost as soon as I got out and walked towards the park I remembered that I had left the card with the hotel’s address on it in my room…great. That was going to be a fun process after my walk, I put it in the back of my mind and walked through the gates.

The first thing that hit me was the humidity, with all of the trees and greenery around it seemed to ratchet up a notch. Also the sound, there was a loud buzzing throughout the park, it was low at first but that would change as I walked on. There was an entrance square that had a map. I looked at the map, found the places I wanted to see and took off. The greenery was beautiful and plentiful; no wonder Nanning is the Green City of China. As I walked I passed people, a small carnival (no joke), and a lake with a beautiful bridge. As I snapped some pictures I realized that yet again I am another attraction where ever I go. On the side of one of the paths was a building that I realized is an apartment building; people live in the park here! I got quite a chuckle out of that.

I continued on down the path towards the hero’s monument. As I walked the fauna on either side was beautiful, the air buzzed, and people stared at me. Ahead of me the path opened up into a large square that reminded me of some plazas I had seen in Italy. On the right was the monument which was old but well taken care of. On the left was a long staircase leading up to a second memorial which was a large obelisk jutting into the sky. The stairs up and the obelisk itself seemed to be made out of white marble and dwarfed their surroundings. Once I was done looking at the monument on the right I headed up the stairs which were flanked by two fierce lion statues. The climb was long and arduous, by the time I reached the top the combination of the physical exertion and the humidity had me soaked through my shirt. The obelisk was as intimidating up close as it had been from the foot of the stairs. It was a gorgeous sight. Once I had finished there I continued my course towards the fort that was reportedly from the 1917 revolution.

On my way there I got sidetracked by a great back massager in the playground area of the park, and then a small building that was sitting inconspicuously on top of a small rise. I approached the building and looked inside. To my surprise it turned out to be a Wushu studio, in the middle of the park! The proprietors allowed me to look around a little and then I moved on. By now I was completely drenched in sweat and getting a little tired. I found the fort, it was less impressive than what I had imagined, and being tired I wasn’t impressed. I explored it a little bit and then headed towards the gate.

Getting back to the hotel was easier than I thought; the cabbie I flagged down had little trouble understanding my pigeon Chinese. Once back in my room I promptly settled down and took a nice long nap. Once I woke from the nap Bebek called again and I went swimming with him and his girlfriend, Sasha. The pool once again rejuvenated and refreshed me. I can say this, I wish the pool was open in the morning so I could swim in the morning…ah well, good night.

Day 22

So I will preface this with yes I woke up late, but it was for a reason. The Euro Soccer Championships play at midnight over here so I am staying up until 2 or 4 in the morning. So when I woke up this morning it was late, around 10:30 am. I got up and took my time getting up because I was going with Lauren to Qinxiu Shan Park at around 1 pm.

At 1:20 or so we headed downstairs to get water and then flag a taxi to the park. Once we got there we were introduced to the park by a large open plaza with gates at one end which were…closed. To the right of the gates was a side ticket office next to a road so we got in. Our first stop was at a plaza on top of a hill that opened up into an amphitheater at one end. The amphitheater had a backdrop of some pretty impressive stone work.

Behind the back drop was a trail which led up to a walkway which was covered with an amazing canopy built in the traditional Chinese architectural style. We walked up the walkway taking pictures and looking at the pretty amazing scenery which surrounded us. The vegetation was lush and beautiful, it really reminded me of Silver Creek Falls back home but without the waterfalls, instead it had Chinese buildings everywhere.

At the end of the walkway was a large concrete ball with Chinese dragons carved into it, this opened up into a field that was obviously intended for family usage. There was a playground and an open field. The playground was followed by an obstacle course that looked like fun. I tried it but my shoulder, which is feeling better, still couldn’t handle it. We continued around the park and found dozens of statues depicting animals and people, one set even contained the Chinese Zodiac calendar in a clearing. On the far side of the clearing we caught a shuttle that took us farther into the park.

The shuttle dropped us off at a building at the top of what they call a mountain here, it’s really just a larger than normal hill. As we walked towards the buildings the traditional architecture and statues began to catch our eyes. Being the tourists our cameras came out and we started snapping photos. Once inside we realized that we had found a Buddhist shrine of some sort. There were four buildings which formed the outer walls and an inner pagoda that rose up what looked like 3 stories. The outer buildings were divided into sections, around 2 each. Each section seemed to house something, the two sections that acted as a gate house some statues and a gift shop. The statues were impressive things that rose up and featured fearsome figures out of Chinese history. As we moved beyond the entry structure there was a monument with the figure of the Buddha directly before the center pagoda, behind the Buddha was a wishing well where there floated hundreds of Yuan.

The stairs up to the central pagoda were flanked by two stone reliefs with Chinese carved into them and at the foot of the stairs was a large, iron incense holder. It was here that I started to get the sense that we were somewhere special. We walked up the stairs towards the pagoda and I glimpsed some large statues inside. I readied my camera, as I began to take photos someone who worked at the facility kindly waved at me and showed me the sign which stated “no photos”. That coupled with the brass boxes with slits, and padded resting places on the floor to kneel made something click for me. This was a religious sight much like a catholic cathedral or a grand mosque. The people were lighting incense and offering prayers to the Buddha. We continued around the facility taking pictures when we could and really enjoying the temple. The bustle of the city just outside the park was forgotten and a sense of calmness permeated the park. I even purchased a Buddhist blessing candle and left it burning as a blessing for my family.

Once we left the temple we caught another tram and headed even deeper into the park. The drop off point left us at a lake where there was a beautiful lake house on one side. The other had stairs heading up. After snapping some pictures of the lake house we climbed the stairs behind us which deposited the two of us at the base of a very tall pagoda that rose above the trees. We decided to start climbing, “count the stairs!” Lauren exclaimed as we started up the interior spiral staircase.

I started at one and ended at 223, 223 steps! The climb was long but the view at the top, and the breeze, was worth the trip. We tooled around at the top for about 15 minutes and headed back down the stairs, all 223 of them. At the bottom the heat had zapped our legs. I wasn’t going much further and neither was Lauren. We got some ice cream and as we sat eating it we decided to catch a tram to the gate and head home. Once we got on the tram we realized we had seen everything at the park. With sore legs and soaking shirts we headed to the hotel for a rest.

After a short rest we reconvened in the hallway and headed towards what we had been told was a graduation party. Bebek had invited me and I in turn invited Lauren, not knowing what to expect we took off. Once in the auditorium with the show starting we were treated to a bevy of traditional costumes from all over Asia and as far away as Africa. The show was amazing as to the dancing and singing, there was even and American student who put on a show for everyone. The evening ended up being a perfect end for today, good enough to send me to bed early I think.

The final week

Ever since that presentation last Friday my week has been in overdrive. I’ve been planning lessons, teaching and just in general hanging out with people that I have met. My time to sit and reflect about each day comes at about 11 or 11:30pm so I don’t have the time to write out my thoughts. So here I sit, on my last full day in Nanning at 10am and I am ready to go home. I have had fun here, the sights are few and far between but worth seeing and the people are beyond friendly. I haven’t felt unwelcome at any time here in the city.

My favorite occurrences over the last week have been swimming with a little boy, and having dinner with some nursing students who desperately wanted to talk in English. First the little boy; I have been going to a large indoor pool to swim and escape the oppressive humidity here in Nanning. At the pool I was introduced to a little boy who was there swimming with his grandma. At first he was scared of me because I am hairy! When I learned this I couldn’t help but laugh. Over time he got over his fear and by the time I last went swimming he was riding on my back, having breath holding competitions with me, and I was having lots of fun too. His grandmother was enjoying watching us play, she would be laughing every time I looked at her. Either the scene of the two of us was really funny or she was just enjoying watching him swim with a crazy foreigner.

The dinner with the nursing students was a dinner that was much like one in the states. We sat down as a small group and had very nice intimate dinner where we all shared things about ourselves. The topics ranged from theme parks to camping and spiders. The food was pretty darn good too. It was one of the best dinners I have had while here in Nanning. Now I am packing and getting ready to go, a process that I thought would take longer than it has but I am sorely mistaken. I am nearly packed and ready to go and it is 10am! This just reminds me of how little I have really been here. Most of my life is in Oregon and I brought a small part of me here, I will be a little sad to go but I think I am very ready to go home where everything familiar is and the weather is a little more forgiving.

Also this week I experienced Chinese Traditional Medicine when I got acupuncture for the first time. As some people know I recently hurt my shoulder, badly. I dislocated it and it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced and I’ve had the sack around my heart swell l up. So when Ms. Li offered to set up an appointment for me I thought “why not?”

When I got to the appointment I had a little anxiety, I mean they were going to stick me with multiple needles for crying out loud! The doctor didn’t speak much if any English so Ms. Li translated for me. He felt both of my shoulders and described my left tendons as “stick tendons”, I just laughed because dad had said something similar about a month and a half ago. I then lay down on my right side and he went ahead and stuck me full of needles. Not big ones mind you, they were very thin small needles that went in with only the littlest pinch. There were needles surrounding my shoulder and down my arm with two in my hand. Following this the needles were hooked up to electricity and then began the stimulation treatment, much like what I have been treated with by an athletic trainer in the states before. After the stem he did what they call cupping. This is where they have thick glass “cups” shaped like our light bulbs, the doctor then sticks a flaming, I think it was a cotton ball, into the glass and then puts it into place on my skin. The suction then holds it onto my shoulder for 20 minutes and it is supposed to suck the “bad things, like Chi” out of my shoulder. I ended up with 11 round spots of varying shades of purple on my shoulder. Some were very light, I guess there was little bad Chi there, and some over my tendons were very dark purple. The whole experience relaxed my shoulder and I actually slept very well that night. I liked it so much I might look for an acupuncturist in Oregon.

My last night I spent just talking in a coffee shop with Bibek and Sasha, a perfect end to my stay in the city I think. We had ice cream and drank some coffee, just enjoying talking with some very friendly people.

Travels…

Ok, so I had hoped that my flights and travel would have gone better on the way home. But as it turns out I was in store for several lines, some of around 2 hours or so, and a nice long layover in Hong Kong…13 hours. I found out what wearing the same clothes for 31 hours smells like, not good, and how nice a free hotel room with a shower is. Despite the hiccups and bad luck the flight home gave me around 3 things to add to my “rules for life” book.

  1. Never fly Air Canada again, especially from Canada. They had 3 people checking people into flights, 1 at the bag drop off, 1 at the first class, and 1 at the normal people’s line. Needless to say, with multiple flights out of the country early in the a.m. they told some people to show up 90 minutes early. The line took around about 70 minutes. Then the person would have to clear customs and a security check in the next 20 minutes…impossible. Needless to say I was the recipient of piss-poor-planning by this airline on the day I flew back…thank goodness I got to the airport 120 minutes before my flight. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the poor woman who got there 90 minutes prior.
  1. I will always pack extra underwear in my carry on. I packed extra clothes, stuff to do, and headphones but no underwear. I was in the same drawers for 31 hours…I have never done that even camping. The uncomfortability factor was sky high. I just really like to have fresh undies on, ones without day old sweat and other things. So I have taken this experience to note and will pack a full change of clothes in my carry on from now on…I’m a poet.

And finally number 3. Always, always sleep on the plane according to the place you are going to. Sometimes going to sleep just because you are tired isn’t the best thing to do. I slept a decent 5 or 6 hours on the plane, but at the times that are normal in China…How pray tell me does that help me in Oregon? It doesn’t so I should have stayed awake, I knew I was in trouble when I got to my hotel room, showered, and then couldn’t sleep. I got around 2 hours at the hotel and then was wide awake again. Always sleep to your destination.

Anyways, I am home now, the air is fresh and breathable. The temperature is normal, and I went running yesterday. I feel great, my grand adventure is behind me and life is in front of me. It’s not always an adventure but when you have one you should share it with others and that is what I have tried to do here.

Sam Summers

June 27th, 2012 (End Date)