9/02/2005

Friday, September 02, 2005 9:43pm

I have just come back from a pleasant gathering with some of the students that have arrived for the new term, which begins officially on Monday. However, neither the students nor the teachers have any idea of which classes are going to be taught and who is teaching them. I have had one meeting with the Chair of the English department- a Mr. Happy, (I should explain right away that everyone in the English department and possibly everyone attending University has an American name which they select because their given names are thought to be too difficult for Westerners to understand.) who informed me that he was very happy to have an American here teaching classes and that he would inform me of when I will begin teaching the students.
In meeting them over the last week, I am ready for the challenge and am prepared to deal with what I am up against. Most of these students have the most basic understand of the language and they have decent tone. For the most part, they are progressing like they have read the language from a text book, but have very little experience working directly with the language. I am going to try to make them try to speak it whenever possible if they are really interested in learning the language. Some of them tell me that they would like to be able to become a translator of English in a different country and if that is the case for the most of them, I am going to have a lot of work ahead of me, but I wouldn’t mind it in the least. This evening there was a group of about 6 boys, all of them 20 and very naïve. I am discovering this a lot about the Chinese college kids. They don’t have anything to prove and they seem to just enjoy living out their youth. There is a lot of handholding by the same sexes and I am wondering how to take it. At first it was only the girls that I witnessed doing this. I didn’t think much of it—lets face it, these Chinese women still love Hello Kitty like it is a religion! Then tonight I saw several schoolmates holding each others hands at Paul’s and I am growing a little more suspect. Paul seems like he is certainly gay, but I keep going back to my American stereotypes and laughing at how stupid I am being. Let me note for the record that I don’t care if he is gay or not, but I think it might be possible that these boys that are at his apartment might also be gay as well, but we will see if that is the case in the coming weeks. Again, it doesn’t matter in the least bit, but it is odd enough to mention. I must again mention that the Chinese are also very naïve and would make easy prey to someone who would be considered a professional and a peer mentor to these kids. Time will tell. In the United States, we feel like we are so free and open minded, but we certainly have some social attitudes that are not present in China. This is something that is apparent in everything that is going on as this country attempts to place itself in the middle of western culture. The concept of working in this country would be of particular amusement to any Westerner as an average work week should never go over 32 hours and time spent away from work is used for relaxation and not consumption—one thing that Capitalism will certainly have issues with.
Teaching is certainly within that perspective. The concept of time doesn’t matter as much in China—I keep hearing the same thing from the professionals: Things take time in China, Mr. Tim. They say it to me not in frustration but as a courtesy because they know that they could steal the leisure award from the French without any issue whatsoever. In the United States, students register for classes at the end of the old semester and professors put in their class listings weeks into the previous semester to give everyone enough time to prepare the information. School officially begins on Monday and Mr. Happy doesn’t think we will start on Monday, but I will still be paid my monthly salary, even if I don’t end up teaching for several weeks. I feel like I need to call him and ask him when he thinks I will begin teaching, because I wouldn’t mind going up to Changsha and seeing where Mao is actually from. I have a number of things that I need to check off my must see list!
Now that the students are beginning to trickle in, I am beginning to see what I have actually signed up for and I am excited for the new term to begin and at the same time I am also beginning to get a little stir crazy. There has been a lot of waiting this past week, which has kept me from going into town and getting to know the city a little more. The weather has also turned in the last couple of days and I am a little afraid that the monsoon season might have possibly come already, although from what little I have read on the subject it would seem that it isn’t supposed to start until the end of the month, or Mid-October, which would be great because I want to try to get to either Beijing or to Xi’an, Shaanxi to see the Terracotta Warriors that protected Qin Shi Huang’s tomb during China week, which is where we have a week off.
Beijing is going to have to wait until Spring Break, when we have a longer period of time off to explore. There are just so many things to go and see in Beijing that I want to make sure not to rush it. There is the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Summer Palace and the gates leading to the temple of heaven—all things which, like the Chinese, take time.
As I said before, the last week has been one of mostly waiting and wondering just what I have gotten myself into. Yesterday and some of today have been a struggle. I lost power to half of my flat yesterday afternoon as well as knocked out the internet on the computer and broke the chair that was provided to me. It was in pretty sad shape as it was, but my ass gave it the final blow. Typical. Then this afternoon, my ipod decided to take a shit on me and I lost some 2600 songs in one false sweep. This is particularly disheartening because my music is going to be the one lifeline that I had counted on throughout the journey and there is little to no help that I am going to be able to get any of it back—at least until I arrive back into the United States.
But the time and the whining are not worth writing about. However, I must mention that I am getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes, especially in the evening during my sleep. They have a particular longing for my face, specifically my cheeks. It is a little funny, but I am also concerned because of what those little fuckers could be carrying in the blood which they are transporting. Malaria, Leprosy, whatever—the paranoid American traveler doesn’t need anything else to happen to him from traveling around the planet. Disease is the only real concern that I have. I had a full tap water machine delivered to the house today for a deposit of 60rmb, which is about $7.50. The water is 6rmb per 5 gallon, which is about .80cents. The cooler that it comes with has a boiling water and normal water release on it and the boiling water is hot enough to prepare noodles without cooking, so it is quite useful.
I have to rely on the goodness of other people in order to get food at restaurants, order water, get things fixed and haggle with merchants, but if I have to go out by myself, I am fully confident I can manage at least somewhat. I have only gone into town once with a couple of students in tow, but I think tomorrow I am going to head into town by myself and make a go of it. There are two main buses that connect me to the city, the 22 and the 27, which are both 1rmb each way, which is .13cents each way. Not too bad considering it is 30minutes via bus to get downtown.
According to Paul, my neighbor from the Philippines, who has been here for a year, there is a market in Chenzou that I can actually buy meat from. This would be a welcome moment as I already growing a little tired of having to go through the hassle of waiting for people to go with because I can’t read the damn menu. There is no English whatsoever, but people are very willing to assist if they can figure out what you need. When ordering food it is a little difficult because restaurants do not place their menu items together or number them. At times there are pictures which you can point at, but this is fairly rare of an occasion. Most of the locals tend to want to go to the cheap eat places. The food in these places is not bad in particular, but meat dishes are quite skimpy on the meat, even by what I would consider Chinese standards. So I am anxious to go to the shop and buy my own vege’s and do a little stir-fry, just to make sure I still have the skills.

C is for Change


I will be talking about this quite a bit–the change that is happening in China as the country becomes more and more interested in the western style of life. Buses like this one are the most common to ride in–ours was a little more high class than this city commuter bus. Bus transport is the slowest mode, but is worth the money. Transport from the University to downtown takes about 30 minutes, but only costs 1rmb, which is about 13 cents. If you were to take a cab to the city, it would take half the time, but more than likely cost around 50 rmb as Xianang U is just outside of the city limits and a toll booth–which is 20 rmb one way and you must pay the cabby’s toll back into the city. 50rmb is about $6.25. So obviously, the bus routes are the way to go.


China’s development to westernize itself is growing. Newer condos such as these are growing around the city and China playing host to the 2008 Olympics is certainly in part to this occuring. Throughout the city, buses and city streets are lined with the proud advertisement “CHINA 2008” with the Olympic rings. The buildings next to this one were beat up shacks that will be demolished at some point, when the Chinese get around to it.

“Endless Distribution in Transformation”
A sign of westernization–these ads appear all over the city–reminds me of the Apprentice, but after reading a story on CNN about how the market is opening up and the US is trying to design its own trade restrictions against China, I think this is more what this is trying to say.

Here is the article….

BEIJING, China (AP) — China’s government-run media lashed out Wednesday at U.S. efforts to limit imports of low-cost Chinese textiles as negotiators from the two sides met to try to settle the dispute.
“Trade protectionism has incurred huge costs for Chinese textile producers,” the government’s China Daily newspaper said in its lead editorial.
“Protectionism is a loss-loss deal for both sides in international trade while undermining the global effort to build a free and fair trade order.”
Chinese textile exports have soared since a worldwide quota system expired on January 1. Washington has already imposed temporary quotas limiting growth in imports of some Chinese textiles to 7.5 percent a year, but U.S. clothing manufacturers want broader limits.
The chief U.S. negotiator, David Spooner, said earlier that Washington had presented Beijing with a proposal to cover all items now protected by safeguard agreements plus any categories that might be affected in the future by imports from China.
The American limits would last through 2008.
His talks with Chinese Commerce Ministry officials entered a second day Wednesday.
Beijing argues that developed countries like the United States should focus on high-tech, big-money goods like airplanes and not try to stymie Chinese production of low-cost items like socks and underwear.
It also says that limits on Chinese goods would force U.S. consumers to pay more for clothing.
U.S. clothing manufacturers say the flood of cheap Chinese goods since the beginning of this year have forced 19 U.S. plants to close and resulted in 26,000 lost jobs.
But talks have yet to reach the make-or-break stage, said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, who was in Beijing on Wednesday.
The aim: “Either get a good agreement or no agreement,” he said.
If no agreement is reached, U.S. manufacturers will continue to rely on the safeguard system which allows them to petition the U.S. government on a case-by-case basis for limits if imports are seen to be threatening American industry, he said.
The dispute is politically sensitive at a time of soaring U.S. trade deficits with China, which last year hit $162 billion (130 billion euros) — an all-time record high with any country.


And finally, the true sign of American Influence, the golden arches. If you enlarge this picture, youll see a nice statue in the front of the store that is of a young American boy with his baseball hat on and his baseball glove. The girls I was travelling with wanted to go in and eat, but I refused although I am sure a big mac attack will occur at some point–more out of the need to have meat that I can somewhat recognize.
There is also a KFC across the street from this MC’d’s. And next door– a pizza buffet.
We opted for a nice noodle shop. One thing I am having to get used to is that there is very little meat in dishes and usually egg in some form. The noodle place had a beef noodle soup with lots of cilantro and little beef shavings and a brown, hard boiled egg in it. It was a little greasy for my liking, but not bad.

Downtown Chenzhou

Today was the first full day in Chenzou and I was given the gracious opportunity to travel with two soon to be students of mine into town for some supplies. The journey was very amusing and somewhat long. Chenzou City is about a 30 minute bus ride from where we are located, which is considered the “suburbs”.
These are all pictures that were taken during the journey. As you can see, it was a very overcast day here, but still very humid. By the end of the day, my shirt was clinging tightly to me.


This is a very common site in Chenzou and I would imagine other cities in China as well. Men with giant carts loaded down with goods from who knows where. This man had one of the larger carts we saw throughout the day, but it was not uncommon to see bikes loaded with 75 bags of rice weighing at least 50lbs a piece.


I thought this is a funny picture because the billboard looks very much like the one in this photo. This is also driving into Chenzhou.


These are the giant supermarkets that are in the city. There isn’t any Wal-Marts here folks, but these are the places to go if you need supplies are not up to the consistant haggling that goes on in the marketplace, which I will show later.


This is the part about China that is the most intruguing. There were several buildings like this one throughout Chenzou that would not seem out of place in any Western City.
Progress is alive and well in the city as the Chinese are becoming more responsive to Western interests in the far east. The modern look to the cities is in no doubt due to the Olympics that will be coming up in 3 years. All over the city, there are signs that proudly read BEIJING 2008!!!
*Interesting little factoid: The China Women’s Volleyball team is headquartered in Chenzou.

Chenzhou Thoughts

Let me just say first off that I cannot check the site to see if these blogs are actually making it into cyberspace, but I believe that they are. This and the BBC have been the only sights that I have seen blocked. So, please make comments as they are sent to me via email and that lets me know that the site is working. I might look for another blog to post to that I can see as well, but this one has so many functions, its going to be tough to let go.

I do not have a lot of time in which to write this, as I am supposed to be meeting a student to go into town and get supplies with. We were supposed to have breakfast, but it is now 10:15am and I have a feeling that breakfast is done with.

The last 72 hours have been quite amazing for me. I am not sure why, but I didn’t really think any of this was going to happen for the entire time I was making it happen. It didnt become a reality for me until I landed in Tokyo Narita airport (which, by the way, is 1 hour train ride away from Tokyo, so I didnt even get the chance to see the city). It was at this point, after a quick 10 hour flight, that I realized that the journey was underway. The flight from Seattle to Tokyo was nothing short of good–except my goddamn ipod refused to work (I have since figured out what the issue was and am in the process of getting it back online). I did watch something in the realm of four films and had a couple of good bloody marys.

More on that later–as I really must get going. This is the main quarter of the University at Dusk. If you click on the image, it will enlarge it.
The University is on the outskirts of Chenzou City, which I have not really seen much of, but will today.

This is the medical science building, which is to the right of the other building in the picture above. As you can see, this University is fairly modern and was just built in the last couple of years.

This was just taken this morning from the back of my apartment at about 6am. In the cloud lines is a mountain that I will be investigating in the near future.

Anyway, that is all for now. I need to get out into the city as I am sure Susan is wondering what the hell I am doing.

Hope your all well.

China has arrived, now I am just waiting for the jetlag..

Well, I am very happy to report that it would seem that I can actually access my blog. I am writing this short note to say that I have arrived in Chenzou and I am currently writing to you from my flat here on the campus. It is much, much nicer than I had expected! The living room and the bedroom are near perfect, but the bathroom needs a good cleaning (please hold your laughs) and the kitchen is beyond my realm of filth.
Now, I am going to test to see if this actually posts.
Cross yer fingers.