I left OKC on Friday, August 25th and flew to Salt Lake City. In SLC I met up with several others including Brian and Derek, two of the other teachers at the Automotive Institute. From there we flew to LA where we met up with the rest of the crew heading to central China.
The flight from LA to Guangzhou, China was a long one - I think around 15 hours, but I lose track when I cross so many time zones. The flight wasn't so bad. I slept quite a bit. The worst part was that they didn't show any American movies. Each seat had a TV built into the back of the seat in front of it, and it got about seven or so channels. They showed a French movie with English subtitles, several Chinese shows, and periodically very old Tom and Jerry cartoons - my personal favorite. We arrived in Guangzhou around six something in the morning and left there a few hours later for Wuhan.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived in Wuhan was just how hot and muggy it is. I really thought the Oklahoma weather was terribly hot, but it is nothing compared to the weather in Wuhan. We were all sweating just as soon as we stepped outside.
In Wuhan representatives from our school were waiting to pick us up. From here our group split - many of the teachers were staying in Wuhan to teach, but a few of us still had to travel to other cities. At my school, there are four of us: Brian, who has been here before - two years ago - is from Nashville. He's our salvation right now because he can communicate and knows what foods to order, what places to go to, etc. Derek is from Houston and just graduated from Harding - a Spanish major. Cindy is from Alaska and is the only one with actual teaching experience. She's married, but her husband is staying in Alaska.
From the airport we went to eat. Our first official Chinese meal consisted of several different types of dumplings and a few other dishes. Helen, the woman who picked us up, wanted us to have a pleasant eating experience so she made sure to choose dishes that were sure to please us. She did a great job. After eating we settled into our hotel rooms where we napped a bit before going for dinner. We all went to bed pretty early that night.
Monday morning Helen took us to a hospital to have a medical exam which is required in order for us to be able to teach. We were there for a couple hours and had an ECG, and ultrasound, chest X-ray, blood pressure and eye tests, and had blood taken. While waiting for the paper work to go through, we ran into a few other teachers who will also be in Shiyan: Brad who is a returning teacher and is at the medical college here and Jeremy, Rena and their three teenage daughters who are at the technical school.
After the medical exam, and a quick meal of tasty noodles, we left in our van for Shiyan. It took about six hours, but the drive was beautiful - especially as we neared Shiyan. The area is very mountainous and absolutely amazing.
Once we arrived in Shiyan, we were dropped off at our apartments. We live in the foreign teachers building. The first floor is the foreign affairs office, and the second through fifth floors are apartments for the foreign teachers. After meeting Steven - the head foreign affairs guy - we were given our apartment keys and left to our own devices. I had a few problems with my apartment on the second floor, but Steven had mentioned we could move up to the fourth floor if we wanted. Since we didn't have those keys yet, I spent my first night on the second floor. I hardly unpacked though because I knew I would be moving the next day. Derek was next door, and Cindy and Brian were on the third floor. Brian has since decided to move up to the fourth floor across from me, which I'm grateful for; I like having a neighbor.
Our apartments have two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen/dining room, living room and a front and back deck. There really aren't good views from either deck - mostly buildings - but at least on the fourth floor, I can see some trees. My shower is interesting. I don't have a tub or anything that separates the shower from the rest of the bathroom. Basically, there's a shower head that comes out from the wall, and when I shower, water runs all over the floor, though it's not quite so bad with a shower curtain. After my shower, I take a squigee and push the water down the drain. It's pretty easy, and I kind of like the fact I don't have to clean a tub. I never did like cleaning tubs!
I'm moved in completely now, but my house is really bare. I'm going to have to have Mom send me some things and I'll need to buy stuff to decorate it. I never was a decorator, but I think I really want my place to feel more homey.
Today Brian took Derek and me on a tour of the campus. It's really beautiful - very hilly, lots of trees, and of course, some cool Chinese architecture and sculptures. The weather today was wonderful. It was misty and cool. So when we were walking around campus, it felt very much like October in Oklahoma when the air gets crisp, and there's a neat atmosphere on campus. As we were walking, we ran into one of the Chinese brothers. He's older and very friendly. We will be seeing him at the end of the week, which I'm really looking forward to. He was very nice.
Every day we have been eating at this restaurant down the hill from us. The owner's name is Happy Guy - or at least that's what former teachers have called him, and it's stuck. Brian is pretty good friends with him. He doesn't really speak English, but he'll sit down with us and try to communicate, all the time having a big smile on his face. His food is amazing too. Brian is really good about ordering different things for us to try. My favorites so far are sweet and sour pork which is nothing like what we have in the States, a dish with eggplant, potatoes, peppers and garlic, and a dish with beef and potatoes. We've also had some street food which is dirt cheap. Every thing is cheap here. The four of us can eat like kings for four dollars - that's four dollars for everyone altogether not apiece.
Derek and I are trying to learn the language. He's much better at it than I a
m. He remembers things a lot better, but I'm sure eventually it will click for me.
We think school starts next Monday, but because we have freshmen, we may not begin teaching until the week after that. In the meantime, we're just taking it easy - trying to get acquainted to the city and our homes.
Tonight we visited Jeremy, Rena, Antasia, Courtny and Breanna at their apartment. We were all very impressed with their living quarters. I have a feeling we'll be visiting frequently. We all went to eat together. Since there were eight of us, we got our own private room in this particular restaurant. The food was decent, but not as good as Happy Guy's. It was more expensive too, and some of the dishes were so spicy hot, my mouth burned and my eyes watered uncontrollably. It was pretty painful. Afterwards, we went to a DVD/CD/etc. store where you can buy things shamefully cheap. Derek bought the first season of lost for less than 10 dollars, I think.
Yesterday we went to the supermarket to buy cleaning supplies and other essentials. There were so many clerks in the store, and they all wanted to help us. At one point, we were about to be surrounded. I ducked out and went to another aisle, but the guys got surrounded by probably fifteen or so employees trying to sell them this or that. The Chinese seem really to like Derek, although, he does show a lot of interest in them too which probably helps. It crazy though. Besides that, I don't know that we've made to many waves in this city. There are definitely those who stare - especially little children - as well as those who want to speak whatever English they know in our general direction. It hasn't been a nuissance at all. It's kind of fun. Everyone is so friendly here, and they all want to make us feel welcome.