FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL
I've taught three classes this week for a total of seven periods. The first week of classes is always the easiest, so I hear. We covered introductory basics about the class and spent quite awhile in a question/answer session. My students have a lot of questions about American culture and the differences between Americans and Chinese. The students are very respectful and eager to learn. Most already had English names, although I think we will have to change some of their names to something more appropriate. One gentlemen said, "My name is Fish because I like fish." I told him we would have to change his name because it doesn't work well in the U.S., but he seems reluctant to want to change it. In the Chinese language, I think any character can be a name so many times the students will just choose something they like in English and make that their name.
Wednesday after class I began working on lesson plans for the rest of the semester when I got a call from a new friend here in China. She wanted to hang out. We walked around the neighborhood for awhile, and she showed me where she lived on campus. She is a sophomore this year, but her English is very good. Derek, Brian and Cindy had gone shopping with Helen, our waiban, to buy a few electronics, and when they returned, Derek, Brian, Sofie and I had lunch at Happy Guy's. Brian bought the Chinese version of Coke Black (the coke/coffee mixture), but here it tastes like cigarette smoke. It was horrible, but Derek kept drinking it "hoping" it would taste better with each new sip. He's odd sometimes!
After lunch the boys and I went to the Jeremy and Rena's apartment. Their girls haven't started school yet so they've been very bored the past several days. We thought we might offer a fun distraction for a few hours. In Shiyan there is a place called the People's Park. It's a large park in the center of town with walking trails, ponds, non-flowing waterfalls, and a small amusement park (really, it's just like a local carnival). When we approached the carnival rides, everything appeared to be closed. There were men repairing or painting some of the rides. There were very few other visitors. We thought it must be off-season.
We soon walked to an area where a few booths were set up. They had B.B. guns with which you try to shoot balloons to win prizes. They had Whack-A-Mole, but I don't think they were moles you hit. They had bean bag tosses and a few other carnival games. The workers who previously had been relaxing or napping in their chairs came to life and tried to get us to play their booths. The boys, of course, showed off their gun shooting skills and won the coveted prize of unsalted sunflower seeds.
The whole atmosphere of the amusement park was very eerie - something out of a horror film. It's like we stumbled upon the oldest theme park in the world that should have shut down years ago but was open just for us. There was one ride that looked fun. It was basically a luge - you sit on a small, plastic board on wheels type of thing that has a stick in the middle which serves as the break. There are no seat belts, and for most of the track there is nothing holding the vehicle to the track. Jeremy and Derek braved what I thought looked like the ride of death. First, the ride took them up a very steep hill where they had to strain to keep from slipping off. Then it shot them around this winding track. It was unbelievable how fast they were going with nothing to protect them if they slipped off (no belt, no helmet, nothing). They survived, but no one else attempted the ride.
Next we happened upon a roller coaster ride. It wasn't a very big roller coaster. It had no loops and didn't go too far off the ground. It was very rusty and looked like it hadn't been ridden in awhile. We were debating on whether or not we wanted to pay 10 kuai for the ride (a little over a dollar) when Brian said we MUST experience a Chinese roller coaster SO he paid for all of us. There were four cars, but they weren't attached. Jeremy and Breanna rode together in the first car, Antasia and I were in the second, Derek and Courtny in the third, and Brian in the last. The cars weren't made for two American-sized girls with giant child-bearing hips (: to ride together so Antasia and I were squeezed uncomfortably next to (and slightly on top of) each other. The belt to strap us in was literally a brown leather belt that tied around our chests. Derek and Courtny's car didn't even have a belt so the conductor guy just motioned for them to hold on tight. Before Derek came here, he learned how to say "I'm going to die" in Chinese never expecting he'd be able to use it, but he got his chance afterall!
I can't even adequately describe how terrifying the ride was. We started the ride by slowly going up an incline. At the foot of the incline, our car felt like it partially came off the track at which point we were thrust upward. Then at the top of the incline, our car took off winding jerkily around curves and up and down small hills. It didn't last long, but what a ride! It was fun and scary and ridiculous all rolled up together.
We left the park after the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. Near the supermarket that we shop at is a long alley way that serves as a fresh produce market. We've bragged about the chicken strips from there so much that Jeremy and Rena wanted to get some for dinner that night. Jeremy likes to walk everywhere so instead of taking a bus, we all walked. However, we stopped at nearly every shop on the way to the market - clothing, shoes, electronics, whatever kind of shop that looked interesting. The market was crowded, but we got the chicken strips and I bought some kiwi fruit. Then we parted ways and headed home. The boys and I bought street food at the bottom of our hill, went home, and settled in for some LOST time.
Yesterday we didn't do too much. I worked some on lesson plans, but it was a rainy day - the kind where you want to relax and read or watch T.V. I wasn't very motivated so I didn't get a lot accomplished. Jeremy and Rena invited us to dinner yesterday. Rena is quite the cook and prepared homemade macaroni and cheese, barbecue weinies (sort of), corn, cornbread and apple pie. It was great.