Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MCDONALDS...NEVER AGAIN!

There is a lot to catch up on. Friday night we went back to the restaurant that had promised us a "western" night. Well, they were apparently too busy that night to cook western foods, but the owner chose "special" dishes for us and kept us very well fed and entertained. Several of the dishes were very sweet - too sweet, actually, for me, but the presentation was spectacular. They made potatoes and rice to look like pears (which they did) and created flowers out of radishes. Our other American friends were there too so it was an enjoyable get together. They did play a couple American songs. Ching ching is a guitarrist and singer who speaks very good English. We met him the first night we went to the restaurant, and he sang some American songs for us this time too. We talked to him some after he played, and he told me he would help me learn to play the guitar. We'll see...but I am actually spending some of my spare time messing around with a classical guitar that was left here by some of the other teachers.

After dinner we departed for our homes. Antasia spent Friday night with me. We stayed up too late talking as girls usually do when they have sleepovers. It was fun though.

Saturday when we woke up, it was such a beautiful day. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. We've had several days like this which maybe is a little out of the ordinary, according to Brian's recollection. Brian, Derek, Antasia and I decided to play frisbee. Before we left, however, Jeremey called to comment on how perfect the weather was for an outing. So the plan was for us to play frisbee while his family got ready. Then Antasia and I would meet them at McDonald's to leave for Square Mountain, a mountain that is good for hiking and is within the city limits (or at least very close to the city). Brian had a tai chi lesson around 2 o'clock, and Derek had an English lesson he was teaching our waiban's daughter around that time too so they couldn't go with us to the mountain.

Playing frisbee drew a crowd. They don't play frisbee in China so we drew a few people into our circle and taught them how to throw it. Most people just watched us.

Antasia and I left a little early because we had not had breakfast yet and decided McDonald's would be a good place for lunch (it was approaching noon time). When I stepped off the bus at McDonald's, my right foot went into a pothole, and I twisted my ankle. My right ankle is my bad one anyway, but it was not the best timing since were were about to go hike a mountain! Anyway, I had not eaten at McDonald's since I had arrived, but I seldom eat at McDonald's in the States either. I thought it might be nice to have a good ole hamburger so I ordered a Big Mac. While we were eating, Jeremey, Rena, Courtny and Breanna arrived and ordered some food too. Jeremey and Rena ordered the Big Mac too (this is important for later).

After eating we caught a bus to the bottom of the mountain and then found a couple taxis that would take us up to the top. The taxi drivers overcharged us which is the first time that has happened since we arrived. I was a little surprised actually. But we paid, bought our tickets to the entrance of the mountain, and begain hiking. We started out on a road that was winding down the mountain, but we soon came across some stairs that led down a different direction. We took the stairs down and found ourselves in a peaceful garden area that had tables, benches, bridges, fountains, trails, and gigantic stone mushrooms. After taking advantage of this photo op, we moved on and found what looked like a hotel in the middle of it all. We then found another road and started walking along it until we found yet another uphill path through the woods. So we hiked up the path quite a ways, across mossy stones with lush vegetation on both sides. Finally, we reached the top of this trail. It came out onto a road, but it also opened up with a view of Shiyan. We could identify from here where our schools were located, the route our bus always takes, and where we had been in the city. It was cool to be able to orient ourselves to Shiyan like this.

Antasia and Jeremey had to come back to my apartment to get Antasia's things. We took the long route home, though, because the girls wanted to buy some turtles we had seen for sale on the street before we left for the mountain. They already have one turtle someone gave them which had been destined for someone's dinner before it was saved apparently. So now some of the less caring folks around here call it Dinner even though it's given name is Hazel. After we bought the turtles, we made it back home. My ankle was pretty swollen and had begun bruising.

At 6 o'clock Saturday night, we had a few Chinese friends over - Zoe, Dacy, and two of their friends, Davis and Grease. They wanted us to teach them to make some western dishes, but we haven't really bought any groceries yet so we went out to eat instead. Cindy came with us, and we ate at a new place that was fairly expensive. It was good, though. We had fried lotus root which was amazing!

After dinner we stopped at Darcy's apartment, met a couple of her roommates, invited one of them who doesn't speak English very well to come play games with us, and then headed back to Derek's apartment. We played UNO. A couple already knew how to play it, but those who didn't soon picked it up very quickly. It was a lot of fun, and we listened to some Frank Sinatra mood music (per my request) since he's the greatest for just such situations. A couple of our guests had curfew so they left around 11:15.

SICK TIME!!!

Sunday morning I awoke around four A.M. with a horrible feeling in my stomach. I spent the next 6 hours sleeping some, throwing up, having other stomach problems, and cycling through each of these processes. It was so miserable. I don't ever remember feeling so poorly. I did get dressed and go across the hall to Brian's apartment for meeting. I must have looked horrible. I certainly felt it. We sang for a bit. I tried singing but lost too much energy doing it. Then I snuck off to Brian's bedroom thinking I still would be able to hear what was happening but be able to lay down as well. I stayed as long as I could, but I soon left and went to my room to sleep. After the meeting, Cindy came to check on me. She brought a couple vitamin tablets, water and crackers, and Rena brought me some bananas. I spent the most of the rest of the day sleeping. My stomach was not relieved the entire day. I couldn't eat anything, but the boys brought me some V-8 Splash which I sipped periodically hoping for a little nourishment. Sunday night Rena called to check on me. She said she and Jeremey were beginning to have stomach problems too and since we all had Big Macs at McDonald's, I am blaming it for my day of disgusting pain!

Monday morning I felt well enough to go to class (thankfully!). My class on Monday morning is the least talkative class. They are sophomores and shy, maybe. I don't really know why they are so reserved compared to my other classes, but it makes it more difficult to run class smoothly without their participation.

I still felt sick Monday - just not as bad. I ate bananas when I was hungry because that was all my stomach could handle. I had a little rice too which was bland, but I suppose that was good for me. My class Monday night went really well. I love my Monday night elective class. They are a lot of fun. We talked about hobbies, threw a whiffle ball around, and I sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" which was totally embarrassing, but they loved it anyway.

I was also given one more class Monday. It begins tomorrow (Thursday) night. It's for sophomores, I think, and there is actually a book for it as well as lesson plans. The book is hilarious. Some of the topics are outrageous in my opinion, but it will hopefully be fun.

WUDANGSHAN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CEREMONY (HAPPY IN CHINA)

Several days ago we were told that there was an activity (they called it a sports meet) in Shiyan Tuesday, and our presence was requested. We knew nothing about what type of activity it was or what to expect, but foreigners throughout Shiyan and the surrounding area would attend. Our school took us by car to KFC where another foreign affairs officer directed us to a hotel across the street. We waited at the hotel for 30 minutes or longer mingling with some other foreigners (a woman from Canada who teaches at a middle school, a couple from Utah, a couple from Canada, a few men from Camaroon, and the rest of our teachers). Then a large, nice bus took us to the function. It was at an arena, and crowds of people were already there. We were shuffled through the crowds, given those plastic, retractable lightsabers that have flashlights in the handles to light them up. We were also given stickers to put on our faces and flags to wave. We were brought to the field inside the arena and sat down pretty close to the stage considering there were thousands of people there. We still didn't know what to expect, but there was a huge stage with large television screens all around it.

While we waited for things to begin, I met a couple guys who are taking tai chi lessons at Wudangshan for a month or two. One guy my age is from Israel and is traveling through Asia for five months (he just finished four years mandatory military training in Israel), and the other guy is from England and is just taking a long vacation. They were interesting, and the English guy was terribly nice.

The show started with several speeches we couldn't understand (and there was even a translator!), and then a small instrumental group came out. They were dressed beautifully and played violins, flutes and maybe a couple other instruments. While they played, several dancers behind them played air instruments with choreographed dance moves.

After this group, some men and women from Wudangshan entertained us with some choreographed kung fu movements, and some of them had swords they flailed about elegantly. It was spectacular. There were a couple other choreographed performances, and then different singers, who I assume and believe are famous Chinese musicians - pop stars, even - performed. It would have been cool to know who they were. Brian recognized a few from being on television, but I didn't know any of them. These individual performances lasted quite a while. Periodically during a performance, they would shoot of fireworks for effects. Once when they did this, a piece of the firework fell from the sky and hit the girl in front of us. It burned her arm a little and whatever was in her hand. It was unbelievable. She was okay, though - just a little jumpy afterwards whenever the fireworks would go off.

Throughout the entire concert, nobody ever stood up. I couldn't believe it. It was the type of concert where in the States, everyone would be standing and jumping and screaming all the time, but nobody did this. They didn't even clap. They just swayed their lightsabers in the air to the beat of the music, and when they got excited or after the singer finished his/her song, they would shake their lightsabers back and forth and yell. It was crazy.

We all left early. It began to get boring, and the boys were hungry so we pushed our way (literally) through security and the crowd and headed for home. We passed some of the martial arts guys, the ones with the swords, as we were leaving, so Derek made them take pictures with him. I don't think they minded, though.

Speaking of pictures, we were quite the movie stars when we arrived. A lot of people took pictures of us, and the cameras definitely video-ed our section. There are a lot of people here, apparently, who have never seen a foreigner so it's exciting to them when we are around. As a matter of fact, yesterday Brian, Cindy and I bought cell phones on the street. While we were buying them, we attracted a few interested people who just watched us. Anytime we stop anywhere for very long, we draw a crowd. It's interesting.

FRISBEE/FOOTBALL

I had a class this morning which again went well. After class I wanted to do something productive so we decided to eat and early lunch and play catch with the football and/or the frisbee. We started with the football - again something they don't have here - so we drew a crowd. A couple of my students joined us, and we taught them how to throw the football. The football was getting pretty beat up so we moved on to the frisbee. Halbert, one of my students who has a very sweet disposition, became a master at frisbee. Today was the first day he had ever thrown one, and by the end of it all, he was better at throwing it than the rest of us Americans. It was awesome!

Tonight the foreigners are meeting for dinner and to discuss some important things. Derek has a freshmen class that doesn't begin till the second week of October, but they wanted to get to know him before then so right now he is having an introductory meeting with them. My computer is not working properly so I'm using this ideal time while he's gone to catch up on my blog using his computer. It's ridiculously long, but I hope it's a little enjoyable.

Oh, today we discovered a fruity, creamy milk drink. This is an incredible find because the milk they have here does not appeal to me (except the coffee milk which is pretty good), and they don't eat cheese so I need to find a way to build my calcium intake. Actually, yesterday I wasn't feeling the Chinese food thing so we made really good grilled cheese sandwiches with some Velveeta the former teachers left us.

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