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Movin’ On Up…

After a long absence I have returned to blogging. I finally was able to move my blog back to my own personal homepage! So from now on this blog will lay fallow. To access my new blog, go to the following link My Blog the address is: http://www.fergubond.com/blog

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Can You Feel It?

The last week and a half has been great for me, but not so much for rest of Asia. The earthquake in Japan was an unfortunate tragedy and the news of the nuclear issues has dominated reports. What I do find encouraging is the compassion of the Chinese people I have talked to about the quake, despite their general dislike of the Japanese.

Many people have asked me how I’ve been affected by the quake here. So far there has been little or no affect on China, except for a few small aftershocks. No radiation has made it across the sea to China, although that has not stopped some from worrying. In fact a few days ago, someone in China must have read about the iodine add to salt in the west, because there was a massive rush to buy salt in all the stores around many Chinese cities. Apparently they had not been informed that iodine is not added to the salt in China.

Another unfortunate incident occurred a couple days ago when I woke up to a large number of police and a reporter outside my building. Next to the guard station, on the ground was a dead body. Unlike the bodies found in the USA, it was not quickly covered and the area was not cordoned off. Apparently someone had jumped from a window on the top floor of my building.

Ok, now on to the good. I recently had the opportunity to visit my friends in Hangzhou for a couple nights. The trip was wonderful and the food was good. I got to spend a couple days hanging out with my friend Ivy, but unfortunately my other friend Elva had to go to Shanghai for work, so my time chatting with her was limited to about an hour one night. Instead of telling you about it, I figured I’ll just share some photos again.

A picture of my friend Ivy in the Trees at Westlake.

A view from the street in Hangzhou.

The afternoon gaming grew under a bridge in Hangzhou.

Go to my flickr page to see more from the trip. Click on the Hangzhou set to see more.

I Am A Lighthouse…

“The Lighthouse’s Tale”

I am a lighthouse
Worn by the weather and the waves
I keep my lamp lit
To warn the sailors on their way
I’ll tell a story
Paint you a picture from my past
I was so happy
But joy in this life seldom lasts

I had a keeper
He helped me warn the ships at sea
We had grown closer
‘Til his joy meant everything to me
He was to marry
A girl who shone with beauty and light
They loved each other
And with me watched the sunsets into nights

And the waves crash around me,
The sand slips out to sea,
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been, and what can never be

She’d had to leave us
My keeper, he prayed for a safe return
But when the night came
The weather to a raging storm had turned
He watched her ship fight
But in vain against the wild and terrible wind
In me so helpless
As dashed against the rocks she met her end

And the waves crash around me,
The sand slips out to sea,
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been, and what can never be

Then on the next day
My keeper found her washed up on the shore
He kissed her cold face
And that they’d be together soon he swore I saw him crying
Watched as he buried her in the sand
Then he climbed my tower
And off the edge of me he ran

And the waves crash around me,
The sand slips out to sea,
And the winds that blow remind me
Of what has been, and what can never be

I am a lighthouse
Worn by the weather and the waves
And though I’m empty
I still warn the sailors on their way

I make no claim to writing this. The only claim I make, is to say that it still speaks to me…

Another week gone by, without a lot happening. This week has been fairly standard. MY goal of joining the gym and quiting going out has worked. The only problem so far is lack of motivation to actually make it to the gym. I really need to work on that. Fortunately a couple of my coworkers have memberships to the same gym. Maybe I can find some accountability through them.

In addition to working, I finally got the Chinese lessons sorted. My first lesson turned into more of a meet and greet on Tuesday. However, we met again on Wednesday for our first lesson. Most of what we covered was familiar to me, but my pronunciation certainly needs work! I’ve also begun learning to write the characters as well. In fact I’m taking a little break from my practice now, to write this post. I have my second lesson tonight.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, I’m heading to Hangzhou to visit my friends Ivy and Elva. I’m hoping the weather hold up. It has gotten a bit warmer the last few days. After that trip and a little more shopping next month, I’m hoping to limit me spending to food and Chinese lessons. I’m getting closer to a point where I’ll have to think about a new laptop in the next couple months, so I should start saving now.

Ok, well that is all for this short post. I’m hoping to get some good news from my sister in the next couple weeks. (And some pictures!) If I do I’ll pass it along. Anyone reading this back in the states, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email to let me know how things are going. I’ll post again after my Hangzhou trip with more pictures.

Suzhou In Pictures

Yesterday I took a trip to Suzhou to visit my friend Maria. The train ride from Wuxi took a total of 12 minutes. It is amazing how smooth the ride is at 320 km/h. Instead of telling the story, I thought I’d tell the story in pictures this time instead.
Confucious Garden
A Confucious temple.

Lakeside View
Lakeside at the Chanlang Pavillion.

Courtyard
A courtyard at the Chanlang Pavillion.

In The Bamboo
Maria on a bamboo pathway at The Chanlang Pavillion.

In Bloom
Early blooms on a tree at the Couples Garden Retreat.

Despite the chilly weather, the trip to Suzhou was quite enjoyable. I’ve put up a few more pictures on my flickr page.

Another long weekend is done. I just got back home from the Monday teachers’ meeting and have one class tonight before my first two days off in a row since coming to Wuxi. Tomorrow I’ll be going to Suzhou to visit Maria and hopefully take a lot of pictures. My only hope is that the weather warms up a bit by then. That and I hope that I can successfully get to the correct place by train.

It has now been a month since my arrival in Wuxi. So far my time in China has been a mix of good, bad and other. Most of the experiences have been good. I’m enjoying teaching for the most part. Most of my classes are full of good students. I particularly enjoy my Sunday classes. On Sundays I start with a low level class of 8-10 year olds that are both well behaved and eager to learn. Following that, I have group of 10-11 year olds that are at a slightly higher level. There are only 7 of them in that class and they are completely adorable. The boys, like all boys that age have a lot of energy, but for the most part they restrain themselves. The girls are a bit quieter. One in particular is a bit smaller than the others and quite a little cutie. She looks like the type of little girl that would be chosen to look cute in commercials for kids toys or McDonalds. Yesterday we studied activities in class and I had them each draw their favorite activity. After class they each decided to give me their picture. Some of them are quite talented. I also found out that in addition to my adult class on Mondays, I’ll be teaching a business English class at the new center on Thursdays.

Also on the good side are some of the places I’ve gone and people I’ve met so far. Jonny another teacher who started about the same time I did and I have taken the opportunity to explore some of the city together. We checked out Lake Taihu, a couple malls and markets, as well as a few local ex-pat bars. One in particular, called Envy has become a regular spot on evenings that are not followed by an early morning. As a result of their one pool table a few pretty good players, my pool game has improved quite a bit. I am still quite a ways away from the best pool of my life, but I’m good enough to split most best of three games 2-1. The drinks aren’t exactly cheap. A Heineken costs about 25 RMB or $4, but a shot of tequila is only 15RMB. More importantly the owner and staff are good people.

Like everything in life, there are downsides to my situation here. Working for a foreign language school can be hard work. I teach many different ages and levels and just last week started teaching off site at grade school and middle school twice a week. The classes do require quite a bit of prep time as well. But working a long week is nothing new to me. One downside though is that because the school is a business, we have little or no recourse against disruptive students. In one class in particular on Saturdays I have two boys who are quite disruptive. Unfortunately the nature of Chinese society, the one Child policy and preferential treatment of boys does produce some quite spoiled children.

Friday was also my first payday. The paycheck was a bit smaller than I’d hoped because it was prorated for the first month, included the 1000RMB loan the school gave me when I first arrived and an incredible high electric bill. I believe I have mentioned before the insufficient ability of the wall-mounted heating unit. As a result I often run it when I get home from work at night until the morning, in the vain hope that my apartment will get warm. Unfortunately the desire to be warm cost me. My bill was nearly 500 RMB or about $80, which is two or three times what most of my colleagues think it should have been. So I’ve decided to use it more sparingly this month in an attempt to evaluate whether or not the bill changes. If there is little or no change next month I’ll be requesting an actual copy of the statement. You see, the way the school pays is quite different here. First they put your entire salary in front of you and have you count it. Then they give you a list of all the charges they pay for you, including rent, electricity water etc. You then have to pay them back that money and you can keep the rest. I assume it is an attempt to seem more transparent, but in actuality you never see the actual bills or rental contract to know the exact amount that they paid.

My paycheck was however, enough to cover a 6 month membership to a local gym. The membership cost me 800 RMB, which isn’t a bad price especially considering that I hope it will mean that I spend less time at the bar, so I won’t be spending my money there. I was also able to buy a few cooking supplies and some groceries, so that should help cut down on expenses too. I hope starting next month to be able to put away some money every payday. I’m still looking into buying a new bed set and a thicker pillow for my bed, but that can wait for the time being.

This week should be a good one. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Suzhou and back. On Wednesday I plan to check out a museum with my coworker Jonny who also has the day off and I’ve been dinner with two other coworkers who are dating. Anelie, who is a native of the Philippines, will be cooking Filipino food. Thursday I start me new business class and then the weekend starts all over again. That is it for me. Below I’ve included a picture of my apartment from my bed, for those who were wondering. I just got back from shopping so I didn’t tidy up before snapping the picture, so yes that is my coat on the sofa and some snacks on the table! Next to the water cooler, not shown in the picture is a desk and a closet.

If you are white, you are paying too much for everything…

If you don’t speak Chinese, you are paying too much.

If work rents your apartment for you, you are paying too much!

If you are white, or a foot taller than everyone else, you will be stared at. Deal with it!

If a girl walks by and says “Hello” or looks back after she passes, she isn’t interested. You are just white and that’s interesting.

Finding a quality burger in China, outside of Hong Kong is nearly impossible. McDonalds? Bleh!

The main streets are completely safe at all times of the night, much safer than home. You won’t run into nearly as many shady people.

Back alleys are not always quite as safe at night, but what are you doing walking down a back alley at 2AM anyways? I mean come on.

The streets are going to be dirty. Get used to it!
People spit all the time. Get used to that too.

If you are in a touristy area after dark, people will try to sell you everything. Learn to say “Bu yao!” and walk on past.

If you go to a bar, there are approximately a million games using dice or cards, designed specifically to get you drunk!

Female taxi drivers are much more patient with broken Chinese, especially if you have had one or two too many to drink…

When crossing the road, a walk sign does not guarantee your safety. Sometimes you just have to look both ways a couple times and go for it! Also, beware of scooters!

When calling a waitress, don’t point and curl your index finger upward, like you are calling a dog. Wave your hand instead.

Many Chinese girls can probably play pool better than you, but give it a try anyways. Don’t be a sore loser.

Smog is a given, everyday. Blue skies are rare and to be treasured. If you can’t take handle it, then go home.

If none of those things bother you. If you love Chinese food and a mix of modern and ancient, then China is the perfect place to call home!

More to come….

I love it here!