Archive for April, 2011

No matter where I go in the world, I can always count on Starbucks and Walmart to be there [[shaking head]].



As much as I dislike giant chain super-department-stores, I actually found Walmart to be useful on the day I moved into the apartment. Bedding and towels, cups, cleaning supplies, food, etc. etc. Although not exactly like a Walmart in the states, many of the aisle markers and products are in English.

Some of the food in there is amazing… I’ve never seen so many different types of mushrooms, unusual fruits, and so many plastic-wrapped preserved foods in one place! Even shrink-wrapped boiled/peeled duck eggs, and what looked like uncooked meats, were piled high in bins.

Street food here is interesting and varied. I’m looking forward to learning more Chinese so I can order stuff confidently. Here’s a few things I’ve tried:

This is called ‘dan juaner’ (written in pinyin, without the tones). The pronunciation is more like dahn joo-on-r. It’s basically an egg and milk batter fried into small curly crisps. Somehow sesame is involved too. They have a touch of sweetness and taste somewhat like graham crackers.

This is called ‘dan bing’, it’s pronounced something like dahn be-ing. It is very much like a crepe made with eggs, a semi-sweet brown sauce, chives, and a crispy thing in the center. They’re probably not all that healthy, so I only eat one or two a week for breakfast on my way to work in the subway. But they taste great and they only cost about 50 cents (US)!

I’ve also tried a lamb kebab and a small round shredded pork sandwich thing. In the evenings there’s a cart outside the apartment serving an interesting soup or fried rice. I can choose from pigeon eggs and—if I heard my flat mate correctly—duck’s blood (they look like little cubes of red stuff, I thought it was liver, maybe it was kidney). My flat mate and his girlfriend have also shared dinner with me a couple of times—what a treat.

Since my last post I’ve been busy with classes and lesson plans, and not a whole lot of time to myself. I’m teaching kids, from as young as 5 to as old as 15. The classes at the head office are small—from 4 to 12 kids in a class.

Most of the material is provided, the hard part is coming up with enough games to keep those spoiled, loud, under-interested little buggers engaged. Just kidding, about half of each class is interested and attentive, and for the most part the girls are better than the boys, who’d rather goof off.

I like teaching the older kids best, their command of English is pretty good so we can do some interesting stuff in class. I’ll soon be tutoring an adult, one to one at the head office, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

I also teach a few classes at other sites which are public middle schools. Classes there are large—anywhere from 20 to 40 middle-school-aged kids, and they are more engaged and attentive.

Please forgive my limited communications… internet connectivity over here is flaky and unreliable at the best of times. It’s a challenge even to create this blog with lengthy one-at-a-time photo uploads and quirky website behavior while trying to do a simple thing like saving a draft. I don’t use Facebook enough to justify spending money on a VPN connection, so until I find a free/secure/reliable service, email is the best way to reach me. Thanks for your understanding.

From China with love,


Greetings from Shanghai

Hello from Shanghai! The past 5 days since landing I’ve experienced a whirlwind of activity, awkward brain activity from jet lag and lack of sleep, and a frenetic city that is way WAY bigger than I imagined.

I started by paying my respects (and a coin) to Shanghai’s Town God’s Temple, located at Yuyuan Gardens—best to start off in the city’s good graces. I’m really grateful for all the English signs here, both in the subways and on the streets. I wouldn’t be able to navigate without them.

Yuyuan Gardens

Yuyuan Gardens

Yuyuan Gardens

My new boss had me observing classes on my very first day and each day since arriving. The teachers here are a mixed lot, mostly British, and all are very helpful.

Some of my classes will be very noisy pre-middle schoolers, I’ll need to find my vocal volume somewhere. Turns out I won’t be teaching the hair salon employees after all, the situation has changed and the original teacher will continue. He was very grateful for the book I brought over!

Teacher's Lounge

In between observing classes of screaming kids and getting a little basic training, I was apartment hunting with the Welfare Officer, Eric, or Roma (his back-up), but not having much luck. In the city center, the flats in my price range are moldy dumps. In the ring just outside the city center, the same price will get a bit better quality, but the monthly Metro commute costs make up the difference.

I decided to look for a room in shared accommodation, to maximize funds. I expect to be traveling and exploring frequently, so all I really need is a cheap and convenient crash pad.

huge apartment buildings everywhere

Much to my surprise, yesterday Roma offered to rent his second room to me, four months at a time, and at a very reasonable rate. Considering that most western teachers drink heavily, smoke, and party a lot, this was no casual offer. In fact those were his first questions of me!

Roma and I got along great right from the start, it feels like I’m rooming with an old friend. We’re both looking forward to the learning exchange of culture and language. He’s already taught me Mandarin pronunciation and a few words, and I’ve taught him a few English words. The apartment is across the street from a stadium.

view from my apartment window

Although it’s been tiring and frenetic, things are getting off to a great start here in China.

The journey begins

From left to right: Susan, Adrian, Susan and Peter

A group of riding buddies talking about the last ride...

Sunday evening April 4, three days before I fly to Shanghai, my sister and friends threw a going-away party for me. It was wonderful to see many friends, old and new, one last time before leaving.

Some were motorcycle riding buddies, some climbing buddies, and a few were work buddies. The food was great and the desserts amazing. Thanks everyone for the well wishes! Stay tuned for more posts. Blessings all.

Rich and Barb

Scott and Susie

Yummy food...