Friday, December 22, 2006


I forgot to mention another complicating factor in my having two apartments: I still don't have a key to the new one. When I finally do, I'll be sure post some pictures from it. It was originally designed for three teachers to share, so has some interesting features such as three toilets in the bathroom and three sinks, and also a sink in each of the three balconies. Unfortunately for me, one of the three bedrooms will be locked and used for storage. I don't really need three bedrooms, but I was thinking of using the third as a tea room, free from the electronic distractions that, while fun, prevent me from doing any of the things I want to do, like study Chinese and read Argentine short stories.

Today's the winter solstice and it is Chinese tradition to eat (jiaozi), an excellent kind of dumpling. I'd never eaten dumplings in the US, and while I'd heard the word I probably could not have drawn a picture of one. Here, however, I've been fortunate enough to eat many, and they sure are good. The ones I had for lunch today were filled with tofu and turnip, which probably doesn't sound too appetizing, but I assure you they are pure deliciousness. You usually dip them in a mixture of vinegar, garlic oil, and hot sauce. They are also eaten to celebrate the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, at which time families will make them together, sort of like making Christmas cookies. Hopefully I'll learn how to do so so I can make you some when I get back. Until then, you can eat cookies and I'll eat 子.

two half apartments

I'm currently the proud tenant of two half apartments. My apartment here has all the things one would want out of an apartment (tv, computer, bed, wardrobe, cooking utensils, washing machine, water cooler) but only 1 chair to sit on, and the new apartment has plenty of things to sit on and the guest bed, but nothing to do. I'm hoping that I'll be able to read and study more there without the ever-distracting internet begging for my attention. We'll see if that's true or not once I get the key sometime next week. In the meantime, though, I'll have to adapt my life to only having one chair, which, since I live alone, isn't usually too bad, but when guests come over things could get interesting.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

time to get crackin'

I've been pretty busy with class and trying to speak Chinese as much as possible, so as you can probably imagine, my apartment is not the most organized. Unfortunately, I was just told now that tomorrow morning while I'm teaching they're going to move most of my apartment to the new campus. I've been wanting to move, yes, but I was hoping to at least be around when it happened. They're going to let me keep a bed and kitchen here so that I can spend the Spring Festival here instead of at the deserted new campus, so right now I have to move everything I want to keep here into my bedroom which I'll lock before I go tomorrow so they don't move/steal things I don't want moved/stolen. Good thing I just drank about 10 itty bitty cups of tea, but I can only hope that it doesn't keep me up too late since I do have to get on the bus tomorrow before 6:50 AM.

Oh, I almost forgot to post a translation of that Chinese poem, so here it is:

I slept without realizing the Spring dawn had come,
Everywhere around me I heard bird song.
Oh what a sound of wind and rain last night ---
How many blossoms had fallen?

It's not my translation, but it's the best one I could find online. In Spanish, my translation would be

Soñaba sin ver los árboles solados
Cantaban pájaros en todos lados
Anoche qué ruido de lluvia y viento
¿Cuántos son los flores afuera caídos?
That keeps the rhyme scheme from the Chinese but loses the meter. Sorry. Maybe once I learn some more Chinese I'll be able to translate it a bit better.

For now, I'd better get organizing. Take care.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Apologies for the delay in writing to you all - I'm pretty busy teaching at the moment (20 hours the past few weeks) and when I'm not doing that, I'm trying my best to speak in Chinese, leaving me little time for reading or any other kind of relaxing, and unfortunately writing here has slipped through the cracks. That's probably a good sign, though, that this world is starting to feel less foreign and I've found ways to spend my time.

What have I been doing, then? Looking back, it's hard to stay. I've been spending most of my time teaching, preparing to teach, and going to and fro from the new campus. Word on the street is that next week I'll be moving, but that's yet to be confirmed, mostly because the new apartment isn't ready yet - it's still being painted and decorated and otherwise equipped. I'm looking forward to moving, if only to eliminate the commute and allow me to spend more time with my students. Right now, I pretty much can only speak with them in English, since that's my job, but if I could see them more outside of class I'd have another opportunity to pretend I can speak Chinese.

I got a package in the mail the other day containing two of my two most missed goodies: Reese's cups and cheese. Thanks for that - it was much appreciated, and the few people I've shared the Reese's with have been quite impressed.

Last Friday evening I went to the new campus to help some of my students host an English party. It was a bit disorganized and not really effective at getting anyone to speak English, but it did seem enjoyable, and motivation is of course an important part of language learning. The highlight for most of the students was me reciting a Chinese poem to someone's four-year-old boy I was holding in my arms, and him then repeating it back into the microphone. Here's the poem for those who may be interested:


There isn't much else new here, but if you're curious about something, just leave a question as a comment and I'll gladly reply. For now I need to get some rest to make it through the long day of studying and teaching tomorrow.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Happy belated Thanksgiving.  I wish I could have been in Cincinnati to share it with you all.  Fortunately, I did get to eat some turkey, but there's no way it was as good as it would have been shared with you at home.

Early this week, Monday I think, there was a knock at the door and I heard English voices -native English speakers- outside.  It was Keith (the Texan who's here studying English) and his first-grade daughter Génesis.  It was a pleasant surprise to see them, and it wasn't until they invited me to their house for dinner on Thursday that I realized Thanksgiving was this week.  They also invited a few other people. namely Ron, the other foreign teacher here, Sarah, their Chinese teacher and a fellow English teacher here, Nana, a Finnish teacher of English at another university, Larry, a Hawaiian teaching English in Xi'an, and Larry's wife.  We had turkey cooked in the toaster oven (the closest thing to a real oven, but unfortunately not big enough for a whole bird), cranberry sauce, cornbread, real baked bread (another rarity), and both pumpkin and apple pie.  Quite a Western feast.  The accompanying vegetables, though, were cooked in a Chinese style, which made for an interesting mixture.  The food was all very good; Mixy's an excellent cook, and I got to complement her in Spanish.   Actually, that complement unintentionally derailed a conversation she was having with Nana as, after saying a few more words in English, she unconsciously slipped into Spanish, which, as you know, is not commonly spoken in Finland.

After dinner, we had to play some games for the kids.  The first was "Pin the beak on the turkey," with children being blindfolded and adults forced to squat and waddle backwards, using only one hand to fix the beak in the (hopefully) right place.  I think I came in fifth.  Then there was an Easter-egg-hunt-esque turkey hunt, competition-style, males against females.  Of the 14 paper turkeys, we were able to find 9, and the girls fared just as well.  A draw.  Which lead to the next activity: coloring.  There were all sorts of festive pictures of cornucopias, pilgrims and Indians, family dinners, etc., and your choice of crayons or colored pencils.  I voted for crayons, and coloring outside the lines.  Someone needs to show these kids what it's like outside the box.  As we colored, instead of football, the TV showed Nanny McPhee, which, in my mind, was a poor substitute.

In all it was quite a nice evening, though as I said early, no match for Thanksgiving at home.  It did, though, beat my Chilean Thanksgiving in terms of culinary quality.

Other than the holiday, not much else has happened here.  I signed the extension for my contract yesterday, hopefully guaranteeing that I won't be teaching as many hours next semester.  This week I had 16 (plus the 8 spent going to and fro in the bus), and the next three weeks I'll be teaching 20, since the freshman started late and all of their classes need to fit 3 make up classes into the semester to meet the minimum requirements for the duration of a semester-long course.  Quite a pain, if you ask me, but again, one that won't occur next semester.  Also, I'm told that I'll be moving to the new campus on or around December 15th, which would eliminate the wasteful and boring commute.

Not much else to add, so I'm going to brave the 40 degree weather in search of a winter hat, slippers, reading lamp, and maybe some more tea.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

feelin' alright, doin' okay

I've been pretty busy here these past few weeks.  I teach about 16 hours per week, and go to Chinese class for about 12, and there's also 8 hours each week on the bus going to and from the new campus, not to mention any time spent preparing lessons and studying.  Fortunately next semester I won't be teaching as many classes, so I should have time to travel and study more.

Despite being busy, I'm still enjoying myself here.  My Chinese is slowly (very slowly) improving, but as I've been saying all along, if I would put more time and effort into studying, it would progress more quickly.

I haven't really done anything out of the ordinary lately, other than going to give a speech to a student-run English Corner on Sunday.  The idea is that the students get together to practice their English, since it's hard to learn a language alone.  Unfortunately the meeting was a lot more of me speaking than them, but I suppose I was the guest speaker, so what did I expect.

Lately there's been lots of talk about moving to the new campus.  From what I understand, this year is the first year for the new campus, and it's still under construction, but by the middle of next month, they have to have all of the departments and offices moved there.  Almost all of the undergrad students already live there, but very few teachers do since their apartments aren't ready yet.  One of those apartments is apparently for me, if I want it.  I'm pretty sure I can choose either to stay here at the old campus in Xianyang or move there.  It's a tough decision.  The new campus is in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest grocery store a 20 minute bus ride away, and almost nothing within walking distance.  By US standards, that's not a big deal, but here in XIanyang I can walk to anywhere I could possibly want to go, and a 20 minute bus ride goes clear across the city.  So it is by far more convenient to live here.   On the other hand, I do have to spend an hour each way on the bus to go teach, and I can't really interact with my students outside of class since we live in different cities.  By moving there, I could probably practice my Chinese more with my students, but I'd have less interaction with teachers and other people in the community.  I'll have to think it over a while longer.

Now, though, I need to run to Chinese class.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday's shows

Yesterday I did a few things for the first time ever. First, with a few friends I went to a lake/park near the new campus of the university, and it just so happened that there was a dog show there that day. A dog show is a strange thing to see, with so many well-manicured animals on display and wandering about with their owners. The lake itself was rather disappointing, and it was surrounded by an almost empty carnival-like environment, with games, a swinging pirate ship (think miniature King's Island viking ship) and other simple rides. Of course we just walked around, enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

After lunch, I knew we were going to watch a student fashion show, and one of the guys we ate with was one of the designers. I was looking forward to seeing it, since I don't know much about fashion, Chinese or otherwise. What I didn't realize was that I, along with two of my friends who are also teachers, were going to be the judges. I guess they didn't care that I have no fashion-related experience of knowledge, and weren't bothered by the fact that I couldn't even read the scoring form (my Chinese reading skills are almost nonexistent). Despite these hindrances, I did enjoy watching the show, though I must admit that all of the clothing was far from practical, held together mostly with safety pins. There were some interesting concepts, though, and, of course, a lot of failed experiments. It was also fun to see some of my students as models - their attitude was quite different than what I see in class.

In all, it was a nice way to spend a Saturday. Today I get to prepare for my classes and hopefully study some Chinese vocabulary. I'm good at using the words I know, but I know so few that my freedom of expression is incredibly limited. I've been practicing speaking plenty, but studying very little. I guess that's to be expected - homework isn't very fun - but without putting forth more effort I'll be struggling for a long time. Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I made it back safe and sound

Whenever I told anyone I was going to Hua Shan, they would tell me to be careful, that it was dangerous. From what I had read, though, that wasn't really the case, and fortunately this turned out to be one of the few situations in which the guidebook was right. Sure, I could have fallen off of the mountain if I had wanted to, but it wasn't likely to happen by accident. Unlike most mountains I've walked around on, this one was covered with stairs and railings and chains to hold onto, and dotted with hotels and small restaurants and souvenir vendors. Not exactly the "untamed wilderness," but there were trees and rock and some squirrels. The view would probably be excellent on a clear day, but there was dense fog all day long at ground level, so from the top I could really only see other mountains and hills poking their way through the white blanket down below, and up above there were more clouds still. It was a fun time, though, but quite tiring since like walking up any mountain, the goal is to get to the top, which inevitably takes more energy than you planned for. In fact, I'm still feeling all those steps in my calves, so I'm going to head off to bed to hopefully let them rest before standing and teaching all day tomorrow. I'll put up some pictures and more information tomorrow.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hua Shan

Early tomorrow morning I'm going to head to Hua Shan with a friend of mine.  Hua Shan (literally "Flower Mountain") is not too far from here, maybe a 2 hour drive, and is said to have spectacular views.  From what I've been told it won't be quite as breathtaking as the Smoky Mountains in fall, but I'm positive it will be more attractive than the city, and pretty certain that the pollution will be less out there.  I'll be back probably on Sunday, so there should be some pretty pictures here for you to see on Monday.

This week has been going quite well - my classes seem to be learning things, and my Chinese is starting to improve noticeably.   Of course, I still can't say anywhere near as much as I want to, and my classes aren't quite talking as much as I'd like them to be, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.

I need to be getting off to bed now, though, since I probably have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.  Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I realized that I've been a bit negligent with the photos, so this post is just to catch you up on things I've seen since I've been here, especially on my trip to Gansu.

little brother's house
The house where I stayed, Mr. Shi's younger brother's.

Some caves seen from the road - apparently people in this part of China used to live in caves, but have since stopped for the most part, mainly because there were moisture problems.

a view from the temple
A view from the temple we visited.

This is a statue of one of the generals of the emperor who had the temple built.

steps up to the temple
Steps up to the temple


bell up close
up close

play the drum
and me playing a drum, just so you know I was there

good place to drink tea
What looked to me like a good place to drink tea, but unfortunately I didn't have any with me.

Incense outside the main temple

inside the temple
Inside the temple

also inside


offering table
A table for making offerings, supposedly the largest in China, and Mr. Shi's nephew

reading & photographing
My Chinese teacher Mr. Shen reading a poem, and Mr. Shi's mom having her picture taken by her eldest son

Looking down on one of the temple gardens

Terraced land that doesn't seem to be used for agriculture - maybe it was terraced a long time ago?

cave dwelling
A cave dwelling that still seems to be in use


from the garden up
Looking back up

lower part of the temple
Another part of the temple

traditional Chinese doctor
A traditional Chinese doctor weighs out some medicine

traditional Chinese medicine

Eating fresh sunflower seeds

drum tower in Xi'an
The Drum Tower in Xi'an - sometime I'll go up it, maybe when the weather is nice

PBR: the only beer from the US I've seen here besides Budweiser

A group of kids who were saying hello to me, so I turned and said hello in Chinese and took their picture, causing a bit of mayhem

mah jong
Some women playing mah jong, which is a common sight. Apparently some people get really involved and stay up all night playing.

hung out to dry

Thursday, October 19, 2006

new classes and tea

This week, as I mentioned in the last post, the rest of my classes started.  I have 4 new classes of freshman, half English majors and half broadcasting majors (though one of those classes is on the bigger side), and they seem to have gotten started on good notes.  The English classes in particular went quite well, as did my sophomore English classes this week.  The students are finally willing to talk a bit, which has been my goal since the beginning of the semester.  It's a little more difficult with the broadcasting majors, though, since their English isn't quite as good and they are therefore more reluctant to speak in class.  They are much more comfortable reading aloud or following a script than composing their own ideas.  Unfortunately, they get plenty of practice at that in their other classes, and somehow I need to motivate them to communicate their own thoughts and feelings in English, which is no easy task, but things seem to be improving at least in my sophomore classes.

This evening I finally got around to buying a proper Chinese tea set, or at least the beginnings of one.

my tea set

It's pretty simple but functional, and the first tea I brewed in it turned out pretty good.

my first tea

The experience of going to the tea shop, though, was by far the best part.  When you walk in, you're given a tea to try, and then usually invited to sit down and drink some more, which I did since I already knew I was going to buy something there and didn't feel bad taking advantage of their hospitality.  The tea we drank was of course very good, and it was a great opportunity to practice my Chinese, which is coming along pretty slowly, but improving nonetheless.  The conversation consisted of me often saying "Ting bu dong" (literally, "I hear, don't understand," which is the easiest and most common way to say you don't understand what's being said), followed by repeated explanations and hand gestures.  Usually I was able to figure out what they were saying without too much effort, and like I said, it's great practice.  They invited me to go back and drink tea anytime, as well as practice speaking, and of course teach them some English.  Every tea shop I've been in has done the same thing, though, so I'm not sure how sincere of an offer it is.  We'll have to see when I go back.

It's starting to get late though, so I'm going to practice writing some Chinese caracters in my hand notebook (see below) and get some rest.  'Night.

Chinese writing notebook

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

more classes

It's just about time for me to leave for Chinese class, so this post will be brief.  I'm just writing to let you all know that this week the rest of my classes started since it's the first week for the freshmen.  I'm still not sure exactly how many classes I'm teaching since there are some problems with the schedule they sent me.  Hopefully those will be cleared up today.  Yesterday I ate for the first time in the school cafeteria, and it wasn't bad, certainly much better than the food in the dorms at the U of I, but all of the students and teachers say that it could be much better, and in fact many teachers bring their own food to heat up in the microwave.  There are plenty of choices, but it's not a buffet.  Instead, there are many different windows lined up around the walls and you can order what you want from them and pay for it there with some sort of electronic card which you hold up against a card reader.  Unfortunately, I don't have such a card yet, so I had to go to the cash register, guess how much money I would spend, and then go back and order.  And of course ordering is a hectic, noisy, Chinese-language affair, so since it was my first time I had a Chinese student help me.  The chao mian and soup that I had were both, like I said, better than dorm food, but not quite as good as other food I've had here.

Time to go.  Take care.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

my trip

It's pretty late here, and I need to be getting to bed, but while the New York Times articles about North Korea are loading, I should be able to give you a brief description of my trip. Sorry it's taken so long to write this, but as I'm sure you know, it's much easier to go somewhere than it is to describe a trip in words.

I went with my friend Mr. Shi, my teacher Mr. Shen and his wife to Mr. Shi's hometown, Qingyang, in nearby Gansu province. We left early Sunday morning on what was supposed to be a 4 or 5 hour bus ride, but it ended up taking 8 because it was a holiday (National Day) and there were many people on the road, and to make matters worse, the road was closed at one point so we had to double back and take an alternate route. Nonetheless, we arrived without any real problems just in time for dinner on Sunday at Mr. Shi's family's house. We had a hot pot, a common type of fancier meal here. The basic idea is that in the middle of the table there's a pot that's, well, hot (usually done with an electric hotplate underneath it) and filled with some sort of broth or soup-like liquid. You then place uncooked food into the pot and take it out and eat it when it's cooked. The flavors all mix together, and you can have your food cooked as long as you want since you're the one who puts it in and takes it out. It works great if you know how to use chopsticks, but I sometimes had difficulty with soft food breaking when I tried to take it out, such as potato noodles or tofu.

After dinner we went into downtown to a trade fair that was selling clothes and other items from all over the country, but nothing that really interested me. Then we went to a dance hall that reminded me of the past, though of course I've never really been to the past. Everyone was dancing in couples, some even waltzing, to music of all tempos played on a synthesizer. Certainly not my kind of dancing or music, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

The following day we all went to a nearby Taoist temple, which was a very nice place to walk around. I think most of the buildings have been restored and were not original, but it was still nice to see more or less the design of the temple. I'll put some photos here in the next day or two so you can see it too. The best part of the temple, though, was the peaceful setting, which I'm not really sure I was able to capture on "film." It was, though, the highlight of the trip for
me. Just wandering around there seemed like the ideal way to spend a sunny fall afternoon.

The next day was our last there, and we left around 4 in the afternoon. Before that, though, we attended part of a wedding. Here, the wedding begins at the bride's family's house with lots of food. The party then travels to the groom's family's place for some sort of ceremony or traditional activities followed by even more food. We just went to the first part at the bride's house, and since my friends didn't really know the family that well, we basically just ate and
talked with the people at our table a bit and then left. It was still nice to see a bit of what a Chinese wedding is like, and I did see the bride, dressed in white.

The bus ride back was only about 6 or 7 hours, since the road was still closed but generally less crowded. It's nice to be back here in Xianyang, but going away made me realize how polluted the air here is. It was very bad when we first go back since the farmers nearby were burning the dead corn stalks in the fields. Thankfully the smoke that enveloped the city cleared in a few days, and I haven't had any difficulty breathing. That first day back, though, was pretty amazingly smoky, with visibilty down to about 2 blocks, and burning eyes after being outside for too long. I opted to stay in most of the day.

Well now I need to read about the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test and then get to bed since I have Chinese class bright and early tomorrow. Enjoy your day!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I'm back

I just wanted to let you all know that I made it back safe and sound
from my little trip. It was a great time, and a good way to start
travelling in China since I was with other people who knew where they
were going. I can only hope that all my trips go that smoothly.

I'm a bit tired now, though, so I'm going to get to bed. I should
have some pictures and a description of the trip for you in the next
couple of days. Hope you're doing well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Today (October 1) is the Chinese National Day. Most people spend it
with their families, like many people in the US do for the 4th of
July. I'm going to go to my friend Mr. Shi's hometown with him, one
of my Chinese teachers, and his wife. The town is about 3 hours from
here by bus, and we'll be there for 2-5 days depending on how things
go. I've been led to believe that there are mountains near there, so
I might come back with some fun pictures of scenery. I'll let you
know how it went when I get back. For now I need to finish packing
and then finish breakfast.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Speaking of Chinese food, I should have probably said by now that
everything is eaten with chopsticks. You probably knew that, and so
did I, but it was still quite surprising when on my first day here I
had to use them in a restaurant. Fortunately, I had practiced a bit
on the plane on the way over (you get 4 meals I think from Chicago to
Shanghai), so it wasn't a completely foreign task, but I was by no
means proficient in their use, nor am I know, though of course I've
improved considerably. Eating rice from a bowl with chopsticks, which
sounds challenging, is in fact quite easy since they can be used as a
shovel with the bowl held close to the mouth. The problem comes when
eating other dishes. As I mentioned in the previous post, the meal
usually consists of many dishes which many people share. At one
restaurant, and I imagine this is true of most but I haven't been to
many with a large enough group of people, the circular table had a
raised, rotating center (leaving just enough room for your plate
outside of it) on which the dishes were placed so that people could
try everything without having to pass the dishes around. I wish I had
gotten a picture of it. When that isn't the case, though, chopstick
skills are a must since one risks dropping a piece of food onto the
table or, worse, into another dish. This has happened to me
innumerable times, and it's quite embarrassing. Fortunately the
people have been very forgiving, and my skills are improving much
faster than my language abilities.

rain rain rain

It's been raining here since Monday, and will probably continue to rain for the next week, so I went out today and invested in an umbrella. I'm told that it's usually pretty dry here, except around the beginning of October when it rains quite a lot. It hasn't been raining very hard, but just without stopping. Quite strange, and a pain to do laundry since nothing will every dry in such a moist environment.

Next Monday is Chinese National Day, so the whole week is considered a holiday. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing, since major travelling is a bad idea beacuse the whole country is off of work and will be doing just that. I don't mind being a tourist, but when everyone and their whole family is travelling, I don't think I'd have too much fun. Instead, I'll try to work more on my Chinese. It's coming along pretty slowly, which is frustrating, but at least I'm making progress.

In general, other than the rain, everything here is great. The Chinese seem to place a lot more importance on food than most people in the US, which is good for me since the food here is so wonderful. Yesterday I had dinner cooked by my friend Mr. Shi for me, one of my Chinese teachers, another teacher from the university, and Keith and his family (he's from Texas, his wife's from Panama, and they and their three young kids are here studying Chinese). The meal was amazing. If dinner for 2 or 3 consists of 3 dishes, rather than making more of those 3 dishes to serve more people, Chinese people tend to make more dishes, which means you get to try a little bit of many different things. The table is covered with many small dishes, and then more are brought and set on top of them. Soup is served at the end of the meal because it supposedly helps with digestion.

Well it's getting to be dinner time so I'm going to go - I just wanted to update you all on what was going on here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Terracotta Warriors

On Thursday I went and saw the famous terracotta warriors. They aren't too far from here, and were quite incredible. There are three different excavations sites, all in separate hangars, which is really the only word to describe their immensity. There are large portions of them which are still not unearthed, due in part to the tremendous amount of time it takes to dig them up without damaging them, and also since the archaelogists are hoping that in the future we'll have better technology that may allow for better preservation of the relics. All the statues have individually-made heads, so you see different hair styles and different facial expressions on each one. Origninally, they were all painted in bright colors, but either the colors fade once the statues are exposed or the paint has turned to dust and it falls right off. In any case, all the visible ones are the same shade of light brown, but hopefully the aforementioned technological advances will allow for future warriors to be displayed in their original colorful glory. A few pictures so you have an idea of what I'm talking about:

Site 1
Site 1

The first row of soldiers in Site 1
first row

Site 2, and some people restoring it
restoration of Site 2

Site 3, supposedly the headquarters for the army
center of Site 3

Unearthed but not repaired



Kneeling archer
kneeling archer

Bronze horses and chariot

The terracotta warriors are an amazing sight to see, mostly for the immensity of the army and the detail of each one. According to the video, they were made over 38 years by an enormous number of crafstmen, 700,000 according to Wikipedia. They form part of the tomb of the first Emperor of Qin, Qin Shi Huang. He declared himself the first emperor of China and united many different kindoms. About five years after his death, though, his son was overthrown and his tomb, at least parts of it, was destroyed and burned. That's why all the warriors are broke - the roof caved in on them and smashed them.

After visiting the warriors, we went to Li Shan, a famous mountain with a garden at the base of it that had been used by various rulers of China throughout history, and also was the site of the "Xi'an Incident" when Chiang Kai-shek was arrested by his own generals and forced to stop fighting the Red Army, leading to his eventual exile in Taiwan.

Li Shan

tourist garden

A bath, filled with natural hot springs, built by a Tang dynasty emperor for his lady
crab apple flower bath


Walking around the park was a nice change from walking around the city, but it was pretty crowded with tourists, and we didn't really go up the mountain very much since we didn't have too much time to spend there. Maybe once the weather cools down a bit more and some leaves start to change colors I'll go back and walk up higher.

Other than that tourist excursion, I haven't been up to anything new. Everything is going well, my Chinese is slowly improving, very slowly, but at least I'm learning. I finally have the text books I need for my classes, so that should help things move along well. The classes I'm teaching are also still going well - it looks like it will be an interesting semester, since my students for the most part seem willing to talk about interesting things, and since it's an oral English class that's really all I need them to do.

Well now it's a bit late here, so I'm going to get some rest. I'll try to write a little more often with some more details about daily life since there are plenty of small differences that I encounter every day.

Friday, September 15, 2006

good classes

Sorry it's taken me this long to let you all know that my first days of classes went well. I didn't have any problems, and I think the students liked me, which is always helpful. Hopefully I'll be able to get them to be interested in class and willing to speak, since their English in general is quite good and all they really need to do is practice what they already know.

My Chinese classes are going well, but a bit over my head since the Korean girl I'm studying with has been here for 3 months already and I'm only just beginning. However, if her progress is any indicator, I'll be able to carry on a conversation in no time. To do so, however, I'm going to need more books than just a dictionary, so tomorrow morning I'm going to Xi'an again to buy them, since there aren't any foreign language bookstores here in Xianyang. I'm going to go with Mr. Shi, a new friend of mine here at the university. He doesn't speak any English, so just being around him forces me to put into practice what little Chinese I know. Also, he's an amazing cook and has volunteered to teach me how to make some amazing food. Hopefully next time I see you all in person, I'll be able to make you a nice meal that you'll have to eat with chopsticks.

It's been a long day, though, and I need my rest since I think I'm getting a cold (fall's just starting, you know). I'll give you some more details about Mr. Shi and my Chinese learning in the next few days.

Monday, September 11, 2006

classes start tomorrow

My classes start tomorrow, both in English and Chinese. I'm going to join a Korean girl in learning Chinese from the International Exchange Division every morning from 8:20 - 12:00 (I think those are the hours). Hopefully it'll work out okay because she already knows some Chinese, which definitely puts her ahead of me. Maybe that'll help, though, in that I can learn from her and from the teachers. It sounds like a fun adventure in any case. I even went so far as to go buy a notebook for the class. Once I learn to write some Chinese characters (like my name), I'll take a picture of them so you can see. I guess this whole learning to write a whole new set of characters is a chance to not have messy handwriting.

My English classes also start tomorrow afternoon. I'm not really worried about them, but I am quite curious to see how they go. I know what all I'm going to say and do, but I'm not sure what sort of wrenches they'll throw into my plans. Once again, I'll keep you posted.

I also may be tutoring a 14 year old outside of school a couple of hours a week. I just need to check with the university to make sure that's okay. I'm pretty sure that it is as long as I let them know, so I'll do that tomorrow morning and as long as it is, I'll start that Wednesday night. Today I met the boy and his family. They seemed very nice, and even gave me some tea to bring home, and you all know how I like tea. Speaking of tea, I found a pretty cool tea stand in a market yesterday, and was given tea there too on the condition that I go back sometime to buy some more. Quite a giving people these Chinese. Here's a picture of the kind merchant (who even spoke some English) and part of his store:

tea store

I also don't think I've written about the other fourteen year old Chinese boy I now know. He too knew the other foreign teacher who lived in my apartment (that's how I got in contact with the aformentioned tutoree), and came by to see if he had come back or if he had been replaced by someone equally interesting. I'm not sure if I fit the bill, but he keeps coming back so I mustn't be too boring. He also gave me some tea. I sure do like tea, and China is the place to drink it. Anyway, he comes by pretty regularly to practice his English and teach me a word or two of Chinese. Soon I hope to be able to practice what I learn in class on him, since repetition is the key to language learning. Here's a picture of him (his name is 王帆 (Wáng Fān)) and a friend of his who also came to meet me:

amigos chinos

And while I'm giving you pictures, here's one of my living room:

my living room

And of two different 1 yuan bills I've had in my possesion (there's also a coin):

1 yuan

I think that's about it as far as news and pictures go. I'm going to go ahead and review my lesson plan (don't I sound like a real teacher now) and maybe listen to a podcast that teaches me Chinese before getting some sleep now that I have somewhere to be in the morning.