Wednesday, January 24, 2007

last day of school

Tomorrow's my last day of school for the semester and the next one doesn't start until the beginning of March so I finally have some time to travel. Unfortunately, I can't leave right away since my passport
is still in the possession of the government so they can extend my visa. I should have it within a week so that I can rent hotel rooms and do other such things that need identification, like maybe take a plane. I'm thinking of going somewhere south of here where the weather is nicer and the pollution not so bad - I'll let you know once I have definite plans.

Not much else is new here. Last weekend I got to go to a student's house for some good home-cooked Chinese food. We rode bikes to get there, which was a great time - it reminded me of how much I enjoyed biking around Urbana. I hope to buy a bike of my own in the next couple of days so I can explore this town and get some exercise at the same time.

Oh, the school got a new foreign teacher last week, an Australian named Wayne. He seems like a nice guy, and it might be nice to have some foreign company, though I'm not sure how good it'll be for my
Chinese. He is studying it too, though, so maybe we can find a teacher and have class or something.

Well now I'm going to get to bed since I want to be awake for my last exams. G'night.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


As you may or may not have heard, a couple of weeks ago there was an earthquake off the coast of Hong Kong (or Taiwan, I forget) that broke some undersea cables, rendering the Chinese connection to the internet more or less useless. As such, I haven't been able to update you all on life here in China.

Christmas here was nowhere near as nice as it would have been in the States. On both Christmas and Christmas Eve I had dinner with some friends, which was nice, and afterwards, on Christmas, we went and wandered around the city so that I could see what Chinese people do to celebrate. There were lots of people out walking around, shopping, setting off firecrackers in the street, and there were a lot of little stands set up selling local food in one of the plazas. Basically the Chinese use Christmas as an excuse to have a party, usually with friends rather than family.

The new year's celebrations were similarly uneventful. The biggest holiday in China is the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, which isn't until next month, and perhaps because of this the solar new year is pretty much ignored, except for the three-day holiday for all students and teachers. Unfortunately, the school somehow felt justified in making Saturday and Sunday two of the three days off, even though we wouldn't have had classes anyway. Everyone was pretty angry about that trick, but there's not much we could do.

The past few days I spent being my friend Katie's tour guide. She's here on a "study abroad" trip with her school, touring China for three weeks with 31 other students. They were only in Xi'an for 3 days, but nonetheless it was great to see her. We went to a few tourist sights, drank tea, and ate some good local food. I tried to be her interpreter, but I'm afraid I didn't do that good of a job. It's really difficult to be an interpreter and participant in the same conversation, and even more difficult to interpret a language you aren't fluent in, but it was excellent practice and good for my confidence too.

I guess I could elaborate a little bit of what we did, and in doing so maybe entice you to come and visit too. On her first day in town, my friend Mr. Shi invited us to his apartment for dinner, which, since he's a chef, was amazing. We had who knows how many dishes, including soft-shelled turtle soup, which was quite delicious. Afterwards I escorted her back to Xi'an where we found a decent bar/coffee-shop with comfortable couches where we could sit and talk about this crazy country we're in. The next day she went to see the Terracotta Army, so in the evening we just wandered around the neon-lit city, enjoying the strangely warm night air. The following day she was completely free, so we wandered more extensively, making it as far as the Big Goose Pagoda which was built to house Buddhist sutras a long time ago. We also went to a few tea stores, which as you know I like to frequent, where we could try any tea we desired. Lunch and dinner were traditional local foods, mutton soup with bread in it and a hot pot respectively. I may not be a professional tour guide, and my knowledge of Chinese language and culture may be lacking, but I can guarantee that you'll understand my English.

I finally have a key to my new apartment, which was nice since the cab fare from Katie's hotel to there was about half of what it would have been to my old apartment. It's still not all fixed up, and of course only has half of my furniture and none of my personal possessions, but it's nice to have a bed there. I'll continue to have these two apartments until after the Spring Festival when I'll be forced to move everything to the new one.

My classes are coming to an end, with the following two weeks being my students' final oral exams. After that's the winter break and the Spring Festival, but I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing or where I'll be going for that. I'll let you know as soon as I do.