Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written! I just got internet in my apartment the other night and quickly learned that the internet here is a lot slower than I am used too. I am going to back track and fill you in on the last week.
Last Friday (August 26th) was our last day of training. We each taught a mini lesson in the morning to practice our teaching skills. I had stayed up until 1am preparing my lesson on asking and following directions—typical procrastination…not too much has changed in that regard. After all the lessons, lunch, and some serious packing for our departure the next day we got on a bus and went to one of the Primary Level Maryknoll Fathers’ School in Hong Kong. This school was out of this world. It was four levels, had open hallways, a roof top garden, multiple playing fields and games for young kids, and it prides itself on being green. As we toured the school I feel in love and thought multiple times that I could see myself as one of the foreign English teachers there.
After visiting the school we all went out for a delicious authentic Cantonese style meal. I was adventurous and tried many things. I had been told by many people that Chinese cuisine often includes the whole animal, head and all, and I experienced this for myself at dinner with the chicken dish.
Saturday was the big day I had been waiting for: time to leave Hong Kong and head up to mainland China!! We had a VERY early start! I woke up at 4 something AM and our bus left at 5:30. The group heading up to Jilin was dropped off at a train station and after a train ride we crossed the Hong Kong/mainland border on foot. We then traveled for about 45 minutes on a bus to get to the airport. I thought the bus ride was beautiful. China tries to make ir roads pretty. There were tons of flowers and trees in all the medians the whole way to the airport. At the airport Mom & Dad’s information about lots of KFCs in China was confirmed because we waited for our flight in KFC and three of us (including me) went down to the Pizza Hut to get a early lunch.
Two flights later we landed in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province. By the time we got to Jilin City it was dark but I think it made the experience even better! I’ve noticed the Chinese like to illuminate their cities and driving into Jilin City was amazing with all the lights and the temples lit up on the hills in the distance. We went to my apartment quickly to drop off my stuff then we went over to Tim (and Father Brian’s) apartment to have dinner. Jing Mei is our amazing cook and we had a delicious meal together, then it was back to my apartment to get settled in and unpack. I was surprised at how nice my apartment is! My apartment overlooks Jilin Medical College. I can see the field and various courts from my bedroom and living room windows as well as many of the buildings on campus. I love the location because it is close to campus and the other volunteers.
Sunday we did a lot of running around to get important things done. Wang Wei took us to our first Hot Pot restaurant. We each had our own pot of boiling water in front of us and we ordered a lot of different raw foods such as veggies, meats and noodles, and we put the food we wanted into our hot pot which cooked the food very quickly.
After Hot Pot we went to the supermarket to get some of the items on our list…what an experience!! The RT Mart was HUGE and super packed but the prices were amazing. After shopping we rushed to mass. The Catholic Church in Jilin is beautiful! I was unable to take pictures because we had been late but it is the same church I will be going to daily to tutor two nuns in English so I will take picture and post them later.
University classes started Monday the 29th. To my surprise I was woken up at about 4:30am to someone setting of fireworks in the courtyard in front of my apartment building and then again at 5:45 to yelling and chanting outside my bedroom window. I looked out and there were tons of people in green camouflage marching and yelling. It is mandatory in all of China that freshman college students do a month a military training, and at the Medical College they just so happen to do it on the field behind my apartment so I have a lovely wakeup call each day.
My Chinese Classes and teaching job do not start until September 5th so I had the week to get settled in and explore the city. On Monday we went to do some more shopping at the “orange market.” The orange market is four stories of stalls selling pretty much everything you can imagine. This is a cool place because the prices are not set so you can try and talk down the seller to a lesser price. Good thing Wang Wei went with us as a Chinese person because she was able to get us some awesome deals.
On Tuesday Tim showed me around Jilin. We walked down to Century Square and across the bridge. I though these areas were beautiful and hope to walk down to the bridge in the future and take a book and read along the bank. After some exploring we meet up with one of Tim’s Chinese Friends, Holmes. We went out for lunch and shared three yummy dishes. We had chicken wings, a beef and noodle dish, and a tofu noodle dish. I am loving the food so far!! After dinner Tim and I went for another walk and we went back down to the bridge. It was even more amazing at night because EVERYTHING was lit up. They have a musical fountain and lots of little float like scenes on the river which my pictures don’t do justice to.
Wednesday Tim, Maggie, Alan and I spent the morning at Beishan park. We hiked up the mountain (more like a large hill) and saw Buddhist temples and beautiful views. We even got to ring a massive bell at the top of the peak we hiked up. When we got back to the bottom we decided to try some Chinese ice cream. We all had strawberry vanilla twist. I enjoyed it but the others didn’t (they said it was too sweet). Maggie, Tim, and I went back to the restaurant Holmes took us too and had the same beef and tofu dish and ordered a potato dish they we named the potato pizza because of the way it was served. Later we all met up with Holmes and had dinner at his house. His mom’s cooking was delicious and we enjoyed spending time in a typical Jilin City apartment.
Yesterday Tim, Maggie, and I went to Dragon Pond Mountain for another hike. This was probably my favorite place I have been to so far. Dragon Pond Mountain seemed less of a tourist spot and more of a gathering place for the locals of all ages. Towards the bottom we saw a group of older folks singing in the park. On our hike up a little boy said “HELLO” so we stopped and talked for a while (more like I smiled and Tim used his Mandarin skills to communicate with the little boy and his grandma). I however did get a cute picture with the little boy! There are different Buddhist temples on the way up the mountain so we stopped on our way up. Once we reached the top there were amazing views. We could see much of the northern part of Jilin City. We took a different trail and came to a more scenic and picturesque spot that I enjoyed a lot more. At the top of the mountain we ran into a manly ninja guy with a little white dog named Toto. The guy gave Tim some pointers.
We met Holmes for lunch near the infamous “shopping street” in Jilin City. We had McDonalds Mcflurries and then went to a pizza place for lunch…yes how American I know! The pizza was very different than American style (no sauce) but it was really good! After lunch we walked down the shopping street. There are tons of stalls in the middle of the street and stores on both sides of the street. We were on the hunt for a DVD store and we finally found it. I had a hard time deciding which movies to buy but I ended up getting the complete box set of Sex and the Cityand 7 other movies for 177 RMB which comes out to less than 30 US dollars!! What a steal!!
Today Tim and I had to go to Beihua University to register for Mandarin classes, take our placement test, buy our books, and get our schedules. I am in the beginners class with an intense schedule. I have classes from 8am to 2:40 with a lunch break in between my second and third classes on Monday and Tuesdays and classes from 8am to 11:40 Wednesday through Friday. I also bought my books (all 6 of them). I know I’m going to struggle I am really excited to start classes on Monday!! I also start working with the nuns on Monday. I will be tutoring the two nuns Mondays and Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 and from 2 to 4 Wednesdays through Fridays.
Tonight I invited some of my new Chinese friends to dinner and we had a great time! Alan and I were teaching them English and they were helping us learn Chinese. We were teaching them big words and they were trying to make sure we pronounced the different sounds correctly…but hey we gotta start somewhere :-)