Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Just the Bare Necessities

I have a place to live that isn't a hotel! It's a lovely, large, 3 bedroom apartment in a military complex 2 bus stops from work and across the street from a mall and a supermarket. It has a washing machine, a large kitchen (by Chinese standards) with a dishwasher and refrigerator, a bathroom with a Western toilet and a shower door (which you do not appreciate until there is a possibility you will be without one of them), and a mattress on my bed. I will be living with 3 Chinese people, who are also in their 20's, one of whom speaks mediocre English, and the other 2 whose English is as good as my Chinese. Next on the list: e-bike, helmet, and Chinese tutor, plus travel.

Today was spent window shopping with some other DisneyEnglish people. I tried to do a little sightseeing (a lake and a museum), but the lake wasn't as nice as the tour book said, and I couldn't find the museum, plus it was probably closed. Tonight we're taking Sharin out for her last night in Nanjing. Tomorrow is a day trip to Shanghai before going back to work on Thursday for Andrew Sugerman's visit (exciting). 

Mochou Lake
Read the last line

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hakuna Matata

It dawned on me Tuesday morning that I've been here for a little over a month. How time flies. I've seen 3 cities, met a lot of people, and finally started working. But that could be anywhere - you know you're in China (or at least not in the States anymore) when you see a parent holding his child over a trash can in the metro station so it can go to the bathroom. 

Now on to my wonderful weekend. First, it was sunny with blue skies - and you really come to appreciate those when they are usually gray from smog. Tuesday I went to the south part of the city. While not being able to find places is frustrating, when you find 2 places at the same time, it's fabulous. I went to the Zuanyuan Gardens, which also contained a museum about the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was a military action that occurred after the Opium Wars, in which many foreign countries entered China, and eventually led to the people overthrowing the Qing (Ching) Dynasty. It was mostly in Chinese, of course, so I looked at the pictures and charts and artifacts and went on my way. 
Zuanyuan Gardens
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Ruler

The great thing about getting lost in gardens is that you find parts of it that you probably wouldn't have found otherwise, and you allow yourself more time to rest. The not-so-great thing about being lost in a garden is that you're lost and there are very few people whom you may be able to get to understand you to help you find your way out. Eventually though, you ask enough people and you find one who can point you on your way, and that is how I found the street to go to Zhonghua Gate.
Zhonghua Gate (behind the market)
View of Zhonghua Gate from the top

Zhonghua Gate is a massive and impressive section of the Nanjing Wall (Nanjing used to be a walled city) held together by a glutinous rice concoction on the south side of the city. It has four archways leading to mini-cities where invaders could be trapped if they managed to get inside part of the wall. There are crevices to hide soldiers and keep grain in case of war. 
Me & a soldier

After the gate, I found my way to Fuzimiao, or the Confucius Temple. I think it is one of the most famous in China. It is right on the river, and it has a neat statue of Confucius (who is 2562 years old this year if you were wondering), as well as some of his disciples lining the walk to his statue. It was simple and very nice, but I didn't find much of anything else noteworthy about it. After I left, I went to Bailuzhou (Egret) Park, took a walk around and saw the sunset over the lake before heading back to the hotel.
Tallest bronze Confucius statue in China

Bailuzhou Park
Then on Wednesday, I spent the entire day at Xuanwuhu Lake, the largest lake in Nanjing, with another Disney English FT. She's been in Nanjing for about 6 months, has gone to the lake several times, and still saw things she didn't know about while we were there. We climbed the eastern wall of Nanjing, took a quick tour of Jiming Temple, and talked about all the other trips we want to take while we're in China. It was very peaceful and relaxing and a good start to my second month in China.
Entrance to Xuanwuhu Lake
Part of Xuanwuhu Lake

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chaotian Palace
Finally got to do some sight seeing. I went to the Chaotian Palace to see a gong ceremony, but there was no ceremony. The palace was a palace during one of the dynasties, and it contains a temple, which is 1000 years old, and a museum with some of the history of Nanjing. Then it rained, so I couldn't go to the lake.

Confucius Statue

Then Friday morning before work I went to the Memorial for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Invaders. Not a happy way to start the day, but it's right down the street from my center, and I didn't have to be in until the afternoon, so it was very convenient. It is a brutally disturbing place. The Nanjing Massacre occurred early in WWII (December 1937-January 1938), when the Japanese were trying to expand their empire. 300,000 people were killed in 6 weeks, and villages were burned and pillaged. There are English captions in the museum, so I was able to read all the information and captions, and it describe the invasion of China before the massacre, as well as what happened afterward. But the images and statues were pretty gut-wrenching throughout, and there were pits with bones from mass graves. There was even a section with reflections from Japanese veterans of the time, which was something I had never seen at a history museum before. Once you get through the main part of the museum, you arrive at a Memorial Garden, which had 17 monuments - one for each of the areas in which a slaughter took place. But it was very peaceful. Then you walk to a meditation area and into a memorial garden with a large peace statue (by which time, of course, my camera battery had died), so you can leave on a more positive and hopeful note, especially since relations between the 2 countries have improved since then.

Entrance to Memorial for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre

Line of statues outside the memorial
Footprints of survivors
One of 17 monuments to towns in the massacre 

On a more cheerful note, Tina and I have had our first 2 classes together and done a bunch of demos, which have gotten rave reviews. Our class is only supposed to have 2 kids, but both times there have been additional kids sitting in. So the class is growing!

Now starts my weekend, so tomorrow more touring!

Me, Tina, & Mulan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mulan's Garden

I am in Nanjing! I arrived last Friday to a beautiful hotel that has a mini-fridge, a couch, a goldfish, and a rubix cube in my room! My Assistant Trainer, Tina, met Sharin and me at the train station, took us to the hotel, to lunch, and took me to get a new phone number (apparently the one I got in Shanghai is long distance from here). Then we rested, and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I reported to work.
My hotel
My hotel room

Derek, my fish :)
Work is kind of awesome. My center is in a mall that is undergoing construction, so it's a little sketchy, but the people are great. There are about 20 of us total at the center. The 2 other FTs are from West Virginia and Baltimore, which we find very amusing; my LLD (my boss) is from Britain, and the Center Manager is from California. The native staff is very friendly.  Each room has a theme (mine is Mulan's Garden) and has a beautiful mural from the corresponding Disney story. Plus, we decorated for Halloween and will be costume shopping soon (but we can't be Disney characters... strange). I have 1 class (so far) of 2 2 year old girls, which means that right now, though I work 40 hours/week, I'm actually only teaching 1.5 of those hours. In a couple of weeks, I will get another class. The rest of the time, I am planning, doing demos to get more students, helping with marketing events and other things around the center.
Technology in my room
The Realia Room (props, etc)
The Front Desk
The Clubhouse

And I am apartment hunting, since I have to be out of the hotel in 2.5 weeks. No news there yet.

Just for fun: Can you name the Disney story:
100 Acre Wood
Andy's Bedroom

Coral Reef
Mulan's Garden (My room)
Pixie Hollow
Radiator Springs
Snow White's Castle

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Start of something new

Today is my last day in Shanghai. Most of my friends have moved into their apartments. Tomorrow - Nanjing, and then work begins. While everyone else is working today, I will be packing, going to a yoga class, and getting a massage.

This week, I took a cultural and historical journey in Shanghai and got a true foreigner experience. After a relaxing weekend, on Monday, I found the entrance to the Jing'An Temple, which is a thousand year old still functional Buddhist temple.It has a fountain and beautiful statues and a tall pillar out front with the dharma principles on it.
Outside Jing'An Temple
Jing'An Courtyard
From there, being a big kid, I went to the Children's Palace, which isn't really so much a palace as an educational facility for children. So I moved on to the meeting place of the first Congress of the Communist Party of China, which had pictures and artifacts from the first meeting 90 years ago. I also went to the former residence of Sun Yat-sen (the first president of the Republic of China after the revolution that ended the dynasty era). *Foreigner moment: A man pushed me into a picture with his mother.* It was the centennial of the revolution, so there were special exhibits on display. It was pretty neat. I couldn't tell you much about the differences in the dynasties in China, but I'm learning more about the modern history. 
Site of 1st meeting of the CPC
Former residence of Sun Yat-sen

Then Tuesday I took a day trip to Wuxi (pronounced Woo-zhee). That was an adventure in confusion and miscommunication. Based on my research of Wuxi, I thought it was going to be a littler town with a lake and a giant Buddha. Needless to say, I was shocked when the train dropped me off in a large industrial city with no Buddha in sight. Plus, the train station did not have an English map. A cab took me to a scenic area, where I took some pictures of Wuxi, saw the Dragon Pagoda (the symbol of the city), the Grand Canal which runs from Beijing, and some temples, plus a Buddhist ceremony with music, incense, and what I'm presuming was a sacrifice of some kind since they made a fire. *Foreigner moment: Many people said hello to me and laughed when I responded.* Then I decided I wanted to go to the lake. I got in a cab. My cab driver deserves a trophy for how patient and helpful he was. By the time we figured out where I wanted to go (with the help of his English speaking friend and my Chinese speaking friend on the phones), it was too late to buy tickets to see the touristy stuff, but I was still able to take pictures. It turns out that the stuff I wanted to see wasn't in Wuxi, but about 3 miles outside Wuxi (and the Buddha was hiding in the mountains). Again, my cab driver was awesome. He even took me to a little side scenic spot with the beginnings of a forest and bought me some water. Then he took me back to the train station. Lesson learned: Map out sights before traveling and have them translated into Chinese. And I am super spoiled with the amount of English spoken and ease of movement in Shanghai. 

Which brings me to my next topic: 10 Things to know about Shanghai/China:
1) People are really very nice. Except for when they are getting on the metro. Then they will push, stomp, elbow their way in or out. 
2) Know your exit when you are getting off the metro. They are huge, have multiple exits, and if you don't know which one to take, you could end up walking in big circles for an hour. 
3) Wear comfortable shoes in the metro. Metro stations are huge and you could end up walking a mile to switch trains. (Ok, a slight exaggeration, but see number 2 as well.)
4) Metro stations have security lines with those x-ray machines for your bags. You can push past these unless you have suitcases. 
5) Carry hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bottled water. 
6) Forget your sense of personal space and germ-phobias. People spit in the street, don't cover their coughs or sneezes, and family style is a popular way to eat - which means other people's chopsticks will be in your food. 
7) Look both ways before, during, and after you cross the street. Cars, buses, and motorbikes will not stop for you.
8) Beware of motorbikes and bicycles running you over on the sidewalks. 
9) Many restaurants have picture menus, so don't be afraid to go in. 
10) Forget everything you think you know about China. It's big; it's small; it's modern; it's ancient; it's an experience.
My awesome cab driver
Giant Buddha - bigger than the saint statue in Frederick
Taihu Lake
Buddhist Ceremony
Dragon Pagoda
View of Wuxi