Friday, November 25, 2011

Bippity Boppity Boo!

And Happy Thanksgiving to you!

It has been a long week. Sunday started out well enough - my demos went well, and a bunch of the staff went to hot pot after work. Then I got back to the apartment and found out I had to move by the end of the month. So Monday and Tuesday were apartment hunting days. Monday was also bowling after work, and I made my first Chinese dinner, my first self-cooked meal since I arrived actually. Fried noodles - a success if I do say so myself. Tuesday I also went swing dancing at the local university in the evening. A small group of people, but very fun. 
Yum - Fried noodles
Yangcheng Museum
Wednesday was day trip day. My coworker Joanne and I went to Changzhou. It's about 40 minutes away, unless you're on the slow train, like us, and then it's about an hour and a half away. We decided we wanted to go to the ancient town of Yancheng. It turns out that that town is on the outskirts of Changzhou - about 2 hours and 4 buses away - but we met some nice local girls who helped us find our way. And they bought us lunch. When people are helpful, they are extra helpful. Yancheng was very nice. We didn't quite get to the ruins, but we saw the museum and some traditional looking buildings. 
Miniature of Yancheng
Then we took a cab back to the center of town. There was a slight miscommunication - he took us to the dinosaur park instead of the temple we wanted to see. But we snapped a picture and then he kept driving. Our final stop was the Tianning Temple and pagoda. It's a 1300 year old temple - with some more modern parts. We had a nice view of the town and looked at some mini-Buddha statues. Then we went to dinner and got back on the train to return to Nanjing. 
Tianning Temple
Tianning Pagoda

Thursday - Thanksgiving. I worked, signed my housing contract (I will post new apartment pictures next week), and went to dinner at the local hangout with all the foreign staff and Nat's parents who are visiting from England. It is very rare that all of us go out together, so it was really nice to spend the evening with everyone, even without Thanksgiving food and knowing that there is a duck carcass hanging in the laundry room. I don't know why. Plus, Christmas has started at work, so now I am listening to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special.
My mini-Chanuka rebellion at work

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh, it's a Jolly Holiday...

Last week, my water cooler arrived, I got a textbook for learning Chinese, and my roommate bought a toaster oven to make cookies. Good start.

Friday began with a trip back to the Nanjing Massacre Museum to take pictures of the things I did not get when my camera died. I sat at the base of the Peace Statue for awhile and people watched. It was very peaceful.
Peace Dove Park @ Nanjing Massacre Museum
Peace Statue

Then I bought train tickets for my business trip to Shanghai and my fun trip to Hangzhou. My trip to Hangzhou was my first over-night trip in China. 

Monday night, I left work to go to Shanghai. The meeting was okay, but my hotel was right by the Bund, so I got to see a night view, which I hadn't done while I was living there. Very pretty. 
The Bund @ Night
Pudong @ Night
The next morning, I got on a train to Hangzhou, then took a bus to meet up with my friend, Carol, with whom I was staying. We ate lunch; she went to work, and I headed over to the West Lake. Hangzhou was one of the 2 top places I wanted to be placed with DisneyEnglish, but when I was hired, I was told there were no openings. When I got off the bus and started walking towards the lake, a Chinese person asked me for directions there! (After thinking about it a little more, she probably could have been asking me if I was going to the lake, but I like my original version better. I think she was a tourist, too.) Hangzhou was the capital of China during the Song Dynasty, but most of the historic buildings were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion, so the West Lake is now the big attraction. It was the one big thing on my list to see; everything else was secondary. It's one of the most scenic places in China - the grass is ultra-green, the leaves are changing colors, and it's surrounded on 3 sides by mountains. It's recommended to visit in the spring, but it is fantastic in autumn, too. It's beautiful. I walked the whole thing (3 square miles) and saw many of the touristy scenic places. The next day, Carol and I took a boat to the island in the middle of the lake.
View of West Lake
Autumn on West Lake

On a side note, though the Communist party may run China, but capitalism is alive and well (at least in the big cities) as evidenced by the abundance of Starbuckses, KFCs, tourist shop stands, and gambling. (While in Hangzhou, Carol and her roommates taught me to play cards, which you can always see people playing and betting on in parks or the streets.)
Chess Statue at West Lake

Also on Wednesday, before I had to head back to Nanjing, Carol and I spent the morning/early afternoon finding Feilei Feng - or the Peak that Flew from Afar. (The cab driver didn't want to sit in traffic, so he dropped us off "10 minutes" - read 30 minutes - walk from the peak). It's mountains and caves to the west of West Lake where 100s of Buddhist images are carved. It's also near Lingyin Temple, which has a large wooden Buddha, but I've seen a lot of temples, and Feilai Feng was amazing. It was nice to have Carol there, also, to explain some of the writing and some of the significance of what I was seeing. 
Feilai Feng - Peak that Flew From Afar

Back at the train station, there was a very nice Chinese woman who started talking to me and asking me about my time in China. She told me about when she studied in the States and about how helpful her "American mother" was to her. I told her I was having a very good time, and most people, especially my AT and roommates, were being helpful to me. When she decided to let me get some sleep, a new passenger got on the train and had the seat next to me. We proceeded to talk about our jobs, sports, make-up, US government, and the pronunciation of English words. 

Then, at work yesterday, we received the exciting news that beginning January 1, DisneyEnglish is giving all their employees additional days of each year! They are fixed days around Chinese New Year, but that means that we get almost 2 weeks off in January, which is very exciting, especially since you only get 5 days of annual leave. Now I need to figure out how to do things with those days. 

SP - I took this picture for you.

Ice & Fire - dessert @ The Grandma's in Hangzhou

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Can Go the Distance

I walked across the Yangtze River today.

But first thing's first: 
My apartment building
My bedroom
Yes, my blanket is a little small for my bed, but it covers me and keeps me warm, so it's all good. But my pillows are amazing. I will definitely have to take them back to the States with me.

Since last week, I worked. My boss and I had a nice little chat about how they need to find more for me to do there. I went to a yoga class (got another trial one tomorrow). And I met the newest FT working at the other center, Karen. 

Karen, Nat, and I went touring in the city-center area yesterday. We went to the Provincial Museum, which was closed due to surrounding construction. Then walked to the Ming Ruins, which didn't look very ruin-y, but showed bases of where pillars of buildings used to stand. The sign implied that the ruins were a mini-version of the Forbidden City in Beijing - yet another reason to go there. We walked on; looking for a Communist Party building museum, couldn't find it, but ended up at the Presidential Palace, which was ridiculously large. We explored the museums there, saw some gardens - I don't think we saw half of it. I wonder what the people who built the large buildings did with all of the space, if they even used most of it.

Entrance to Presidential Palace

Model of entire Presidential Palace
From there we went to Nanjing 1912 - a series of historical buildings that have been transformed into a modern shopping, eating and nightclub area. Then we walked through the library (also very big and beautiful) to get to the metro to go home.
Statue and 1st building in 1912

Nanjing Library
Which brings us to today. I left the apartment and took a cab to the Yifeng Tower, which is at the top of Lion Rock Scenic Area. (Side note: China loves its scenic areas - tons of tourist sights in parks with beautiful views of the area, surrounded on the outside by shops, restaurants, and office buildings. Quite a contrast.) Anyway, when I entered I began walking along the Ming City Wall, until I realized it wasn't going to get me where I wanted to go, which was the tower, so I turned around and started climbing the steps. Eventually, I reached the tower, which, like most pagodas, was beautiful. I love the bright colors in which so many historic (sometimes "historic" - read: remodeled) buildings are painted. It's seven stories tall, and you have to go down a set of steps to enter the building, which houses portraits of the 16 Ming Dynasty emperors, artifacts of Ming Culture, a tourist shop, a 3-story tall porcelain mural depicting the travels of Zheng He (see previous entry on the Treasure Shipyards), a 24K gold dragon on the ceiling, and beautiful views of the Yangtze River and Nanjing. 

Yifeng Tower (back left)
24K Gold Ceiling Dragon
Zheng He mural

I continued to wander the scenic area for a bit longer. (In the distance, a street cleaning truck played "It's a Small World After All" - no kidding). I found a Cave for Hiding Soldier, which had a Buddha in the basement (I wonder if that was originally there), and some other neat sights. Next to/part of the Lion Rock scenic area is Jinghai Temple, which isn't really a temple, but a museum-esque series of buildings, where the Treaty of Nanjing (ending the Opium Wars in 1842) was signed. One of the buildings had a history of unfair treaties in China, which gave foreign countries control and power in China, which have now been re-signed so that China is self-empowered. I also stopped by YeiFei Gong Palace - the palace of the Heavenly Queen or something. It was ok, but the smaller, less known the site, the less English there is to explain what I'm seeing. I did see a Buddhist worship service at what I think was a temple for wealth, a neat dragon-turtle statue, and a blessing bell. Further along down the road in the scenic area were some stone lions, which you can see in a lot of places in Nanjing.

Largest marble tablet in China - "On Yifeng Tower"
Jinghai Temple
Tai Fei Gong Palace
Cool dragon-turtle with tablet
Then I took a cab (since I wasn't exactly sure how far it was) to the Yangtze River Bridge Park - there is a fee to enter the park and another to go up the tower, but not very expensive at all. Took the elevator to the top of the tower and began walking. It's a little less than a mile long, so it was a relatively short walk, except I stopped a lot to take pictures of all the carved murals on the bridge. 
Cool carving on the bridge (I like the contrast of old & new)
Where I started
Halfway across
From whence I came

It keeps getting more and more awesome. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just Around the Riverbend

It has been a busy but productive week. It began with work, and the privilege of meeting Andrew Sugerman (CEO of Disney) and Jessica Gleeson (VP of East Region, DisneyEnglish). They came to Nanjing to visit the 2 centers (both are new), and we got to have a nice big dinner with them. They were both very nice and listened patiently to all my comments about my experiences so far in China with DisneyEnglish, and my thoughts on the curriculum of my class. We also signed our 100th student that night, so it was very exciting.

Then I moved out of the hotel and into an apartment. After a weekend of work, I finally managed to go shopping for bedding on Tuesday, do laundry, and go grocery shopping. It was all very exciting since I hadn't done any of those things for almost 2 months. My friend Nat was very helpful and we went to the local Treasure Shipyard park, where I saw the largest boat I've ever seen, and some other nice things. Apparently, Nanjing was big in the shipbuilding industry during one of the dynasties. During the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He traveled to 7 different places promoting trade and economic growth in China.

We also booked a trip to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year in January, and found a cheap night market that I intend to go back to one day.

Anchor in Shipyards
"Pirate" Ship in shipyards

Our first find

Wednesday we (Nat and I) took a day trip. Much more successful than my previous independent day trip. We had planned to go to Chuzhou, but there were no morning trains, so we decided instead to go to Zhenjiang, only a 20 minute train ride away. We had no map and no clue of what sights to see, but we had a fabulous time. When we got off the train, we decided to head into the city center, then turned towards the mountains. (We were looking for the river since Nat had been there once before and remembered an island somewhere on the river.) We climbed through the brush up to a pagoda where we saw an amazing view of the city, plus another pagoda in the distance, so we decided to go there. Little did we know, that pagoda was the Temple of 10000 Buddhas (something along the lines of that name) on the island she had seen on her previous trip. We ended up there mid-afternoon and stayed for the rest of the day, taking a ferry across the Yangtze and seeing some temples (as in most parks in China), a mini-bamboo forest, and a Buddhist ceremony with our new Chinese fellow-tourist friend, Silence. Totally worth all the walking we did. Plus, on our way there, we stumbled across my favorite accidental find of the day - a memorial/park for Pearl S. Buck and The Good Earth.
Pearl S. Buck Memorial/Park
Pearl S. Buck was born in Zhenjiang and as an adult wrote a book called The Good Earth (great read, by the way; it won a Pulitzer Prize; I highly recommend it) about the generations of a family in China at the turn of the 20th century. Not something you would find in a tour book (at least not in mine - I checked when we got back to Nanjing).

Picture of Jiaoshan Park (the island)
10,000 Buddha Temple
Cannon Fort at Jiaoshan Park

Ceiling of 10,000 Buddha Temple

1st floor of 10,000 Buddha temple

Me & Nat on a ferry on the Yangtze
View of Zhenjiang

Me, Nat, & our new tourist friend, Silence
To answer other questions - work is fine. I walk (30-40 minutes) or take the bus (1.2RMB (about 20 cents), 15-20 minutes) each day. My roommates are fine; I hardly see them. A picture of my finished room will be coming soon.

Until next time...