Ok.... it has been a long time since I wrote in this blog but the weather is terrible and I am trying to get back into the habit of writing things down so I figure that this is a great place to start. Between my last entry and my now too much has happened to put into one entry so I guess I will just skip it for now and maybe come back to it later.
It's my blog and who says time has to be linear!?
I have moved! I no longer live in Jiujiang but much further east in a place called Lin'an. Lin'an is a small city, a little smaller than Jiujiang and does not have as much character but it is very close to Hangzhou and only a few hours by bus from Shanghai!
Hangzhou is described as a place "between heaven and earth" and it certainly is something else, the people are friendly, the girls are beautiful and the scenery is phenomenal! West Lake is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!
As for Shanghai, well what happens in Shanghai stays in Shanghai! Suffice to say that the booze is plentiful, the locals are friendly and the party never stops!
My new university is also phenomenal; the students are brighter, the scenery is amazing and the food is incredible. The students have been a particular source of delight, they are smart, friendly and not afraid to talk! Shyness is a big problem when teaching English in China. The Chinese tradition of teaching is more focused on memorization than interaction and Chinese ideals of fitting in and not standing out ("The nail that sticks out gets hammered in" is a popular saying here.) can make teaching any subject feel like an exercise in patience.
However here the students have frequently astounded me with their novel approach to activities and occasionally shocked me with forthright questions such as; "why are foreigners so open about sex?" All in all this semester has been a great improvement teaching wise and I have developed an excellent rapport with my students. I am hoping to be ranked quite high at the end of this semester!
There have been some downsides. Lin'an is a quiet place and there is not much to do at the weekends apart from hang out with the other FT's here. Whilst we have a lot of fun I do miss Freedom in Jiuijang and the "everybody knows your name" atmosphere that we had there!
We do have bars in Lin'an but they suck! Freedom in Jiujiang was popular because it was modeled on western bars with the intention of attracting the foreign crowed, it was an exception and we have never found another bar as friendly, fun and cheap as Freedom anywhere else in China.
The Chinese bar is a very different place from what we are used to back home. Instead of relaxing and spending time with your friends the whole process is about showing how much money you have (and therefore spending more money than I want to!) The bars are the worst example of China's obsession with face, they are dark, gold painted caves filled with loud, terrible music and dull eyed dancing girls. The whole thing is somewhat soul destroying. The thing that always strikes me upon entering these places is that nobody, and I mean nobody, is having fun! The chinese businessmen sit and chain "ganbei" Chivas Whiskey mixed with sweet green tea (this is the standard drink in bars) with faces akin to that of a group of bulldogs chewing a wasps. The music is too loud to talk but there are too many tables to dance....... The only way to have fun in these places is to be well and truly bevied on arrival!
As I mentioned in previous posts I have been studying Chinese. In Jiujiang this was really quite a lackluster attempt which gave me the very basics and not much more. Now however I am working hard and keep surprising myself by getting by in situations that I thought would confound me! I also love the faces of Chinese people when I catch them talking about me and call them on it, the general thought is the "the sky is blue, the grass is green and foreigners cannot speak Chinese!" So it is always nice to tell the old woman who says "his skin is very white" that "I also have large eyes!"
I spent most of this winter studying Chinese in Xiamen (a period of time that deserves it's own blog post) and progressed rapidly but this summer I intend to travel around China solo, so I have a lot of work to do!
So that was a quick and unfocussed update on what's happening with me in China. I will endeavor to keep this blog more up to date and to keep you all more informed on what's going on in the Middle Kingdom!