Thursday, November 10, 2005

new web site address!

Hey there,
I have a new website that I have full access to so I can see your comments and I can add pictures! Here it is:

Check it when you have time!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Adjusting to Sanlitun

This coming Saturday I will attend my first British Masquerade Ball in Beijing. I say first because it is my first ball in Beijing and my first British ball and my first Masquerade ball as well. Hmmm…

So, to prepare masks and practice eating ;-) one teacher who is going had us over to her apartment last Sunday night for dinner. Her parents were in town along with her aunt (who graciously did all the home cooking for us) and we enjoyed a night of great food, good wine and oh well – no mask making. But it was SO nice to sit around a dinner table with a family even though it wasn’t mine. We laughed for hours and although it doesn’t compare with being with my own family, the company was great. And she has an awesome apartment with a view of Beijing that is to die for.

On Monday I stayed too late in Shunyi (Chinese lessons and dinner with Bebe) and found myself at the clubhouse looking for a taxi at 9:30. Is this really too late? For a ride home to Sanlitun it is. No worries – the front desk said they would call me an illegal taxi. Luckily enough it was the same illegal driver I had had the week before and who I would have again on Thursday after a late basketball meeting. So it goes, I have a new friend in Beijing. And I actually like this driver more than the legal ones because he already knows where I’m going. He gave me his business card which is a great resource – except that if I call him I have no way to tell him who I am, where I am or where I want to go!

Wednesday night a group of us went to a Thai restaurant down the road called the Banana Leaf. There was much singing and dancing as a Philippino band performs the entire time. They will pull you up to dance even while eating. I had much fun followed by a trip to a jazz bar called The Big Easy. All musts if you come to visit. And this night allowed for one more exotic food – shrimp heads! Yep, that’s right – shrimp heads… they just chop the body off for someone who actually knows what they’re ordering and fry the heads up for dummies like me who grab the menu and point at something!

Friday brought a nice swim after school followed by a birthday party for Travis Tebo, another new teacher this year. He and his wife ordered pizza, served drinks and played plenty of 80’s music as there was an 80’s party following that night at the Pomegranate. We had a ball dancing and getting ready for the party. It is amazing how much frosted pink lip stick and the right music can take you back to your first dance, junior high and dreams of your first kiss. We later caught a cab to the village for the party at the Pomegranate (a “sports” bar in the village owned by teachers of ISB) where two bands made of teachers from ISB were playing along with a DJ – plenty of 80’s music to go around. I felt like I was at a 70’s Sigma Nu tailgate all over again – one decade of a costume later!!!

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to go market shopping with my new friend Annie. Annie is a native Beijinger and is dating an English teacher from ISB. She said she had a great market to take me to – very cheap and no louwai’s (expats) so no bargaining either. This place wholesales to the markets we go to. It is open from 3 am to 3 pm daily and this place… if you don’t like shopping this is your ultimate nightmare. There are people pushing and shoving in every direction, shouting from stall to stall and best yet - occasionally your foot gets run over by a little man with a cart selling corn on the cob. Annie is the person to shop with as Chinese is her first language and she knows where to go to get what you need. I got two winter coats (from a stall who wholesales to Russia so they had my size – nice, thick down winter coats and one is ZARA!), a pair of shoes, two pairs of thick gloves, six pairs of socks and a pair of earrings for 415 kwai – oh, about $50! This would have cost me close to $600 in the states and even here in a typical market – close to $100. So I really got a deal and an experience to go with it.

Sunday I went to the Lama Temple in the morning with Barry, Bebe, Kris and Kendra. Very pretty but to tell you the truth – I don’t really get it. All the big Buddha’s and everything – they are neat to see though. One is 24 meters tall and was in the Guinness Book of World Records until a few years ago. There were monks everywhere. What I don’t get is how this exists in a communist country where religion is pretty much forbidden. But it exists, I was there and then we went for dim sum, which is the traditional Sunday lunch here.

Afterwards I spent some time learning my way around my hood here in Sanlitun. Much to see and do. I stopped at a Chinese grocery store on the way home just to see what I could see and was hovering over a big bowl of… something when I heard a voice behind me ask “are you really contemplating buying some of that?” I turned around to find a man laughing at me. No, I replied – just looking. Turns out he is here on business from New Zealand and we talked for a while. To my amazement I was able to tell him several must sees in Beijing and also some easier ways for him to get around, etc. As I was walking home from the store I freaked out a little bit – how did I get here? How do I know where to go in Beijing, China? How can I help someone else find where he or she is going? A little culture shock I guess…

As I entered my apartment building, the guard recognized me and opened the door for me without me having to show my card. Now I know this seems to be no big deal but for a little southern girl in a big Asian city of 15 million – to be recognized is a damn good feeling and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. We are now having morning conversations on my way to school, the guard and I (as well as I can anyways) and I feel like I have a new best friend. Someone looking out for me and a good reason to practice and study more Chinese.
Xia jian!!!

Dubai, UAE

At exactly 3:25 on Friday, September 30 fall break started and I left school immediately. I had a hired driver who was to pick me up behind the school to try to avoid traffic to get me to the airport quickly as my flight to see Castro in Dubai was leaving at 5:30. I waited and waited and finally at 3:45 the black car I was expecting arrived – he stuck his head out the window and asked “Airport?” Yes!

About a mile from the airport he reached his hand to the back seat asking for his money ahead of time. I knew immediately that I was with an illegal driver. Are you Mr. Wang I asked? Nope – and I had gotten in the wrong car with the wrong man. No worries – he got me to the airport in time and before I knew it I had boarded an Air China plane to take me for my first trip to the Middle East.

Nine hours later I arrived in a completely clean and modern city. It was good to see Castro after two months and I was so excited to share stories of my new experiences in China.

As the UAE is a Muslim country their workweek begins on Saturday and ends on Wednesday. So Castro went straight to work the first day I was there. After being in China for a while, Dubai seemed quite easy. Everyone speaks English, the city was clean, there are toilets everywhere, I recognized some of the food, could read the menus, etc. Ahh… back to civilization! Dubai is the second fastest growing city in the world (second to Beijing that is) and they have entire areas of the city already planned to be finished by 2008. Transportation is smooth – and already they are planning to have the tallest building in the world as well as to be called the shopping capital of the world. It’s amazing what a little forethought can do for a city – as opposed to the 24/7 construction happening here to a purpose no one quite knows.

Wasting no time I immediately left in search for the nearest Starbucks. After a cappuccino and some time at an Internet café I ventured on a walk to the creek. This seems to be where everything’s happenin – plenty of people and things to see. This is in the older part of the city – Burg Dubai – lots of character compared to the newer parts.

Once at the creek a man called me over to his water taxi so I took a 30-minute tour. Being from the coast, to be back on the water was perfect and exactly what I had been needing – even halfway around the world, the water still feels like home. After the tour I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch and then to a cloth souk. Afterwards I went to the Dubai Museum for a history of the famous trading city. A quick swim in the pool and Castro was home but not for long as he runs in the park on Saturdays. Later that night I met Castro’s good friends Ellen and Brad – new teachers and neighbors in his apartment building. They are both American and Ellen is from Virginia – so at least with a southern girl around I know Castro is in good hands!
On Sunday I went to the Jumeira mosque for a tour. As I was not dressed appropriately (shoulders and knees were showing) I had to put on a full cover as well as cover my head. The tour was interesting – the tour guide was actually Spanish and had found the Muslim faith in Switzerland. She answered questions and explained a lot about the Muslim faith as well as the culture that typically surrounds the faith. Afterwards I crossed the street for a Japanese lunch and then ventured off to the beach. I have now taken a swim in the Persian Gulf, which has water clearer than Bermuda!

I went to the mall for a while and they had ZARA so I was quite happy there. Once Castro was done with school we took a stroll down to the creek for a nice dinner with hookah pipe and all. Castro decided his outfit needed touching up and bought a full cover along with headgear. I thought it would be just for a joke but he went to dinner that way too and we had the best time laughing at the people laughing at him. Only Castro… he’s always been able to take things to the next level!

I spent the rest of the school days shopping, at the pool or at the beach. On Monday after school Castro took me to the Madinat Jumeirah, which has a large souk, a view to die for and beers almost as big as the Burj Al Arab! This is where he and his friends go for happy hour on Friday. A little different than Tsingtao at the Pomegranate! We watched the sun go down over the coast which was absolutely beautiful before touring by foot another nearby hotel.

On Tuesday after school Castro took me for tea at the Burj Al Arab… hello! Brad and Angelina had just been there last week! Not that we like Brad anymore but anyways – it was so NEAT! It is the only 6 star hotel in the world. Everything inside was beautiful and they greet you at the door with rose water. There are fountains everywhere – gold – marble – you name it they have it. Nothing has gone undone there – they have thought of everything. We went up to the 27th floor for tea and it was delicious – Castro had a Moroccan tea and I had Earl Gray. We had small sandwiches, cakes and scones and again – another beautiful sunset. We enjoyed our time visiting and taking tons of pictures! Outside one of the windows you can see a fake island they are building of a palmetto tree. It is so large you can see it from the moon. They are building another palmetto tree soon and an island with split parts so that it will look like the earth. You can buy one of the islands, travel there by boat, and have your own island getaway in the Persian Gulf. These people are loaded!

It was so nice to be treated like royalty at the Burj and I must say my friends here in China who have heard of the place are quite jealous as they all got E. Coli on a bike trip to southern China. Well, such is life!

On Saturday we went on a desert safari! Traveling in a jeep to the desert we stopped so the drivers could take the air out of the tires so they wouldn’t go flat on the dunes. We then took a roller coaster ride in the jeep through the dunes and I have no idea how we did not tip over. A lot of the teachers went – I think 12 of us in all, and pictures can’t capture the feel of it. We were even sliding sometimes. It was funny though – we were all very scared at first and after awhile, we resumed our normal conversations as if we were on a 2 lane back road in Hampton.

After the ride we went to a traditional Arabic camp where we took camel rides (seriously! – I loved it!!!) and then had dinner, shisha and henna tattoos. Some time looking at the night sky which was so gorgeous to my eyes after not seeing a sky like that in some time, well since Inner Mongolia to be exact. A jeep ride back and then Castro and I went for a beer. A great day – not only did I enjoy the desert, the camel ride, everything, but I also enjoyed the company – I’m glad Castro has so many good friends here.

Friday we took a walk back to the creek and as Ramadan had started on Wednesday we could not eat, drink or chew gum in public. All the restaurants were closed and we tried to see the gold souk but as Friday is their holy day everything was closed. So I packed, we went for dinner and soon we were saying goodbye at the airport. Oh, I can’t tell you how much I didn’t want to leave the comforts of being with someone I am so comfortable with, being in a clean, English fluent city, being in the world as I know it. It was a long trip back to China and to be completely honest, I wasn’t enthusiastically looking forward to coming “home.” But now that I have been back for a couple of weeks, my eyes are used to these sights again, my ears the sharp tones of the language, and my stomach, unfortunately, the food!

Thanks Castro for being such a great host!!! I hope to go back once you have your bike and you and your friends are always welcome in China…

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who’s that girl?

So, I woke up yesterday morning (Saturday) and decided I hadn’t had enough changes in my life lately – that I needed one more. So I got my Insider’s Guide for Beijing out and looked up hair salons. Don’t get me wrong – there are salons and nail places on every corner here – but I wanted one where possibly someone spoke a little English. There were four listed so I called the one I thought would be closest.

I was expecting to make an appointment but was asked from the other end if I could be there in 5 minutes. Not a busy day for them I guess. I told them I could be there in an hour as I had no idea where I was actually going. I got dressed, caught a cab and was on my way. I had left my name with the girl on the phone so I was surprised when I got there and they didn’t have me written in the books. Speaking on the phone is much harder with a language barrier so I didn’t worry at first – however they couldn’t find even anything close to my name. About that time we both realized what had happened – being new to Beijing I hadn’t noticed the difference between Guanghuaxili Beilou and Guanghua Beilou. How could I have made that mistake???

Well, no worries. I was at the wrong place but they had time so I decided to stay. And then the questions began – what did I want – who would I like my stylist to be – I had five Chinese stylists and one translator standing above me asking me question after question. It all felt quite overwhelming so I decided to go for the senior stylist (100 kwai more - $12) and told the translator he could do whatever he wanted – cut, color, perm – I don’t care! The translator told the stylist and he turned to me with the stylists response… “really???” yes! Just please get started.

I think I made his day and four hours later, after having no less than two people working on me at a time I left the salon looking quite different than when I had walked in. I’ve never been this blond in my life but when you say to a stylist - do what you want – you can’t complain about the outcome. For two summers in Spain I have craved the fancy layers all the girls have and alas, finally they are mine as well. I have no idea of course what this will actually look like once I have to wash and style it myself but it is fun for now. I’m enjoying the compliments and it is fun walking by a mirror as I first don’t recognize myself. Well, just another day in Beijing.

After that I met my friend Barry for lunch and coffee, went to my friend George’s later to check out his apartment (I want ideas for my own) and then last night a dinner with friends. They went out dancing but I didn’t feel up to it – I’ll catch them next time!

Tonight I have a dinner with the teachers I will attend the British Ball with in two weeks. It is a masquerade so we will be making masks after dinner. I went to a tailor this morning to be sized for a dress – I am having something fancy made to match my new dew! I absolutely love my weekends here when I have time to explore the city and most importantly – some time to myself. I can’t imagine how busy I will be once basketball starts. Our two traveling tournaments have been finalized – one in Shanghai and the other in Kobe, Japan. Definitely something to look forward to after Christmas break!

I will write about my October break soon – until then – I am missin all of you as always!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 30, 2005


Well hello again and a lot has happened since I last wrote. In fact, five days from now I will have a new home in China!!!

A couple of weeks ago I went for dinner with a few friends in the city. The girl I rode to town with (Zerlina) had an appointment so she gave me directions to a DVD store where I could shop until she was finished. I never made it to the DVD store because I found a great furniture shop on the way called DARA. They have the most beautiful pieces and I found a couch that was the most comfortable thing I had sat on since I came to China! I wanted it so badly but had a dilemma – it wouldn’t fit in the two bedroom apartment I was living in at Capital Paradise. I had seen a three bedroom apartment but it wasn’t very nice and I knew that the following year I wanted to live in the city. Would they let me have my own furniture there or would it be furnished? Where was I going to live? What should I do – I really wanted that couch. And as I don’t know how long I will live here in Beijing I started thinking – I need to get into this city as soon as possible.

After dinner that night my thoughts were confirmed. All three friends hopped in their cars to go home and they pointed me in the direction of a good place to catch a cab. I was too embarrassed to tell them I had never been in a taxi by myself before, much less in a foreign city of 13 million people. Thirty minutes later it had started to rain and I was still standing on that corner. Most of the cabs wouldn’t stop for me and when they would they wouldn’t take me when they found out how far out of the city I needed to go. An older man finally came over to me, grabbed my arm and walked me down the street a bit. He called a cab over when he saw one, said something to the man and pushed me in the car. I had to rely on my own directions and minimal Chinese to direct the driver all the way back out to Shunyi. But this turned out to be the best experience I had had in China so far. I prayed through the whole of it and was never scared or worried. Wet and tired – yes, but I knew one way or another I would make it home that night. And all of a sudden I remembered why I had moved here in the first place – for the challenge and the culture and all of those new experiences and opportunities that are just waiting to be discovered. I made myself sleep on my decision to move into the city but the next morning I woke up completely excited and prayed – if you don’t want this for me God – just take it from me and make the move too hard. Well, I loved the first apartment I saw, the school agreed to the place, I had an offer that day from a friend who said she and her daughter would help me move and someone has already offered to drive me to school in the mornings. This is meant to be!!! And I did it all in less than a week. Don’t get me wrong – I am very nervous as I know my “easy” days in China are over. Life on the compound is just as easy if not easier than life in Beaufort. But I am looking forward to it and I will be moving this Thursday!!! I will be living in an apartment complex called Lian Bao and it is in a section of the city called Sanlitun. It is right in the middle of all the action – tons of restaurants, clubs, shops, the silk market – and I can see inside the stadium from my bedroom window. I will be on the 17th floor! So for those of you coming to visit, you will now have a much more exciting place to stay!!!

Until the move, I am making the most of “country” living. Riding my bike to school everyday and spending some time in the little village here when I can. It is the harvest season now so half of our roads are covered in corn – I keep forgetting my camera. It is funny to see all that corn drying out. I have no idea what they are going to do with it – still trying to figure that one out.

We only had three days of school this week because there was a water leak in a pipe out here in Shunyi so we were without water Monday and Tuesday. No water – no school – and these things take a long time to fix in China. On Monday I got tons of school work done and on Tuesday we didn’t get the call for no school until 6:30 so we all went to an “American” diner called Steak and Eggs for breakfast. Did some shopping for my new apartment and then came home that night, fixed a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese and watched Dukes of Hazard. The DVD’s are fun here because as soon as they are on the movies at home – they are on DVD here. Completely legal of course!!! ;-)

I think that’s all for now folks – I miss the US, I miss football and I miss all of you! Hope you are well – I’m looking everyday for a ticket home for Christmas – I’ll let you know if I find one!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Inner Mongolia

Last Thursday was our Back to School night here at ISB. I was a little nervous as I hadn’t met any of my students’ parents yet. Parents followed their students’ schedules and had 10 minutes with each teacher so that the teacher can introduce him/herself and tell some about the class. I had so many staff members in my presentations – that made me a little nervous. But overall the night went well, no questions I couldn’t answer – nice parents! Well, for now!!!

On Friday I packed and went with a group of 15 to Inner Mongolia. We went to the west side of Beijing to catch an overnight train. This was an experience in itself. First - if you can’t imagine using a squatter – a squatter on a train is even more difficult. There were no seats – just rows and rows of beds. All was spoken in Chinese so we were surprised when at 11 pm the lights went out and we were scrambling in the night to find our places. I didn’t find the blankets until the next morning and realized I had been sleeping under the mattress pad!

At 5 am we were in Mongolia and took a two hour bus ride to our yurts. A yurt is a Mongolian tent made of leather which has a bed made of wood. I have plenty of pictures. All of the people live this way with one bathroom for an entire village! Most have no running water except at public fountains which are used for cooking, bathing and washing. We were in the grasslands and that was pretty much all you could see in every direction except for the main meeting house where people go for meals. So at 7 am we sat down to a breakfast of pickled turnips, spicy cabbage, greens, something like cornbread, hardened condensed milk cubes and mare’s milk. Mmmm….

Afterwards we got on our bikes and went for what I originally thought was going to be a one hour ride. Three hours later we made it to another village of yurts. Three hours on a bike in the rolling hills. I was exhausted. It was neat to see the villages and we were near the mountains so it was pretty and the air was clean – but I don’t think any of us were really in shape for that! There were a few men skinning lamb which we later found was lunch. We had a great meal and then they came into the yurt, pushed the tables back and we slept for an hour. Our entire group was split between two yurts. After that a hike in the mountains and then a short cut home – only 1.5 hours on the bike. I couldn’t even hardly sit on the seat at this point because my toosh was already so sore! But I made it back. We all sat out in the fields for a long while snacking and someone had found beers. Then the horse races began so we made our way out to the grasslands to watch the races. This was followed by wrestling and some brave teachers even took a try. After dinner there was a Chinese techno – you can imagine. But the people were funny. Walking up to me saying – you American – teach me dance! The sky was gorgeous – definitely the most stars I’ve seen in ages.

Early to bed and the next morning after breakfast we went horse back riding. Pretty cool to ride a horse in the grasslands of Mongolia! We found a small store (apples and beers in the back of a pickup truck) so we stopped for a snack before we made it back to the village. Lunch, short nap and back on the bus. We went to Ho Hut – a major city – had foot massages along with another feast of lamb and unknown wegetables as they call them. To the airport and we flew back and arrived in Beijing by about 11:30 Sunday night.

The week passed quickly and before I knew it the weekend had come again. I went at 7:30 am this Saturday morning to the dirt market and the trip to town once again was an experience. There were so many bikes on the road that there is only enough space in the middle for all of the cars to play chicken. I love the dirt market – so many things to see and buy and I enjoy bargaining as well. The sellers all have a great sense of humor – they laugh at you if you start too low and feign anger sometimes. Later that night I went back into the city for Mediterranean food – not my favorite – and then to a teachers place to play games. On Sunday I went to church and was happy to see that my second time there I already have a nametag. Afterwards I went into the city with Bebe for Thai food and more shopping at the silk market where you can bargain for name brand clothes, purses, belts, shoes, etc. They are all yelling at you – hey lady come buy shirt – come try pants – I have size for big lady!

School is great – I have finally relaxed and some of that new job anxiety is gone. I’m enjoying getting to know my kids as they share their feelings of homesickness and missing family and friends. I can relate! I’m missing all of you – keep in touch!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Great Wall

Well, I don’t think I can title my entries by the week anymore as I am not doing a very good job of writing on Sundays. I will start by saying that I am beginning to feel quite official here in China. I received my ATM card for China Construction Bank and it works and as Monday was payday I actually have money there. I should have my passport back by Friday with the official work visa and as time goes on I feel as though this is feeling more like home. Well, not home… but home away from home!

On Friday night I went with some friends to a jazz bar where a jazz band was playing. The cool part was that the singer and guitar players are both teachers here at ISB. So we went to support. On Saturday morning all the new teachers were up bright and early for our first trip to the great wall. We went to a part that was built in the 600’s. Many were taking the gondola to the top but I was seeking some exercise and decided to hike. Hmm… I have never climbed so many steps all at once ever! By the time Bebe, Malcolm and I made it to the wall we were already exhausted! But then we needed to walk the wall. It was absolutely gorgeous – I really enjoyed it. Beautiful pictures – I wish I could attach some for you now. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and then took the toboggan down which proved to be exciting – especially since the girl in front of me kept stopping around curves which would force me to ram into her!

Saturday night we went into the city for authentic Chinese hotpot. They boil the water and seasoning in front of you and bring plates of vegetables, raw meats, etc. and you decide what to put into your own pot. I love the food here – love it! The only thing I have had that I didn’t like is some soups and tofu dishes with a “numbing” spice – very hot and your tongue feels like it is swelling.

On Sunday we had a girls night and went to dinner at a place called Red Rose – a Chinese muslim restaurant. We ate great Chinese and watched the belly dancers. When one man went up to dance he grabbed me to dance on the stage with him. I was a little embarrassed at first but then just decided to have fun with it. J

Tomorrow night is Open House at the school. This is a busy week because on Friday I leave for a bike trip in Mongolia and won’t be back in Beijing until midnight on Sunday.

I thought I would show you a list of the countries where my students are from. As you can imagine, it is interesting listening to them talk. Not just about themselves or their home countries but all of the different accents as well. Some of the teachers tease that if I was teaching higher level math classes I’d have less Americans – I have to constantly remind them that at least we have REAL sports. I have already seen and heard enough about cricket for a lifetime!!! Check it out, keep in touch and as always – I’m missin you!

Australia 7
Brazil 1
Canada 4
China-Hong Kong 2
China-Taiwan 1
Cuba 1
France 2
Germany 3
Ireland 1
Italy 2
Japan 1
New Zealand 1
Norway 2
Pakistan 1
Philippines 2
Singapore 4
South Korea 3
Switzerland 1
UK 10
USA 29
Zimbabwe 1

Monday, August 29, 2005

Week 3

Finally last Monday I got my computer so I took the 5:30 bus home from school because I had tons of work and ripped open the box. Hopefully I will have time this week to get someone from the compound to set up my wireless internet for me. I’m hoping to be able to do my blog from there – Thanks Castro for all the cutting and pasting you have been doing for me! As I don’t have access to my blog please respond to my email directly. Otherwise I can’t see your comments and I want to see them very much. I’m missing everybody dearly!!!!! ;-)

On Tuesday I woke up at 5:45 so I could do the 6:30 am swim with some of the other teachers. The school hosts an optional morning swim practice twice a week. I have never been a strong swimmer but after 4 knee surgeries it seems to be the sport Dr. Jones keeps recommending. So I rode my bike through the village bright and early, put on my swim suit and hopped in. I was immediately given goggles, a cap and told to buy a one piece as soon as possible. Ooppsss… no problem! After that I loved every minute. We were doing different types of laps, blobs, some sprints. I had so much fun and have felt good all day after the exercise this morning. The only tough part – I had to shower and get ready at school. I was starving so I didn’t dry my hair (no one does) and I walked into first period to meet today’s new students with crazy hair, no make up… “hello kids I’m your new math teacher.” Can you imagine what they were probably thinking??? AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

First week of school went well and my kids are so great! They do more than the homework I assign and seem to be interested in what is happening in the classroom. On Wednesday night I went into the city with a group of teachers for dinner and had the best Chinese food I’ve tried yet. We had these garlic green beans that were to die for and the Chinese do wonderful things with tofu. I’m enjoying the food a lot although I will say – the chopsticks are giving me some trouble. But someone is looking out for me because most everyone has been sick already but I am doing fine… knock on wood!

On Friday they had a bbq for all of the teachers and I woke up early Saturday morning to go to the mountains. The bus driver got lost (I’ve heard this is typical) and it took us 4.5 hours to go 110 km. No problem – the trip was gorgeous and I saw a much more remote china than I see on a daily basis. It was nice to be in the mountains again as I always feel so at home there. Looking from a distance every mountain looks the same but when you get closer, you find that a lot of the stone are actually manmade walls and that behind them are whole villages of people. I discovered this when I turned to see what I had heard behind me and found an older man herding goats! Sunday I went to a different church and although it is more casual and contemporary than I am used to I will probably go to this church regularly. A lot of my students were there and several other teachers too (all the good southern ones!) Also, it is only three minutes from my compound whereas the other church is 30 minutes away with no traffic. The minister has already sent me an email too so that is nice.

After church Bebe, Barry and I went to lunch and then to the Pearl Market. You can get lost in two seconds in that place but I am learning to barter well. I bough a pair of pumas for less than $20 – the first price she offered me was close to $100. It’s fun! Then we went to the Temple of Heaven. It was built in the 1400’s and was a place for the emperors to go to pray for a good harvest, etc. It was beautiful and there happened to be a choir there at the time. Charlie would get a kick out of this one! They sounded great. Just a group together singing on the corner but beautiful. Japanese for dinner and then early to bed for the next week.

The things I am enjoying most are the people, the food, the swimming and my daily bike rides to school and home again. I had my first Chinese lesson last night and I think I am going to enjoy that too although this language is very tonal and it will take a LONG time just to say a few things. But I miss being able to communicate more. This weekend we are going to the great wall so I will have lots to share after that. Please write when you can – I want to hear news about everyone and everything. Missin you tons!!!!!!!!! ;-)