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!