Friday, October 05, 2007

Living in China (October 6, 2007)

Well I only have 2 more days of vacation left before I have to start teaching again with one extra class added. This next group will be freshman who were smart enough to pass the initial college entrance exam to get into a 4 year Bachelor program. My current students did not pass and had to be on a 5 year plan. The fact that these newbies are freshman can be either a curse or a blessing. I've heard that they might talk more because they don't know anything, but the way I see it, they're younger and are probably idiots based that alone.

I have a tiny little rant about modern medicine. Why is it that whenever something happens to me in terms of health, it's almost never fully explained by WebMD or any other doctor I seek advise from? Why can they never ever ever do anything about it?! They should be paid a rate based on being able to fix something as opposed to getting paid a salary. I think that might be more of an incentive to actually try to solve a problem instead of them just shrugging their shoulders. Yes, I've been hearing and reading a lot of things like: "Well it's supposed to go away in 7 days." "Well it's not supposed to continue to grow and spread." "Oh, it's probably a virus so you can't do anything about those." Yeah, I'll spare everyone the details and just say that I'm nursing a wound that is not healing and is instead getting bigger, and of course it seems as though nothing can be done about it. Why couldn't my anomalies be something cool like telekinesis or something!

So last Wednesday, the other teachers and I decided on braving the long, holiday lines and going into Beijing. I think I should've planned a little more in terms of what we were actually going to do when we got there, but I didn't and merely followed everyone else. The crap thing is that we ended up at some lame temple and walked through many incense-filled corridors with a ton of other people. Afterwards, we wandered over to a lake that had water in it. Yeah, I'm not one who can appreciate things that pertain to religion or nature because both are so uninteresting. Wow, a huge wooden buddha. Wow, is that another security guard yelling at a tourist to stop taking pictures of the buddha? Wow, it that another fucking buddha? Wow, buddha had friends? Wow, is that a mosquito flying above the water line? Wow, are those people fishing in that lake? Wow, is that a swimmer swimming in that nasty lake? Wow, a man-made island with ducks on it. Wow, is that a goose hanging out with the ducks? Wow, is that a small stone bridge? Wow, are those rent-a-boats fun?

I'll just cut to the chase and say that I will not be partaking in any more field trips that involve boring shit. I want to see military museums, guns, armor, and swords. I would also like to find a bookstore with English books and somewhere that has pirated software and games. That is all I am interested in: nothing else.

Here is a picture of a 2-3 inch spider. I didn't get close enough to hold up a coin or something, but take my word for it that these spiders over here are crazy. They make multi-layered webs, so it's not a single web layer that we have in the US. They usually setup camp between large bushes and catch all sorts of large insects. Yeah, that spider is a perfect reason why science should never try to find a way to make a gigantic version of this arachnid.

Here are my explanations of some subjects that have been asked. Please feel free to email me any questions you have because you know that I have an answer for everything, even if it's wrong or made-up.

Almost all peeps here have a small washing machine. It plugs into the sink and has a tube leading out to a drain. It's about the size of a mini-fridge, but it gets the job done. I tend to do a lot of smaller loads instead of doing one huge load like in the States. The spin cycle on these things seem to be "harsher" than those back home, so because of that, a lot of clothes won't make it through their ordeal here. You have to use a liquid fabric softener because dryers don't seem to be all that common. I swear I should just go and find's not like I have any other use for the money I earn over here. But yeah, the fabric softener helps a little in making clothes feel a little less crusty, but I would much rather have a dryer.

I have not yet been forced to use a public toilet to "take care of business", so I consider myself lucky in that regard. Yes almost all places have squatters and they don't look comfortable at all. My western toilet in my apartment is fine and it works just like a toilet should. In public they do have urinals, but yes, everything else is a squatter with no TP.

Trash Collection
From the picture below, you can see what the "piles of trash" I was referring to before look like. Just picture these piles everywhere. In the morning they will all be gone, but during the evening it's a freakin' mess. On the ground floor of our apartment complex, we have this designated trash bin that looks like a little shed. I've never seen a trash man come to clear it out, but that might be another one of those morning things.

Food Sanitation
This one is a funny subject. In a one-liner: there is none. You can "trust" the grocery store stuff a little more than you can trust an open-air market, but just by a little. We have discovered that you can eat the same thing at the same place and will probably get sick 1/6 times. For me, I 've noticed that if I have fish here, I'll get sick, like hurling sick. An older teacher said something about "you don't know how long that fish was sitting there at the market without being iced" or "you don't know how old that fish is." It's a pretty scary concept so that's why I'm totally game for buying beef in a grocery store. Also, open-air markets have flies everywhere, so nothing is sanitary about that.

Water Faucets
Water here is normally cold and you can't drink it. It may be clear, but if you put the water in your mouth and taste it, it does have a very metallic/nasty flavor to it. You can only get hot water, if the pipe is hooked up to your mini-hot water heater near the shower. It's not like in the US where the whole house is hooked up to a large hot-water heater in your garage. Because of this, some of us actually wash our dishes in the shower...yeah kinda gross, but it's not like we're "taking" a shower with our plates and cups.

Grocery Stores
Most of the time they are just like any in the US except for no OTC medications. Also, they usually have misc. stuff separated from the grocery and produce stuff. So if I wanted to buy a rice cooker, I would have to pre-pay for it in a specific area of the store. I couldn't just bring it down to the main checkout because some things don't have UPC codes on them.

If you would like to humor yourself, below is an example of a paper that I have to grade. Just imagine 105 of these things...grading sucks and that's why a lot of teachers don't give out homework. But from the looks of the last sentence, more HW needs to be given :-) Have a good weekend everyone!