Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Trip to Xi'an - Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey Everyone! We just got back from Xi'An and we had a great time there! Zoie and I both have seen so many amazing places in China, and the Terracotta Soldiers was another Chinese landmark on the list that we can finally check off. We arrived in Xi'An around lunch time on Friday afternoon (we don't teach on Fridays). After about a 45 minute cab ride to our hotel, Zoie and I began to check out the city while also looking for a place to eat lunch. Backtracking a little, our school driver took us to the Shenzhen airport at about 6:00am, which is a good hour drive. It was extremely nice of him. Along the way, he told us about a soup dish called "Yang Rou Pao Mo." We didn't exactly know what the "Pao Mo" part meant, but from the beginning of the word, we knew it involved lamb (and our driver said it was soup). So anyway, back to the story. We had heard about a famous restaurant in the downtown area of Xi'An that served Yang Rou Pao Mo, and it was only about a 20 or so minute walk from our hotel. After search several streets, we finally stumbled upon the restaurant. We both really enjoyed our meal. Basically, the idea of this Muslim dish is to break up small pieces of bread into a bowl, and then the soup broth, noodles, and lamb are poured on top of the bread. The bread gets soft and the lamb is pulled (and is probably as close our mom's brisket as we will get in China...even though thats not lamb). After our lunch, we headed to a nearby hotel to meet with a local travel agency to figure out our plans/tour for the following day. We spent the next 3 hours or so walking along the Xi'An city wall, which despite being a little chilly outside, turned out to be a really enjoyable walk. There were very few people walking on the part of the wall that we were on, so it was a very quiet and secluded-feeling walk. Towards the end of our walk, the lanterns lighting the wall turned on. As you can see in the pictures (which hopefully will be up by the time you read this), it was very beautiful. Just to be clear, this is not the Great Wall, it is a wall that surrounds the middle of Xi'An, which used to be the capital of China (Chang'An). We headed back to our hotel for the night, and because we were so exhausted from the early drive to the airport and our long walk on the wall, we decided to eat at the dinner buffet at our hotel. Anytime we have a chance to eat an international buffet (especially with American food), it is hard to pass up. Just eating bread and butter is a treat for us.

We woke up the next morning around 8am and headed downstairs around 9am to meet with our tour guide for the day. We had booked a tour through the travel agency at the hotel, and we were excited to see that only 4 other people booked the same tour. One couple was at the hotel across the street, and we met the other couple at our first destination. We were lucky to have had 4 very nice people on our tour. There was a younger couple from Melbourne, Australia, and there was a couple in there 40s-50s from Denver, Colorado. It was quite cold in the morning, so our pictures show us bundled up. Also, all the museums and places we went that day, none of them had heat. So even in the museums, we were very cold! Our first destination was the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It a is very neat and unique pagoda with an interesting story. Besides the Terracotta Soldiers, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a symbol of Xi'An. Our next stop was a place called the Banpo Museum. The neat thing about this place is that it is an excavation site of a village that was built over 4000 years ago. Although there wasn't much to see, it was pretty amazing seeing something from so long ago! After the Banpo museum, we headed to a factory where they build different size Terracotta Soldiers to sell to all of the tourists. The best part about that was the pictures we took in front of the factory where we got to put our heads on the body of a soldier as if we were actually one of them. After leaving the museum, we headed to lunch, which was another tourist trap. They tried to sell stuff to you the whole time, and the food was nothing spectacular. FINALLY, when lunch was over, we started to head toward the Terracotta Soldiers. This was the one thing that Zoie and I really wanted to see, and had been anticipating seeing for years! After about a 30 minute drive, we finally arrived at the museum. It is a GIANT museum that consists of 4 parts: 1) A movie theater area (the movie didnt really work though). 2)The large pit which consists of thousands? hundreds? of soldiers. This is the largest excavated pit at the museum. 3) A smaller pit that is still being excavated. 4) A pit that is being excavated and consists of many horses and chariots. When you see the pictures, it is extremely difficult to see the vastness of the place as well as all of the details of the soldiers. Each soldier is different which makes them even more amazing. I'm not going to go into the history because Wikipedia can do a much better job, but all in all, seeing this was as amazing as we had expected. We also saw two of the three remaining farmers who originally uncovered the soldiers. One of the farmers was in the movie theater part of the museum, and the other farmer was sitting in a store outside of the museum. The one outside of the museum is the farmer that took the picture with Bill Clinton. All three of the remaining farmers are paid to sit at the museum all day. Pictures are not allowed, and you have to pay to get a signature. Zoie's dad already had an autographed book, so we just looked at him and took a photograph in our heads.

After our trip to the Terracotta Soldiers, we headed back to the city center where Zoie and I decided to try one of Xi'An's most famous dumpling restaurants. The dumplings are made to look like the filling inside of them. For example: the duck dumplings are in the shape of a duck. We tried many different types (not the frog), and we also took pictures. The dumplings were actually very tasty in addition to their artistic beauty. After dinner, we headed to the hotel for the night to get some rest for the next day.

We woke up fairly early the next morning so that Zoie and I could get the breakfast buffet before a long day ahead. After breakfast, we headed toward the Shaanxi History Museum. We were told to get there early because it is free, therefore many people go there daily. We were also told that they only allow 4000 people in per day. So taking the advice from our concierge, we arrived at the museum around 8:45 and waited in line for about 30 minutes. The museum itself was pretty neat, but because Zoie and I have been to SO many history museums throughout China, we have seen almost everything there. This museum also had reproductions of many of the real things we have seen. We left the museum after about an our of touring, and headed back to the city center to check out a few more of the sights. We went atop both the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower before taking a little rest at the downtown Starbucks. After a quick break, we went to lunch at a nearby mall before heading to the Great Mosque in the middle of the city. After various twists and turns down small, loud, and overcrowded side streets, we finally found the Mosque. If you don't know, China has a very big Muslim population. The neat thing about this Mosque was that it was basically an old Chinese garden. It was nestled in the middle of this giant city, but once inside, it was an extremely beautiful and peaceful place. You would never think that it existed where it was.

After visiting the Mosque, we headed back to our hotel and waited there for about an hour until heading back to the airport. Unfortunately, we arrived a little early AND our flight had already been delayed an out. Nonetheless, we arrived into Shenzhen around 9:30pm, only about an hour after we had expected to arrive. Instead of taking a 2 hour bus ride home, I used my bargaining skills to get a 25USD taxi ride from the original 90USD taxi fare. Despite getting into a sketchy car to begin with, and having to stop at a random spot on the highway to transfer into a different car, we managed to get home in a very timely fashion.

Now we are back here in Dameisha and we have several things to look forward to. For 1) Zoie'ss sister and brother-in-law may come in this weekend pending flights and various other things. Hopefully they will make it here so we can see them. Also, even though Zoie and I are disappointed we won't be home for Thanksgiving, we are planning on making as much as we can with our microwave, hotplate and small toaster. There will unfortunately be no turkey at our Thanksgiving
meal, but chicken and beef should be present.

Other than that, life goes on as normal here. I can't believe that December is almost here. Wisconsin will play in a January 1st bowl game again barring some crazy end of the season antics, and luckily for me, college basketball is really starting to get going. Wisconsin's first tournament of the year starts tomorrow in Maui, which means the games will be on at noon my time! This is very exciting for me because I'll be able to watch during my lunch break. That's really all for now. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Although being here is great, and life is pretty stress-free, not a day goes by where I really don't feel thankful for everything I have, and Thanksgiving is just another day I can be extra-thankful.

If you made it this far in my blog post, congratulations! I miss and love you all. Comment and update me on your life as well! Talk to you soon!

Love, Daniel

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I guess it really does get cold here.

Would you rather... live in a humid 90 degrees with no air conditioning or a windy 50 degrees with no heat? Those seem to  be the two extremes here in Shenzhen. In our apartment, we have AC but no heat, but at school we have no AC (just fans and windows) AND no heat. Even though 50 degrees doesn't sound very cold (especially after living in Michigan and Wisconsin), it actually feels really cold. Why? Because there are no heated buildings! So it is ALWAYS 50 degrees (or in the 40s at night or outside in the wind).  It's a bit weird to always have to wear a coat (even while teaching or just hanging in the apartment) and never enter a heated room. Still, I'll take bundling up in a sweater, coat and scarf over sweating through a t-shirt and shorts any day. Luckily, Daniel and I went on a small shopping trip on Friday at Wal-mart that turned out to be quite useful given this week's cold weather. In preparation for our upcoming Xian trip (where it is even colder, but I think that they will have heat-- hopefully!), we each bought a winter coat, gloves and something to cover our ears. My coat is like my black long northface puffy coat, except it is red, and only cost $20 (USD). Even though my northface is a children's XL, I think my new coat is smaller than it, and I had to buy a women's L. So yes, clothes really are smaller here! Daniel also got a red coat (they aren't the same kind of red so we will really clash walking around Xian), but his isn't puffy.

We also made another very exciting purchase last week... we got a TOASTER OVEN! It ended up costing about $33 (USD) and it's already come in handy. We went to a nice grocery store on Friday and got some food for the weekend so that we could make bruschetta, garlic bread, sandwiches, salads, GUACAMOLE, and fajitas. All of that food was so delicious. Plus, Daniel's parents sent us puppy chow (chex covered in chocolate and powdered sugar), so we really had a great weekend food-wise.

Now we are just getting exciting for our upcoming Xian trip on Friday! We can't wait to see the soldiers and eat some special dumplings. We also read that our hotel has a really great breakfast buffet :).

We'll update again after our trip with some pictures!

Miss you all!

Zoie

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Hi Everybody!

Happy (belated) Halloween! Sorry it has been forever since we have blogged (and now you are getting an entry from both Zoie and I). We realllly are going to try harder to post more often, even if the posts are short.

This Halloween weekend has definitely had its ups and downs. It all started around Wednesday when Zoie was starting to finally recover from her cough, and I started to get really sick. We were both excited for the upcoming weekend because there was a Halloween party on Saturday night at a pizza place called NYPD where there was an all you can eat/drink get-together. Unfortunately we never made it there due to our sicknesses, but we still managed to have a fun and interesting Halloween.

As many of you know, Zoie and I work on the side at a Kindergarten during the week. Thursday was the first "big day" held by the school because they invited all the parents to see the students interact with their American/English speaking teachers. I woke up that Thursday morning feeling miserable, and knew the school would not be pleased with my text message saying that I would not be able to show up. After the head of the Kindergarten told me several times that she didn't really care and I HAD to go to the school, she finally understood when I told her all about my coughing and vomiting (I know, disgusting). Despite me not being there, Zoie was there and said the kids seemed to enjoy having their parents around for the morning. Hopefully I'll still have my job when I return to the school on Thursday. In addition to missing the Kindergarten class, I also had to cancel my classes at the school I work at. Zoie so kindly took over one of them, and I guess a Chinese teacher took over the rest. Even though I was sick on Thursday, I was hoping so badly that I would feel better so that I could help celebrate Halloween at the school with both Zoie's students and my students. Luckily, I woke up Friday morning feeling a lot better, so both Zoie and I headed to the school for the afternoon Halloween party. When we arrived at the school, our school had 2 costumes prepared for us: Zoie wore a long gold cape complete with white stars and a masquerade-esque mask, while I had the luxury of wearing a long black and gold cape, a mask with eyes popping out (but no holes to really see where I was going, it was a flawed mask), and a witches hat that was cleary designed for a female. Zoie and I prepared a very short speech about Halloween in the US and our experiences celebrating Halloween, and then proceeded to help the kids enjoy the activities set up for them by the school. Activities included: Bobbing for apples, Touch the ghost (a student was blindfolded and had to run around to touch the "ghost", which was actually a teacher wearing another masquerade mask with a really long nose), Face-painting, Musical Chairs, the
3-Legged race (called "Funny Hopping"), and several more. Even though the students celebrated Halloween a little differently than we do in the United States, it was neat to see that the school went out of its way to teach the students about American culture (even if only for 30 minutes). Before we left the school, Zoie and I decided to scare the little primary school students for a good 20 minutes. It was all fun and games until students started ripping at my mask, pulling off my hat, yanking at my cape so that I was almost choking to death, and putting up their fists ready to "fight the monster." All in all it was a pretty fun event, and even though Zoie and I weren't able to make the Halloween party with our friends, we were still excited that we got a little taste of Halloween.

The rest of the weekend, we just relaxed a lot. Zoie had a cough for a while, and I was still trying to recover from what seemed like the flu, but luckily only lasted about 2 days. Even though we didn't get the all you can eat pizza at NYPD, Zoie and I still ordered in pizza from the same place, and enjoyed Halloween from the comforts of our own couch. I particularly enjoyed my night immensely as Wisconsin pummeled Purdue 37-0. We have next week's game and then the Wisconsin v Michigan game on Nov 14. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to talk to her that week....I'm only kidding!

One thing that Zoie and I are extremely excited about is our plan for the weekend of November 20. We JUST booked our plane tickets to Xian! For those of you who don't know, Xian is the place in China that is most famous for its excavation of the Terracotta Warriors. When the first Emperor of China died, he wanted to be buried with a replica of his entire army....and that's exactly what happened. (Check out the wikipedia page for info). Anyway, we are extremely excited to visit it and can't wait for that weekend.

Besides that, there's not much else goin on here. We have so much to look forward too. I, fortunately, look forward to every weekend because of football Saturdays and VERY soon, college basketball begins, but both Zoie and I have many exciting things ahead. As I said before, we are going to Xian on November 20, Zoie's sister and brother-in-law are coming in on Nov 28, and we are going to Hong Kong Disneyland on the 29th. My parents should be here in late January, and then Zoie and I get about a 4-5 week break sometime in late January or early February, which is when we are planning to go to southeast Asia. I'll try much harder to keep everyone updated on what's going on here.

I guess that's all for now... we're off to cook dinner. We have been cooking pretty much every meal here, and despite the fact that our kitchen is not quite what we are used to in the US, we have made some excellent dishes. So anyway, I hope everyone is doing well. Now that yall have to change the clocks back, Zoie and I may be a little confused on the time, but I think we should eventually figure it out. Miss and love you all and talk to you soon (I promise it will be more timely than last)!

Daniel

HK and Tokyo!

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posts but we hope you enjoyed the Japan pictures!

Here's the rundown of our vacation:

It started off with a great weekend in Hong Kong with my parents. First of all, they brought us about 90 pounds of American stuff, including food (my Mom's homemade apple pie mmmmm), toiletries, and magazines. Needless to say, we were very grateful for all of the wonderful goodies that we have been munching on for the last 3 weeks. :)

My parents arrived around 8 pm on Friday night, so Daniel and I met them for a late dinner in HK. We went to Outback for a delicious non-Chinese food meal, complete with bread, butter, chips, spinach artichoke dip, steak, and cheeseburgers-- all of the yummy things that we rarely, if ever, eat on our own in China. In fact, the rest of the time with my parents mainly revolved around hanging out and eating lots and lots of tasty food! On Saturday, we went to dimsum for brunch, then we saw the National Day parade (a lot of school children marching through the streets). For dinner, we went to a nice Chinese restaurant and got some Beijing duck. On Sunday, we got TGIF's for lunch, including chicken nachos with salsa and guacamole... yum yum yum. Then for dinner, we went to the top of Victoria's Peak and had a wonderful dinner at Cafe Deco, including pasta and pizza. Earlier that day, we had ran into our friend Nathan that we were in Shanghai with last summer randomly in the middle of the street. Believe it or not, he ate dinner at the same restaurant as us that night too! Sometimes it really is small world.

The next morning (Monday), my parents and Daniel and I, all had to go to the airport to catch flights at 10:30 AM. They were headed back to NJ while Daniel and I were off to Japan! After 2 great, delicious, relaxing days, it was sad to say goodbye to my parents, but it was such a nice treat to see them even if only for a few days.

The trip to Japan was really fun! It started off on a really smooth and easy, albeit 4 hour long, flight to Narita Airport on Cathay Pacific, which is actually a really nice airline that stil gives meals, drinks and blankets (but you can't control your own air temperature above your seat-- weird.) Once we got to Tokyo, it was drizzling and we had forgotten to bring a map of how to walk to our first hotel, so we ended up taking a taxi. The taxi started it's meter at about $7 USD!! Tokyo was already living up to its reputation as being expensive. The taxi driver also couldn't find our hotel, so we still ended up wandering around a little bit, but eventually we checked into the Hotel Rose Shinjuku. The room was TINY; it kind of reminded me of a cruise ship cabin. Daniel thinks that the whole room was on a tilt, but I guess you get what you pay for! It was in a really good location though, right next to a subway stop, which, after that first expensive (but short) cab ride, was essential since all we took was subways to get around the city.

We had originally planned to leave Tokyo and go to Hakone for a short side trip to see Mt. Fuji and go in some hot springs, but our plans were thwarted by a typhoon (if the typhoon had hit hard like it was predicted to, we could have been stranded in Hakone and been unable to make it back for our flight on Friday). We ended up staying in Tokyo the whole time we were there, which was from Monday to Friday. All in all, it worked out for the best, because we got to see pretty much everything we wanted to in Tokyo without having to rush anything. The days when the typhoon was supposed hit the worst ended up being the nicest days that we had in Japan-- beautiful sunny skies and no rain at all.

Here's a quick overview of our trip, since I don't want to bore you with all of the gory details:

Tuesday:
   - Went to the Tsukiji Fish Market but were too late to see the tuna auction.
   - Ate our first sushi meal just outside of the market.
   - Stopped in a McDonald's that was 90% individual cubicles... weird.
   - Visited the Meiji Shrine and gardens
   - Walked around Harajuku and had a delicious and cheap tempura lunch at Tenya
   - Had some sake, yakitori, tuna tartar, gyoza, etc at Hakkaku

Wednesday:
   - Realized we couldn't go to Hakone because of the typhoon. Daniel's parents rebooked us at the Hilton in Tokyo instead (which was so nice!!)
   - Had Indian food for lunch, trying a total of 6 different kinds of curries between the two of us. It was DELICIOUS (and cheap!)
   - Went to Gonpachi for dinner, where we sat at the bar, where the chefs were cooking dinner.
   - Walked around Roppongi, and stumbled upon a movie theater where we saw The Ugly Truth (which was actually very funny!!)

Thursday:
   - Had the breakfast buffet at the Hilton (lots and lots of American breakfast items, mmm)
   - Walked around the Imperial Gardens (it ended up being a gorgeous day!)
   - Went to the Sensoji Temple
   - Had a late lunch in Asakusa at a restaurant with a revolving sushi bar
   - Went to Ginza and walked around a bit(which is like 5th Ave in NY)
   - Took a ride on the Yurikamome train, which is a fully automated monorail, that has a 280 degree turn in it so that you can see all of Tokyo
   - Headed back to Asakusa for dinner at Sometaro, which is a place where you sit on the floor and you make (or in our case, the waiters helped us make) Japanese pancakes on the griddle in front of us (okonomiyaki)

Friday:
   - Woke up at 4:15 AM, and we still managed to miss the first train out to the Tsukiji Fish Market by 1 minute.
   - Made it to the fish market by 5:45 AM, just in time to see some of the action at the giant tuna market and auction.
   - Went to a sushi breakfast at 6:05 AM. The place was called Sushi Dai, and it was definitely worth the 1.5 HOUR wait (the restaurant only holds about 14 people, and it's the most famous sushi restaurant inside the market). It was by far our most expensive meal ($43ish USD per person for a set sushi meal), but it included 10 pieces of the freshest sushi we'll probably ever eat, a roll, and miso soup. We tried 9 different kinds of fish, with fatty tuna being our absolute favorite. Daniel almost threw up the sea urchin (uni), but he managed to keep it down, and I'm very proud of him for trying so many crazy types of fish! We also loved the sea bass, yellowtail, soy marinated tuna, and giant clam. The sushi chef was really nice and told us how to enjoy the sushi (with or without soy). They don't use plates or anything, they just put the sushi right on the sushi bar, course by course. It was AWESOME. We left stuffed!
   - Went to the Edo Tokyo Museum
   - Saw the National Sumo Stadium (Kokugikan)
   - Headed to the airport to go home!

We had a great trip and are already planning our next long vacation to southeast Asia!!

Daniel will fill you in on what's been going on since the trip in the next entry!

-Zoie

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pictures from our vacation are up!

Hi everyone,

Pictures from Hong Kong and Tokyo are now up! The link is to the right... check 'em out!
Blog entry coming soon!

Enjoy!
Zoie and Daniel

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My 2 Cents!

Hey Everyone! It was Zoie's turn to write the long blog post, but I
decide to add my 2 cents!

1) This week is almost over! We only have a half week due to Chinese
National Day (Independence Day)
2) The Badgers are 4-0, and I couldn't be more excited. Hopefully we can get a big road win @ Minnesota this weekend!
3) Besides the Badgers being 4-0, I am also extremely excited for our trip
to Japan! If you know me well, I am most excited for the food. I am
trying to plan everyday around different meals I want in Japan.
Luckily, Zoie is on board with the idea of eating lots of food in
Japan, so that makes me very excited for our trip. I know she has been
looking forward to sushi in Japan since her parents taught her how to
use chopsticks and eat sushi when she was just weeks old.
4) I really miss everyone a lot. Although I am having a good time
here, I can't wait to return home next year to see everyone! Hopefully
though I will see some of you soon.

I hope everyone (those of you who celebrate Jewish holidays) have a
wonderful New Year! I will get back to y'all when I return from Japan!

Love to all, Daniel

GO BADGERS!

Lox vs Salmon Sashimi

Hey all!

It's been a little while, so let me catch you all up! Two weekends ago (9/18 - 9/19), Daniel and I went into Hong Kong for the first time. What was the occasion? Why, the Jewish new year of course! We headed in on Friday in order to attend Rosh Hashanah services. It took about an hour by bus to get from the border crossing in Yantian to Kowloon Tong, which is a subway station in Hong Kong. From there, we took the subway to Tsim Sha Tsui, which is where we stayed, and took an additional 20-30 minutes. Including the bus from our apartment in Yantian to the border crossing, all in all, it took a little less than 2 hours to get from our apartment to our hotel. Tsim Sha Tsui is the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula and is across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong island. After we checked in, we headed down to the synagogue, which was on Hong Kong island, and we met four of our friends there. The service was very nice, and it reminded me a lot of my synagogue at home. They even served challah, apples, honey, cookies and wine after services! After we ate some of the Jewish snacks the temple provided, we all went to a small restaurant near where services were held at a small but nice Italian restaurant. Daniel and I shared a steak and a pasta dish-- delicious!! Then we met up with one of  Mark's (one of our friends who we went to services with) friends in Lan Kwai Fong, which is in central Hong Kong. Lan Kwai Fong is a small area of Hong Kong that is just bar after bar after bar. Prices are pretty expensive-- some bars were charging prices similar to NYC prices!! Despite the prices, the area itself is pretty neat-- people just hang out in the streets while the bars play loud music.

The next morning, Daniel and I decided to head to "Main Street Deli" for a real "Jewish" lunch. Once we sat down, we got pickles and health salad! We shared a matzah ball soup- and the matzah ball was huge! Daniel got a corn beef sandwich, which came with fries, and I got lox and bagel, which came with sweet potato fries. It was delicious!! It was a great lunch to celebrate a new year!! (Check out the pictures on the right!) After we finished eating, we went to the Hong Kong art museum and walked around for a little while. We even ran into some our fellow program participants there! Then we walked to one of the HUGE  malls nearby just to look around. They sell all of the most expensive brands there... and I really mean ALL of them! Soon enough, we were tired from the big lunch and walking, so we went home.

At night, Daniel watched the Wisconsin football game (and much to his delight, they won!), and since the Michigan game aired at 3:30 AM, we DVRed it.  We watched the game together on Sunday and I was happy to find out that Michigan won!! :)

This past Sunday to Monday was Yom Kippur. Unfortunately we had to work while we were fasting, since the holiday is not quite as prevalent here in China. We had some untraditional food: for both pre-fast and break-the-fast we ordered pizza! While not quite the normal lox and bagel, mashed potatoes, brisket, etc... it was still delicious!

This Thursday is National Day here in China (like our Independence Day). This Saturday is Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the moon (this is when the moon is supposedly the brightest and biggest) and has many stories associated with it.  For us, this means a 8 day vacation from October 1-October 8! However, because we are missing so many days of work, we had to work this past Sunday and will be working on Saturday when we get back from vacation. This is just part of the culture in China; even the students had to go to class on Sunday and will have to go on Saturday when they get back.

What are we doing with our time off? Well... on Saturday and Sunday, we will be heading into Hong Kong to meet my parents!!! I'm so excited to see them!! I just realized that they will be here for Mid-Autumn festival, so it's really great that we will all get to experience a Chinese holiday together! Apparently people go up to the top of Victoria Peak and light lanterns. Parks and buildings will all be lit up with lights! Also, there is a "67-metre-long fire dragon" that winds its way through some streets in Tai Hang, which is close to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. I'm so excited!!

Then on Monday, my parents, Daniel and I will all head to the HK airport, and while my parents will be going back to the US, Daniel and I will be on our way to JAPAN!!! We are spending the first 2 nights in Tokyo, the 3rd in Hakone and the 4th in Tokyo. We are coming back on Friday, which is actually the first day back to work, but we don't have any classes on Friday, so we were able to extend our vacation! Hakone is a town about 1.5 hours from tokyo by train, and it has many mountains and hot springs. One website called it the "Yellowstone of Japan". I guess we'll see!

Anyway, I think that's enough for now! We will be sure to update the blog when we get back from our trip!

xo,
Zoie

ps- Even though it's sometimes hard for me to stay awake through an entire game, I still have to give a shoutout to the 4-0 Wolverines! GO BLUE! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Banquet, Football, and I love Slingbox!

Hey Everyone! It's 3:45pm on Monday afternoon and I just finished my one class for the day. So much has happened since my last post, but I'm not going to go to into detail on that. A quick run through includes: Internet broken, good week of classes (mostly), Beach party where a ton of people stayed at our place, I never went to bed the night of the beach party because people kept calling me, Because I didn't have internet, I stayed awake and went to my office to watch the first Wisconsin game, and other than that, thats about all since last time. Of course that is not true, but Im just going to talk about recent events. First of all, the slingbox works GREAT (and is one of the focal points of this post).

Anyway, last Wednesday was National Teacher's Day in China, so our school decided on Friday night to hold a banquet for all the teachers to show their appreciation for all of their hard work (in the first 2 weeks of teaching). If you don't know anything about Chinese banquets, here is a quick summary of what they are like. Sit down, introduce to "big wigs" who are in attendance, have millions of dishes sitting on a lazy susan, and spend the rest of the night walking around toasting with everyone and drinking a ridiculous amount of wine and baijiu (look it up on wikipedia). That really is about it, but ours included something special: a performance was to follow the banquet. One day before the banquet, we were not only notified that there was a banquet to attend, but we were also notified that we had to do a performance during the party portion of the banquet. Zoie and I prepared the Cha Cha song (because it has the dance moves in the song and it would be fun to teach the teachers). That being said, we showed up at the restaurant ready to eat a meager amount of disgusting food, and drink who knows how much disgusting alcohol. As time passed, the Chinese people at our table played their favorite game "Get the Foreigner Drunk." Although they lost, and got a LOT more drunk than I did, they did succeed in making me drink that disgusting baijiu and several glasses of terrible China wine. It came time for the performance part of the show and I could see that Zoie was not too excited to do the Cha Cha dance in front of 100 teachers. Needless to say I wasn't too excited either. With that being said, I decided to take one for the team (because everyone knows I love attention and I love when Chinese people cheer for me). I decided that instead of doing our stupid Cha Cha slide, I would stand up in front of all of my fellow colleagues and sing a song in Chinese. It was a hit, and I know what youre thinking: I really hope I got that on tape! Luckily, Zoie did, and after you finish reading the blog post, please watch....Enjoy!

The next day, Zoie and I met a group of about 8 other people in the city for an all you can eat and drink Japanese tepanyaki dinner. It was wonderful. All the free sushi and hibachi beef and beer and saki and everything you can imagine that can be cooked on a stove and topped with garlic deliciousness was devoured by me that night (and 9 other American gluttons). I had to cut the night short though, because I had a date with my Slingbox and computer that night to watch college football until I fell asleep. About an hour and a half after arriving home, the Wisconsin game started. It was a tough win that Wisconsin finally pulled out around 3:45am here. Although Zoie was sleeping the whole time, I continued to yell and scream at the screen, and pace back and forth during commercials and timeouts. I even think Zoie sleepwalked in here to ask me what happened during the game when I yelled....but she doesn't remember. As my game fantastically ended in the 2nd overtime, I debated watching the Michigan-ND game which was being DVR'ed from the Slingbox. I decided to get some sleep so that Zoie and I could watch it together in the morning. I got about 6 hours of sleep, and woke up to run the my computer to watch the 2nd half of the USC-OSU game. I know I'm crazy, but college football is one of my favorite things in the world, and watching it makes me feel like I'm home! Zoie woke up quite late Sunday morning, but that didn't keep us from watching the Michigan game. I was so proud of her because I never expected her to want to watch the game in its entirety. She even got mad when I would accidentally fast fwd through a play or 2. Even though I had already seen the score, I watched the game with her anyway. It was an extremely exciting game to watch. After watching the game, we decided to head to a grocery store about 15 minutes away. We were so excited to discover that this store sold BONELESS CHICKEN and it was EDIBLE. It also has a great produce section, and a good frozen section. Finally, we can make normal dinners here! Last night we made a chicken and vegetable stir fry and it was delicious. Today I made a dumpling and Hot and Sour soup for lunch and that was delicious as well. We can't wait to make more exciting dishes. We are getting sick of the fried rice and noodle dishes we get everyday from the cheap shop nearby. After dinner last night, we hung around the apartment for a little while, watched some of "How I Met your Mother" (we have now watched all of Seasons 1-3 which is over 60 episodes) until we were getting tired. Because my sleep schedule was off, I was still wide awake. And lucky me.... the Red Sox game started at midnight here, and the Cowboys season opener started at 1am. Even though I had to wake up early, I stayed up to watch the Red Sox win game 1 of the Double header, and the Cowboys begin to dominate the Buccaneers in their season opener....Before I continue, let me recap this weekend in sports: Red Sox, 5 wins in a row! Wisconsin, double overtime victory against a good team to stay 2-0! Michigan, Big win over ND! Cowboys, Big win to start the season. This is about the happiest I can get with it comes to sports, but believe me, you will see all of these teams lose on the same day sometime, and I guarantee I will not be very happy.

This morning, Zoie and I woke up early to head over to the Kindergarten to discuss our schedule for the rest of the semester. We are both working for an hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays to make a little extra cash. Although the amount we are making is not very good, it should be a very fun experience. The kids are extremely cute, and an extra tepanyaki meal once a week cant hurt either! But I'm doing it for the kids...I promise! After the Kindergarten, Zoie and I came home to lesson plan for the rest of the week; it is very nice to only have to plan one lesson per week. It makes our easy job that much easier. We then had lunch (see above) and went to class. Zoie is on her way home from class now. I just walked back a little while ago in the POURING rain. So that brings me to now. We have plans to meet a friend about 15 min away for a surprise party, and then I want to come home and watch the new Entourage episode. That is my plan for the evening. As for the rest of the week? Chinese class starts Wednesday, as does the Kindergarten teaching. Should be a pretty decent week. I am hoping to go to HK this weekend for Rosh Hashanah, and attend a service there. Haven't figured out all the logistics yet. Anyway, my fingers are starting to hurt so I am gonna head out. I hope you all enjoyed this blog entry, and enjoy the video at the end. If you are reading this, then COMMENT. I love to hear from you. Hope all is well and talk to you soon! Miss you all!

Daniel


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Different Sort of First Day of School

Hey Everyone! Sorry it has been a while since I last posted a blog entry. I have been pretty busy with the start of school, so I havent had too much time! Right now I am sitting in my office at the school, waiting for my class after lunch. The students here get 2 hours for lunch, so on Thursdays, when I have a class before lunch, and 2 after, I just decide its easiest to stay here. My school schedule is pretty nice. I have 8 classes a week, and each class lasts 40 minutes. All the students in the classes are from ages 12-14, so they are at the sort of "annoying" stage of their lives. I have 1 class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have 3. So far a few of the classes have been good, but some of them have been pretty bad (naughty as the Chinese say). In addition to the classes I teach here at the Middle School, Zoie and I are thinking about taking up a few classes at the Kindergarten. They want to pay us a little extra dough to teach 3-6 year olds. They are going to be so cute, but I cant imagine babysitting. Oh well, we decided that by teaching, we could each get a free Teppanyaki All You can Eat meal every week. Those are really popular in China, and it is basically all you can eat and drink at a Japanese restaurant where they cook the food in front of you. So...Cute Chinese babies and free Japanese food? Sounds awesome to me!

Last weekend we met our friends in the city, and about 25-30 of us went to KTV (Chinese Karaoke). We had a blast, although cramming 25 people into a room is not the most comfortable of situations. Later that night Zoie and I crashed at our friends house, and woke up early to spend the day shopping for a few essentials for our apartment. We were so excited to begin our day, because a DUNKIN DONUTS just opened down the blog from our friends apartment. Of course, we get there, and the Chinese man working the door had to explain to us that Dunkin Donuts in China opens around noon..... we were not happy, but that didnt stop us from getting a donut before we headed home that day. We also took a trip to Wal-Mart. It was much needed because Zoie and I really don't have a big place in Yantian to shop. There are a few small stores/markets, but no place to really buy things we needed. Zoie bought her essential item (a hairdryer) and I bought mine (speakers so that I can watch football and basketball games on my computer throughout the year....loudly). Which reminds me....for those of you I have yet to tell, my parents hooked me up with slingbox! This basically means I now have FULL control over one of the TV's in my house. Although at first I think Zoie may have been a little upset thinking that I was going to spend all day and night watching Sportscenter and Wisconsin sporting events, she is now extremely excited because she can watch Gossip Girls, Greek, Monk, etc... We were both excited to find out that we can DVR shows as well! Needless to say, we are both extremely excited about the fact that we can keep up with American TV as well as have something that reminds us of home every now and then. Anyway, that was a little off topic....So after wal-mart, we went with our friends Greg and Maury to eat Dim Sum. Although we were a little late, we found some great cheap dishes! Following lunch, we went back to Maury's to watch Madagascar 2, which was quite a fun movie. After we finished the movie, Zoie and I decide to head back to Yantian, but not before picking up several DVD's. We found a cheap DVD store near the bus stop in Luohu, that sells 9 kuai (approx $1.25) dvd's which are actually great quality. We picked up several movies, and then headed home. Later that night Zoie cooked our second meal in the apartment. She mad a Vegetable stir fry and put that over some spaghetti. It was very good, even though we need to buy something to give it a little more flavor. Its not easy to cook here. They dont have stoves or ovens in China, so we are forced to use a hotplate to cook all of our meals. If you have any good ideas or recipes, feel free to pass them along. Its crazy what China will do to you! My favorite foods here happen to be veggies. I didn't really eat eggplant at home, and every meal I see myself ordering it. Oh about meals, I forgot to say earlier...Zoie and I had subway the other night in Luohu, and although it tastes SLIGHTLY different than America, it is still VERY good (and refreshing).

I know this may be the most boring of blog posts, but maybe some of it is interesting to some people.....or probably not. What other things have I yet to mention? OH, this weekend there is a Full Moon Party here at the beach where we live. We are very excited because we are expecting a lot of our friends and people from the program to attend (and we don't even have to take a bus!). I personally am excited for the party, but I am more excited for what is to come after.... My alarm will be set to 6:45am so I can wake up and watch the Wisconsin game at 7am here. I know I can DVR it and watch it later, but no. I want to watch it live, and for the people that are staying at our apartment, they have to suffer all morning when I play the fight song and the whole game through my new speakers! The party itself is all you can drink from 8pm-3am, so I may not get much sleep, but that will not keep me from watching Wisconsin begin its road to the national championship (wishful thinking? maybe but who cares). Other than that, thats about it. Next Monday, Zoie and I may try out one of the restaurants at a nice hotel here in Yantian, just so we can relieve ourselves of a day of Chinese food. The food here isn't bad, but eggplant, spicy greenbeans, dumplings, fried rice, and beef, get a little bleh sometimes. But I must say...with free lunches at our school, and a thing of dumplings and rice at our favorite restaurant around the corner, we can easily spend less than 3 dollars on food for one day! China is pretty awesome in that sense.

A few funny teaching stories before I end this extremely long post. 1) Some Chinese students have some pretty funny English names. Some include: Forrest Gump, Piggy, Kobe, Blue, Monkey, Bubble, Bob, No Name (yes, he said that IS his English name), Angel, Kuki (pronounced Cookie), Love Fish, Michael Jackson, Heesica?, and many more. 2) Some students are SO eager to learn,and some students could care less. But, it is so refreshing to know that even 1 kid in the class is excited about learning English. In every class thus far, I have had a least 1 student come up to me and introduce themselves to me and tell me how much they want to learn and how much they want to progress. That makes this experience worth it! 3) When I arrive in class and when I leave class, the students stand up and say "Good Morning/Afternoon Mr. Daniel" and "Goodbye Mr. Daniel" except for those little shits in class 5 (pardon my Chinese). The also salute you a lot of the time when they see you walking the halls, and when they are late to class, they stand at the door as ask for permission to enter. Its pretty need to see how disciplined they are in that regard, but I can promise you this: for those of you who thought I would not have to deal with discipline problems, you are wrong. Regardless of what you think, they are still 12-14 year olds, and they are going to act like it. Supposedly classes 5-8 are smarter and better than classes 1-4, so I am hoping that this afternoon is gonna be better (I have classes 6 and 8). We will see. Anyway, I guess I should head to class. Only 2 more today, then I am done for the week! Ill keep you updated on the rest of my week and weekend! I hope everyone is doing well, and I hope to hear back from you soon. For those of you who have emailed me, I am SO sorry I never emailed back. Now that I have a little more time to use the computer, I will be better, I promise. Talk to everyone soon! Love to all!

Mista Daniel

oh and.....Go Badgers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pictures!

Yay! We are finally able to upload pictures to Picasa (Google's photo album program)! Everyone check out our photos via the links on the right of the page! They will be organized by album... so far we just have the Great Wall album up, but we hope to have more uploaded by the end of the day! Enjoy!!

A Few Videos For Your Viewing Pleasure!

Video 1: Zoie Climbing the Steps TO the Great Wall

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Video 2: Great Wall Luge - Instead of climbing down the Great Wall, we decided to do as the Mongolians did: Luge.

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Video 3: Group Stuck on the Luge

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Video 4: 9 People Crammed in The Gypsy Cab Coming Home From the Summer Palace

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Is There A Gong Upstairs?

That's what I asked myself as I awoke to a loud, steady "bong... bong... bong...", which must be someone doing construction on one of our neighbor's bathrooms, but instead sounds like it is within our own.

Anyway, since I'm already awake, I figured I would elaborate on Daniel's post. Last night, after Daniel and I went to NYPD (actually pretty good pizza!) with a group of CTLCers, we headed home on the subway with some friends. Since we live in a different area, they got off of the subway at the stop before us, and we were alone by the time we got off at the next stop. We had to switch to a bus, but since it was the first time we had taken this route, we had to stop to ask people where the bus stop was. As we stopped to ask someone where the bus was, three little girls trying to sell roses approached us, saying "mai le", which means "buy". We said "Wo bu yao" which means "I don't want it", but this did not discourage them. Instead, one girl grabbed the back of my shirt, and started pulling on it. Soon, the girl that was following Daniel (and maybe trying to pickpocket him?) joined in, and grabbed my shirt. Finally, the third girl wrapped herself around my right leg, like a monkey (and like I used to do to my sister when I was trying to be annoying :)). Eventually, Daniel was able to help me get all of them off of me, and we were able to get on the bus. The weirdest part was that there were other people around, but they just watched the foreigner get accosted. It was such a bizarre situation... it really made me feel uncomfortable and a little unsafe for the first time in China, because 1. you don't know who those girls are affiliated with (think Slumdog Millionaire) and 2. you can't just start hitting little kids, yet they are clearly invading your personal space.

Anyway, we got on the bus and made it back to our quiet neighborhood, with no other problems. Since it's 20 minutes later and the gong still hasn't stopped, here's another story, though much less exciting that the last. Three people came to our apartment to fix our bathroom sink and our kitchen sink. This was great because we had heard that in China, sometimes it takes a long time and a lot of pestering to get things fixed, yet for us, they came on the day they said they would. As one guy got to work, the other man and woman just stood around. Why they needed to be there, I have no idea. But since it was taking a little time, the man started looking around our apartment. I hung one picture of Daniel and I on the wall, which he inspected. Then he found the pile of pictures I am planning on posting on the wall, and without asking, just picked them up and started looking through the pile. After he was done examining them, he went over to our kitchen light and started knocking on it. By that point, the man was done fixing our sink, so the snooper could snoop no more. Just goes to show another difference between American and Chinese culture-- no value of personal space or things here.

Pictures to come!
Zoie

Finally Moved In!

Hey Everyone! Sorry its been so long since the previous post, but we have been EXTREMELY busy. Zoie and I are now finally settled onto our place in Shenzhen. For those of you who may not know about the layout of Shenzhen, it is a huge city comprised of seven districts. Zoie and I are located in Yantian, which is the smallest district of Shenzhen, and within Yantian, we are in a small area called Dameisha. The great part about Dameisha, although very small and not very city-like, is that it is a beach town. Our apartment is about at 10 minute walk from the public beach, which on weekdays is pretty quiet. On weekends, the public beach can get pretty crowded, especially in the summer. If that is the case, we have the option of driving about 20 minutes to a smaller private beach. It costs 20 kuai, and is supposedly a cleaner, prettier beach. Unfortunately we are a little far from everyone else. The other people in Yantian are about a 15-20 minute bus ride away, and our other close friends are at least an hour away by bus. The subway doesnt stop in our part of the city so that is sort of a bummer. Since so much has happened recently, I am going to try to outline it quickly so everyone doesnt get too bored.

Apartment: Zoie and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment which is supposedly one of the nicest apartments on the program. We really lucked out with our placement, and the school we teach at is one of the best in all of Shenzhen. A few quick apartment stories. Story 1. The first night we were here, we found a HUGE roach in the bathroom. While Zoie stood on top of her bed panicking and yelling that she wanted to go back to america, I was planning my plot to kill this beast. I began by locking him in our shower and sprayed him with the bug repellent I had in my suitcase. Of course, that did not work so I tried my second technique: I tied a show to the end of a broomstick, stood on top of the toilet, and tried "stomp" out the roach with the shoe......that was unsuccessful, as the shoe did not have the requisite force needed to end the bug's life. I was running out of ideas, and not only that, but I was started to get really tired and sweaty, while at the same time I was trying to keep Zoie calm (at this point her fears were almost gone as she could only laugh at my scheming to kill this bug). And finally, I had a great idea: I stood over the shower (on top of the toilet), and held a big bottle of soap above the still creature. As I positioned the bottle in what I thought was the perfect place, I let go..... It was a direct hit, and all that was left was to sweep out the remains of the bug and revel in my victory as I tossed the carcass 5 floors off of my balcony. I went to bed a hero that night. (As Zoie was showering tonight, she found another one....we bought spray and he was dead immediately. Daniel-2, Roaches-0 ) --- Other things about the apartment. Our friends Maury and Greg spent the night here the other night so that was nice. I have a feeling that our apartment will be filled with people on the weekends, so that should be exciting. Next weekend, Greg and I are planning on staying up all night Saturday night, so we can watch the Wake Forest vs Baylor game (he went to Wake) at 3:30am, and then the Wisconsin game at 7:00am. Dad, Im counting on you to expediate the SlingBox process. So in conclusion, our apartment is great for the most part. We have found some good food around here. Cheap noodles and dumplings, and pretty soon we will start to cook some meals. We cooked raman the other night so that was a big step. I'll keep you updated on all of that.

Other: Tonight Zoie and I took the bus into Futian (another Shenzhen province) to meet with people at NYPD (NY Pizza Department). Our 12inch pizza was delicious, and it was definitely worth the 1.5 hour commute. We were going to stay at our friends, but I have been sick now for a while and Zoie wasn't feeling to well, so we decided to make the trek home. Theres quite a good story involved at the subway station, but I'll let Zoie tell that one soon. Let's just say it was the first time I have ever contemplated body-slamming a 7-9 year old. No jokes. Anyway, it was a fun night, and it was nice to meet up with people and see how everyone was doing.

School/Teachers/Contact Teacher: A few quick things about our school. We met a few people at our school and they are all really nice. They all speak really good English so that is nice. Hopefully they will want to help us with our Chinese too. We visited the school the other day, and we found out that we only teach 8 classes a week, and 40 minute classes each. The school wants us to have time to get really involved, so our work load is very small compared to most teachers. Our classes will have about 40 kids, so it really wont be too bad. Wednesday and Friday we get a free ride into the Futian (the main part of the city) for Chinese classes. We arent sure how long we will have to be at school most days, but I cant imagine being that busy. We should have a very exciting and not too stressful year. Our contact teacher and a few other teachers/deans from our school took us to dinner the other night. We had a great meal comprised of pigeon, blowfish (if its cut incorrectly, it is poisonous), and other random foods. Another thing about food is that our school provides us with free breakfast and lunch everyday. Although the food is probably terrible, it is still really nice that we get that for free. I am hoping to get really involved in the school. Zoie and I want to start some clubs, and I really want to play sports with the teachers at the school. They have really nice basketball courts and badminton courts. So I am hoping to stay in shape as well.

Train Ride: Not much to say here. The train ride was fine. It was about 24 hours, and we just kind of hung out, ate snacks, played cards and catchphrase, anything we could do to pass the time.

I cant really think of much else, although I know I am missing a lot. I'm pretty exhausted so I think I'm going to hit the hay for the day. If I wake up early, I'll check out the Red Sox game, if not, I'll finally get a lot of sleep. Not much to do tomorrow, so hopefully I can continue to get better. For those of you who have messaged me on Facebook, it is blocked so I rarely am able to get on. For everyone starting school/a new job, good luck and keep me updated! I hope to hear back from everyone whether it is a comment, or just a quick email. I am hoping that I can post pictures and videos soon. Anyway, all is well here, and I can't wait to hear back from people. Talk to everyone soon!

Love from China, Daniel

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Quick Post!

Hi everyone!

Today (Tues, the 18th) is the day we are leaving for Shenzhen! We are about to drop off our bags to get shipped to Shenzhen, which we won't receive until early on the 20th. The good news is that it will be transported for us to and from hotel to hotel. Since my bag weighs about 70 pounds, that made me pretty happy! :)

After we drop off our bags, the group is heading to the Forbidden City and then we will have lunch. Afterwards, we come back to shower (in showers they had to book for us-- to say I'm a little bit worried about the nastiness of these showers is an understatement. Unfortunately it's either shower there or smell on a 24 hour ride :().

Then we head to the busiest train station in China (at least I think that's what our coordinator said- and I believe it). Our train departs at 8pm. We bought lots of food for the train since the food on the train is gross and expensive.

Yesterday, we took our final exams in both TEFL (the teaching training) and Chinese. The Chinese exam was just an oral exam. Both tests were pretty easy. Last night we received our teaching certificates at a banquet with the whole group. The food wasn't great, but it definitely could have been worse. In fact, we got this delicious salad that may have been the best thing I've had in a while!

Okay, I've got to run since our bags are due downstairs in 45 minutes... otherwise we have to lug them all the way to Shenzhen by ourselves, which with the amount of luggage I have, I think is pretty much impossible!

xoxo
Zoie

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Better Late than Never!!

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the long delay between posts but the internet is blocked here (including blogspot, facebook, and twitter). You can try proxies, but they are hit or miss.

Starting on the 5th, we've been training, teaching, and taking Chinese classes from 8:30 until 4 everyday, with 11:30-1 off for lunch. There are 6 periods per day... my schedule is: 1. training, 2. teaching, 3. lesson planning (basically a free period), lunch, 4&5. Chinese, and 6. lecture about teaching. Dan's schedule is the same except that periods 2 and 3 are switched. Dan and I teach the same group of students. They are between 14 and 16 years old, and even though they are considered "juniors" (which is the same as middle school in America), they are very advanced. These students take English classes all day long, for all 6 periods of the day... it's basically a 2 week intensive English camp taught by CTLCers. (CTLC is the name of the program we are doing). We teach on whatever topics we want... we've done food, movies, museums, the beach, weather, holidays, stranded island, pirates, aliens, etc. The point is just to get them to speak in English, expand their vocabulary, and to teach them about US culture. Since we've made so many lesson plans, transitioning to teaching in Shenzhen will be much easier. Sometimes we have meetings from 4-5 or 6pm, so the days can get long. Lately it's been getting easier, just between the training winding down and the teaching and lesson planning getting easier.

The people on our program are awesome-- a very eclectic mix. Right now, Dan and I are hanging out with Maury and Greg, trying to decide what to do for dinner tonight. They went to Wake Forest and they rock. We've met a lot of people, and since there are about 90 CTLCers, it seems like we meet a new person everyday. Moving to Shenzhen is going to be a big change, since we are all together now, and in Shenzhen, we will all be spread around a HUGE city. Some parts can be 1.5 hours or more away from each other. We won't find out where we will be placed or what age group we are teaching until Aug 22nd.

Since we are busy until about 4:30 everyday (including the weekends), we haven't seen much of Beijing. They did give us a day off to see the Great Wall and Summer Palace. The Great Wall was beautiful, and we really lucked out with the weather. It was actually clear (no visible pollution) and blue, and there was even a small breeze. The part of the wall we went to was called Mutianyu. We had to climb up what felt like a million stairs just to get to the wall, and of course, once we were on it, there were more stairs to climb. We took lots of pictures and videos and will hopefully post them soon. In order to get down from the wall, we took a metal luge. The luge was fun-- one person per luge, and you controlled your own brake/speed. Unfortunately, the people in front of us kept stopping, but nevertheless, it was still really fun- kind of like a water slide without the water.

Afterwards, all of the CTLCers ate lunch together (typical Chinese food served family style). A bunch of us headed to the Summer Palace where we saw a boat made out of marble.

Speaking of food, there are some days when we spend 3 kuai (slang for renminbi) on breakfast (about 50 cents), 5 kuai for lunch (about 75 cents), and 10-15 kuai on dinner (about 1.5-2.25 dollars), and maybe another 6-8 kuai on water (about a dollar). That adds up to about $4.50. Of course, we did splurge on a few meals, like Mexican last night. One can only live on rice and noodles for so many meals in a row!!

The night before we went to the Great Wall, everyone went out since we didn't have to teach the following day. We went to a beer garden (which are surprisingly plentiful in Beijing) and to a club called Vics. Vics was your typical Chinese club-- huge, tons of flashy lights, and many different rooms. Even though it was a Monday night, it was still pretty crowded, but the drinks were buy 1, get 1 free!!

We leave for Shenzhen on the 18th, after we visit Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. Then around 8pm, we will be boarding a 24-30 hour train to Shenzhen!

Daniel and I are using our Chinese... unlike last summer, we are some of the better Chinese speakers here, so we talk to the waitresses and cab drivers. It's fun to be able to communicate with people here and it makes things much easier!

We will try to update more frequently, so we can avoid these long posts. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, but Daniel can add his 2 cents later!

Much love from Beijing! We miss you all!

Zoie and Daniel

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chillin' In Japan!

Hey everyone! I'm sitting here in the JAL Lounge of the Tokyo airport and thought I would write a quick post. I arrived about an hour and a half ago, and its now 2:30pm here in Japan. For those of you who don't know, I was upgraded to first class, so I had an AMAZING flight. Not only did I have a seat that went into a full bed, but I was offered anything imaginable: from beef fillet to various Japanese dishes. It was a wonderful way to travel, and because I didn't sleep the night before, I was able to sleep almost 2/3 of the flight. Also, just shortly after take-off, we flew directly over the Grand Canyon. It was a spectacular view of the canyon, and helped get the flight off to a great start!

Now, I am just waiting in the lounge for my next flight to board. I was able to catch some people on video chat which was really nice, and connect with my family which was nice as well. On a slightly different note, the toilets in the bathroom here have built in bidets. Awesome! Currently, I'm debating on whether or not to shower here. Anyway, I just wanted to give everyone a quick updated. Hopefully my flight will be on time to Beijing, and I will have no trouble getting a taxi and making it to my hotel. Wishful thinking maybe, but I'm really excited and eager to get back to China! I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and depending on what my internet situation is like in Beijing, I hope to be connecting with many of you soon!

Daniel

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Leaving Tomorrow!

Hi everyone!

I can't believe how fast the time has flown! I leave tomorrow at 12:10pm and arrive in Beijing on Monday at 1:50 pm (which is 1:50 am in NJ). I'm excited and nervous all at once, but I think that this will be an experience of a lifetime. It still doesn't feel like I'm leaving for a whole year!

Anyway, it's time for my last delicious mom-cooked dinner for a while. Make sure to subscribe to our blog and leave lots of comments! Emails are always appreciated as well :)! Check back soon for our first China entry, hopefully full of videos and pictures (as long as the internet permits)!

Zoie

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pre-Departure Words

Hey Everyone! First of all, thanks for checking out our blog! Its Friday morning, and I leave for China in less than 3 days! I can't believe I'll be away for a full year! I'm almost done packing, and I'm spending the rest of my time in Waco hanging out with my family before my long day ahead. Ill be leaving Waco on August 2, at about 6am, and I arrive in Beijing Aug 3, at 9:15pm. I fly from Waco to Dallas, Dallas to Tokyo, and Tokyo to Beijing. The following day I begin my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training. After about 2 weeks in Beijing, I leave for SHENZHEN where I will be living for the remainder of the year. I look forward to keeping up with everyone, and I love to read comments regarding what I have written. If the internet connection is good, Zoie and I are going to try to video blog from various places around China. Anyway, thats all for now. Keep checking in on our blog and don't forget to check my Twitter for quick updates! I hope to talk to everyone soon!

Daniel