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