So tomorrow China’s going to space, again. I am not sure if it’s been all over the news or not as I’m still on dial-up and haven’t been able to keep current with anything – but I doubt it, I mean 20-30,000 people just died in Pakistan. Two years ago China sent the first Chinese man into space, and despite being decades late for any sort of claim to fame, you wouldn’t know it from the tickertape still lining the hearts of most Chinese when you mention the name Yang Liwei.
I’m guessing China will -eventually- be the second country to land on the moon, just a tad shy of four decades after Neil coined that “One small step for man…” phrase. When I asked Maggie why it was so important to go to the moon so long after it had been done, she said that China wants to be the 2nd for national pride. Now I laughed at this initially because I thought it was hilarious that it was even an issue… but then I clued in that it’s not a race to be second, but a race to beat the Japanese there. Now, again, I’m not 100% on this, and it’s all conjecture, but I’m pretty sure the Japanese aren’t even aware they’re in a space race with their big, red neighbours.
Anyway, that leads me into two things: 1) despite their best efforts to give me loads of things to whinge and joke about, I’m now officially making an active effort to stop bitching about the Chinese and the country that contains them (and me). After countless dead-end talks with the woman I love about the country she gets her cultural identity from, I’ve realized that it is just far too easy to spend all day focusing on the bad things in this country and I’ve got better things to do (like finding the good things). 2) I am really, really getting high speed. This dial-up crap sucks ass as I can never get any pages to load, I spend loads of cash just waiting for things to upload/download/load in general… and more often than not I just spend my time waiting for something to happen. Initally I hoped having dail-up would keep my tush off the computer for so many hours a day, but now I’m realizing it just bottlenecks the time I spend on the computer. I can’t get new programs or new music, can’t read the news or keep in touch with people, can’t regularly update my blog (gasp!).. and generally it just makes me less cool.
A somewhat desolate looking Jinshitan.
So… what’s new? Well… because of the National Day holiday (Happy 56th PRC!!) last week, all the kiddies had to go to school this weekend, giving us Future School teachers a rare weekend off. This motivated someone to organize a Future 4 day at the beach. After trying, unsuccessfully, to convince Maggie to come (the “I know it’ll likely suck, I know no one goes to the beach in October, but c’mon…” didn’t work)… about 15 of us (the foreign teachers and a load of Chinese staff as well) headed up to Jinshitan and had a wonderful day drinking in the sun. Ok, well us foreigners drank… the Chinese people did their best to hide from the sun while playing various games.
The Future 4 crew:  My roommate, Ryan Wang.  Maeve from Belfast.  Cam, from England, and her visiting boyfriend.  Scott feeding the wolf.  The school’s manager, Esther.  My Chinese teacher and TA, Carol with her boyfriend.
As evening approached we headed back to the lightrail station and I got Maggie to meet the lao wai in Kaifaqu, where we had an excellent meal of North Korean food at “3,000 Miles” an excellent N. Korean restaurant I’ve now been to several times and not once been disappointed. It’s difficult being let down by a place when they top off good food with singing/dancing Korean girls. It’s a bit surreal sitting, eating your meal, and then watching your waitress strap on an electric guitar, nod to her co-worker and then start jamin’ out a combination of Korean and Chinese songs.
 In true Chinese style, the girls were kind enough to cover him in newspaper first.  I’m still at a loss as to what the idea of this was, but I was game for taking a photo.  Now that’s a skill, how many people can work an umbrella and play catch?  Christina and Sophie hiding from the sun – notice the long johns – it wasn’t exactly cold…
The last couple days I’ve been doing mostly a fat load of nothing. I’m getting into a bit of a routine for practicing Chinese and I’ve started picking up writing. I wasn’t going to focus too much on writing, as between writing, reading and speaking, it’s the least needed. However, a lot of people have told me that if you can read the characters, speaking is a lot easier to understand, and to remember the characters, writing is a great way to help your memory. It’s slow, but going well. There are just a load of Chinese characters, but for functional, everyday language there’s about 3,000 (covers 99% of everyday language), of this about 925 construct the majority of commonly written things (about 90%). So, it’s a lot of little lines to learn, but it’s doable.
And we didn’t even tip…
I’ve also finally broken down and bought a new guitar. Since my first month here I’ve had this crappy 200 kuai piece of junk and it’s finally worn thin on my patience for playing it. So, it’s taking a seat next to my old laptop and I’ve now got a much nicer, richer sounding Johnson acoustic. It was 600 RMB, but in my opinion worth every penny.
And the final bit of business… Dalian now has a Subway Sandwiches shop!!! After coming out of Xinhua Bookstore yesterday a big green and yellow sign beamed at me from across the street. I swear to you, I nearly fell down in a fit of happiness. Maggie must have thought I was completely mad for being so excited about some fastfood sub place, and I am sure some of you in the comforts of your western world may agree with her – but if you’ve had three choices for fastfood – McDonalds/KFC/random Chinese food – for the past 9 months, you might sympathize. It’s only been open a little less than a month, and the girl (ahem, Sandwich Artist) said a lot of the customers are foreigners. Both her and her manager/boss/laoaban spoke great English (more than I can say for the staff at KFC), and I can see this place quickly becoming a hotspot for lao wai. Maggie seems certain no Chinese people are going to dig it, but I think as more and more Chinese people sort out that growing waists and heart disease are directly proportional to their trips to KFC and Micky Ds… Subway and other healthy alternatives are going to blossom here.
So, if that #1 thing above doesn’t work out – hell, I’ve got a new guitar and Subway!!
Oh – here are some pics of my “new” apartment:
 Bedroom: a bit bigger and brighter than the last, and with a nice big bed.  Livingroom: alright, a bit sparse on furniture. That’s Maggie studying hard at the far end.  The balcony.  The view from the balcony looks towards downtown Dalian and the sea/shipyards.  My new computer.