Dag Yo, I’m In Jinzhou!

As mentioned, I’ve successfully made it to China – and have been “stationed” in a small city just outside of Dalian called Jinzhou (pronounced jin-joe, sorta).

My last few days getting accustom to everything here has been a bit daunting, but taken in good form none the less. I left FAR too late from Chris and Jeremy’s house on Friday morning (damn journal posting!) but thankfully caught a cab without too much hassle and headed to the MUNI station, then the BART station and got to the airport at 1:04 p.m., with my flight at 1:35, I was a bit concerned.

Rustling up a zen-like acceptance, I went to the check-in counter and asked if I was too late. She checked and with a good amount of surprise said I wasn’t, that they were still bording, but said she’d have to rush me through the security line (cool). I was pushed to the head of the line and then waited while the rest of the line behind me trickled passed (not so cool). Apparently my ticket had SSSS printed on it and that means RANDOM SECURITY CHECK. Honestly.

So about 20 minutes and a pat down that should have required dinner first by the security official I was waved down by a woman asking if I was Mr. McLaughlin… and then told to get my ass to the gate, the ENTIRE plane was waiting for me. Let me tell ya, I’ve never felt so special.

I got onboard, praying that my luggage was as lucky – especially when the captain made a special announcement (which seemed specifically directed at me) that he was sorry for the delay but because of some late no-shows, some luggage had to be taken off the plane.

Accepting that I had no ability to sort the problem out then and there, I nestled in for my 12 hour flight. Four movies, two meals, some beer, wine and pretzels later I touched down in Beijing. After a infinite wait in line at the customs counters I found my luggage and carried on to my flight to Dalian. Where as there was a good number of laowai (foreigners) coming from San Francisco, it was just me and a sea of Chinese heading to Dalian – regardless, the flight went well and touching down I quickly located two smiling individuals with a sign that read: AES/Future School.

In a series of events that happened far too fast for my well-sleepy mind to properly discern, I was swept into a small van, thrown a bag of McDonald’s burgers and a small orientation kit (complete with muffins and milk) and trucked to Jinzhou. En route David (the city manager for the school) filled me in on some of the details, but being new to the job was not certain on some things – but it was good to have a Western face to bounce questions off in those first few hours.

After a bit of cell-phone debate we found our way to my new home and met up with my manager, Sherry, there. She is Chinese, but speaks solid English and is quite nice. Hiking up to the 7th floor with all my luggage we were greeted by my roommate Tom, a New Zealander at the tail end of his 6 month contract.

After a bit of chit-chat the entourage left and Tom and I got acquainted as he showed me the ins and outs of our place (ie. how the toilet works, etc.).

The following morning (for everyone here at least – to me it was more like the night before… damn jetlag) Sherry met me at the appartment and we walked the 20 minute trek to the school. Located on a pedestrian street (no cars), the school is two floors in a building above various merch shops. I haven’t had a great tour of the classes or anything yet, but have been given a desk in the teachers’ office and met much of the staff.

At about noon I was invited to a wedding. Yup, leave it to me to stumble my way into a wedding my first day in a foreign country. Actually the ceremony was over, but I got to experience a full-on Chinese reception, complete with singing, drinking and FOOD (so that’s what sea cucumber tastes like). The two people getting married were two Chinese teaching assistants at the school, so there were a bunch of us western teachers there, and it was a load of fun.

Tom, Matthew Brandon and Matthew Gordon.

The bride and groom (in the middle) doing a traditional shot of booze with guests.

Around this time I also got introduced to my two neighbours – Matthew and Matthew; two Brits also teaching at the school. Between Matt, Matt, Tom and myself we make up all the English teachers at the school – so it’s quite a tight knit group. Tom only teaches on the weekends and spends most his week in Dalian with his girlfriend there, so I imagine that I’ll be seeing a lot of my neighbours.

After the wedding I returned to the apartment and when Tom got home he showed me around the neighbourhood. Initially when we drove up to my apartment I was worried that Jinzhou was just a sea of apartment buildings with very little support (shopping, restaurants, etc.) making it a pretty boring place to live – but in daylight I was shown wrong. Within walking distance there are a number of restaurants, markets, a grocery store, a music shop, DVD/VCD shops, etc. And better that, all cabs in Jinzhou are a fixed rate of 8 kuai (or yuan) or about the equivilant of a buck.

I met up with M&M at dinner time and we hopped into a taxi and they took me out to eat at a local hotpot restaurant. Hotpot is a delicious way of traditional Chinese cooking where in the middle of your table is a pot with a flame under it. The pot is filled with seasoned water (spicy on one side and not spicy on the other). You then order various meat and veg, which you place in the boiling water for a bit to cook it and then you pull it out and either eat it with rice or dip it first into a savoury peanut sauce.

After dinner we headed back to thier apartment to sip some beer (like 2 kuai, or $0.25 a bottle) and watched a pirated copy of The Shield (US and British TV series are somewhat un-difficult to get here via pirated means, as are most recently released – to theatres – movies).

Yesterday Tom and I hung around the apartment until about 2 p.m. and then he took me down to a local market where I could buy virtually any sort of meat I wanted (including, donkey, sea ray, dog, giant prawns, turtle, etc.) as well as chili peppers (I’ll be able to make some Thai dishes!). We then went down to the school so he could pick up his pay and I could figure out the plan to get to Orientation in Dalian tomorrow with Sherry. One thing I forgot to mention is that in the made dash from the airport I neglected to obtain any Chinese money, but thankfully Sherry leant me 200 kuai and I was able to exchange $15 US yesterday at a local bank. It would seem that none of the local ATMs will accept my bank card, but a quick check of the Net showed me the location of not less than 15 ATMs in Dalian that accept PLUS cards – so that’s top of my list of things to do while in the city for orientation tomorrow.

Returning home Tom and I grabbed some dinner at a restaurant in our little complex of buildings, the waitress there was very nice and though she doesn’t speak much English, I think it will be a reasonably comfortable experience going there without Tom – it helps that he wrote down for me some dishes to ask for.

Tom’s off to Dalian shortly, and I’ll be left to myself in our nice, albeit freezing apartment (the radiators are all controlled by a master switch somewhere, and I guess the warm water, like me, has a difficult time getting to the top floor of this building – the price you pay to live in the penthouse… hahaha). I am going to grab some candles today and see if that helps to warm the place, I am grateful that I brought some blankets with me – not just to cover the cold, but to cover the god-aweful pink comforter that I’ve been provided with.



The apartment is a great size and has awesome acoustics (high ceilings) for playing guitar – of which Tom has, so I’ll be using his until I decide to fork out the 200 kuai for my own (honestly… that’s like $15… absolutely ridiculous). I don’t start classes until next Monday, so I have loads of time to further get accustom to life here, but it’s shaping up to be quite an adventure and I’m already loving it. The language is a challenge, but I’m working on it – and I think the lessons will definitely help. Plus Tom and the Matthews are both reasonably fluent, so that will help too.

Living Room


My bedroom, a bit sparse, but I have a bed, a desk and a nice big window.

And a wardrobe… sounds so posh.

Oh! And on yet another positive note – my GameCube works like a charm. Thank god for that, I was quite worried it was going to be the bulkiest, most expensive paperweight I’ve ever had the poor luck of travelling with.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *