To say it’s passed quickly would short-sell the things I’ve done since arriving in China, many of which were in my New Year’s post from a week ago (marriage, Web sites, etc.). It does feel like it’s flown by though.
As might be guessed by this blog and the fact that I am in fact a writer by vocation, I like to write. As such, I also keep a (now poorly updated) hand-written journal. Here is the first entry I wrote in China (a few days after I landed).
Friday, January 14, 2005 – 12:58 pm
It’s essentially been a week since I touched down in Dalian – and despite the best of my efforts, I’m still quite lost.
I’m sitting in the reception of my school writing this while intermittently trying to catch the eye of the cute secretary [ed. the woman that would become my wife]
I was met at the airport by the new deputy city manager, David, and the foreign affairs officer, Jason. I was a bit surprised to learn that I would not directly be working in Dalian, but rather a slightly smaller satellite city called Jinzhou.
Now when I say “small” and “in China” I know I previously would have pictured little rural towns with curved-shingle roofs and dragon sculptures – this very much not the case.
Jinzhou is a growing city with rows and rows of towering apartment complexes, shopping areas, hordes of people, and nearly as many taxis and restaurants.
We arrived at my new apartment and despite being on the 7th floor and having no elevator, I was quite impressed with the digs. High ceilings, wood floors, etc. I admit I was picturing a small, run-down, dirty place, and this was a pleasant surprise.
However, it’s not without complaints – a smell emanates from any open drain, the toilet (if left with the water on) leaks and there is virtually no heat
Though it is a three room unit I am there alone most of the time as one room is left empty and my Kiwi roommate only works part-time weekends, and spends the rest of the time in Dalian with his Chinese girlfriend.
The only two other English teachers (foreign at least) in Jinzhou live next door and, along with their dog, are both named Matthew.
They hail from the UK and are childhood friends. I had dinner with them my second night here, but otherwise have not had much contact with them.
Speaking of my second (first real) day here – I was invited to a wedding. I mean, leave it to me to get invited to a wedding fresh off the airplane and in a new country (my 3rd day in Bangkok I went to a stranger’s birthday). The event was quite tame compared to Western standards. I didn’t see the ceremony, but the reception was at a local restaurant and consisted of singing, photo taking and food – god there was there food!
Essentially the Chinese style of eating involves a plethora of dishes to continuously be added to a large rotatable disc in the centre of the table. I had everything from raw salmon to sea cucumber (a.k.a. sea slug). By and by it was delicious and a great intro to Chinese food and culture.
Food is actually one of the few traditional/cultural things to have survived the “Cultural Revolution.” [ed. ya don’t say]
My last two days have been largely spent in Dalian at Future School #3 for teacher orientation and training. The two-day course was good and worked well to ease some of my fears about hitting the classroom on Monday.
It also gave me the opportunity to meet some other new teachers, though they all live a 40-minute taxi ride away.
Being in Dalian gave me a chance to try, some what desperately, to locate an ATM that would accept my card. Having tried half the ATMs in Jinzhou with no luck I was getting nervous that my well saved money would be indefinitely stuck in my account.
Had it not been for the kindness of my location manager, Sherry, I would have been in some trouble. She loaned me 200 kuai (about $25), which saw me through my first few days. Then after my first day of training, and a tour of Dalian while trying to find a working bank, I returned defeated and Sherry gave me a 800 yuan advance on my salary.
Fortunately, after training yesterday Sherry took me to where my Lonely Planet said there was an ATM that accepted PLUS cards and I was rewarded with a few thousand kuai.
So, after a big end-of-training dinner with my class I went to Carrefour (like Tesco or Walmart) with Sherry and spent some cash on making life more livable here – namely with slippers, a scarf and long johns.
I’ve also bought a rice cooker and am looking forward to cooking up some food tonight, which reminds me – I need to make a shopping list and get some goods – but first I think I’ll take a look around the school…
Alright, alright… I never said I was insightful or interesting in my personal journal … but still, the bit about Maggie was kinda cool eh? Funny how that all worked out.
So, here’s to another year in the Middle Kingdom. Every year a little greener, but now not from the lack of experience.