Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Blog Is Closed

Thanks for reading, everyone!  This blog is now closed; no new posts will be added.  However, it will remain available for your viewing pleasure.  If you'd like to leave a comment, please do it soon, before I close comments. 

Please click over to my new blog, you don't have to read II (and if you have an suggestions for a better title, I'm listening).  There, you will find the vast majority of the posts from you don't have to read and China Trippin', as well as all the new posts from my new life in Shanghai, China.  This new blog will be easier for me to work with in China. 

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home Sweet Home

So landing in the US was kind of a trip. They showed some practical joke show on the plane right before landing, which eliminated landing anxiety for most people, but I hate practical joke shows; I manually turned my screen to black and looked out the window, to find we were already at treetop level and descending.

Passport control asked me why I was in China and what I was doing there. Not really much of a thing. Then, waiting for my bags, one of the Homeland Security Agents whose job it is to size up and intimidate the recent arrivals saw me waiting for my bag to come down the carrousel, and asked to see my passport and arrival document. Fine, man, I'm woose.No 'good morning,' no 'sir,' no 'please' or 'thank you,' DHS is too busy protecting us from terrorists to bother with pleasantries.

HSD: Can I see your passport and arrival document?

me: Sure. HSD: Where did you go? me: China

HSD: How long were you there?

me: Six weeks.

HSD: What were you there for?

me: Studying Chinese.

HSD: So you speak Chinese now?me: Better than I did six weeks ago.

HSD: Shay shay?

me: Ok, you're welcome... (are you kidingme?)...

HSD: (studying my response)

me: ... You said, "thank you."HSD: Yah, ok I'm workin' here.

He looked at my documents for a few more seconds and I watched the bags come down the ramp. He handed my papers back to me with an "ok" and went to look for the next adult male who looked like he was traveling alone. Two minutes later, another agent, buffer and with a military haircut, came and asked me the same questions, only without the language quiz.

Once I got my bags, I stopped at last check point... and was diverted to agricultural inspection. My bags were scanned another time, and an older, more professional looking agent with better social skills confiscated my beef jerky candies, warned me about the $300 fine. After that, I walked out of the security area.

They took my bags a second time, and I walked out to claim them on the other side. My sister met me at the main baggage claim. Once I got home, it was gifts, shower, nap, lunch (Chinese food!) and then we went out to see the Simpsons' movie.

Tomorrow: unpack, go to the office and clean up my desk, shop for a new computer.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back In Town

This post appears both at China Trippin' and 'you don't have to read.'
Hello from Seoul, Korea.  I will be back in the big 206 about 24 hours from now.
I hope you all have been enjoying my China Trippin' posts over the last few months.  In case you haven't heard the big news, I have resigned my job at the Jesuit high school, where I've taught for the past eight years.  I have accepted an offer from Praxis Language in Shanghai, China to be an academic content director at SpanishSense.com.  I'm very excited about the job, and happy I get to be in China to continue working on Mandarin.
So I have decided to put both 'you don't have to read' and China Trippin' to bed, and start a new blog as I start a new chapter in my life.  I'm especially sad to let go of 'you don't have to read', but alas, the Chinese government blocks blogspot blogs, so I figure that this is as good a time as any to start over with a new platform. 
Of course, the new blog needs a new name.  Here are some of my thoughts, let me know in the comments if you like one in particular, or if you have any other suggestions.
Shanghai Pie
Deng yi xia! (Just a second!)
Kuai yi dian er! (Hurry up!)
Zhili hao.  (Here's good.)
JP's Adventures in Grammar
Ex-patria, Unum
There will be more suggestions:  I gotta go.  Someone is vaccuming and I can't concentrate on thinking of new names. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm on a break!

I'm in China now, I won't be updating this blog for a few more weeks. 

If you want to see how I'm doing, please go to my G-rated, not semi-anonymous blog at:

h t t p :/ / jp goes to china . blogspot . com

No spaces of course.  I'll be back in August.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Classes Start Tomorrow

Today we had our last orientation, which means no more English until mid August.  I wonder how long I'll last.  We students have a system of spelling English words to get around the language pledge.  Spelling is irritating enough to not become a habit, but it gets us through a conversation.  Many of our Chinese roommates know a lot of English vocab. 

They brought us Subway for lunch, which was nice, but it was Chinese Subway, which is not American Subway. Then E and I struck out without Chinese people this time and took the 12 Bus.  First we went to the wrong bus station, then E figured it out and we walked to the right one.  It was freakishly hot. 

Getting Lost, At Last!

We got on the 12 South to find 文三楼口 because E needs a new camera charger.  As usual, we didn't know where to get off, so we totally missed our stop.  We eventually got off at the West Lake, right at the teahouse that I had tea in with the three others a day earlier.  It wasn't our objective, but since we were there, I showed E where the Carrefour (all the French megastores are here), and bought myself some emergency blood sugar peanuts that are GOOD. 

E and I had a plan to take the 12 a little farther south, walk east to the central highway, and catch another bus back.  Didn't happen, missed the stop.  We ended up at the Silk Museum, way south... Got off the bus and started walking across the street for the return bus, but then decided what the hell... We went into the Silk Museum and it turned out to be both free and air-conditioned.  NICE. 

At around 3:30 we took the 12 all the way back campus.  I looked out for 文三楼口 but didn't see it. 

Getting lost on the 12 with E was exactly the thing I needed to do today.  I needed to get lost and find my way back, and rely on our own smarts, and not our Chinese roommates or the GroupThink that happens when more than three Americans strike out to see the town.  I like the 12 a lot now! 


I did my laundry today.  Did I already write about this?  It's lame to wear something different every day and then wash it on the weekend.  I have decided I'm going to have a three day rotation; wash my outfit every night, and then hang it out on the line to dry.  There is no reason in the world to use a dryer here, and there is just not enough space on my clothesline to hang out a week's worth of clothes.  Maybe if I was skinnier....

By the way, I wish I had more polyester guayaveras.  I only brought one.  Cotton absorbs my sweat and then holds the moisture against my skin.  Not comfortable.  I have a whole stack of shirts I don't really want to wear now.  Oh well. 

So to avoid wrinkles, I'm hanging out my clothes without wringing out the water.  I just rinse it out and hang it up.  The weight of the water weighs down the shirt as it drys, so there are less wrinkles.  Came up with that one myself. 

Friday, July 06, 2007

Some backlogged posts...

Hello, from Hangzhou, China! 

It's 4:30 in the morning, and I can't sleep anymore.  My roommate is sleeping, and the room is an echo chamber, so I've brought a chair and my laptop out to the balcony, and I'm typing into word.  I will past it into the blogs later. 

So I landed at Hangzhou International Airport around 2:30.  Breezed through immigration, and by the time I got to baggage claim, my bags were halfway down the belt.  I was relieved to see them, since back in Seoul, the lady at the counter who had given me my boarding pass and checked in my bags said, "Please wait five minutes for your bags to be inspected" as my bags rolled down the belt into an inspection room. 

"Wait where? here?"  I had never heard of this before. 

"Over there," she said, vaguely gesturing to the right.  It just looked like more ticketing to me.  

So I went over to the right and waited, and then went over to a seating area and waited, and then looked at the clock and decided five minutes was up, so I waited a little bit longer.... and then I went through security.  Was somebody supposed to tell me my bags were ok? 

Anyway, so I was glad to see my bags once I got to Hangzhou. 

It's funny to me that Hangzhou is a city of six million, which is the population of the entire state of Washington, and that such a big city is considered a medium-sized city here.  The airport is relatively small. 

So anyway, I found myself alone at the airport around 3pm, and the airport rendez-vous wasn't until 5:30.  Here I was stuck at this smallish airport with not much to do.  I pulled my gear over to a window ledge—there is very little seating on the concourse—and waited. 

And then I thought, I'm an adult, I shouldn't sit here and wait dutifully for two and a half hours.  What am I afraid of? 

So I stood up and went to the taxi line. 

Before I left my hotel in Seoul, I went to the internet and scribbled down the hanzi of where our school was.  I was in a hurry, so I just copied the hanzi, not the pinyin pronunciation.  And what I scribbled down was not the actual address; roughly, it said 'Zhejian University of Technology, back entrance on some street street, Building 11.'

So I went up to a Mercedes taxi driver and pointed to my scribbles (since I don't remember how to pronounce them). and he shook his head and pointed me to a green taxis, which were lined up behind him.  Just then a whole flock of people came out of the terminal, walked in front of me to claim the next seven cabs.   This is a good thing; I need to see how it's done before I make an idiot of myself. 

So when I decided it was my "turn" I showed my scribbled note to the cab driver, who looked puzzled, but helped me put my gear in the trunk.  When we were on our way, he asked me an important question, which I responded "I don't understand."  He told me he was going to make a phone call, and asked for my note again, and then yelled angrily at whoever was on the phone.  I didn't understand it, but it sounded like, "SOME FREAK HANDED ME A PIECE OF PAPER AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE HELL HE'S GOING, WHERE THE HELL IS THE BACK GATE OF ZUT?  AM I JUST SUPPOSED TO GO THERE AND ASK PEOPLE WHERE THE BACK GATE IS?  SHIT!"

When he got off the phone, I managed to ask if he know where we were going.  He said, yah.  So then I said, "Sorry, I don't speak Chinese well."  And that started our conversation.  He asked if I was meeting a friend there?  (no.)  He asked why I was going there  (to study Mandarin).  He asked where I was from (USA, Seattle).   I was fine doing all the small talk.  I asked him a few other questions; has he been to the US, does he take a lot of foreigners in his cab, etc.  It was pleasant enough. 

Now's the part in the story where I say, "Chinese people don't know how to drive!" and talk about all the crazy stuff that was happening on the road during our pleasant Day One in China conversation. 

I am not going to say that Chinese people don't know how to drive; I'm going to say that they have a different driving culture, with different rules and expectations than Americans do.  Chinese drivers are totally in control of their cars, and know exactly what the car can and can't do. They are also hyper-aware of everything that is going on around them, what other cars are doing and what they want to do, what bikes and pedestrians are doing and how not to hit them. 

So I'm saying that Chinese drivers are a) more aware of their vehicles' capabilities and limitations, and b) more aware of other vehicles are doing.  And I honestly don't notice a lot of dents in the cars all around me. 

So now that I've said all that, it's hard to explain all the stuff my driver was doing.  Darting and out of lanes, making a lane where there is no lane, driving right up to the back corner of a semi and matching its acceleration, turning into a bike lane and going against most of the traffic, turning against the light and crossing a bike lane, where the bikes just keep coming.  Driving up onto sidewalks, backing around a corner on a sidewalk so to avoid the 'do not enter' restriction on a one way road.  All of these situations would have been illegal in the US and in all probability deadly, due to Americans' love affair with their traffic conventions, and how we use conventions as a substitution for creativity and awareness. 

I'm trying to sound tolerant of Chinese drivers, and I really did not worry about all the danger I was perceiving... but I will say that I will never drive in this country, and I hope I don't have to take another cab ride.

Anyway, we got to the back gate, and I gave the driver my 300Y.  He said the price was 550Y and he pointed me to a cash machine.  When that didn't work, he marched in and asked how I could get money; they directed us to a Bank of China.  So back in the cab, I apologized and he got me as close as he could to the cash machine; I crossed the street, took out 1000Y and got back in the cab.  He found my building, stopping every block or so and asking "Friend!  Back entrance, how do I find it!"  So we got to the building, I gave him 300Y more, and I took my bags inside Building 11. 

I helped a lady find my name on a list; it said I was in 404.  However, she couldn't find my key, so she sent me up to meet the RD in 109.  We didn't speak English until I got to his office, at which point he told me that the cab driver totally ripped me off, that it should have been 110Y, and did I ask for a receipt.  Ha.  Whatever, I was just glad to be here, and honestly, I don't know how much 600Y is yet, because I haven't done the math. 

So he helped me walk my bags up to 404, told me I didn't have much luggage (eh?!) and asked me, in Chinese, how my French was.  I find it really hard to understand people in echo-ey staircases, so I'm sure my answer was not intelligent. 

Found my way to my room, unpacked, found a note from my Chinese roommate.  He showed up later with a friend, introduced himself, and asked me if I was hungry.  I thought, aw that's nice!  changed my shoes, and followed him to the cantina.  There were six or seven stations of food; I chose a turo-turo; one meat, two vegetables, help yourself to rice.  I chose chicken katzu, salty cucumber salad, and some chinese greens.  My roommate (I'll introduce him later) gave me a small scoop of rice and I stopped him before he could give me more.  He put his meal card on top of the squat cash register and jiggled it until he could see that 550Y had been deducted from his account.  I went to find a seat, and he went to get me a drink. 

He wasn't eating, because he said he had just eaten, but I finished my plate and told him next time I was buying, which he insisted wasn't necessary.  Asians! 

Then we went back up to the room, I showed him some of my stuff, including the Inconvenient Truth book I had brought for him, and he was writing down new vocab words for me, both in hanzi and in pinyin pronunciation.  I told him George W Bush was 250, which is the strongest insult I could come up with.  Finally, our water was delivered (which we had been waiting for) and then we went to the store.  I bought a universal power strip, a coffee mug, some toothpaste (am I not supposed to use toothpaste from China?) a billiard-ball key chain (I chose the number 12; my lucky number 4 rhymes with 'death' and is considered very buwisit), a big tabu (which I don't know how to say in English), a notebook..... all of it from the on-campus grocery store . 80Y. 

My roommate met his friends outside the store; I said goodbye and found my way back to the dorm.  I went to bed before 9pm. 

Woke up at 4pm, lay there for half an hour until I got bored, then I came to the balcony and blogged.  It's now 5:30 and daylight.  I will introduce my roommate in my next post; hopefully with photos! 

Here's a list of stuff I want to buy: 

  • light bulbs
  • ash tray for coins
  • emergency snack (peanuts)
  • laundry detergent/container
  • dry erase board
  • pocket notebook
  • clothes pins
  • razor

Today I think we do that activity where the program leader gives us a rendez-vous in the city, and we have to get there and back using the bus.  It's an all day activity.  I will meet the other Americans... and not speak English to them.   Not sure if my roommate is coming; he has a big exam today. 


Orientation meeting.  The orientation was held in English, it lasted from 8 to noon.  Slide show, language pledge, pressing questions (eh?), how to use the buses.... After all that English, I feel like I've forgotten my Chinese already.


We met our Chinese roommates back at the ranch, and then it was lunch in the same cantina.  This time I had some fried noodles.  Next time I will get steamed noodles.

I'm thinking about not going on the hike tomorrow.
Three roommates had to go take an exam, so now I'm waiting for two other Americans to go get to know the bus system.  We'll see how that goes. 

Today went in a group of four to Carrefour.  If I'm going to succeed here, I need to learn to read and speak Chinese.  Sheesh.  We had a bus activity, but we got off at the wrong spot, and up walking in the heat to our destination.  Which is not bad, but it's not learning the bus system either.  I told the director I wanted to skip the hike on Friday and do the bus thing again instead.  By myself this time.

It is hot here.  We had a lecture about the AC being bad for you, and needing "fresh" air.  Whatever.  Once we found our original bus stop, we sat in McDonalds as J ate his ice cream cone.  We sat and sat until we had cooled off, despite hearing some Chinese hip hop in the speakers booming directly above me.  We went down to Carrefour, and I bought a bunch of stuff; floor mats, clothespins, hangers, more shampoo, another tabu,  a dry erase board, pens and pencils.. 

Before coming home, we sat in a famous tea shop and did nothing but relax and drink tea for maybe three hours.  On the way out, we looked at Xi Hu, and then I said we should go back.  Xi Hu is nice... it will be there tomorrow. 

medicine:  missed another day.  didn't miss today; fbg was 112.  two days ago when i showed roommate my testing gear and did a demonstration 154.  not bad!  I will definitely lose weight in China.

I'm here, I'm here, I'm ok.

So I just this minute (an hour ago) got my internet hooked up, thanks to my roommate, who I will introduce to you properly in a future post. 
So I'm checking email, posting this blogs, seeing which sites are blocked and which are not.  A bigger post is yet to come. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Time To Check Out

I'm about to go check out of my hotel room and take the free shuttle to the airport.  After breakfast I took another walk in the neighborhood, but it started to rain so I went back.  My camera battery is dying, anyway. 
Hung out in my hotel room, checked out some k-pop, watched a documentary of South Koreans who go to a river on the China-North Korean border and wave at their relatives.  Watched some ESL programs in Korean. 
I finished the last of my beef jerky, which was my emergency blood sugar snack for the trip. 
There is no tipping in Korea or in China.  It's like Spain.  Ahh, Spain...
I'm out of here in 20 minutes.  My next post will be from my dorm room in Hangzhou.

It's The Future

So I'm in my hotel room, repacking my bags and lazily adjusting to the time zone. 
My hotel key is a card.  I swipe it and walk into the room, and stick the card in a reader that's on the wall.  Once the card is inserted into the wall, all the lights come up, and my tv powers on.  Once inside, I control tv, lights, and air conditioning with the remote next to my bed.  It's the future, baby. 
It is amazing how many variety shoes that Koreans produce.  Yes, there's dramas and dubbed movies on tv too, as well as news and shopping network, but the real story are the variety shows, broadcast from huge, auditoriums.  If they're not singing, they're doing a skit.  Or a game show segment.  When is the last time I saw a variety show?  Carol Burnett?  Osmonds?  The Mandrells? 
There's also an infomercial of a mosquito tent, that folds into a 55 cm circle like those magic shades for your windshield.  I kind of want one.  Only 29,999 Korean Won! 
It's 7:20 am.  Time to get some Korean breakfast and take pictures of the neighborhood.  Shuttle to the airport in four hours. 

Happy Fourth!

Happy Independence Day, from my hotel room in Seoul!
Internet Exporer keeps crashing, so this post will be brief. 
The flight was uneventful.  It was my first flight in a 777, which was really nice; tall ceilings, wide cabin.  The service on Asiana was great.  For dinner I had the choice of steak and bibimbap, and I chose steak ONLY because the bibimbap description on the menu they handed out didn't seem to include any meat.  Of course there was meat it in!  But oh well, the steak was ok. 
The service included hot towels, two snacks, and apparently as many drinks as possible. The flight attendants would not stop offering us juice, water, coffee, tea...  There was one lady who kept wanting me to put my seat back up for every meal, she would say "excuse me!" and then grab the button, pull my seatback up, saying "seat backs please, seat backs."  And then everyone would put up their seatbacks.  At the beginning of the flight, the flight attendants went to their spots and at the beginning of the flight safety video, they all did a deep bow in perfect unison.  And then, that was it, the rest of the safety speech was the video, which, by the way, was computer animation.
When I got to Seoul, I saw an Asiana counter inside security and asked them to book me on a flight for today, since they canceled the one I had booked. Then, the lady noticed my baggage claim tickets, and asked me if I had liquids in my bags.  She had to repeat the word "liquid" a couple times, because I wasn't expecting it.  Finally, I realized that once I claimed my bags, I wouldn't be able to re-enter the security area, where my hotel is.  So I just went through customs and found the hotel desk outside of the security area. 
I got a $90 room in a place called Airport Town Square a few minutes from Incheon.  The room is fine. I walked around the neighborhood to find something to eat.  I didn't want sit on the floor at a low table, and many of the other restaruants looked like they were for groups.  Finally I found a cafe looking restaurant with a small table free, but the lady waved me off when I asked for a table.
So forget it!  I went back to the hotel and ate at the restaraurant, with my 20% off cupon.  It was empty except for a couple of Spaniards.  I ordered bulgogi and a beer. 
I slept for maybe eight hours.  It's now quarter to 4am, and I'm up.  I will finish adjusting to local time tomorrow; it's much easier to adjust when you travel to the west, because you just make a couple days longer in order to catch up.  Traveling east is a killer because it's hard to make your day shorter, your body doesn't want to sleep early.  My back is a little sore, I will invent some yoga to stretch it. 

I made it to Seoul

Hello from lovely Korea. I am chillin in my hotel room.