Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Department of Transportation

  • 50 flights of stairs we climb every day to get to our 5th floor apartment and 5th and 4th floor classrooms
  • 7 minute walking commute we endure each day to work
  • 1 hour bus ride to ZZ (the capital of Henan)
  • 1 kai ($0.15) to rent a bike for an hour
  • 3 kai ($0.45) for an hourly moped rental
  • 0 dollars we have spend on gas so far
As you can see from the numbers above, we have it pretty nice here, transportation-wise. We have a free, mandatory stairmaster that we use multiple times a day to get to our apartment, classrooms, and dining hall. Already our calves are growing so massive that I'm getting worried that I might have to get more flared jeans because my skinny jeans will be too small!
Working up a sweat on our way to teaching
Our brutal seven minute commute each morning and afternoon is spoiling us so much that any sort of commute back home (like our 20 and 50 minute ones before) makes us wonder how we ever survived it...and how we'll ever be able to go back.

One of our many "stairmasters" (aka classrooms)
Since we don't have cars, we never spend a kai (pronounced like if a person from Boston said, "Don't be a kwai baby.") on gasoline. I can honestly say I don't miss my car one bit or the traffic, insurance, oil changes, etc. Alternate modes of transportation include the city buses (1 kai), taxis and rickshaws (3-8), and my personal favorites: bikes and mopeds!

Biking buddies...

A river runs through it...sadly no Brad Pitt though

Ben is either very excited or very surprised
For less than a dollar, you can spend a throughly enjoyable (and only occasionally life-threatening) hour or so riding around the city or countryside here. It is a perfect way to see the sights, do some shopping, or just get some "fresh" air.

Sweet upgrade! 35 kph, baby!

I got the faster one, naturally

Off-roading fun

The ZZ weekly shopping bus was the last transportation vehicle we have experienced here. On Saturday, Sias provides a bus for the foreign faculty to take into the populous capital city an hour away. There we were able to deplete our bank accounts at the Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Ikea (!), and other Western shops.

Ben and I skipped the Sbux but hit the Walmart and Ikea pretty hard. We bought a number of things for our apartment: a blanket, pillows, picture frames, candles, and much more. Slowly our place is looking more and more like somebody actually lives there (but who that somebody is, we aren't quite sure yet....).
Chinese Walmart-- the people aren't as fat, but strangeness still abounds
The Walmart is very Chinesified with fresh sting rays and dried ducks in the deli section because of course in America they would be deep fried. Even their "Great Value" brand had items we've never heard of before like beef granules. [For an entertaining list of other Chinese Walmart items, click here. Ben really wanted to buy #16...seriously].

The ZZ Ikea was also a very different place but for another reason-- instead of being a giant, orderly, labyrinth-like warehouse, it was a tiny, crowed upstairs apartment...literally. The place was crammed with all things Swedish, which was a welcome departure from the flashy Chinese-style designs and fabrics. But sadly, the prices and the fact that it felt like we were in a Scandinavian hoarder's home made it difficult to shop.
The world's tiniest Ikea. How I miss Sweden!

Overall, we had a fun, productive day, but when the bus picked us up at 4 pm, we were beat. Usually my shopping-stamina doesn't last more than an hour or two, so this was quite strenuous to say the least. However, I do anticipate us taking advantage of the bus trip in the future; ZZ has a Home Depot, Metro (like a Costco), a bowling alley, and massive DVD store. But until our energy levels and bank account have recovered, we just might have more low-key weekends here.

That's all for now!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stolen Photos

Hello friends and family!
Ben promised pictures yesterday, and I have some! These are "stolen" from my fellow Sias teachers, but we will be posting a few of our own soon. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these glimpses into our beautiful campus and city. 
the lotus garden, river, and bridge just off campus

this pagoda is in the middle of campus and the only structure here that existed before Sias was built 

Freshman military training! They make look intimidating now, but normally they are dressed in frilly dresses and skirts 

Every freshman in China must complete one month of military training
Marching along the "Kremlin." Cтранный!  
The fountains and a beautifully rare sunny day

Sting ray, anyone? The Chinese say they eat all moving things except for vehicles and planes!

The fountains and flowered SIAS by the Italian Square
Ok, that is all for now! I still have much more to show you: European and German street, "Tiananmen Square," and so much more!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Arrived and Settled

Hello friends and family! Sorry it has taken so long to update you all. We are finally settled and have overcome two weeks filled with meeting after meeting plus 18 hours per week of teaching. Rachel and I have about 400 students between the both of us. Luckily, we have a short day on Thursdays and don't teach on Fridays! Woohoo! Time to explore! :)

Allow me to backtrack a little, though....

Saturday 25th of August, we flew out of SFO at 650pm and arrived at LAX around 8:14pm. This felt like the most unnecessary flight since we flew out of LAX a few hours later and flew right over SFO (where we originally started) and THEN proceeded towards China. On a positive note, it was really great seeing my sister, Leya, before getting to China. She drove 45 minutes to get to LAX on her day off to see us off and treated us to our last dinner in America (for the time being).

Fifteen hours later, we touched down in Guangzhou and shortly there after took a two hour flight to Zhengzhou. I will spare you the details of our long agonizing flight -- its not worth mentioning how many crying babies there were on our plane. But there! Now you know what it must have been like!

Around 10:30am, we touched down and were able to quickly find our luggage. We are very grateful to have the wonderful returning teachers and cultural students pick us up and save us the trouble of finding our own ride to the university.

Upon arrival, we were immediately shown our apartment. It was a little covered in dust all over and in major need of a paint job. On top of that, we had really dark and old, broken down furniture. Also, our shower drain was clogged and the shower head didn't work. Oh, one more thing, our AC pipe had been leaking onto the hardwood floor and has all been warped now. Hey, it all sounds bad. But at least we weren't the unit that literally got flooded when a big pipe burst. Those poor guys had it a lot worse than we did. 

Of course, we made peace with our new life and standard of living. Then, one beautifully smoggy morning, we came down from our 5th floor apartment to see the lobby of our building lined with brand new WHITE furniture! Thank you, Lord, our apartment wasn't going to be so bad after all. :) We were one of the lucky ones that got brand new Ikea-esque furniture. Pictures of our apartment will be posted soon; hopefully, right after we paint the peeling bright yellow walls. 

Its a shame you can't see the view from our bedroom
window. Yes, this is how smoggy it gets here
on a normal day. Please send us some
of the fresh air you are breathing
as you read this. Thanks! :)
As I mentioned earlier, Rachel and I have been very busy with teaching classes and going to meetings every single day. It has definitely been a little exhausting. The humidity and heavy local pollution hasn't really helped either. With that said, we have been adjusting just fine. We have both even gone on runs by ourselves already. What an awesome way to explore! We both know we are called and meant to be here. Hence, we are quite happy and very thankful to be here. . 

Thank you for thinking of us and reading this blog. Sorry if it gets a little dry sometimes. I hope to share with family and friends the things we are going through and the lessons we are learning.

More pictures will be coming very soon! I promise!

-本杰明 (aka, Benjamin)