Thursday, July 14, 2005

Things are different here...

What has been different? Well, in Canada, the trucks that play music are selling ice cream. Here, the trucks that play music are collecting garbage.

We went out for lunch yesterday, and took taxis to town. Except the driver didn't know where the restaurant was. We needed to go to a specific recommended restaurant because of our dietary needs (many of the team was experiencing diarrhea, though mine was probably the worst case). So we're driving along when the driver waves over another taxi and asks where this restaurant is. You know nobody knows when the driver of the other taxi and her passenger immediately and simultaneously point in opposite directions. When we finally found the place, the team decided that it wanted to eat somewhere else, so we went to one of the bigger restaurants. We gave them specific orders (hold the MSG, spice, oil, etc, we have diarrhea). They're answer was basically, "We don't know how to cook without this stuff." When the meat arrived at our table, it looked raw. We sent it back to get cooked. :)

Everything is SO cheap here! I can't bargain because what's the point? Rule of thumb I have is 6 kuai (yuan, RMB) is equal to 1 Canadian dollar. So I bought a bag today, it was 15 kuai. At the high-end restaurant we went to yesterday, it was 73 kuai for seven people, and we had leftovers. Tonight, we had dumplings, five are 1 kuai. Went with one of the soccer guys to another restaurant while we were waiting for the dumplings to cook, it was 3 kuai for an order. And this place PACKED the fried rice, it looked like a meal by itself. I'll have to try it, he can't stop raving about the fried rice. When the owners found out that he was here to teach soccer to kids, they got super friendly and dumped whatever he wanted into the fried rice and gave free soup too. I tasted the gailan, it tasted so fresh, almost as if it hadn't even been boiled. And their noodles smell great too. Yeah, I'll eat here soon. I can't eat as much anymore though because my stomach seems to have shrunk during the diarrhea recovery. Tomorrow, the YC home-ec class is cooking us spaghetti for lunch.

So we got ice cream bars tonight. We were told to just make sure that the wrappers were sealed properly, and it would be ok. Three ice cream bars with different pictures on the wrapping, but they all looked the same on the inside. Interesting. And they were 0.5 kuai. You buy a Chinese bun here, it's 1 kuai. A pen is 2 kuai. A brush broom for cleaning our bathrooms, 3 kuai. Wanna hear the luxury item? A package of 10 sanitary napkins, 9 kuai! Everything is so cheap here.... Running a restaurant here looks so nice. Imagine, just open up shop, cook food all day, talk with your regulars, relax. They're all basically street shops with garage-style doors, except for the high-end ones.

Oh, apparently, our room didn't have lice. We had dust mites. I'm told that if we had had lice, we would have undergone a de-licing process, so it couldn't have been lice. I swore I heard lice though.... Either way, my roommate and I have been moved to new rooms because of the mite problem. So now we each get our own suite. I feel really guilty... I get a living room and a double bed all for myself. My living room has couches and a glass table with chairs. The team calls it the "presidential suite." My roommate got the same deal. However, it is on the fourth floor. While there's a nice view, I'm amazed over how many times I have to make trips up and down. It gets tiring in the mountain air, but I guess it's good training. Forgot something? Go back upstairs. Need to go to the bathroom? Go back upstairs. Get my bowl? Go back upstairs. And much of the day, there isn't enough water pressure for the water to make it all the way to the fourth floor (I think the water pipes have all been fixed, I do get water sometimes). So if I wake up too late, I can't shower. But it's ok, everyone else in the same situation just goes to the outside water source and shampoos there. When in Rome. The first time I saw a long line of girls carrying tubs of water upstairs from the outside tap, it was easy enough to join them. The tubs of water are useful for if I need to flush and there isn't enough water pressure to do it.

OK, the important stuff. You peopl who teach for a living, how on earth do you do it? You people are made of tough stuff. Having to prepare lessons every single day, it's so time-consuming. I guess textbooks help a little, but still. And I'm not even seriously marking yet.

The kids are so cool. Artsy Girl (that's what I'll call the team member who doubles as English and art teacher) came into my class yesterday to teach art. They made postcards. And one of the kids made a postcard for me! :D It's so cute and inspiring too. "Hi Bobby! Don't worry about speaking us ok?" Hehehe. The class is divided into four groups: Superstars, Sun Team, Underwater Fish, and Moon Team. They work together to compete for points. Today we had a lesson on Chinese inventions and how they changed how things are done in the world. Then the teams had to make conversations about the inventions, and if they could recite their conversations by memory, they got 20 points. They worked so hard! It was great, we had a lot of fun. :D

Helping the kids to build confidence for themselves is really interesting. We're hoping to really build into these kids for the future, but there are so many more who can't participate because we're over-capacity. Well, I'm not. I only have 17 kids, but no more 13 to 15 year-olds are registering.... The day I got back from the hospital (I had to stay one more night as they were trying to get rid of the mites in my old room, before they finally decided to move me to another room), there were these two kids, not more than 8, wandering around. They played a bit with Music Girl (the team member who doubles as English and music teacher) in the music room because the class that was supposed to be there wasn't coming down. They were so cute (hey, they're all cute :D). After lunch, one of them came back and asked if it was possible to be in a class, because her parents really wanted her to attend the camp. Camp Lady (that's what I'll call our main contact here) had to say no because of the over-capacity issues. Camp Lady said she saw the girl starting to cry, and it's heart-breaking to think about this little girl that was so happy in the music room crying. The YC is the only place to provide things like this for the kids in this town, otherwise what do the kids do? Often the parents are gone during the day, or the family is broken, and there is no daycare infrastructure (neither public or private). She's a trooper though. She comes every day to help at the soccer camp, collecting pylons, fetching balls, that kind of thing. 8:30 am to 5 pm! The soccer guys teach her some English in return and play with her a bit. Much thanks daddy, that she could have a place here.

Things that I'd ask for you to notify daddy about. The team has been hitting its limits day after day, with many people breaking down. There is so much work. But we have this one team member who is 88 years old. She first started coming to Zhaojue many, many years ago. She is a huge inspiration to us all and constantly reminds us of why we can trust daddy to pull through. Wow, does she ever have stories! Ask for help on team unity and sanity. Also, ask for good health. Our team has been hitting physical limits too. Today was only the next hit: the soccer guys all got what looks like pretty severe sunburn. Ask for patience. Some of the teachers are getting thin patience with their kids. My class is the most behaved. The other classes, I'm not sure what I would do if I were teaching them. Ask for guidance. It's so hard to walk the path of someone making tents in a place like this. I guess I can see now why those who make tents are the only ones given real open access in places like this. It seems so complicated.

Looking forward to that spaghetti tomorrow! :D Until next time then!

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