Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everyone! Firstly, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!

Winter has come to Dalian! It’s really cold, and keeps getting colder! As such, when I got my annual cold, it ended up lasting about 5 weeks… I think because my immune system is not used to the air of China! I went to the doctor, which was an interesting experience! My students took me and translated, which was a wonderful help. The 1st time I went they gave me an antibiotic and this box of pills that was all in Chinese except for the number 12…. so they were known as the magic #12 pills. Like all the other cold medicine that I took, including the things I brought with me from the states, they worked for a little while, but as soon as they wore off I was back to being miserable. My students took me back to the doctor, and they asked if I would be willing to try Chinese Traditional Medicine… I said that I was willing to try anything they thought would help, so I was handed 3 things… capsules, pouches of syrup, and these bags of greenish-brown granules. The cough syrup tasted like extremely concentrated grape cough syrup… so pretty nasty! The granules were just weird. I mixed them with water and drank it down, and I was never able to decide if I liked the taste or not… but, they worked like magic! I am about 90% better. Its awesome!

Classes are going pretty well… its getting down to the last few weeks of the semester, so everyone is starting to go into the end-of-term study crunch. A few of my student/friends have been going to the library almost every day to study. One day they invited me to go along and work on my Chinese workbook so that I could ask questions if needed. We were all working quietly and I started coughing. After a couple minutes I couldn’t stop, so one of the girls offered me her water bottle to help my cough. I took a big gulp to help,¬†completely¬†forgetting that Chinese people believe that cold water is bad for your health, and the hotter the water, the more beneficial it is…. because of this, the gulp of water I took was scalding hot! I managed to stop coughing, because I think I burned the cough away. The girls I was working with saw my eyes bug out and starting laughing hysterically. I was able to turn it into a lesson on cultural differences: Every week these same girls ask why my water bottle is filled with cool water, so I told them now you know; I would burn my mouth every time I took a drink!!! It was definitely very funny!

I also felt very accomplished with myself and my Chinese skills. Since I got here, I had been buying 2 liter bottles of water from the store, but I was buying tons of bottles! I was talking to one of my neighbors one day, and he told me that if you ask, the building manager will give you a dispenser and one of those 5 gallon bottles of water, and then when you need a new bottle you take down the bottle and 10 RMB and get a new one. And its all filtered water, because tap wate here is not usable, even for brushing your teeth! So I took it upon myself to get a dispenser. Of course our building manager is is this wonderful little old lady who does not speak a word of English, and takes it upon herself to further my Chinese any chance she gets. So I translated the phrase I want a water dispenser please into Chinese, and after practicing it for a while, went down to see what would happen. Well 20 minutes and a lot fo hand gestures later, I had a water dispenser! It has made life much easier, and its nice to have already filtered water here all the time! I was also very proud of my accomplishment because I didn’t use a single word of English! I am beginning to understand simple phrases in Chinese. I can say words and small phrases. Today I went to my fruit vendor and got some dried candied ginger, and not only was I able to understand when the man said be careful, its spicy! I was able to say I like ginger back! Most of the food vendors around my building know that I am trying to learn Chinese so they always make me say my order, and help with my pronunciation.

Lastly, I am thankful I finally started feeling better because Friday night I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with 50 other foreigners. A friend of mine that teaches English at another University in town invited me to this dinner, and It was wonderful! The dinner took place at a hotel, and it was buffet style. They had a variety of different foods including Chinese, American, Japanese, and Mexican! I was in a 7th heaven of western foods! I had turkey, cranberries, quesadillas, pumpkin pie, stuffing, and some bread with cheese, which here is a delicacy!!!! It was fun to be able to talk with so many other foreigners and enjoy the holiday. I am still loving Chinese food, but there are moments where I crave anything remotely Western. As a result, I eat a lot of Oreos, which are something I rarely if ever eat in the states!

Well I hope you have enjoyed these stories! I didn’t realize so much time had passed since I had written my last post! Time is definitely flying here, but I love being able to share my stories with all of you! Have a wonderful week!

Lots of Love from freezing Dalian, Ashley ūüôā

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Half way through the semester!

Well we just had week 9 of classes, the official half way point in the fall semester.
Classes are still going pretty well. Its becoming a challenge to find new ways to get the students to speak every class, but I am figuring out which of my students will talk any chance they get, which want to talk but are just too nervous or shy, and which ones just really don’t want to be there. I sort them into groups and try to combine all 3 because the ones who care make the ones who don’t attempt to talk anyways. It works out well.

My Chinese is coming along slowly but surely as well. I can say I eat, or I ate, and several foods. My building supervisor, Auntie Ko, also taught me how to say I knit, because she saw me knitting one day. I found some yarn as soon as it started to get cold, so I’ve been knitting a lot! Its nice because it gives me something to do that makes me happy. ¬†Ko is a 60-something year old woman who lives in the building and makes sure everything is running smoothly. She is so nice, and speaks¬†absolutely¬†no English. That makes talking to her fun, because its a combination of body language and her saying the word over and over until I smile like yes I know what you are talking about, and then go look it up! She takes it upon herself to help me learn more Chinese, and is always making me repeat phrases, which is extremely helpful.

My students like to ask me if I’m homesick, and I always tell them yes and no. I miss my family, and friends, and especially burritos!! But living here is teaching me so much. I am learning the language more now, and I’m finding my routine. I got a rice cooker, and I can cook whole meals in it, which is fun! Its also nice to make my own food instead of eating school food all the time. The school food is good, but its a lot of the same, so its nice to be able to cook something different, and something thats a little more “western.”

I met an American English teacher from another school, and she has lived in Dalian for 4 years, so she has been a huge help. She tells me the best places to shop, and she was the one who told me you can make anything in a rice cooker. A couple weeks ago I made applesauce, and it was delicious!!!

Its kinda hard to believe I have already been here 9 weeks. Time is flying by!

Lots of love from China, Ashley

I can never be a vampire.

Hello Hello! Autumn Break is over, and school is back. The last part of my break was very nice; I went to the Dalian Zoo with some of my students, and also had dinner with my teaching supervisor and his wife and daughter. I’ll talk about dinner first since as you are reading this you are still probably trying to figure out what on earth that title means!
So I went to dinner with Joe and his family, and they took me to a¬†restaurant¬†at a hotel. When we walked in, they showed us to our table, but instead of sitting down, we then went to another part of the restaurant that was sectioned off. There, I found long tables with many different dishes on them. I was told we look at the ingredients on each plate and pick the ones we want, and then they are cooked and brought to us. As I was looking at all the different plates, Betty, Joe’s 9 year old daughter who speaks a little bit of English grabbed my hand and pulled me over to a bucket. Inside the bucket were live frogs, and I really hoped I didn’t end up eating one! There were dead fish laid out on a counter, like a butcher shop, and live fish swimming in aquariums on the wall. The whole place was quite different, but a pretty cool experience. We sat down and ate our food, and for the most part, everything seemed pretty normal. There were fried fish, and when the plate was sat on the table, they sat it in front of me, and had not cut the heads off before cooking the fish, so the entire dinner I felt like there were fish staring at me! Everything was delicious, until Joe’s wife put a slice of something red on my plate and poured some garlic sauce on it. I took a bite, and it was mushy, and bitter, and tasted pretty awful. I asked what it was, and I was told it was solidified Pig’s Blood. Now I know I can never be a vampire because eating blood was nasty, but I can add it to the list of things I have tried!!! I can also now say I have eaten a fish tail, which was actually not as bad as I imagined it would be, and fully supports the theory that everything tastes better when its fried!

As I mentioned before, I also went to the Zoo! It was really fun, and interesting to see how Zoos are run here. It was divided into 2 parts, one section with birds and smaller animals, and then the other section was called the safari park, and not only did it have the more exotic animals, but the enclosures were huge, and you just walked along and saw the animals roaming around. The animals had plenty of room, more than they would have at a zoo in the states, so that was nice to see. To get from one side of the zoo to the other, there was a tram, that was a lot like an enclosed ski lift that took us over the mountain to the other side of the park. It was gorgeous, and nice to see the whole city.

The main exhibit we went to see was one that just opened October 1st, the Panda exhibit!!!!!! I was super excited, because I have loved pandas ever since I wrote my 1st book report ( at least the 1st one I remember writing) on pandas.

 

 

Now that school is back I have had a chance to meet the other foreign teachers that work at the University. They work with another school within the University, so it took me a while to meet them, but I’m glad that I have. They do a lot together as a group, especially on the weekends, and its great to have friends that can relate to the experiences I am having here!

Lots of love from China, Ashley

I found butter!!!!!

Hello Everyone!!!
This week is Mid-Autumn Festival! Sunday was National Day, and then this whole week is the festival, which means no school! About 80% of the students went home or on a trip somewhere. Its nice to be on campus when its so empty. I thought about travelling somewhere, but I am still in the middle of getting registered as a resident of Dalian, so its better to stay in town, which is fine because its giving me time to explore the city.

As much as I love Chinese food, last week I started craving western food. I had gotten pasta and a bag of hunts tomato sauce, but I didn’t have any spices or anything, and I was really bread and butter so last Wednesday, which is the day I’m finished teaching class at 10 AM, I went into the city on a mission to find butter!

I should mention that I have also started getting brave enough to take the bus by myself!! I’m getting quite oriented with my city, and if I get lost, I know how to flag down a taxi driver and get home. ( It sounds like Gong yaaay da schwaaay).

Anyways, back to the butter. I recently learned that milk has only been something you can get in China in the last 20 years, and I figured out that getting butter at a normal super market was impossible. I looked online and saw that there was a Carrefour ( the French version of Walmart) downtown where I know the bus routes. So I hopped on the bus and went! Not only did I find quite a nice selection of butter, but I also found peanut butter, jelly, and some spices for my tomato sauce!!! It was a good trip, and even though things like butter are something we don’t really think about back home, its quite comforting being able to taste something that tastes like home!

I have been meeting more and more westerners, and Sunday I met a middle-aged lady that is living here teaching English for something different. She took me to a place called Brooklyn Bar that serves delicious pizza!!!!! We had pizza, salad, and cheese sticks, and it was delicious! Not that I don’t love the Chinese food I’m finding, but its nice to eat something I’m used to.

I do have some Chinese food that i love though. Don’t ask me what its called, because other than the chicken fried rice, I really have no idea!! But there are a lot of food vendors on campus for the students, and I have a few that frequent! My byoza (steamed buns) lady always sees me and smiles and says Ni hao ma? ( how are you?) while she pulls out my beef steamed buns and passes them to me. One time I tried to order pork for something different, and she looked at me very strangely and said in Chinese ( I’m guessing on the translation, but I picked out the words No, You, and Beef) No, you the eat the beef ones! it was a long sentence, but she focused on no, and beef, and kept pointing at me, so I think she has decided that beef Byoza are what’s best for me!!

On the teaching front, classes have been going well! Since it was the week before break, we did Show and Tell week, and it was a great success! most students brought something that means a lot to them, and the ones that forgot something talked about something that was their favorite. While I saw a lot of key chains and cell phones over the week, everything was extremely meaningful. Those that showed cell phones did so because they bought it themselves with the salary from their first job, or a sibling bought it for them. I had some very creative presentations as well. One student taught us the method for solving a Rubix Cube, and said its something he loves to flip around because his dad got it for him. Another girl forgot to bring something, and proceeded to talk for 5 minutes about how much she loved potatoes. Even though she had forgotten to bring something, she talked the most of the entire class! Another kid, one of my few boys in my classes, brought up the other 3 boys in the class and said that his roommates meant a lot to him because even though they had only been living together a month, they meant a lot to him because he knows they will be friends forever.

All of my students took the presentations really seriously, and while I got to see more into what they care a lot, they got to see that they could talk for an extended amount of time in English! These first few weeks I have been trying to build their confidence, and after the break we will work more on correct language and speaking.

My show and tell item was my amazingly vibrant quilt that my mommy made me!!! Every girl in my classes took pictures of it when I held it up! My other item I showed was a photo book that my best friend made for me, and I think showing my students both of these items helped them build their confidence and trust.

Speaking classes are different than any other type of class, and I really can tell that these students are so used to being reprimanded for anything other than perfection that they are afraid to speak unless you show them it is ok. Once I realized that, I have been making an effort to show my students that i really want to be there, and really want to help them, and it has made them all more responsive and talkative!!

The weather is getting colder, and I’m getting excited to see what winter brings!!!!

Lots of Love from the land of the Mid-Autumn Festival!!!
Ashley

Beaches and Speeches

Greetings everyone! Its the middle of my 3rd week of teaching, and I’m getting used to the fact that as I write this before I go to bed on a Wednesday night, everyone in the states haven’t even begun their Wednesdays yet! The whole time difference is a little crazy!
I’ve really been getting into a routine here, which is nice. My last 4 classes, all beginning freshmen classes, start this week, so thats good! Next week I am doing show-and-tell week for all my classes, and that should be fun! It will give all my students something to talk about without making them uncomfortable, so hopefully they will begin to talk more!!

I am getting used to being a foreigner, and even though Dalian is quite big and their are lots of foreigners, I still stick out like a sore thumb. I thought that could be a negative part of living in Asia, but so far it has been fine! I have gotten used to saying hi to random people on the street, especially groups of girls who say hello, and when I say hello back burst into giggles! At the night market last weekend ( which is literally a market that only happens at night… the vendors come to sell everything from food to clothes to lamps and earphones, and are only there at night!) we were walking around and we walked past a¬†restaurant¬†where a large family was eating dinner. They all looked and smiled at me (which I’m also used to) and the head of the table stood up and said “Hello! Hello!!” The whole family was shocked and laughed when I said “Hello! Hello!” back!!! It’s a lot of fun to be able to do things like that. I was also given a free fried chicken on a stick when I walked by, and I asked my student how to say delicious in Chinese. Once I said that, the vendor thanked my student for bringing him an American to try his food!!!! We both laughed about how crazy and random was, and ate some really yummy chicken!
Last weekend one of my students took me to the beach, and it was sooooo much fun!!!! It was crowded even though the weather is beginning to cool down, and there was a carnival type place right next to the water. It was fun to walk around the shore, and look for baby crabs and seashells.
On the way back from the beach, we stopped by Walmart, and I found the import food wall, where I found pasta and spaghetti sauce!!!!! I’m saving it for one of the days when I’m really busy, probably tomorrow, because 7 out of my 10 classes happen on thursday and friday!!!!
Last night I was asked to judge a speech competition. We listened to 18 finalists give both a written speech and an impromptu speech, and had to give them a score from 1-100 (although we were asked not to give out scores lower than 75 because then the students would lose face.) It was interesting to hear all the speeches and get ¬†a Chinese perspective on things. When it was over, I was walking out with the other foreign judges and the guy who one 1st place (there was 1st place, and then grand prize, so he was like runner-up, I think) came up to me and said he would like my opinion on what he could do better!!! I thought he was joking at first, but he was very serious! To him it wasn’t enough that he had gotten 2nd place in the competition, and that definitely reminds me that people have a very different mindset here. Its very interesting to be able to experience this mindset.
Its been almost a month since I’ve eaten non-Chinese food, and I’m getting ready to splurge on a hamburger from Mc Donalds!! Some days it feels like I just got here, and some days it feels like I have been here for a long time already.
And now the best news I saved for last: I found an English teacher here thats actually from Germany!! She hasn’t lived there in a while so she feels like she is forgetting her German, so when she found out I speak German she got really excited, and then looked at her boyfriend and said “hey! We have a secret girl language now! Cooh huh?”
I’m making friends, with Chinese and westerners alike, and realizing this is a pretty perfect place for me!
Lots of Love from China! Ashley

IKEA!!!!

I finished my 1st week of teaching at DPU! Thursday I got a call saying I was 20 minutes late for a class I was supposed to teach, but the class wasn’t on my schedule! Turns out the head English teacher had been hearing lots of good reports about my classes and decided to give me 2 more classes, but forgot to tell me about them! If I had taken both classes I would have had 11 classes, or about 330 students, so I said I could take one of the classes, so now I’m teaching 10 classes a week! I’m excited for the work, and the opportunity to meet and help all these students. I am also tutoring 5 9 year old girls on saturdays, who are daughters of teachers at the university. They are super cute, and that will be a fun class!
Since I had such a crazy week, and because I still needed things for my apartment, 3 of my wonderful students took me to Ikea! It was a 40 minute bus ride there, and then we spent a couple hours wandering through the store! we also ate some donuts, almond cake, and Swedish meatballs!

 

 



We had a blast wandering around the store, finding things we needed, or maybe didn’t need but wanted!

Then after we got everything, including a laundry drying rack and a mattress pad, we had to take the bus back!!! That was crazy, because the bus was much busier on the way back, and the Chinese don’t have silly things like fire codes to say how many people can be on a bus, so we were jammed into that bus like sardines, mattress pad roll, blue Ikea bags, and all!!!

Now its time to put all my new dishes away, make my bed so nice and soft, and get ready for classes next week!
I hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Lots of Love from China! Ash

 

 

How Walmart is taking over the world.

Greetings from Dalian! I have been here 5 days now, and so far I’m loving it!
I live in an apartment on the Foreign teachers building

Its a pretty big apartment, with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom!

 

Monday I began teaching. I am teaching oral English, so my students all have some sort of foundation in English, they just need help with pronunciation and building the confidence to speak. I have 9 classes in total. I see each class once a week for 2 hours. 4 of my classes (all my afternoon classes) are intermediate classes. I have had the two groups that are plain English majors, and Thursday and Friday I will have my two groups that are Chinese/English majors. In the mornings I have my 5 beginning English classes. 4 are groups of freshmen (2 English major groups, and 2 Chinese/English majors). Those classes don’t start until the 4th week of school because they are undergoing “freshmen training.” There are groups of freshmen all around campus undergoing¬†militaristic exercises in team-work and confidence. I was told by some of my older students that the “trainees” think that they are being drilled by people brought in from the Chinese¬†Military, but¬†in fact, it is just older students!

My last class is a beginning oral English class for senior students. I will have that class on Friday.

I ventured off campus once so far. My students took me to one of the squares downtown so I could set up a bank account and get some things I needed, like towels, laundry detergent, and shampoo. They told me they would take me to a supermarket where I could get everything, and I was flabbergasted when we walking into Walmart!!!! It looked exactly like a Walmart back home, except it was even larger (!!!) and had Chinese products, or Chinese versions. They even had Walmart brands like Mainstays and Great Value!! It was a bit weird, and further proof that Walmart is taking over the world…..

My students are all super nice! The 1st class we did introductions, and I got to give a lot of them English names, because they didn’t have them. I thought this would be tons of fun until I realized they wanted a name that started with they same letter as their Chinese name. That’s all fine and dandy, but so many Chinese names start with W and Z! I have yet to have a Whitney in one of my classes, but I have 7 left so I’m sure 1 person will pick that name. I already have a Zach and a Zelda!
The kids all said how happy they were to have a foreign English teacher, and how they think I’m cute (teaching over here is definitely a great confidence booster!!) and want to be my friend!

A group of them have gone with me to the cafeteria to show me the good food which is really helpful, and on Saturday they are taking me to the movies and to Ikea!

The cafeteria, or canteen as they call it, is an experience all in itself. It looks more like a mall food court. There are little food kiosks selling different food, where you can order what you want, and get it to go or eat it there. So far everything has been delicious!

Lots of Love from China, Ash

Shanghai!!

Today is day 4 of orientation!
In other words, I made it to China!!!!!!
Its been crazy, wonderful, and new all at once!
My flight was good, went smoothly, and I actually got to Shanghai about an hour and a half earlier than thought! The hotel is really nice, and its been an action-packed week! There are about 70 of us participating in orientation.
They have been giving talks about what to expect, and also Chinese lessons, which are very helpful! We have been doing group activities in lesson planning, and also seen some of the amazing sights Shanghai has to offer. Its been exhausting doing so much, and getting over jet-lag at the same time, but I’ve gotten over jet-lag almost completely!!

There are a lot of great people in the program, and its been great to be able to meet them, and hopefully see them during the year!
We have been eating all different types of food, some delicious, and some kind of weird. We have seen a Sichuan face changer, who uses masks to change his facial expression at amazing speed. We have also seen the Shanghai Circus Acrobats. Those were fun. We went to the Shanghai Museum and saw a lot of Chinese history. Yesterday we went to an area of the city called the Bund, and went on a river cruise to see the amazing sky-line! The amount of tall, modern looking buildings is incredible!
Now I am off to my last day of Chinese lessons and exploring before I go to Dalian tomorrow (Friday)!
Lots of Love, Ashley

Countdown

The day is getting closer! Exactly 2 weeks and I will be headed towards Shanghai, to participate in Orientation and then on to Dalian. I’m getting really excited, but that is to be expected. I’ve been trying to make lists of what I need to take, so I don’t forget anything, and also so I don’t take too much. I have always been the over-packer of the family, so from this adventure I am trying my hardest to take only what I need. My sister laughs that I have cut my shoe choices down to 4 pairs, mostly because she only owns 4 pairs of shoes, and I am leaving a box of shoes in the closet.
I’m beginning to see everyone before I leave as well. Tomorrow I will head down to Alamogordo to say bye to those friends, and then its back up to ABQ to make sure everything is ready. My sister will start her fall classes before I leave, so that will be nice to see what she has this semester before I leave. I’m also working on eating my favorite foods, and taking pictures of my places.¬†
Lots of Love! Ash

I get to go to the beachhh!!!!!!!!

So, I’m pretty sure by now everyone has heard where I am going, because i keep forgetting to write on here, since I still have the ability to post a million things on facebook, but I figured I would go ahead and write everything out here too, since duh thats what this is for!

I’m going to the city of Dalian, in China, population 3.3 million. That is a lot a lot a lot of people. The city it self is on the end of a peninsula that is in the yellow sea. Its pretty close to Beijing, and also to the Korean peninsula.¬†

I’m going to teach at a Polytechnic university, which is pretty cool, because it will be more people around my age, which is always nice for social butterflies like me. Plus, then i have a better chance of finding people who want to teach me Chinese!¬†

I officially leave August 25th, which is getting closer and closer. I’m starting to go into crazy over-prepare mode, because well, I’m super excited, and there isn’t much else I can do…¬†

I definitely know Im taking a fork with me… or maybe I will find some awesome chop stick teacher and actually learn how to do them… maybe they have special left handed chopstick rules… because as hard as I try, its like impossible… and I blame it on my left handedness, because the world was made for right handed people….how not cool!!!!!

Alright, I think that is everything, 

Lots of Love! Ash