The last few days have been very busy, full of experiences. On Sunday I spent the day at M3 watching classes with different teachers, and was finally able to spend some time with Adam and get to know him better. So far all of the teachers and staff at the schools are absolutely wonderful, and the children are great. It’s amazing to see how firm of a grasp these young kids already have on English. The teachers are doing a remarkable job, and the students are doing a remarkable job learning. During lunch-time on Sunday I ended up becoming ill due to what I can only assume was something in the food or water not sitting well with me. For about 3 hours my body constantly attempted to purge whatever it was, and it did so successfully. I had not yet been able to use “squat toilets” prior to that point, but out of necessity, I quickly mastered the technique.
On Monday morning I had a physical scheduled with the local hospital — a procedure mandated by the Chinese government for all foreigners living in the country (it’s an annual affair) — and this required me not to eat dinner or consume any alcohol the day before. So, Sunday needless to say, Sunday was pretty uneventful.
I woke up at 8:30 Monday morning, packed my backpack, grabbed my cameras and made my way to M1 where I rendezvoused with one of the school’s interpreters, Danielle (her “English” name), and from there we took a taxi to the hospital. Hospitals in China do not instill much confidence in their medical system, at least this one didn’t. Per Chinese mentality, most of the lights in the facility were turned off in the interests of saving power. It was dark, and certainly matched the sort of mental images I had previously conjured when thinking about what a Communist hospital might look like. Most equipment was dated, perhaps from the 1980’s or further back. The computers seemed fairly contemporary, however.
In China almost everything is paid up-front, and this includes medical procedures. Danielle facilitated the entire transaction, and after producing my passport to validate my identity and signing some papers she paid the lump sum of approximately 300RMB (about $50) and we were off. Unlike in America, where you’re usually cordoned off to a room and the doctors and nurses come to you, in China it’s the other way around. We went from room to room across 2 different floors to see each professional. The Chinese medical consisted first of having my abdomen inspected with a sonogram, followed by having my chest X-Rayed (without any lead protection), receiving an EKG, having my vision and blood-pressure checked, my weight recorded, and then giving blood and urine samples. The phlebotomist was a very pretty Chinese girl who was extremely professional and skilled at what she did. Fearing I might faint (some other ESL teachers have in the past), Danielle distracted me with questions about how I was enjoying observing the classes while having my blood drawn. I almost didn’t realize that the phlebotomist had taken the samples and was already over and done with. She was very good. I had Danielle translate my compliments to her.
After taking care of my physical we returned to M1 by taxi, and I had the rest of the day free. By this time it was about 10:00 in the morning. I parted ways with Danielle and walked to Leo’s pizza restaurant that I had become familiar with a couple of days before. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with the cool air being counter-balanced by the heat from the sun, and it made for wonderful lighting to take pictures. I burned through about a roll’s worth of film on my Olympus on the walk there.
I was greeted by Leo upon arrival, and ordered a beer and a dish similar to lo-mein. Leo speaks pretty great English, and had spent years in Ireland before returning to Fushun to open up his restaurant. He is also a hobbyist photographer and sports-fan, and has his own soccer team with jerseys and everything, sponsored by his restaurant. Apparently the taxi-drivers have their own team, and they regularly play one another. I mentioned that I used to play soccer in middle-school, and he invited me to play with them this coming Sunday.
I spent about 3-4 hours at Leo’s, just drinking cheap Chinese beer (3.3% ABV) and enjoying brilliant conversation with him about almost anything we could think up, but primarily about China, America, and international relations. I had a great time, but eventually he had to leave to catch a movie with his wife (Fast & Furious 7), and I had one of the local teachers, Joshua, on his way to meet up with me.
Joshua picked me up shortly thereafter and we drove to a local mall (of sorts) where I purchased a Chinese smartphone for communication within the continent, and he ended up driving me back to my apartment. Apparently the phone I got was the “best bang for my buck” and I’m confident that Joshua knows what he’s talking about and wouldn’t steer me wrong. The phone itself seems more responsive than my American HTC One (M8), and has a larger, and higher-resolution screen. The only problem is that mostly everything is in Chinese!
I had previously attempted to make plans with Craig, and after a trip to the local mall for some food and returning home, we were able to connect around 8:00 PM. Craig sent me the location for our meeting in Chinese via WeChat, and I was able to hail a cab and show the driver the location on my phone — a bar on, aptly named, “bar street”. I arrived right as Craig had exited his taxi, and we walked into one of the nearest bars (which happened to be a karaoke bar of sorts), one I’ve yet to experience. Entering, it was almost dead, but we were greeted by three pretty Chinese girls and brought to a table next to a group of older Chinese men. We ordered drinks at the bar and were promptly brought an assortment of snacks to the table. In China, it is customary to eat while drinking, and considered very strange is one does not. Drinking-snacks here consists of a standard of popcorn, sunflower seeds, and small bread-like foods which I declined to try in lieu of the more familiar eats available.
At around 2 beers in, the table of older Chinese people started smiling at us and waving, and after asking them for a cigarette (through the universal body-language of “smoke”) and offering 1RMB in exchange, they threw their hands up in a unanimous “no” and gave me an entire pack of cigarettes and a lighter cheerfully. I tried to decline, but it became forced upon me. I thanked them profusely for their generosity and went to the bar to buy them a round of beer to demonstrate my appreciation, which was adamantly declined by them, but not before turning into a constant round of “gambai” — which means “bottoms up” or “drain the glass”. We drained a few beers simply cheering with the group and downing drinks.
After this all settled down, Craig and I got into a great conversation about geo-politics, and I felt confident enough to get up on stage and do some karaoke myself. I chose “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube. A table sitting above us, on a balcony over-looking the stage, cheered and clapped, and eventually came down to shake my hand and get pictures with me — telling me in broken English and Chinese (translated by Craig) that I was “very good”. They bought me a couple of drinks, and we had a great time socializing. One of them pulled out a 20RMB note with a pen and asked for my autograph, which I gave him. Eventually they stumbled away and Craig and I also split ways. I opted to stay for a few more minutes and sing a couple more songs before leaving as well. I walked to the nearest road and hailed a cab. Two Chinese men from the bar were forcing one of their very drunk friends into a cab at the time, and after successfully getting him into it, one of them decided to join me. We shared a constructive conversation between one another with him speaking in Chinese, and me smiling and nodding to basically everything he had to say to me while having no idea what he was trying to communicate. Eventually we reached my apartment and I got out to pay my fare, but my new friend had already told the taxi driver not to worry about it, and covered my expenses with him. He exited the taxi to give me a hug, and then pulled his pants down to urinate in the middle of the street.
I walked back to my apartment and went to sleep.
Today and yesterday were pretty uneventful. I went to the gym yesterday with Ray and plan to go back again tomorrow. We hung out after work and got a few drinks, chilling in my apartment after getting a quick bite at a local Chinese fast-food place (Mr. Lee’s). I spent basically all day today observing classes at the various schools and public schools. I’ll be taking over the public school classes next week, I’m not really certain how confident I am about that, but we’ll see. Sink or swim!
Attached are a some more photographs I’ve taken.