Thursday, April 23

Today was fairly uneventful. China is becoming the new normal, and things are starting to lose their original fascination and luster. The wonder is turning to the mundane, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m getting around a lot better, I’m far more confident in general, and feel far better equipped to handle the obstacles presented by daily life.

This morning I was woken up around 9 AM by a telephone call. Dani (Danielle, who basically seems to be my regular interpreter and go-to help, and who has been nothing short of a guardian angel) from the school was downstairs at the front-entrance of my apartment building with one of the school employees to check on the status of my water-heater, which was still inoperable. My buzzer is broken, so I crawled out of bed and walked down from my third-story flat to let them in, and escourted them to my place. They spent about 45 minutes fiddling with the heater and valves, speaking among one another in Chinese before deciding that it was, indeed, broken. Dani informed me of this while dialing the number for a repairman, who arrived some 20 minutes later. I retreated back into my room to leave them to it, and about an hour later I was called in to witness the fruits of their labor: hot water, finally!

I thanked them profusely as they grabbed their things and headed out, returning to the bathroom after their departure to make a more thourough inspection and enjoy hot-water on command, which, one forgets, is definitely a luxury.

By this time I was due to be at one of the local middle-schools about a 10 minute walk from my apartment within the hour. I got dressed, packed my bag, and wasted about 25 minutes on the computer before leaving to make my way there. I brought along a banana for a snack, and stopped at one of the local corner-markets to grab a bag of chips. It was raining about this time, and I had brought my rain-jacket for “protection”.

I arrived at the school 15 minutes early, and took the extra time I had to finish my sorry excuse for lunch while waiting for the Mingshi entorage to arrive.

Ray, Andrew, Craig, older Andrew and an assortment of school secretaries came walking in a group up the sidewalk, and I joined them in one of the flanks to follow them into the school. Observing classes at this middle school was pretty straightforward, more of the same things I’ve been doing pretty much since my arrival. As always, the students seem brilliant (in terms of their behavior and eagerness to learn). They’re no different than children their age in the States, although one could argue better behaved, more studious and more disciplined. I enjoyed being able to sit in the classes. During the 2 hours we spent at the middle school the weather cleared up and turned to blue skies with sunshine, and we also experienced a minor earthquake (though Craig claimed that it was probably some explosions from blast-mining at the local coal mine). It was a quick tremor that shook the entire building.

On break I presented my new Chinese phone and SIM card to some of the teachers to see if they couldn’t install it, but the card was too large, and it had to be taken to a local phone store by one of the secretaries to be cut down to size (yes, you can simply cut them into shape). I had to return to my apartment after sitting-in to empty my bag, and also because, under the new weather conditions, I wanted to retireve my one of my cameras. I planned to do this and then walk to M1 to meet up with the secretary taking care of my SIM card.

It was a lovely walk from my apartment back to M1, taking around 20 minutes time at the pace I kept. I also stopped occasionally to take photos. By this time it was around 3:30PM, and the streets were starting to get crowded — which meant lots of stares from people as I made my way to the school. I had report to M3 later that afternoon near 6PM, so I had plenty of time. Upon arrival I was greeted by Dani at the front-desk who was holding onto my newly-modified SIM card, which worked perfectly upon insertion. My phone was now active, and with data! I took a seat next to her and spent about 45 minutes tinkering with the phone and configuring it to my liking, all the while carrying on some good conversation with her and having her translate certain things on the phone so I knew what I was doing.

As the clock ticked on and nearly an hour had gone by that we spent socializing, I decided it was about time to make my way towards M3. Also because I was starving at this point, and ready for a proper meal. I bid her adieu and hailed a cab who ended up dropping me off at the wrong location (the language barrier fundementally thwarts any ability to convey this appropriately to a taxi-driver, since there’s no way to correct him unless you know the area and can use hand-signals to guide him step by step… which I was unable to do). I got out, called M1, and spoke to Dani on the phone who had me hail another cab and give my phone to the driver so she could properly instruct them. This worked perfectly and I reached my destination in short-order.

I walked in, greeted everyone, got slightly situated and then walked about a block down the road to a Mr. Lee’s chinese restaurant for some rice with a sort of beef stew, served with a vegitable soup. It was reasonably inexpensive, reasonably good, and served it’s purpose of filling me up. I returned to M3 and spent 2 hours on “Hotline”: calling students and quizzing them about their lessons to keep their English skills fresh.

Around 7:30 PM I was done for the day, and Ray, Andrew and I shared a cab to the Wanda Mall (where Andrew lives, in a neighboring apartment complex). Once there Ray and I split ways with Andrew, and we walked through the mall to purchase some things and then make our way back to our apartments by foot. I purchased 2 lamb kebabs from a street-vendor on the way for the grand total of 6 RMB ($1 USD). They were spiced, and fairly delicious. Ray and I eventually parted ways as well, and I made my way to my apartment following some directions Ray had given me for a shorter route, which indeed worked out. I had pulled my camera out along the way and snapped some images.

I arrived home around 9PM, and finally christened my properly-functioning shower. It was wonderful, and so much more convienient and enjoyable than having to take a taxi all the way to the mall, shower among a bunch of old Chinese men, get dressed in the locker rooms, and then take a taxi all the way back home. I took a very long shower, closing the bathroom’s sliding-glass door, and letting it steam up like a sauna before drying off, changing and crawling into bed.

In the morning I observe a couple other classes at one of the local middle-schools, and in the afternoon I teach my first middle-school class! And then apparently a handful of expats in town are going out, to which I’ve been invited. Plenty of rest tonight, and an adventurous day tomorrow.

Some photos I took today posted below.

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