Saturday, January 24, 2009


I've been home since last Wednesday, and boy does it feel good.  No stress, mom cooking, snow, and central heating.  I enjoyed Hefei, don't get me wrong, it's just things really are different between a US military base and some not-completely-modernized-China-city.  For now, I'd like to share my internship experience.

Basically, my duty was to come up with activities and lesson plans for kids.  That's all the instruction I got when I arrived.  Originally they were going to do an english class focusing on furniture, but then bagged that for something more fun and made by a "native English speaker", aka moi.  Really, no direction, but no worries, I was prepared for something like that.  I knew things in China tended to be a bit less directed, with lots of phrases coming from my Chinese counterparts that sounded like, "yeah, sure, sounds good, whatever you think, that'll be fine...what do you think should happen?" and so on.  Nothing negative. 

Great and not great.
Great because the pressure of doing things perfect for their standards is eliminated, even though I don't know their standards.  I want to stand out from other interns, but at the same time be me. 
Not great because I'm completely indecisive, not to mention I have no idea if they're really impressed like they say, or if it's just nice words to not hurt me.

Either way, things got going.  Not until about 2 days before (after 1.5 weeks of planning an event I had no specs on, like duration, attendance, ages, English level...), June, my go-to lady, asked, "so how should we do the class?  how many hours?  what ages?  what days?"  Of which I had no clue.  Eventually I got them to give me a list of their clients and kids they thought would come, and divided it all up.  2 parties for kids 8-13yrs old, then 1 party for 14-20, all 2 hours each.  I had several topics and activities lined up, of which I whittled down to 3 activities and 3 topics.  Things worked out to be Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, 2-4pm.

Our topics were "Snowmen and wintery words", "winter clothes", and "winter foods".  The 1st activity with the little kids was cutting snowflakes out of paper after we discussed snowmen.  I'm sure you've all done this; fold a piece of paper a few times, cut designs, then unfold and voila, a personalized snowflake.  They loved it... twas like a magic show when we first introduced it, since none of them had experienced this before.

The 2nd activity was taking pics of animals doing winter activities (cartoony, not clothed), and adding color and clothing.  This was just great fun.  I made my own example, using yarn and different colored paper to make something everyone oohed and aahhed over.   That was just a great time.  They enjoyed being creative and talking about the clothing they were making, what they liked to do in the winter, why choose their colors, etc.  This we did with the older group too, and they thought it was a great way to study English...

The 3rd activity, the coup de gras, was marshmallow snowmen.  Going along with the food theme, and the 1st theme, we took very chinese versions of snacks and made edible snowmen.  We handed out the marshmallows (filled with orange goo), vegi flavored breadsticks, strawberry jam, and fruit rolls, and said "don't eat a thing.  just wait and watch".  There of course was curiosity in the air, what did this stuff mean?  Then I take the 1st three marshmallows and stack them ontop of each other... then everyone erupts in unison into a "ooohhhh....i see!" Then it was off to the races.  This was my favorite activity, since it was very unique, and they hadn't done this before either.  They loved it to.  Go to my facebook and check out the photos.  Fun times.

In addition to that, I prepared and taught the weekly Staff English class, last hour of work on Friday.  This I had no idea.  Twas alright, but the staff turned out to have no english skills.  Could read a little, but I had to translate the entire lesson on the spot...
1st topic was "Fighting the Cold", and was pretty simple vocab to be applied.  What I figured out was they had a small vocabulary, so words to describe were alright to use, but then they also had no grammar training, so the vocab, though appropriate, was not easily carried to everyday talking.
2nd topic was better, I think, and was appropriately titled, "Whadayathink?", or "what do you think?"  This one we explored some adjectives and short phrases that you could link to a feeling or situation, but needed no grammatical skills nor restructuring.  Things like "fantastic", or "who knows" or my favorite, "for some reason".

Overall, I felt it was a learning experience.  Nothing that I really ever wanted to do, but I'm glad I did it.  I don't like being a teacher of English.  It's not terrible, just I either need more preparation time, guidelines.... don't know.  I'm not very talkative, so it's hard to be entertaining.  Luckily, this was a Winter Party, so we did activities along with lecture, so it all worked out.

Alright.  Bedtime.  Oh, and it snowed today, quite a bit.  I'm happy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I fear I'm sounding like a pessimist when I talk about all these differences and such.  However, now that I and you have recognized that, I'd like to talk about a few things that I've noticed over that week.  

Today was good.  Nothing big or too special.  I'm almost done making the invitations to go out, and I'm mostly done with the powerpoint slides, and have a few pages done for coloring activities.  Luckily the other american girl at the office is willing to help.  They want me to change my flight plan to the 23rd if possible, but I'm pretty sure it's set in stone already.

Riding the bus has been fine, but the traffic is just stressful.  I'm not worried or anything, just all the people go as fast as they can till they absolutely have to stop.  And there are no lanes.  People drive where there is open road, even if on the opposite side of the street.... And I am growing tired of all the older people snorting and hawking and spitting.  It's gross and loud.  Even in stores with tiled floors, they'll just spit.  And most everyone talks way to loud on their phone.  At the restaurant this evening, this lady by me was literally yelling in her phone, but she wasn't yelling at anyone, just giving directions... sheesh...

But I've had a good day.  Talked to a few people in chinese.  Now I'm at this Vienna Cafe.  Kinda expensive, but they let me pick a red envelope hanging off their christmas tree yesterday (i think cuz they like me) and I got a free coffee for today.  Otherwise I'd be at home.

I feel like my Chinese really hasn't seen much improvement.  I can talk to people just fine, but I still feel like my tones aren't clear, and for some reason it's difficult to get the words out how I want.  I don't talk to older people cuz they all talk too fast, and a good chunk of them speak in Hefei dialect, which is incomprehensible.  

That's about it for now.  1st Winter Holiday Party for the kids is more than likely this Friday, so any of you planning to have a chat with God soon, put one up for me.  I have no idea how I am with kids....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

China is different than America...

The first thing you notice is traffic.  People in the city drive where they want, no mind road signs, lanes, other cars, etc.  Granted, unlike in Korea, everyone stops for redlights.  People drive in both lanes at one time (half car in each lane), and they even drive on the opposite side of the road if they don't feel like waiting.  Horns blare the whole time, sometimes just to let others know where you are, other times just to help the driver yell at whoever's in the way.  Pedestrians dart out in the road to cross the street, and there are motor scooters and bikes everywhere.  Everyone pays attention though.  Everyone moves out of the way, even when it seems like the other driver is just carelessly changing lanes.  Also, everyone drives really really slow.  Everyone.  So as crazy as it is, I doubt you'd cause any damage if you ran into anyone.

All the old guys spit.  All the time.  Very noisily.  I can't imagine what you'd need to spit out?  Saliva?  It's not that I think I "shouldn't" spit, but personally I can't think of what I need to spit out.  It's not just old men.  Most any person, young or old, guy or girl, spit, just old guys more noticeably.  Also, people don't spit in the traffic, or even on the side of the road or sidewalk.  They just spit right down at their feet.  Even on the walk paths on this mountain we climbed today, there's all the space in the world to spit and not be in anyones way.  But there was still spit all over the path.  ....  ew ...

It seems like everyone but Anna smokes in China.  All public places are fine to smoke in.  Even the elevator.  Maybe not Walmart.  Haven't seen that yet.  But that could be the exception to the norm.

Everything is cheap.  Mostly.  My cell phone was around $120 US.  A good example is I bought a washcloth for ¥5 and a travel mug for ¥10.  In US dollars, they were 7 dimes and $1.40, respectively.  Food is cheap too.  In Fuzhou, me and Anna had a plate of Cabbage Hearts, this spicy beef and red pepper dish, and a large bowl of spicy stuff with a big cooked fish in the middle.  Each dish was bigger than what you could get at Applebees for $10.  And the total price for all three was about ¥60, which is just under $9.

Not as available as in the US.  And the prices are quite high.  In the airport in Fuzhou, 1 Caramel Cappuccino is about ¥58,  or just under $9 US.  Other places aren't so bad, but still not so great.  Starbucks is still about $4-5 per cup.  My usual Tall drip coffee is ¥15, just over $2, whereas in the States it's only $1.34.

All cheap, all tasty.  Though, much too much oil!  I'll take a photo.  So now I feel fat eating so much oily tasties.  I figured out I can eat a good breakfast for ¥2, lunch for under ¥5, and dinner (if I go really fancy) for under ¥20.  ¥27 per day means my 2 weeks here in Hefei is ¥378, or just over $55.  I kid you not, that is on the cheap side of things!  It'll probly turn out to be less than that.  Though, I might buy some Mandarin oranges for snack, which cost about 10 cents in US dollars.

They tell me "don't do it."  Supposedly the air is so bad pretty much everywhere that going running will do more harm than good.  I think I'll go running anyway.  I feel like crap, since I haven't been exercising, and all the food is oily.  Granted, we walk a ton, but that's still not enough for me.

I'll post more things like this when I find the time.  For now, enjoy your clean water and clean air...!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Day 2 is nearly over. Technically, I got in last night, so this was the 1st full day of stuff. It's been good. Way too much food, but that's never a problem. Anna's parents are fun, kinda quiet at times (especially when I first arrived), but now that they're getting used to speaking Chinese around me, and figuring out what I understand and don't understand, they speak a bit more to me. Most of the time though, they speak Chinese to Anna, and through her talk to me. She basically dumbs it down for me...

Fuzhou is big and busy. In the middle of the city, you probly wouldn't be able to distinguish between there and Beijing. Granted, there may be a few less skyscrapers, but it certainly isn't lacking in people and noise.

Today I met up with Anna's friend Dingding, whom I helped earlier this semester with her english oral presentation over the IM. We went and bought me a dictionary for 998 yuan (about $150 US), and a cell phone for 680 yuan (about $80). Both very sleak and neato. We'll see if I can get picks up soon.

The cool thing about today was that I saw no other white people. All Chinese since I left the airport yesterday at 6:30pm. Lots of people looking at me, others not seeming to notice. Most of the people we had to talk to (like attendants and waiteresses) were surprised I knew any Chinese at all. The conversation is normally (they say in Mandarin), "Is he from America?", then Dingding or Anna will say, "Ask him yourself" then they all "oo" and "ah" and "you speak chinese?!" It's fun. granted, I still feel like a nuisance since I'm not really that good at the language yet. I understand most everything that isn't technical language (like buying a phone, I catch only very little, talking about where I'm from on the bus is easy).

We had a huge meal at this restaurant tonight, and thus I'm tired beyond my thinking capacity. I'll depict it tomorrow, get some photos up, and all will be right in the world.