Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blog entry 10/5/2009

Hello from Wanzhou China. I'm sorry I'm so late in writing this blog entry. I've been waiting to write something until I had a solid idea of what I'm doing here as well as solid employment. And as of now each of these two things are a bit hazy. Things in this country are as organized as a headless chicken (i.e. things get done but you have to run around and wait for a long time), which can be quite frustrating. As of now though I have started Chinese classes several times a week and am supposed to begin teaching English to Business majors and Literature majors (which should be very interesting).

Aside from the frustration of not having a teaching schedule things here are going well. The town I live in is called Wanzhou, which is three hours away from Chongqing (these are in the western/central part of the country). To find it on Google maps type in Wanxian, san xia institute/three gorges institute (that’s my school), or follow the river north from Chongqing until you hit a major highway. It is a smallish town with close to one million people! There is a downtown area but it is also very easy to walk to the countryside and get almost completely away from the town. Being a small town the pollution is not bad either (we actually have fairly consistent sunny days!).

I would definitely say I am in the middle of China both physically and culturally. The only western restaurants here are McDonalds and KFC which means for me there is Chinese food every day for every meal (which isn't bad because I like the food here). With the exception of some of the students, the people here either don't know any English or very little and are perfectly happy to speak Chinese as fast as they possibly can.... there are many times when I'm wearing a confused look on my face when I talk with people.

Currently I'm on National Day/Mid-Autumn Festival break for this week. I was able to see the national day parade in Beijing (well, on TV that is) and eat some Moon Cakes (which are the traditional snack people eat during the Autumn festival). The people here celebrate holidays by seeing relatives, eating meals together and compulsively shopping. I expected the town to be pretty quiet on the holidays but, in reality, you can hardly move in some places so many people are out shopping (its almost like the time period after Thanksgiving).

Aside from that I have eaten some interesting things in meals with Chinese people. No dog meat but I have ingested cow tongue, cow stomach, pig ears, pig tongue, and my favorite (and by that I mean most disturbing) pig brain!

At the school there are six foreigners. Five other teachers from the US and one student from Poland. I live in my own apartment which is nice (although I have no motivation to clean not having any sort of room mate).

So in all things are going pretty well except for the confusion about my position and this @#$!&*#@ing firewall which is still blocking Facebook and BlogSpot.
Hope everyone is well.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Its almost July!

I can't believe its almost July. Time goes slow here normally along with the pace of life but then there are times when it seems the weeks have flown by.
The reading program I'm working with is going pretty well. I'm trying though to return to some schools on our off days for some tutoring for older students who can't read English yet. Since they cannot read us giving them books is not much help... and it seems some of the teachers have little interest in catching the students up who are behind.
Last weekend I went to give a basic first aid presentation to a community NGO that my friend is running. The presentation went well (and there was someone there to translate for me since my Swahili isn't that great). The interesting part of the trip though was that I decided to walk to this place and got hit by three different storms within a two hour period. I got to meet many interesting people while I was trying to find shelter from the rain and hail.
I went to a church last weekend just to see a church service here. It is very similar to the one I went to in Mississippi. Lots of singing and dancing. I had to introduce myself as a new comer, so I decided to do it in Swahili. At first I thought I said the wrong thing because after I introduced myself everyone started laughing. I found out later though that people were laughing that the white guy was speaking Swahili (so it was a good laugh).
Thats whats new here. I have some pictures but I wont be able to post them until I return. Hope all is going well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One month in!

So on saturdays we normally go to an orphanage and play African style football (soccer) with the kids. This entails kids half your age being ten time better than you are, avoiding hills, rocks, trees, stumps and goats (yes thats right I said avoiding goats!). It is quite fun though and the kids enjoy it. If we don't play football we generally chase the kids in circles, let them climb on us, or engage in crafts of somthing of the sort.
Also this week I had several visits to the hospital (only one was because of my own illness). One of the hospitals we took a friend of mine too was a public hospital. Not the best place in the world because it looks like the set to a horror film. He got decent medical care but it is not the first place I would want to go to.
Thats all for now, time is a bit short so I'll write more later, just figured I should get in the habit of using and updating the blog. Hope everyone is well.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

week 2.5

You may notice that there are two posts today, thats because I wrote the previous one further down on the page two weeks ago but haven't been able to get the blogspot website to load on the internet here.
So....It has been about two weeks since I've been in Kenya. I am enjoying myself here. We are inthe midst of the rainy season so there are daily storms/ rain showers. I have been able to get out and about to the towns of Kakamega and Kisumu as well as to some surrounding villages.
I have been taking some pictures but the internet is really really slow and doesn't do well with uploading pictures.... or mabey I just can't figure it out. Anyway I have some pictures and if I can't figure it out here, I'll post them up when I get back in August.
I got to see a bull fight today. At first I was worried that it would be mess but its just two bulls butting heads for an hour or so until one runs off. No gore or stabbing bulls with swords or anything like that. Although you do have to be carful and run out of the way of a scared or distracted bull.

I must say too that if you ever go to africa taking the anti-malarial Methaquine gives you lots of dreams. Not necessarialy bad dreams but each time you sleep you will have a realistic dream.


Well after about 48 hours I’ve arrived in Shinyalu Kenya! It was quite a trip.
First stop was London for a twelve hour layover. I accomplished much, tea
with the queen and a quick address to parliament….. wait I think that may have
been Obama’s schedule.
I did get to see the British Museum and wander around the Soho district
(kind of the arts district of London) for a while. The British Museum is like
Denver or Chicago’s art museum…. Just on steroids.

Once in Nairobi I pretty easily met some of the people I’m working with and they
directed me to the bus station to pick up a bus. It was a ten hour trip but I got to
meet some interesting people. The bus trip would have been quicker but we were
transporting desks and a motorcycles on the top of our bus…. And it takes a hell of a
long time to lower a motorcycle off of the top of a bus when you have rope and crappy
ladders to work with.
I was the only mzungu (white person) on the bus and I think all the passengers thought
I was crazy. We stopped for food in the town of Nakuru and while there it started
raining. As everyone else ran for shelter there I was standing and enjoying something
that seldom happens in Denver. Of course the downside of standing out and enjoying the
rain is that you are completely drenched!

I am now living in the town of Shinyalu Kenya. It consists of a small town center and
many surrounding farms. Despite its small size it has become famous due to the death
of a member of parliament who grew up here. There has been funeral celebrations the
last few days including bull fights, dancing, speeches, etc. all going into the wee
hours of the morning.

The work I do ranges from teaching reading skills to primary school students to working
in the garden area to playing football (not the American variety) at an orphanage. The
people I work with are a Quaker based group the house volunteers. It is very nice,
there is occasionally electricity and running water (kind of).

I’m not sure how easily I will be able to load pictures on this blog due to the
slowness of the internet but we’ll see….. I am using my camera this time though and
have taken some pictures (although none during the bus ride across Kenya…. It didn’t
seem like a good idea to pull out a digital camera on a cheap bus packed full of people).

Monday, May 11, 2009

The night before

Welcome to my blog! I'm scheduled to head to Kenya tomarrow via 12 hours in London. I will be in the town of Shinyalu Kenya, which is outside of the town of Kakamega. There is a map below of the area. Its on the western side of Kenya so when I land in Nairobi I will hop on a bus and head out.
I'll be working at a place called Takitifu Gardens. This is a volunteer center run by Quakers. I think I'll be working with kids mostly teaching English, playing, and other such things as needed.
I'm pretty sure I'll have reliable internet connection so I'll be able to check my e-mail and post pictures on this blog.
Also, I plan in August to head to Wanzhou China in Chongqing province to teach English and study Chinese for a year at Chongqing Three Gorges University.
Well hopfully this blog will become much more interesting in the next few weeks with some pictures of where I'm going.
Here's hoping for a smooth trip!