Hello Uncle Foreigner

Nov 24, 2011

The Hong Kong visa run

Fun with paperwork

Living in China entails a lot of paperwork. I don’t write about it often, because it’s kind of boring, but we’ve had at least one major form to fill out/file/correct and refile per week since June. We’ve been pretty meticulous about things, and had the help of our hosts, but every once in a while there are mistakes made that need correcting. One such incident resulted in me writing a letter to the police that I was very sorry in my heart (the language is really like that!) that I misfiled something, and I won’t do it again.

But so the occasion for our trip to Hong Kong was actually to fix something with Peter’s visa - that for whatever reason was not fixable in country (Hong Kong is not a fully integrated part of China). And this is what we did with most of our Friday.

Here’s the thing about visiting the embassy, both here and in New York. Go first thing in the morning, with all the paperwork you think you need already filled out. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but it seems like they don’t. If things go smoothly, then you’re finished for the day, without having to wait on a four-hour line. If things do not go smoothly, then you have time to fix them.

Unfortunately for us, things did not go as smooth as they could have. Our head teacher forgot to give us the forms from Peter’s physical in Chengdu that proved he was healthy enough to work. But, since we got there early, we had plenty of time to fix it. We went back to the hotel and called our boss. She emailed the forms over and we found a print shop where we could print them out. By this time, the embassy was closed for lunch and wouldn’t open again until two. You’d better believe that we were back right at two. But still, the wait for our number to come up was considerably longer than it had been in the morning.

This time: Success! We got our slip which said to come back Monday afternoon.

They told us to come around 3 pm, so we got there around 2:45 pm. There was a huge line waiting just to get into the embassy. Yikes! But, we consulted with the guard at the front; that line was for people dropping off applications. As we were picking up, we could go right in. As on Friday morning, there was no line, and we were out of there in 20 minutes.

And we’re one step closer to being permanent temporary residents of Luzhou.

Nov 22, 2011

Back at home

It’s time for sticks

After waking up way too early (4:30 am) to catch our flight, we’re back in Luzhou. Signs that we’re back:

  • The smell of the Old Cellar distillery; It’s stinkier and stronger than ever.
  • All the kids greet us enthusiastically in English. We’re special again!
  • No one besides our students speak English. It’s amazing how quickly we forgot in Hong Kong that most Chinese do not speak our language.
  • On the menu for dinner tonight: Things on sticks!

Nov 21, 2011

Six

Number of modes of public transport taken in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a really easy city to get around. And there are many ways to do it. On our short trip, we took:

  • Metro
  • Bus
  • Tram
  • Cable car
  • Light rail
  • Ferry boat

The only thing we missed was the light bus. We’ll have to go back …

Nov 20, 2011

A view of the harbor

And of a car park

Look at us, in Hong Kong

Hello! Hong Kong is beautiful! Behind us is the harbor and Hong Kong Island. And a car park.

Nov 20, 2011

Real western breakfast!

And Earl Grey tea

Breakfast

We’re having too much fun for blogging, but I promise a whole series of posts on our Hong Kong weekend. In the meantime, here’s the English breakfast we had this morning. Butter! Tea with milk! Baked beans! Salad!

Nov 18, 2011

Touching down in HK

A new city

Hong Kong at night

We’re in Hong Kong! It’s been a super hectic day and a half, but fun and awesome too. I’ll have more to say when I’m a little more rested.

Nov 15, 2011

Talking with the students

Formal attire optional

“May I have a word?” — One of my students asked me this very seriously after a class this morning. We then proceeded to talk about which pop stars I like. Beyonce and Lady Gaga are particular favorites here.

Nov 14, 2011

Our debut performance

Hello Luzhou!

First of all, today started out with a meeting with our boss, wherein she told us we’re doing great, everyone loves us, the teachers want tips, the students are learning and the principals want us to stay forever. Nice!

From then, the day was pretty hectic. The school talent show was this afternoon, and we were performing with one of my classes - Peter on guitar, me on bass. But we also each had other classes to teach. We grabbed a final practice at home during lunch (lunchtime here is a 2.5-hour break) and then got dressed for showtime: we wore white button-downs with red ties and black pants/skirt. But, before showtime, we had more classes. My juniors were utterly impressed with my gussied-up look; when I entered the classroom, I was greeted with cries of “Oh, beautiful!”

I had a break before the performance, so I ran over to the gym where the show was going to take place (I had some student roadies to carry the gear) and did a perfunctory sound-check while the class did the same. Peter had one more class.

The timeline went like this: 3:30 pm, sound-check; 4:00 pm, Peter’s last class is over and students start filing into the gym; 4:20 pm, Peter arrives in the gym, everyone backstage is relieved, I brief him on the way the sound is set up; 4:30 pm, SHOWTIME! The kids recite a poem and sing the school song before we join them on stage. We walk out to rapturous applause - this is actually my first live rock performance, so it’s a nice greeting. The actual performance was fun - there were a few glitches, but it was a kids’ talent show, not the Hollywood Bowl. There’s another big concert for Spring Festival (which sounds like it happens around Chinese New Year), and there’s already talk of an encore performance!

(There were plenty of teachers taking pictures, so we’re hoping to get our hands on some soon.)

Nov 13, 2011

Relative sizes II

We’re smaller, but still giants

Peter and I both have lost a lot of weight since we’ve gotten here. We’ve put this down to the fact that we’re walking everywhere - including up and down the big hill that we live atop - and that the bulk of our diet is fresh vegetables. There’s no dairy to speak of and we don’t buy that much processed food. Yes, there’s a lot of carborific rice and noodles, but we’re pretty much going up (down?) a new belt notch every week.

Which is why Peter was a little dismayed the other night when he was trying on his black pants and they were a little tight. He could button the button, but barely. “All my other pants are loose. Why don’t these fit?” he asked. I looked him over: “Because they’re my black pants.” Yup. Peter can now almost fit into my pants.

But we’re still giants compared to the rest of the country. Peter has bought a couple new pairs of pajamas. He’s a XXL-XXXL. At the first purchasing, we picked up a large. The store clerk looked Peter over and shook her head, enlisting help to find the largest pair the store had. I am desperately searching for a new pair of jeans, because the ones I brought are now quite loose. Unfortunately, the trend here for women is super-tight skinny jeans, so I can squeeze into the largest size most stores carry, but I don’t really want to.

So we’re still on the lookout. It’s pretty funny. We don’t think of ourselves as big people, but evidently the Chinese do.

Nov 12, 2011

Tea time

Hanging out with new friends

Taking tea with Summer and Hank

The other night we went out for some tea with some of our new Chinese friends. From left, we have: Hank, Sugar, Peter, Me, Summer and Jenny.

We went to a place up by the Tuo River (the river farther from our house), overlooking Baizitu Square. It was really lovely. We got our own private room and ordered up some green tea, beer, a fruit plate, boiled peanuts and pistachios, and we talked a lot about the differences and similarities between China and America. (“Does everyone in America own their own field, house and car? Because we think they do.” Hank, via Jenny, asked.) We also traded some vocabulary: 花生 (huasheng) means peanut. Summer also told us how to ask, “Can you give me a discount?” But I’ve already forgotten it.

There was one little item on our fruit plate that they were curious to know the English name for. It was about the size of an extra large grape, with a small seed in the middle and an apple-like texture. But neither Peter nor I had ever seen anything like it. So Summer looked it up on her phone. Jujube. We both laughed when she showed us. Neither of us knew that a jujube was a real fruit. Summer asked how it was pronounced. “That’s so cute!” she said when we told her.