Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shopping Adventures

Today I need to go couch shopping. The couches we had, besides being orange, were quite large for our small apartment and have been moved to a larger apartment where they will be recovered and enjoyed more fully. Buying anything is interesting in China as there are many additional steps to go through. As far as the couches, this is what I have done so far.

Step one--Ask another foreign staff member where to look and try to explain to the taxi driver where I need to go.

Step two--Wander aimlessly around where the taxi driver drops me off (hoping it's the right area of town--in this case it was. Yay!) Be followed by the salespeople, who are hoping to make a sale but intimidated by my inability to communicate.

Step three--Grow mildly frustrated with the selection and head home for the day.

Step four--Intimidated by steps two and three, put off looking for new couches for the next month.

Step five--Find out the current couches are being removed from your apartment that day and realize you've procrastinated too long.

Step six--Ask a Chinese staff where to look.

Step seven--Wait a week until you have time in your schedule to look again.

This, of course, brings me to today, which, after watching movies on the hard floor last night, has motivated me to take care of what I should have done a month ago. However, there are still a few steps to be done. I must find a couch that I like and will fit our apartment, then I must find a Chinese staff to return with me to negotiate a price and delivery. Hopefully I can accomplish the first of this part today.

On the note of our couches and apartment, I ran across some pictures last night of our apartment from when we first arrived. You'll see it's not bad, though a little old. We've replaced the curtains, which, although it's hard to tell from the pictures, were a nice 1970's muted orange fake velvet, and as mentioned above, we no longer have those couches. Hopefully that will help with the overall "orange" feel of our apartment. We're told the company is going to help us update the apartment a little. The kitchen shelves, which are over six feet off the ground, will be lowered and resurfaced. The moldy panel in the second bedroom hopefully will be removed. We might even be able to paint over the fake orange paneling that runs throughout. This album also includes a few other pics from when we first got here. Maybe this will work...
We just returned from a retreat this weekend, which was the first retreat I've had that had more relaxation time than sessions! It was a great experience with lots of time to relax and spend time with new friends. I also got to hold a sleeping baby the entire way home, which is one of the best things in the world. Overall it was a great weekend, and we're looking forward to the rest of the week off before classes resume Monday. Enjoy the pictures--you'll find them on the left of this page.

PS...Badger Nathan until he puts a post up on his blog about the "shortcut" he and several other bikers took to the retreat! :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So, I just made a post, but then I realized another thing that I needed to mention.

No, we are not returning to the States any time soon.

There has been some miscommunication recently that I wanted to address. Nathan posted on his facebook that he was getting on a plane and heading home, and we had several (excited) e-mails from people in the States asking why we were returning to the USA so soon. :-) Funny how easily things can get misinterpreted, and how fast things can spread!

I realized that what's even more interesting about this is how fast Qingdao has begun to feel like home. I know that is not what you all in the States want to hear, but it has been good for us to settle in quickly. Some days I still long for the familiar places of the USA (especially when I go grocery shopping) but overall, it feels really great to be here. Thank you all for your support in our decision to move international. We couldn't have done it without you!

Long Days and Nights

Ever have one of those weeks when you get to Wednesday and know it must be Friday? This week has felt that long. I think this feeling is always intensified right before a good break. Next week is National Day Holiday, which means we have the whole week off!

Saturday through Tuesday we have a staff retreat in the mountains. Then the rest of the week is free, although Nathan has drama practice one of the days so we can't go out of town. That's okay. I'm REALLY looking forward to sleeping in regardless!

Even though the weeks sometimes feel long, I have been surprised to realize how much I love teaching. All of my classes are great, and one of them is absolutely fantastic! I will miss this class when the semester is over. Being an art teacher is great, although so different from any of the standard disciplines.

Pluses of being an art teacher
1. Less grading--almost no papers to read!
2. Fun, hands on interaction with the kids.
3. I am forced to be actively involved in my art.

Minuses of being an art teacher
1. More planning is involved, especially in China.
2. It is so hard to find some of the simplest supplies.
3. I only get to meet a portion of the students.

It's great when you get to do something you love as an occupation. The days and nights might be tiring, but a new morning always comes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seeing the World

So, Nathan is in Shanghai this weekend for work. Do you know how cool that is? I still have a hard time getting over the fact that we live in CHINA! And that we can fairly easily visit so many exciting places...two weeks ago we went to a beach resort in Wahai for Middle School Fall Camp! Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing. Yep, I did it all!

Next I may be traveling to Tianjin someday soon to observe the art program there (and of course, visit some wonderful friends). We also have a retreat coming up where we'll head out of the city. Beijing and Hong Kong are on our list to travel to later this semester. So cool! I love living international!

So, anyways, I'm bacheloretting this weekend. While I hate sleeping alone, I'm actually quite excited about this. I'm planning on heading home tonight and watching a long, sad chickflick that I will wouldn't be able to see otherwise. And lots of chocolate. :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our Beautiful City

So last week was our New Staff City Tour. Usually they do this when the new staff first arrives, but this year the Olympics sort of put a wrench into everything. It was fun to see a lot of places we hadn't been to yet.

For those who aren't aware of Chinese geography, Qingdao is directly on the coast, sort of on a peninsula. This is really cool because just about anyway you turn you run into the ocean. In fact, our commute to school every morning is along a beautiful coastal route. Leaving the house at 6:30AM may not be fun, but a lulling tour along the coast with a rising sun backdrop usually makes it worth it. Our school is also built on a hill, so we have a beautiful view of the ocean from much of our campus. I can even (barely) see it from my office!

Enough about the ocean though. I don't want to make you poor landlocked souls too jealous.

Here are a few pics of the city:

The night before we had our city tour, we had a karaoke birthday party for one of our staff members. Turns out karaoke is really big here, and they have a lot of karaoke bars with private party rooms. We had around 30 people there, so we even had the VP suite with a large screen to read the lyrics on.

Karaoke in China is even more fun than in the states (for all of you non-karaoke fans) because on the screen behind the lyrics they karaoke machine projected cheesy music videos to go along with the music. However, sometimes it seems they weren't so sure about the translation. Sometimes the lines were mixed up (we're still not sure how they got "I want to floor you" from "I want to hold you"). The funniest was the background to "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful." Yes, the Christmas song. Someone thought it would be fun to sing it...what was more fun was to see the music video that went a long. Here are a few shots...

Yes, that is a beach on a warm summer day (I don't think that was in the song), and I think the couple is adoring each other more than the Christ. :-) This video was absolutely hilarious. It started out with a bunch of shots of Buddha, and then went to a very sultry, cheesy, 1980's video. I'm sorry to say we were not able to focus on the words...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Well, Here I Go

So, as I have my own thoughts and feelings about our adventures, I thought I might create my own blog. Life is speeding away at its own fast pace these days and it seems that I can't e-mail everyone I'd like and tell them all that is going on. I'm sure everyone by now thinks we've dropped off the edge of the earth, as much as they've heard from us!

We're doing quite well here, and I'm starting to feel as though we've settled in. It's amazing to me that we've been here for over six weeks. (Or is it seven?) Living in China sure is interesting!

So, to catch up those who I haven't talked to since moving here (which is almost everyone), I thought I would make a couple lists. I might have to add to them later, but here are a few best and not so best things about living in China.

Things that I love about living in China

1. Taxis are cheap, and buses are even cheaper!
Most places I go to in a taxi take only 8-10 yuan, which is about $1.50--buses are only 1-2 yuan!

2. Our Ayi!
We love our Ayi! An ayi is a hired person who generally cooks and cleans your house. Sometimes they don't work out so well, but ours is fantastic. She is a wonderful cook, and it's awesome to have someone else do the ironing. However, every once in a while, something disappears only to show up in a strange place (it took us a month to find Nathan's brown belt). Overall, she has been great.

3. The food is great! (and inexpensive)
So far since moving here, I think I've cooked twice. Well, that depends on whether you count tuna fish sandwiches. :-) Although I have started baking for different birthdays at work.

Things that make life (a little too) interesting

1. Art supplies are limited
Basic art supplies are plentiful, but there's no Michaels for those random little things I took for granted in the States. Things like, sawdust, modgepodge, quality colored pencils...

2. Interesting Smells
Actually, this doesn't usually bother me. Except for the garbage can we have to walk by every day on the way to the bus. And the sewer gas that comes up through our drains.

3. No google maps
This is perhaps what I miss the most. In the states if I wanted to find something, say a furniture store, I would just google it, and then google map it. Here, few stores have websites, and if they do, I'd be lucky to be able to read it!

Until next time...