Even Chinese kids have germs!

As I type this with my right hand my left hand is holding a tissue to my nose.

For the last threeish days I’ve been waking up with a sore throat and runny nasal cavities. Back in the states I never got sick, but being in China, arriving during the changing of the seasons, walking EVERYWHERE when we need to travel, and playing with little munchkins everyday has taken its toll on me. I’m just surprised Noelle hasn’t gotten the sniffles yet. She usually gets six different versions of the plague during the winter and each time she starts back at her old daycare in the summers. It wouldn’t be so annoying if we hadn’t forgotten our ziploc baggy with our over the counter meds on the other side of the world!


Two days ago we took a few hours and walked up “UFO Mountain.”

A UFO that crash landed in China during the 40s…Nah, just an observation thingy.

It’s not really called UFO Mountain, but you can see why it has acquired that handle, right?

And at night it’s lit up all blue. I’ll get a shot of that soon.

This mountain, which is really more like an overgrown hill, is just down the street from our apartment complex. It’s surrounded by nice hiking trails that can get decently steep. The park sits at the base, right along our walk to the school everyday.

About half way up you can catch this view of the city between the valley that’s formed.

We have a nine-day holiday coming up this weekend, so I plan on hiking through most of the trails. I know Noelle wants to run them before it gets really cold, too.

This isn’t an ancient Buddhist bell or anything, but it was along the way up to the UFO.

There’s this little stop off where some folks were eating their lunch and just hanging out. Off to the side there was this really cool looking stone walking path that led to something called “Lover’s Garden.” It was fenced off to the public, but I stepped over the chain anyways and coaxed Noelle into doing the same. I’m glad we did. Large stones with Chinese characters carved into them littered what I soon realized was the very edge of the mountain.

We walked around a short path and there, stretching out forever, was the ocean.

You can see another corner of the city here, too…
I have no stinkin’ idea what that winged horse statue thing is, but I’m going to hike over there soon and find out.

We kept hiking on up the path, but before we got to the top we ran into some of these ribbons that were tied to trees. My best guess (and that’s all it is) is that they’re from the “lovers” that have visited the “Lovers Garden,” which, by the way, is a horrible name for the stone pathway…there was not one flower to be seen. Now, I’m not a botanist or even into horticulture; heck, I can barely remember to water a cactus enough to keep it alive, but I just think that anything with the word “garden” anywhere in its name should have flowers somewhere in the vicinity. And overgrown weeds don’t count.

We kept going up. Really our only option.

“It’s weird to be so close to the ocean and not be on vacation.” ~ Noelle
Hanging out
One last look at our city on the way down…

It didn’t show up well in the pictures, but on the other side of the city there is a big mountain the other Westerners call “Big Black Mountain.” There are a few temples on it and to get up one side and down the other it takes about a whole day. We’re going to do that probably Sunday, so hopefully we’ll be posting some nicer pics of the local scenery. Also on our itinerary for the break is the Dalian Zoo, where, I’ve read, you can feed live chickens to the lions and the tigers, and even a goat to the hyenas if you so choose. American zoos just don’t know what they’re missing. Hah.

We may even get to Beijing to see the Forbidden city and the Great Wall. We’ll see.

For now, I just want to get over this cold. Tomorrow morning we have a shopping class with one of the Eastern teachers before work. We’ve gone to the store a few times so far, so It’ll be interesting to see how much we’ve messed up ’til now.

Frosties: They’re Grrreat!

Ni Hao! -Hello!

Don’t let that fool you; I have no idea how to go much further than simply greeting someone. And to boot, my accent and intonation probably hits the native Chinese ear like some of the more colorful caterwauling of past Idol rejects. Will that deter me?


Noelle and I have been here exactly…um…(counting the days out on my fingers) SIX days. Yes, somewhere over the pacific we lost about twelve hours, but I’m almost positive it was Saturday night when we arrived here in Dalian (the trip threw off my internal clock!). This week has been packed with a ton of new things. Honestly, when just walking around your block kicks you in the teeth with culture shock then it’s safe to assume that in the course of a week there are innumerable quantities of learning afoot.

Some of the learning–most of it–doesn’t take place in a classroom.

Yesterday Noelle and I met one of our supervisors, Miles, at the front gate of our apartment around 7:30 am. The three of us walked to the light rail (walking is basically the only means of travel for us–well, that and cabs, but the traffic here is quire literally insane or just off its meds, very worthy of a separate entry) and headed for downtown Dalian. Dalian splits up into three main parts: Downtown Lushunkou District (DT), Kaifaqu (KFQ-pronounced Caw-fa-chew), and Zhuanghe Distric to the NE of the peninsula. Once there, an Eastern teacher (ET) from the DT school traveled with us to one of the area’s hospitals for our “body checks.”

I wish I could have taken pictures. I swear, this “hospital” was the most unnerving thing I’ve experienced since getting here. Let me just say that there are many high quality institutions that dabble in the fine art of practicing medicine all over China. I’m sure many of the world’s brightest minds can be found in some of these facilities. I’m just not convinced any of them would be at the hospital we visited.

We walked into a dimly lit off-white building with water and rust stains along the walls and ceilings, several men smoking throughout the halls, and lines of patients (I think) bunched up against windows, awaiting their turn to register with the very young looking nurses. Then we were led by our ET down more dim halls to another nurse, this one older looking, sitting behind a table with plastic, thimble-sized cups to her right. We gave her our paperwork and she handed me one of the lidless cups. Once in the bathroom flashes from the first Saw movie kept coming to mind. Tiles were broken on the floor, rust clung to every metal surface like bad facial hair on English majors, the pipes beneath the cracked sinks looked more than a hundred years old, the windows were busted and had bars on them, old mops scowled at me from the corners of the room, and I swear a skeleton could have been stacked between some of the old construction supplies to the left of the stall. It’s pretty sad that the nicest element to the hospital’s bathroom was the hole in the ground where you do your business. Needless to say, I passed on that particular part of the body test, at least until I could muster up enough courage to brave contracting tetanus.

We waited in three other long lines until we had both received an X-ray of our chest, an EKG, blood pressure test, blood test (I witnessed them unsealing new needles each time, thank God!), and a sonogram. Yeah, they laid me down and made me pull up my shirt so they could slop some of that goo on me. Gotta tell you, never thought I’d get a sonogram test done. I kept fighting the desire to ask them if it was a girl or a boy.

Oh, and privacy? Not so important if you’re a dude there. As the nurse is wiggling that darn sonogram thingy up and down my stomach and chest a handful of curious Chinese, Indian, and South African patients take that moment to just have a looksee at the American. From what she tells me, Noelle had a similar experience, so at least it wasn’t just my bad luck. Good thing I’m not that self-conscious! Eventually we do make it out of there with all the necessary stamps (the Chinese stamp everything to authenticate it) and a clean bill of health.

The hospital aside, Dalian, or more specifically, the area we live in, Kaifaqu, is beginning–slowly–to feel like homeish. We’re getting to know the streets a bit better and after work tonight we managed to make a successful grocery run AND get Noelle a street-merchant purse that we haggled for. The girl wanted 75 RMB but Welly got her down to 55. That’s about 10 US bucks. Ignoring the fact that just after our purchase the merchant and another girl shared a laugh while throwing looks in our direction, I think Noelle made out O.K.

Tomorrow is Saturday, but here Sat and Sun are actually our long days at the school. We have to be in by 8 am, so I’m going to toss some pictures up here and hit the hay.

Can you guess what this is?

It’s sold in a box…and you can find it in aisles near soft drinks….





You got it: Milk. Here it’s sold in little bags that are kept in boxes–warm, not cold!
This is a pic of my first Chinese purchase. Candy. The pieces look like little pink dough balls with jelly-like goo in the middle. Quite good, actually.
This isn't a great pic, but it kinda shows what it's like at night. This is a hotel that's lit up, but everywhere at night you can see flashing lights. Some streets look like Vegas even though they might just be corner stores. Flashing lights are kinda the thing to have if your a business here.
At night a lot of shops and stores are lit up like this along a few streets. Reminds me of Vegas.

One of my fav cereals has a different moniker here in the Orient!

One of my favorite cereals has a different moniker here in the Orient!!

I’m trying to get some nice shots of the area we’re in, but, as it turns out, I’m not much of a photographer. I”ll keep at it though!


Adjusting to the New!

Hey all! Noelle this time!

I haven’t written much in this blog yet – blogging is something that I am still getting used to. I email and facebook so often that blogging never really occured to me. But I think I can get hooked on it!

So, as many of you know, we have made it to China. Just to back track a bit for anyone who might be wondering why we are here, we were going to join the Peace Corps. However, after some consideration, we decided it wouldn’t be the best fit for us and our future goals and plans. We still wanted the abroad experience though so we hooked up with an agency that helps teachers find jobs overseas, and wahoo! We are here. We are in the northeast section of China, in a city called Dalian.

(Dalian at night. Nope, we didn’t take this pic)

Being in a city has brought on some unexpected challenges for me.

One of these challenges just happens to be the overly crowded population in China. I can’t lie  – I don’t like the crowds and probably will not get used to them during my time here. Going into a store and barely being able to move around, plus enduring temperatures that feel like 100 degrees due to the excessive amount of people and lack of air conditioning is not what I am used to when going on a simple trip to the grocery store.

Speaking of food, I really just want my fork back. In China, as you probably know, chop sticks are the main utensil used. I thought, ya know, chopsticks can’t be hard….. I was wrong! Ate about 1/3 of what I could tonight because I was at a staff dinner and was too embarrassed with these darn chop sticks! I don’t have the hang of it yet but I will soon, or I’ll starve. 😛

Also, walking through downtown, there is an exhaust smell that is almost nauseating to me every time I walk through. I am REALLY HOPING this is something that I get used to quickly. Because, you have to remember, I’m a nature-lovin girl, not a city girl at heart so I’d much rather be smelling fresh cut grass than anything in the city. Since I have described some of my not-so-good experiences so far, it is only fair that I tell you the good! There’s always a good side!

We have an amazing, cooperative, helpful staff at our school. They have helped with everything ranging from getting us a jug of clean water to setting up the VPN so that we have access back home through facebook. They have also paid for several meals at several restaurants while showing us around town. If it weren’t for them, we would be a couple of lost laowai! (lost foreigners :-P)

Love our apartment! I am going to post some pictures soon! Right now I am feeling the jet lag again and am going to go relax. Until then, take care! 😛

Livin’ La (visa) Loca

It’s one-thirteen a.m. Our flight for China leaves in the eight-o-clock hour, and we’re supposed to be leaving the house at the butt-crack of dawn, five. Why am I awake?

Good question. I really don’t know.

The last week has literally been a whirlwind of non-stop activity. First, we packed up the apartment and tucked everything in a storage locker that Noelle’s parents are sharing with us.

                                                                         (Me standing in our empty Apt. Goodbye, Apt!)

And this past weekend we had two going away parties which were a blast. Again, Welly’s parent’s threw us one, and so did my folks. It was definitely great to see everyone before we left!

However, it hasn’t all been easygoing…Saturday, when our Visa documents didn’t arrive we started to panic a bit. You see, before we could hop on a plane and am-scray to the Orient we had to get our Visas authenticated (in person!) at the Chinese Consulate in NYC. That meant we had to drive there just to get a little stamp in our Passports that says, “Hey, these two are legitimately allowed to work in our country for a year. Back off.” Yup, more or less.

We knew the drive up there was a huge hassle and I had no clue if my car would make it there and back…She drives smooth, but she’s not great for endurance. We were hoping the paperwork would arrive Monday then, just so we’d at least be able to get over to the Big Apple Tuesday and back Wednesday night. That would give us Thur to relax.

BUT, they weren’t there on Monday, either.

We freaked a bit when the UPS lady told us the documents might not be there til Wednesday. If that was the case the flight would have to be rescheduled…something no one wanted for many reasons (my biggest reason? It would cost several hundred dollars to make the change).

They showed up Tuesday afternoon, at the end of the day. I swear we were the UPS guy’s last stop before he clocked out…

So, we left that night in my dusty Alero (I figured a dirty car would look less appealing to car-jackers or thieves..however, who would steal a gangly Oldsmobile Alero?).  Half an hour into our trip we realized the GPS Garmin had a low battery…half hour after that we realized my lighter outlet didn’t work when the GPS turned off and wouldn’t turn back on. We picked up a PA map and blazed our own (albeit mapped out) trail. Noelle drove through the night, but by about five am she’d been up almost 24 hours and had had enough. I took over. With a PA, New Jersey, and a NY map we were set. There was nothing we couldn’t do! And then I hit early morning traffic through Jersey City and I realized I really should have mounted a Gatling Gun on the roof of my car. It’s difficult to explain what the traffic is like right beyond the Jersey City toll without just copy and pasting a traffic scene from the last Die Hard movie (you know, the scene when the bad guy takes out the traffic lights and stuff?). Yeah, that’s exactly what it was like. No joke. There were charter buses squeezing into spaces that a VW beetle wouldn’t dare try, speeding Semis with no regard for any of Newton’s laws of motion, honking horns that sounded mildly like Beethoven’s 9th, and Demolition Derby rejects trying to incite their own brand of automobile anarchy. Trust me when I say that the space beyond that toll exist in a world without traffic laws.

But we made it through and to the Lincoln Tunnel.

And then we made it into NYC.

The trip wasn’t a leisurely venture, but we tried to snap a few good pics along the way. By the time we got into the city, got through the consulate, and walked around a bit Noelle and I had been up about 31 hours straight. SO, the three of us (forgot to mention that mi madre tagged along) hailed a cab, found a cheap motel, and CRASHED.

…Wow…just looked at the time. It’s after 2 am. I should grab at least two hours of sleep tonight. Maybe in my next entry I can try to describe to you the bureaucratic nightmare that is the Consulate, or the U-turn I made in NYC.

Tomorrow we leave the US. Wish us luck.