Friday, December 12, 2008

Working Video!

I just discovered that the video Jeremiah took at Wenzhou Wonderland is working now! It's at the end of the Wenzhou Wonderland blog post.

View from our New Apartment

Shannon and I went out on a date this morning. On our way out, I took this picture from the walk outside our front door.

It was chilly and foggy- perfect weather for Coffee and Pastry!

Friday, December 05, 2008


In the days leading up the Thanksgiving Play, we noticed that every student participating in the play had an aversion to being cast as "Squanto." We wrote this off as being induced by role assignment, in the same way that none of the students wanted to be cast as "Pilgrim Mother," until one of the Chinese Teachers knocked over a bit of the language barrier. Apparently, "Squanto" sounds like the chinese "si kuan tou," which means "Dead Bald Person."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Language Barrier

"A Polar bear is a Cartesian bear after a coordinate transform."

Some of my jokes aren't translating very well.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Future Blog Posts

Due to Scheduling Issues, the following blog posts have been delayed:
Europe City
Bonus Post!!!! Flowers!
Traditional Chinese Dinner
Traditional Jessup Dinner
Blue Mountain Coffee
Breakfast at BreadTalk
Jessica's Birthday
Sincerely, The Management

Europe City

We found Europe City!

After an all-day excursion on foot (and in the rain) a few weeks ago, which completely failed to determine the precise location of Europe City, we set out early last week on a second excursion, armed with fresh information and a slightly improved sense of direction.

The second trip was successful- we found Europe City! It's not so much a neighborhood as it is a Shopping Center with western goods- high-end name brands, "exotic" foods like frozen pizza, butter, spaghetti, and the like, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and many other semblances of modern civilization wrapped in a circular Romanesque plaza.

It's located about a mile and a half from our apartment, so it takes us about 30-35 minutes to get there. Did I mention they sell cheese and butter? We're kind of excited about that.

Surprisingly, the potentially odd juxtaposition between Greco-Roman architecture and Asian patrons was, well, not so odd. I think we're acclimating.


This isn't on my "Future Post" list, but I don't want to wait until I catch up with everything else to post it.

Shannon and I went out on a Breakfast Date this week (Details in "Breakfast at Breadtalk"), and bought flowers. I'm not sure if they're expensive or cheap by local standards, but we were able to get this bouquet for about $7 USD.

We're very happy with them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday, October 14th

Today was, I think, a rather typical day. I'm typing this from the Language Center- my work responsibilities here are to prepare lesson plans for the upcoming classes, and they're all prepared. Consequently, work is s-l-o-w right now. It'll speed up tomorrow, when I have more classes to teach.
Our working hours are structured so that our 37.5 working hours are spread over six days, with the idea that even though the work-week will be longer, the individual days will be shorter. I'm not sure that it's playing out precisely in that way, but that's the theory.
Shannon had a class this morning at a Guang Chang Primary school, so she had to be out the door at 8:35. We got up a bit earlier this morning, so we were able to have coffee/tea together and have devotions before she left.
My plan for the morning was to go grocery shopping and fix lunch- this is not unusual, as Shannon has more mornings working than I do. We haven't quite figured out what groceries to buy in advance yet, so we frequently end up going grocery shopping for one meal at a time. Fortunately, the grocery store is only about a two-minute walk from the entrance of our building.
Jessica came up to fix breakfast, so before I went out she and Jeremiah and I were able to have breakfast together. It's really nice that we're all very close to each other- even after we're all in our own apartments, it's easy to see each other.
The grocery store is one block immediately to the east of us- it has everything we need on an ongoing basis- with the exception of popcorn, cheese, butter, ice cream, and most spices. When we eat "chinese food," we buy eggs, cup noodles (ramen in a cup), onions, green peppers, garlic, and sometimes ginger and mushrooms. Rice is cheap enough to keep a big bag on hand, as is soy sauce and frying oil. Eggs are cheap protien- about 6 RMB for a dozen. Chicken is inexpensive, about 20 RMB for a kilogram, and beef is a bit high, at 48 RMB per kilo. Most non-prepacked grocery store things (fruits, vegetables, etc.) are priced and sold by the half-kilo, so customers bag up however much they want, then get it weighed, priced, and stickered.
I was trying to make sweetish/sourish Chicken Cashew stirfry over rice for lunch, so I needed to buy chicken, red pepper, green pepper, cashews, and lemon juice. To this would be added onion, garlic, ginger, and sugar, which we already had. For the sake of posterity, the chicken was 5.1, the cashews were 10.3, one lemon was 4.2, a jar a pickeled red pepper was 4.2, and the green pepper was approx. 1. Onions, garlic and ginger are all very cheap- probably about 1 for the onion, and .1 for the garlic, and .0-something for the ginger. The topping probably cost about 22 RMB altogether, with maybe 3 RMB for the rice. It served the four of us one serving each, so it would be a good sized meal for three.
Shannon got back fromschool at noon, and the four of us had lunch together at 12:45.
Jeremiah, Jessica and I started work at 2:00 this afternoon (our normal work time). Shannon's schedule is a bit more fragmented than ours, so she didn't have to be at the language center until 3:00. She didn't miss much today- there was a meeting for the Chinese TA's that Jessica attended, and a meeting for the Foreign Teachers that the rest of us attended.

(Back at home now, Wednesday morning)

Work was slow. I had two 40-minute classes at the Primary School last night, at 6:20 and 7:20, and the lesson consists of assigning English names to each of the students and giving them a Cambridge curriculum book. It takes a lot longer then you'd think, so with 18-23 students per class, we really have to be moving quickly to get to everybody in the time we have.

I took dinner break 15 minutes early, from 4:45 to 5:45, then left for the school at 5:50. The school is about one kilometer from the office, so we usually use a taxi/tricycle to get there, and walk back.

Class went as planned. The students are from 1st grade, class 3. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that the standard class size in China public schools is 45- the classes tonight were for one class, split in two segments for manageability. The split was VERY necessary. The students are young, are apparently used to getting their own way, have a short attention span, and don't understand enough English to stay focused on any particular bit of English instruction. Consequently, they make a lot of noise and don't sit still.

My TA and I got back to the language center at 8:20, and I was on my way home at 8:25.

We had a short evening at home, and went to bed sometime in the vicinity of 10:00.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chinese Lesson #1

This afternoon we will have our first Chinese Language lesson!
We are at the language center, going over our lesson plans for tonight and tomorrow. Since I don't have any classes tonight or tomorrow, I can send in a quick blog post!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Last night, Lounes took us to Trust-Mart.

We arrived in Wenzhou a few days prior to Mid-Autumn Festival. In honor of the Festival, the Language Center gave each of its employees a bonus- ours was 100-Yuan gift cards to Trust-Mart.

Trust-Mart is, apparently, the name Wal-Mart uses in China. They sell several unfamiliar brands of housewares and groceries alongside the "Great Value" and "LifeStyle" brands. Like many large stores in China, the main store was a few stories high, with floors one and two for housewares, and the third floor for groceries.

Shannon and I took the perspective that the gift cards were like a bonus, and that consequently, we could in good conscience spend them entirely on junk food. Which we did.


We got Snickers bars, M&M's, Butter-flavored non-sweetened popcorn, Pringles, Coffee, 100% Juice, Dove Chocolate, Wafer Cookies, and a few other things. We're pretty happy about it.

It turnes out that Trust-Mart is within walking distance, just a little over a kilometer away from here. It's good to know where we can buy American junk food- for emergencies.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wenzhou Wonderland

On Saturday, Mr. Jiang took all the Language Center staff to "Wenzhou Wonderland" for the day.

Saturday marked the first day of the National Day festivities, for which we have an entire week off. To kick things off, the Language Center all went to Wenzhou Wonderland, a popular amusement/theme park in the South Wenzhou region. The general style of the park was clearly inspired by Disney World, and the rides/attractions bore a strong resemblance to rides found at the County Fair.

We left Wenzhou City at 10:00, got to the amusement park at about 11, did a few rides, had lunch at an on-site eatery offering Chicked Sandwhiches and Fries (much like Chick-Fillet. Oddly enough, though, in China everything served on a bun is called "Hamburger"). After lunch, we continued through the park.

There was everything from a Tilt-a-Whirl, Bumber Cars, and inversion rides to Bungee Jumping, a Haunted House, and a shooting gallery. Mr. Jiang rode on almost every ride, while a significant portion of the rest of us took a slightly more cautious approach. You might notice there are a few pictures of Shannon and Jeremiah hanging upside-down while spinning in circles- I'm on the other side of the camera.

I'm not sure whose legs are whose, but one pair belongs to Jeremiah.
Here's Shannon, spinning upside-down while the whole thing rotates:
And a zoomed-out look:

Sherry's Fiance took the camera for me so Shannon and I could ride the roller coaster together:

We're in the first car, the second row (behind Jeremiah):

The Carousel:
The Kiddie-Coaster:
The Tilt-A-Whirl (a.k.a. "The UFO"):

I think Jeremiah, Jessica, and Shannon are seated at the lower-most portion of the circle.

The Water Ride! Shannon and Jeremiah coming down the flume:

The weather was very nice- although it was overcast, it was pleasantly cool, not hot or humid.

There was a parade with Clowns on Stilts. Clowns are scary.

There was a tall swirly slide which I neglected to take pictures of. It was probably 25 feet tall. This is me, coming out of the short (15 feet?) swirly side:

The sign coming in to this area was very clear: The Sand is for safety, not for throwing.

It's not a very good picture, but this is Sherry and her Fiance. They're getting married in February in their home-town, about an hour and a half west of Wenzhou. Sherry is the executive assistant at the Language Center, responsible for the Chinese Teaching Assistants and Schedules. She's VERY busy.

The last ride. We're getting ready to go forwards and backwards in a circle, all the way around. It was neat.

Jeremiah took his camera. This picture is correctly oriented for North American audiences.

Jeremiah was able to take a video! I need a pocket-sized camera.

All in all, it was a good day. It was nice to spend some time with the Language Center staff outside of the normal work environment.

Afterwards, Wally took us to the Wenzhou Electronics Mall, where we were able to get D-Link wireless router for about $35 USD. We're pumped.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wireless Internet

We have a wireless router! We can now all connect to the internet FROM OUR OWN LAPTOPS!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shared Internet

Our apartment comes with a high-speed internet connection. One high-speed internet connection.

We've all been sharing, at first by passing the cable back and forth, and then by enabling "internet sharing" on Jeremiah's Macbook, but lately we've been back to the cable thing. For reasons unknown, Jeremiah's laptop is no longer ebale to consistently share the wired network connection via the integrated Wi-Fi adapter. This doesn't impact Jeremiah much, but the rest of us are just a bit stranded- frequently.

We're going shopping tomorrow for a wireless router.

Oh- classes are going well. I found out tonight that my teaching assistants both quit. The fact that they were assigned to work with me is, as far as I can tell, coincidental.

We all went out to one of the schools this morning to watch a class. Shannon taught, with Lounes assisting. It was good to see what an English lesson in the public school was supposed to look like. I took some pictures, and will post them when I can get my laptop connected to the internet.

- Jonathan

Friday, September 19, 2008

I have a tentative schedule!

But it's not in front of me right now.

This afternoon, we got our schedules from the Language Center. They're not very well laid out, and it took quite a while to transcribe them into a format that each of us could understand. The result, though, is a relatively good idea of when we'll be working, where we'll be working at, and what sort of lessons we need to prepare for.

I haven't looked at any of the other schedules yet, but I'm teaching three or four classes at the Language Center, four or five classes at one local school, and a few classes at a second local school. I don't start until Sunday, so tomorrow I'm going to observe a few classes.

- Jonathan

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week in Review

The intensive training period is over, I think, and we're starting on what will be our regular schedule.

The lack of updates for the past few days was caused in part by the sudden onset of a head cold, which has had me in bed for most of the time we're not actually at the school. I think I'm almost over it, as the headache and congestion are giving way to runny nose and a general lack of strength. I've been getting a lot of rest and eating lots of fruit (and chicken soup!)- I should be back to normal soon.

The training was very good- we had some instruction on presentation techniques and classroom management, and did practice presentations. Our training was facilitated by Lounes and Hakan, who also gave voluminous feedback on our practice presentations. We were joined on the first day of training (Tuesday, I think) by Tara, and yesterday by Laura. There are eight English teachers with the Language Center that I'm aware of, and we've now met them all. I intend to post pictures soon, so you'll be able to connect faces to names.

Yesterday when our schedules were worked out, I was assigned to assist Hakan in teaching older students. I'm not sure what all this will entail, but Hakan says it's very straightforward. In addition to assiting Hakan, I'll be teaching a few classes at one of the public schools in here in Wenzhou, and (I think) one regular class at the Language Center.

I think we're starting to adjust to life in China- Jenny returned to Shanghai yesterday morning, so we're as much on our own as we will be for the duration of our stay here. The staff at the Language Center is doing very well in making sure we have everything we need, and there's even a full-time employee as our English-speaking contact person.

And ... it's time to go to work.

- Jonathan

Monday, September 15, 2008

First day of training!

Today we're starting at the Language Center. We're going to have three full days of training, then (I think) two weeks of working with one of the established teachers before teaching classes by ourselves.

We're also planning on signing our employment contracts today- everything has looked very good so far, but we haven't yet seen our weekly schedule (What day, what time, where) beyond a specified number of hours at the Language Center and a specified number of hours teaching.

The Language Center has been very accommodating- they've even scheduled a mandarin class for us every Friday, to take place during our working hours. I've also heard talk of a calligraphy class...

I'll update tonight after we get back.

Sunset in Wenzhou

Last night the rain cleared up, and we were treated to the foregoing view out our bedroom window.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mid-Autumn Festival, Jiangxin Island

2008-09-14 Sunday

Today is the Mid Autumn Festival! It is a time of much rejoicing all over China. With the moon reaching its fullest size tonight, people return home to celebrate and spend time with their family and enjoy traditional foods--especially Moon Cake. This is one of the biggest festivals of the year, so most businesses will be closed tomorrow.

We woke up a bit late this morning, and while we planning out our day, we received a call from Mr. Jiang, the director of the Language Center. In honor of Mid Autumn Festival, he wanted to take us out for the afternoon, starting at 11:00 for lunch. The hospitality shown us by Mr. Jiang has really been quite unexpected- Mid Autumn Festival is traditionally a day to spend with family, and he chose to take the opportunity to invest in us. He and his son, Jerry (I think he's about 5 years old), and a friend, Mr. Guo, took us out to the Beefsteak Restaurant for lunch, then took us to Jiangxin Island for the afternoon.

Jiangxin island sits in the river separating the north edge of Wenzhou city from the south edge of Yongjia city. In the middle of the river is an medium sized island, on which sit two ancient towers--one a lighthouse--dating back to 860 and 960 A.D. The island also contains an amusement park with a roller coaster and a ferris wheel, but we focused instead on the old portion. I coudn't find wikipedia page about the island, but was able to locate a short write-up here.

The weather today was rainy- there's a typhoon heading slowly towards us, and it should hit Wenzhou sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. We're expecting heavy rains, maybe strong winds, but it shouldn't affect us too much. Jenny says we should be prepared for temporary power outages- probably the same sort of preparation we would have in Oklahoma during tornado season. We're not expecting to be a really big deal, but it would be good if everything went smoothly. Thanks!

Some pictures:

This is the view out the window of the Restaurant. It's on the second floor of a building situated near the Language Center, the center of Wenzhou, and the downtown shopping district. The black car is a Mazeratti (There really is a lot of money flowing around Wenzhou).

Jessica and Jerry at the restaurant:

Our group at Jiangxin Island. The man in the white shirt standing behind Jessica is Mr. Guo, who works with Mr. Jiang. He accompanied us for the afternoon. In the background is Wenzhou city:

The south-east coast of the Island. Mr. Jiang said that the entire east end of the island (verdant lawn and palm trees included) was artificially built up a few hundred years ago:

The Island is a bit unusual in that it has an interior lake with streams- this end of it, behind the photographer, is connected to the river via a sluice gate:

It's me!

Shannon and Me:
The East Tower. This is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, and has been selected as significant enough to warrant preservation. It was built around 860 A.D.

The east end of the island contained a lot of colonial architecture. The walks, gardens, buildings, and lampposts looked like they could have come right out of the carribean.

This seems to be a popular flower in China. In addition to spotting it all over the east end of the island, it is prevalent between the divided highway on the road from Shanghai to Wenzhou.

It's a really good color for Shannon!

One of the walkways circling the island:
The was a bonsai garden in the middle of the island, but it was closed. This was taken through a side gate:

The west tower. This was built in 960 A.D.

Mr. Guo:
There were signs like this everywhere. Each one was different, but they all had a bit of humor. I'm not sure, but I suspect they are intentionally humorous.
Jessica, Mr. Jiang, and Mr. Guo at a well:
A loghthouse in the channel between Jiangxin Island and Wenzhou:

Tomorrow will probably a very quiet day, with most businesses closed, typhoon rains arriving, and not too much else.

- Jonathan