Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just Another Day in Zhanjiang

Today Scott and I had a conversation I didn't think I'd ever have in my life...

*After being bullied into having lunch at the campus canteen with another teacher*
Me: Did you have that dish with the cucumbers?
Scott: Yeah.
Me: What was the meat in there?
Scott: Octopus tentacles.
Me: Did you eat them??
Scott: Only the ones without suction cups.

As you can probably tell by the above dialogue, we are both adjusting to life in Zhanjiang. After just ten days here, Scott and I already have several favorite restaurants and have established ourselves as "regulars" in each one- it's not too difficult to do when you're blond and eight inches taller than everyone else in town. When I say I'm a "regular," I mean the restaurant workers' faces literally light up with joy when we walk in... or even walk BY. They scrounge up the inevitable "English speaker" (i.e. someone who knows how to say "Yes," "No," and "Thank you") and scramble to find the picture menu for us. Not a day of class goes by without a student informing me of one friend or another who spotted me around town. Mostly it happens when I go to fast food restaurants: "JANET! I saw you in _____ !!" (insert either McDonald's, Pizza Hut, or KFC).

We are also very well known amongst the cab drivers in town. It's happened more than once that I've told the cabbie the name of our school, only to be interruped with "Zhidao, zhidao!" (I know, I know). The pedicab and motorcycle drivers are in on it too. There's one motorcyclist who hangs out on the corner outside school. He seems to think that if he rides around us in circles everytime we stand outside the gate, we will eventually be persuaded to accept his aggressive ride offers. Tonight, Scott and I were having a hard time hailing a cab so he decided to be helpful, rode his motorcycle a few blocks away, and came back with a cab trailing along behind him. Thanks, wo de pengyou! (my friend)

Another sign I'm getting more comfortable here is that I actually went jogging the other day. Jogging is semi- embarassing anywhere, but it's exponentially so in a small town in China. Crowded streets, no traffic rules, tiny old people, and random markets everywhere don't exactly add up to an ideal track. So, after some pathetic wandering in search of somewhere to run, I stumbled upon a beautiful park that's linked to the Zhanjiang Normal University where our friends teach. It's centered around a good sized lake, and has lots of little radiating side paths with interesting destinations, such as the one that leads to the "Tombs of the Revolutionary Martyrs/ Barbeque Area." The most fun part of the jog, though, was observing the looks on peoples' faces around me. Imagine this: a park teeming with miniature elderly Chinese people going for a mid-morning stroll. Enter me, jogging and sweating, listening to rap music. I'm rapidly coming up behind the unsuspecting Chinese people. They hear heavy breathing... turn around... and with expressions of pure terror, scuttle out of the way JUST IN TIME.

So tonight was a lot of fun. The students put on a two- hour talent show outside on the track to welcome incoming freshmen. Everybody in the audience got glow sticks, and there were mist and disco lights galore. The performers were extremely talented: they sang Chinese pop songs and ballads and performed ghetto-esque dances dressed in fun costumes. One of my students, Tina, did a great solo song and dance piece. My favorite routine was a dance to a rap song called "I am your Super Boy," done by eight girls wearing matching high tops, cut-off jean shorts, sports bras, and wife beaters.

Tonight was also our second encounter with the extremely famous "30,000- yuan flute." This flute is made of pure silver and is a legend around campus. It's owned by a young teacher, whose family (I hear) is very wealthy and so they bought her this flute just for the heck of it. The girl also played her flute at the Teachers' Day Banquet. On both occasions, I was informed by at least five people, "Do you know, that flute cost 30,000 yuan?" *that's about $4000.

Scott and I sat by some adorable, sweet English teachers. One of them is named Shi He (pronounced "Shurr Huh"); she wanted an English name, and was thrilled when we came up with Shirley. After the talent show, our friend Zhu invited us to "play computer" but we declined and headed to KFC instead. On the way back inside the campus gate, Scott and I said hello to a student we both have in class. We were having trouble remembering her name, but Scott soon had it. "Oh yeah! That was Bobo."

Oh China... the land of famous flutes, suction cups, and precious English names.

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