I don’t even know how to begin!
Perhaps with what I see most often…
My experiences in Binhu have been pretty incredible (literally). I live in a suburb of Hefei that was built fairly recently to accommodate a population increase due to the 7000+ students who attend the Hefei No.1 High School. I teach BC- certified curriculum in a mini-school that occupies a single floor in one of the buildings on campus. My co-workers are wonderful people who have made space for me in both their professional and personal lives, and to whom I owe quite a bit of beer to for all the times they’ve gone out of their way to make sure I know the basics of my new surroundings. My last experience in China can’t even compare. I’ve hit the jackpot!
My apartment building is a part of a series of gated communities near the school and it kind of reminds me of a chinese Yaletown (HEAVY on the chinese). Beautiful trees, water features, basketball courts, an outdoor theatre, and cute babies everywhere! It’s very family-centric. Outside the gates, I can catch a $2 cab ride to school if I’m running behind in the morning… BUT I bought a bike! It’s a badass cruiser named Single Speed Sadie and I’m thrilled about it. Unfortunately one of her pedals just fell off. That’s what I get for ordering a bike online (and then enlisting my assistant to coordinate 8 lovely students to try and put it together for me). They were willing, I swear. Anyways, Sadie is getting fixed this weekend. My co-workers Ashlee and Jason live across the street and we’ve started a bike gang called “The Forevers”, because that’s the brand we all ride. We meet outside at 7am and cruise to school on the sidewalks. There’s a plan to get intimidating custom vests.
Work has been great and my grade 10’s were very excited to meet me (they’ve been waiting for a while). I showed them pictures of home, my friends, and my family and they went NUTS. Especially for Jorgan. I didn’t show them a picture of Rod because all hell would have broken loose. Girls at that age are the same anywhere in the world… I have three classes in the morning, one in the afternoon, and two-hour lunch breaks that I plan to spend in the sun. I’ve found a dumpling place near my house, near the school, at school, and in the mall. Don’t worry, it’s the first question I asked. Unfortunately I’ve caught what they call “China Belly” which is terrible. Horrible. I’m okay, but not okay.
Other highlights include the florist near my place, who I play “draw what I need” with. Today I bought lilies (3 dollars for 6, and he always throws in a free rose) and wanted a plant for my desk at home. After a successful round of potted pictionary (that included pictures of crossed out suns, because there is no direct sunlight), I acquired one. Success! Pictionary is much more effective than Charades in these parts. Also, I’ve never felt more famous in my life. So many pictures with strangers! I’m getting used to the staring. Sometimes I wear big sunglasses and it’s fabulous. Sometimes I just want to tell them to look elsewhere, which is impossible at the moment because I know maybe 20 words in Mandarin (four of them are “how much?” and “better price”), and the locals are just as curious as I am towards them. I’ll leave you with a real-life dialogue that happened the other day between my good friend Dani (co-worker) and a student:
Dani sees Dorothy holding a box that came in the mail. It looks like a parcel. She approaches her and says:
Dani: “Hey Dorothy! You got some mail! What’s in the box ?”
Miss you all!