Fish noodles

Here we are, the morning of Friday, August 31, at 9:03AM.  It’s been a week since this adventure began.  It’s had it’s down moments and then it’s had it’s down moments.  So far I am not filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling but perhaps that will change.

As you can see in the title it’s now “adventures in baotou”  The link remains the same but no more Jurong (unless it’s me pining for it.)

We got up early on August 25th for our flight from Toronto.  It was 5:20 PM when the flight left.  I guess I should have know I was in trouble when they came around for dinner and asked, “do you want Chinese food or Western food”.  I naturally asked for Western food.  They give it to me and I ask what it is and they tell me, “fish noodles”.  This is Western food.  Western China maybe, but not the west I know.  What it actually was a piece of fish with noodles.  So I gave it to Shujie who ate it along with her Chinese food which was “pork noodles”.

They had personal video screens.  That was great.  A wide selection of movies.  Ours didn’t work.  At first the stewardess brought me a newspaper to make up for no movies.  I threw it on the floor.  What a brainless twit.  Their explanation for the problem was that the plane was old.  That’s a good reason.  They have an old plane they can’t maintain.  Did that mean if it crashed they would have said, “sorry, the plane was old and thrown a newspaper on my corpse (or body parts).  Let’s just say it was not the finest flight.  I didn’t sleep 1 second.  A very nice lady switched seats with me for a few hours so I could watch some movies and then I read a book.

We arrived in Beijing and it was pretty painless to make our way to our local flight to Baotou.  The flight took off about 25 minutes late, but no problem.  We arrived in the “Deer City” (nickname for Baotou) and naturally couldn’t see anything since it was Sunday midnight local time.  They picked us up and seemed nice.

We got to this excuse of an apartment (that was called foreshadowing).  It was a clean building (good), it has an elevator (good), we live on the 4th floor (good), and we have the larger of the 2 sizes of apartments they have (good).

Whoever designed these apartments must have an IQ of 43 and failed architect school.  It’s kind of smallest compared to Jurong but the big problem is the layout.  To say it’s stupid would to give it too much praise.

We come into the small living room, one couch and no chairs.  Four steps and we are in the world’s smallest kitchen.  Here are 2 pictures of the kitchen.

Notice the sink.  The water wasn’t hooked up when we arrived.  They told us the apartment would be fine and clean when we arrived.  Ha, Ha.  Typical Chinese lie.  They tell you what they think you want to hear and when it isn’t so, they just forget about it and hope you do too.  They just don’t give a damn.  I shouldn’t say everyone.  Wang Jing in Jurong as wonderful.  Here they are scum until they show me different.

As you can see from the other picture we have a burner.  The toaster oven is ours.  The microwave sits on the floor.  There are no cupboards above the sink or the “cooking area”.  There is about a cooking area of about 18 inches.  What a joke.  And then you’re supposed to eat on the coffee table while sitting on this uncomfortable couch.

I think the problem is that many Westerners come here and think this is all they can get and there is no point saying anything.  I may be the only person who will tell them the living arrangements suck.  There is no balcony.  You dry your clothes inside since there are very few dryer’s in China.  Room is at a premium.

Here are some pictures of the living room.  It’s cramped.

I asked for a small kitchen table to put in our living room since I hate eating at the coffee table, 3 chairs, and a sideboard/small cupboard to give us some room to put things.  They said yes.  Then they went to their garbage room and we got this table (it’s useable) and 3 chairs, 2 of which we wouldn’t accept.  As for the “sideboard they brought us this huge bookshelf to fit in an 18 inch space.  The outcome of all this is supposedly we will get 2 chairs from the school but as for the sideboard with shelves we are on our own.  I just love spending my own money on things they should provide.

The bedroom is large.  Too large.  They should have made the bedroom smaller and the living room and kitchen bigger.  What idiots.  The closet and shelves are too small.  We don’t room for everything.  There is an excuse for a desk in the bedroom.  It’s about 15 inches thick and who wants a desk in the bedroom?

Here are some shots of the bedroom.  You can see the bed, the closet and the excuse for the desk.  We have set up wireless in here but I like to sit at a desk.  Morons.

The bathroom is big with the world’s worst washing machine.  There is lots of room but it’s still another shower where the water goes everywhere (are shower stalls against the law?).  Last night Shujie did laundry since I had no idea how the machine works.  This is  a machine that retails for about $100 so you can guess at the quality.

Here is an overview of it.

On the left you turn on the water until it gets to the level you want and then you stop the water.  You have to hook up the hose for the washing machine to the shower (after removing the shower head) to fill it.  Then you set the timer and it washes.  The water goes nowhere.  When your time is up you move the clothes to the right of the machine for spin.  While that is happening you empty the dirty water from another hose to a drain in the bathroom.  Then you fill it up again with clean water.  When the spin is done you put the clothes back in for the “rinse”.  When that is done you move them back to the spinner part.  You manually remove the water again and when the spinning is done, you’re ready to hang them up.

Here are a couple of washroom pictures.

How effing cheap can you be.? If I had known all these things I wouldn’t have come here.  If you don’t have a decent home, it’s hard to really enjoy your job.  Shujie wants to stay for the teaching opportunity but my feeling is that if the people you work for are not “good” people, then you are asking for trouble.

We had our schedules and I had 2 classes on Thursday and 2 classes on Friday.  I do 20 classes a week.  I was led to believe I would have no classes on Friday but they say, “it’s so difficult to do and blah, blah, blah).   Shujie had classes Monday to Thurday evenings from 7 until 9 and a Friday class.  Not exactly what we were led to believe.  I really wanted out but I thought I would stick it out until our meeting on Monday morning.  After the meeting Shujie now has Monday to Wednesday evenings (asses, making her work 3 nights a week).  They moved her Friday class and my Friday class so we have 3-day weekends and that is good.  I know you have to compromise but why they put you through the ringer, I don’t know.  I am not filled with the warm and fuzzies.

We have been to 3 supermarkets, garbage all.  We lived in a town of 600,000 people with a fine supermarket.  There are 2 ½ million people here.  We will try a couple of others today.

Classes.  What can I tell you.  There are 18 foreign teachers here and no teacher has the same class more than 1 time a week.  I understand wanting to expose the students to different foreign styles, but on the other hand you don’t have time to make a connection with the students.  I would rather do 3 different subjects and have the kids 3 times a week.  You can overlap the subjects and have time for other things.  I suggested this to someone I work for and her idiotic response was the teacher would have too many classes to prepare.  We ask the students to prepare and work hard.  I don’t think you’re asking too much if you ask a teacher to work a little harder.  Besides I don’t see the problem, but that’s just me.  If they want to be stupid, there is nothing I can do.

The students themselves are fine.  Their English is pretty good (a huge change from last year) and I like the ones I’ve met.  Of course, because I think I like them I’m bothered that I won’t get to know them better).  But Shujie wants this year of teaching experience so it will be easier if we want to go elsewhere next year.  I’m willing to do it and I’ll try to keep my complaining to a minimum.  It’s just so interesting the difference between last year and this year.  Last year I work for a garbage school and they treat me like gold.  I come to a better school and they don’t give a damn.  I know you can say they can get other teachers, but some of the teachers don’t really give a damn.

Maybe this will grow on me (like a cancer).  It’s only been less than a week.  It just makes it so much easier if you have a decent place to live.  The things that get stress you disappear and you’re a better teacher.  I don’t take it out on my students but this seems to have been a bad choice (so far).  But you are always taking a chance when you come to a new place.

We will start to get out next weekend and see the sand dunes (which are supposed to be beautiful) and the Genghis Khan Mausoleum, and some temples.  This weekend will be spent looking for food I can eat, and some cheap furniture.  We’ve gone out twice for Shao Kow (bbq) and it was good but lots of people.  And they drink.  One guy was peeing on the street.  A real class place.

They have a KFC, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut here.  Three is supposed to be a Western Restaurant that was opened by a former teacher at this school.  I don’t think eating will be a problem I am looking for a good Mongolian Grill.

This has been a difficult for Shujie.  She sometimes comes in and feels like the student’s English is better than hers.  I tell her that give it a little time and she start to relax.  I have never heard her “whine” so much in 4 ½ years.  I try to be supportive.  Things could be picking up for her and that’s important because she’s the reason I’ll stick it out.  So far the air hasn’t bothered me and the campus is pretty nice.

It’s been a frustrating week.  Next week I tell the head of the English department my idea how the teachers should be used.  Will it be changed?  No, of course not.  But if I give my opinion then I feel I’ve done my job which is to try and improve things for the students.  As I tell all the students, I don’t work for the school, I work for them.

God, you just have to love me.

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