Orientation had its ups and downs, but was mostly used for catching up on sleep. Jet lag kicks butt. After a long week of lectures and sleeping through dinner, we took a bus tour through Shanghai. The picture above is at the “Bund.” Our orientation group lined up for a group photo and locals also gathered around us snapping photos of all the strange Westerners. One woman even photo-bombed our picture by diving in front and posing with her baby. We also stopped by YuYuan Market, a maze of narrow streets packed with shopping and restaurants. I followed part of the group into the City God Temple, which was converted during the Ming Dynasty in the 15 century. I didn’t know what I was looking at then because everything, obviously, was in Chinese.
Shanghai is a cosmopolitan city and, maybe, more convenient to live in, but it was so overwhelmingly large. Even though Jiangyin (my city) has more than 1 million people, locals call it a “small town.” Ha. “You should see St. Joe, or Shallotte,” I want to say.
I like Jiangyin so far. I start teaching Monday, but it sounds like I’ll be doing more tutoring than teaching, which is fine by me. I’m supposed to be teaching SAT prep courses for the students on track to go to a university in the U.S. It’s still unclear how many students I’ll have—possibly only one or two next week—and I think the number will vary over the year. I might get to do some extra English tutoring or help with TOEFL classes. TOEFL tests their knowledge of English.
The first night Simeon (the other teacher placed in Jiangyin with me) and I got here, we were invited out to dinner with Jo-Jo, the art history teacher (I don’t think I pronounce Jo-Jo’s name right, so I’ll just call her Jo-Jo) and Jonathan—another English language teacher. She ordered for us, but we suggested that she skip over the bullfrogs and chicken heads on the menu.
Getting this photo taken was a bit awkward…Jonathan (on the far right) thought he had asked our waitress to take a photo of us, but with his messy Mandarin he actually asked if I could take a picture of her. She said she was shy and too busy, then avoided us for awhile. Oops.
We’re holding one of the innovative drinks in China, and potentially my homesick comfort food, flavored milk. Different kinds of flavored milks take up whole rows in the supermarket: banana milk, aloe milk, walnut milk, milk tea, it goes on and on. This one is called peanut milk—imagine a peanut butter cookie blended up with milk. Yum.
The next night Jo-Jo asked us if we wanted to go to the “mountain valley.” I had no idea what the “mountain valley” was, so of course I went. She took us on a long walk on paths around a small lake. We were lucky enough to catch random fireworks somebody shot off across the lake.
It gets dark around 5:30pm here so I couldn’t see much, but this morning, Jonathan and I went back to the park to run. “Mountain valley” is a good name for it. I noticed a few small hills on our night walk, but during the day I could see the whole lake is surrounded by little green mountains and weeping willow trees. On our run we came across an open field covered with people camping out in small tents and flying life-like bird kites. There was also an actual falconer walking around, but I’m assuming most of the birds in the sky were kites. Jonathan had his phone with him and I asked him to sneak photos of the couples taking wedding photos by the lake, but I felt bad distracting them because they stopped to stare at me and my hair. I definitely stick out here.