Thursday, June 14, 2007

Yang Mei: hen hao chi! (Bay berries are delicious!)

Xiao Wu (Yes, "Little Wu") as our boss is reverently addressed... decided to take his offices out for a bonding trip to pick the most famous "Yang Mei" (bay berries). Our adventure included much more than just driving out to the farm to pick some fruit..... It began with an early morning KTV session on the bus.... and as the only "Lao Wei" (foreign teacher) in attendance I was prevailed upon to sing an English song (never mind that I'm shy or tone-deaf!) We went to an even smaller town about 2 hours from Wen Ling.

First on the docket was an invigorating hike through the rain up the mountain. Along the way we climbed next to waterfalls, took shelter in damp caves and scrambled up wet stairs. The views were nice and it was fun to get wet and silly with Chinese co-workers! I'm sure there are some crazy photos of me floating around!

The hike was a good way to work up an appetite, because our next stop was lunch. The restaurant was pretty standard rest-stop style, but they did serve the local specialty of a soup with freshly-caught river fish. It was DELICIOUS! (yep, I'm back to eating fish... and enjoying it, again....)

The mayor of the town and their chief of police happened to be eating in the same restaurant and one of the restaurant's staff tipped them off to the appearance of a foreigner. Of course, I had to go through the obligatory toasting (although by "playing the girl card" I only have to sip my beer) and introductions.

After lunch, it was back on the bus for the drive to the Yang Mei farm. Apparently this town has the best Yang Mei in all of ZheJiang Province.

"What exactly are Yang Mei?", you may be wondering... well, the Chinese-English dictionary translates them as "bay berries" (which I've never encountered in the states). They look like giant raspberries and are round and about the size of golf balls. They taste the best when they are dark purple or deep red--- otherwise they're very sour. The taste is definitely it's own (don't think raspberry!) but they are very good! They grow on giant bushes, similar to blueberry bushes, but sturdier. (Note that Kathy is climbing up the middle of the bush to get to the best berries.) The rain hadn't stopped, so we got absolutely soaked while picking, but it was a lot of fun!

(at left) Myself and two of my TA's (teacher's assistants') Justine and Kathy, with some Yang Mei, of course!

More pictures with captions at:
Yang Mei

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Welcome to Wen Ling!

So… the one suitcase thing didn’t work out… American Airlines only allows 50 lbs. in each bag! Eeek! So I ended up bringing a full size American pillow and some bedding with me, just to fill the space left in the gapping whole that was my small suitcase packed inside my large one. LOL!
After a 14 hour plane ride, I landed in Shanghai. I slept most of the way, and the lovely people I was sitting by were kind enough to wake me up when the flight attendants served the meals, so I felt pretty good. Clearing customs was painless; none of my luggage was lost; and Tony picked me up from the airport- no problems. I did fall asleep in the backseat of Tony’s car during the 6 hour drive to Wen Ling—I think I even started snoring! HOW EMBARASSING!L
My experience in China will be much different from Taiwan.... and Wen Ling is MUCH different from Taipei... if Taipei is the New York of Taiwan then Wen Ling is the Saginaw of Michigan... except we make cars, and they make a shoes and light industrial products. I feel pretty comfortable and am starting to learn my way around. No MRT (subway)- just buses and taxis-- but everything is inexpensive :-) My Chinese is improving fast... and I forgot how much I LOVE to eat Chinese food-- I'm not sure if my plan to loose weight here will work out too well ;-)

My apartment is on the seventh floor of the teacher’s dorm at Wen Ling High School. Myself, five other foreign teachers (all connected to LifeNet) and the principle of WLHS make up the entire floor. Our apartments are pretty nice—no frills, but two large rooms, a balcony, bathroom, (hot water shower is down the hall) plenty of storage space… not bad for my first solo apartment. I already locked myself out! But I never had a key to the locked door—so it wasn’t too bad—Joe was kind enough to climb around the balcony and unlock my door.

Speaking of Joe, and the other LifeNet teachers here in Wen Ling- they are an AMAZING bunch. Bracha and James G. I knew from HS and James E., Joe and Tabby are very nice. They’ve done a great job making sure I feel at home here and taking care of me!

The campus of Wen Ling HS is BEAUTIFUL! The principle designed the landscape plan… there are gardens and canals wandering through the campus- so it feels almost like a park… a park with 4,000 high school kids going to class?!? My favorite feature is a reflecting pool with a world map- when it’s lit up at night it’s gorgeous!
Back to School
They say as you get older, you become more like your parents… well, today I understand a little bit how my mom must feel after being on her feet teaching all day—those cute little kids can really wear you out!! The bright side is I’m in China and the kids are (for the most part) pretty well behaved considering that they’ve already gone to their normal school all week and this is extra “voluntary” education on Saturday. I can see why teachers love teaching… it’s amazing to see a kid’s face light up when a new concept suddenly makes sense to them…

I teach at a sort of "cram school" and have ages 6 to 13!! I basically just make a fool of myself and the kids love it! We sang and played games and had a good time getting to know each other. One of my TA's has volunteered to help me learn more Chinese-- so that should be fun! It's nice teaching during the weekend, so I have Wed. Thurs. and Friday off to travel. One other teacher has the same schedule as I do- so hopefully I won't be traveling alone!