Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From Simplicity to Modern Living

I imagined dark boxcars, the wall made of wood, the windows little slits at the top of the car, the toilets open holes where you can see the ground speeding by. Instead I found myself inside of an enjoyable air conditioned, big windowed train car that reminded me of a hostel. There were three bunk beds stacked on top of each other, 6 total beds in one cubicle. There were sinks, squat toilets, and all you can drink hot water. The views from the bay windows were breathtaking. The 15 hour train ride passed peacefully. I fell asleep for 8 hours. Thank goodness I am used to hard beds, and the Dramamine probably helped.

Arriving in Xian, we were instantly met by two people from the university, one from the foreign affairs office and the driver. It took us 6-7 hours to get to my new home in Gansu as we stopped for lunch, watermelon, and the traffic jams of two lane narrow highways where cars pass across solid yellow lines. The roads between my city and Xian are quite bad with bad drivers too. The combination doesn't make for timely travel. A new expressway is rumored to open in October possibly making the trip only 3 hours. We drove up and down plateaus into valleys admiring the beautiful views of farmland, corn and wheat, seeing the goats and sheep, the stacks of hay, and the rosy cheeked farmers.

My new home is absolutely decked out, fully furnished each room full of furniture including all of the electronics: computer, printer, TV, DVD player, stereo, Internet, scanner plus a fridge, microwave, and washing machine. There are two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and a dining area. It is absolutely luxurious!

The campus is small about 10,000 students split between two campuses. The English department has about 1,000 students. I will be teaching English and American literature about 10 hours a week. I am excited about using the extra time to play piano, to play basketball, to start a knitting group, and to learn a martial art. At the back gate of the campus is a block long market full of gorgeous fruits and vegetables plus stores and restaurants galore. The town is small (population 200,000) but feels like a big city because it isn't spread out.

Thursday I will be heading back to Chengdu, the two day trip. I do have a site mate who is also from Peace Corps, but we are pretty isolated from other volunteers. During winter it gets cold and may get lonely. I am not worried though. I survived the isolation of Africa.

No comments: