Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Backlog

I have just gotten internet and have just recently been able to fix my blogger account to publish via email.  Here are a few blogs I meant to publish several weeks ago.
September 7, 2011- Life without Internet
How much time as a PCV in China does Internet occupy one's time?  Without access in my flat, I am learning that it probably occupied many hours of my day- writing emails, watching online TV and movies, writing blogs, looking up info, hanging out with the online knitting community.  Luckily I quit Facebook several years ago or that probably would have turned my life in the real world into a faint ghost forgotten for an online addiction.
I've still got two weeks before school starts.  The freshmen are doing 10 days of military training and I'll be teaching them speaking, listening, and western culture which is mostly a history class.  My days are empty.
Okay not really.
Last week was full.  There were the last days of PST (pre-service training) and supervisor meetings.  All new PCVs moved to a fancy hotel and I used my "perfect" English to sneak into the hotel provided free breakfast buffet pretending to be a roommate of a room that only had one person in it.  I ate my fill of fresh fruit, baked beans, and bacon.  For some reason I haven't found cheap fruit in this big city and haven't bought any.  It seems fruit is double or triple the price of Gansu.  My dean says that the cost of living these past few months has really really gone up.  I helped my new sitemate buy housewares, a fan, and showed him the free box in the PC office where he got a hot water kettle and plates.  I love the free box!  I met up with a family of one of my friends in Lanzhou.  I got them their return train tickets and they invited me to dinner.  It is good to have friends all over China because getting a train ticket for the day you are leaving can be difficult if you don't buy them 10 days early.  I had dinner with my Chengdu host family.
So it sounds like I'm busy, but actually there is still a lot of downtime.  I've been writing letters and have been reading a book a day which isn't so good since my access to English books is limited.  I go on bike rides and found an authentic American bakery, Leanna's in the Tibetan district that has a small library.  I sit in Ikea drinking free coffee watching fathers feed their toddlers mashed potatoes and meatballs, see the elderly talking and drinking green tea, see young rich people buy trays of food worth $10 of food, pasta, Salmon, dessert, a drink when I can only afford $1 meals waiting for 2 pm happy hour when I can get a $1 smoked Salmon salad.
Do I miss the Internet?  I miss writing daily emails and blogs.  I wish I could look up things to do in Chengdu, find the museums and the live music.  So yes I do miss Internet.  Is the quality of life better without Internet?  I think I do pretty well balancing my Internet use with real life.  I do hope the school accepts our request for free Internet instead of having to pay for it each month.
September 12, 2011- Good news and Bad news
First the bad news
Each week, I am teaching 16 hours, preparing 5 different oral English lesson plans, commuting 4.5 hours, holding 2-4 hours of office hours, and 2-4 hours of English corner.  It is umm.. a heavy load, something that I did not stay a 6th year in Peace Corps for.  So I am a bit disappointed and feeling a bit stressed on how to balance teaching with other things that I want to do and learn.
(Several days ago, I negotiated my teaching schedule and the bad news has turned into better news.  I will be teaching 10 hours some weeks and 14 hours during other weeks.  I only have 3 lesson plans and 4 hours of office hours and English corner.  I will be living on the other campus once a week in a dorm room that has a private toilet and a community shower.  It is a good compromise and I am learning to accept the idea of being a full time teacher instead of a volunteer working full time in the office.)
Next the good news
I got a beat up ancient heavy bike that hopefully no one will steal.  After a couple weeks of getting used to the bike seat, I can say that Chengdu is an awesome biking city!  There are wide bicycle and motorcycle lanes throughout the city.  There are roundabouts and underpasses where major highways cut through.  Also, workers in bright orange uniforms with red flags keep pedestrians from congregating in the bike lanes as walkers wait to cross the street making it easy to ride through intersections.  There is a natural flow of the slower vehicles and only a few go the wrong way.  Biking in Chengdu for me is actually surprisingly not stressful.
I went to Chengdu's Museum of Contemporary Art and was surprised to find a drive-thru McDonald's across the street.  I enjoyed the free entrance fee and the quiet cool open space.

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