Hi from Barry
Aloha: I thought I would let you know what I’ve been doing with my days here in Lin’an. I’ve been trying to respond to people on facebook, but I actually wasn’t able to access it until recently. Such Internet connections are blocked by the Chinese Government. It’s kind of strange. They block out all kinds of access to various sites, but we could sign up for what is called a VPN-virtual private network, which makes it seem like our computer is in the USA. We paid $47 for the year. International companies use VPNs to secure information when their computers are off site, and we can have it for personal use. Before getting the VPN, Renée hadn’t been able to get the blog going because it was constantly blocked. But now, we feel we’ve jumped the great Chinese firewall.
Most of what I do is not really very exciting, but I’ll share some with you from time to time. Last Saturday was a good day. Renée was off, so we took a nice walk. Along side the campus, there’s a dirt road that leads to a small neighborhood. The houses are mostly three stories, and that’s because they have more than one generation living in the house.
As in all neighborhoods that we’ve seen， there are small businesses interspersed. The walk led to a dirt path that goes to the local quite large reservoir where I’d been before. Often people swim there, but it was too cool that day.
It’s a pretty walk, lots of trees and stands of bamboo, also some nice views of green fields, mostly being farmed and tranquil hills covered in green. At the top of the path, we got a good view of the city in the distance. The amazing thing was there were no people around at all. In a country of 1.3 billion that doesn’t happen very often. This is a spot that I will return to many times.
Then we went on a walk on the lovely small river leading to town that I take almost every day while Renée is in class. The walkway was just completed in 2009 and is a few miles long. It is beautifully paved and landscaped and has many places to sit and even exercise stations.
I can occasionally see men fishing for small fish in the river. Sometimes I bring my I-pod and take a break and listen to music or put on a meditation tape and just watch whatever happens to be around.
We headed on into town and stopped at our favorite cookie vendor and bought three large bags of fresh baked cookies to give out to students at the movie showing that Renée had arranged for her students and their friends later in the evening. The cookies are not only delicious, but also extremely cheap. For about $3, we had enough cookies for what turned out to be a huge crowd that night of over 100! We walked to the bank and refilled our money supply and walked a small distance and had lunch at a Muslim restaurant that we had been to with our student guide. We had a dish of eggs and tomatoes, a dish of mushrooms and peppers, and rice, and we were in disbelief because the bill was $4.50. This was more than double the price that we would have paid in any of the other restaurants we go to.
We took the bus home. The fare was one yuen each. There are roughly seven yuen to a dollar, so the transportation and food are very cheap.
In the evening we showed the movie Date Night, and the students loved it. The foreign students, most from the Ukraine, but others from Mongolia, Vietnam, and Japan, who are learning Chinese here also came, so all the students could meet each other after the movie. Our cookies and the movie were very much appreciated, and I’m sure we’ll do it again.
On our walk back to our apartment, we got a call on our phone inviting us to a birthday dinner for one of the other English teachers. The dinner featured many dishes that were not on the vegetarian hit parade: barbecued squid on a stick, boiled crab in a pot, beef with some unknown jelly-like vegetable, small fried fish, chicken wings on a stick, and here comes the stuff we could eat, eggs and tomato, lots of boiled and seasoned soy beans, fried eggplant in a great sauce, bamboo shoots (a local specialty) with green beans, and, of course, white rice, and lots of beer. In all there were 14 dishes and about eight large bottles of beer. For 12 of us, the total bill was $45, and the Chinese girlfriend of one of the teachers was arguing with the waitress that the bill was too large. Also, in most of China, and certainly in the town that we’re in, tipping is not expected. Tired and happy, we walked back to our apartment. It was a good day; we hope yours was too.