Sunday, July 31

a week of work

The past three days have been a sea of saying goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. All the summer volunteers are leaving at different times and we have appointments to meet at the front of the dorm to see them off at various times of the day. In between, I've been sorting things in my new room and trying to read up on China a bit through a Lonely Planet guidebook I borrowed from another teacher. I'm still in the introduction, but it's pretty interesting to get a bit of a historical view of China.

This week the remaining volunteers are splitting up to help with different projects in the area. I'm looking forward to spending some good time with the team and doing some non-teaching work. After that, I plan on travelling to Beijing for the first time. That's why I have the guide book. There is a problem with our train tickets, though. The train tickets we want are all sold out. So, I have to wait to reserve a room in a youth hostel until we know when we're leaving. Hopefully by the time we get our train tickets, all the youth hostels won't be booked. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to a good few weeks of rest from teaching and getting more settled here now that I have my own place.

Saturday, July 30

friends are good

My three friends just left last night. We went to Tumen, a nearby town that's on the border of North Korea yesterday. We took a bus there and some friends met us at the station. They took us to the river where just across is North Korea! It was a little strange to just look across the river and see it. We went to lunch together and then visited a business that a guy we know is starting up. I'm going to go back there next week with some of the summer volunteers to help get it up and running.
On the bus back yesterday, I was thinking about how well everything worked out for my friends' visit. I really have only been here a short time and don't know that much, but somehow everything worked out so easily and smoothly for the three short days that they were here. They got to see Yanji the first day, Chang Bai Shan the second day, and Tumen the third day. Somehow we made it everywhere without any trouble, and we packed a lot in!
The greatest thing about them being here was that they came as servants and were so encouraging. They brought me some of the stuff (mostly books and winter clothes) that I didn't have room to bring with me and they made the time that they had here quality. I'm so thankful for them!

Wednesday, July 27

friends here!

Three friends from Seoul arrived on Tuesday night to visit me for three days. They flew in to the capital city of the province and then took a nine hour train here. Yesterday, we spent the morning at the university, then went to the train station to work out their return trip. We thought that would be sorta easy, but it turned out to be quite an ordeal. Both the night trains were booked. They told us to call a number and try to get a reservation, but that didn't work either. A little Chinese Korean guy fortunately decided to help us, and he directed us over to the buses to try to get a night bus (all of this in the middle of a crazy sudden downpour.) It was significantly more expensive, but still not bad by our standards, so now the three are on the night bus to Changchun. Yay!

After our ticket adventure, we explored downtown, picked up pictures, tried to pick up a package from my sister, but found out we were at the wrong post office, poked around at the markets, and checked out a book store for Chinese posters and maps. One of our members wanted to taste the famous Yanji naeng myeon (cold noodles), so we had an early dinner, then we went to our second dinner at a Chinese restaurant to try the banana dessert I wanted them to try.

Today, my friends are at the famous mountain that's about 4-5 hours away from here. They had to leave at 4am! I hope the weather is clear for them. It was raining when they left, but it's pretty clear here in Yanji now. Of course, on the top of a mountain, you never know! They'll probably be beat tonight when they get back.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning up my desk, finishing grades, and getting ready to give our final in 15 minutes. Today's the last day of our summer term!

Wednesday, July 20

hot, hot, hot

Up until this past Saturday, it was cool here. You took a jacket when you went out in the evening and you wore a sweatshirt to sit in the office in the morning. Well, it got hot. Our temperatures have been steadily climbing since Saturday. Today, our high is in the upper nineties. We have no air conditioning, which is completely OK if you can get a good cross breeze going in whatever room you are in and you don't move too much. However, walking across campus, teaching, going up stairs, or even thinking too hard will produce heavy sweating. Students have a very hard time staying awake in class - both because it's hot and it's harder to get a good night's rest if you're sweating all night. So today, I came to class armed with a squirt gun and then went to get popsicles during my co-teacher's hour with the class. (It only cost $1.50 for 32 popsicles!) They stayed a lot more awake than yesterday, but it was still a struggle. I was mean and shot some guys who fell asleep during class. I feel sorry for them, but they've gotta stay awake!

Today is a sweet day, though, because I got a birthday package from my lovely friend Adrielle in California. She sent me a new card game, good candy, hand sanitizer packets, Teddy Grahams cubs (how cute are those?), orange crush lipsmackers, and green apple gum! Wow! Exciting times!

Monday, July 18

grading is fun

Every time I get to grade a writing assignment, I laugh. On our last test, we had a writing prompt that asked the students to write about their pet peeve. Here are a few of the funny ones.
I really can't stand smoking. It's so terrible when someone smokes in front of me. The smog makes me breath hard. I don't understand why the people are smoking. Is it so healthful?

I can't stand when someone touch my head. I think that head is most important at body. So if someone touched my head, I'd be very angry.
(This is actually a cultural thing...if someone touches your head, it is degrading, because it's only acceptable to touch the heads of kids.)

I can't stand when my roommate doesn't wash his socks. It is very dirty and awful. I always talk to him wash his socks, but he never wash socks. I can't wash his socks for him everyday. I want to change room.

On the first test, we had a fill in the blank section. The words shrine and hug were among the words in the box as choices. So, this is how one person completed the blank:
I am feeling so lonely. I really need a shrine from someone.

On one of our homework assignments, there was a picture of an apartment with a dog in it. The assignment was to make a list of requests that you might ask your friend to take care of for you while you went on vacation. So, one person wrote this:
Could you please eat my dog while I'm away?
In a culture where dog soup is a delicacy, we thought this was an interesting request. I actually couldn't figure out what the student was trying to say, because was trying to figure out how "Could you please take care of my dog?" could be confused with "Could you please eat my dog?", but my co-teacher clarified it for me. He meant to say "Could you please FEED my dog while I'm away?" That's still a horrible mistake, but at least understandable.

Thursday, July 14


I am really enjoying life here, but I'm pretty busy. I am trying to spend as much time as I can with my roommates in the dorm, because I'll only live two more weeks with them. We gave our second test this week, so I had to write that with my partner, then there's grading, teaching, activities with the English house, etc. This week I've also been starting to clean out the apartment that I'll be moving in to at the end of the month. The girl who was in it left on Saturday, and she left me a lot of good stuff and a lot of junk, so I've been sorting through that and cleaning it out. All of this and I'm trying to learn some Chinese characters and phrases. I'm not stressed, but it just makes for a lot of stuff to do, so that's my apology for not keeping my blog updated. If you email me, you are guaranteed a response, though, even though it might take me a week to get to the bottom of my inbox.

I've been able to connect more with some of the people who have been here a while, and that's been really good. The summer team of volunteers is great, too, but they're gonna leave soon. This morning, I took the bus downtown by myself for the first time since I've been here, and it took me a while to find out how to get the bus back after shopping, but I did and made it back safely. I forgot our weekly office meeting in the process, so I'll have some apologizing to do for that. It was really nice to have a morning to myself, though, to get some stuff for my apartment and think.

Thursday, July 7

chang bai shan

On Saturday, we took a trip to a mountain that's about four hours away. In Korean, it's called Bek Du San and in Chinese it's called Chang Bai Shan. It's half in China and half in North Korea. We were told to take the warmest clothes we had. I didn't take the warmest clothes I had because I brought clothes for the Siberia type weather that they have in the winter here. So, I dressed in a few layers and was pretty comfortable, even at the top of the mountain, except for the fact that I was drenched from the constant drizzle on the hike up. Anyhow, for the first part, we took jeeps up to the top of a mountain and then scrambled up a gravel slope to get to the peak. There is supposed to be a magnificent view of the lake from up there, but we couldn't see more than about five feet in front of us. It was kind of a mysterious feeling about it, but of course we were a little disappointed. We took the jeeps back down, then went to another place where we climbed more than 1,000 steps to get to the same lake that we should have been able to see from the top. It was really hard, but it was totally worth it. The lake was absolutely beautiful.