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Friday, October 9, 2009

Pink Walls and Waterfalls

The World is Large -
Its beauty indescrible.
- Zhuang Zi

I am writing the first portion of this post on a bus somewhere between Changchun and Changbai Shan, a mountain on the North Korean border. Given the timing of this bus ride in the greater scheme of things, it seems the appropriate point to do a little recap of the last two months.

That's right, I said it, two months. It has been a whole two months since I last set foot on American soil, two months since I had a real American bacon cheeseburger (or bacon at all for that matter), two months since my last taco, two months since my cell phone worked. Things have changed greatly, but I seem to be taking it in stride. Of that I cannot be more grateful. First of all, being here with a group of Americans rather than just being here alone makes all the difference in the world. I cannot describe how much different this trip has been from my other two with just that little change. When, after a hard day, I can return to my living space and be able to actually converse in English with somebody who understands where I am coming from, life is good. Thus the cultural adjustment is moving along smoothly. Granted, we all need a little bit of home to feel comfortable, and I am finding ways to make China a more like home. Me and my Star Trek DVDs have never been closer, I am finding ways to keep up with American television, I am talking to friends and family at home on a more than regular basis, I am spending more time in quiet time, I have found a Chinese student with whom I have been playing Go and tennis, and my bed is comfortable and warm. I have even gone so far as to install incandescent lights in all the sockets in my apartment. All the lights were incandescent when I got here, which was nice, but I lost three of them in a two-day span my first week here. When I went to the foreign affairs office to ask for more light bulbs, they gave me fluorescent ones. I cannot abide fluorescent lighting. It is evil. I do not care if it is better for the environment or if it is more energy efficient. If a home is not comfortable, life is less enjoyable, and I refuse to allow this whole “going green” junk to get in the way of my happiness. Not here. So I yanked those fluorescent lights out of the ceiling and installed incandescent ones the first chance I got. With all that said, you can see life is going well and I am settling in quite nicely. This year is off to a good start and I cannot complain.

If I were to make a complaint about anything, it would have to be with the food. It has only been two months and I am already tired of Chinese cuisine. It is greasy. It is bland. It is all starting to taste the same. I am tired of fried meat in a sticky sauce. I am tired of limp vegetables in a sticky sauce. I am tired of noodles in a sticky sauce. Let it be known that Japanese food remains my favorite national cuisine. It has so much variety that I never got tired of anything, you can never call it bland, and it is far from sticky. Granted, I never say no to a good deli sandwich. Mmmm… Quiznos (and yay for effective advertising campaigns! ^_^).

Moving away from the cultural adaptation, you probably want to know what I have been up to for the last two months. That is an easy question to answer. In Colorado the rest of CTF and I went through the first portion of our training. This first portion consisted of mostly cultural stuff. Basically, we were taught what to do and what not to do in Chinese culture so we could make a good impression right off the bat rather than making fools of ourselves for a few months before we got the hang of the culture. It appears it has worked, because we have not had any major cultural mishaps… yet.

After a few days in Colorado we hopped on the airplane for Beijing. We spent half a day in Beijing visiting some of the more notable cultural sights, then got on a bus for the seaside city of Qinhuangdao where we had two more weeks of intense teacher training. This was the hard core stuff. We were taught all about teaching in general, teaching techniques, lesson planning, classroom management, disciplinary tactics, testing methods, etc.. It was intense. I do not know if I would say I came out of it more confident or more nervous, but it did prepare me for what has come, that much is certain. We even got the chance to deliver a lesson plan of our own creation to an actual class of English students at a university in Qinhuangdao. That went very well. I was not the brightest star there by far, but I would not say it went poorly. I have improved greatly since then.

After the two weeks in Qinhuangdao we dispersed in teams to our assigned schools. I am now comfortable in Changchun and have been teaching for two-and-a-half weeks. I am teaching three classes of freshmen and am doing two English Corners. English Corners are like a study hall for anyone studying English. I give the students a context in which to speak English and help them in whatever way I can. My students are all extremely ambitious and take every chance they can to study and prepare for class. They are some of the best students I have ever seen. They put American university classrooms to shame, and I am already learning a great deal from them as they are learning a great deal from me. I have not had the chance to get to know any of them very well yet, but that will be changing very soon as I am starting to get the hang of this teaching thing. I hope that soon I will be able to focus more on getting to know my students than on simply trying to be a good teacher. So, all in all, it has been going very well thus far by the good grace of our Father and I just know that He will continue to provide as the year goes on.

Now, to close off the post, you might be wondering why I was on a bus. Well, the People’s Republic of China just celebrated its 60th anniversary. The students were given a 10-day break during which time most of the two CTF teams in Changchun joined with the team in Harbin for a trip out to the North Korean border to visit a dormant volcano called Changbai Shan. When I say this mountain is on the border, I mean it. Half of it is in North Korea and the other half in China. It is a beautiful mountain and the volcanic crater has been filled in with water that has created what the Chinese refer to as the “Heavenly Lake.” The Chinese side has been turned into a tourist attraction with many different sights. The lake is of course the main attraction and was the highlight of the day, but there is also a beautiful waterfall that flows off the lake, a gorgeous forest called the underground forest, a hot spring, and a few other attractions that we did not see.

We went with a Chinese tour group, because that is the cheapest and easiest way to see the mountain. We were up on the top of the mountain by 9:30 last Saturday morning, and after standing in the mob that the Chinese refer to as a line, enduring a harrowing car ride up the side of the mountain on icy roads at breakneck pace, and trekking up 200 meters of rocky steps at -7C straight into 25mph winds, we did not get to see the lake. It was snowing and the top of the mountain was completely surrounded in clouds which resulted in an impenetrable shroud of whiteness that prevented us from seeing the beauty of the lake. Even though we did not see the lake, it was fun just being up on the mountaintop. After that we worked our way down to see the waterfall and the hot spring. The hot spring had been turned into a public bath house which only I dared enter. Having already experienced a public bath house in Japan, this was no great surprise to me, and since our hotel did not have showers, I was in need of a good bath. I came out sparkly clean, refreshed, and faintly smelling of sulfur.

We ended the day in the underground forest, which is really above ground. The nomenclature here eludes me but that did not take away from the beauty. Due to the volcanic nature of the soil in the area, the river coming off the “heavenly lake” has created a gorge that is absolutely breathtaking with small rapids and waterfalls throughout. I enjoyed every minute of it and so did the rest of the group. It was a satisfying and relaxing trip and gave us all a chance to grow a little closer as a group and to experience a little more of the country we are all beginning to love dearly.

With that I end this post. I thank you all for continuing to lift up my team and me as we embark on this great quest, this new road of life, this adventure. We are having phenomenal success and I can only imagine that it is your support that is aiding us on our way. Please keep the support coming, and until next time I wish you all a fantastic day!

P.S.: My apartment walls are pink.

Caesar1280's Anime Ticker

.hack//Legend of the Twilight, Air, Air: The Movie, Akira, The Animatrix, Appleseed, Aquatic Language, Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror, Beck, Black Lagoon, Blame!, Blood the Last Vampire, Bokurano, Burst Angel, Castle in the Sky, Cowboy Bebop, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Digimon Tamers: The Runaway Digimon Express, Egao, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shambala, Gankutsuou, Gatekeepers, Genshiken, Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, Gin-iro no Kami no Agito, Grave of the Fireflies, Grenadier, Haibane Renmei, Hellsing, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, Hikaru no Go, Howl?s Moving Castle, Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Jyu Oh Sei, Karas: The Prophecy, Last Exile, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Midori?s Days, Milennium Actress, Mushi-shi, My Neighbor Totoro, Naruto, Naruto: The Movie, Nausicaa, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death And Rebirth, Ninja Scroll: The Movie, Other Worlds, Paprika, Perfect Blue, Pet Shop of Horrors, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, Prétear, Princess Mononoke, Read Or Die, Read Or Die: The TV, Samurai Champloo, Samurai Seven, Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal, She and Her Cat, Spirited Away, Steamboy, Tide-Line Blue, Tokyo Babylon, Tokyo Godfathers, Trigun, Voices of a Distant Star, Witch Hunter Robin, Wonderful Days, Wrath of the Ninja, X

Anime I've Seen

- .hack//Legend of the Twilight
- .hack//Sign
- 5 Centimeters per Second
- Air
- Air: The Movie
- Akira
- The Animatrix
- Appleseed
- Aquatic Language
- Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror
- Baby Blue
- Beck
- Black Lagoon
- Blame!
- Blood the Last Vampire
- Bokurano
- Burst Angel
- Castle in the Sky
- Cowboy Bebop
- Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
- Digimon Tamers: The Runaway Digimon Express
- Doorbell
- Egao
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shambala
- Gankutsuou
- Gatekeepers
- Genius Party
- Genshiken
- Genshiken OAV
- Ghost in the Shell
- Ghost in the Shell: Innocence
- Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society
- Gin-iro no Kami no Agito
- The Gokusen
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Grenadier
- Haibane Renmei
- Happy Machine
- Hellsing
- Highlander: The Search for Vengeance
- Hikaru no Go
- Howl's Moving Castle
- Innocent Venus
- Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade
- Jyu Oh Sei
- Karas: The Prophecy
- Karas: The Revelation
- Last Exile
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
- Midori?s Days
- Milennium Actress
- Mushi-shi
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Naruto
- Naruto: The Movie
- Nausicaa
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death And Rebirth
- Ninja Scroll: The Movie
- Other Worlds
- Ouran High School Host Club
- Paprika
- Perfect Blue
- Pet Shop of Horrors
- The Place Promised In Our Early Days
- Prétear
- Princess Mononoke
- Read Or Die
- Read Or Die: The TV
- Samurai Champloo
- Samurai Seven
- Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal
- Serial Experiments Lain
- Shanghai Dragon
- She and Her Cat
- Spirited Away
- Steamboy
- Tekkonkinkreet
- Tide-Line Blue
- Tokyo Babylon
- Tokyo Godfathers
- Trigun
- Trinity Blood
- Vampire Hunter D
- Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
- Voices of a Distant Star
- Witch Hunter Robin
- Wolf's Rain
- Wonderful Days
- Wrath of the Ninja
- X

Total: 93
Anime I Haven't Completed

- .hack//Roots
- Ah! My Goddess
- Angelic Layer
- Avenger
- Baccano!
- Bamboo Blade
- Basilisk
- Binchou-tan
- Black Cat
- Bleach
- Blood+
- Boogiepop Phantom
- Case Closed
- Le Chevalier d'Eon
- Chobits
- Chrono Crusade
- Code Geass
- Coyote Ragtime Show
- D.Gray-Man
- D.N.Angel
- DearS
- Death Note
- Dennou Coil
- Desert Punk
- Digimon
- Dragon Ball Z
- Ergo Proxy
- Eureka Seven
- Excel Saga
- Fighting Beauty Wulong
- Final Fantasy Unlimited
- Flag
- Freedom
- Full Moon
- Gantz
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Gintama
- Glass Fleet
- Great Teacher Onizuka
- Gundam Seed
- Gundam Wing
- Hayate the Combat Butler
- Hellsing OVA
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
- Ikki Tousen
- InuYasha
- Jigoku Shojo
- Kage Kara Mamoru
- Karin
- Kino's Journey
- Love Hina
- Loveless
- Lovely Complex
- Lucky Star
- Makai Senki Disgaea
- Marchen Awakens Romance
- Meine Liebe
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Mononoke
- Monster
- Moon Phase
- Mr Stain on Junk Alley
- Naruto Shippuuden
- Negima?!
- Negima!
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: End of Evangelion
- Nerima Daikon Brothers
- NHK ni Youkoso
- Night Walker
- Ninja Nonsense
- Noir
- Peacemaker Kurogane
- Pokemon
- Prince of Tennis
- R.G. Veda
- Ragnarok
- Rec
- Red Garden
- Robotech
- Romeo x Juliet
- Rosen Maiden
- Rurouni Kenshin
- Saikano
- Sailor Moon
- Samurai Deeper Kyo
- Sci-fi Harry
- School Rumble
- Scrapped Princess
- Shin-chan
- Shingu
- Shion no Oh
- Shuffle!
- Shrine of the Morning Mist
- So Long, Mr. Despair
- Solty Rei
- Sousei no Aquarion
- Speed Grapher
- Spice and Wolf
- Super Milk Chan
- Tales of Phantasia
- Tenchi Muyo
- Tenjhou Tenge
- Texnolyze
- The Third
- Tsubasa Chronicles
- Urusei Yatsura
- Venus Versus Virus
- Welcome to the N.H.K.
- Winter Cicada
- X-1999
- Xenosaga
- XxxHolic
- Yu Yu Hakushou
- Yume Tsukai
- Zero no Tsukaima
- Zipang

Total: 116
Manga I've Completed

- Cowboy Bebop
- Manga Messiah
- Manga Metamorphosis
- Q*Ko-chan
- Saiyuki
- Shirahime-Syo

Total: 7

Manga I Haven't Completed

- .hack//Legend of the Twilight
- Black Cat
- Blame!
- Chobits
- D.Gray-man
- Darkside Blues
- Death Note
- The Demon Ororon
- Desert Coral
- Disgaea
- Eureka Seven: Gravity Boys and Lifting Girl
- Fruits Basket
- Getbackers
- Hayate the Combat Butler
- Kamunagara
- Legal Drug
- Love Hina
- Loveless
- Megatokyo
- Naruto
- Negima
- Read Or Die
- Rurouni Kenshin
- Tactics
- Trigun Maximum
- XXXHolic

Total: 26

Anime I'm Currently Watching
Samurai 7, InuYasha, Samurai Deeper Kyo,
Boogiepop Phantom, and Shrine of the Morning Mist

Manga I'm Currently Reading
Read Or Die, Hayate the Combat Butler, and Megatokyo.hack//Roots, .hack//Sign, 5 cm per Second, Ah! My Goddess, Angelic Layer, Avenger, Basilisk, Binchou-tan, Black Cat, Bleach, Blood+, Boogiepop Phantom, Case Closed, Le Chevalier d'Eon, Chobits, Chrono Crusade, Coyote Ragtime Show, D.Gray-Man, D.N.Angel, DearS, Death Note, Dennou Coil, Desert Punk, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, Ergo Proxy, Eureka 7, Excel Saga, Fighting Beauty Wulong, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Flag, Full Moon, Gantz, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Gintama, Great Teacher Onizuka, Gundam Seed, Gundam Wing, Hayate the Combat Butler, Hellsing Ultimate, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Innocent Venus, InuYasha, Jigoku Shojo, Kage Kara Mamoru, Karin, Kino?s Journey, Love Hina, Loveless, Lovely Complex, Lucky Star, Makai Senki Disgaea, Marchen Awakens Romance, Meine Liebe, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Mononoke, Monster, Naruto Shippuuden, Negima?!, Neon Genesis Evangelion: End of Evangelion, Nerima Daikon Brothers, NHK ni Youkoso, Night Walker, Ninja Nonsense, Noir, Ouran High School Host Club, Peacemaker Kurogane, Pokemon, Prince of Tennis, R.G. Veda, Ragnarok, Rec, Red Garden, Robotech, Romeo x Juliet, Rosen Maiden, Rurouni Kenshin, Saikano, Sailor Moon, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Sci-fi Harry, School Rumble, Scrapped Princess, Serial Experiments Lain, Shingu, Shuffle!, Shrine of the Morning Mist, So Long Mr. Despair, Solty Rei, Sousei no Aquarion, Speed Grapher, Super Milk Chan, Tales of Phantasia, Tenchi Muyo, Tenjhou Tenge, Texnolyze, The Third. Trinity Blood, Tsubasa Chronicles, Urusei Yatsura, Welcome to the N.H.K., Winter Cicada, X-1999, Xenosaga, XxxHolic, Yu Yu Hakushou, Yume Tsukai, Zero no Tsukaima, Zipang

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