In Hangzhou We Are

July 16th, 2004

Up and at ’em. I wake up quite hot. Hangzhou is quite hot even with the window open and the fan on. I go in the shower and then get dressed to go have breakfast. The water in the shower smells bad, kind of smells like I have no other way of putting it but sewage water—another fair warning for a westerner going to China. Since I know they do not clean/filter the water I never feel quite refreshed even after taking a shower. The breakfast though is not so bad; yogurt, pudding, fruit and juice. Alright, now I look forward to teaching my first grade class this morning. As I enter the classroom, I meet Elise, the regular teacher. She is an attractive young Chinese woman, in a classic way. Anyway, my first assignment is to assign western names to the students.

Wow, I feel so honored to be the one choosing their western names for them. How interesting! Well this was going to be quite challenging, wanting to choose names for them they would like. Being I do not particularly like my name chosen for me. Sure I could have changed it, but at the same time being called a completely different name I have been called for most of my life would be so strange. Anyway, I really tried my best to choose names for each of the young students I felt “fit them” based on impression, character, and appearance. I think it went well. This consisted of most of the class time and just to get a feel of where they were at and how to teach them. After class it was lunch time. To be honest, my stomach cannot handle the food they serve in the cafeteria, so I walk to the nearby grocery store with Kate to get something to eat and pick up some groceries to bring home. Going into a Chinese grocery store for the first time was quite interesting. Step by step I run into more culture shock. The meats and plucked birds are just piled on top of each other in the open air uncovered in somewhat refrigerated shelf. There is a bucket full of alive crayfish sitting on the floor in the fishery area. It is hot in there, even in the supposed refrigerated and frozen food areas. Other than that the dry food and tolietries shelf were standard for larger cities in developing countries. They had good snacks, such as cookies and chips, including Oreos and other Chinese brands. Well we have a short time to return to our afternoon class, so we needed to rush back to the school. Though before we drop our groceries off on the way.

The afternoon class went quite well. The students were quite obedient and paid attention today. The moment our work day ended, Kate and I immediately plan to get into town to West Lake, to be exact. So we promptly get a cab into town. Which cost about 15 Yuan, which must be about 3 US dollars! Not too close either. The first thing I see is a little old man riding his bicycle with two heavy looking gas tanks in the back. Whoa!

The first thing Kate and I do when we arrive in West Lake is walk around and take pictures; sit around the area and enjoy the scenery for sometime. Then we know the next time we put food in our mouths it will be western food! So we are in a hunt for a western restaurant. We see a typical American-like pizzeria which is presented as Italian. Wow we are salivating as we wait for our food.

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Nom, nom we then devour the very delicious pizza. What a relief! Sure I came here to have Chinese cuisine, which so far had only been good in Shanghai. So needless to say, I was so happy to eat some sort of yummy western food again. As we walk around some more, I notice the air is really dirty, as are the buildings. They don’t pressure clean the streets or the buildings. You can see a gray layer of smog in the air and buildings. It is actually hard to breath here, so luckily I won’t be living here for too long. I don’t know how someone with asthma would survive, so warning to those. It just stinks around any city area in China; Shanghai was the same way.

Then finally we go on a desired boat ride around the lake. The guy taking us was very nice and spoke a few works in English.

Being the boat ride was very lovely, I was getting frustrated because it was getting dim around sunset and my camera was not getting good shots that I would have liked. Though after perserverance I was able to get a couple decent shots. The view looked like a Chinese art painting with the Wuling mountains lined with a pagoda or two in a lake horizon. Watching the sunset made it even better. I was really happy to make it to West Lake finally. Afterall, Hangzhou is what Marco Polo refered to as the “City of Heaven.”

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