Meet My City: Qingdao
Let me begin with how the Chinese people celebrate their holidays. They actively participate with all the energy that can be found in a country that is older than most of us can imagine. The government takes part fully and supports the traditions that have lasted far longer than Christianity. All of the holidays actively include long-dead ancestors, who are prayed to, invited into the celebrations and honored. Imagine Memorial Day repeated every time any celebration occurs.
My first holiday here was the 4th of July. While the Chinese do not, of course, celebrate this day, they do allow us US citizens to have a brief holiday. Businesses and government do not shut down, and there aren’t any fireworks. I slept. I went out to dinner with other teachers. I cried. I never thought of myself as overly sentimental about holidays but when you are on the other side of the world, and this time the fireworks, friends and family are in your mind but unavailable, the waterworks can spill over. Thankfully its only one day off.
I have a new friend, Anna, and she walked me relentlessly around Qingdao during Golden Week, which is their Independence celebration. Qingdao has three beautiful beaches, and the city is on a beautiful bay. I was walked from one end of the bay to the other starting in Old Qingdao. Each day we walked about 7.5 miles. For a week, I slept very well, lost 4.5 lbs., and became very directionally aware.
This photo was taken from the top floor of the pagoda in the oldest part of the city. Part of the original University of Qingdao is the first building. Every holiday will find this quiet, well-cared for section of town alive with people coming back to remember. They come to sit in the shade or sun and just be still. And so we sat also and heard quiet chatter between the elders and Anna translated for me. “Do you remember…..” was most often heard.
Amongst the youngest was “When will we go to Number 1 beach?”, and many repetitions of how hungry and thirsty they were, just like anywhere else in the world. Even so, somehow, sitting in this quiet place, even the young seemed to know that they would also trek to this place as they age, and respect the traditions of their families. As soon as they crossed the street onto the beach, they exploded into pure, young energy ! Qingdao has three beaches and all of them were full of people wanting to wade or swim before deep autumn set in.
I wish everyone well as our new year progresses. May we all have a good one! Later. Jodi
Fifty or so years ago I played ping pong as a child. I didn’t win then, and it did not bother me very much. After all, it was just part of gym class and everyone had to (at the whim of my P.E. teacher), participate. No big deal. I did not care about winning or losing. I don’t remember caring about anything except how our gym bloomers made all the girls look ridiculous.
Today I have played ping pong in China and find it great exercise and a good time spent with one of my co-workers and two Chinese women at one of the HUGE gyms here. In case you think I played well, having improved after fifty years……think again. Most of my exercise was via running after the balls. So many shots got past me that I spent most of my game retrieving them. It was fun, but proved to me without a shadow of a doubt that I will probably never become a threat to the local champion, or anyone else! I am just as sure that I provided some measure of hilarity to everyone else at the gym.
Despite my very poor showing, my friends are still my friends, and I feel I will go often because it was fun. I may not be a good ping pong player, but I am a good sport and know how to lose gracefully. I was encouraged to buy my own paddles and balls, and now I carry them with me in my backpack like everyone else . Somehow the knowledge that I am still welcomed to go play is uplifting. Thank the stars no one took pictures. I hope!
I suppose if there is a “moral” to this little story, it would be that just because you are a strange face in a strange place, does not mean you won’t make friends or be invited to take part in the fun, as long as being the comic relief is good for you, and you can leave the ego at home.
I like it here in Qingdao. My apartment is right across the street from the school. I leave my apartment, drop 20 floors, walk down 27 steps, cross a small square, down, down 27 more stairs, cross the street, up 54 steps (3 stories ), and finally up the elevator three floors to work. It takes about 6 minutes altogether. The nicest parts of my arrangement are that I don’t drive anywhere, the grocery store/sporting goods, and a Shopping area is give or take a bit, only a mile. I don’t pay for anything concerning the apartment except my electric, and then it is only a small percentage of about 30 RMB a month. Since the exchange rate is (give or take) 1 USD = 6.05 RMB, even with the air conditioner on in the summer, it’s a great deal at $5.00! Of course, my apartment is about the size of my kitchen at home and cools and heats quickly. I keep it on until I leave for work, and turn it on when I am in the door. By the time I have shed my jeans and shoes, it is already cool. Ahhh…….
I have found myself collecting some really cool advertising artwork. I find these at bus stops and on the huge green walls erected to hide construction areas. I find them very interesting because it is a form of antique art used publicly as advertising. I will insert them as I find them. I hope you enjoy them and feel free to copy them if you wish. Right click and save as… works well.
I am forever taking pictures here, but these are sort of special to me. I’m by no means an art critic or knowledgeable, but do know what appeals to the peaceful side of me. I plan to turn this collection into a collage when I return home. Some of the best things I have found have not been purchased, but free if you have a camera or iPhone! I have no idea how many of these artwork pieces there are out there, but I intend to get them all. I will one day go to the top of the tallest building here and take my camera! Night shots in the downtown area are difficult because of night fogs and pollution ruin most photos I have taken.
Well, it is time for me to go teach forty students aged five to seven how to say hello, Good morning, and spell their English names. Till next time. Let me know what you think or what you would like to know about living as an American ( 美国公民) in China.
My name is Jodi and Here I am in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, looking out a 20th floor apartment window. Those that know me well, know I have vertigo like a big dog and the exterior wall is all glass. Quite a few of the photos I have taken are from this wall of glass. It is my kitchen so I may not be cooking very often unless I can get it covered. My first adventure begins. I am 62 and counting.
My flight into China was uneventful until I landed in Shanghai. At the airport, there were no happy signs welcoming me that I could read. Moving from entry to the gate I needed to travel on to Qingdao was an adventure in signage. Some signs are internationally understood such as restrooms, food, and police, taxis and, thankfully, some airport personnel truly understand the panicked look. Since my connection was seven hours away, I knew I could manage to find my gate in time.
Understand that the Chinese are generally non-invasive people. They may want to speak about or with you and not want to interfere with your space. You must openly show a willingness to be approached. As I waited in the correct area for my next flight, I had several “conversations”. Two young men (18-22) and I had a discussion on the WiFi available in the airport and since they already spoke minimal English, and always want to improve their skills, it worked. Everyone uses a translator on their tablets and phones, and we made good use of them. Soon I was engaged by a couple travelling with a two year old boy that I said hello to. They immediately encourage the child to be brave and say hello back.
I have not yet met the man, woman, or child, that is afraid of me. This is probably because I look like their grandparents…..with round eyes. Also, any contact with an English speaker is an opportunity to learn more of the language. A bus rider can turn into a convention of spelling and iphone translators!
My flight was almost two hours late arriving because of weather, but my ride was waiting and took me directly to the apartment I was assigned awaiting my permanent one being vacated by a departing teacher. The next day was designed to allow me to “rest for my health”, which translates to “dealing” with jet-lag. Which I did for about six hours then the coffee hunt was on. My second adventure begins. The coffee here is generally instant, and some are in small tear pouches with creamer and sugar built in. Pour in a cup add hot water and Presto! You almost have coffee. I have since adapted. Plain hot water is a regular drink by all and encouraged for your health.
As for what this girl is going to do, my first day at work at the WELL College of International Language starts today. I arrived, in China, to teach English as a second language on July 1, 2013, at midnight. While I have always been rashly confident I could do anything, this is, aside from space travel, the most challenging adventure you could imagine. No, I don’t speak Chinese. I don’t need to because the motto of the school is: Speak English Only! Getting along at school is not a big deal because the TAs (teaching assistants) are Chinese with decent English skills. However, as naturally helpful and kind, they are not always with you when you need to buy food, deal with money, or catch a bus. My first month was a real eye-opener.
My first foray out into the wild world of NO English was the second day here in Qingdao. I had to register with the government, get a thorough physical to confirm my US physical, open a bank account, and find a grocery store. My Manager, Selina, is fairly wonderful, and very good at her job. She took me through these steps with ease and zero problems. She is very efficient and I truly value her.
Registering with the government was simple. We went to the office, took a number and waited about ten minutes, spent five minutes registering with my passport for the resident visa and we were done. The school paid these costs. I also had to get the national health care for a year, and hang onto your hat….approximately $146.00 USD! The school foots an equal amount. The total is about $300.00 USD. On the way home the school bought me a refillable bus card to make it easier to get around and explore this beautiful city.
While awaiting my resident visa, I explored. I was informed that due diligence concerning personal safety was always necessary as with any place you live. However, most areas are well lit and not very intimidating. I walked. Exploring my near neighborhoods, the closest larger shopping areas, and found a branch of my bank closer to home than downtown Qingdao. Being a Bariatric patient and a diabetic, I took care to always have my needed information tucked inside my key case along with the gate card and door key. Walking is a normal event here, not just what you have to do if the car breaks down. Walking in the evening quite often blooms into a social affair.
Finding the grocery store wasn’t too difficult because one of the other teachers walked it with me the first time. It takes me 8-10 minutes to walk. Finding anything familiar in the store is a different story and I will expound on that a bit later. I now own a cute little pull-along cart for grocery day. As time goes by, I am assisted in finding an up-scale import solution for the things most foreigners believe that can’t live without until they adapt. After four months now, I find they are still wanted, but not so necessary after all.