Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Fotos

So this past week I've been explaining Christmas (as a cultural phenomenon) to the students as well as teaching them a couple of Christmas songs.

Some of the classes have come up just short in terms of time, meaning, I finished all my material and still had about 15 minutes left.

So I showed the students some pictures I had from Uncle Johnny's birthday party September of last year (2008).

Two very interesting comments were made, without fail, in every class that saw the photos:

Interesting comment #1: The students have all said that my father looks like Santa Claus.

Interesting comment #2, and I hope she doesn't get upset by this: The students have all said that my Italian-American (but full Italian by blood) Aunt Rosemarie looks Chinese.

Don't shoot the messenger on this one. I can see their first point, but I don't personally see the second.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's Up Doc

So for the last couple of weeks I've been kind of "phlegmy" but not coughy or feverish or really any kind of otherwise ill feeling. Then last Friday I woke up and something was wrong with my left ear. I could still hear out of it, but it was muffled, kind of like how it sounds when you've got water in your ear.

Anyways, I figured it'd go away, but as of Tuesday it had not, so I mentioned to Laura, my boss, that I'd like to go to the hospital to get it checked out.

For those of you thinking, "Why go to the hospital?", in China, they don't really have separate private doctors' offices, so if you're sick, even just for something minor, you go to the hospital.

So Laura arranged for a student whose English was not too bad to accompany me to the hospital. Luckily the wait wasn't very long. Including registration and then waiting for the patients in front of me in the otolaryngology deparement I waited probably a total of 20 minutes. (By the way, that's a new word for me, the English word for the "ear, nose, and throat" division of medecine. Also by the way, the literal Chinese translation of "otolaryncology" is, word-for-word, "ear nose and throat science")

The doctor had a look at my ear and literally 10 seconds later said (in Chinese of course) "You have a cold, and the mucus is just backed up. Once the cold goes away, so should the ear problem.

The doctor was an older man, perhaps 60, and after saying a few other things in Chinese to the student who was with me, he then looked at me and said "Parlez vous Francais?" At first I didn't understand him because A) I was expecting to hear Chinese and so wasn't listening for French, and 2) his accent was very heavy on the Chinese. After that he again spoke and said "Je peu parle un petit peu d'Francais" I then immediately tried to search my brain for "me too" in French, but the only thing my brain could find was "Wo ye shi", which is "me too" in Chinese. Only now as I am writing this blog entry have I just remembered that "me too" in French is "moi aussi." Learning Chinese has been a challenge and an adventure, but darn it if it hasn't pushed out just about all of the quick response expressions I have ever learned if any other language, including the Spanish I studied for three years in high school. I honestly believe that if a Spanish-speaking friend of mine asked me "Hey, como estas?" I would answer "hen hao" (very well).

The doctor then explained that he had worked for 4 years as a doctor in west Africa, in Mali, where they speak French. After that exchange he then directed the student and I to the testing room, where they just ran a couple of hearing tests (push the button when you can hear the sound), and then what seemed to be an automatic hearing test. For the automatic one he put the sensor into my ear and then the program ran played some tones at different frequencies and somehow automagically measured something about my auditory sensitivity. The doctor running the tests said that aside from the slight muting from the mucus, my hearing was fine.

After that, I was given a prescription of a couple kinds of pills and a nasal spray for my cold. We filled it there at the hospital, and that was that.

Just so you guys are aware, here in China, I have no health insurance. So, the doctor's visit, plus all the auditory tests, plus the medicine came to quite a total:

167 yuan, or about $24.50

Now the earnings in China are much lower than they are in the states. But even when you take this reduced earning power into account, this is still relatively cheap, even by Chinese standards. The way I get a "feel" for the cost of something is this: You take the price in yuan, let's call that "Y", and divide it by two, and let's call that "x". So now "Y" yuan to a Chinese would be "like" $x to an American. So in this case, 167 yuan to a Chinese person would be like $83 to an American. Certainly not something you'd like to drop everyday, but that's how much a doctor's visit PLUS medical tests PLUS medicine costs with NO insurance?

Anyhow, as an update, that was Tuesday, two days before I am now posting and my cold still hasn't gone away. Still not serious, but still not gone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I could be a Part-Time Model*

*But I'll probably have to keep my normal job

I work part-time at this place called "Web International English" here in Huzhou. It's a commercial school for learning English.

On Monday of this week, Apple, my boss (that's her English name) said that there was an elevator company in Nanxun (pronounced Nan Schwinn, one town over, in the same county as Huzhou) that was looking for some foreigners to use in its advertisements and promotional materials, and asked if I would mind going to Nanxun to be a model for them.

The offer, in addition to stroking my ego, paid 1000 yuan (about $140) so I figured, yeah, why not!

On Tuesday, Apple sent me a text message asking if I had a suit, to which I replied, "Not in China." She then asked me for my size so the photographer could bring one that fit me.

On Wednesday she asked me, "Do you have any leather or formal shoes that are not sneakers?" To which I replied, "Not in China."

I think it's safe to say that my formal events and occasions have been few and far between during my last 14 months here.

So today, I went with Apple to the elevator factory in Nanxun. The photographer supplied the suits (there were 2: a blue pinstriped suit, and a gray pinstriped suit), a few shirts (different elevators had different colors and different lighting some some colors were better suited than others), but no shoes. Turns out that wasn't really a big deal, they just didn't include my feet in the shots.

Afterward, I signed a release for them to use my photos and they handed me 1000 yuan cash. As a bonus, since they had purchased those shirts just before and in my size, they let me keep them. The shirts are nothing special, not designer labels or anything, but are still nice shirts, and it was a nice little added bonus.

Within the next couple of weeks I should get some copies of the photos taken, and I'll post them here when I do.

On a side note, Ellis, my American co-worker at the college, went to model for this company a few weeks ago, as well as Brandon, my American co-worker at Web. Their photos came out fine, but the company wanted some more pictures and some different faces. If you want to see their photos you can catch them on Ellis's blog:

Ellis's own photos:

The final professinal ones:

Thanksgiving '09

So about two weeks ago Ellis (the other foreign teacher at my school, remember I am a foreigner) invited many of the Huzhou laowai (foreigners) to her apartment for a Thanksgiving dinner.

It was a nice little affair with food (everyone brought something), conversation, and even a some guitar and singing (real guitar, not fake plastic guitar).

I made some spaghetti to bring, and I have to say... it was REALLY good. I only used a Hunt's tomato sauce, but I also added some browned ground pork and some fennel and I let it simmer for about 4 hours. It turned out SO much better than expected. Grandma, you would be proud. I may be a particularly strict critic of my own sauce, but one nice compliment was that Ellis, a self-proclaimed "foodie", immediately asked for seconds after finishing her first helping.
The only thing that would've made it better is if it had been hot, I had prepared the spaghetti and the sauce, but unfortunately we began eating about 90 minutes after we arrived, so it was a little cool (The apartment is not heated).

Now me, always forgetting to bring a camera, I didn't take any pictures, save for one here I took with my camera phone of the spaghetti.

However, Ellis, being inseparable from her camera took several pictures. I'll upload a few of them from her blog here, but she's got several others with annotations at that on her Thanksgiving blog post:

Jean and I arrive first

People Snacking

The Huzhou foreigners dining

Englishman Jack plays the guitar

Canadian Paul and I sing a song (maybe Oasis)