Monday, September 20, 2010

Spots of Contentment

The Chinese internet is a very fickle thing. Our colleagues report some intermittent problems in service, but we really had a bad weekend after our first week of regular school, and that was very frustrating. Seeking some peace, we hopped on the subway to YuYuan Garden, a small plot of land made into a garden for a local ruler back in the 1500s, which is being restored after the destruction of the Cultural Revolution. The garden sits amid giant skyscrapers and commercialism of every description, but is itself a beautiful haven, and we were able to relax a little and remember that patience is a virtue. We bought a new router and did what we could throughout the weekend, finally calling our young friend Joey, who is 15 or 16 and knows everything tech. He waited patiently for the second China Telecomm technician to leave, tapped away on our keyboard, physically separated our modem and router, and had us working again by Sunday night. We also had our first Mandarin session with Tony, a young university student who is trading Mandarin lessons for help with his conversational English, so let's hear it for nice young people everywhere!

Our second week with students was threatened by a typhoon, and school was canceled on Wednesday, per order of the Shanghai Education Department. The day in question happened to be the first regular day of classes for the Shanghai public schools (Sept 1), so the local kids just got an extra day of summer. We were summoned to work at school just the same, so we got some extra planning time, which is always welcome. The typhoon, by the way, veered off toward Korea at the last minute, so the rain that fell would barely have been noticed in Phoenix, but it was nice to know that other school districts have difficulty dealing with weather predictions.

We had little bits of happiness during this week. First, I tried leaving a very short note of Chinese characters for Luo Yan, our ayi, to indicate that we were leaving her monthly wages. When we issued her August wages directly to her, we had some trouble communicating the purpose of the money, so I looked up the characters in the Oxford dictionary to say "for you." To my amazement, I got it right, and Luo Yan left a note saying thanks in English and characters. Next, we got our first piece of personal mail in our apartment box, an envelope of Sunday comics from my sister, Jill. What fun! Finally, we went on our first Payday Friday dinner to a Taiwanese restaurant named JoJo. Our Mandarin colleague, Helen, did the ordering, and the food just kept coming. We learned how to ask for a doggie bag (da bao) and how to count with hand gestures, which Joe is ready to use at his next wet market visit.

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