September 22, 2009

Where we are now

I used to live in Florida. In August Brian and I moved to Beilun, Ningbo District, Zhejiang, China. Brian took a job with Access International Academy Ningbo, teaching Algebra, Geometry and Business Math. This place is everything imaginable and more. We have a beautiful apartment overlooking mountains and a river. I spend time watching people fishing. Men pole around in boats so low in the water you expect them to sink. Next to that scene is a driving school with a small hill with brand new cars driving up and down all day. Across from that scene is a group of women weeding in the park, squatting down, all wearing identical straw hats and reflective vests. Every now and then they take a break, stand up and talk on cell phones.

People are really nice to us. I believe I am one of 2 black people in Beilun, a suburb of Ningbo - 1 million people. Brian is way taller than everyone. Everyone stares, tries out their english and smiles. Its interesting to be stared at in a friendly way. I am nervous about causing an accident when we take our morning walk. People whiz by on scooters while looking back at us! All the scooters are electric and very quiet! Trucks are big, old and smelly, but the cars and scooters are all brand new. The car company Gesal (?) apparently reverse engineered a Rolls Royce and are manufacturing them for sale in China. I understand that Rolls Royce is going to court on this -- but hey its China.

The food is fabulous and cheap. We could eat a banquet out every day for 7 dollars a day for the two of us. Fish, shrimp and clams are big here. People won't buy or eat them if they are not fresh - so the markets and the restaurants all have tanks with the food swimming around. At one place the chef netted the shrimp, stuck them on skewers while we watched and them cooked them on a grill. Delicious! We take home the leftovers and make soup the next day. There are traditional markets and supermarkets (like a giant 3 story Walmart only better and cheaper) for veggies, tofu, fruit and peppers. There are all sorts of dried fish and a million kinds of mushrooms. Tofu comes in big cakes with chinese characters embossed on the top. There are at least 20 kinds of tofu and as many noodles. Brian made stir fry with everything I bought and pickled bamboo shoots. Amazing. I feel we are eating healthier instantly - there is meat, but its really expensive - so we are sticking to fish, chicken and tofu for now.

The school is beautiful, everything top of the line and new. His classroom is about the size of the class in NSB, with a water cooler, computer and printer, AC and windows! He has two classes with 1 student, one class with 2 students and one class with 7 students. They are on alternating days, so he has two classes in a four period day. All the students are international - from places like Brazil and Denmark, with the majority being Korean. He can't believe how easy it is to teach them, even with language issues. They work hard and want to learn. I think of this as the good karma for the past 5 years of teaching in Volusia County.

I am working on getting my studio up in the spare room. If we are able to bring in the big machine, I will rent another apartment in the complex and move everything there. I've been experimenting with pen and ink and buying different kinds of paper. I hope to take a trip this week to the fabric market and see what is there. I study Chinese in the morning, draw and then do hand sewing.

The mountains and scenery are beautiful. We went to a big park in Ningbo and watched old people playing traditional instruments and singing. The music has so much feeling in it - even though we don't yet understand what people are saying. They seem pleased that we stopped and listened.

I am learning to slow down and let things happen.

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