Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Our Area of Qingdao

Qingdao is a huge city of over 7 million people. It is a fairly new city, as most of it has been built in the last 20 years. It is a coastal city that is on a peninsula, so there is a lot of beach. The area of Qingdao where we are staying and working is in the more affluent part of the city. There are many very tall buildings, many of which are apartment buildings. Our area has a Korean population of about 80,000. There are many expensive cars. Dr. Paul's Language School is on the 8th floor of one of the 24 floor buildings. There are businesses as well as apartments in the same building.
Every morning out in the parking lot we see hired drivers waiting for their employers to come out to their cars. (One of my Korean readers is a stay-at-home mom whose husband has a car and a hired driver.) In the mornings it is common to see those drivers outside drinking coffee and either washing the cars or dusting them off.

In order to prepare for the Olympics in Qingdao, there is much new construction. There is also a lot of painting and general clean-up.
In the next photo all of the tall buildings in the center and to the right are new construction. You can see at least four large cranes.

The weather has been nice----60's and low 70's during the daytime. We have worn light jackets a lot, because at any time the sun can go behind the clouds, the wind can blow, and it can get cool fast. It has been cool in the evenings in our apartment, because the heat was turned off a couple of weeks ago.

Ron and I are feel very safe walking around in our area, but we are not out walking after dark. I guess I should have said that we feel safe from the people, but not particularly safe from cars! Streets are dangerous places! It seems that drivers pay no attention to traffic lanes---they just honk and go where they wish! They may even do a u-turn in the middle of an intersection! There are few traffic lights, even at busy intersections. The cars go by whoever is the bravest and honks the loudest! There may be cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and men pushing carts all trying to navigate the same intersection at the same time! When walking across a street, you must look carefully, then walk to the middle of the street and wait until you can safely cross to the other side. It can be a little scary! At least the traffic does not move very fast.
Even though a lot of people speak varying levels of English, most workers in the stores and waiters in restaurants speak little English, and none of the taxi drivers do! We look for restaurants with pictures on the menu, and when we take a taxi, we have to have the address written in Chinese to show the taxi driver.

These are some photos taken on the streets between our apartment and Dr. Paul's Language School. The first photo shows a sign for our street. The street name is "MinJiang Er Lu" ("Er" means "two" or "second" and "Lu" means "street".) So this sign is for MinJiang Second Street.

You will normally see cars parked on the sidewalks. These are paid parking spots. Sometimes there are attendants outside helping with the parking and taking money.

Next is a Korean market.The next photo is from the window of Ron's classroom in Dr. Paul's Language School. There is frequent fog, which rolls in from the ocean.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dr. Paul's Language School

Our reading sessions are Monday through Friday at Dr. Paul's Language School, which is about a 7-minute walk from our apartment. It is on the 8th floor of a 24 floor building. Dr. Paul's Language School is a school for teaching English to Korean students. The students attend other schools during the daytime and then come to Dr. Paul's in the evenings. There are classes for students from first grade through high school. Most of the teachers in the school are Americans. The owners of the school, Sun Woo and Serena, have been so helpful to us. These are photos from Dr. Paul's school.

These are pictures from the office area. The first is Sun Woo's desk.

We begin at 9:00 a.m, take a lunch break at 12:00, then read from 2:00-4:00 and from 5:00-7:00----for a total of 7 hours of reading per day. Ron and I have 18 readers between us.

Tuesday and Wednesday of this first week are full days, but Thursday and Friday are Labor Day (also known as May Days) holidays in China, so some of our readers can not come on those days. (Before this year the Chinese Labor Day holidays lasted for one week, but there was a new law passed that limited the holiday to two days.)
Our readers are mostly university students---there are 2 universities in Qingdao. Most are pretty good at reading and understanding English, but they all need practice in English pronunciation and conversation. We are really enjoying getting to know all of our new friends! Some have read with previous LST workers, and some are new to LST.

Monday, April 28, 2008

First Sunday in China

We did not have to worry about setting an alarm---the sun was shining brightly into our bedroom by 5:00 a.m. We had enough time before church to get unpacked. David and Sandi Stathopulo, from Richland Hills in Ft. Worth, are the people that we will work most closely with on our LST project. They will also do the follow-up teaching for our readers after we leave. The following photo is of them standing in front of flowers that are on the grounds of our apartment complex.

They invited us to go with them to the International Church that they attend every Sunday. We left at 9:30 to go there by taxi. The church meets in a big multi-story building on the 25th floor. It's a good thing there was an elevator! The service was well-attended (250+) by people of many nationalities --but not Chinese. Though different from what we are used to, the service was good. David was one of the praise team singers--he has a really good bass voice. The following are photos of the view out of the windows ---looking out over the location of the sailing Olympics scheduled for this summer.

After the church service, David and Sandi took us to a huge store much like Cosco or Sams. It was amazing how many products were familiar to us! The selection of foods that are like home was much better than in the English stores that we went to while in England. One of the things we bought was a box of small Moon Pies, only they call them Orion Pies in China. We purchased quite a bit of food as well as an iron and a small ironing board. Because David and Sandi also purchased a lot of food, we had to take 2 taxis back to our apartment. (David and Sandi live in an apartment in the same complex.) Then we walked to a store called Jusco and ate at a Chinese restaurant. We were surprised at the low cost of our meals---about $4. each.

At 5:oo p.m. David and Sandi host a small group Bible study in their apartment. It was attended by Sun Woo and his wife Serena (the Korean couple who own the English language school where we will work), Sun Woo's teenage daughter, Tim and Reggie (a young couple who teach English in an international school--he is of Chinese heritage but a Canadian citizen and she is from Malaysia), Claire from So. Africa, and Nicole (a single Texas girl who is teaching English at Sun Woo's school).
The first photo shows Serena's daughter and Serena on the left, and on the far right is Sun Woo. In the middle is a visiting couple from the States. Notice that everyone has shoes off!

The last photo is of Tim and Reggie.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Qingdao, China 2008

We had not been home from England long before we began to plan towards our Let's Start Talking trip to Qingdao, China. We were excited about the trip and apprehensive all at the same time. It was a new place for us, and we did not know quite what to expect. I kept a journal, as I did not feel free to blog while there---and, as it turned out, there would not have been time anyway! I am going to post my journal entries as if I had been sending them at the time. I think most of you will understand that I will not write much about our work there ( which was the reason for the trip), as blogs can travel world-wide. You will have to read between the lines on that one.

Day 1, Saturday, April 26, 2008
What a long day! Joan took us to the DFW Airport about 5:15 a.m. Going through baggage check and security were really quick and easy. Our bags were even under the 50 lb. limit. Our first flight was to San Francisco on United. After a short layover we were back on United to Beijing---a long flight of about 12 hours. Since it was our daytime, we read and watched movies. I read an entire Mary Higgins Clark book, and Ron finished a Readers' Digest! At Beijing we had to claim our luggage and then check it in with Air China. The Beijing Airport is new---built for the Olympics this summer---and beautiful, with pot plants and decorations everywhere. After going through customs, we saw huge Chinese murals made of carved wood. We were happy to see English words in addition to Chinese on most signs. I got to experience an Eastern style toilet (a hole in the floor) because the Western style one at the airport was out of order! Our flight on to Qingdao was only about 1 1/2 hour, so it seemed short. After claiming our luggage we searched the crowd for anyone who seemed to be looking for us. No one! Finally, after about 45 minutes, a nice young man offered us the use of his cell phone to call Sun Woo, the owner of the school where we would be doing our reading. Sun Woo was very apologetic, saying that he and David (the American worker in Qingdao) thought we were to arrive on Sunday instead of Saturday. Both of them had meetings going on, so he told us to take a taxi across town to the Shangri La Hotel, where he would pick us up. After arriving at the hotel, we waited over an hour for Sun Woo to arrive in another taxi, as neither he nor David own a car. We went directly to the apartment that we would be staying in for four weeks. It has 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a kitchen, and a living room. Needless to say, we were ready for bed after being up for around 30 hours!
The first photos are of our apartment building. The next photo shows one of the building gates (it is actually the one next to ours) that you have to unlock to get into the apartments. Once inside there are stairways to seven floors of apartments. Our apartment is on the first floor.
The next photos show inside the apartment. (The kitchen is adequate, but small. At least the refrigerator is three times as big as the one we had in England! There is no oven, no garbage disposal, and no dishwasher!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

England Memories

Thinking back on our time in England, it is very hard to summarize all of the things we saw and all of our impressions of England and the English people.

We had expected life in England to be much more like life in the U.S. than it was! As far as daily life, Ron's work was much the same as in the U.S., except that he did have longer hours, and he worked almost every Saturday (that part was not expected!). Mine, however, was quite a change, as I was newly retired, living in an apartment, and had no car during the day! I had to invent things to do to keep busy---that is how my blog got it's start! I walked almost every day, and really, I was not bored. Other things that stand out to me as being different from our life in the U.S. were : apartment living, no dishwasher, no washer and dryer (having to hand-wash many clothes and go to the washeteria for the rest), hanging clothes out on the line outside when sunny and inside when rainy, planning the trips to the grocery store after Ron got home, no shopping other than for food (prices were much too high), riding the bus to town (only a few times---at $10.50 per trip!), driving over an hour to church each Sunday, everything costing at least twice as much, trying to remember which side of the car to get into, narrow roads, and very few good restaurants.
On the positive side were: new people we met, apartment living--- free time was really free (no yard work, upkeep of house, etc.), more time for Ron and I to spend together, weekly Bible studies and meals and our friendship with Beryl and Alister, learning about blogging and card making, reading more than ever, Sunday worship at Bedminster and people we got to know there, Sunday lunch with Trevor and Pauline, new "English words", learning new customs, new sights and sounds and smells, the Royal bakery, beaches, fascinating historical places, and being able to share some of England in person with Julie and Matt and their children and by blog and e-mail with other family and friends.

We loved the village of Martock, where we lived! With most all of the buildings being really old and being made of the same Hamstone, Martock was quaint and beautiful! No place in the U.S. looks quite like that! It was always interesting to walk through the town, as we could see new sights every time. We loved the way Martock, as other small towns, was centered around the old church. It seemed that church was the center of town life, especially in years past, and the church was always the largest, most ornate, and oldest place in town. (I wish that more people today would feel that church (not just the building) is the center of their lives---that seems to be what people in old England must have felt.)

For Christmas Ron bought me a print of Martock. It was done by an artist, now deceased, that was local to Sommerset county, England. His specialty was painting scenes from villages around the area. This print depicts the church area in Martock as he envisioned it around 1600. Here is a photo of the print and then a photo of the street as seen in real life today.

The print is hanging in our den, and every time we see it, it feels as if we were walking through Martock again!

Are we glad that we had the opportunity to live in England for most of the past year? Definitely, YES!
Would we want to make England our permanent home? Definitely, NO! We missed family most of all. We missed friends--friends from church, friends from work, our church and Sunday School class, our Friendspeak friends. We missed our house and our "things" that we did not take with us. We missed American T.V., American food, and the amazing variety of products in stores (with, as we appreciate now, good prices).
Although returning to England is not in our plans now, maybe someday we will go back for a visit.....

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Back to Texas!

My "England blogging days" ended very suddenly in January with an abrupt change in our plans! We were supposed to have at least another four weeks,or even more, in England, but Ron was notified that Bell Helicopter, because of a money crunch, had cut the funding for the testing being done in England and that we were to get all of our belongings ready to ship so that we could fly back to the States as soon as possible!

There was so much to do to end our stay in England. We had to say our good-byes to our friends, give away the food we had stocked up, arrange for the shippers to come to pack our belongings, take our last photos, and try to get each of our suitcases to weigh under 50 pounds!
Our last day at the Bedminster Church in Bristol was sad for us, because we knew that more than likely we would never see our friends from there again. One or two said that they might be traveling in Texas someday----we hope they will. At the end of the church service, Geoff Daniels, one of the long-time members, presented us with a small hand blown blue vase as a remembrance of our time at Bedminster. The vase was made at a famous Bristol company called Bristol Blue Glass. It is a tradition at the Bedminster church to give a vase to people who are moving away. We felt very honored, especially being that we were not actually members of the church there. It is a treasure!

As I was cleaning our kitchen, I realized that I had some dishes and pans that the apartment owners would probably throw away, so I walked to the local Charity Shop and donated them back to the place where I had bought them! It seemed strange a couple of days later to go into the shop and see "my stuff" on the display shelves!

It was even a little sad telling the housekeepers goodbye, as I had seen them almost every day for eight months. (No, they really did not do much cleaning, but they did pick up the trash everyday.) The one on the right is Judy. She is married and has two teenage sons, so she was always talking about the different sports activities in her busy schedule. The one on the left is Claire, not married but her "partner" is one of the chefs at the hotel that owns our apartment. She always had lots of stories about her sister and her sister's five children (with #6 on the way)and her sister's husband, who Claire was always calling a "lazy bloke"! Judy and Claire said that they would miss the smells of my food----they especially liked the Snickerdoodle cookies and asked for the recipe. In return, I got a recipe for Cornish Pasties (haven't tried it yet). They were always willing to tell me the meaning of "English words", where to shop, and about traditions in England.

Our time in England ended much too quickly! We did manage to get everything packed. We took our last walks around town and drove through the countryside the evening before we left for London to fly home. The weather during our last few days was the very typical English weather----cool and rainy---but we could see a few signs of the coming spring. The daffodils were blooming along the roadside in Yeovil, rose bushes were beginning to put on leaves, and new growth from flower bulbs could be seen in the flower beds. People were beginning to work their flower beds in anticipation of spring. We enjoyed seeing people out walking their dogs (a very common sight in England----especially because of their small yards). Many of the people walking their dogs were wearing their "Wellies", or muck boots, in the rain. We tried to store up all of those sights of England so that we could remember.....

We did manage to get our suitcases underweight, even with a few of Katelyn's rocks in them!
Here are three photos taken as we departed from Gatwick Airport in London. Of course, it was a foggy day in England!