Sunday, June 17, 2007

China - My Backwards New Home

So, my plans for China have changed YET AGAIN.

The first time they changed was after I bought my tickets to fly from Seattle to Medford to see the mom and my tickets to fly from beautiful Medford to LA so I can see Adam when his ship comes in from deployment. I was, at that time basing my plans on being in China on September 1st, when they said I would start.

The first change was that I needed to be there on the 26th. This was then boiled down to me needing to be there by the 30th, which meant I could keep my 2 flights as they were and would just have less time with Adam. I used other information provided at that time to book my tickets to China from LA.

The second change came after I booked those tickets. These changes came straight from the source - my college in China. They apparently wanted me there on August 24th and I the airport I was told to fly into was 9 hours away from my soon-to-be home.

Doesn't that just make you want to laugh RIGHT OUT LOUD. Yes. And punch things. SO, now I have had to change my tickets from Seattle to Medford, and Medford to LA, AND LA to China. The bummer is that everything got moved up a week so I am going to miss Adam entirely. Oh, and I most likely won't be reimbursed for the fees associated with changing my tickets.

ANYWAY, this is where my schedule is at now.... If you aren't an early planner, don't worry, I will remind you closer to the date as well.

I will be flying into Seattle on August 10th. This will be at 3am so if anyone in Seattle wants to see me really bad, you can come and pick me up :)

I will be IN Seattle from August 10th to August 17th.

I will be in Medford from August 17th to August 22nd.

I will then be in LA for about 6 hours on August 22nd and then flying out of LA to China on the same day.

My first week in China is apparently going to be doing work with a local middle school. What I have been told is that there is a week training program for the kids at this middle school and the school requested my college supply two foreign teachers to assist in this training. I have no idea what I will be training these kids to do, but I bet they will be adorable.

I officially start teaching at my college on September 3rd. They are concerned about me getting settled before I start...I am concerned about recovering from my jet lag and the loss of an entire day (literally, not just in time spent on the airplane).

So, that is where I am at now. Tomorrow I have to go pick up my medical form from my doctor. Everything has been tested and it looks like I will live although the results for my syph test are still not in. Keep your fingers crossed for me on that one.

The next steps are simple: applying for my China VISA, surviving summer school and NYC heat, selling most of my belongings and weeding through the rest, getting my paperwork in line for CA when I come back, packing for living abroad for a year, and preparing for my 2 week stint in Egypt. Should be good times! At least the Egypt people seem to have their stuff together a little more.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Niagara Falls Recap

Back at the end of May I took a solo expedition to Niagara Falls, Ontario. I figured since it is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, I had better do it before move.

I got there on a Saturday afternoon and after checking into my hostel, I followed the flow of traffic hoping it would lead me to something that looked like a city and perhaps the falls. [I again didn't think to bring a map with me, but bought one at a local market so I could be a better tourist.] It was really amazing! The place where my hostel and the train station were looked like something out of a ghost town. While I did walk by the city hall, the whole "main drag" through "downtown" Niagara Falls City was comprised of run down, deserted, or otherwise decrepit buildings. There was a bar or a bank speckled here or there, but really nothing impressive.

Apparently most of the City's focus is now on a section of town called Clifton Hill which is catered to tourists who come to see the falls which are located just down the hill. It reminded me of Vegas really with the throngs of people/tourists, the bright lights, and the amusement activities.

I saw something that I thought looked like the Space Needle, but it ended up just being Casino Niagara.

I was not to be disappointed however, as Niagara Falls City does have something like the Space Needle - The Skylon.

*Note: for those of you paying attention, there was a mystery building in Cologne Germany that looked like the Space Needle.

Sadly, I did not go into it. I just looked it up on the internet. "Colossus" is a TV tower, but does have a revolving restaurant and an observation deck so I totally missed out.

**Interesting fact: I have been up into the Space Needle.

Then, in 2002 when I was in New Zealand, I went into their Space Needle-like tower, Sky Tower.

ANYWAY, from this mecca of tourism I was able to get my first glimpse of the falls. The American Falls...

I wish I could put into words how incredibly awesome the falls were. Right down from them are the Horseshoe Falls....

Since I was there, I decided to jump on The Maid of The Mist cruise boat and see what all the rage was about. The ship takes you up close to the American Falls, and then you can see the smaller Bridal Veil Falls just to its left. Then, the boat actually goes INTO it Horseshoe Falls. Everyone on the boat got little blue ponchos but we all just got soaked. The absolute power of the falls is just amazing. I took some videos of it if you want to check them out. After that, it was getting dark, so I decided to trek back to my hostel and see more of the falls the next day.

NFC Day 2 was jam packed. I left my place at 9am and didn't return until midnight or so! I wandered around a bit down by my hostel, which was north of the falls, to see what could be seen. I had seen a tourist sign for Whirlpools and thought it was worth investigating. Niagara River runs between Canada and the US and most of its length from the falls area to where it goes into Lake Ontario is white water.

Apparently the rapids are classified at a class 6 and is one of the few places in the world where the white water isn't caused by the water going over rocks. The water is up to 40 feet deep and the rapids come purely from the large volume of water from the falls being pushed through a relatively small gorge. I borrowed some aerial shots of the area so you can get a feel for it.

This is an aerial shot of the entire area.

You will need to make it bigger to get a full sense of it. The Whirlpool is in the foreground. The US is on the right and Canada on the left, with the falls in the top right. Niagra River runs south to north from the falls to Lake Ontario.

At the end of the river is where I found the Whirlpool. I was expecting crazy swirling water, but that isn't really how it is! There was a little car you could take over the whirlpool and as soon as I read it was the only Spanish Aero Car like it in the world, I had to.

The strangest thing about the Whirlpool is how it was formed. The Niagara Falls have been moving up the Niagara River at a rate of 5 feet a year for the last 12,500 years but that changed when it got to this location, because this section consisted of soft sediment rather than rocks. So, it's thought that the entire Whirlpool area was cleared out in just a few days or perhaps even a few hours. The resulting pool is 125 feet deep. Ironically, the mile long Glens immediately above the Whirlpool were much harder rock than anywhere else in the area and took almost 5,000 years to erode.

As I walked back towards the falls, I came across a marker for where the falls use to be around the 1600s. Now it has moved almost 4 km south of that location. This is what it looks like now...

When I got back to the falls, I decided to hike up to Horseshoe falls and do a trip called "Journey Behind the Falls" where you actually get to go 150 down through bedrock to tunnels behind the falls. Again, we got ponchos, but this time yellow! There were 2 portals behind the falls we could look out but the water going by is so intense all you really see is white. Then, there was a platform where we got to go out and look right into the water. It was crazy! Again, I borrowed a pic to give you a feel for it, look at my album to see my pics. [Look to the lower right for the little yellow people.]

Completely drenched, but not detoured; I decided I couldn't miss the opportunity to go up into the Skylon. Plus, they had a buffet... They have bright yellow elevators they call "Yellow Bugs"...precious. Unlike the Space Needle, the food was good! The view wasn't too bad either...I could see both falls! I think the guy felt bad for me eating by myself as he gave me a window seat for 1.

I lucked out as the evening firework shows over the falls had just started the weekend before and they were only Friday and Sunday nights. Sunday night was about 7 hours after when I was done eating so I wandered about and did more touristy stuff to kill time. I went to the Hershey Store, Casino Niagara, rode on the HUGE ferris wheel, etc...

The fireworks were amazing! And if fireworks aren't enough, they shine lights on Rainbow Falls to make it look like a giant rainbow!

Despite the HUGE wait going back across the border the next morning, I would say the Canada side of the falls is definitely all that people say it is and more.

If you want to see more of my pics, click on the album below.

Niagra Falls

It was L-O-V-E at first sight

Today after my lengthy trip to the Dr's to start my medical diagnostic [for my Visa] I decided to stop by my favorite Borders. As usual, I always spend too my time there, but at least I remembered to get my Chinese - English Dictionary finally. ANYWAY, as I was looking at travel books I met someone. Now, those of you who know me know that I am usually not too social or outgoing [at times] and have been known to be an ass to complete strangers, namely men, who irritate me.

This, however, was completely different. This guy started up an easy conversation about traveling and the next thing I know, we are sitting in the stores' Seattle's Best Coffe shop for over an hour talking about places we want to go and things we want to see and do. It was amazing! When I mentioned my new fabulous book, "1000 Things to See Before You Die", he pulled it out of his bag....he had just purchased it!!

So, our conversation jumped around a lot but in summary it was really great to meet someone who wants to travel. He was saying that his plans for this next year are really up in the air as he is wanting to travel around but isn't sure yet where he really wants to go. Of course I had talked about my plans for China and Egypt and my hopes to do more traveling around Asia when my teaching year is done. He said it all sounded really great. And...I just couldn't help it...he was just so great and everything just seemed so right...I invited him to come with me!!

And he said yes! I am so excited! I really think this might be The One and I couldn't imagine a better way to start our love affair off than with traveling to a foreign country together and experiencing that huge life experience together.

I can't wait for you all to meet him! I am sure you are going to love him as much as I already do!! His name is Duvy and here is a pic for those of you who want to check him know you do!!

True Love

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Life - By the numbers

30560 - in suggested "play money" for my time in China (currency not specified, amount given in Yuan)

5230 - salary (USD)  for the 07-08 school year  - DOUBLE what my colleagues will be making??!!

800 - dollars for my one-way ticket to Nanchang

100 - percent of my students in 604 who passed the 4th marking period

78 - days until I move to China

32  - hours of flight between LAX and KHN

28 - students failed 4th quarter

27 - years of life to soon celebrate

22 - colors of M&Ms purchased in Times Square with Jessica

15 - days set aside for Egypt

10 - boxes I am allowing myself to keep from my current apartment

9 - more days of school

8 - state quarters needed to complete my collection - who will help when I am abroad?!

6 - weeks of summer school

5 - additional vaccinations needed

4 - flights in August

1 - visitor left to come to NYC

Monday, June 4, 2007

CHINA: What I know now

The VERY last day in May I finally heard back from my China program coordinators as to my placement for this coming school year. They were really meaning the end of May when they told me to wait back in April. So, for all of those people out there who have been waiting on the edge of their collective seats, here is the skinny.

I will be living in Pingxiang City in the Jiang-xi Provience. The Provience is roughly located here:


I will be working at Pingxiang College teaching oral and spoken English (or other such related classes) to major and non-English major students. Apparently the campus covers some 50 hectares of land and is surrounded by "green hills". Their student enrollment for last year was more than 7,000. They have a "Department of Gym" that I am curious to learn more about. Here are some pics of the school I stole off their website.


The placement coordinator wanted me to know that "teaching at a university in China is kind of a honor and only those who got the degree can do that job". He also informed me that the $523 (US equivalent) I will be paid each month in cash (???) is twice what my Chinese colleagues will be making so I should be able to "live a very comfortable life in this city".

I will be living in a "well-furnished apartment with modern utilities, including a Western style toilet". Nothing is said as to where exactly this apartment will be, but I am guessing on campus.

As for the city itself, it is located

The city boasts a population of 1.8 million people and is "China's Capitol of Porcelain". It has many mountains, lakes, and rivers that are all must-see attractions in addition to "cultural and religious wonders".

At any rate, I am waiting to hear back from my program coordinator as to whether or not I have training, whether or not my training is in Beijing (as that is the contact hotel listed), and whether I start August 26th or September 1st.

Until then, I have to do this massively extensive medical examination for my school to send me a letter so I can apply for my Visa. I think a chest x-ray, full blood work and an ECG is a bit excessive, but when was the last time I was working in a communist country?

When I know more, you will....

PS: The school did approve my 2 week trip to Egypt so that is awesome! I put in my application and deposit just yesterday!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

What I learned at school last week


From a teacher who's class I cover once a week for the other science teacher and has made a point of being a major ho bag to me...

"Ms. Tarshes, I have been looking for you since last Tuesday."

"Well, I haven't been hiding. What's up?"

 "Last week you took my pen. I had a blue pen in my room. I saw that you used a blue pen and then it was gone when you left."

 "Well, I had my own blue pen. I saw yours but I didn't use it. I used mine then took mine when I left."

"Well, mine is gone and you were the only one in there so what am I to think other than you took it?" 

"Perhaps John took it. He is always using those pens for his classwork."

 "Ms. Tarshes, what are you going to do about my pen?"

"I will look and see if I have it, but I doubt I do."

Time passes....

"Did you bring me my pen?"

"No, I looked, but I was correct. I only had my pen, I never took yours."

"Did you bring me your pen?"

"No. Why would I give you my pen if I didn't take yours?"

"My pen is missing and you used a blue pen."

"Yes, but I didn't use your pen. I left your pen there. If one of your students took it, why would I have to replace it?"

"I GUESS its just a pen."

"Yes, it IS just a pen."

A tiny bit of time passes...


 "Okay, its just a pen."


From my principal, "So, What does TFA think about what you're doing?"

"What do you mean what I am doing? Wait, I am not in TFA."

"The contract you signed with TFA is for two years."

"I never signed a contract with TFA."

"At the beginning of the year you told me you were with TFA."

"No I didn't. I went to grad school then taught for a year before coming here. No TFA."

"Well, the contract you signed with...."

"But I DIDN'T sign a contract with them. I don't work with TFA. And what do you mean what I am doing now? What am I doing now?"



From a student working in the area off the main science lab...

"Ms Tarshes, what does this do?"

"That is an emergency shower that is used if you ever spill chemicals on yourself. You are supposed to stand under it and pull the lever then the water comes out to wash them off."

"Can I pull it?"

"The water in here is turned off."

Yank....[water dumping, child screaming]

"Crap. I guess its back on."


The ideal way to handle things.

1. Tell students in 603 that they are going to be split up and put into different classes for the last 3 weeks of school. Those classes will include 5th-8th grade special ed and the 7th grade. Students then proceed to freak out.

2. During a special ed meeting, announce that 603 is going to be split up and shoved into special ed classrooms against the desire of the teachers and without the backing of the LAW.

3. When 603's regular teachers come to talk to you about the situation say it has only be "suggested" and "nothing is final yet". Deny telling the students or other teachers about this plan. Say there is no reason for the teachers of this class to be concerned about any work that these students might need to finish for the last marking period of the year.

4. At insistence of teachers for answers, send them to someone else and say that someone else is where the final decision rests.

5. Make sure that someone else has no real idea what is going on either but that these changes will be made the following Monday.