Epistle 1 of Leon's China Chronicles
Saturday, August 23rd, 2003
Well, my son and I made it to Inner Mongolia in one piece. Thank the personification of the laws of the universe for that.
My son and I were the last ones off the plane in Shen Yang on Sunday, August 17th, because we were seated in the last two seats on the plane. We were the last through quarantine, because I couldn't read the document that they gave me to fill out. I needed some help from some lady that speaks English. We were nearly the last through immigration and customs. I later learned that Mr. Gao and Mr. Wang, who came to pick me up, had almost given up hope of seeing me come through the "arrival" gate. When I did come through the arrival gate, There was Mr. Gao holding a sign that read "LEON" in big capital letters. "Whew!" I thought. I didn't want to attempt to survive in China by myself. [Mr. Gao is an English Teacher at my place of employment and Mr. Wang is one of the deans (there are a lot of deans here, as there are a lot of Wangs here). Mr. Wang is the dean of foreign affairs.]
Mr. Gao and Mr. Wang took Taijing (Taegyung) and me to the hotel to drop off our luggage and rest a while. Then, they took us out to dinner. There was is only one train to Tong Liao each day and I arrived too late. So, we had to catch the Monday train. I was still hung over from my farewell party the night before, but we drank some 35%-alcohol grain whisky and beer during the meal. Chinese eat and drink together, so a meal could easily last several hours. Thus, there are relatively few bars/pubs and a lot of restaurants in China.
The train ride from Shen Yang to Tong Liao (where I now live and work), takes five hours and a half. We could have gone by car (taking only three hours), but Taijing cannot endure ten minutes in a cramped car. So, I insisted we go by train. Taijing was fine in the train, where he could move around a lot. At the train station there was a huge McDonalds. Mr. Wang (through Mr. Gao, the interpreter) offered to buy something for Taijing and me. He asked what we wanted. Taijing and I hate mayonnaise, so I told Mr. Gao that we would like a regular hamburger, which is just about the only thing without mayonnaise on it. Mr. Gao said something to Mr. Wang in Chinese. I ended up with a bag full of every sandwich the restaurant makes, EXCEPT a regular hamburger, plus some chicken nuggets. The only thing I could eat was the sausage egg McMuffin and the chicken McNuggets. The rest got discarded. What a waist!!! I imagine the communication break down was between myself and Mr. Gao. He probably misunderstood "regular" hamburger to mean "any" hamburger. That's why I got one of everything EXCEPT what I wanted.
The scenery during the train ride consisted mostly of corn fields, hours and hours of corn fields, with a few sunflower fields and a few rice fields in between. I could tell when we entered Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region by all the horses next to the corn and rice fields. Immediately after arriving in Tong Liao, I was greeted by the Vice Principal (AKA: Vice Head Master) and another English teacher. We went to the "best" hotel in Tong Liao, which is like a motel six, only not as well kept. Then, Taijing and I were ushered to the Best Korean Restaurant in the town, called, "Je Ju Do Restaurant", the name of which was written in Korean, English, and Chinese. My hosts thought it would be best to go there, since (A) there are no American restaurants (except a recently built KFC), (B) they knew I would be accustomed to Korean food, and (C) it was kitty-corner from the Hotel that I was staying at.
The Chinese seem to like ordering ten times more food than can be eaten by those present. There was a variety of dishes, most of them Korean, including raw fish, dog meat, kimchi, barbecued beef, and so on. I ate so well! Chinese do not finish eating until ALL the liquor ordered is gone. You can leave copious amounts of food on the table (including rice) but to leave any liquor behind would be a sin.
In honor of my arrival, The vice principal, The dean of foreign affairs, The dean of foreign studies at the local university (who was instrumental in getting me here), and several English teachers were in attendance at the banquet. The dean of foreign affairs arranged for a female English teacher to be there to take care of Taijing, while the rest of all ate, drank, and were merry.
The liquor consisted of several "fifths" (fifth of a gallon) of 35%-alcohol grain whisky, called "Bai Jiu" ("White Liquor"), because it is perfectly clear, like water. Also, we had to down at least six or seven bottles of Tong Liao Beer, which is really tasty! There are some of the Jo-Seon-Jok (Cho-Seon Tribe) living here. I met one that evening at the restaurant, and we had a short conversation in Korean, although I couldn't understand 10% of what she said. I imagine the language has changed a bit over the last fifty years of separation from the mother land. She could understand everything I said, though. Later, I met another of the Jo-seon Tribe, who works at Taijing's kindergarten, and I understood everything, but she could not understand some common South Korean Konglish, such as "panties". I said (in Korean), "I need to buy some 'panties' for my son." And she asked (in Korean), "What is 'panty'?".
At the kindergarten, Taijing's teacher speaks English. However, the teacher has been complaining that Taijing runs around too much, as if there were something I could do about it. He doesn't listen to me.
Taijing is not potty-trained yet. I have been trying to train him for over a year, but he refuses to listen to me. He usually tells me right AFTER he soiled his pants, instead of beforehand, which would be much preferred. I worry, because there are no diapers in Tong Liao that will fit Taijing (he is too big). The funny thing is all the underpants are too big for him (or Taijing is too small for them). But, his teacher insisted that I not put diapers on him. So, I bought some of the over-sized (actually, Taijing is under-sized) underpants, I sent him to kindergarten today (for the first time). [Today is Saturday, August 23, 2003].
Sunday, August 24th, 2003
It has been a week since arriving in Shen Yang, China. It has been nearly a week since arriving in Tong Liao. Perhaps, now would be a good time to tell you about Tong Liao.
Tong Liao is a city of 300,000 people, roughly. It is geographically wide-spread. There are not any sky scrapers. The tallest building I have seen is perhaps five stories high, and that is the hotel in which I stayed for three days and two nights. There are very few stop lights, and nobody really pays attention to them. So, I think they are only there for decoration. Cars are few. You got two kinds of cyclos: the motorized one and the non-motorized one. To ride a taxi anywhere in the city costs 5 Yuan (8 Yuan = 1 US dollar). To ride a motorized cyclo anywhere in the city costs 3 Yuan. And, to ride a non-motorized cyclo anywhere in the city costs 2 Yuan. In China, there are primary schools (from grade 1 to 6) and two middle schools: a junior middle school (from grade 7 to 9) and a senior middle school (from grade 10 to 12). I work in a senior middle school, the best in Tong Liao, so they say. The school grounds are very clean and tidy. The front building (the one that faces the main street) and the dormitory building (where I live) looks recently painted in that Maroon color that I for some reason associate with Mongolia in my mind and cannot remember why. Maroon does seem to be a popular color here, with various earthen tones mixed in. No one wears black, so I will be somewhat of an anomaly here (besides, of course, the white skin and the cleanly shaven head). Religion seems to be gone. I am told that there are many religions in this region, but I haven't seen any religious edifices. When I asked Mr. Gao if there were any Buddhists in Tong Liao, he asked, "What is a Buddhist?" (that says it all). Hence the eating of dog meat is not a taboo here (as I previously was mislead to believe). Since arriving in China, I have already eaten dog meat more times than I did during my eight-year stay in Korea, 'cause my hosts keep ordering it for me. [Frankly, Inner Mongolian dogs taste better than Korean dogs]. Hopefully they don't prepared the meat the same way that it is prepared in Korea.
I haven't been here long enough to gain any real insights into the Chinese culture, but my observations have been as follows:
Women that I've seen don't smoke or drink [but I haven't been to a bar/pub or night club yet]. 90% of the men smoke anywhere they damned well please. There are thousands of little shops all over the place (along the main streets). There is a big super market and a shopping mall downtown. There are a few stop lights downtown, but people rarely pay attention to them, so I think that they are only for decoration. There are taxis, motor-driven cyclos, and human-powered cyclos. One can go anywhere in the city by taxi for the set fee of 5 Yuan. There are no meters in the taxis. The fee for riding a motor-driven cyclo is 3 Yuan and for human-powered cyclo: 2 Yuan. Again, you can go anywhere in the city for those set fees. There are also specially-modified cyclos for transporting freight or baggage. We took my luggage from the hotel to my domicile by a freight cyclo. I think it is also 2 Yuan, since it is not motor-driven.
EARTHQUAKE IN INNER MONGOLIA!
There was an earthquake in Inner Mongolia the day before my arrival in Inner Mongolia, as many of you may have heard/seen in the news. The epicenter was far from Tong Liao, yet I am told that the shockwaves were felt here. It was the first time for many people in Inner Mongolia to experience an earthquake. No damage was done in Tong Liao, because it was too far away from the epicenter.
WHERE IS TONG LIAO?
Tong Liao is almost directly north of Beijing AND almost directly east of the Gobi Dessert. I am told that the yellow dust from the Gobi Dessert is really bad here in the Spring. I am NOT looking forward to it. There is some minute dust particles in the air now, which have caused an allergic reaction in my nose and eyes. If I have this strong of a reaction now, Spring's dust storm just might kill me!
GETTING ACUPUNCTURE IN TONG LIAO
there is no Bee Acupuncture here. In fact, there is only one small traditional Chinese hospital, where regular acupuncture is practiced. I asked my co-workers to take me there, because Western medicine, which in my case would be an anti-histamine, makes me sleepy. We took a taxi. My co-workers instructed the taxi driver where to take us. The streets that I had seen up until that point were wide and well-paved. Suddenly, the taxi driver turned onto a very narrow, bumpy, slightly muddy, un-paved road. We traveled along this road for a minute or so. On either side of us, were small dilapidated houses. A 2-centimeter thick layer of cement (or adobe, I couldn't tell which) was cracked and chucks had fallen away from the bricks which supported the structures. The wall of each house was no more than two meters tall. The roof was arced, but not the way you might think. The bricks of the side walls are positioned so that they create an arc. Then something is laid across the two arcs (don't know what). There were small alleyways between the rows of houses. Each alleyway was earthen and only a meter and a half wide. Before long, the road opened up into an earthen "quad" (quadrilateral) about twenty meters by thirty meters. At the other end of the quad, was a stone wall/fence and a covered entry way, barely wide enough for a car to go through. The taxi stopped just outside the entry way. We paid the taxi driver and then walked through the entry way. Inside the stone fence, there was a stone plaza, and in the center of the plaza was the Traditional Chinese hospital. The hospital seemed to be made of stone (I don't know if the stone were merely veneer or otherwise). The stones were mostly covered with ivy and it looked like a nice building from the outside. There were a few stagnant pools of water due to the previous night's rain. There was no door fixed to the entrance to the building (that I could see). We walked into a long, dark corridor. The only light in the corridor was that which percolated through the entrance and the cloth-covered windows on the doors, which sporadically appeared on either side of the corridor. The stench of fermented human feces filled the corridor and the odor began increasingly stronger as we walked toward the restroom. I held my breath as we walked past the restroom. Suddenly a nurse (one some women that looked like a nurse) asked us something in Chinese. My co-workers responded something in Chinese. We were then ushered to the appropriate office. In the small office (about three meters by three and a half meters) there were three desks, but there was only one person in the office. He sitting in the corner. He looked to be about sixty years old. He was gangling and unkempt. His white "doctors" gown was stained and wide open. His "tank-top" undershirt was exposed and he was fanning himself as if he was hot (but I didn't think it was particularly hot that day). When we walked in, he stopped fanning himself and sat up, while asking something in Chinese. My co-workers explained my condition. The doctor asked (through my co-workers) how many times I would like to be treated. I said, "Until my condition goes away." The doctor said that it would take ten treatments, and charged me 80 Yuan (10 dollars US). Then, I was ushered into another room (same size) but full of those rolling stretcher-like beds that ambulances use. I had to wait, 'cause all the beds were full. After five minutes, one of the beds was vacated and I was instructed to lie down. But, before I could, the doctor removed the clean towel which covered the dirty pillow. I waited for a moment for a new towel. Didn't get one. So, I just lied down. I thought, "It's a good thing I don't have any hair, or I might get cooties." I was in too much pain to really care about cooties, though. I mean every time I went outdoors, I started sneezing, and long strings of snot would dangle from my nose. My eyes would get irritated as well. It was unbearable. The doctor stuck the needles in the usual places (I've had acupuncture a lot for my condition). After twenty minutes, the needles were removed and we left. The two co-workers played with Taijing while I was being treated.
In Inner Mongolia, everybody takes a "siesta" (that's Spanish for afternoon rest) in the afternoon from 11:30am to 2:30pm. I thought it was just the school, but evidently acupuncturists do it as well. I wish I had know this before paying for the taxi to go there by myself the next day.
My accommodations are in a dormitory on campus (so much for having a woman spend the night). You may be wondering why a middle school has a dormitory. I wondered the same thing. Then, it dawned on me that a lot of these students might have home far away. Tong Liao is surrounded by steppes and farmland for as far as the eye can see (and there are no mountains in this region). No beach, no mountains, and no bee acupuncture. I'm beginning to wonder if this is such a bright idea of mine (just kidding). I love adventure... living in an exotic land, where I don't speak the language. But, regarding my accommodations. My apartment is much nicer (and bigger) than the ones the students stay in. My apartment has a spacious bedroom, a dining room, a small kitchen and a decent-sized bathroom. My apartment has been furnished with many modern conveniences, such as a TV, a computer and internet hook-up, a bed and bedding stuff, an electric cooking stove and a pan, a refrigerator, a table and chairs, kitchen ware, a phone (land-lined one), electric water heater (one for shower and one for tea), and even a plate/cup sterilizer (I guess that one is for Taijing). There is a cafeteria (which is a misnomer if I've ever seen one, because "cafe" means coffee and "cafeteria" means coffee shop). Anyways, there is a mess hall where breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served everyday. That's good because if I had to cook, Taijing and I would be eating instant noodles every day. Luckily, Taijing is fed three meals each day at kindergarten. Hardly anyone speaks English here, and none of the restaurants have menus with English. The Korean restaurants don't even have Korean menus. So, I am lucky to have access to the on-campus mess hall.
Regarding written Chinese, I have found that I recognize a lot of characters, but have absolutely no idea what they mean. This is disconcerting. If I could at least understand the significance, that would be something, but I can't do that with 90% of the characters. I am so far out of my comfort zone, but it is sooooo stimulating. This is when I feel most alive. I am reminded of my experience eight years ago, when I was the only foreigner in my town and didn't speak the language, and had no friends. [Of course, I'm referring to my experience in Gwang Myeong, South Korea.]
Monday, August 25th, 2003
As I anticipated, the people in Inner Mongolia are much easier on the eyes than in other regions of China. This is perhaps due to the intermarriages between the Mongolian Tribe, Jo-Seon Tribe, and the Han Tribe. They are extremely kind (so far, so good). The older generation speaks no English, but many of the students can speak English fairly well. I am surprised at how well they can speak English.
The school, Tong Liao Number 5 Middle School, is situation at the northern most part of the city. Taijing's kindergarten is directly across from the school (extremely convenient). The mascot of the school is a dove (good omen, I hope, but maybe not), and there are many doves that live on campus. Now, the question of the day is: Which one came first, the dove, or the mascot? I don't see doves anywhere else in town. So, I wonder. The school grounds are extremely well kept... clean and tidy. There are approximately sixty students per class. The classrooms are about the same size as Western classrooms, but sixty students are crammed into that small area. The school facilities seem to be the most modern in the town. The Chinese seem to value education very much. The teachers are well-paid. The facilities are very nice. And, many of the children's parents pay a lot of money to educate their children. One might say that such is the influence of Confucius, but I saw a documentary about Confucius on TV the other day (Yes, there is one English channel). According to the documentary, Confucius wanted to make education affordable to all would-be students. He accepted whatever amount a student could afford, and he taught the poor students the same way that he taught the rich students. I guess China has done its best to make education affordable to all students, but the country is so huge and so wide. Some people must travel great distances to receive an education. Their parents must pay extra to put their children in the dormitory. The irony of it all, is those who live far in the countryside, probably have less money than those who live in the city. Thus, the sacrifice that the rural parents make is much greater.
Today is my first day of teaching. Each class period is 40 minutes long. Originally, according to my contract, I was given 20 classes per week. Yet, at the last minute, many new students enrolled. Now I have 23 classes per week. My salary has been adjusted to account for the new classes. Now I make 600 dollars per month, instead of 500 dollars per month. It does not seem like much to you, perhaps, but I am the highest paid person in Tong Liao. I am not bragging. I don't like to brag. It is just a fact. It would seem that the Taoist proverb is true: In order to take a step forward, one must often take a step back. My earliest class begins at 8:20am and my latest class ends at 5:40pm. Taijing goes to kindergarten from 7:30am to 6pm. His teacher is trying to potty-train him for me.
If I boost my immune system with lots of vitamin C and caffeine, my body seems to be able to fight off the allergens. There are pollens from the crops and flowers, there is yellow dust from the "Mobi" Gobi (native speakers will catch this allusion to "Mobi Dick"), and there is lot of dust from the construction going on in town, oh... and we must not forget the mold spores which are ubiquitous in the fall season. Unfortunately, I am allergic to all of the above. This is extremely unfortunate for me. I am looking forward to winter, when the dust, pollen, and mold spores settle, AND I will be able to breathe through my nose again.
I shall anticipate the questions you might like to ask me.
Q: How many horses have you seen in Tong Liao?
A: None. There are no horses in the city. There are a few donkey-driven wagons. I have seen two of those.
Q: How is the food?
A: GREAT! I love the food here. It is very tasty. I eat at the school mess hall every day. It is very healthy and very cheap: only 2 Yuan per meal (about 25cents US). I can have as many helpings as I wish (but I cannot eat very much, because I am not a big-eater).
Q: How is the weather?
A: Well, it's hot, but no humidity. I'd guess it's about 25 degrees centigrade in the shade and perhaps as high as 30 degrees centigrade in the sun. (During the day). It rains a lot at night, but not often in the daytime. I am told that it gets down to minus 35 degrees in the winter. (Ye-owch!)
Q: How is Taijing adjusting?
A: Adjusting? Heck! Taijing fits right in! I'm the one who has to do all the adjusting. Taijing's teacher speaks English, so there is only a few problems regarding communication. The only problem is when Taijing speaks Korean or unknown English. Saturday, when I picked Taijing up at kindergarten, his teacher asked me, "What does "bug" mean?" because Taijing was going around the kindergarten pointing out all the bugs and yelling, "Bug! Bug!" She also asked me, "What does 'Ah-bba-ggeo' mean?" [Of course, in Korean, 'Ah-bba-ggeo' means "daddy's thing", but Taijing thinks it means: "my thing". You can guess why... Taijing wants to touch daddy's stuff all the time, and I'm always yelling, "Ah-bba-ggeo! Don't Touch!" (a good, healthy mix of Korean and English)]. Evidently, Taijing was yelling, "Ah-bba-ggeo, Ah-bba-ggeo" every time the teacher tried to take something away. I had to explain what he was saying and what he meant.
Q: Speaking of bugs, what are the bugs like there?
A: I live in a small town surrounded by countryside. There are tons of bugs, especially mosquitoes. Every evening when I come home, I spend a couple of hours swatting mosquitoes, and I cannot kill them all. The walls in my apartment are stained with over a hundred mosquitoes with their guts hanging out. I couldn't figure out where they were all coming from at first, because their are screens on the windows, and I don't see many hanging around my front door (which might sneak in as I go in and out). But, at last I figured that they must be coming from the drains. There is one drain on the bathroom floor and one on the kitchen floor (and coincidentally, that's where the highest concentration of mosquitoes were. So, I covered the drains. And now there are relatively few mosquitoes in my home. Also, there are all kind of bugs outside: spiders, grasshoppers, June bugs (lots of June bugs at night), and flies. Also, I have seen a few spiders and centipedes in my home, but they are harmless to humans, so I let them be, except when they dare to tread in my bedroom. The bedroom is off limits for spiders and centipedes. If they come into my bedroom, they get naturally un-selected. They'd better learn to stay in the other parts of the house.
Q: What does your boss say about the new mosquito-guts wall paper in your apartment?
A: Well, actually, I lied. I wipe off most of the mosquitoes and their guts. The walls are concrete, but the concrete is covered with 4-millimeter-thick plaster of Paris. It looks really nice and I'm sure covers all the pot wholes in the concrete. The problem is, each time I wipe off a mosquito with a wet tissue, I wipe off some of the plaster of Paris. Oh, well! What can one do? [In the bathroom and kitchen the walls are tiled to the ceiling, so the mosquito guts wipe right off, no problem. However, I keep a few dead mosquitoes on each wall in the house as a warning to other mosquitoes.
Q: Does Taijing like Chinese food?
A: Some, but not much. He drinks a lot of milk. I suspect he will become used to Chinese food little by little. He gets three meal a day at the kindergarten. The good thing is that unlike Korean milk, Tong Liao milk is WHOLE milk. It contains all the natural lipids (fat) to help fatten Taegyung up for the winter.
Q: Does Inner Mongolia have 'On-Dol' (hot stone floors)?
A: Maybe the Jo-seon people have it, but I highly doubt it. I haven't seen one in Inner Mongolia. My floor is stone cold.
Q: What is strange about Inner Mongolia so far?
A: Well, the women (ajumas) will wear short pants and short-sleeved shirts, but only with non-translucent stockings and gloves that cover all would-be exposed skin on the legs and arms. I'm not sure why they do this. Perhaps showing too much flesh is considered risqu└. Perhaps they are afraid of getting sunburned. I really don't know. I'll have to ask someone.
Q: Have you (Leon) had any problems in China so far?
A: Well, the towels here seem to repel more water than they absorb. The toilet paper is like rubber, because it stretches instead of tears when I pull it. The mosquitoes are horrendous nuisances. I can't read anything. I can't communicate with most people. But, I really cannot complain, because I have it much better than most people in this town.
Q: How many students do you have?
A: There are approximately 4,000 students at our senior middle school. One third of them are mine (because I teach the whole of grade 1 (10th grade in the States). You do the math. I teach four or five classes a day, but I have each class only once a week. There are approximately sixty students in each class (usually more than sixty). I have a total of twenty three classes. I teach the first level (grade 1 of senior middle school, 10th grade in the states).
Q: Do you like it there?
A: Well, like I said, I cannot complain. So far, so good. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I know that things can turn sour quickly. I am a guest here, and I do not know the culture so well. I worry that the students won't like me or my teaching. I worry that the other teachers might resent me for making more money than they do (and they all know my salary). I worry that the administration might find fault with me. I worry that Taijing might get hurt or seriously ill. I worry that something, anything might go wrong without warning. Life is so fragile. You cannot take anything for granted, for as soon as you do, it is gone. Murphy's Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. It is not easy to predict what will go wrong. And when there are so many things that can go wrong, it is just a matter of time before something does go wrong. There is no utopia. Wherever I go in this world, there will be problems. The thing I have to ask myself is: Can I live with the problems of a particular place and time? So far, I dealing with the problems here. They are relatively minor problems, knock on wood. But, as soon as I say/write that everything is going well, something goes wrong. It is part of this paradoxical / oxymoronic life that we live in. Do I like it here? Yes. Is it better than Korea? I don't want to answer that. But, I can say that so far, my job here is better than the job I had in Korea. These people are bending over backwards to make Taijing and me comfortable. I feel wanted, needed, and appreciated for the services that I provide. There aren't many foreigners that come to Tong Liao. The only others are teaching at one of the universities here. I'm not sure how many there are. I'd like to meet them some day. Tong Liao Number Five Middle School (where I work), is considered one of the best (if not THE best) in the city. So many students want to come here. And being the only middle school with a native-speaking English teacher just "upped the anti" (to totally misused an English idiom, but you know what I mean). It is not that I am anything special as English teachers go, because I'm not. It's just the fact that Number Five Middle School has a native-speaking English teacher, and no other middle school does (in Tong Liao). Of course, my co-workers keep stressing and re-stessing that I will have to work hard to impress the students and the administration.
Q: Would you tell us some more about the cost of living there?
A: Surely. I was told today that most of the other teachers here make approximately 1,500 Yuan per month (less than 200 US dollars per month). If they really bust their asses, by doing extra-curricular classes, and if they take on other responsibilities, they can possibly make as much as 3,200 Yuan per month (400 US dollars). I am told that a person could live here comfortably with two hundred dollars per month. That does NOT mean that the same goes for Bei Jing and Shang Hai. I'm told that the cost of living in those places is double or triple what it is here. Today I bought a watermelon (medium-sized one) for 2.4 Yuan (about 30 cents US). The same watermelon would cost me 10,000 Won in Jongno, Seoul (about 8.50 dollars US). A taxi ride across town (or anywhere in town) costs 5 Yuan (about 65 cents US). Mobile Phones are considered quite a luxury here and are similar in price to those in Korea (lots of Samsung phones here, by the way, and I got mee-self one). I went out to eat yesterday. I couldn't order, so I grabbed some high school student and asked him to order for me. I asked him to order a big bowl of noodles, a big dish of potatoes, and a big dish of stir-fried vegetables with scrambled eggs mixed in. It was much more than I could eat. The whole thing cost me 8 Yuan (1 dollar US).
Q: What is there to do/see there (in a touristy kind of way)?
A: Don't know yet. I'll get back to you on that one.
Q: How are the students compared/contrasted with Korean students?
A: I really don't know. I never taught high school in Korea. I guess that the Chinese students speak English much better than their Korean counterparts. I am amazed at how well these students speak English. However, their vocabularies are weak. They tend to learn one word for each meaning, and as you know English has a lot of synonyms. Koreans, on the other hand, know a lot of words, but don't know how to use them.
Q: Have you met any nice nubile babes yet?
A: Well, I'm not sure. Most of the teachers here are older than I. They are married and have children of their own. I met one young (first year) English teacher, but only once and briefly. The women here marry quite young, (about age 22, I'm told). After I heard that, I gave up finding a wife here. What 22 year old is going to want to marry an old, ugly, divorced guy like me?
Q: What is the difference between Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia?
A: Inner Mongolia is a semi-autonomous province of China (they have the official "status" of having autonomy, but in reality are still are under China's thumb). Outer Mongolia is an independent political country, which was given independence from China to serve as buffer between China and Russia. The thing about Inner Mongolia is it is allowed to make SOME of it's own laws, especially regarding the Mongolian tribe. For example, the Mongolian tribe is allowed to have three children. The Han tribe is only allowed one child per couple.