Thursday, September 26, 2013

Long Road Back

The summer holiday was great. We had seven weeks of no teaching. It was especially nice because I was fed up with my primary employer and had been ready to move on a mere six weeks into the school year. However, I persevered and made it to the end. Or almost the end. I grew weary of waiting for them to give us a definite date that the school year would end. This was a common practice with this organization. They rarely had any idea when events would happen, including beginning and ending of terms until just a few weeks, or even days before. Since I needed to book tickets, and prices always go up as you near your departure date, I went ahead and booked our tickets for the ninth of July. Sometime around the middle of June, they decided that the last day of the term would be July 12. I was close enough and they were probably glad to see me and my pickiness go. Summer was great. I had quality time with family and friends. I enjoyed the great outdoors, eating, drinking good beer, eating, playing music, eating, playing golf, drinking water from the tap and eating. Somehow, I gained weight. Our trip back was long, but uneventful. We flew on Taiwan's EVA Airlines (motto: half a glass of wine is enough for a twelve hour flight) which left Seattle at 2 am and after a stopover in Taipei, plopped us in Hong Kong at 10 am the next day. We spent most of the next 20 hours sleeping, although we did take a break from this for some meals and shopping. A nine hour bus ride the next day got us to Zhanjiang just in time for the taxi shift change so we waited about 25 minutes for a bus to take us near our apartment. We had brought a LOT of stuff back with us, so we had been humping 25 pound packs and dragging 50 pound wheeled suitcases around Seattle, and Hong Kong. The novelty was wearing off by the time we had hauled everything over a couple of blocks of uneven sidewalk and up the four flights of stairs to our flat. However, the key still worked and we walked into a clean apartment with all plants alive and only one dead cockroach on the floor. This was Wednesday evening, and I had my first class Friday evening and a full weekend of lessons after that. No time for jet lag! We also had been informed that we would need to move since our landlady wanted to take advantage of the real estate boom and sell the apartment before the bubble burst. On Saturday I looked at a decent place, much bigger than the old place, nearby on the University campus for only $32 more a month. I paid 6 months rent in advance the following Monday, and we moved seven days later. I hate moving, even to a nicer place, and this place is a lot nicer. It has a lot of windows and is much brighter. It has 3 bedrooms and an office. It has a much larger living room. Our old place had a balcony where you did your laundry and hung your clothes. The new place has a balcony and a room for laundry with lots of windows so you stuff dries quickly. (Nobody in Zhanjiang uses a clothes dryer.) It even has a western toilet instead of a squatty potty! Anyway, I hate moving. When we first came here five years ago, we had all our possessions in two massive suitcases and a couple of carry ons. It took a small truck two trips to move all the stuff we have amassed since. There is a lot of furniture. There are a lot of clothes. There are books. Office supplies. Kitchen stuff. Plants. (Movers hate plants.) These guys moved us the last time and they are good at it. They are strong. One little guy balances a full sized mattress on his back and goes up the stairs, no problem. They can haul their weight in stuff. Up stairs. Up six flights of stairs, which is where our new place is, the sixth floor of a nine story walk up. Nine stories—Chinese people are tough! We have always lived on the fourth floor here. Three apartments, all on the fourth floor. Nobody wants to live on the fourth floor because the number 4 is bad luck here. So they rent it to foreigners... We finally have an apartment that isn't cursed. Not as good as the eighth floor. 8 is really good luck, but not worth the climb, I think. Anyway, within two weeks I had gone back to work, partied with my friends, and moved, all without the luxury of recovering from jet lag. I celebrated by getting a dandy head cold and spending a couple of days in bed sleeping. I would wake up periodically to blow my nose and unpack. The place is nearly together. I don't have internet yet, but it will happen soon now that I have given money to China Telecom. Their technician will arrive sometime in the next few weeks, will only speak Cantonese, and need to borrow tools, but will somehow manage to get things working. Later.... I now have internet (obviously). It's horrible service! I think that the data is deposited into a bin and hauled by underpaid laborers up the stairs before being dumped on the doorstep, then sorted by undertrained tech school grads and manually inserted into the cable. It's all you can get on the campus, which may explain a lot about why China lags behind many places in the world in higher education. However, I had discovered that a cell phone company offers a wireless internet service and subscribed to it. It's good, and it's portable, and I am up and running.