In the past week it has rained everyday with not much sunshine but at least the temperatures have been nice. I have spent my time learning my way around town, making some friends, playing a bit of ping pong and studying Mandarin. I purchased a Mandarin textbook and have a tutor that charges me 30 yuan per hour ($4). His wife cleans my apartment at a cost of 10 yuan per hour so it cost me $2 for the 1 and ½ hours she spent here. I wore my blue jeans for the first time in over 3 months and found that what used to be my tight jeans now fit me a bit loose. According to the scale at Wal-mart I have lost about 6 pounds since I left America.
I have had a couple requests for pic’s of my apartment so I have added some plus a couple pic’s of sights in Kunming. In the pic “apt1” you can see the water heater hanging on the wall. It is electric and has a capacity of 45 liters which is about 12 gallons. The temperature on it is easy to adjust so I crank it up a little while before I’m ready for my shower then turn it back down afterwards. With only 12 gallons of hot water a shower can get cold pretty quickly so I turn off the water while I am washing then turn it back on to rinse and wash my hair. Energy is an issue in China and is very expensive which is why I turn down the temp to about 100 F when I don’t need hot water for a shower. In apt2 you can see the very small mirror I use to shave with as that sink serves as the bathroom sink. In apt3 you can see my cooking facilities which are quite meager (microwave and a hotplate). Apt4 shows the rest of the kitchen. Apt5 shows the shower in the open area near the kitchen. Notice the fine plumbing craftsmanship and the overall ambiance in apt6. In apt7 you see my 20 inch tv where I can watch the 1 English channel available. In apt8 you will notice some of my clothes hanging to dry as the Chinese don’t have clothes dryers since they would consume too much energy. The biggest complaint I have about not having a dryer is that lint often clings to the clothes. My entertainment center (I use my pc for listening to music and watching dvd’s in addition to other normal pc activities, I sometimes also listen to KFOG my favorite radio station in San Fran via the web) is shown in apt9. In the corner in apt11 what you see is a heater, not a fan which will be my heat source in the winter. I tried to buy an electric alarm clock for the bedroom at Wal-mart but couldn’t find one there…….maybe they consume too much energy…….lol. In apt14 you will notice the gate that restricts access to the foreign teachers’ apartments and there is a small room near the gate where someone is stationed pretty much all the time. I’m not sure if their primary purpose is to protect us or watch us…..probably a bit of both…..lol. In apt16 you get a better view of my building which appears to be one of the older buildings on campus. They were supposed to remodel these apartments over the summer but I haven’t noticed any signs of recent remodeling.
I still don’t know my class schedule or what classes I will be teaching. I am supposed to learn that tomorrow which doesn’t leave much time for prep as classes start on Monday. I’ve been told that’s the Chinese way. For the students here, the most important event for any educated Chinese person until they get married is taking the university entrance exams. How well they do on the exam determines what university they can get into and to a large degree determines their career opportunities after university since employers put great emphasis on which university a candidate graduated from. Apparently many students choose to go back for another year of high school if they do not score as well on the entrance exam as they wanted. They feel a great deal of pressure and sense of obligation to their family to do well on the exam. The family really focuses on helping the children prepare for the exam and pay for extra study programs that many children gladly participate in during weekends and holiday periods. Education is their ticket to a more prosperous life and being able to support their parents when they are old.
After I did my last post I realized I forgot to note that the elevation here in Kunming is 6200 feet above sea level. I went back later and added it but you may have missed it if you read it soon after I did the original post. I have one odds and ends observation this time and that is about trash in China. Trash here is sorted through thoroughly for anything that can be used or recycled often by individual “entrepreneurs” as a way to make a living. I was at a busy bus stop the other day and within 5 minutes there were 3 different people that came by looking through the trash cans to see if there was anything of value inside.
One last thing…….if any of you have it setup so that you get automatically notified anytime I have a new post would you please write to me and tell me how you set that up. Thanks!