Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween YMCA and a Trip to Shanghai

 Sammy as a bunny
James as a vampire
This week (sort of) is Halloween! They may not celebrate it (much to the dismay of the industry, who has been trying their darnedest to brake into the market- Halloween decorations in consumer areas are everywhere) but my fellow flagshippers and I most certainly do! 
 Arnold acting out a ghost
 I've been volunteering at the YMCA for the past few weeks, teaching a group of fifth graders some English in an after school program on Friday nights. We are required to do 15 hours of community service in the semester at Nanjing, but I think I'll be staying on until the program ends. I really enjoy planning lessons and finding teaching materials and teaching in general, and this is also a great way to get teaching experience (and it's volunteer work too)! This week Brandon, Dennis, and I taught the kids about haloween of course. We taught them about the holiday and what we do on it and taught them the song 'trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat. If you don't, I don't care, I'll pull down your underwear!' the kids certainly seemed to enjoy it; they kept trying to pull Brandon's pants down! It was a really good night and I definitely look forward to next week!

On Saturday afternoon Brandon, brendan, Erin and I took the high speed rail to shanghai to celebrate halloween. During a music festival over 国庆节 brandon, Brendan, and Erin met a group of kids our age who are from the states and now work in shanghai. Sabrina, Katie, Isa, Walter and Kleaver (who are identical twins) and a few others all just graduated from colleges around the country and now work for a company called Dipont, which recruits American  college councilors for international high schools around China. Most of them are under in a year long fellowship, with a few working under two year contracts as managers. It was so fascinating to meet them. Most of them didn't come to China with any previous Mandarin experience, and are just now beginning to learn the language. Talking to them and hearing their reasons for being here (ranging from "I needed a job and I figured China might be cool" to "beefing up the resume for grad school") was extremely interesting to me as someone whose 'thing' is Chinese. They all work around the south of china, from big cities like shanghai to Nanjing (where Walter and Kleaver work) to Ningbo, a smaller town about five hours by bus from Nanjing.

So, back to Halloween. We got into shanghai at around 4 and grabbed some food before heading over to Sabrina's house. The company is very generous with their living allowance, and Sabrina, katie, and a few others live in a gated community (seriously gated. You need a key card to go in or out of the front gate, a key card to get in to the building, operate the elevator- and you can only go to your floor without being buzzed to someone else's floor, and then you need a key to get into the house. Sabrina lives on the twentieth floor and the apartment and view are beautiful- you can see the river! They even have an oven, in which we promptly made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and I made a baking buddy :).
 The river
 The view
Taaaaalll apartment building

We hung out for a while, ate pizza and slowly got ready to go out. Everyone was in costume, I was Minnie Mouse, Brandon was Chairman Meow (read: chinese army suit, cat ears and whiskers), Brendan was a cartoon character called One Peice, and Erin's costume was by far the best: she went as Brendan. She rolled up a pair of jeans, we drew on Brendan's tattoos (comically of course), she got the same blue sweatshirt that Brendan had bought a few weeks earlier, she flowered her hair, and we stole the hat he always wears from his house the other day when we went over to 'hang out'. It was absolutely hilarious and Brendan got to make old jokes at Erin all night.

Later we went out. Shanghai is a rather large place and most of the kids haven't learned tones or characters yet, so we had to trust that the cab driver knew where he was going with only tone-less pinyin to go on. We wandered around for a bit, and went into the first club that we saw costumed people in, called Hollywood (which was nothing like Hollywood). From there we proceeded to the largest gay club I have ever been in. It was called Dubai and it encompasses the third and fourth floors of a huge building downtown. Never in my life have I seen so many shirtless men, and it was rather funny to see some of the boys when we were out dancing getting some attention. After a while we went outside and got some street fried rice (which is everything that  fried rice should be, nothing else holds a candle to it) and meandered back home to hangout for while longer before finally succumbing to sleep around 5. It was the best Halloween I've had yet, and it was wonderful making some new friends. I may be going to Ningbo for next weekend to see some of them again, we'll see how my pile of school work likes the idea.

Sunday morning/afternoon we all woke up and went out to brunch at a place bar/restaurant called The Spot. Every Sunday they do an all you can eat/drink ala carte for 150 kuai. It's a little steep, but considering it's Shanghai and we stayed there for 4-5 hours, I think it was worth it. I ate my first burger since getting to China, in addition to several more plates.

We left and got our things, saying goodbye before heading off to the train station. Unfortunately Brandon forgot his keys and had to run back while we were waiting at the subway, but we raced against time through the maze of the subway and plethora of chinese people (we definitely got a work out weaving in and out an dodging people and bags) and made it with literally twos minutes to spare. WOO!! Tired and hot but on the train we were. Now as a write this and my heart rate slows back to normal, I think back on the wonderful weekend I had and all of the new people I met and new experiences I've had. I'll definitely be going back to shanghai, and now I can go to Hangzhou, Muxi, and Ningbo too! I'm very exited.
 We made it!
And then promptly fell asleep.

In other news, my writing teacher suggested an internship idea that I have fallen absolutely in love with. ZengXianZi building (where I have all of my classes in and where the flagship office is) above the ninth floor becomes a dorm, and many kids from all around stay there and study mandarin. There are a lot of first year classes and Gong Laoshi suggested that I try to be a teacher's assistant in a few of those classes. That way I could help correct homework, help with tutoring, and I would be involved with teaching Chinese to adults, which is more the age group and language that I am interested in. I've talked to Zhang Laoshi (the program director) and I think that it will work out. I certainly hope so!

This week is busy one now that I'm almost back to reality. It's Brandon's 21st birthday on Monday (hence our celebrating Halloween on Saturday) and in addition to normal homework I have a paper due next Monday and a group presentation on the Changshu country trip on Friday night. Guess I'd better buckle down! Happy Halloween!


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