Here are some of the pictures you have all been waiting for. We have had a good experience so far. There have been a lot of new things we have experienced crammed into just a few days.
The plane ride went well. When we arrived to the airport in Beijing a couple who did not know a word of English was there to pick us up. We stopped by a KFC and then headed to the train station for a ten-hour ride to Taiyuan. The train we rode on was a sleeper train. It was fairly comfortable, but it made several stops along the way, which woke me up. The entire trip to Taiyuan from Salt Lake took thirty hours. I knew our trip would take a long time, but I had no clue it would take that long.
Our experiences with bathrooms in China have been interesting. Even in the airport, the only bathrooms here are squatters. That means there are foot grips, but no toilet to sit on. I was okay with that, but then I realized most public restrooms donâ€™t have soap in them. Some restrooms donâ€™t even have a sink to wash your hands. In the airport bathroom, Richard was surprised when a man handed him a towel and wanted a dollar tip for it (apparently this is not common). At the school we teach at, I was directed to a â€œbathroomâ€ that was even worse. The bathroom building reeked of urine. When I went inside I saw a trough to squat over. There were no doors on the stalls and there were many students in there. I went back to the person that told me where to find this bathroom and told them that I could not bring myself to use that building. They then took me to a much nicer bathroom that even had soap and hand towels in it. From then on I decided to try to avoid public restrooms. We have a normal toilet in our apartment.
We live on the seventh floor, which is the top floor in our apartment building. I am surprised at how large it is. The apartment has two bedrooms! Everything in the apartment building is very dirty. The stairs are dirty, the walls are dirty, and our apartment is dirty. When we first went in our apartment I have to admit I was disgusted. The only thing I could think of was â€œWhat on earth have we done.â€ I wondered if maybe Richard would decide to only stay for one semester, or if we could perhaps move to one of the larger, more modernized cities. The bathroom stunk and still stinks terribly, and everything was caked with dirt. Our neighborhood is really rough; there are piles of trash outside and everything is just dirty. You cannot see the sky in Taiyuan or the beautiful mountains that surround it because of all the pollution. Beijing was much more beautiful.
To the dismay of our Chinese friend Nick, we have begun completely cleaning out our apartment. The first day we bought several cleaners and a new mop and broom. We are waiting to put our stuff away until the entire apartment is clean. We are also working on fixing the smell in the bathroom. Richard thinks he can solve that problem. We just caught a glimpse of our neighborsâ€™ apartment tonight; it is immaculate. It is very clean, has marble tile, and really nice furniture. We actually live in a first class neighborhood. Some of the cars outside our building include Honda Accords and a Lexus. With some work, our apartment can at least be bearable.
On our first day here, we have a large Chinese lunch with the big wigs of the school. The food was amazing! We were brought about fifteen dishes to try and they were all wonderful. Since then we have eaten at a few other restaurants. We have had good experiences so far. Everybody eats with chopsticks. If took me few tries to learn how to use chopsticks, but now I think Iâ€™ve got it.
The best part of our first day was going to The Childrenâ€™s Palace, our school, and meeting the students. The children are so fun to be around. Everyone came up to us and said â€œHallo.â€ They all wanted to talk to us and find out about us. When we got to the school it was recess so everyone was playing and screaming, it was such a happy sound. Whenever we come to the school the children run up to us and greet us. They love to be around us. When we visited the school the first day, I knew everything would be worth it. We could clean up the apartment, we could deal with the dirty streets, we could ignore the stares everyone gives us when we walk down the street; the children are that wonderful.
Over the few days we have been here we have made several friends and learned a little Chinese. We have gotten somewhat used to the smells and our environment. To my surprise, neither of us have had any trouble with asthma or allergies, so that is a definite bonus. Yesterday a P.E. teacher from another school asked Richard to come teach basketball at his school. Apparently he saw Richard taking some shots during recess and was very impressed. Richard, of course, was thrilled. He will start helping teach P.E. at that school soon.
We love everyone and miss yâ€™all! Let us know what is going on back home.
Richard and Lisa