Wednesday, 25 April 2012

End of the 'Weekend'

Back to work tomorrow and I'm finally feeling almost myself again. The cough is almost gone, but more importantly my ability to breath is returning to me. I had a week where I felt like I was breathing around a plastic tube lodged in the base of my throat. I'm not 100% but getting there.

It's been getting really warm here! I've been wearing my face mask to work but it makes me so hot! Sweating off your make up before you arrive is not a sexy look. I've been looking on ebay for some more summer clothes, I've only been here two month and I'm already bored of all my clothes. I kind of want to wait until I lose some weight, but I don't know how long it will take so I'm not sure if it's worth it? I don't want to waste money.

I've been trying to prepare more food at home to avoid ordering food at work. I came to this decision when I realised I'd eaten McDonald's four times one week! McDonald's and KFC deliver here, and they have English language order lines (that can tell where you are by locating the phone so you don't need to know the Chinese address!) which means that all us foreign trainers use it a lot as it's something we can do ourselves instead of having to get our Chinese co-workers to do it for us. I'm not going super hardcore with it as I can't really read the nutritional info and the ones that actually have info only show kilojoules instead of kilocalories, so it's more a case of trying to make the best choices of what I'm offered. I can be difficult when you can't read menus to find something reasonable, so things have been a bit hit or miss, but I don't want to stop eating out with people as the social aspect is really important. It's so easy to become isolated here and I don;t want that to happen.

The other day I bought a red cabbage from the supermarket, but didn't really know what to do with it as cabbage salad seemed so boring. Luckily it was Google to the rescue, and I ended up making a sweet and sour cabbage dish I found on Simply Recipes. I kind of eyeballed how much of the ingredients I wanted to use as I was only making a couple of servings, and I added a bit of garlic on advice from the comments section, but it turned out pretty nice!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sick again

I've been in a constant state of coming down with/suffering from/getting over various illnesses since coming to China. Most foreigners working here go through it the first few months they get here while their bodies adjust to the poor air quality, new strains of bugs/viruses and (with spring coming in) a combination of high pollen counts and the beginning of building season. I myself live in an apartment complex next to a building site, as they are building new blocks nearby. Last Monday I got a wicked sore throat, a which point I began losing my voice. This sucked as I have lessons and demos to do at work and you have to be really high energy. A day later the sore throat abated, so I didn't feel bad at all, but my voice sounded like I was dying. Then the coughing started.

My God did the coughing start.

It was bad to the point of me having to excuse myself to throw up because it was hard enough that it was setting off my gag reflex. Weirdly, I felt fine, just coughing a lot. I've been ill before and a cough tends to be the last stage, it just goes on forever. I went to the pharmacy next to work, armed with my pocket dictionary, and they gave me some things I thought would help. Sadly no. Yesterday I had a truly unpleasant day (fortunately the first of my tues/wed 'weekend') and finally caved to the idea that I actually needed to see a doctor. After going to the fabric market my friend and I went to Global Doctor today and the doc gave me a crap ton of drugs for the cough and virus I have:

Thank God our insurance pays 90% of our costs! We go to Global Doctor rather than some of the other medical places because they have a direct pay system, so instead of me paying 100% and claiming the 90% back, they can just take my insurance card and I give them the 10%. Given that the bill came to 1,739RMB (about £170/275USD) I was happy to only pay the 173RMB. After listening to my chest he also put me on a nebuliser (heh, 'nebuliser' makes me feel like I'm in Star Trek or something) for 30 minutes, with further appointments for tomorrow morning and afternoon for more sessions. It would appear my lungs were not designed for Chinese air. 'Bronchial hyperactivity' were the words he used; all I know is that I've used my inhaler more these past few days than I have the past 3 months. He asked me if I would be able to move apartment (NOOOOOO!) which isn't possible, so I've got to try and keep windows etc closed when I can. To add insult to injury I get to wear this walking to and from work from now on:

Now, I know that wearing a mask isn't so very strange here as the air quality is bad. In Japan people would wear them when they were sick to avoid coughing on you (not the case here as people are more than happy to cough, sneeze, hack and spit in your direction). Unfortunately I still feel like a complete tit wearing it. My friend and I decided we would wear them together as she's been meaning to get one because the dust is so bad around us.

After we'd finished at the surgery, I nipped to Walmart on my way home. I wanted to get some chicken and vegetables to make soup and be sure I had supplies for the next couple of days. I got a small cauliflower, aubergine, carrots, 2 red onions, and 8 chicken wing/drummet things for the princely sum of 14RMB (just over 2USD). I was going to get a little whole chicken and simmer that as I thought it would be more flavourful, but after finding the whole chickens I found I couldn't get past the look of 'Whhhhhhy?' in it's eyes:

The 'Aquatic Life' section of the supermarket is tubs and tubs of fresh fish; and by fresh I mean still alive swimming in the water. You get a net and catch it yourself (or get the helper lady to do it for you).

These poor turtles looked nervous:

I actually got served one of these little guys in a restaurant the other week. I was with two friends eating lunch and the people thought they'd be nice and bring us out something free to try, but it ended up being a whole turtle in a grey soup. I tried a bit because let's face it, left to my own devices I'd never knowingly order turtle (and I felt bad trying to ignore it when they'd been nice enough to want to give it to us) but it freaked us all out a bit. The taste is strange, because it tastes like fish but has the texture of meat. Needless to say, when we were boxing up leftovers to take to work it didn't make the cut.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Apartment pics

I've just tidied apartment (again), so it seems like as good a time as any to get some pictures for you guys!

Here is a picture of half of the main living space:

I bought the little rug today at the market. I want to get something to put on the table, and some nice (fake - I have a black thumb) colourful flowers to warm the place up a bit, it still has that 'show home' feel to it at the moment

This is the other part of the living space by the door, I'm standing by the table at this point

You can see the sliding door entrance to my little kitchen at the side of the picture

It's the standard Asian-small size, but it's nice and new. I bought an electric oven today so I'm able to widen the range of things I can prepare. That being said I've been eating out a lot here, when we get off work it's late and you don't want to come home and cook so a few of us will usually go grab something to eat (including me there are 4 of my co-workers living in this complex). It's so cheap to eat out here that it costs about the same or less than buying groceries to cook. I'm going to try bringing lunch to work at bit more though, if only to balance my meals a bit more. It's lots of noodles and rice here!

The other door coming off this side of the main room is the bathroom

Just out of shot in the corner is the shower head (above the pink bathmat), to maximise use of space it's quite normal here to leave off the shower cubical and just have the room tiled so the water doesn't ruin anything. On the ceiling there are some really cool heat lamp lights (like the things used to keep food warm in restaurants, but cooler looking) so you can keep yourself toasty warm during winter showers.

The open wooden door in the first picture leads to the main bedroom

I went to the market today and chose fabric, half an hour later I had a new bed sheet, quit cover, and pillow cases. At 190RMB for the lot it was cheaper than the stores (though I suppose I could have negotiated it down a bit more) and it fits perfectly. I was having trouble finding pre-made sets that fit the quilt because IKEA standard size and China standard size turned out to be different. Plus, my mattress is a bit of a beast (I have to do a hop up to bed at night) so it was too deep for most sheets available. I love the ones I got though! I also love my dictionary iPhone app that made the getting possible! The apps I've been using have been lifesavers for communication.

My room leads out to what must have been a balcony at one point, but it's been converted to an enclosed space and had the washer and hand-wash sink put in there, as well as some clothes hanging rails. Personally I far prefer this, as the area I live in is basically a building site from the other set of apartments they're building down the road. Even if they weren't, the views aren't anything I would sit outside for and I would have used the space to dry clothes anyway, so I like having the usable space.

Lastly we have the second bedroom, I'm not using it for much at the moment, mostly it tends to be the dumping ground of the apartment as I can just shut the door on the stuff. The quilt on the bed is massive because it's the additional part of my one (I bought an all seasons quilt that popped together when it's cold, but then it warmed up so I put it on the other, smaller, bed).

So there you have it! My place is small but perfectly formed and I love it. The landlord and lady had obviously redone it all before I came to look round, because everything is brand new. They've been really good to me in terms of helping me out and fixing a few problems I've had, so I'm doing my best to keep it well cared for for them.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Home again Home again

I'm more productive between the hours of 12 and 2AM then I am the entire rest of my day, to wit, laundry done, apartment cleaned, floors swept, washing up done and suitcase finally put away. Though sadly, at no point between those hours in any of the days (and days and days) since I last updated could I get myself to write up a proper blog post for you all. Assuming 'you all' are still out there after the aforementioned lack of posting.

I have various excuses at the ready, would you like to hear them? At first I was going to blog everything, but on-boarding (the three week training period before going to your placement) was the kind of thing that leaves your brain saturated at the end of the day, leaving me to scrape the cake bowl of my intelligence for enough remains of my mind to get myself from the training centre back to the hotel on the Shanghai metro. It sounds easy, but at one point I did get on the wrong side of the track with an equally tired friend of mine and end up 5 stops farther away from our destination then we'd started at before either of us noticed.

Then I had a lovely hotel room in Nanjing, however their Internet's report card would undoubtedly have said does not play well with others. After that I reached the point where I had dozens of bits of posts floating around waiting to be plucked from the space between my ears and fulfil their destiny as written words, but I had so much to tell you that I just found I could start. Which is where we are right now.

I most important thing, I guess, is that I'm more or less settled into my Nanjing apartment and permanent base now (save a couple of things). I've started teaching now and the kids are insanely cute. China is great, baffling and downright weird by turn. I want to get some good apartment etc. pictures to show you now I'm actually here, though some of you may have seen the quick facebook ones took as I was looking at it during my house hunting. I'm not sure where to start on telling you about everything else, I think we'll have to wait for now while I chew it somehow into manageable chunks.