We are continuing to adjust to life here in Jinzhou. I now have my final class schedule and I don't anticipate anymore changes. I'm teaching 5 class here on the LIT campus each week and 2 at another college close by.
Last week I received a care package from my step daughter Laura. It was like Christmas around here. The best gift in it was a big box of chocolate chip cookie mix. My room is close to the entrance of the guest house and I always leave my door open when we're here. I would show the cookie mix to everyone that would walk by and I'd ask them "who's you buddy, who'd your pal?" Without fail each and every teacher would look at the package and say "Oh my gawd." One teacher even went so far as to say....."those are like gold!" Well when we made them, the teachers were all gathered in the dining room while Charlie, Julie and I were in the kitchen. I suddenly started yelling......."Oh Charlie nooooooooooooo, oh no she just dropped the cookie dough on the floor." Now if you could see the kitchen floor after we've all been in there cooking you'd know it is not a pretty sight. Katie just came in the kitchen and said "we don't care we'll eat them anyway." I went walking back into the dining room and Philip told me that when I yelled that, that all the teachers simply looked at each other and kind of shrugged their shoulders. They weren't about to let a little thing like grime keep them from chocolate chip cookies. We all then proceeded to gorge ourselves on cookies. These had to be the best cookies I'd ever eaten, I know they were the most expensive. I saw how much it cost to ship them over and let me tell you cookie mix is heavy.....but dang they were sure good!
I've bought a bicycle and hooked up the cart I brought from home for the girls to ride in to it. You should see the looks we get when I take them to school. I don't know what the locals are more fascinated with, the cart (which is the only one in China like it) or the rotund American riding the bike. I have my regulars I wave to each morning. They all smile, wave back and give me the thumbs up sign. It's mostly down hill all the way to school, but then I have to come back to campus. In the mornings I can pull the market street hill when I don't have the extra weight of the girls in the cart, but I can't pull the big hill (even without the girls) that is on campus. However, here in China it's no big deal to get off and walk your bike and I have only seen one or two people ride their bikes all the way up the campus hill. My bike is a really fancy one by Chinese standards, it has three speeds so I can grandma my way up the hills in low gear. Today Leanne (from the Foreign Affairs Office) and I rode our bikes to the police station to get license tags for them. We arrived during the lunch hour so we had to wait. We just parked them and locked them then took a taxi on downtown to pick up a few things at the department store. When we got back every policeman from the station was outside checking out the bike cart.......imagine that. We purchased our tags and they stamped our bikes with a metal stamp and put the tags on for us and we biked back to campus. Riding a bike here is quite an experience. Most of the major streets have dedicated bike lanes, but the taxi's sometimes use them for passing lanes and people are always walking in them. My bike doesn't have a bell on it (yet) so I usually sing out "beep beep" when passing someone, this just cracked Leanne up. I've promised the girls a trip to the park as soon as I figure out where it is. Having a bike is like having a ticket to freedom, I don't have to depend solely on my two constantly sore feet to take me places (now I get to use my thighs as well.) It certainly broadens my roaming area.
Now that the weather has turned cool, knitting season is in full swing. Hanjie, one of the guest house caretakers is knitting a pair of wool long underwear. Katie and I thought we'd like to have some and so we headed downtown to purchase yarn and knitting needles. You would not believe how inexpensive wool yarn is here. I paid 100 yuan (about $12.50) for 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of yarn and I got the "good stuff." The last time I bought yarn in the States I paid about $6.00 per ounce and it was acrylic yarn, not wool. After we got back Hanjie kept trying to tell us something about a knitting machine. Neither Katie nor I could really figure out what she was talking about until Maggie (one of the Chinese English teachers here on campus) came by and translated for us. Hanjie told us that we could take our yarn to a knitting factory and have the long johns made for 10 yuan ($1.25) Maggie told us she'd had the sweater she was wearing made at one of the knitting factories and she knew where it was. We decided right then and there that knitting long johns was for the birds, that we'd have ours made (yes mom, I fully intend to have a pair made for you as well!) So today Maggie, Katie, Leanne and I headed off to the knitting factory. We had a most interesting taxi ride to get there. Maggie had her sweater made 2 years ago and she really didn't remember where the shop was. The cab driver was fortunately in a good mood because Maggie had him turn around at least 4 times in the middle of the street because she thought she recognized something. We never did find the shop, but it turns out there is another one fairly close to campus so we went there. I gave them my yarn for the long handles and commissioned a sweater as well. My wool sweater is going to cost a whopping 135 yuan ($16.00) and this includes the wool yarn. They said it would be ready in about a week.......ya just gotta love this place! I had purchased enough yarn to make a scarf with and was going to get Zhonmei (another caretaker at the guesthouse) to show me how to knit it. Well she cast on the scarf and proceed to knit and knit and knit. I thought she was just putting the border on it and I'd do the rest, well I called Leanne and she translated for me. Zhonmei wants to help (aka do it) me with all of it. Hey sounds like a plan to me. I still don't know how to knit but who cares! Like I said you just gotta love this place.