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February 2004

High-Points


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Yanti are I were all set to leave Bali on Sunday, Feb 1.  We had already taken all of the things we weren't taking with us to our friend Bill Dalton's home in Tabanan, about 1 hour from Ubud.  We had done that last week and had been living out of our 'China' clothes since then.  On Sunday, we said good-bye to our housekeeper and her kids; our neighbors; and a few others.  We left for the airport timed to get there about 3 hours before our flight at 5 PM.  The first shock we received was that we were over our 'baggage allowance'.  We had been told that we could take 2 bags each that were up to 20 kilos (44 lbs).  So we had 2 suitcases and 2 boxes, each 20 kilo.  Plus, we had 2 carry-on boxes of 6 kilo each.  At the airport we were told that we only could have ONE  checked bag each at 20 kilos!  Luckily we had gotten Thai Air Frequent Flyer cards and when we showed those they said they'd only charge us for 10 kilos over!  But at US$17.50/kilo it still came to US$175!!  I ran to the ATM and took out the money and paid it!  So we were all set with the airline and our bags were checked thru to Shanghai and we wouldn't need to worry about them with our stop-over in Bangkok.  Next Yanti had to pay about 1,000,000 rupiah (US$120) as the Exit-Tax (all Indonesians must pay this when they leave the country).  Next we each had to pay 100,000 rupiah (US$12) as the Airport tax.  Now only Immigration stood between us and the string of Duty Free shops and our gate.  Yanti had no problem.  After the official looked over my passport for, what seemed like, hours, he motioned me to follow him to the office (shades of going to the principal's office in school).  It turned out that the company that handled my visa had failed to have it stamped in December (good for 2 months), and so I was 50 days over.  The fee for every day of an 'over stay' is US$20!  So we were looking at about US$1,000 to leave Bali.  Well, needless to say, I didn't have that kind of money sitting around.  Yanti was crying and I was very upset.  We had to go back to the Thai ticket counter and explain everything; get our luggage back; get refunds for the fees we'd paid; and take a taxi back to Ubud to try and figure out what to do.  Luckily the man that owns our house was very understanding and he said we could stay for free for a few more days.  We got our housekeeper to come and fix us dinner.

To make a long story short we had to really scramble to come up with US$800, we got a discount (thanks for those that helped).  However, the next day (Monday) was a holiday in Indonesia, so we couldn't get the money from Western Union until Tuesday.  Plus we had to book new flights to China. 

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We arrive in China
But we got it all done and boarded our flight 2 days late.  After a 4 hour flight to Bangkok and a 4 hour lay-over, we were on our way to Shanghai, China!  We got into the beautiful and pretty new airport in Shanghai at about 6:30AM.  It was amazing.  By the time we got to were our luggage was, our luggage was there.  We went thru customs without a hitch and walked out to find two men holding a sign saying "Bruce Briscoe Yanti".  It had taken 1/2 hour from the time we got off the plane until we walked out of the airport!  I was really flabbergasted.  We were then taken to a local hotel for a nice breakfast and then set off for a 3 hour car ride to Nantong.  Tom, who spoke English and is an English teacher there, answered all my many question about the school and teaching there.  We arrived and were immediately given 1,000 yuan and taken to a very nice department store to pick up anything we might need - like WARM cloths, since it was about 0 C.  Poor Yanti was really cold.  So we found her a nice down coat and a down vest.  It was a little harder to find cloths for me because I was too ..... tall!  We found me a nice sweater, but couldn't find me any thermal underwear. 

Then we were taken to the school and shown our apartment.  WOW.  It was so much nicer than I had expected.  Very nice bedroom with king bed, desk, TV and DVD player.  I even have DSL here!  (What a change from my 56k modem in Bali)  The living room was really a large dining room with table and chairs.  Very nice kitchen with very modern appliances, refrig, etc.  And a nice bathroom!  The real pleasant surprise was how much thought went into the prep.  There was TP, tooth brushes and toothpaste, hair brush, shampoo, and more in the bathroom.  The kitchen was totally stocked - soda, a frozen duck in the freezer, fully cooked meat in the refrig. and some fresh veggies and fruit.  Coffee, rice, and all the plates, utensils, and cooking stuff we would need (even a rice cooker).   The bed was made and had two down comforters. 

Then it was off to lunch to meet the other staff and the deans of the school.  It was a delicious lunch prepared by the school's kitchen staff.  Many different things to try, all of which I liked (except the jelly fish).  Then back to our apartment to finally shower and a nap.  We were both very tired after our flights and meeting all the new people.

I started my teaching the following Monday morning.  Each class has about 60 students aged 17-19.  This school is a very tough school to get into, so the students are all very bright and very hard working.  We see them coming to school around 7AM and staying, sometimes, until after 8 at night.  Plus many are here on Saturday and Sunday!  This first week, I am teaching only 13 classes (each 40 minutes long), but next week, I'll start teaching 21 classes per week.  We'll get a 2 week vacation in mid-April and another week off for May Day.  I only teach Mondays thru Fridays and the student's English is very good already.  I'm to concentrate on 'conversational English', and have most of my lesson plans already created.  Everyone is so very nice to us here.  The really funny thing is that Nantong doesn't get many tourists, so seeing a 6'2" blond haired guy walking around town really gets people looking and even pointing.  It's fun, we feel like a celebrates!

The school is really beautiful and has about 4,000 students.  It's been here since the 1930's and built up over the years.  Nantong itself is also an old city that is in the midst of a building boom. 

What we've seen of China so far is very impressive.  There is much new construction; much shopping areas; much advertising and commercialism; and much that one wouldn't normally associate with 'Red' China!

Yanti and I are really trying to learn Chinese (Mandarin is the official language of China) but it is pretty intimidating!  Each word can have four different inflections and each inflection gives the word a different meaning.  So you may be saying 'thank you' but have the wrong inflection and it comes out 'dog breathe'!  Very intimidating.  But here is a very good and easy phrase you can use the next time you go to a Chinese Restaurant "knee how" means "hello" in Mandarin Chinese.  Try it the next time you enter a Chinese restaurant!

More to come.......

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Coming up....

In April, during our 2 week vacation, we'll be traveling by boat to Shanghai to see that beautiful city of 20 million people; then on to Zhouzhuang, known as the Venice of China because of it's canals; and to Suzhou, known for it's gardens!  

Stay tuned!

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Well, it's the HUGE country above Vietnam and west of Japan!