Tuesday, December 30, 2008
We have taught our last class and it has finally set in that we will be leaving UIC and China in a few days. As I mentioned before, this has been quite an experience. Doug has worked hard on starting a fitness program for Faculty and Staff at UIC, which currently has 136 members. Although we lost the contest with Augsburg, the UIC Faculty and Staff put up a great effort. We are excited to hear that the program will continue after we leave under the able direction of our
friend and colleague in the Physical Education Dept, Jack Pang. Without Jack, our stay at UIC would not have been nearly as rewarding as it has been. Since he is the only person on the PE
staff who speaks any English, he ended up being our "care taker" for 4 months.
My two fitness classes were great. I am not sure who learned more; me or my students. While they learned and practiced the components of fitness, I learned about their families, campus life, likes, dislikes and the list goes on. We spent the final week doing some post testing for fitness and we were all very pleased that the majority of them showed improvement....some by leaps and bounds! Hopefully this will encourage them to continue to workout and "reward their bodies with exercise."
As I write this, the first phase of UIC's fitness center is becoming a reality. Doug and I spent our first month here (we arrived a month before classes started) researching, designing and
writing a 3 year phased plan to equip a state of the art fitness center. The first phase will give UIC a good variety of cardio and weight equipment (including machines and free weights). Since fitness training and fitness centers are not at all common on college campuses in China, this should be a real draw for both faculty and students.
As we board the plane and head back to Minnesota, the warmth of our new Chinese friends along with the warmth of seeing our "old" Minnesota friends will hopefully ward off the COLD temperatures we are soon to encounter. It's been quite a ride!
Friday, November 28, 2008
The Yangzi River begins in Tibet and flows East through China emptying into the East China Sea in Shanghai. After about 200 miles from it's origination point in Tibet, it takes a sharp bend and passes through two snow mountains (Haba and Jade Dragon) forming the Tiger Leaping Gorge just West of Lijiang in Yunnan Province.
This is where we began our 5 day journey. We combined hiking and driving in order to include everything we wanted to see. We hiked the upper trail through the Gorge then passed through several mountain villages ending up near the Tibetan border. We stayed in local "homestays" which were small guest houses where we shared meals prepared with vegetables that were picked less than an hour before we ate them. These were the best meals we have had since arriving in China nearly 3 months ago. Some of our favorites were radishes, cabbage, water lily, various roots, beans and red chili peppers prepared with rice as a side dish. We also enjoyed the Baba bread and local walnuts. Our least favorite was the "Yak Butter Tea" which tasted like we were drinking pure melted butter.
These villages were made up of several different cultures (Naxi - pronounced Nashi, Yi - ( "E"), Hui (Who A) or Muslim, Tibetan, Han and Lisu (LeeSue), living and farming peacefully together in their mountain homes. One day while hiking through several small villages, I am sure we were invited for lunch at least 5 different times.
Near the Haba Village we visited the White Water Terraces where the Naxi culture originated. It is said that these natural white rock formations shaped like small terraces were a message to the farmers on how to terrace the land. From the looks of all the beautifully terraced fields, the farmers received the message.
I am certain this journey will be among the most memorable adventures during our stay in China.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I am about half way through my teaching experience at UIC and thought this might be a good time to tell everyone a little bit about teaching Chinese college students. For the most part I find my students at UIC very similar to my students at Augsburg. It took longer for us to get to know each other but the students in my 2 fitness classes are finally beginning to open up a bit and all of us are enjoying the classes more. Some are even beginning to understand my humor and much to my surprise and excitement some are even asking what they can do outside of class to help improve their individual fitness and overall health. One gal asked me if I would have a special session for students who may have questions about nutrition. They are going to write down questions in advance and we are going to discuss them. Although I am very interested in nutrition, I am not sure I have a clue about the ingredients of most Chinese meals....but I'm willing to give it a try. It should be fun.
I am running my classes pretty much the same as I did at Augsburg but at a slower pace. Most of my students are female and my 2 classes are 22 and 24 students so they are a nice size. UIC
has purchased a lot of fitness equipment so I am hoping my Chinese Teaching Assistant, Jack will be able to teach this class after I leave. For the most part I am finding the students less fit than the students in the US (if you can imagine that). Most of them are not overweight, but they have never had any instruction in what it means to be a physically fit person. Most of their physical education experience has been playing a particular sport or game.
Our time here has been going by very quickly and we continue to enjoy the experience. Doug has been coordinating the Faculty/Staff Fitness program and has 125 members who are exercising on a regular basis and seem to enjoy doing it.
We are going on a hiking adventure to the Tiger Leaping Gorge over Thanksgiving so expect to see a report on this experience in the next blog.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This past weekend we ventured to Hong Kong. We were told that we could send our absentee ballots overnight mail at any FED EX office in Hong Kong. We were most surprised when we walked into their office and found out that they too had heard of this and they had already received several overseas ballots. The best news of all is that this service is absolutely free of charge.
We arranged to take a half day bus tour the day we arrived so we could learn the "lay of the land" before venturing out on our own. We also had the help of a couple of students at UIC.
Susanna (one of the students who visited Augsburg the summer of 2007) and her friend David
told us about a couple of their favorite places. They said we must go to the "Modern Toilet Cafe" for lunch. Even our travel agent friend who lives in HK had never heard of it.
Another friend (Patrick, the travel agent), who is part of a group of people with Minnesota connections arranged for a group hike in the hills surrounding HK. He told us to bring hiking sticks to help fend off the monkeys. We did not believe him until we were surrounded by monkeys. It seems to be a similar problem to the wild donkeys in St John, Virgin Islands. We had to laugh when we came across the sign and cage for "monkey contraception." From the looks of all the monkeys we saw, I do not think the project is very successful.
We took a double decker bus to the famous shopping area called "Stanley Market" but had more fun people watching and riding the bus than the actual shopping. We also managed to purchase "Elder" bus cards that can be used on all public transportation (including ferries to and from HK island and Kawloon). The entire day of travel ended up costing us less than $1.00. I have always loved a good deal.
Going to HK also counted as "leaving the country" so we are good for another 30 days. We got back Monday afternoon in time to prepare for our fitness classes on Tuesday. I am trying to take some photos of my classes and will share them with you on my next blog. Both Doug and I are getting along fine and really enjoy teaching the Chinese students at UIC
Saturday, October 18, 2008
As I have mentioned previously, we are not too adventuresome in the food department so I thought some of you might be interested in what we are eating.
We have ventured to the local market in Tangjia and have gradually been purchasing more of our fruits and vegetables from street vendors. We have found that as long as we wash things in soap and water and rinse them in previously boiled water, we have had no problems. The travel clinic told us before we left that "if you can't boil it or peel it, don't eat it." That could get old very fast so we are trusting the advice of our friends at Horizon Cove and UIC and have been fine. One of our favorite "new" fruits is a green orange that tastes much like the oranges we are used to but a bit more tart.
The best Chinese grocery store we have found is about a half hour bus ride from here. Since we are used to grocery shopping via bus (that's what we do in the Virgin Islands) it is not a problem. We have not been able to find "brown" rice among the several choices available and the supply we carried with us is running out (how many people do you know who actually bring rice with them to China?) so we may have to use white sticky rice in frequent stir fry dinners.
Going out to eat has been a fun experience. We usually try and bring a Chinese speaking friend with us to help translate the menu. Most of the restaurants have "live" tanks where you are asked to pick out the exact fish, shrimp or whatever you are eating. A Chinese friend old us that the Chinese like VERY FRESH SEAFOOD. Thought you might like to see the good looking shrimp we picked out for one of our very first meals here. Once we figured out how to eat them,
they were very good. It will take some getting used to seeing those beady little eyes looking up at us.
UIC has a "Staff lunch room" that our friend and colleague Jack introduced us to. He is the only person in the Physical Education Department who speaks any English so we have become very close to him. We usually bring our own peanut butter sandwiches for lunch because as you can see, you get way too much food in the school lunch room.
Thus far my favorite meal was last Friday evening when some friends from UIC took us to Mr Pizza. I've included the photo. We had antipasti, salad, pizza, cheesecake, coffee and wine for
about $12 for the 2 of us. Dining out in China is very inexpensive.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
We have been in Zhuhai a month already and school hasn't even started yet. Classes begin on Monday, Oct. 6th. Doug and I have been busy gathering information and looking at fitness
equipment for a proposed Fitness Center at UIC. We went to Guangzhou in a driving rainstorm (the result of Typhoon Hugupit) last week to check out a couple of fitness centers.
Our visa's require us to leave the country every 30 days so last Thursday we ventured over the border to Macau. Even though Hong Kong and Macau are a part of China, they are not mainland China and are considered "leaving the country." Macau is the only place in all of China where gambling is legal. There are very modern buildings going up everywhere you look.
Yesterday we ventured out to purchase new bicycles. We decided we could not live here for 4 months without wheels, so we made the big splurge. It cost us less than $100 for both of them. We had plenty of help and ended up with 2 very nice, brand new, single speed, fully loaded (basket, bell, lock and kickstand) bikes that have got to weigh 50 pounds each. We went for a 2 hour ride today and both agree that without our bikes we would never be able to see and explore many of the things our new home city of Zhuhai has to offer.
Finally, those of you who know us, know that we are not very adventuresome when it comes to food. We went out for a Dim Sum "brunch" with our friends Kiki and Stuart a few Sundays ago.
We enjoyed many of their choices, but it may be some time before Kiki is able to convince us to eat chicken feet.
We have also learned that the Chinese offer discounted ferry tickets to seniors (which we now qualify for). So, before we ventured to Shenzhen via ferry last week, we had a friend write out
"senior discount" in Chinese. It worked and we got our tickets for half price. Later we learned that the literal translation written in Chinese characters is "Old Man Ticket."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Horizon Cove is a gated community where many of the Faculty and Staff of UIC live. Our "flat" is on the 5th floor overlooking a park and a pond.
As you can see from the photos we have an indoor/outdoor pool as well as a wonderful fitness room and many walking paths surrounding the community.
Both Doug and I have been busy getting organized for the beginning of school. Classes officially start on Oct 6th. We have been working on setting up a fitness center for the UIC community and have been checking out possible equipment and prices. Hopefully we can get something up and running before we head back in January.
We are also organizing a "Fitness Challenge" between the faculty and staff at UIC and AUGSBURG. Everyone is excited about the upcoming challenge and the organization of a fitness program. Doug is working on a webpage and we are hoping to get many of the faculty and staff at UIC involved and working out. The AUGGIES are in trouble since the Chinese do not like to lose. I know Carol Enke (Augsburg's Faculty/Staff fitness coordinator) does not like to lose either so LET THE CHALLENGE BEGIN!
Many folks have been asking us about the food, so the next blog will cover what we are and are not eating.