Welcome My Friend, To The Ceremonies of a New Website And Hopeful Enterprise In China

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hopeful Enterprise

The tap water here is excellent.

Here, specifically, is the small city of Longkou in Shandong Province, China. There are about 30,000 people in Longkou. I’ve been here since October 5.

Four days a week, I teach first-, sixth-, and seventh-grade English classes at the good old Nanshan Bilingual School. On Wednesdays a driver picks me up and takes me to the Nanshan Vocational College of Tourism, where I teach four classes comprised of 17-20 year olds. It’s not clear to me what year of college they’re in.

All of this is within the purview and under the auspices of the Nanshan Group. More on them soon, but suffice for now to say that almost everything in this area is Nanshan. Nanshan factories, schools, hotels, factories, a golf course, and new housing developments to the east, south, and west. The food in both schools is extremely similar, as is the food in the restaurant across from my apartment, as is, I suspect, the food in the garment factory across the street is also similar. It’s all Nanshan food. The food is pretty good, all in all—more on that soon too.

Some nearby things that aren’t Nanshan territory: the Bo Shang department store and supermarket (my source for clothes pins, coconut coffee powder, and small bags of corn-flavored milk); a KFC; the local mini-market where I’ve either annoyed or entertained (it’s unclear) the staff with my requests for string; and two large markets enclosed in hangar-like spaces that sell housewares, clothing, groceries, and lunch. I have so far avoided the KFC, but as with all things here, I’m curious and will have to try it evenutally.

The picture above is from last week at the good old NBS. Every Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m., before school starts, there is an assembly for the lower school on the front grounds. Students line up by class, ranging from first to fourth grade. The flag is raised, the national anthem (one of the better ones, I’d say) is sung, and the assistant principal reads something and students read something. Sometimes it’s one student, sometimes it’s four. Then they go to class. You can see the students are all saluting in the arm-bent, hand over head Chinese style. What I missed in this picture has become my favorite part of Tuesdays: as the four students prepare to raise it, one student holds the flag itself. Then, just as the music starts, he flings it sideways and there’s a whip of red as the flag opens. Then it starts to rise and everyone sings. I don’t think it has any significance other than to be dramatic, but it could certainly look like something martial. On the other hand, it’s simply patriotic. One of my hopes while I’m here in China is to reject my own assumptions as much as possible and find out what China is really about. Some things are the same as home but so many things are different from what’s familiar to me after 39 years in Boston and New York. Some things are just a little different, some things more dramatically strange. Thus far I have very little idea why things are the way the are and just asking people is trickier than it would be if I spoke Chinese well. But China is nothing if not monumentally interesting, and I am curious.

As various technical difficulties get worked out (I’m writing this from a Dell Optiplex 740 with a Chinese installation of Windows XP), I’ll have more photos and perhaps some audio too.

  1. Jasmine —
    Wednesday, November 04, 2009 :: 11:21 PM

    I was just admiring your new year gift (Obama booklet) and was wondering how you were getting on there. Glad to hear it is going swimmingly. Miss your twitters. Take care.

  2. Tony —
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 12:23 AM

    I second the Twitter comment. It’s not the same without you. Is there a local non-blocked social network site that we can join?

    I’m very interested in future postings on the Nanshan Group and specifically your observations on how they relate to the local government. Nothing deep; I just wonder where the lines are drawn.

    Don’t wait too long on trying the KFC. My imagination is running wild with possible menu differences. Like, do they call it “original recipe?”

  3. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 02:19 AM

    USA!

    USA!

    USA!

  4. hodgman —
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 09:56 AM

    I am very glad to receive this dispatch. Please keep them coming.

    Especially require updates on household goods purchased. More hooks? A shelf? I am breathless to know.

    I also stand at the ready to proxy any twitters that you may wish to spread to the world.

    That is all.

  5. hodgman —
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 10:03 AM

    Additionally, I am beginning to suspect that THE NANSHAN GROUP is itself merely a very elaborate alternate reality game to promote LOST.

    CAN YOU DISPROVE?

    That is all.

  6. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 10:16 AM

    Hey Sam! I also just moved to China and am “teaching” English in Tianjin… I’m curious - why’d you move over here?

  7. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 10:18 AM

    If the shop has trouble with string, how do they cope with Sellotape?

  8. Tony —
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 10:27 AM

    SAM, I’ve almost cracked the code on groutcleaning.com.

    The tipoff came when I clicked on the “Find a groutcleaning professional” button and I heard several flares shoot off within a 2 mile radius. Naturally I headed out to track the flares in spite of it being cold and foggy.

    What I discovered may shock you but will have to wait as I have to go to work now. I don’t want to raise suspicion by falling off my normal routine.

  9. Sachs —
    Thursday, November 05, 2009 :: 03:01 PM

    Sam, so glad you’re finally up and typing. More please, soon.
    Everything please, all of it.
    RE the KFC, I took a picture of this fake Colonel Sanders in Shanghai. Do they have this guy there? http://adamsachs.org/chinacolonel.jpg

  10. mj —
    Saturday, November 07, 2009 :: 09:52 AM

    Sam Potts! What I want to know is, have you found a good Scrabble game there?

  11. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Saturday, November 07, 2009 :: 10:00 AM

    How dare you tweet in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping! Please let me know if the KFC batter is different as you are bound to eat there at some point. So glad the blog is up and running. Keep it up!

  12. jgall —
    Saturday, November 07, 2009 :: 10:11 AM

    Anxiously awaiting your report on the “scenic and climatic comfort Nanshan Tourist Beauty Spot”.

  13. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Saturday, November 07, 2009 :: 02:26 PM

    I third (or one-hundred, or whatever) the missing of your Twitterings.  So…not much string to be had in China, hmmm?  Interesting.  Much nefarious world-domination plotting could take place based on that small fact, you know…

  14. Craftberry —
    Saturday, November 07, 2009 :: 03:15 PM

    I too have spotted the fake Colonel Sanders in Shanghai, though I believe he holds the secret recipe for dumplings rather than fried chicken. I am escaping the economic woes of unemployment in America by leaving next month to sojourn in China. I look forward to your next posts. I was directed here by Hodgman.

  15. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Monday, November 09, 2009 :: 07:29 PM

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I’ll have some answers soon—still trying to get this computer under control!

  16. Lynne Potts —
    Sunday, November 15, 2009 :: 06:35 PM

    Sam,
    Did you actually buy clothes pins?  Are you doing your laundry by hand?  If so, I could only feel good that your watching me pin Emmy’s diapers on the line (with clothes pins) in Benson, served as your best example.

    Blog. Blog.  But don’t forget to come home!~

    Love, Mom