Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bedspreads and Bubble Tea

After we new teachers finished our health checks, our very friendly bus driver from school, Mr. Wu, drove us out to Metro, a ginormous home store that is sort of what I imagine the lovechild of Ikea and Sam's Club would be like.  Some of the other teachers met us there to help us shop, and to pick up things for themselves as well.  Apparently, shopping at Metro is an Event.

Beth, my roommate, joined us as well.  She and I decided last night that since we have such a gorgeous view from our balcony, we would really enjoy having a set of chairs and a small table out there.  We thought it would make a wonderfully relaxing place to have our breakfast and coffee in the mornings before leaving for school.  We found the perfect set right away:  cute, comfortable, and quite reasonably priced (499 RMB, which is about $76, and we split the cost).  While Beth waited for an employee to retrieve our set for us, I went on to the office supply aisle to pick up some of the things I still need for school, such as whiteboard erasers, paperclips, post-it notes, and binder clips.  I found a really nice three-high paper tray which will be perfect for sorting homework into when I take it home to grade.  I have a nice desk here at the apartment, so I was quite eager to start setting it up.

The best part of the Metro shopping trip was picking out my bedroom decor.  I had originally planned to do my room in light turquoise and chocolate brown; however, there were no bedspreads in that color scheme.  As my parents are well aware, I am notoriously hard to please when it comes to bedding.  I once dragged Dad to ten different stores before I could find a bedspread that I liked!  Deviating from my reputation, I actually found a duvet cover that I really liked!  It's a color scheme that I never before thought of, but once I got everything home and on my bed, both Beth and I were amazed at just how good my new idea for the bedroom is going to look.  The new colors are grey (both light and dark), white, and two shades of pink (one is almost a raspberry color).  The duvet cover has all these colors; it has large grey and white stripes (more like sections than stripes, really) and two-tone pink tulips that amazingly match the pink sheets that I bought from the States perfectly.  (I normally hate pink sheets, but they were exactly what I needed and were $9.  Sometimes, price teaches me to like things.)  Suddenly, those sheets are no longer nauseating, but actually look really attractive!  Later this week, I'm going to paint my walls light gray.  I'll also add some artwork to my walls.

As anyone who has lived in Asia knows, mattresses are REALLY firm here.  Too firm for me, actually.  I've been able to sleep at night owing to my jetlag, but my back has been cursing me.  Memory foam pads are unheard of around here, so I found a different solution at Metro.  Many Chinese still like to sleep on the floor on a pad rather than a bed.  I bought one of those floor pads, and stuck it on my bed for extra padding.  It's not much, but it does make a difference.  I may add a second one, or maybe a cheap thick bedspread under the bottom sheet later if I decide that I want more padding, but I honestly think this will be sufficient.  After picking up a few more household necessities, such as wastebaskets (one for my bedroom, one for my desk), Beth and I headed to the grocery area.

The grocery section at Metro is fabulous!  Hard to find delicacies, like hot chocolate, are abundant.  A bag of hot chocolate merrily leapt into my shopping cart, where it was promised a happy future in Beth's and my morning coffee.  I found my favorite snack, dried peas, much to my delight.  I decided to splurge on a box of cereal, which is quite expensive here in China.  I figure I'll use it sparingly to make it last as long as possible.  I was also thrilled to find refried beans, which I promised Beth I would turn into my family's delicious "Special Dip" sometime soon (it's sort of a taco dip that is delicious on chips).  Beth, who likes all of the same foods as I do (I swear, the two of us are truly kindred spirits), was quite excited.  I found kiwi juice, which I cannot wait to drink in the morning.  I just love all of the wonderful fruit juices that you can find in Asia!

Beth and I also stocked up on candy for our classrooms, which I'm sure will delight our students.  I figured my high-schoolers would get pretty excited over Chuppa Chups, which appeal to all ages, and some nice cola-flavored hard candies.  I like to chuck a piece of candy at students when they give particularly good answers -- it's fun for me, plus the kids have incentive to work hard.  This being China, we don't have to abide by the more ridiculous regulations at most American schools (I'm not calling all of them ridiculous, just some), so I went ahead and stocked up on cough drops to give to students.  In the States, it's illegal in most states for a teacher to give a kid a cough drop!  It annoys me, since a coughing student can be such a distraction for other kids, and having to send them to the office for a cough drop robs them of valuable learning time.  Here, fortunately, we're more practical.

After our shopping venture, Beth and I came home for lunch.  After eating, I got back to work on unpacking and putting away my purchases, while Beth and one of our students from school (a really sweet ninth grade girl) worked on baking cookies.  While the cookies were in the oven, I took a break from my tasks and enjoyed spending some time with our guest, whom I sincerely hope will be in my section of ninth grade history.  In fact, I want her in my class so much I may have to start pr*ying about this!  Actually, there are two ninth graders that I am desperately hoping to get -- we just got a really neat family who have been living in Tanzania added to our school family, and the mother of the family shared with me how much her daughter loves history.

Since a different family is feeding me for dinner each night, tonight I got to know another family that I had only recently met.  Allison and her husband took me out first to a tea stand to introduce me to bubble tea, which I had never had before.  I love it!  Bubble tea is a sweetened milk tea, served hot or cold (I opted for cold) which has large tapiocas in it.  The tapiocas make for a rather odd beverage, but I really enjoyed the oddity, and the flavor was great!  While we were there, we happened to run into one of the third grade teachers, who readily accepted the invitation to join us for dinner.

Tonight's dinner, to my utter joy, was Turkish food!  Apparently, here in Qingdao, we have a Middle Eastern foodcourt tucked away in one of the shopping centers.  I had a scrumptious lamb wrap, which tasted quite a bit like a gyro.  It had the delicious yogurt sauce on it that I like so well.  I never dreamed that we would have such a wealth of international restaurants here.  And of course, it was great to get to spend time with more of my fellow teachers.  Since I teach high school, I particularly liked getting to know two of the elementary teachers, whom I really won't run into much at school.

Well, the jetlagged body would really like to go to bed, so I think I'm going to listen to it.  Good night, world!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"