Nov 26, 2007 - OF DRAGONS AND HORSES    No Comments

Getting Settled

Filly met her teammates and began getting settled in her new surroundings. Everything was so veeerrry different than back at home in Sunset Meadow.

There seemed to be concrete everywhere and buildings with people everywhere…and all the people seemed to be dressed alike. Filly had to learn new ways of doing things and when she went to sleep that first night, there were hundreds of new and interesting sounds jumping out at her in the dark.

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Finally, I had made my way up the Yangtze river and arrived at Anhui Xi Fan Da Xue (translated: Anhui Normal University). This particular university was a teacher’s college so many of the students who passed through were on their way to becoming teachers in the fields of their chosen majors. What one must understand about China is that your ‘chosen major’ chooses you. There isn’t a freedom of choice to be an independent or try other majors or even come to school with an idea to be something. In China, your education is evolved around tests taken beginning at the 5th grade. From that test, your life begins to take shape. These tests measure your aptitude towards certain vocations. Once you show an aptitude for a certain vocation, your education begins being geared toward that vocation. As your testing begins to fail, then your education begins to end. If you begin failing at the 8th grade level, then you finish school. If you continue, you will continue being tested at every level. So, therefore, the students at this university showed an aptitude for teaching in the subject they were forced to study. They didn’t necessarily WANT to be there. Some of them wanted to be artists, but they HAD TO be English teachers.

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I was put up in the foreign student housing. During the summer, students from Africa came to the University to study and this is where they would stay. It was much different than the dormitories of the students and even the teacher apartments. Mostly because I had a bathroom all to myself and that bathroom had a western style toilet. One might not think that is too big a deal, but let me tell you personally IT IS!

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I did not have running hot water. If I wished to get hot water, I had to use a gas heater on the other side of the bathroom wall to get the water to slightly warm up for a bath (there was no such thing as a shower). I would literally have to light the pilot light each time I wished to use it. A couple of weeks after I arrived, the campus began a modernization project that was to last most of the winter that was to put in pipes for running HOT water. Construction of the building is mainly straight brick on brick. So they came in one day and hammered out the bricks just around the tub. There was nothing between the inside and the outside world where that hole was for those weeks (months). I had to keep that door closed during the cold days to keep out the cold blowing through the hole. Never mind the privacy issues…

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The common dress in China is pants (whether on male or female) and what is called a Mao jacket. If one wears a hat, then it is a Mao hat. While there may be variation by color (and that, too, is limited to dark colors such as black, navy blue and olive green) everyone looks similar. No individuality.

If anything sticks out at me during this time, it is the sounds. The school was near the port, so there was the sound of fog horns and ships traffic noises constantly, but more so at night – maybe because the darkness enhances these things.

And every morning, I was awakened to the sound of the street sweepers. Now these are not the driven machines of which we are accustomed, but individuals with bamboo brooms whose sole job was to sweep the dust from the streets before morning traffic (about 4AM). These people were usually elderly. I came to learn later that they were serving some sort of punishments meted out to them from past times.

About 5:30 AM, a bicycle pulling a cart would come by under the window on its way to the kitchen. The cart was essentially an open air butcher cart piled high with fresh meat and tofu. Flies would be buzzing behind it as the meat was open to the air. Kind of just thrown on the wooden cart all willy-nilly. Thankfully, we had been supplied with a cook who was responsible for obtaining our food for us and she was supplied with cleaner sources.

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The filly laid out her things and began putting them away and making her new stall her home away from Sunset Meadow. As she did, she realized she would be here for a very long time.

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