Alright, I'm finally out of Shijiazhuang. With a dense population of 8.6 million people, the polution was pretty bad, and there just wasn't much to that city.
I arrived yesterday in Tangshan (5.5 hour bus ride during which they played a Jet Li movie, a movie with the actor who was Broken Sword in 'Hero', some weird-ass romantic comedy about a calligrapher, and the beginnings of a Chow Yun Fat movie... in FRENCH of all things).
All is well. I wish I had the time to write down all the cool stuff and minutiae that have stood out in my mind since being here. I will do so once I have internet access at home. I'm writing from a public computer at the school I'm at. I'm in an apartment with a Brit named Alistair (awesome guy - he's been fantastic). There are 6 teachers here now with Camilla and I having signed on. They're all British except for her and I. We went for drinks last night (most beer is served in like 750 or 1 litre bottles, and you're given snifter glasses) and everyone has been just incredible.
Today I found out that I'm taking over the classes of a teacher who did a 'midnight run' a short while back. My first class is on Friday. It's 2 hours. It's busy time right now, and will be for another 2 weeks or so. The class is pre-intermediate (basic conversation level) and aged 13-14. Should be fun. I watched Duncan's 10-11 class this morning, and I did an introduction and the kids all asked questions. They thought it was hilarious that my Chinese name is Bai ke. (A woman at Shijiazhuang Foreign Language University gave it to me. It means "white", with ke simply being a phonetic extension so that Bai ke sounds like Pat ck.)
Enjoying myself a good deal, though it'd be nice if China didn't have 24/7 construction directly behind my new place, just outside my window. Nothing like listening to 3am jackhammers and loud Chinese cursing and I-beams being dropped from a hundred feet onto packed earth. Hey, it's all part of the experience, I figure.
On Friday, the Chairman of China is in town as Friday is the 30th anniversary of the Tangshan earthquake that killed 250,000 people. The memorial is a 2-minute walk from my place, so I plan on going down and checking things out, and taking pictures.
That's it for now. Oh, I can't read comments, by the way. I can post but I cannot check the actual blog (at least I couldn't in Shijiazhuang). So your comments are going unread, except those that have been sent along by Holly (THANK YOU).
Thank you all for the well-wishing. Everything is fine here, and it seems like I have great support both from the teachers and the staff (teaching assistants and the director).