When residents of Tumbler Ridge were told that they could go to China for free, many were skeptical. But there were a few who were optimistic and enthusiastic, making the choice to take part in the adventure of a lifetime. Since the day after the travelers left, rumors have been flying surrounding the trip. Talk of disgusting food, unbearable living conditions and other disappointments keep surfacing. But what is it really like? Here are some email journal excerpts from Eleanor McNeill describing the China experience.
July 6 and 7- we traveled to Vancouver.
July 8th- we left for Guang Dong, China. We changed planes in Taiwan. We had a Coke at the airport, it cost four dollars. In Hong Kong we were met by agency rep with a sign ?TR Eleanor?. They had a bus waiting. It took us to Hong Kong Customs. After we cleared Customs, we had to cross the border and go through Chinese customs in Guang Dong. Then we had to catch a bus to Guang Zou (pronounced Gong Jo) City where we stayed at the Bai Yun Hotel. It was very nice. For breakfast the next morning they fed us Dim Sum.
July 10-12- We received 900 Yuan per person today. This was one half of our deposit. We are to use the money for shopping. The agency is trying to get a fridge for our convenience. They brought a tea pot, tea bags and an electric kettle. They are really trying to accommodate us. Jonathan phoned us, he is happy that we are all enjoying things after the original cultural shock.
July 14- When we were in Tumbler Ridge, Jonathan (the fellow who organized the trip), told us to bargain for our purchases. It is not easy to bargain. When Chris was bargaining for a purchase today, a Chinese man walked by her and said ?Cheap American Lady?. We have our Canadian pins on but we are just foreigners to them. I also noticed prices have risen in the canteen since we arrived.
July 15th. Woke up, did not sleep well. I guess I had too much spicy food and coke. I can?t even look at a rice bun this morning. I am glad we brought two cans of protein drink. The students stayed up too late and are tired, so it has been a tough day for teaching. Several of the students are very disruptive and say they are bored. I gave the assistant a blast when she told me that the students are falling asleep, could I make the lesson more exciting. I told her the children need to go to bed earlier. The girls just want to play games, but the rest of the class wants to do the work. I brought out some Sears catalogues. The girls liked that.
July 16 – Walked across the road to another restaurant tonight. We watched them cut off heads of chickens and fish out of a pond to cook. Then FRESH meat is served. We had Pepsi and beer instead. Then we took some pictures of a Chinese family having dinner next to us. They love to have their pictures taken. It was starting to get dark so we went back to campus. I noticed a dog and a peacock also tied up at the restaurant. Dog is on menus here. We always ask what we are eating.
July 15- We took the students to a State Forest Park, Watched a Chinese dance production. Walked through the forest to a boat launch and they took us on a boat ride down Luizi River. The gang walked over to the hotel up the hill from the College and found another good restaurant. The food was delicious and cost 34 Yuan per person (about $6 Canadian). We had so much food we took the rest home for our dorm mother Anna, and Kevin, who watches over us.
Some students know English well and some not much at all. I am getting them to write down a paragraph of why they are bored. I asked the students to write five sentences on how I am different from them and how I can make this hot classroom more interesting. After lunch we are taking students outside to sit under trees and discuss things. We played basketball and toured the grounds today. Our schedule is 6:30 AM-get up, 6:30-7:45-exercise; 7:45-8:15-eat breakfast. There are classes from 8:30 to 11:30 with 10 min. break every 50 min. From 11:30 – 2:30 there is rest time. From 2:30 – 4:30 classes again. After 4:30 we can choose to participate in activities or not. We used to teach until 5 PM, but they found this was too long in the heat. 6-6:30 is dinner and after dinner some of us play soccer or do other activities. Students say they came to learn English better. Some say the school fooled them. They thought they could swim but there is no water in the big pool.
Juy 16th-Joan & Hans gave Jack a Canadian Flag hat for his birthday. The gang wrapped a tissue around a jar lid and put an Oreo cookie on top, this was Jack?s birthday cake.
We were told yesterday not to go out at night. The manager said they were very worried about us because there are trucks & thieves on the road at night. We have never felt scared. Once we took a bus to the Holiday Inn and walked back. Everyone along the way was very friendly. There were shops along the way with a lot of nice swim suits and we want to explore. We told the manager if we go out at night, we will let him know before we leave and we will stick together.
I showed the students pictures of Sherwood Park, West Edmonton Mall and Tumbler Ridge today. Steven, 14 asked me to teach him everything in the textbook. He wants to learn it all. He is the one we will invite to come to Tumbler Ridge to study at Northern Lights College. We would have him live with us.
The China trip will continue in the next issue, August 11.