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9 posts categorized "Jared O'Loughlin"

雷雨 (Thunderstorm)

If I had one word to describe Chongqing's weather, it'd be HOT. If I had two words, the second would be thunderstorms. The only redeeming thing about the weather in this city is that it has great thunderstorms.

I'm from the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and we definitely don't get storms like this. Last night, a huge storm rolled over the city and knocked out the power. People had trouble driving on the roads. The thunder rattled my windows. And the lightening lit up the entire sky every few seconds. It was incredible to sit on my bed and watch out the windows of my 28th floor apartment because I have a great view of the entire city. I managed to get a video of the storm. I apologise in advance for my excitement. I also got two videos from Alexis that I'll include too. Enjoy!

 

 

 

洪崖洞 (Hongyadong)

One of the most beautiful places in Chongqing, in my opinion, is Hongyadong. It's a small area in Jiefangbei district full of shops, restaurants, and bars. By day, it's a beautiful little spot with old-style buildings that look like they belong on a postcard:

At night, though, Hongyadong lights up and it's absolutely incredible:

My favorite part of Hongyadong is the food. There are countless shops along the main street on the 4th level. You can buy grilled meats on sticks, bowls of spicy soup, milk tea, beef noodles, and fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also some foreign restaurants such as Cactus, which serves delicious (although expensive) TexMex food. There are also a number of bars scattered throughout the village and it's a fun place to explore at night.

Look for a small imports shop in the back corner on the 5th floor behind the souvenir stalls. There are two wonderful ladies there who immediately sat me down for a cup of fresh tea when I wandered into their store. 

 

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It's also the first place where I found a Subway here in China. Let me tell you, sandwiches are definitely an American thing because this was the first place in all of China where I was able to buy a sandwich. Of course, like all foreign food, it was a little expensive, but it was definitely worth it.

Hongyadong is a great place to hang out day or night. During the day, there are plenty of tea shops and restaurants with wifi and outdoor seating. At night it's a bustling center for snacks and bars. It is definitely worth checking out here in Chongqing.

火锅 (Hotpot)

This post is long overdue because one of the most iconic things here in Chongqing is its cuisine. Among its many local dishes, the one that most natives will say represents their city is Chongqing hotpot. 

The picture above gives a great idea of what most hotpot meals are like. In the center is the boiling pot of broth and spices that give hotpot it's unique flavor and name. Like most Chongqing food, hotpot is very spicy and the longer the pot boil, the spicier it gets. You can order it non-spicy, but where's the fun in that? The locals say that the spicy food helps them sweat in the summer heat and stay cool. I've even heard Chongqing people say that they must eat hot pot at least once a week in order to survive the summer.

When you order hotpot, you get a giant menu full of different vegetables and meats. When the food arrives, it's uncooked and separated onto different plates. You then choose whatever uncooked food you want, and you put it into the boiling broth to cook it. 

I've noticed that the locals always start by eating all the meat. They won't touch the vegetables until all the meat is done, even going so far as to bring the vegetables home, rather than waste space in their stomach. And the meat is not what you would expect in the United States. They do have strips of beef and slices of chicken and even hot dogs. But they also order duck intestines, cow stomach, chicken feet, coagulated blood, and a variety of other organs. If you keep an open mind and aren't too concerned with texture, I've found that the organs are actually my favorite part of hotpot. Plus, you only cook them for a few seconds and basically eat them raw. If anything, it's a very unique dining experience.

You have to be careful though. This dining experience can be a little rough on foreigners at first. Not only do the exotic food choices throw your body out of whack, but the spiciness alone is enough to upset your stomach. I suggest easing into this dish so that you can learn to enjoy it. You also must be sure to eat with a local who can show you the best dishes! I've only recently gotten to the point where I can go to a hotpot restaurant by myself and order, but it's become my favorite dining experience here in China! Happy eating!

Chongqing Heat

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If there's one thing that I'll never enjoy about Chongqing, it's the weather. This isn't just because I'm a foreigner though; the locals complain about the weather on a daily basis! But it's particularly bad this time of year: the summer.

For example, yesterday it was 116F and there was 60-70% humidity. In this kind of weather, you really don't want to do anything. I wake up in the morning before my alarm goes off at 7:00am because by that time, it's already too hot to sleep. I take a cold shower and spend the rest of the morning in front of my fan keeping cool before I head to work around 8:00am. By that time it's already in the mid-eighties. 

Luckily, most buildings have air condition. Unfortunately, Chinese people think it's unhealthy to keep the windows closed, so there is a constant struggle between the outside heat and the indoor AC. I close the windows every opportunity I get though.

After work, the walk home is brutal. It feels like there is a hole in the ozone layer that insists on following me around everywhere I go. I get home, immediately change out of sweaty clothes, and sit in front of my fan again waiting for nightfall so I can venture out and explore. 

There are tricks to staying cool. For example, I've found that buying clothes here in China rather than bringing them from the US was helpful. The clothes they sell here is made for hot weather so it dries easily and is very breatheable. You also HAVE TO find a friend with a pool. Many apartment complexes have them and I can't tell you how nice it's been to go swimming on a hot day, even if the pools are unbelievably crowded.

All in all, I have to admit that I'm adjusting somewhat. I still hide inside every chance I get, but every day I spend more and more time outside with the locals, suffering through the heat and griping about our city's weather. It gives you a sense of solidarity and acclamation to put up with the heat like a local.

Chinese Dating

Here is a short video from class last week. I did a lesson about American dating and after they learned about pick-up lines, how to approach someone, what to talk about, how to get a phone number, and how to turn someone down, we all did presentations where one person had to ask the other person out on a date in English. This was the result. These girls have some serious game. 

 

That Day I Was Treated Like a Celebrity

 

 
I'm a 'foreign consultant' here in China which pretty much translates to a glorified English teacher. But one of my responsibilities is traveling with my company to recruit students to join our flight attendant training program. About a week ago, I had the experience of going on my first recruiting trip for the company that I work for. Here is the story....

Translation: You won't be abel to see your dear New Yorker today, study hard!
 
Everything started off normally. I was traveling with my 
supervisor, Maggie, and an intern that Alexis (the other American in my office) and I named Christy because she just looked like a Christy. A van arrived outside our office around 8:00am to take us, I was told, an hour north of the city to a district (county) called Hechuan. The first bump in road came about half an hour into our journey while we were still in the city proper. Traffic.

Our driver having a smoke during the traffic jam
Now, we're talking about China here people so if you're thinking, oh I've sat in frustrating traffic before, Jared. I know exactly how horrible that is. Stop. Just stop. You think bumper to bumper molasses crawl on a road is traffic? Try literally four hours of not moving. At the beginning of the trip I was having a great time just looking out the window and seeing the city go by. When we came to a stop, that activity quickly died. But I didn't realize anything was wrong until our driver decided he was going to 'go for a walk' and just left the car running in the middle of the road. So I decide to nap, when I wake up almost TWO HOURS LATER we still haven't moved and our driver is enjoying a cigarette outside. At this time I panic just a little and envision myself emerging from this van/jail with a cast-away-like beard and squinting at the first daylight I've seen in days. But I tend to overreact and after about another hour, things finally start to move. Let me tell you, after sitting there for that long, the jogging pace that our car reached felt like we were flying. Then there were other small adventures during the car ride.

For example, the scenery. The countryside around us is so insanely green. There are mountains everywhere and small farms in between what look like normal neighborhoods. Rural China (if I can say I've seen that) really is as beautiful as the pictures. Unfortunately it's hard to capture it in a short video taken on an iPhone.
 

And then there's the radio. Easily the most bizarre mix of Chinese pop and American music I've ever heard. There was everything from Joni Mitchell to Michael Jackson with traditional Chinese music in between. It's like the DJ had a split personality between an old Chinese man and a young American girl. 
 
Next, because we were traveling for so long, we arrived in the late afternoon instead of morning and decided we needed lunch. These people dropped ¥800 on lunch. Considering that I spend about ¥15 on dinner and I'm stuffed afterward, this was a little excessive. But I wasn't complaining since I didn't pay for it myself. 
 
 
 
Finally we get to the school and I find out that we're set up in a sort of job fair at a vocational college. We're pretty late and everything is already underway, but we find our booth and begin hanging signage and putting out stacks of information. At this time, a few girls have gathered about fifteen feet in front of our both, all nonchalantly staring, waiting for us to set up so they can find out what's going on. We finish setting up our table, with help from some volunteers from the school. By now there are a few groups of four or five people, mostly girls, standing in front of our booth. I think nothing of it, after all, we do recruit flight attendants and the vast majority of them are female. The crowd is growing but no one seems willing to actually approach us. Instead, they stand in small circles, looking over their shoulders and making me feel pretty uncomfortable. The other tables have consistent participants, but we've just got something of a hesitant crowd now. Maggie starts taking selfies and Christy is not really paying attention, instead she's on her phone. I'm watching the crowd. There's one girl, probably my age, standing in the closest group. She keeps looking over but not really speaking to the rest of the girls she's with. They all look like a herd of timid deer or something so I decide to take out the weak one.  I call out in Chinese "Why don't  you come over here and we can have a talk?"
 
 
Biggest mistake I could have made. As if those dozen words were a rock I threw at that hornet's nest of a crowd, they literally began to swarm. "Did you hear that?" "He speaks Chinese!?" "What did he say?" "I can't believe it!" "I'm going to ask him something..." I turn to Maggie, "What did I do?" She just rolls her eyes, "You opened your mouth". Then they start coming up one by one. This is what I meant when I talked about being The Great White Whale in my last post. In the United States I was just some random guy, but here I'm apparently fascinating. Our 'recruiting' trip quickly dissolved into the most bizarre experience of my life. I had so many people coming up to me asking to take pictures. First they wanted group shots. We posed at least half a dozen times with different groups of people and took countless numbers of pictures. I can only guess as to what happened with those pictures, but I'm waiting for them to resurface somewhere and haunt me forever. Once they were done with the pictures, I had a guy approach me and ask me if I would write my name on a piece of paper for him. I assumed he couldn't understand my English name (most people think it's Jerry), so I literally spelled it out for him. But when he looked at it, he didn't seem pleased. He spoke to Maggie briefly who explained that he wanted my signature. 
 
 
 
You'd think I learned my lesson and would have politely declined, but no. Soon, I was stuck there signing everything from their resumes to their hands. The entire time I kept thinking, these people really don't understand how UNfamous I am. They don't understand that back home no one would care if I showed up to a job fair, no matter how well dressed I might be. But I guess this is China and it's just something you get used to as a foreigner? Also, being in a small town in the southwest of China rather than a big city explains a lot. There are plenty of foreigners in Beijing and Shanghai, even in central Chongqing, but not in the more rural areas. One girl told me I was the first person she'd ever seen who looked like someone on TV. 
 
So family and friends, lesson learned. If you give something to someone, you have to give it to everyone. And in China, that means you've got to give A LOT. Next time I'll just keep my head down and pretend I don't understand anything that anyone is saying. To my credit, once I was done with the awkward pictures thing, I used my apparent charm to get some decent recruits for our company. I realized that I could use what I didn't know I had and I practically forced girls to sign up for our program by telling them to sit down and show us their resume. I think this made up for the time we wasted posing for pictures, but to be honest, Maggie and Christy really didn't seem to mind the attention either.
 
 







 
 

The Great White Whale

 

Photo courtesy of Kristin Mark, check out her blog too
One of the most bizarre experiences I've had here so far is what I'd call 'foreign privilege'. Think of the old saying, "A big fish in a small pond". Although China is anything but a 'small pond', being a foreigner here makes me quite a 'big fish', a veritable white whale if you will. And they're doubly shocked when I can speak Chinese. This privilege manifests in many different ways, sometimes flatteringly, sometimes annoyingly, sometimes frustratingly, but always interestingly.

In small ways, it's an open stare in public. Sometimes I overhear people shouting "Look! A foreigner. A white guy!" and I want to turn around and use my broken Chinese to tell them, "Yes, I understand what you're saying. No I won't take a picture with you. No I won't teach you English". Often people will shout 'hello!' or 'Hollywood!' or (my favorite) 'I love you!' while they pass me on the street or in the subway. Then there are those people who unabashedly snap pictures of me right in my face, flash and all, no 'hello'. At first, it was pretty unsettling. Sure I like attention sometimes, but the constant paparazzi-like demand to interact with random people would exhaust anyone. Considering the fact that I can hardly stand being social more than two days in a row, for me it's down right overwhelming.

 
Much of it has faded into background noise now. I ignore the vast majority of people, because frankly, aint nobody got time for that. When they whisper, 'Look a foreigner..." I just reply in Chinese "Yeah, I'm American, been here about six months. Do you have a question?" And then they usually blush and run away. When they shout 'hello!' or 'I love you!' I just shout it right back. When they take pictures, I pose. Or I make a horrible face so at least when they show their friends they don't have a good picture of me. I honestly must be in at least a dozen family albums now and I like to imagine them all sitting around the dinner table saying, 'This is a famous statue. This is what we ate for lunch. And then this is when we saw that white guy'.

 
But privacy is a luxury that cannot be afforded in China. There are literally too many people to have personal space so everyone lives their life right on top of one another. Unlike America's 'don't talk to me if I don't know you' mentality, the people in China have an incredible practice of openness and community that I think we could stand to learn from. They're involved because they care, not because they want to placate a personal interest in your private life. They rarely want anything more than to hear your story and offer theirs.

Taking advantage of these approaches has honestly given me some of my best memories so far here. In a sea of people, those who approach you usually turn out to be characters of some sort with an interesting story or skill to share. Whether it's the guy who tried to teach me how to fight, the guy who let me pound some kind of rice mixture, the crowd that gathered in a public square to find out where we were from....the list goes on and on. But one problem I have not had yet in China is making friends. I'm interesting simply because I'm white. I'm even more interesting because I know some Chinese. And what's more, I can grow facial hair which is pretty much impossible for everyone else here. Literally had a lady in the supermarket touch my mustache without asking yesterday....

Anyway, I'm learning to embrace my 'whiteness' and understand the odd position that this places me within the new community where I live. I really can't complain. The people here are too nice for me to hold anything against them, and the vast majority of it comes from cultural differences. I'm learning to let insignificant things go.
 


^Impromptu photo shoot, I only know two people in this picture haha

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

 

Life in China is finally beginning to take shape though as I establish a regular routine at work and home. After work everyday, I come home to my little apartment a few blocks away on the 28th floor and unwind with a book in my bed or TV.

Here it is!

It's one loft-style open floor plan with a kitchen and bathroom off the main room. It came pretty much furnished with a coffee table, bed frame, dresser, night stand, desk, refrigerator, and washing machine. Many of the things here are not quite the same though...


Night one was pretty rough; when we moved in there was no padding at all on the bed and I didn't realize that my 'air conditioner', as they called it, also doubled as a heater. So the first night I huddled under my covers on a pretty uncomfortable wooden frame, but I was just happy to finally be in China and it didn't damper my spirits at all.



There was not as much provided as I originally thought so I've had to spend a lot of money the first month on random things to clean my apartment, things for cooking, hangers, clothes lines (no one has a drier here), etc. But I think I've got just about everything I need so now I'm looking forward to spending some money on things to make my apartment a little more comfortable. Maybe a plant or something, I haven't quite decided yet.

Debating getting a pet...I'll keep you all posted.
 

My kitchen is my favorite place in the house. It's the perfect size and it's pretty easy to keep clean considering I've only got one bowl, a spoon, a pot, a pan, and a handful of chopsticks.

I also don't cook very much because 1) the food here is SO amazing and my culinary skills are definitely not refined, but also 2) it's so cheap to eat on the street or in a small restaurant here! Our favorite street foods, 'malatong' and 'shaokao', cost us roughly ¥15 which is maybe $2.50 for two people. And it's really filling. Hard to say no to that...

I'll do a post specifically about food later because that's a very long story; there's a lot to say and a lot of pictures need to be taken to do it justice. Last thing about the kitchen, having to boil all your water before you drink it or wash vegetables with it is pretty damn frustrating and makes me really appreciate the water back in Oregon. Especially when you wake up or come home and are dying of thirst and hot. Then you realize you haven't boiled any so you have to wait for it to finish and then it's not even cold. Kind of disappointing but obviously not a significant challenge.  Plus you can easily buy water in bulk, but I'm really just too cheap and figure I should never have to pay for water.

My bathroom is arguably my least favorite place in the house, but who ever really has a strong attachment to that place? My shower is more or less right on top of my toilet which is the traditional 'squat' toilet that you find in China. I'm going to be honest, the squat toilet has not been a hard adjustment at all.

Until today I didn't have hot water in my place because I didn't realize you had to pay in advance for gas where as water and electricity you pay for after the fact. Again, the utilities subject deserves it's own post because I've got some funny stories there.... The shower's pretty straight forward though except that I recently broke off the shower head and now have to figure out how to fix it.

Finally, my washer is in my bathroom and took me a good three weeks to figure out how to use it. You have to fill it manually from the shower head and make sure the detergent dissolves before putting the clothes in otherwise there's white powder left all over your clothes. And the whole thing is in Chinese which forced me to learn vocab like 'spin cycle' and 'pre-wash', but hey, now I can work at a laundromat someday here.


But even the challenges--which seem to be concentrated in the bathroom--are worth it for this view alone. I mean seriously, 28 floors up, look at this. And this isn't even a clear day. When the smog lightens up a bit you can see the mountains that rim the whole city to the West and I get a pretty great red sunset out my window in the evenings.


I've completely fallen in love with the city here. The people are great, I love the sound of the cars and buses and street vendors trying to sell you cheap purses and questionable food. Every day something unexpected happens which makes each day memorable and challenging. I've had an incredibly easy time adjusting to life here so far!

 
 

Hello from Chongqing

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Hello everyone! My name is Jared O'Loughlin and I'm a new blogger here, so I thought I'd introduce myself and explain my situation in China.

I moved to China about two months ago to teach at Chongqing Multinational HRM Co. Ltd. Yes, it's a mouthful, but I'm essentially an English teacher for a flight-attendant training program. I work with Alexis Pellerin, another CIEE blogger.

Work has been very challenging so far, but I can't complain because I love my students and I love teaching. My class sizes are very small and some of my students are so great at English that it feels like I'm just sitting down to have a conversation with friends. 

Chongqing as a city is incredible. The people are amazingly friendly, the food is delicious and spicy, and the city is exciting. It's incredibly easy to make Chinese friends here because everyone is so friendly, especially to foreigners, but for the times when I just need to speak some English, there is also a great community of expats that are always willing to get a drink and hang out.

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I'm really loving my time here in the Mountain City. Look for my blog posts over the next year!

谢谢大家! 下一次见!

 

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