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September 25, 2007

CHINA | Tuesday, 25 September 2007 | Views [741] | Comments [9]


            Well, it has taken us a month in Shanghai to get acclimated, find secure footing with our new surroundings, new jobs and new marriage in order to get to the point where we will start an account of our experiences. Fortunately, due to the technological advances of the 21st century our loved ones do not seem quite so far away.  Communicating from Shanghai with many is much like communicating across town or across a few hours of terrain rather than across a few miles of ocean and continents.  It can be comforting to know that with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks at the correct time we can connect with the right people to get much needed family updates, Longhorn or Austin High football updates, the moment to moment accounts of a Saturday night in Austin, calming words of reassurance or advice, or all of the witty and necessary banter to remind us (one of us at least) that trash talk is definitely hard to do with people that don’t speak your language.

            This blogging thing can be difficult for even the most skillful writers, so we will see how the two novices can handle it.  Our goal is not to flood the world with Jenn and Matt but to share the experiences in this part of the world with those that are interested.  After a few weeks of email updates we often times can’t keep track of who heard what so this page provides us a place to tell all at one time.  This first entry will be a tad long in length but we will try not to let it all pile up again. 


            First off, we can only hope that you all enjoyed the wedding as much as we did.  What a beautiful, exciting and spectacular evening.  All I can say is that the Marshalls sure know how to throw a party!!!  Thank you to all that were involved for sharing that evening with us.  It wouldn’t have been the same without you.  (Side note, upon further review the Naked Diving Board sealed the deal, Jeffrey Dietz retains his Wedding Title!)

            On to the nomad part of this edition.  After leaving Austin, dropping off Smokey in Houston and saying too many goodbyes, we boarded a flight to beautiful Maui.  We stayed in an awesome little cottage far from the beaten track but extremely close to a 350 foot cliff.  We spent much our time in Maui cruising along the beaches and jagged mountains in our Dukes of Hazzard Orange Ford Mustang Convertible.  It was a nice relaxing week after a whirlwind summer, taking in the beautiful terrain and tasty restaurants.


            Once we arrived in Shanghai we were treated to the late night world of Chinese driving.  It is hard to put into words how these people drive but I will do my best.  Chinese drivers are INSANE!!!  Think of someone, achieving top speed as if trying to win a drag race, honking to warn everyone that they are on the road at all possible moments, then swerving to avoid the 16.5 million pedestrians, cyclists and moped drivers that are crossing the street not entirely confident that they will live to experience the sweet taste of success by reaching the curb.  Now stop picturing this driver in a hatchback, I’m talking about bus drivers.  Just last night we witnessed a near decapitation of a poor waiting for a bus as the driver swerved at top speed to beat the next rush of those in the cycle lane and barely avoiding cranial dislocation with his rearview mirror.  We’ve only been here a month, I would bet my salary that we will eventually see something really dicey before we are all said and done.


            We arrived on Day 3 of a 5-day teacher orientation at Shanghai High School’s International Division and trust me if we would have been there two days earlier life might have been unbearable.  Needless to say but teacher orientation does not change in entertainment value or lack of redundancy as you change time zones…or hemispheres.  After we received our schedules there was a tad bit of interest increase in the following;

            Teacher #1                                                      Teacher #2

            Non-Native Geography 5th Grade                   Non-Native History 8th Grade

            Native English Geography 7th Grade              ESL 7th Grade

            Native English Geography 8th Grade PE (7th, 9th, 11th)

            ESL 8th Grade

            Art and Music Elective Course                                                                                  

Can you guess which schedule belongs to the certified, experienced teacher?  That’s right, the schedule with one tough course (ESL), one that meets twice a week and has covered two sections of one chapter in one month (read that again for emphasis), and four sections of a suntan or all the smog that I can handle depending on which way the wind is blowing.  Granted PE sucks just as bad in China as it does in the States but I’m not allowed to complain for obvious reasons.  I have promised Jennifer that this work load will never be balanced this way again but after initial feelings of shock and overload she has done a spectacular job of planning, organizing and teaching her courses.  I also told her that she can keep half my salary to whatever she wants with.  Luckily she is choosing to put it into savings rather than taking frustration out on the billions of shops with cute dresses.

            We teach a large group of students with a large array of origins but with a common socioeconomic status.  Many hail from Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia but there are some from as far off as India, Belgium or Austin.  One little guy(many are little guys) asked me about my Capital 10K shirt recognizing the event from when he lived there while his parents finished their doctoral work.(Shocking I know, an Asian at UT?)  These students (actually their parents) are attracted to this school because of its strong focus on both Chinese and English and the fact that it is a Chinese “international” school run by Chinese.

            The kids can be fun; their English expressions can be entertaining.  One kid told me today that “Fridays are delicious.”  Another told me during PE one day that after a few raindrops we should head inside because “Rain in Shanghai is not clean.  It make hair fall out.”  Couldn’t have asked for a better quote.  Their social development often times does not match their age, squirrelly middle schoolers act like they are seven year olds and snicker when you ask them to partner up with a classmate of the opposite sex.  High schoolers, although they have picked up the English methods of cursing very quickly, giggle like school girls when the crazy foreigner makes a joke or trips on his on feet. 

            The Chinese are basketball crazy but remember just because one enjoys something does not necessarily mean they are skilled.  American basketball is looked upon on high regard.  During pick up games, laughter and appreciation is common, keeping score or intensity is not.  One foreign PE teacher (out of one) gets a kick out of all of the oohs and aahs that accompany an eight foot jump shot.  That same foreigner is coaching the 11th grade boys team this season and in two practices is extremely curious as to what methods of teaching the game are in place.  These kids are 17 years old, probably log about 15 hours a week on the court and can’t shoot, pass or dribble with their off hand.  We’ll keep you posted on whether or not things improve.

            Life in China is extremely interesting.  Culture shock exists but outside of the language barrier is definitely not too overwhelming.  I think that the major adjustments revolve around living in such a large city where a simple trip to the store can sometimes morph into a venture of epic proportions through all public transportation systems and across six or seven neighborhoods.  We usually stay fairly local during the week and exit the friendly confines to explore and experience on weekends.  There is a wealth of shops and restaurants on the street where the school is located and we have figured out which ones are interested in communicating with the Gringos.  There is also a DVD shop right next to the gate of the school where many of you have heard that a DVD cost about a dollar.  Kind of painful in realizing how much money I could have save on my library if I would have moved here five years ago.  Jenn and I have purchased Season 3 of Lost and will eventually be caught up to the rest of the world that caught in on ABC last spring.  (I think release date in the states is December 11, priced at $38.99 on Amazon, purchased for $3.72 here.)


            The architecture of the buildings in Shanghai is awesome.  Skyscrapers fill every view in Shanghai and give the city a very modern feel.  Of course, in between skyscrapers are buildings that could date back thousands of years or thousands of seconds.  Bamboo scaffolding often accompanies the construction on smaller buildings (4-8 floors) and bamboo is used for many other jobs as well.  Craftsmen and workers on the streets have a wide array of tasks as well as technology at their disposal.  The trash men load up their bicycles and whisk their collections off to God knows where and it’s not uncommon to find street sweepers using brooms made up of small tree branches and twigs.  Delivery drivers are often times delivery bikers and will travel miles and miles to deliver the smallest packages of food, beverages, or goods.  (For no tip, tipping is not expected or practiced.)

            Dining options in Shanghai are endless and we spend a lot of time planning weekends around restaurant locations.  We have found suitable establishments in many cuisines, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Nepalese (Matt’s new favorite) and Texas style BBQ (run by an Austinite).  Café’s and outdoor relaxing accompanied by people watching are enjoyable now; we may have to find a suitable replacement through the winter though.  We have traversed through temples, malls, shopping districts, found a few international bookstores and began to plan all of our holidays for the next year.  Our first starts next week.  National holiday runs from October 1 through October 7th and we will spend our week with a few million other travelers in Beijing visiting the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall.

            After a month, we have already started compiling lists of things we miss (definitely including family and friends) and are learning to find suitable replacements (not including family and friends).  For example to combat the Asian preoccupation with billiards and the Yankees on ESPN, I have read every book in the house.  Luckily my favorite mother in law sent us a great care package loaded with Sports Illustrated and other magazines that are in our language.  Instead of organizing extravaganzas Jenn has begun training for a half marathon that we will run in November.  She also has been tracking down local and international non-profits to find one that she can get involved with.  

            After that long winded intro, we leave you with the promise that next time won’t be so long.  After monthly exams this week, we will head to Beijing and have another update for you after that. 

Love to all. 

Tags: Adventures



Whats up kids? Im glad to hear that youre keeping busy. I had a good laugh about the acid rain, because maybe Lowry , Dietz and I shouldnt have stayed outside so many times when it was raining-DOH!Things in Texas are calm and quiet, minus a crazy night with Miller and I that was long overdue. It just isnt the same minus one of the horseman( Jenn you probably wont understand what Im talking about-just dumb guy stuff)I've just been super busy with work, working 60 hours a week-am I trying to work like your fellow countrymen or what?Anyways, I miss you guys a lot and cant wait for some pictures of you guys there, so shoot some oover when you have a chance- Love yall

  Kris Dunn Sep 25, 2007 11:03 PM


Thanks for the update, I was actually very interested in the super long blog. Call me silly but if you want to make it that long every time at least one person will read it with great wonderment. Keep it up!

  scottie priddy Sep 25, 2007 11:23 PM


Wooooooooooo...Big Sanders in China, that is crazy. Hey man I just wanted to say hi. Its been way too long since the days of the dryer. Anyways congrats on the marriage and hope all is well. And I see that Dunn left a little note so Dunn if you see this I say you are brutal. Talk to you later, hopefully it isnt in a year like we seem to do.

  Nielson Sep 26, 2007 12:33 AM


we've been wondering how the wanderers have been! great to get your journal, we look forward to reading about beijing. life's good here at the lake. horns are 4-0, whew.. k-state is next. don, donna's dad, had knee replacement surgery on 9/10 so between faux florence nightingales, traveling between sunrise beach and mcallen life is normal but hectic! watch each other's back....looking forward to your bro's wedding at virginia beach next month. auntie luann is in her element planning extra curricular events!
best to you both, love ya,

  Donna & LuAnn Sep 26, 2007 2:23 AM


I can't believe I missed the wedding. I'm an idiot.

  Scott Cooley Sep 26, 2007 11:31 PM


I'm w/ the guy who said they should be that long everytime. That was great!! It sounds so great and I'm obviously jealous. Things are good here. We're having another GIRL!!!! YAY!!!! I think I'll buy a red car...or maybe just paint something red. Miss you and love you.

  Amanda Armstrong-Merrell Sep 27, 2007 4:02 AM


Sounds like you guys are having a great time and there's never a dull moment. Although somewhat lengthy it was definitely entertaining and I look forward to hearing more. I never thought I would say this but I am now subscribed to The Sanders' RSS feed.

  Trevor Starnes Oct 1, 2007 10:59 PM


Well if you can believe it i read the whole thing.

  Jason Scobie Oct 3, 2007 11:22 PM


The Rileys forwarded me your message after I asked how things were. You paint such a great picture of your adventure. Makes me want to update my passport immediately and hit Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, anywhere, everywhere. I think it is great you've the courage to experience the world in such a big way. Have the most fun and congrats on the wedding.

  Emily Burdett Oct 4, 2007 1:56 AM

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