Much has happened since my last update. First, in hanging out with my fellow teacher Douglas, who, by the way, had a passport extension, I learned of the darker side of Jiangshan Hotel, where we are staying. According to the hotel directory, there is a sauna on the third floor. Douglas told us he went to the third floor and asked for the sauna. He was then led through a bizarre labyrinth into what surely is another building connected to the main one, into a hallway of rooms, each with a woman inside, sitting on a bed, waiting. He told us that the man who led him made an obscene gesture and told him “300 quai” (about $38). Douglas refused and got the hell out of there. Now, curious as we are, Dawson and I decided to explore this tale for ourselves. On Saturday night, we went up to the third floor, which is, in the front, a karaoke bar, and asked for the sauna. Sure enough, we were led through the same labyrinth to a room with a hot tub, a very shallow pool, and a would-be sauna. As we were left alone, we decided to explore down a nearby hallway and saw just what Douglas had described–rooms with wooden beds covered in blankets and young women inside. An older woman came out of one of the rooms and chased us away. We ran all the way back to our room.
On our one day off, Sunday, our overbearing “chaperon”–I’m not sure what you would call her totally unnecessary position– had a trip planned for us to Jiangshan Mountain, the tallest mountain in the area, and about an hour away by bus. For a variety of reasons–we didn’t want to hang out with the other people, I didn’t bring proper shoes, and we wanted to sleep late–Dawsona and I opted out of going. I later learned how lucky I had been to make this decision. The mountain is apparently about 2500 feet straight up, with very dangerous ladders and passes the whole way up. I never would have made it with my fear of heights. Instead of going, we slept in, and then explored around Jiangshan. There is a river running through the middle of the town, and we walked across a red arched bridge called the rainbow bridge to the other side, with the goal of reaching the pagoda visible in the distance. We found the pagoda all right–it’s inside a beautiful park that is bizarrely juxtaposed next to an amusement park which blares loud American techno music, almost impossible to escape while wandering around the scenic acreage. After climbing to the top of the pagoda, we took a break on a stone bench and ate a pomegranate and some mangosteens. Yum.
We’re halfway through with teaching and I must say I’m relieved. It’s tiring and yesterday we were informed that we should go slower for some of our students because they can’t read. The levels in my fourth grade class are so incredibly disparate! If I go any slower, the smarter students will be bored out of their skulls even more than they already are–a position I sympathize with. Also, if these kids have been taking English for four years and still can’t read, is that my responsibility or the teachers who have had them for four years??? At any rate, I will be glad to get on with our travels.