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Previously on Boots to Blogs:

The last time we saw your hero he was stranded in the great, wide north of China with six boxes of Junior Mints, a pocket-gnome named Gnomy, five bottles of hand sanitizer, and a dozen paperback books. As our hero sidestepped loggies left and right, he marched off into Shenyang to teach youngsters how to write.

What you’ve missed:

Our hero survived his first semester as a full-time writing faculty. He was both pleasantly surprised and shocked by his students’ writing. He passed a lot of students, and failed seven, before catching the first train out of Shenyang for tropical southern Asia. He spent two months traveling around Vietnam, southern China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and returned to northern China refreshed and ready for another set of challenges.

What’s to come:

Stay tuned to find out if our hero finally finds a decent carton of milk at the local grocery store, if he doesn’t kill a handful of his students as they attempt to write arguments and find research for their writing, and news on his nearly complete (!) memoir.


First off, let me tell you about some new foods. One of the best things about living in a foreign country is trying all the new foods. I was served roasted green peas on the flight over to China. That’s right – green peas. Like peanuts … except not. They were surprisingly good. But, the grand taste-testing of Chinese foods didn’t stop there. I am of the theory that I’ll try everything once. So I did. One of the local delicacies is called hot pot. This is basically a large pot of boiling broth in the middle of the table. People then drop in whatever they’d like – thin strips of beef, delicious slices of mutton, sprouts, cabbage, these excellent long mushrooms, and, of course, fish balls. They love there fish balls over here, and so do I. I think my favorite part of hot pot are the fishballs. More on the food to come.

Secondly, some statistics. I am technically employed by Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, but I work at the College of International Business at Shenyang Normal University (pronounced Shenyang Shifan Duxue in China – the x sounds like a ch) in northeast China. The town has a little over 7 million people. Let’s break this down a bit. Here are the town I’ve lived and there populations:

Harvey, North Dakota = 1,989
Fargo, North Dakota = 90,599
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo = 7,000
Balad Airbase, Iraq = 25,000
Mankato, Minnesota = 32,427
Shenyang, China = 7 million +

So, technically, I’m living in a city. The university is in the way northern part of city, so it’s a bit of a trek into the city, but not too bad.

Thirdly, the people are great. I have roughly 100 students divided up into four classes. There are two types of students at Shenyang Normal – planned and unplanned. The planned students passed their college entrance exam and can attend university. The unplanned did not pass, but they can still attend the College of International Business. I have one class of unplanned students. I have to explain things a bit more for them, but overall they aren’t bad. Honestly, the students are typical college students. Most of them put the time into the class and they get something from it, but there are also a few slackers who don’t pay attention.

What I really like about the students is that when I see them outside of class, they will often wave and smile and say hello. I usually stand by the door so I can say goodbye to them when they leave, which I get a kick out of. I also really enjoy the campus environment. The best time of the day is early evening, when the students are done with classes. There are food stands all around the north gate (the gate I usually walk out of to get to my apartment), and just down the street is a night market where vendors sell clothes, food, and other items. And there are games. I paid 1 yuan (1 yuan = $7 roughly) to play a ring game where I tried to throw these rings around a tower of beer cans. I had ten throws and I missed each one.

Well this is getting long so I better wrap up. Tomorrow is the Mid-Autumn Festival which is also called Moon Cake Day. There’s this really cool legend about a man passing out moon cakes to villagers and inside each cake was a message to overthrown the current ruler. So today people hand out these little cakes – which are shaped like the moon – sans revolutionary message.

Finally, I don’t think I’ll be able to post every day. I just have too much to do. I’m trying to lose some weight, finish the memoir, plan my four classes, and take six hours of Chinese language class a week. So I’ll try and post as much as possible. I’m posting on Facebook and on my blog, so check it out if you get the chance. More to come on my apartment, my classes, the Moon Cake Festival, and food in China.

Stay tuned.

Parallelism: Correct the sentences by using parallel (matching) grammatical structure.

5. The gnomes were holding rakes, sitting on mushrooms, and they had books in their hands.

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