Tuesday, December 29, 2009
First, let me say, we expats (expatriates- people who live in another country) know how to party it up. Between school, fellowship and friends, it's been a busy time. There have been graduations ceremonies to attend, programs to watch, services to plan, carols to sing...I think I've been to something like 9 parties (I'm all baked out). I've had the opportunity to be involved in a couple of different types Ch*istmas parties. One where we gave gifts to some very underpriviledged Chinese families (where we had the attendance of several city officials and the possibility to start up some sort of repeated outreach) and then a C. Eve party designed for English speaking Chinese and other expats (I helped lead wors*ip/MC/plan it- a good learning experience). Both with the purpose to teach those in attendance why we celebrate Ch*istmas and what it means. For C. Eve/Day, the singles from my fellowship had a sleepover/gift exchange/eat all day/movie marathon party. I was able to skype with my family and open our gifts together. It's been a busy, wonderful time.
And just like in America, it's so easy to get caught up in the doing, that you almost get too busy to remember the reason for celebrating in the first place. So easy. Except...it's not. I mean, I was just as busy this month as I was every other December back home. I had as many, maybe even more, things to attend and prepare for but in between all the programs and parties and ceremonies, it was always very clear that Ch*istmas was different here. China doesn't celebrate Ch*istmas. I mean, the stores try. They had a few signs here and there in English announcing Ch*istmas sales. And every once in awhile I came across one wishing me a Happy or Merry somthing or other, but out side of that, it's a normal month, week, day. I mean, imagine. The holiday that many people in America spend months planning for...it's not even celebrated here. It was very surreal.
So, when I went to our student's Ch*istmas program and they acted out the nativity, I cried. Not because I haven't seen it a bazillion times, but because...I don't know. Because I'm living in a place that doesn't understand the beauty of the nativity. Or the meaning. I'm living in a place where people haven't even heard the story. EVER. At one of our parties, we had several people say that they had never heard (much less understood) why we celebrated Ch*istmas until that moment.
See, to you this probably sounds normal. Yes, of course Jen. You're living in China, it's not their custom, of course they don't know. But living here, where things are so normal, so westernized, so close to being like home, it's truly mindblowing to me to hear people in such a huge city of 8 million people to say that they have no idea what Ch*istmas is about. I mean, you expect that in the boondocks or jungles or farmland, but in a city with a huge expat community (who all celebrate this holiday)? The implications of all of that I won't go into but needless to say, it hurts my heart.
I have purposely left H*M out of my blogs but I hope you've been able to read between the lines and realize that my happiness here is totally because of H*S provision. HE has taken wonderful care of me. And this week has been a perfect reminder of how far HE had to come to do that.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Here are a few of my fb status updates over the last couple of weeks...
- just finished making 6 dozen sugar cookies for my students. We aren't having parties tomorrow. We're just having "snacks while we work" day. Wish I could find some food coloring. And sprinkles. And sugar sparkles.
- why is there constant tapping/banging/knocking/hammering/pounding in my apartment building? Seriously, all day, every day. Who is doing it and why?
- one more full week of school and then finals. Woohoo!!! Can't wait for vacation time.:)
- is going to go spend all her money at the Christmas fair. Of course, that'll be in between selling raffle tickets and photographing babies with Santa. :)
- had a good formal observation and finally finished pinyin. Woohoo! Hot pot with the girls to celebrate (good thing 'cause I think ayi made eel for dindin). And then a caramel machiatto. It's been a good day.
- my ayi is amazing. She actually unpacked my suitecase that I've been avoiding. I cannot express how happy that makes me.
- so, my bed is right next to the radiator and it's so dang hot that I have to sleep with my window open. How messed up is that? Seriously, who sleeps with their window open in the winter?
- is going for a wog (walk/jog). Can't wait to use my new earmuffs and face mask. I love winter!!!
- had a great Thanksgiving feast today and thoroughly enjoyed the Jin Hai clan. A perfect way to celebrate.
- is getting ready to cook it up...corn pudding, stuffing and green bean casserole. Mmmm...
Life is good. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with people from my apartment complex. I don't know if I've ever explained how "living here" works. We have two main apartment complexes that our company uses. One complex is for the married couples with no children and singles living by themselves. The other complex is for families and singles with roommates. I live in the complex with the families and singles w/roommates. So for Thanksgiving, about 30 of us, including about 10 kids, all got together for a potluckish dinner. We all signed up to bring different dishes. It was delicious and oh so fun. We played games, had a couple of readings. Very family-like.
I don't know about you but life is seriously crazy for people in education during this time of year. Parties to host, programs to watch, grading to be finished, finals to be given. CRAZY. I've already been to a program and a Christmas fair (where I purchased some great gifts). I've got classroom "parties" for the next couple of days, a program on Friday night, a party for the needy on Saturday, two parties next week, I think, another open house on the 19th, a Christmas Eve party at my fellowship and then a whole bunch of fun stuff planned for Christmas Eve/Day with friends. In between all that, I still have to grade and finish up all my stuff for school. But, I LOVE IT. I love this time of year. I love the weather, the lights, the carols, the messages at fellowship, everything about it. And this year is extra-special to me. I'll blog about that later.
I'm finally assimilating to the China way of life. What I mean is, when I first got here, there were a lot of every day things that I just couldn't do because it seemed too overwhelming, like cooking. I literally did not cook once during my first three months here. And in fact, my first big time to cook was for Thanksgiving. I know, you're judging me right now. Think about it. I'm in a new country, it's almost impossible to find the things I'm used to using (like cooking oil or normal vegetables), and I have no idea what I can find or where to find it or how to use substitutions. So, it's a big deal that I finally feel like I know where to find things like...stuffing. It's with the dried seafood. Or baking mixes- with the dried seafood. Yes, it seems everythings with the dried seafood. China's tricky like that. If a store does happen to have what you're looking for, I would almost guarantee that it's not going to be in any place you would ever think it would be. Cereal is not with other dried goods. No, it's back in the meat market,right next to the slabs of pig heart and freshly caught fish. Seriously.
Another thing that's recently happened is that I've passed my pinyin test. What's pinyin? It's the written sounds of Chinese. So, Chinese has characters. Example- 汉字 and then there's pinyin. Example-yīdiǎnr. It's basically using the English alphabet to spell out the sounds of the character. By saying I passed my pinyin test, I mean, that I'm able to read it. Which means absolutely nothing because I have no idea what I'm saying. It's actually a very small thing but still exciting because that means that I'm finally on vocabulary. And learning how to speak in sentences in stead of just one word phrases. "Go." "We're here." "This." "Want." "Don't want." I can say things like "wǒ shì lǎoshī" which is "I am a teacher". Impressed aren't you? Still very basic but I'm on my way. Makes me happy.
I've taken pictures of my tree and holiday stuff. It's all on facebook. Check it out.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Don't even get me started on trying to be a nice, patient, fun-loving teacher when in the middle of bursting into flames.
Enough about sweat...it was a great trip. My students did an excellent job, I was able to buy a bunch of Christmas gifts, I spent some time bonding with my students and the other chaperones, I got to try some new foods, and was able to visit somewhere I'd never been before. Overall, a very successful trip.
But I'm not gonna lie...after being gone 16 of the last 25 days, I couldn't wait to get home. Being gone so much has truly helped me to appreciate what my home, my city, China means to me. Seriously.
I love my bed. I love my routine in the mornings. I love how clean my city is. I love how convenient it is to shop here. I love how easy it is to use public transportation. I love that I can cross the streets anywhere and any way I want to. I love the customer service here. I love how nice the people are. I love that how even though the driving here is CRAZY, it's still got a system and everyone knows how it works even though it's not written down anywhere. I love that there are no rules about cutting people in line. I love that people are so quick to help. I love that we have winter here. I love that my friends miss me when I'm gone. I love that I have wi-fi in my apartment. I love that my bus driver drives like a maniac to get me home quickly. I love that the airlines let me check two bags that are overweight even though the limit is supposed to be only one. I love how inexpensive things are. I love that I know where to find things and how to get places. I love that it's beginning to truly feel like home.
Truth be told, the majority of things that I love about China are those things which feed my impatience and need for rule-bending. Don't want to wait for the crosswalk light? Okay, just play a little game we like to call run-in-a-zig-zag-motion-but-whatever-you-do-don't-stop-until-both-feet-are-on-the-opposite-side's-sidewalk because there's really no rule that says you have to follow lights. They're just suggestions. Too good to follow the baggage rules when traveling? No biggie. Most airlines in China don't follow them anyway, do what you want. Can't stand to wait your turn in line? Eh, just cut in front and get it taken care of. No one will mind because they were getting ready to do it too. This is just how China works. I'm not taking advantage of anything. It's just life here. It's not offensive or wrong, it's life. And I love it. Going to these other countries that are much more westernized remind me of what the rules used to be. And it's hard to re-adjust. Waiting 30 seconds for the light to change so I can cross a street nearly killed me. And waiting in line for the subway, oh man. Seriously?
Note to self: Do not become a self-absorbed, can't-wait-for-anything Chinified diva. Always remmeber how the rest of the world lives.
Anyway, it's exciting that I feel comfortable with referring to China as "home". It's such an amazing place with really unique characteristics that seem to fit me pretty well. Yah, me and China. Two peas in a pod.
Quick funny story. I was in the airport this morning, flying back from Singapore to Qingdao, decided I needed some breakfast and ended up in KFC. Because I'm traveling on the school's expense, I have to get receipts for all my spending. So, I order my food. And then ask for a receipt. The only problem is, my brain wasn't working and I used the wrong words.
Me: "Piao liang." (I don't know how to use sentences yet)
Her: *blink* *blink*
Me: "Piao liang, piao liang" and making the shape of a receipt with my hands
Her: slight smile and nervous glance around
Me: "Piao liang" said a little louder still motioning with my hands
Her: total and complete confusion
At this point I'm thinking, "Seriously? People ask for receipts all the time. What is her problem??"
Then it dawns on me. The word for receipt is "fa piao". "Piao liang" means 'beautiful.' So here I am, practically yelling at her to make sure she can hear me say "BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL" over and over again while making a square with my fingers. I have no doubt she was thinking "dumb American". Anyway, I got the receipt and some embarrassment for breakfast today. Awesome.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I'm sitting in TGI Fridays ready to burst into tears. Being here, in a place so like America has made me really homesick. It's easy to forget life before China because I get so caught up in China and my life there. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy living in China, but sitting in a booth, eating American food and drinking Diet Pepsi, watching a mom and daughter and grandmother in the booth in front of me...woo, my heart hurts a little bit.
It's just funny to me that homesickness would hit me when I'm not even in China. I suppose it's because Korea is a little too close to home, it's very westernized. Where I'm staying at in Seoul could be downtown Denver. Reminds me of all the things I left behind. Things I don't think about much now. Things like disappearing into a crowd, or being able to read the signs everywhere I go. Things like real American food and not some other country's version, or the ability to talk about what I believe without feeling nervous or cautious, even something as ridiculous as being able to go on Facebook or Blogger freely without using a proxy.
P.S. Just so you know, now that I'm back in China, I feel totally fine. I'm telling you, it's the kurse of korea...just kidding.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I'm sitting on the floor in the middle of a classroom in the middle of a school in the middle of Korea. Seoul, Korea to be exact. I'm at my first MUN (Model United Nations) conference. Do you know how hard it's been to teach a class that's completely experiential when you have no experience? Do you know how hard it is to teach a class to students who know much more about the subject matter than you do? It's difficult, my friends. Very difficult. So, it's nice to see all my planning and preparation come together at last, to finally 'get a clue'. Maybe I'll actually know what I'm talking about in class now.
The best part about this trip is watching the students. When you teach kids, you only know them in the frame of reference you teach them in. So, if I have a student in my History class, I only know them based on their performance in my class. If I have them in MUN class, I only know them based on their participation in class. That's what I love about coaching and having students over to my house and going on trips with them; it gives me another frame of reference. I find out that the quiet student is actually pretty outgoing but not in History class because they're not with their friends or they're not confident about the subject matter. Or maybe a student who's struggling in my class is a genius in Math or Science or maybe they're an excellent soccer player or actor. That's what this conference is about...peeling back another layer to my students' personalities. I'm watching them speak out, give opinions, take leadership, engage in super intelligent discussions, work with others at a level that is very unusual even with your best students. And it's all for the sake of creating a better world. That's what MUN is about- making our world a better place. My students spend hours every week thinking about other people, working on ways to solve their problems and collaborating with others to make it happen. It's incredible, really.
Some other not-as-awesome things to mention...
- I got to eat at Buger King last night
- I had a REAL Diet Coke today, totally different than Chinese Diet Coke
- The air is so fresh and unpolluted here
- The toilet in my hotel room has a beday, I have no idea how to spell it, but you know, that thing that squirts up water in the toilet
- Most people speak English which is semi-refreshing and a little disconcerting all at the same time. Why disconcerting, you ask? The thing is, when one gets used to not being understood, one might say things inappropriate for public conversation, things that should be said under one's breath or in a whisper to one's friend. It's a bad habit one might get into and have a hard time readjusting when around many people who understand one's language.
- I'm hoping to meet up wht a friend from college this week. She works here in Seoul.
- We are having our conference at this ginormous building. It's a conferernce building that has it's own underground mall. And when I say "mall", I really mean underground-magicplace-so-big-and-fantastic-that-it's-just-an-expectation-that-you'll-get-lost-but-who-really-cares-because-you're-surrounded-by-so-many-awesome-food-joints-that-you-could-eat-there-forever-and-still-not-get-to-every-knook-and-cranny mall. What an ingenius idea to combine a meeting place with food and shopping. I mean, who goes to meetings? Now there's a place that gives conference-goers something to do during the conference.
I'm off to my next meeting, and yes, I'm actually going to the meetings. It's all about the kids this week.
I was sitting on the floor writing this post. Apparently, I chose the only spot that was covered in some sort of tile glue. White glue. Glue that decided to stick to my pants. My black pants. Awesome.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Anyway, I've been looking back over the past three decades and I thought I would list thirty things/facts about myself that you may or may not know about me. If you don't care to bored out of your mind, stop reading now. If you want to get to know me better in a slightly disturbing way, keep reading!
- I don't like the different foods on my plate to touch if they're of differing flavors. In other words, I don't mind most salty things to touch like corn and mashed potatoes but I don't want salty and sweet things to touch like olives and sweet potato pie...can you tell I'm already dreaming of Thanksgiving dinner?
- I've know my Father for over 25 years. I was just thinking about that today. That's a really long time. Am I really where I should be in a 25 year relationship?
- Two things I look at on a man are his hands and his forehead. I know, strange. But if a guy has nice hands and/or a good forehead, rrrrrrrrrr!
- I'm debating cutting my hair.
- Out of most of the places I've lived, I've lived there twice. Colorado, twice. Indiana, twice. Florida, twice.
- I love the color red. And teal.
- I'm like a tornado in my sleep. Many times I wake up in the middle of the night completely bound by my clothes that are twisted all the way around because I roll around so much. Sometimes, I actually have to get up out of bed to readjust before I can go back to sleep. OCD?
- I am surrounded by about 4 tubes of carmex (lipbalm) as I type this. Can you say "addiction"?
- I never thought I'd say this but...I miss south Florida. As in the actual place. Of course I miss the people, but I'm talking the actual area. That, my friends, is proof that He really does work miracles.
- On the other hand, I haven't been homesick much. I love China. I miss the freedom of having a car but besides that, it's all good.
- 21 is my favorite numer. My second favorite is 12.
- I've watched the entire 10 seasons of "Friends" since I've been here. It's kept me sane and helped me procrastinate all at the same time. Yes, I've also managed to keep a pretty busy social life.
- We did karaoke for my birthday this weekend, it's fantastic. Nothing like karaoke in the states. We had a private room, chose all our own songs, had a couple of mics. People danced, there were group songs. It was amazing.
- I love Diet Coke.
- Red (any variation) is the only color I will paint my toenails.
- I love eating with chopsticks. In fact, even when I go back to the States to visit, I think I'll have to eat everything with chopsticks. It just makes eating so much more fun.
- I miss being in college sometimes. And the friends I had there.
- I have about 50 words in my Chinese repertoire.
- I hate the smell of vanilla candles.
- I have clock in my room but the ticking is so loud that I took the batteries out. It's still up on my wall but just for decoration. I know, it makes no sense.
- One time when I was on a traveling group for my college, while in the van on a very long drive to our next stop, one of the other team members and I spent hours coming up with names of border towns. You know, like Texoma or Mexicali...Colsas (Colorado-Kansas)...literally hours.
- I did some serious exploring today and found this magical place that reminded me a lot of home. Except for all the staring, at me of course.
- I can't wait for fall to come, if it ever comes. I need red and orange leaves in my life.
- I had a dream about a friend from high school last night. Where in the world did that come from?
- I rarely ever iron. I'm all about the spray bottle pat down.
- Can you tell I'm getting desperate? It's past my bedtime and this is taking so long.
- I helped lead worship at fellowship on Sunday. I'm so excited to get involved. It's been too long.
- Have I ever mentioned that you have to have your passport to go to fellowship?
- I have no idea how I was able to function so long without a laptop. Seriously, how was I able to live before l.w.l. (life with laptop)?
- I am living one of my dreams by the age of 30, living and working in China. Not many people can say that. He has been so faithful to me.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Some things about my life in China- photo style
For the most part, China has done a great job at fixing all of it's "off" signage but every once in a while you get a treat like this one...
or this one...
Some of my closest friends here. We were celebrating Justin's birthday. Not a lot of single guys so on many occasions, he's the only guy.
Yes, I've climbed all those stairs and many, many more. On my way to see some temples and such.
This is a certificate for restaraunts to show their level of goodness...not a great place to eat. Of course, all I had to do was look at the light switch on the wall with all it's hand grime to know what kind of place it was...
A view from Laoshan, my hiking trip. Looks like a European town, doesn't it? I love all the beautiful scenery here.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Update of life in China since the last time I blogged...
- I've had my picture taken with a camera phone at least 6 times and probably many more without my knowledge.
- I've traveled to Laoshan (the mountains) for a retreat with all the highschool girls and survived.
- I just got back from a staff retreat in a city called Wei Hai. We stayed at a beautiful hotel right on the beach. Played a lot of beach volleyball, went swimming, slept, read books, ate good food and laughed a lot.
- I'm still coaching volleyball. We've had only one game this season with one left. Eh, at least it's been a lot of fun.
- My 30th birthday is Monday. Crazy. Going to do KTV (karaoke) to celebrate.
- I've started playing the guitar. I'm really excited about it.
- Also, I started singing worship at my fellowship. Still getting my feet wet.
- I'm pretty sure I'm going to Bali for Chinese New Year. Apparently, everyone travels for that holiday and I don't want to be left behind. It's pretty cheap to travel from China to other parts of the world. As long as they're on this side of the world.
- The first quarter of school is almost over. I think we have two weeks left. It's going by so quickly!
- I'm working on my Chinese. I've got about 30 or so words in my vocabulary thus far. Maybe a few more. But I've almost learned all the pronunciations so I'll be working on the actual words and sentence structure next. I'm very excited about it. It's hard to do what I came to do until I can communicate, at least on a basic level.
- I'm am frightenly allergic to mosquitoes. I haven't really been able to pin it down exactly nor has the Dr. but certain types of bites cause serious swelling and rashes. I got a huge bit on my arm a couple of weeks ago and my eye was swollen shut for two days.
- With in the next two months, I will be going on a tour of a couple of cities (can't remember the name) for a weekend trip, to a volleyball tournament in Shenyang, on an MUN trip in Korea, and on an 8 day trip to Singapore for MUN. So much traveling, so little time. That means out of about the first 12 weeks of school, I will be gone for 7 of the weekends. At least it's not coming out of my pocket. :)
- I have not cooked one meal since I've been here outside of noodles, sandwhiches, and reheating. I'm just never home in the evenings. And if I am, ayi has cooked and I eat that. Someday maybe when I've finally learned where to find all the things I need.
I think my next post will be a few pictures to show you some of the things I've been talking about.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
If your lucky enough to be friends with me on facebook (ha!), then you've seen my updates in reference to "hot yoga". I thought I would share with you my experiences and even a couple of pictures.
Now, if you've never heard of hot yoga, let me help you better understand by giving you a visual...
It's like doing this....
The idea, I'm guessing because I really don't know for sure, is that you sweat out all your toxins while building up your muscle control. I personally think, and this is just my opinion, the idea is to make a person as miserable as possible in a 75 minute time span. It's like 120 degrees in the room. They have a humidifier on, a heating fan full blast plus the heat turned up AND heated floors. In fact, the floors are so hot, I hate to even touch it. The first time I was doing HY, I was literally dying, sweating my brains out, on the verge of passing out or thowing up, or quite possibly both and I couldn't WAIT to lie down. And of course, I scalded my skin on the frying pan floor.
So, you walk in the room and immediately the sweat is pouring off you. My arms are sweating. The tops of my feet are sweating, my ears...every nook and cranny (never spelled that word before). I'm trying to do these poses but I can't grab on to anything because I'm all slicked up. One second I have ahold of my leg behind me and the next second it's flying through the air towards the poor Chinese woman (a sixth of my size) next to me. If it were to ever make contact with her, it would literally chop her in half with the force. Ha, I'm just cracking up thinking about it.
I can't do hardly any of the moves (I have a lot more of me to work around than most of the people in there). It's funny because if the instructor sees one of the ladies who are taking the class in the wrong position, she'll come over and help them adjust into the right position. Yah, not me. They won't even walk near me. And they refuse to make eye contact. Apparently in the world of hot yoga, I'm a lost cause. Or maybe it's because they're afraid of the wild limbs flailing through the air at any given moment.
Except for one time. During the first class, we were doing this position, and I'm sure it has a name, where you lay on your stomach, bend your knees, grab your ankles behind you and look up. You kind of become like the bottom of a rocking chair. Well, that is just something this body is not meant to do. Not now. Not ever. But that didn't stop the instruction lady. No, no, no. She actually came over, sat on top of me, and jerked my shoulders back just enough to not quite but almost, rip my vertebrae into two pieces. My back may never be the same again.
By the time the class is over, my clothes are sopping wet from head to toe. My body is shaking from the contortionism (word?), and my eyes are buring from all the sweat dripping into them. But, I LOVE IT. I do. I don't know why. Masochistic, perhaps. There's just something about it. I've done it three times now and by the next day, even though I'm incredibly sore, I can't wait to go back the next week.
You know, of course, when I told my mother that I was doing hot yoga, she immediately asked me if we did any spiritual rituals in the class. Rest assured my friends. We find no "chi", we do not "center" our selves, we don't work out "the bad spirits'. No, instead, we listen to elevator music, stretch ourselves silly and sweat out every drop of hydration in our bodies. We do end the session with "Namaste". But I promise, it won't get any more Buddist than that.
Your prize for reading this incredibly long entry is some pictures of the place and well, ME! An "after" shot.
Blasted heat fan!
The room after hot yoga is done.
The surprisingly delicious soup given to us after
the workout. It's supposed to be nutrient-filled
A hot mess.
Monday, August 31, 2009
- Smog- it's rarely ever a non-hazy day
- Grocery shopping several times a week- because I don't have a car and can only carry so much by myself, I can only buy a few things at a time. That means I have to go shopping 2-3 times a week. Of course, I'm not doing any shopping right now because my fridge is broken.
- Taking 3 hours to do anything- because of the traffic and the need for public transportation things just take longer. You just have to factor in more walking time, the actual getting a taxi or catching the bus, the busy stores...it drives me crazy sometimes. And then sometimes I love it because it's so very Chinese.
- Smoking in doors- you can smoke in any building here. It's just very strange to be eating dinner and have the person next to you light up. Not a big deal, just strange.
- No answering machines or voicemails- I have no idea why not, but China doesn't have answering machines or voicemails. Texting is the way to go here. Or email. I rarely ever call people here. And if you know me, you know that just feeds my phone phobia (I hate talking on the phone unless you're one of my parents or five friends who know how it works)
- Men not holding the doors/letting women go first- this does not apply to the men I work with. They're very gentlemenly. In the Chinese society, there's really no such thing as chivalry. I mean, they love their women but it's not really shown in a public societal (word?) way. If chivalry ever comes in to play, it'll be because of an older person with gray hair or a very pregnant woman. They do revere pregnant women. It's just an odd balance, something I love to watch being played out on a public bus.
- The smells- when I say smells, I'm not referring to flowery-freshly-cut-lawn-BBQed-chicken-makes-you-love-the-summer-smell. I'm talking about plug-your-nose-close-your-mouth-and-run-away-as-fast-as-you-can-before-you-vomit-your-everloving-brains-out-because-you've-never-smelled-something-so-repulsively-disgusting. And they're every where. In one block, you can walk across 10 different unbelievably stinky smells. And they never mix. They are completely independent of any other smells in that area. Blech!
- The niceness of the people- the Chinese are so incredibly kind and helpful. Lovely people. For instance, every day, I walk by the guard station to get to my bus. It's usually about 6:30 am and even though I'm not a morning person, I always yell "hello" (in Chinese) to them. And they, there's usually 2 or 3 of them, always yell "hello" back. Well, today I was running late and wasn't even thinking about it as I raced past them. All of a sudden, I had 3 grown Chinese men, yelling "HELLO" at me. They had the biggest grins on their faces. It was so sweet. These are the same men that have helped me on more than one occasion carry something to my building. And this isn't an unusual thing. The Chinese are always so kind and helpful. I love it!
- Risking your life to cross a street- and when I say "risking", I mean "RISKING". You are literally playing "Frogger" every time you cross a street. One lane, stop. Two lanes, stop. Race across the last 3 lanes hoping the cars will slow down for you. But don't EVER run in front of a bus or a taxi because they just won't stop. Seriously.
- Dragonflys- I've never seen so many. They travel in groups sometimes.
- Smelling other peoples food in my apartment- I've lived in apartments before but this is the first time that I've been able to smell what other tennants are eating. Makes me very hungry most times.
- The low counters- no joke, my kitchen counters come up to the middle of my thigh. I'm going to be permanently hunched over the next time you see me. Just call me "Quazzi".
- The lack of guy friends- all the men are married here. They are lovely young (and older) men. And it's not even about having "single" guys here. It's about having guy friends. I've always had really close guy friends. In fact, most of my adult life, I've had a guy best friend or two. So, it's strange to be here and to be constantly surrounded by women. Love the women. Wonderful, amazing women. But strange to not really have any interaction with guys.
I'll add more to this list as I go on.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
School's been a little difficult this last week. I'm still trying to figure out curriculum for my AP class so the poor students are having to be very flexible and I'm having to keep them on track even though it all keeps changing. I hate feeling unsettled about it. And MUN is causing me some stress. It's a long story but it boils down to the idea that my students have more experience than I do right now so it's hard to teach. By the end of this semester things should be better. The lovely thing is, the kids are still respectful and kind. They still listen and respond. I love teaching here.
I'm coaching JV Volleyball. After saying that I wouldn't get involved in any extra-curricular activities this semester, here I am coaching. But I LOVE it. It's nice to have my own team. Yes, because I'm a control freak. And the girls are so willing to do whatever it takes. Such hard workers. I'm not sure how we'll do in games but if they've learned how to be a team, learned the basic rules and gotten a little stronger, then that's all I ask. I mean, I wouldn't mind winning some games but it's not the most important to me this year. And for those of you worried that I'm over doing it, stay calm. It's only 3 nights a week and we only have a game every other week. It's not serious v-ball, not like you'd find in the States. It's just really fun.
What else...our fridge at the apartment has been broken for 2 weeks. It's been...inconvenient. But yesterday we got a mini-fridge so at least we have something to store a little food in.
I started Chinese lessons this week. I'll have a couple or so hours a week during my free time at school for lessons. I'm very excited about it.
One of my friends here that I teach with just had a one of her best friends move here. He'll be teaching at the university. Anyway, he's a music guy so he and I are getting a group together to help lead music at our fellowship. I'm so happy about that. I've missed being involved in music. A lot. I think we're going to go for a more accoustic feel. Guitar, djembe (pronounces "jimbay") maybe a piano and a couple of voices (him and me). Yay! That's one of the things I do miss the most-being involved with music.
I have some good posts coming up. As soon as I feel the "oomph" to write them, I'll get them on here. Keep an eye out. One last thing...
I've had to make a tough decision over the last couple of weeks and even though I know it was the right choice, it's made me really sad, broken my heart a little. It's been a distraction some at school. So, if you would, please send up some thoughts for me.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Anyway, I'm pumped about my classes. I have many things to adjust to though. First of all, we're on a 6 day block schedule. I can no longer go by "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...", I have to go by "Day 1, Day 2, Day 3...." because Monday may be Day 1 or it might be Day 2. And then on top of that, it's block scheduling so I only see my students every other day for an hour and a half. It's going to take awhile to adjust to it because I have to think in 6 day schedule terms and I have to figure out what I can and cannot fit into an hour and a half period. To be honest, I think I'm going to love this schedule. I'll be able to really spend some quality time, especially in AP World History, on my topics. And, this is purely selfish, I'll only have to plan six lessons a week (whereas I was making 20 last year) because I only have two subjects (even though I teach four classes) and I only have class every other day. Oh, and the other amazing thing is, I don't have class until 11:30 am every day. I have homeroom for about 30 minutes from 9:30-10:00 and then my first class is from 11:30-1:00, then lunch for 30 minutes (which awesomely, I don't have to go to even though it's provided for me free) and then 1:30-3:00.
I know, it hardly sounds like work but to put it into some perspective, there were two teachers last year doing my job. I'm going to be very busy. AP is a crazy hard class because of prep time (I have to do all my own research) and grading writing (AP is all about essays) and then MUN (Model United Nations) is also all about writing. It also includes not only the teaching aspect but also the trip planning aspect. I have to do many things with paperwork and budgeting and planning. That in and of itself will take several hours a week.
On to my students...I think they are going to be great. I have at least a couple who are in my homeroom, the AP class and MUN so they get to spend a lot of time with me this year. Hopefully, that's a good thing. For both of us. Most of them are pretty quiet but I have the benefit of teaching two classes where the students are choosing to be in there. Because of that, their participation is not just expected, but required. The Korean students (90% of my students are Korean) tend to prefer to sit in class and be lectured to. They'd rather memorize the information than actually comprehend it. And they will too. They will memorize it all, without really understaning it. Well, both of those things go against my nature. I'm not really a lecture teacher nor am I just about memorizing facts. I love to do group work and projects and have discussion. I think it will be a challenging year for both of us. I will have to work on becoming more lecture oriented (because there's nothing wrong with lecture as long as it's one of many types of teaching styles) and they will have to work on becoming more cooperative in their learning.
Last thing thing...so for MUN, we travel to conferences all over, mostly in Asia but somewhere really big during the 2nd semester. The last big trip hasn't been decided yet so I thought I would have my students participate. I split them into groups and then gave each group a conference, all in different countries...Italy, Ireland, the UK, Mexico, Egypt, and the Netherlands. They have to make a persuasive argument why their conference/location is the best. Then we'll vote on it as a class. Of course, I have three MUN classes so it'll have to average out. I'm excited though. I would love to go to any one of those countries.
Okay, for those of you who have been waiting for this post, sorry for taking so long. Thanks for your interest in my life. Love you!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Regardless, I am excited to get started.
That's it. Nothing profound to say in this post. No funny story, no cute little quip. Just wanted to mark down the day that I was excited about teaching because someday, I will not be excited about it and will need to remind myself that I love my job and am happy to be doing it. That's what this post is for. And to see how many times I can fit the word "excited" in to one post...how'd I do?
Sunday, August 9, 2009
So, a few days ago, we heard a rumor from someone that there was this place in a riverbed that sold thick foam that you could put on your bed. The riverbed? Yes, that's what we were told (it wasn't actually in a riverbed, in fact we never even saw a river which was part of the whole getting lost thing but that's how rumors work I suppose). And by thick I mean like 6 inches thick. And REAL foam, not that hard stuff you buy in the department stores here to soften your bed.
I have never been more excited. Before I go on, let me tell you about my pillow situation. When I first got here, someone lent me their pillows to use but a couple of days later, we went to the store where I bought my own pillows. I got three of them so I could also use them as decoration on my day bed. They were fluffy and plush, awesome. It's a little uncommon to find something with that much padding here. So, I get home that night, all excited to use my new full, bright and white pillows, I put them at the head of my bed, I use two, and lay down...the pillows were so thick it literally pushed my chin down to my chest. So, now I was laying on this rock hard bed and sleeping with these marshmallow shaped pillows. I looked night and day for different pillows but everything here is all about aromatherapy and theraputic blah blah blah so all the pillows have beans and rice and tea leaves in them. I'm sorry, I don't want to make a soup I actually want to sleep. Anyway, after purchasing four of the wrong size pillows, I finally found the one I was looking for. It really was the perfect pillow.
And now I'm getting the foam mattress to go with the perfectly sized pillow, needless to say, I was oh, so excited.
So, a friend of mine and I start the treck to the mysterious foam place...we were following directions that were kind of like- take the bus until you cross over the bridge and then turn right, get off there- when you're facing the street, you go to your left, walk about a mile until you get to the end of a block where you'll see a slightly upturned rock, go 400 ft to your left...yah, we got lost on a couple of occasions.
But, we finally found the place.
We had to wait a long time because they had to cut out 3 queen size mattresses and 2 twin mattresses. Yes, I know that adds up to five. I was also getting a queen size one for the roommate.
And yes, she's using a meat cleaver.
Now, I know I've also mentioned that the Chinese people like to stare. But just imagine seeing four white girls carrying these massive foam rolls. I am telling you, a crowd gathered. Like stop-what-you're-doing-come-out-and-see-the-most-interesting-thing-that's-ever-happened-in-these-here-parts" draw a crowd.
We had to split up just to get a taxi (that we had to beg) to take us home. There was no way we could all fit on a bus.
The taxi driver was not happy and poor Kayla could barely breath (man, this picture cracks me up!) but...
it was totally worth it (yes, Kayla survived). The long bus ride, the getting lost, the walking, the waiting, the begging, the suffocating, the staring...all worth it. My bed is 100000000000% more comfortable than it was yesterday. The foam, the pillows...living in the lap of luxury I tell you! My hips don't hurt, no cricks in my neck, it's almost like being back in America.
P.S. I won't be doing any more picture slide shows on my blog. It just takes too long. And I'm doing double work because I'm also putting them on Facebook. So, if you'd like to see them, you'll have to look me up on FB.
P.P.S. Update: My parent's sold my car yesterday!! Huge, huge thing. No more car payments. No more car insurance.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
- I think my body is putting up it's own little resistance against China. Nothing major, just some allergic reactions to bug bites and now I'm getting a small cold. It's not a big deal, just irritating. I want to be here. I am enjoying myself. And I want my body to get in line.
- I've mastered using a taxi here. We have this neat little book that has a bunch of places with the addresses in Chinese characters. All I have to do is hail a cab, jump in and point to the right page. It's amazing. Well, except for my apartment buildings. For some reason, the drivers never seem to know where my complex is. I have to give them directions in Chinese. Oh yes, it's pretty impressive. :)
- I've made my first furniture purchase (a trunk and a vanity), I've gone grocery shopping all by myself, I've eaten my first street food (fried slices of potatoes, like potato chips on a stick), I've actually done so much shopping and gone so many places on my own that I've been asked to take other people out and about to show them.
- I have an airconditioner in my bedroom. It's the love of my life. I have wi-fi in my apt and it's an amazing thing. Second only to the a/c in my bedroom.
- My school is super technologically advanced.We have an intranet where we can access the master calendar, our email, all documents put on there by other teachers, work requests forms, we can even order lunch on there. It's the best thing I've ever seen. The school tries to be completely paperless. In fact, the students have to email most of their assignments. Unless you're a teacher, you have no idea how cool that idea is.
- Oh, and there's this other thing, it's a website created for the purpose of catching plagerism. I've heard of these websites but I've never seen them in action. I will have an account and all of my students will have to turn their assignments in to me through that website. The website then tells me if it was on time or not and how much of the paper percentage-wise is plagerized. It accesses thousands upon thousands of websites to compare the writing. Truly incredible. I can't wait to use it.
- My bedroom's coming along. I'm almost done painting. I just have one more coat on one more wall. I think it's going to be really neat. I'm not going to show you though until it's completely done and that may not be until I can go to IKEA in Beijing. And that won't be until October.
- So, besides my 6 MUN (a class I'm teaching) trips, I have several other trips to go on...the student's have a fall trip- 1 night long, a spring trip- a whole week long, I have a school wide conference in Beijing that's a week long and then I might be going to a teacher's conference in Manila. Traveling here just isn't a big deal. I mean, the sports teams fly all over the country during their seasons. There are choir trips and drama trips, it's insane. I am so daggone excited. I know, you're probably asking, "So, when do you actually teach?" That is a great question. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.
- My roommate and I are complete opposites in personalities. Couldn't be any more opposite if we tried. And yet, we both love books and reading, we have a lot of the same movies and music and we tend to like the same foods. Funny how that works.
- So, apparently modesty doesn't seem to be a real issue here. I've seen many men walking down by the ocean in their whitey-tighties. In fact, I saw a man this morning getting dressed in his car. He's sitting there in his undies, door wide open, looking for his pants. And I've seen many a child yank up their skirt, pull down the undies and use the bathroom right on the curb. That's why most Asians don't wear shoes in their houses or change into house shoes as soon as they walk in the door. Who knows what they're bringing inside with them.
- I have more pictures to post but I'm trying to do it weekly so I'm going to gather a few more and then post them all at the same time. I literally walk around with my hand on my camera at all times. You just never know what you're going to see and how quickly the moment can pass.
- Feel free to leave a comment. Comments make me happy and feel loved. Even if you have nothing to say. :)
Thursday, July 30, 2009
On another note, I went shopping by myself this weekend. I know that sounds like no big deal, but when you live in a city of 8 million people, can't speak the language and have no idea where you live in reference to where you want to go, going out by yourself is a huge adventure. Yesterday, after working in my classroom, I took the bus partway with a friend and then split off to take a taxi to Walmart. Yes, Walmart. I will say it's only 'similar' to the ones in the states. It was two stories with the grocery part on the lower floor and all the clothes, appliances and homegoods on the top floor. I was able to find a lot of things that I've been looking for but not everything I was hoping for. I got picture frames...hm, that's all I can remember right now but I know I got more stuff. And then today, I went to a place called Jimo Lu Market. I don't even think I know the words to explain what I saw there. I took some pictures (only a few because it's hard to sneak a camera out of my purse to take a picture inconspicuously when everyone around you is staring at you) and hopefully that will show you what I mean. Let's say you went there to buy a necklace. Well, they have 20 little necklace shops that are each selling 5,000 necklaces. Or a bag, you'd have 1,000 bags to choose from. Literally. I'm not making up these numbers. 50 little shops selling shoes, 50 selling suitcases, 50 selling bedding, 50 selling clothes and so on. And they're not nice, neat little stores. They're closet-size rooms stuffed to the gills with as much product as can fit while still leaving a little bitty aisle that you can turn sideways and shuffle down. Totally overwhelming and REALLY fun. I found a few house items and had my first experience at bargaining in China.
Bargaining is part of the culture here. Unless you're going to a department store, you're expected to bargain. They give you a number, you offer half that and then they work down as you work up. So, I found this home store that has a bunch of really neat stuff, a lot like a TJ Max or Ross' home department. I bought a picture frame, a vase, and some flowery-things. Now, I don't know if this is the norm or I'm just "special" but when I was bargaining for the vase, the number I gave her was so low that she actually smacked my arm. Smacked it! All in good fun of course, but it shocked me so much that I laughed really loud. And then, as I was bargaining for the picture frame, when I finally got the price that I wanted and turned to grab the frame, the woman actually smacked my rear end! Huh?? And THEN, when I was bartering for the flowery-things (for the vase) and got my price, as I was digging in my wallet, the woman literally patted my belly and started scratching it. Yes, she literally patted and scratched my belly. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I don't know what I enjoyed more. The items I purchased, the bartering, or the strange human contact. It was just so funny.
After shopping, I got home, rested for a few and then went to "taco night" at some friends' house. We played this game called 'Boxers or Briefs'...hilarious. I totally have to get it when I go back to the States. It's similar to 'Apples to Apples' but more personal. We laughed a lot tonight. And it was nice because it was the first time that I was finally able to really be myself. You know, my loud, obnoxious can't-stop-making-jokes self. I don't know if that's a good thing or not...
Man, it was a great day. I traversed the city successfully, got a bunch of home stuff, had my belly rubbed, ate a great dinner and laughed way too much.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
After the physical, a couple of friends and I decided to go shopping on our own. This was the first time I went out without someone who knew the city or Chinese. I have to say, we did pretty well. We found our store, bought our stuff, communicated a little, and made it home. Too bad when I got to my complex, I realized I'd forgotten my keys. I had to wait an hour and a half for the roommate to get home. Not a big deal just irritating. And the thing is, I have no idea where my keys could be. I've looked everywhere. It's like the walked off on their own. I'm sure they're around here somewhere but there are so many boxes, I may never find them.
While waiting for my roommate, I was able to walk by the beach today (my apartment complex is right on the Yellow Sea). A little stinky but really pretty. It's totally different than the Atlantic Ocean. I mean, it looks like an ocean, with the waves and everything, but way out in the distance, you can see mountains and little islands. Really cool. I took some pictures and I'm in the process of getting them uploaded here.
I'm getting a little more settled in. Learning my way around, getting a routine at home. I'm figuring out that everthing just takes a little longer, it's a little more complicated. A good thing to learn being the impatient person that I am.
Some side notes...
- I found a good place for Western food. I don't really need it yet, but I know in a couple of months it'll be a nice treat.
- This afternoon was my first time alone since I got here. Very nice.
- I think I'm only going to have two preps this year. Amazing. Both (MUN and AP World History) are going to be very time consuming classes so it'll be very nice to have extra time to get ready for them.
- I've found out where I'm going for my MUN (Model United Nations) classes this year. I'll tell you more about the class at a later date but here's a list of the places I'll be traveling to- Seoul; Beijing; Singapore; maybe Hangzhou, China (near Shanghai); and then we'll host one at our school. These trips were planned by last year's teacher so I'll get to plan next year's conferences. Anyway, I'm very excited.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Rundown of the day…
We left for school at 7:15am to walk 10 minutes to meet the school bus. When we got to school, we spent an hour and a half touring the buildings and school grounds, up and down a million stairs and in and out of unairconditioned buildings. The good thing is, it’s a beautiful school. We share a campus with a Chinese school so it’s a huge area but we have everything, outdoor courts, a gym, several buildings that include classrooms, offices, dorms for national workers, the cafeteria, a dance studio and tons of other things. I loved my last school, but my new school’s facilities are amazing. I’m very excited. I’ve included a few pictures of the view from the school. I’ll take a few of the actual facilities within the next couple of days.
After the tour, we spent 2 ½ hours in a crash Chinese language course. It was very helpful and everyone was so encouraging. Something fun, we played this game to help us learn the Chinese numbers. We had to use plastic chopsticks to pick up plastic buttons, carry them across the room and drop them in a box while everyone else counted each button. It was a race to see who could get the most buttons in the box in 30 seconds. Great idea except not everyone knows how to use chopsticks. I haven’t laughed that hard in weeks. There were a couple of times we didn’t even get to count because the person couldn’t pick up anything with the chopsticks. Oh man, it was good times.
After the language lesson, we finished the tour and then walked to lunch. And when I say walk, I mean we hiked through the country side to get to this little noodle stand under a tarp. I’ve included some pictures so you can see where we were and what lunch looked like. The noodles were pretty good but there was an awful smell that kept drifting through so I wasn’t able to enjoy it much. Note the chairs we were supposed to sit on. I declined of course, and sat on the rock wall next to the table.
We headed home on the public bus, a very interesting experience. Holding on as if your life depended on it is the key. Literally. Anyway, I was able to get a little rest this afternoon, and then head to dinner with some people from school, Vietnamese food. Very delicious. Then we went shopping and I was able to finally purchase a purse, a few DVDs and some dried fruit. Something interesting, I bought some dried rose petals. They’re really good, chewy not crispy, and sweet with a little bit of a rose taste. I’ve also included a picture of that as well.
It’s now 8pm and I’m ready to go to bed. Yah, I may be tired but I’m happy. Life couldn’t get much better. I’m living exactly where I want to live. I’m meeting new people all the time. I’m doing interesting and exciting things all the time. And at this very moment, I’m sitting on the couch, eating dried mangos and enjoying the internet. It’s been a good day.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
• I watched a mother wipe her daughter’s hind end out on the sidewalk in broad daylight right in front of the restaurant we were going to eat at.
• I’ve been stared at by almost every person I pass. Sometimes pointed at, sometimes talked about.
• There are MANY people that are as tall as or taller than I am here. Foreigners and Chinese.
• I’m always thirsty. Because you can’t drink water out of the faucet, it’s not always available to drink (everyone has to drink bottled water and even the restaurants have to use it). I think my body knows that because I’m always thirsty and there’s never enough to drink. Well, and the fact that most places use cups the size of a shot glass doesn’t help either.
• I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as it’s over 75 degrees here, I’m always going to be sweaty. I walk everywhere. Church, shopping, dinner…up hill, downhill, up stairs, down stairs. And the air-conditioning, if there is any, isn’t ever quite cool enough.
• I’ve seen throw up, lots of it, on the sidewalk.
• I’ve seen professional trash diggers. On more than one occasion.
• People love their dogs here, and I don’t mean “to eat”. They love them. Every dog I’ve seen has been beautifully groomed, perfectly coiffed fur, ribbons and bows. One lady was shopping and had her dog in her cart with her other items.
• My bed is rock hard. Apparently, that’s the norm for eastern beds. We go to a major department store on Tuesday and at the top of my list is an egg crate or some sort of cushion for my bed.
• I’ve been using my roommate’s blow-dryer for the last couple of days and it’s been eating my hair. The fan sucks it up and immediately twists it into these little knots. Not fun. It hurts, it stinks and I have to cut off that part of my hair. I found a new blow-drier and I’m hoping it works a little better.
• I got a cell phone today. The number is like ten digits long. You purchase the phone and then you have to purchase the SIM card/phone number. I was able to buy both for a total of about 300 Yuan which is about $45. But that doesn’t give me much time on the cell phone. I’ll have to purchase more minutes at some point.