Sunday, November 22, 2009

Becoming Chinified

I just got back from an 8 day trip to Singapore. I'd like to report that I haven't sweat that much, well, ever. For those of you ignorant of the location of Singapore...imagine fire + steam + a few palm trees somewhere near the equator and there you are. Actually, it's very similar to where I lived in Florida. It's just in Florida, you're walking from an airconditioned home to an airconditioned car to an airconditioned work building. It's similar in Singapore except instead of walking a few feet from one place to another, you're walking several blocks. Up and down stairs. And hills. In steamy rain. In dress clothes. And heels. By the time you get to the next airconditioned place, you've already sweat through your clothes, your makeup has melted off and your hair has been not-so-eloquently knotted on top of your head.

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 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 wrote this on Friday but am just now getting a chance to post it...

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.

These little things add up until you're living a life you barely recognize and yet it's life all the same. A new kind of life, one that stretches you and challenges you. A life that makes you really thankful for the small but important things like pictures on a menu so you can order no matter the language or having an organized fellowship to attend and sing worship at or a great pair of walking shoes to keep the blisters at bay. These are the tidbits that make up my life now.

And I love it. I really do. I'm so glad He brought me here. I wouldn't want it any other way. I suppose I just should never visit Korea again! I need somewhere that's a little more backwards...Canada, maybe? :)

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.