Friday, June 24, 2011

Gettin' My Hairs Did

There are a few experiences I've been hesitant slash straight-out-defiant about trying while living in China.

Things I absolutely refuse to try would include riding in a three wheeled taxi shaped like a triangle, Korean massages (must be done buck explanation needed), and eating grilled bugs on a stick.

Things I'm hesitant about would include swimming in the ocean, eating dried sea food, and walking on the beach at night. Or during the day for that matter (sand cockroaches...need I say more?).

Another thing on my hesitant list would be getting a haircut, something about a language barrier and the Chinese Stylists' idea that they really do know best, regardless of what I actually want. I'm pretty picky about what happens to my hair. That may surprise many of you who only see my hair pulled into a messy knot at the back of my head 5 months out of the year (I blame the humidity...and my laziness) but I really do. Haircuts usually mean digging out any pair of scissors I can find and semi-carefully snipping away in the bathroom until I've gotten rid of most of the mange at the ends. Which I guess doesn't sound like I'm picky but if someone's going to screw it up, it may as well be me.

I've been cutting my own hair for many, many years. Mostly it works out well but I do recall a time in middle school where I cut my bangs so short they were literally poking straight out. I just couldn't get them straight and before I knew it, I only had about a half an inch of hair left in the front. Yah, I learned early on that unevenness is always better than little sprockets of hair. Always.

You see, I've almost never had a good haircut from a salon. It's either too short or not layered enough or they styled it weird. I went and had my hair done for my Junior Spring Banquet (Christian prom) and left in tears. They used the smallest curling iron size, a ratting comb and a half a bottle of Auquanet. Think scary '60s hair wig but uglier. Needless to say, it scarred me for life.

So, take all my hair-issue-baggage, add to that a language and cultural barrier, multiply it by my nervousness, and you get me, a sweating, panting ball of panic in a rockin' Chinese hair salon (they had purple fur on the ceiling. Seriously).

Go big or go home, they say...don't they? Whoever "they" are. Not only was I going to get my hair cut, but I decided to get it chemically (permanently) straightened as well. Actually, it was the fancy version called "Magic Straight". Magic Straight includes not only the straight part but also a nice little curl at the ends so they're not so pokey. A lot of the women I work with have had it done and it looked fantastic. Their hair always looked good. And it made me jealous. My long-time fear of hair salons eventually lost out to my ever-growing jealousy of awesome hair so I decided to bring on the ammonia.

Let the "Magic" begin...

A very helpful friend (the one who talked me into going), already there and almost finished with getting her hair done, had an entire page full of English phrases translated into Chinese that one might need in a situation like this. And by "situation", I mean a "non-Chinese-speaking-foreigner-going-into-a-non-English-speaking-hair-salon-and-asking-for-a-really-complicated-hairstyle-and-chemical-process-that-no-motions,-hand gestures-or-pictures-can-adequately-convey-because-we-tried-that-and-it-didn't-work" situation. Even with the awesomeness that was the "phrase page", they still didn't get it. Luckily, my friend had a Chinese friend so we called her, had her explain and then, well, hoped for the best.

So, hairdresser-manager guy (because all the regular hairdressers where pretty fearful of working on me at this point) whisked me away for a wash and then promptly sat me down for the cut. And when I say "cut" I mean "maul". He grabbed chunks of my hair and just chopped. And chopped and chopped. He cut off 4 or 5 inches at a time. My bangs were gathered and trimmed in one quick motion. When he was finished (took about 5 minutes), I didn't even have time to let it settle. He immediately handed me off to the "magic" lady who had finally worked up the courage to deal with the crazy foreigner. I was horrified. All of my friends who've gotten their hair cut in China have these stories of 4 hour haircuts because the cutter person snips each hair individually. This was my expectation. This did not happen. Panic ensued. As soon as he was done, I looked at my friend and said, "I can't do this." And then promptly relayed  to the magic lady in motions and panting and sweating and broken Chinese that I didn't want my hair straightened. She, in turn, looked at me like I was crazy and then turned to the non-panting friend and asked what was going on.

My dear, dear, sweet, calm, seeing-things-clearly friend proceeded to try and help me see things in a rational matter, to speak truth into my life. "Jen, I love my hair. I've done this and I love it. You're going to love it too. I'm not trying to talk you into this but REALLY think it through." She's a good woman. I took a few deep breaths...

and decided to go for it. The whole shebang! Bring on the Magic!

Here are some pics during the process...

My head was on fire. The curlers were so hot!

My friend Kelley

Looks like a caterpillar on my forehead. And I look like an 8 year old.
Anyway, after five hours of combing and curling and washing and flat-ironing and waiting....

I LOVED IT! I still love it. I love it even more now. I don't have any real pictures to show you as I'm having camera issues but here are a couple pics that I've taken since I've had it done.

Left- Goodbye Banquet in China
Right- Fishing in Estes Park, CO

After all the worry and near panic attack, I can say it was totally worth it. I would definitely do it again. 

This experience however does not in any way make me want to reconsider doing any of the things on my "Never-Do" list in China. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

I still call him "daddy".

When you talk to some people, mostly past students, he's the scariest person they know. When you talk to others, he's the greatest musician they've ever heard. In the town I'm visiting, my father is legend. They adore him here. I mean, I know my dad is great, but it's always nice to hear what other people think. "He was the best music leader I've ever known." "He was a great principal." "I love your dad so much. I miss him. Wish he would come down to visit."

After all these years, being a grown woman and all, it's still nice to come home and have a dad who takes care of me. He carries my luggage, buys my meals, fixes up my fishing pole, pays for a new battery in my car, fixes my bed, lets me borrow his car (for a month),  grills me up burgers, asks me questions, encourages me, loves me with his actions.

He is a good man, a wonderful husband, a great father.

Thank you dad for your love and your support. 

I love you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friends Are Fuuuuurever!

I've been in America for almost two weeks now. I've spent a lot of time with the parentals and brother, spent way too much money, learned how to drive again, finally adjusted to the time change, and eaten some really good food. So far, so good.

The rest of my summer will be filled with friends and family and driving and awesomeness. Next week, I leave for a month long road trip, driving all over the US- Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee and Oklahoma. And maybe a few unplanned stops along the way.

This weekend, I'm in southern Colorado to see extended family and friends. Friends from high school. High school!!! I graduated over a decade ago (barf!) and in fact, I've lived away from here much longer than I actually lived here, and yet, every year or couple of years, we all get together to catch up on each others' lives. We meet new husbands and babies, hear about new jobs and moves, and spend a lot of time reminiscing. 

We met in the middle of my 5th grade year, went to middle school and high school together, summer and winter camps together, to the same youth group, on the same M trips. We vacationed together, lived at each other's houses, endured funerals and celebrated weddings. We've supported each other through parents getting divorced, getting remarried, and well, being straight-up crazy. We've taken road trips together (New Mexico?), been in car accidents (including my month of popping tires) together, gotten pulled over together.  

They've made me laughed harder than I ever have, cry harder than I ever have, given me some of my very best memories (breaking out into "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" in the middle of class) and some of my very worst. 

I am grateful that after 13 years, I can still call these people my friends. I am excited to see them, to catch up again, to spend some time getting reacquainted and a lot of time laughing at the good old days. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Beans and Buns (Mental) Breakdown

Today we leave for a camping trip. For those of you who've ever gone on any adventure in the mountains, you know how much preparation it takes to make it successful. Grills must be cleaned and packed, coolers must be washed out and filled, boxes crammed full with foods that can be cooked over the fire, fishing gear restored and purchased, suitcases full of both summer and winter wear because who knows what the weather will do 1.5 miles up in the sky. And then all of this must magically fit into the trunk of a car that will also hold 4 people and two dogs.

We're getting around that impossibility by taking three cars. Yes, three. It has something to do with needing the truck to haul the stuff but the sitting room for more than two people and someone needing to leave early.

Anyway, back to the story.

Yesterday, my mom and I went shopping for all things needed to make it a successful trip (except we forgot like 20 things so someone (me) has to go to the store before we leave and re-shop). My mom thought it would be easier for us to get it done if we split up the work. To make it even easier, she made a list. A typed up list. A typed up list with each item in order of the aisle they are found on (picture taken of said List because it was oh-so-awesome...but not included on this blog because transferring it from camera to computer is too difficult at this time of morning (5am) while everyone is still sleeping...except me. Curse you jetlag!).

The List in hand, I left the car (after a short banter about who should be locking the car, the one with the keys or her) feeling quite confident of my newly given task. Mom took one side of the store, I took the other. I started with soda- Diet Coke, Fresca and Diet Pepsi (who are these people I call family?). Check. Easy-cheesy.

And then at this point things started to get a little tricky. You see, when The List said "Triscuits- Garlic flavor", I was good to go. Precise, simple. When it said, " 2 cans of Bush's baked beans" one had to wonder...original, spicy, southern, mesquite, southwestern? Small, medium or large cans?  Will the small be too small? Will the large be too large? What if I get the medium but Mom wanted the large...make a decision!!!! Okay, one large, one small, both original. Crisis diverted. Barely, but diverted nonetheless.

As I moved on to other items, the same cycle occurred over and over again- the questions, the debating, the overwhelmingness.

At one point in the bread aisle, trying to choose what type of buns and loaves, my mother appeared and it was like a hand reaching out to a drowning person...I yelled for help halfway across the store and she, with precision and clarity, yelled back, "Two hamburger buns. One hot dog. A wheat loaf. Cheap." Salvation.

With The List being rather vague and the options being so diverse, well, you can imagine my horror when I got to the last item on my list: coffee. "1 can of store brand coffee". Are you kidding me? There were 32 types of store brand coffee, flavors and sizes...begin: meltdown. Tears welled up, the brain shut down and I was done. D-O-N-E done. I found my mother and let her know that she needed to get the coffee.

I live a very simple life in China. When I go to the store, I buy things based on what I hope they are, something that usually involves a lot of staring, shaking and sniffing before I make the final decision. My choices are at best very limited and at worst, the item isn't even sold in country. In my apartment, I'm alone and therefore don't have to worry about starting or not starting a load of laundry while someone else is in the shower. I don't have a car so things like accidentally leaving a light on and running down the batter or misplacing my keys isn't even an option (yes, I've already done both). I don't actually have a working TV at home. But here, I have a big screen television, with 500+ channels to choose from (how will I ever decide what to watch?). It even has DVR and a bunch of free movies too. My cell phone is the cheapest one sold in China, very basic. I can call and text. That's it. I'm now using a magical phone that has GPS and wi-fi and a touch screen. Very cool. Very complicated.

That's America. Very cool. Very complicated. Lots of choices, lots of extras, lots of stuff.

Reverse Culture Shock? Check.

I'm hoping my time in the mountains, surrounded by simplicity and beauty, will give me a chance to process and evaluate all this. Maybe take some time to consider what's important to me, how much I want to get caught up in all this American awesomeness, where I fit into this country and all its complicatedness.

Things To Note

  • I hate the television. I just can't bring myself to sit and watch anything these days. Maybe it's because I've lived without a TV for two years.
  • While I enjoy the freedom of being able to drive, it wasn't as magical as I thought it would be. Something interesting though...even though it's been two years since I've driven my Honda, I still try to grab for the gear shift where it would be instead of where it is in the car I'm driving now. Weird.
  • Oh how I heart Cadbury eggs. My good mother saved me a bunch from Easter.
  • Colorado= the best version of my hair. 
  • I love having a dog around. Two is even better. Especially when they love to cuddle.
  • Carpet makes me happy. Really, really happy.
  • My mother cooked breakfast for me this morning. It's been years since someone's made breakfast for me. It was lovely. Green chili on my eggs made it even lovelier.
  • I miss Starbucks. I will be going later today to get my fix. Well half-fix. Coffee's only part of it. The other would require Team Awesome to be there. But since we're spread all over the US, China and soon to be Korea, I suppose I'll just have to drink a double and suck it up.
  • We head to a cabin in the mountains tomorrow. Bring on the fishing poles baby! 
  • I've missed dishwashers, garbage disposals, labels written in English, good shampoo, buying clothes, shoes that fit, darkness at 5am and just a short walk to my air-conditioned car. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Future "Plans"

I'm not sure why I haven't done this before, maybe it was just an oversight. Or maybe I just didn't want speak too soon.

Many of you have asked what I'll be doing after the summer. Am I returning to China? Will I be back in the States soon? Am I still teaching? Here's the lowdown...

I am returning to my job as a HS teacher at an international school in Qingdao, China after the summer. I will be there for at least one more year as I've signed a one-year contract with them.

After that one year is up, I'm looking into moving to Western China to work at a Chinese school/university teaching English.


Really I'm just open to whatever God has in store. That may mean staying in Qingdao or moving to Western China or Russia or Kazakhstan or Eastern Europe or Africa.

I am not planning on moving back to America any time soon but who knows what God has for my future.

I'm trying NOT to put limits on where or what I'll be doing. Just trying to follow Him.

Since We Last Spoke

I know. It's been weeks. I've been busy, you've been busy. Life just gets in the way sometimes. So, here's a quick update...
  • The school year is over.
  • I said goodbye to a lot of friends who are leaving China.
  • I am now in America for the summer.
There's a lot more to it than that but my heart and brain and fingers can't get together to make coherent thoughts.