Last year will forever be preserved in my memory as the greatest, strangest, most defining year of my 23 years so far. When I think about the oddities of the year I feel like I could possibly be hallucinating until I find pictures that match my memories and I'm reminded that this really is my life and I'm not making up how crazy life in China can be.
Coming from the steadfast standpoint that it is never too late to jump on the bandwagon, I am compiling this monthly recap of last year's most defining moments.
August 25th: Arrival in Hangzhou! Moved into my first apartment, began online graduate classes, started teaching graduate level English, and managed to not allow hourly diarrhea to massively affect my daily life.
September, 2008: Traveled with my fellow teachers to a town called Da Tou where we watched a pig be slaughtered for our meal. The Chinese people doing the beheading thought we were highly itnerested in the plight of pigs in China and took us to the village's pig farm where we could see the next ones in line to be sacrificed. Stopped eating pork for about 2 weeks.
Stopped shaking uncontrolably out of fear everytime I entered my classroom and saw 30 dark haired people staring at me with blank expressions on their faces. Decided I would wear high heels to every work day. Still felt like I was on vacation. Began visiting the handicapped orphans at the hospital each week. And also began teaching Sunday School at HICF.
October, 2008: Didn't care about missing Halloween in America, but began to dread the impending arrival of the holiday season. Friend's facebook statuses about hot chocolate and pumpkin carving did not help this mood. Started to get into a rhythm of teaching and began to be proud of myself. Celebrated October Holiday by traveling with a group of MAIS'ers: flew to Shenzhen, took train to Guangzhou with Fatimah, Lisa, Jennie, Nick, Karol, and JBL. Met Alan there. We wandered around randomly, ate dim sum, saw the ram statues after hiking every inch of a park looking for them, saw the best example of Chinglish yet (a sign on the grass reading "dear please don't trample me"). Jennie, JBL and I got foot massages in a room playing 1998 NBA game re-runs. That night we met Jennie and Nick's Chinese friend Wesley at the long distance bus station and set out on our first of many overnight rides through the countryside to unknown destinations. After several bus transfers we ended up in Wesley's home-village of Ma Ping. His 26432 year old dialect-speaking grandmother was waiting outside for her grandson and his caravan of American girls (and Nick). After 2 days in the village we visited the glorious city of GUILIN 2 times, bamboo rafted in Yangshuo.
November, 2008: Ate Thanksgiving with a group of people from Canada, USA, France, and Brazil. Turkey cannot be found here, so chicken it was. Began to realize that I would not be going home any time soon. Still loved my job.
December, 2008: It got COLD. JENNIFER CAME FOR CHRISTMAS! She spent 3 weeks with me, sang Christmas songs to my classes, we travelled to Nanjing, Jiangshuo, and spent Christmas day in Shanghai.
January, 2009: On the 8th I was released for Spring Festival! All teachers/students get 6 weeks off (paid!). I spent the first 2 weeks in Hangzhou, relaxing and trying to keep warm. On the 14th I flew to Beijing to meet Jennie and Nick! We spent 8 days in Beijing, including watching fireworks in the street on Chinese New Year. Visited the Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Temple of Heaven, Food Street, a festival, Forbidden City, and a million other Chinese places. I love Beijing. We then traveled to HARBIN where we spent 5 days. We saw the ice festival, reveled at the Russian architecture and saw Siberian tigers.
February, 2009: We spent 36 hours on hard seats on train K554 from Harbin to Hangzhou, spent the night in Hangzhou, then took an overnight bus to Guangzhou, then transfered to a bus to Shenzhen. whew. We spent the night at Jennie's house and then went to HONG KONG! and Hong Kong DISNEYLAND! We spent the night in a skeeeetchy Indian hostel the size of a closet then went to MACAU the next day by ferry. I love Macau. It is like China, Portugal, and Florida, had a baby and named it Macau. I flew back to Hangzhou after 23 days with THE CREW. What an adventure.
March, 2009: The weather warmed a little, but it started to rain. And rained for 30 days straight. Miserable. Visited Shaoxing, a water town with Nini, a Chinese student and Patty. The Dream Team social life began to pick up and we spent every weekend (and weekday) downtown with our new pengyous. Continued tutoring the doctors each week at Starbucks...
April, 2009: Visited Xitang, the water town where Mission Impossible 2 was filmed. Paid homage to Tom Cruise's visit there. Almost forgot about Easter. oops. Agreed to take a bigger role in the orphan ministry at HICF. Began to research my thesis and gain information from the orphanages.
May, 2009: Patty and Jing's birthday extravaganza! 4 days of mayhem. We visited Suzhou, Hangzhou's sister city. Ate at an amazing Thai restaurant, went to Fire Cicada where Jing sang on stage, gan bei'd cake, went to Out Club and Gplus. It felt like a huge Hangzhou family celebrating the Dream Team's birth! So many new Chinese friends that our Chinese was improving quickly! Completed my last Master's class online for CUI - though I sweated my grade in statistics!
June, 2009: Said tearful goodbye's to my students. Left China June 5th and flew to SEOUL, KOREA! Spent 7 days in korea where I saw friends from Flagler, went to a Korean bathhouse, ate kimchi (barf), searched for Minam's, went to temples and palaces, the Korean president's house, the DMZ, and stepped foot into North Korea territory. Crazy. I LOVE KOREA. Spent the last night together as the Dream Team gathering the will to drink an entire bottle of Soju.
Father's Day, 2009, flew into Tampa International with a year of memories packed into the crannies of my heart.