Nov 28, 2009

Where in the world...?

It's that time of year again!

Probably one of my favorite parts about living in China and one of the reasons why I stayed this year and what could potentially be a major factor in me staying longer (aiiiyyiyi)....dun dun dun...


Because of the gloriousness that is my job, I get 6 weeks (paid) holiday from January 1st to February 21st. Ya, its rough out here. :) haha. Though I make absolutely dirt change as a salary, I have scrapped together enough yuans to start setting my sights on traveling. It's time to plan!

It is an incredible feeling to be able to go anywhere you want. The world suddenly becomes very small and I realize that anywhere I want to go is only a plane ride away. It's true fact. The day before Thanksgiving I found myself in a familiar place: staring at the world map on Google Maps and trying to decide where I want/can afford/feel like jaunting off to for the long holiday. I literally looked up flights to Australia, New Zealand, Bali, and Singapore, before deciding on a path that I want to take for this trip. I feel responsibility to myself and my family to use this time wisely, to not take for granted this gift of time that I have to travel and learn about our amazingly complex world.

I have been getting an itch to get out of Asia. I need...civilization. I also have been feeling the desire for a long, solo journey. I recently came upon this book: Flying Solo: 50 places for solo woman travelers and have been inspired to try my hand at a distance journey alone. I want to go on a long trip that has a clearly defined starting and ending point and to maneuver myself through the obstacles along the way (language, housing, eating, surviving, etc). I think a solo journey would be perfect for this pivotal point in my life - a chance to reflect, pray, and be alone in my thoughts as I try to decide what it is I really want to live for and how I should continue moving forward through this thing called life. There's a lot of decisions I have to make in the near future about where to live and what to do as a job. I think that dedicating myself to a sojourn would be an incredible life-affirming and radical experience.

I also am worn out of just jaunting around the globe, showing up in places for a few days, eating, drinking, dancing, taking photos, and then moving on to the next big thrill. It is almost as if living here and traveling so much has made me not appreciate the awesomeness of some of the things I have seen. I remember the first time I saw the Great Wall of China, I was riding a bus with my fellow Global Project'ers in 2007 and as we rounded the corner the wall came into view: I stopped my feet on the bus floor and about burst out of my chest with excitement. I need to have that feeling again while witnessing the wonders of our world.

I also have the desire to just find a place and plant myself. I desire to grow roots in a new place and travel with a conscience...really making a tangible difference wherever I am and not just traveling for pleasure and adrenaline and sightseeing.

So, these are the two extremes of travel I am wrestling with I go on a soul-searching journey and risk loneliness and failure, or do I volunteer my time in one place and risk boredom and monotony?

I have researched my two best options based on budget and what I want out of my life and they are:

Solo Journey: The Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing. I would fly from Shanghai to Moscow (have to get a Russian and Mongolian visa - kind of tricky as an American with a Chinese address) and then train from Moscow to Beijing, passing through Mongolia. This journey would take a little over 2 weeks and would cost about $1100. It would be constant movement (literally, even though there are periods of 2 days on a train, sitting). It has high potential for travel-related stress as I would be having to feed myself and make sure I have the right tickets and I don't speak/read Russian or Mongolian. But, I love travel stress, it's actually comfortable for me. I love the rush of surviving, but not sure where the next meal or bed is going to be. (cue: Ta.iwan '09).

or the other option:

Volunteering in one place: A friend of mine cued me into an organization called Volunthai, which is an organization that places volunteers to live with host families in a poor, rural, non-tourist part of North Eastern Thailand. These volunteers act as English teachers at large public schools. You can stay for any length of time, the cost is $275 up to one month, including food and trips. So with a cheap plane ticket from, the over all cost would be about $650 for one month. Volunteers spend 4 hours a day teaching and have the weekends free to explore or have extracurricular activities with the Thai people/family/students, etc. It seems to be a cultural immersion experience and would be difficult because I am so immersed in Chi.nese culture that the idea of starting over in another asian culture is a little daunting. I would live with a Thai family, eat all my meals with them, and basically just chill out with this family. It could get emotionally exhausting. But teaching the students would be incredible. the website is here:

So, friends, what should I do?!?! Help me decide! Do I travel across the continent solo, or plant myself in Thailand as a teacher? I am burdened by possibility. It's a big deal for me to decide because I want to be a good steward of my time, money, and energy. I never want to lose sight that there is a higher purpose for everything - especially travel.

What kind of stories should I create to share with my grandkids? (will I have grandkids if I keep this up...? that's for another blog post...haha)
Where should I go from January - February 2010?!

A: Trans-Mongolian
B: Thailand

Cast your votes now...

Nov 25, 2009

Holiday Season Abroad: Round Two

So, frankly speaking, spending the holiday season in a country with completely foreign holidays/ethics/freedoms/manners/language/toilet habits is a little depressing. I seriously have been debating (as I did last year) of simply ignoring every major holiday and going about my life like they don't exist. Pilgrims? Who are they? Christmas? That's everyday. No need for tinsel and lights. Valentines Day? Nope. Easter...I already own a bunny. And she's responsible for the destruction of my kitchen floorboards, which means Easter is definitely out.

But as good as that sounds to bypass the 'holidays abroad depression', I am deciding to half-heartedly embrace this holiday season as I did last year. It is even harder this year because my sis won't be making the journey across the ocean to me for Christmas (you suck, Jennifer). Which means first Christmas alone. In freakin Chin.a. (the Motherland and I are not getting along quite well these days, but I am sure it will pass after Christmas/people stop hawking loogies/they start making size 10 shoes/my broken foot fully heals/my thesis gets approved. order to harness the Thanksgiving spirit that is so prevalent on facebook (torture, btw) I have decided to suck it up and make a list of the things that I truly am thankful for here in the Red Country.

So, without further ado...

1. Hairwashers.
The metrosexual men who have prettier hair than most Ameri.can women always make my day. The fact that there is a hair shop every 10 feet makes my walks to the grocery store very entertaining. I get my hair washed about once a week, not because of cleanliness but because the crowd around my chair is so entertaining. A-symmetrical hair on asian men is mmmmmmm amasian.

2. Pedigree dog milk chews.
My rabbit is 20 pounds because of these things. And they cut down on the amount of carrots I have to buy each week. (my rabbit is the size of a small dog).

3. Wine in a can. (also known as WIC amongst some circles)
The carbonated, 3% alcohol, canned goodness is what keeps me above water some days. Pop open a can of "rose sparkling" and people around you suddenly wonder where they can get some of that. This stuff should be exported.

4. My Hello Kitty blanket.
It's cold. I have no heat. I love my blanket I bought off the street from some person selling blankets off their motor bike. Nothing like a bright pink hello kitty to make falling asleep cold a little more bearable. I looove it.

5. Hair jewelry.
Asians know how to accessorize. It's a rare day there's not a flower on my head. For any occasion. I never plan on giving this up as long as I am under 100 years old. It's so fun.

6. 7 quai (1 dollar) pirated dvd's.
These suckers might be illegal in most countries, but I am indulging while I am here.

7. New Zealand butter.
I only buy milk and butter from New Zealand. After the milk sc.andal last year, I'm not taking my chances. Who wants plastic in their milk? And for some reason I feel really exotic buying the NZ dairy products. It makes me feel cool, like my shopping cart is multi-cultural.

8. Blind massages.
Every needs to have this experience in their life. Blind people beating you til you bruise then laughing at how "da" (big) your butt is as they knead your (my) fat. It is life changing.

9. Chou mien. (fried noodles)
I could eat this every second for the rest of my life. And then ask for more in Heaven.

10. H&M
This mega store opened 2 weeks ago and I have already gotten another job to support my shopping habit. I can actually buy clothes that fit! This is revolut.ionary. Hangzhou is moving up in the world, and I plan to take full advantage as much as my meager paycheck allows.

This is my top ten random things that I am thankful for as I am writing this. Of course, there are other things like, my amazing students, my friends, the ability to learn Chinese, my church family, my tutees, my amazing apartment, and the excitement of living a true life adventure.

I hope that you all have a wonderfully happy Thanksgiving. Spend it with the ones you love.
I'll be at the all you can eat/drink Japanese restaurant drowning my sorrows in Japanese beef, fried rice, and sake.

Maybe next year, there will be turkey. Who knows. Gobble Gobble.

Nov 19, 2009


For the first time today I thought:

"I don't know if I have it in me."

I thought I was done with my thesis.
But apparently, my advisor thinks differently.

I'm now knee-deep in ANOTHER 25 source annotated bib.
And I have 6 days. 6 days. Until this thing is due.
14 months of work and it all boils down to these 6 days.
Poetic justice.


thanks for letting me vent, little blog.

Nov 17, 2009

A Weekend with Yangxue and Hailong.

Hello blog,

Time for another travel story (the last one for some time because I am officially broke :( )

Two weeks ago I was invited by one of my students to travel to see her boyfriend 2 1/2 hours away by fast train. She is one of my top students, she is a monitor, which means she is chosen by the university to be a "leader" of sorts. And that it's her job to watch me, which I think is cool. ha.

She told me that her boyfriend lives in his aunt and uncles house, but that they do not live there on the weekends, so we would have tons of room and not have to pay for a hotel. I was wary at first of traveling with just one student to her bf's...I thought it might be a little awkward. I thought about things like, do I really want my students to see me in my pj's with wet hair? Do I have enough stamina to be on "teacher happy mode" all weekend? And the classic- what if I get massive diarrhea?"

After weighing all the options, none of these things were good enough reasons to miss out on a chance to see a new city and become closer to my students and learn more about China in the process. So I gave Yangxue my ticket money, she bought the tickets, and I met her at the station 2 Friday's ago.

The trip almost didn't happen. Yangxue was late from riding the bus at rush hour. Our train left at 4:40 and she arrived at 4:33. I called her and we decided we would go through security separately and meet on the train. I went bolting through the crowd (funny site, I'm sure) and heard my name called while I was searching for the terminal. We made it onto the platform, running like maniacs with our bags and low and behold our tickets were in car 1. So we had to run past 8 cars of people staring at us through the windows until we reached our car. We sat down out of breath and cracking up right as the train was chugging it's horn and pulling away from the station. Hilarious.

We arrived in Taizhou and it was a lovely time. Friday night we went to eat and then wandered around a market. I was so happy that there was a shower available at the house! And that they use it! In my experience, a lot of students don't shower too often, and Chi.nese people wear the same clothes over and over in a row (Yangxue didn't change the entire weekend). So getting to shower was awesome.

Saturday we went to a Buddhist vegetarian place for breakfast: fried noodles, tea eggs, rice porridge. Then we went to an expo thing where there was dancing, shrubs clipped to look like horses, and people feeding pigeons. I tell you, sometimes stuff is so weird around here. After wandering around a lake for awhile, feeding goldfish, and just being stared at, we went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for lunch. Hailong (Yangxue's bf) loves to cook and wanted to cook Yangxue's favorite dish for us! It was soooo delicious. We had homemade hotpot. Incredible. After lunch we went to karoake where we had our own room and they sang Chinese and I serenaded them with my *cough* beautiful voice. hahha. Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and MJ's "You are not alone" were the favorites. After karaoke we went down by the bay and wandered around even though we couldn't really see anything, though it was great to smell the salty air. We sat around watching Chinese tv before going to bed and it was so sweet, like having a Chinese brother and sister sitting around the living room. I never sit on a couch and watch tv here, so it was nice.

Sunday we took a boat to the other side of the town. Once there, Hailong called one of his highschool classmates who came to show us around. We sat in a park and then went to the classmate's uncle's restaurant. It was classic countryside: crap all over the place and stray dogs running around, but that is what is fun. We didn't order, the uncle just kept bringing us dishes. There was a slight buzz going on around the restaurant because of my presence and I tried t ignore it, until the precious 98 year old grandma came over to say, "nihao" (hello) and "huanying" (welcome).

We ate weird sea creatures, cauliflower, potatoes, pork, cabbage, fish, and rice. Delish. It was funny because they wanted to order more meat and Yangxue said, "No no, Jessica is a vegetable." What she meant was I like to eat vegetables more than meat. haha. They think I am vegetarian because I tend to stay away from meat here. Maybe eating it only once or twice a week.

The most hilarious part of the weekend was when we were trying to pay for lunch. Hailong went to pay the uncle who would not take the money. I figured this would happen because we were guests of the nephew. Well, according to Chin.ese custom, an argument must ensue, you can't just take something and say thank you, you have to argue it being given to you, then back down after 3 refusals and take it thankfully. This gives honor...or something. So Hailong kept trying to pay and when the uncle really refused, Hailong went to a stand next door and bought the man cigarettes to give in exchange for our meal.

Well this practically started a riot because the uncle had partaken in his afternoon bottle of baijo (strong Chin.ese alcohol).

The uncle stormed back to the stand trying to get the money back, while Hailong and Yangxue told me to make a run for it, we all took off down the street and the grandma came after us. She held on to Yangxue who got away, and then set her sights on me. I was confused by all the yelling, not understanding anything, and knowing that for sure I was not about to push away from this grandma. G0d forbid she fall over or something because of me. So I just stood there as the grandma gripped into my arm like I was the hostage. I tried not to laugh hysterically at the situation because that would not be good.

Finally the uncle gave the money to Hailong, who accepted and the grandma relinquished her grip on me. She left marks. I kept laughing to Hailong that grandma was stronger than me! haha. I will never forget being attacked by a Chin.ese grandma.

We took the boat back to the city center and headed for the train station. I was so exhausted after that weekend, but it was so fun! It is hard to live in a constant confusion of Chinese and English, so my brain hurt a lot, haha. I definitely felt like a big white commodity getting taken around the city, but I think in the end, it was so good to get closer to my student, so see into her life and understand her reasoning more. We had a few really meaningful conversations that were good for both of us about fa.ith, expectations of women, and marriage. I am so glad I was given that opportunity.

Here are some pics of our weekend:

In other news:

It snowed today. I'm cold. It's currently 1 degree celcius outside. And my classroom has no heat and my mom's package with winter clothes has not arrived. Blahhhhhh. But it's ok, life goes on. My camera is officially gone, broken, no more in use. Which is depressing. But it's ok, life goes on. :) It has served me well for 3 years. It has flown the journey across the world 5 times, been to Tai.wan and Korea, and rests in peace.

I heard back from my thesis advisor today and he wants an additional 25 source annotated bibliography before he can sign off on my draft. Which means: crap; back to work. He did say many kind things and had a lot of encouragement about my writing, he just thinks I need more sources. Which is frustrating considering I LIVE IN CHI.NA. How can I find 25 BOOKS on adoption when you live in a society that shuns the practice? Hmmm.

A favorite clothing store popular across Chin.a has the slogan: Impossible is Nothing. That has become the mantra for this thesis process. Impossible is Nothing.

That's about it in my life. This week I am giving midterms so I am listening to speeches all week, which is so so so fun (for me, not them, poor guys). And I learned how to knit today! The cleaning lady at school is teaching me. And I preach.ed in chu.rch on Sunday. And was 10 minutes too short. Oh well. It was encouraging to be asked. More on that later.

I hope all is well out there. Send me sunshine.

Miss you, xoxo.

Nov 14, 2009


I have not had a diet coke in 25 days.

This is big news.

Nov 13, 2009

Catch Me If You Can.

Hello, little blog.

Because reliable internet and VPN (around the censorship that blocks blogger) are a luxury I do not have, I have been ignoring you! But I'm back! (who knows for how long...waaaa). It has been really bad weather lately, think: 40 degrees and freezing rain, for the last few days and whenever it rains (which is all of winter) our internet connection in the teacher apartment building gets a little tricky.

But anyways. whoohoooo for internet. yay. It just makes me that much more thankful for it when I have it!

The past 2 weeks have been insanity in my life. But yet, every day here is an adventure in itself, so that shouldn't be a surprise. I have decided that living overseas suits me because I need adrenaline, I find comfort in chaos, and become downcast when life moves slowly. So, here I am.

The recap of my so called life:

For Halloween I went to Shenzhen, at the border of Hong Kong (about the distance from Tampa to DC). My traveling partners and dearest classmates live there so I decided to jaunt on down for the Halloween celebration. Well, because i have like no money whatsoever because Chin.ese money is like monopoly money, I decided to save funds and instead of flying both ways, I would train down on Thursday and fly back on Sunday night.

Well, Chin.a's train system is rudimentary. You cannot buy tickets online, you must go to a train ticket depot, stand in line, and hope there are tickets left. There is a ticket counter place near my house and the same woman has worked there since I moved here. And she scares the crap out of me. She is one of the few people in this town who has the ability to make me cry out of helplessness. I have left her window dejected and confused more times than I can count.

So, when I went to buy my train ticket to Shenzhen I was expecting the worst. I took my patience pill (a new favorite saying of mine to get through the days) and put on my game face, ready to face the train ticket beast. Well, true to form, she was not willing to slow down her horribly fast and muffled Mandarin for me, the obvious foreigner, and not willing to look at the paper I wrote out with the train number on it for her to easily reference. She's a piece of work. She was not willing to sell me a ticket and I had no idea why because she was not using the regular words for "do not have a seat, oh well, sucker." Finally I made out that she was saying there were no beds, and no something else. I told her in Chinese, that it didn't matter if there were no beds, I just really needed to get to Shenzhen, finally she shook her head and sold me a ticket. I thought I had bought a hard seat ticket for the 17 hour journey. I was wrong.

I bought a standing ticket.

So I got to the train station and purchased a small plastic seat (like a child's seat thing) that people use to sit on in the aisles and I walked onboard the train like I owned the place. Of course people were shocked to see me in the poorest section, and right away offered me a seat. I ended up making a lot of friends in the train car and learning a lot of Chinese. It was wonderful practice, no English for 17 hours. I stood between the hours of 3-5am because I felt bad sharing a seat, we had squeezed in 4 people on 3 seats. People were packed everywhere, smoking, spitting, sitting, standing, throwing sunflower seed kernels on the floor, etc. Normal behaviors here that are elevated in annoyance when in an uncomfortable environment and lacking sleep.

In the end, it was a cool experience. I love long, solo journeys because I always learn a lot about perseverance, controlling my attitude in hard times, and the general kindness of the Chin.ese people.

Shenzhen was a blast as expected. J and I got a hair wash, hung out at her school where I got to sit in on a class which was really cute. We karaoked and went out dancing on Halloween night. I was a cat. We rode the metro to our meeting place and the stares were awesome. It is great to be a buge redhead dressed as a cat on the Chi.nese metro. Leopard tights. frilly, short black dress, face paint. ears. J said the most perfect thing, "Today you have a free staring pass, Ch.ina". haha. I wish I had a picture of that moment on the metro. So funny.

Well, we had so much fun and I was sad to go, but Sunday night rolled around and I headed off to the airport. I was worried that I would not have enough time to make it to the airport before my 7:20pm flight because I had left a little late. Well my taxi rolled up to the airport terminal at 6:40, but by the time I had paid, and run across the terminal, deciphered the Chinese signs for the check in counter, I had missed the check in time. Crap.

I went to the bathroom to compose myself, take a few deep breaths, and think. I practiced my Chi.nese in my head as I walked towards the airline help desk. The line was disastrous and I waited forever, being cut in line more times than I could count. Finally I pushed my way to the front and spit out my rehearsed shpeel about how I had missed my flight but there was another one to Hangzhou at 10pm were there any more tickets? The girl was in shock at my blurted out paragraph and I noticed several people staring at me with their mouths open, which gave me a false sense of control in the situation because I was proud of my Chinese. haha. That didn't last long.

The girl told me to go to the check in counter. And those people told me to go back to her. So began a lovely game of running back and forth between the counters unsure of exactly they were saying and since I had spoken so well they thought I understood everything, which I didn't. Finally I got a boarding pass and realized they had held the plane for me and told me to hurry through security. It is there that I realized I had forgotten my passport. Since I didn't need it on the train, I had completely forgotten about it. Waaaaaa. THey would not let me through customs, even though I had 2 other forms of ID. And I dejectedly called J. My phone was dying (which made everything more exciting) so I plugged my phone into one of the wall outlets and sat on the floor trying not to feel defeated by the evening's events. This is a feeling I have become used to after all the travel blunders of the past year.

I headed back to J and Co. and I am so glad that I got to! Our Chin.ese friends called 411 to try to find me a way home and I called my boss to tell her I needed to cancel my 6 classes on Monday.

After dinner, our Chin.ese friends decided that we should get massages. Amazing. So we paid a ton of money to get oil massages at a nice spa and then had the honor of wearing little paper one-time-use panties in a hot spring pool thing. I was a little overwhelmed because I thought we were just getting massages, I was not mentally prepared to get naked in front of my new friends (teeny Chin.ese girls). And of course, the spa did not have the *cough* appropriate size paper underwear and bra for my figure. So I wore ill-fitting see-through paper underwear. There really was no point to it. It was worse than being naked in Korea because Koreans are bigger and being naked is better to me than being in a whacked out looking paper bra and underwear that does not fit at all.

So that ended, thank G0d. And I went back to J's for the night. The next morning I went to the bus station and bought a ticket for the 9am bus to Hangzhou. I was under the impression that the bus would be about 12 hours because busses are generally faster than trains.

Well, no. The adventure was not yet over.

As I sat on the disgusting, grossest thing I have ever been on, I asked the driver how many hours it would be. As I asked him I looked around and surveyed the scene. The drivers obviously lived on the bus, and I noted that I would not be using any of the blankets or even laying down for that matter because I would certainly contract a disease. When the driver answered, "22.5" I almost threw a fit. The fact was that there was no other way home though that I could afford money wise or time wise, I had a ticket, and I was riding that bus.

What began as a seemingly torturous experience (I wish you could see that bus) ended up not being half bad. The 3 rotating bus drivers invited me to have lunch with them (the bus stopped for lunch and dinner since there was no bathroom onboard). We chit chatted in Chin.ese and when I didn't eat dinner because my stomach felt weird from lunch and I was scared of diarrhea, one of the drivers brought me hard boiled eggs. One of them even noticed I would not use a blanket and unzipped one of the blankets and gave me the inner lining - which was clean.

What was strange was that people on the bus (and on the train a few days later) all kept asking me, "Pa bu Pa?" Which means, "are you scared?" or "do you have fear?" I always was like, "no, why? Should I be scared? What is there to be afraid of?" I never understood why the people thought I should be scared. I did, though, not take any pictures during any of this travel when I was alone because I also had my laptop and didn't want to flaunt electronics.

The next morning at 7:30am I arrived in Hangzhou, taxied home from the side of the interstate, changed my clothes, and jumped on the next bus to Xiasha (an hour away) where I work. I got to my classroom, exhausted but feeling triumphant only to find that the campus secretary had canceled the wrong classes. My 8am class had shown up, and my afternoon classes had been canceled. So I sat and read and waited for my co-workers classes to be over so I could go home and shower away the dirt and exhaustion of an insane travel weekend.

After all of that insanity and obstacles based on cultural differences, different ideas about time, cleanliness, and my own personal dumbness (passport), it was all worth it to spend the weekend in Shenzhen with J and her friends. And now I have this super long story to tell about how crazy it is to travel alone in Chin.a. And if the worst thing that happens to me is that I have to be uncomfortable for a long period of time, then that is doing pretty good.

More updates and photos to come. Check facebook for updated photos!

I miss you all. Cheers.

Nov 6, 2009


I was in the vegetable market buying bags and bags of carrots and greens for bunny food today and as per usual, people started talking to me in Chin.ese.

him: "Nali Guo?" (what country?)
me: "Mei Guo De." (Amer.ican)
him: "USA! KFC!"

ahahahahhahahahahaha. Oh,
You never cease to entertain me.

Nov 5, 2009

globalization in my backyard.

Interesting, It begins:

Shanghai Disney Approved by Administration

"Mr. Iger called the approval “a very significant milestone” in a statement, taking care to praise China as “one of the most dynamic, exciting and important countries in the world.” A spokeswoman declined to elaborate on details. Throwing open its doors to such a uniquely American — and permanent — entertainment experience is a milestone for China, which has aggressively protected its culture from Westernization in general and Hollywood in particular. Only 20 non-Chinese films are allowed to be shown in theaters each year, for instance, and those are often edited.

“Disney, perhaps the most iconic American brand of all, is supercharged in this department,” said Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.

It was unclear what convinced China to finally approve the deal after years of off-again, on-again talks. The prospect of creating tens of thousands of jobs at a tough economic moment might have played a role, Mr. Schell and other analysts said.

Others have speculated that the timing involved President Obama’s inaugural visit to China later this month.

Mr. Schell said he saw something more at work. “It’s a signal that now they will tolerate a certain kind of Western investment,” he said."

I have two responses to this:

1. I gotta get out of here before this opens.

2. I need to stay so I can go!

Nov 4, 2009

Blogs are Overwhelming...

...there is too much to say!

Well, hello little blog after a short hiatus! I thought I had purchased a VPN so that I could freely use the internet. (facebook, blogger, and other social networking things are blocked over here). Well it turns out that I was actually on a free trial and the trial ended so I have been without internet communication for awhile. I finally got it back up and running last night. whoohoooo freeeedomoomomo.

Well the last week has been incredibly eventful.

Last Monday two of my classmates who live in Shanghai surprised me with a visit!

On Thursday I set out to Shenzhen to see The Crew (my dearest classmates and traveling buddies). I bought a ticket for the 17 hour journey but did not realize that I had bought a STANDING ticket and would not have a seat. Luckily, Chin.ese people are highly amused by large redheads who speak crappy Chin.ese and shared seats with me most of the journey. I only stood from the 3-5am hours and mostly because I wanted to let those poor people sleep. It was a fun experience traveling alone under such uncomfortable circumstances. Another memory for the grandkids, that's for sure.

Here is me and the sweet 18 year old girl who shared her seat with me for hours and hours. She gave me a hair clip and is traveling to Shenzhen to find a job because she "has difficulty". She slept on my shoulder in the night time and I really hope that wherever she is today, that she is employed and at peace.

The weekend was spent in Shenzhen (the Mainland city that borders Hong Kong). I got to follow J around her school and meet her awesome friends. We KTV'd on Friday and went out dancing on Saturday for Halloween. Sunday we went for a hair wash at J's favorite salon. Hair washes are life changing and this was the best place I have been to in Ch.ina. (not that I've been to that many....but was awesome). We laid down on a bed thing and little Chinese men washed our hair and massaged us then blow dried our hair straight. It's a dream.

Here's me and the girls at KTV on Friday:

Well, Sunday night I had a flight back to Hangzhou because I have 8am classes. I packed all my bags and said my goodbyes and rushed to the airport with barely enough time to make it. I ended up missing the check in time and had to wait in line to try to change my flight. I thought it might all be ok because there was another flight to Hangzhou at 10pm. Well, after much hullabaloo and me surprising myself with my ability to change a flight ticket in Chinese (Hallelujah PTL), they ended up holding the flight for me. I went to the VIP security line and begged to go to the front, only to fin out that I had forgotten my passport and my foreign expert certificate was not valid enough to fly. So I left the airport wondering how the heck I would get home.

I met the girls for hotpot dinner and one of them had the brilliant idea to go to the 24 hour spa. After the shenanigans at the airport I was all for it! We got oil massages and then took a relaxing dip in the hot pool. The only thing about the hot pool is that to enter it, you wear one-time use paper underwear and bras. Paper. White paper. I am a large American. Don't picture it, but the experience is too hilarious not to share. The four of us girls, two Chi.nese, two American, sat around in the pool in our see-through paper undies and laughed. It was worse than the spa in Korea where everyone is naked. Because in Korea they are bigger people and not so critical of foreigner's bodies, and I think it's better to be naked than in a see-through, ill-fitting, paper bra. Oh, Ch.ina. At one point J looked at me and said, "how can we blog about this?!" Well, this is my meager attempt. No words can ever express the hilarity of life.

I ended up canceling my classes on Monday and taking a 22 hour bus from Shenzhen to Hangzhou. The bus was disgusting, but after so long it began to feel like home. I refused to use the blankets because I thought I would catch a disease, and one of the 3 drivers pulled out the lining of the blankets and gave it to me, since it was clean. The drivers treated me to lunch and we chit-chatted as we drove. They gave me the front bed because it is the longest. I felt a little bad getting given so many privileges because I think they noticed my inner hissy fit about the state of the bus when I boarded. I boarded the bus at 9am on Monday, and exited at 7:30am on Tuesday. I arrived in Hangzhou, took a cab home, and had enough time to brush my teeth and change my clothes before I got on a school bus to Xiasha to teach my classes. It was a whirlwind but I was just happy to be home, safe, and laughing at the experience.

This week I am teaching my students international proverbs. I have proverbs from many different countries and we are going over them and then they are presenting them to the class in interesting ways. One of their favorites is, "Every cloud has a silver lining" because they interpret it as "every person has something special about them." I like this different interpretation. An interesting thing is that most of my students do not agree with this quote, "The older a person becomes, the more beautiful life is." They think that when you are old, you have experienced the harshness of life and you are not young and naive anymore, so how can life be beautiful? Interesting perspective. I think it'd kind of sad.

Tomorrow I will be working on my thesis all day and then Friday I am leaving on (another) train with one of my students who invited me to her hometown for the weekend.

It never stops. Life is not boring, that is for sure, but boy could I use a 45 hour nap.

Also, I have quit diet coke. Cold Turkey. All coke/carbonated products to be exact. I have no grand scheme or reason for this action. It began as an idea for a fast to become closer to Gawd, but then I decided just to discipline myself off of it all together. It is not about health or weight, it is just about me wanting to discipline myself. I said no more, and I am sticking to it. It has been 10 days. Sometimes the headaches are unbearable, so I keep powder coffee in my house for those moments when I think I might explode or my eyes might cross together. But so far, so good! Zai Jian my beautiful bubbly beverage, we will never meet again.