Dec 28, 2009


Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I'm done. Thesis approved. Game over. Master's degree: check.

I found out today very anti-climatically in the library of the university I teach at. I sat at the computer and cried for about 45 minutes, packed up my Vera bag, taught an english class, then road the bus home. And so it ends.

This is the end of my (incredibly long and arduous) approval letter from the Dean in Shanghai...

Discussion/Conclusions: I do not believe that you have any earth-shattering news for the world. At the same time, it is a wake-up call to a church that holds to certain claims and beliefs. The scope is limited because of the sample you studied, but the applications are meaningful. I hope it finds an appropriate audience.


I'm not exactly sure what I could have done to warrant an "earth-shattering" remark, but it's ok, I'll take it. I was looking for that little word that starts with an "A" and ends with "pproval". Xie Xie. (thank you).

It's been real, grad school. You have been weird, interesting, amusing, frustrating, and enlightening. You have taken me from Florida to California to Hangzhou and I am forever grateful for this time of my life. I can't believe it's over.

Time to plan the next adventure. Stay tuned.

Dec 27, 2009

it's the little things.

I was cleaning out my email inbox today, responding to the flood of "Merry Christmas Happy Everyday" emails that I got from my students and I found this one from last week. Susan is one of my best students, her English is very natural and relaxed. Though she rarely speaks out in class she sends me long emails every week after class explaining something that has been going on with her classmates or some aspect of Chin.ese culture pertaining to whatever we talked about in class. I think she's cool. It's the connections with people like her that make life here so rich. I particularly liked the end of her email and want to share it with you...

Yesterday is the winter solstice.In China, since ancient times, it has been regarded as significant as the Spring Festival.
Winter Solstice is the first day of winter, which lasts three months. Its seasonal significance is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.

But we really don't care about the change of the season,we usually get-together under the excuse that today is a festival,haha~~Usually In Northern China, people eat dumplings or noodles on the winter solstice,while the traditions in South China are to make and eat Tang Yuan(汤圆), a kind of stuffed ball made of glutinous rice flour. So yesterday evening we were six in the domitory to cook dumplings and Tang Yuan,which makes me miss my own country,my mother always cook the delicious dumplings

but whatever,just like you said,they are all my family,we all together here,it's so happiness.

So I wish you could have a wonderful Christmas.


Cheers. xoxo

Dec 26, 2009

...the weary world rejoices.

Well, Christmas has come and gone again.

It is in the early hours of December 26th in America, while it well into the day after here in the beloved Red Country. I just skyped my family and had show and tell of my Christmas gifts: a snow globe, a bear bank, a scarf, and a coin purse. I also bought myself a crock pot so that I could cook a delicious dinner. I had to justify spending the money by telling myself it was my Christmas gift.

I woke up this morning to a workman knocking on my door. He is a familiar face as my apartment like to implode at the most opportune moments. Yesterday while I was busily preparing to host my first Christmas dinner in my own place (!!!) I absentmindedly flushed a tampon. Well in's plumbing that is a no-no and my toilet ceased to work. Also, while I was in the shower my shower decided to stop draining. It was then that I realized my shower is not caulked properly and the water flooded my entire bathroom/kitchen. This was 2 hours before 10 people were scheduled to arrive. So I did was all good hostesses do: put a sign on the door at read, "KEEP OUT. DRAIN EXPLOSION 2009 BU HAO". bu hao = not good. Luckily my guests were gracious and used the downstairs public toilet without too much grumbling.

My friends arrived and we had ourselves a feast. I made Italian chicken, roasted beef, fruit tarts, and creamed corn. My friends brought baguettes, bean salad, chips, cake, marinated green beans and mushrooms, and some rice dish that was really good. It was the closest thing to a homemade western meal any of us had enjoyed in awhile and it was great to be with good friends. We ate and talked and drank and ate some more until the midnight hour. Slowly they left to bike or taxi home. As the last guest left we stood at the bottom of my gate and he said, "well, first Christmas in" I replied, "but we are still with family." It was a beautiful end to a wonderful holiday week.

Celebrating Christmas in is strange. The environment does not match the calendar. There are no Christmas lights, no extensive Christmas decor, no lavish gift giving tradition, no busy shopping malls, no holiday traffic. The environment has to be created by the people. But somehow this makes the simple message of Christmas more profound. I go around explaining the significance of Christmas rather than watching Rudolph on TV. If I get a beautifully wrapped gift I am surprised, rather than feeling like Christmas automatically comes with gifts. It is a powerful thing to share the Christmas story with people who have never heard. Imagine meeting someone who has no idea about Christmas and being able to tell them all about your traditions, beliefs and the reasons for the holiday.

It is amazing to step back from your life and the way you have always done things and to explain it to another person who comes from a completely opposite life path. It makes the celebration and the purpose for it clearer. There are no obligations or expectations surrounding the holiday because when people from cultures all over the world come together the traditions mesh. Suddenly I find myself giving wrapped apples to people on Christmas Eve (a Chin.ese tradition to wish a person safety) and dancing on Christmas Eve like they do in Zimbabwe. I may not be at my aunt's house with the buzz of the football game on in the background, but I am sharing my friend's family recipes in my small living room, thankful to be by those who are dear to me, even on this side of the ocean.

Yesterday as I cleaned, I reflected on this journey. How something greater than me told me to come to Chin.a so I did. And now on my second Christmas here I am feeling surrounded by family even though it was my first Christmas without any blood relatives (last year I had my sister here). We really are provided for, aren't we? It's nice to know that even in the most geographically distant place that there are people to share a meal with during the holidays, people to celebrate the meaning of Christmas with even though we are without the traditional pomp and circumstance of the holidays.

I am relieved that the holidays are over. October-December is difficult mentally. The only major holiday left is Easter, and I really was never home for Easter anyways so there is not the feeling of being a missing puzzle piece scattered across the ocean.

It was a wonderful Christmas here in Zhong Guo. I missed you. But there is no other place on earth I would have rather been than right where I belong for the moment: here. I hope you feel the same way, wherever you are.

the thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks, the new and glorious morn
fall on your knees
and hear the angels voices
oh night divine
oh night, when He was born.

Some photographic evidence:

Christmas in my living room. A feast for the tummy and soul.

Christmas Eve service at my friend Hannah's. Candlelight, the Christmas story, and caroling.

Peace on Earth.
Goodwill to All.

cheers. xoxo.

Dec 24, 2009

Fa la la la la

Yesterday went for a little walk with this guy...

saw some beautiful sights...

and read some amazingly deep Chinglish signs about walking on the grass...

"Here is the sunshine road Why bother using the byway"

Contemplate it.

Happy Christmas Eve. cheers. xoxo

Dec 22, 2009

Merry Merry

Dear Santa Claus,

I have been a (mostly) good girl this year. For Christmas I would like one of these...

Until you arrive I will be teaching my students Christmas carols, so following the joyful music to deliver my present way out here in Please keep him warm in the sleigh.

Thank you.


Ke Xiao Mei.

Dec 19, 2009

Anne with an E.

I'm reading Anne of Green Gables for possibly the hundredth time.
And this morning as I lay in my bed covered in what seems like dozens of blankets and wishing I could have some hot cocoa, I came across an Anne-ism that completely defines what it feels like to be on the brink of graduating with your masters but still unsure of the outcome.

"For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement."
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The Dean of my program has given me an extension until the end of December to have my thesis approved since my advisor has been mostly MIA. Having an invisible or difficult advisor has made my hopes of graduating this semester slowly diminish over the past few weeks, (which in turn has made me slightly unbearable - sorry dear, patient friends).

I have been encouraged by the last 24 hours and I truly believe that "all things work together for good" even if sometimes we don't know why the craziness is happening.

I lit a fire under the butt of my advisor yesterday (think - this email must be from a red head because it is polite yet caustic in nature) and heard back from him promptly. Dealing with the 16 hour time difference has not been smooth sailing either, but I am confident that once that man wakes up in sunny Southern Cali, he will email my Dean in Shanghai all the necessary documents for me to earn that little piece of paper that says, "DONE, now go live your life, little one. It's over."

I have been given grace in a difficult time, this extension has de-burdened me.

Thanks Anne with an E for the encouragement, now I'm off to eat some noodles.

cheers. xoxo.

Dec 18, 2009

My Soapbox gets Higher at Christmas Time.

Hello little blog,

Yesterday was the annual orphan Christmas party. Because of circumstances beyond our (HICF orphan ministry) control we were not allowed to have the party at the hospital that we frequent, but instead were told to plan it for an orphanage an hour away. I had never been to this particular orphanage before and was not sure what to expect. So, we planned the party like usual, collecting donations and gathering a crew of people to sing and spread holiday cheer.

The hospital workers rented a van and picked us up, which is always wonderful and 15 of us headed to the orphanage. We had been told that there would be 20 kids and that they would be ranging in age from babies to school age children who attend school, but when we arrived there were only 10 severely handicapped kids all under the age of 8. It was a little saddening because we had not been prepared for their handicaps and most of our toys were irrelevant for their abilities.

My sadness over this was soon squelched though. Usually at these parties there is a lot of undercover business that takes place. People wander around smiling and playing while me and the other leaders hone in on the orphanage workers and talk numbers - surgeries, needs, allocating money, etc. Yesterday we were able to secure a heater to replace the broken one in the orphanage.

We also were introduced to a 3 month old baby who needs heart surgery and apparently there is no money in the orphanage funds for him. We will begin by looking at the chrch budget and then we have 2 months before the planned surgery to see what we can do. I think there is not enough money in the budget but with a special offering the high price tag can be paid. I do not know where money comes from in the US for orphan medical care, but there seems to be a lack of funds here for the most needy children who have no chance at adoption.

It was an overall successful visit. The orphanage took us out to lunch to a "farmer food" restaurant where they wanted us to try the "local" food. The best thing was a dish of corn and sugar and Beijing duck! Beijing duck is such a delicacy I was so excited that they gave it to us.

It was wonderful to score more connections in that town with the orphanage and its employees, one of the women and I connected well, she even had me to an interview for the news in Chin.ese! That was crazy, talking into a microphone in Chi.nese about the chrch. Who knows where that will go. haha. I hope we can continue to have a relationship with this place.

Here are some photos. The most frustrating thing is that we are technically not allowed to take photos at the orphanages, so I have little documentation of my visits over the past year. These are taken stealthy or outside. It is good to know that some babies will be warm soon and that hopefully this child can get his heart surgery and live a long life. Every child deserves a chance at living, no matter where he is born or what condition he may have. This I place my life on.

The room at the orphanage with a broken heater. This will be replaced within the month by our biggest contributor. whooohooooo Hallelujah.

The main room of the orphanage in the chaos of the visitors. I got behind that man in the brown leather jacket because he was really angry people kept taking pictures. Take that, mean man.

(taken at the restaurant): Surgeon Yang, me, Caxie (my mentor from chrch), Li Na (Chin.ese mom, works at the hospital), Lin (Chin.ese big sis, works at the hospital), and Jane (helps to translate, from chrch). These are the people who make stuff happen. I am honored to be among them and learn from their example of social work and caring for children. Caxie is moving to the US on Christmas Day and I am taking over her role as coordinator. I'm scared, she has big shoes to fill. But these Chi.nese people are some of my favorite people in the world and I know everything will be okay. It always is.

Taken from my pocket, haha. The babies lined up to hear Christmas songs. The one in the yellow chair kept clapping and would put his arms in the air when the songs stopped, it was amazingly precious.

Please keep this orphanage in your thoughts. I used to think that huge social issues like child abandonment and parent-less children were something just to see on CNN or TIME magazine, but it's not. There are real issues that real people can solve in our own neighborhoods the whole year round. Let us remember this truth this holiday season, wherever we live.

cheers. xoxo.

Dec 13, 2009

I Confess.

I outran a monk for a taxi today. He got caught up in his grey robe and sheep-skin loafers and I took the chance to jump ahead.

Now I feel guilty.

And I think it's hilarious.

In this dog-eat dog world of taxi-grabbing, I have been outrun by more people that I can count, been left on the side of the street stranded in rain and cold, wondering how I will get home. Finally after a year of losing to tiny, agile Chi.nese people who have no sense of waiting in line, I prevail at winning the taxi-hailing game and who do I shaft: somebody's spiri.tual leader.

Sorry, Monk. Next time I won't be so selfish, but what were you doing outside H&M anyway?

cheers. xo.

Dec 11, 2009

A Work Week in Pictures.

Monday - Wednesday in Pics...

Monday I came home to a group of workmen in my apartment installing this little UFO contraption. If anyone knows what it is, I would love to know why I have it installed over my bedroom door. It was a nice little reminder that I have no say in what goes on around here, my door can be opened at anytime without my permission. That was interesting. I keep looking at it thinking someone is watching me.

Me and Brazilian co-worker Gie at a goodbye dinner for our friend Cici. She is going to study in Michigan for 2 years. This picture is mainly for the food. It was the best meal ever, so much garlic and so much Japanese tofu goodness. Yum. How will I live without this for 2 weeks in Ame.rica?!?! Goodbye Cici, we wish you well on your journey!

Wednesday was a patriotic day in China commemorating something about I'm not really sure what it was about and even if I was, I probably couldn't post it here. Anywho, each major at the university prepared a chorus song. I loved the ones with props, like these automation majors with their stalks of wheat and sunflowers.

Or these freshmen with their re-enactments of war and citizen upheaval. Complete with (realistic) fake guns pointed at the audience. That was...lively.

Today I went shopping for Christmas gifts for the orphans. We are having the Christmas party next week and I can't wait to tell you all about it! We got blank notebooks and markers and jump ropes and pencil boxes and stickers. It should be awesome.

Yesterday one of my favorite students at the university came to visit me and we went to the Grand Canal, the man-made canal that extends all the way from here to Beijing (really far). I was really sad I forgot my camera! It has been yuck weather around here lately (wet, cold, gross, gray) but it was a great afternoon nonetheless.

Wish you were here.

Cheers. xo

Dec 10, 2009

Idiotic Idioms.

I'm trying to teach my students, "cool, casual English" so they don't sound like robots anymore but I think it is back-firing.

Recently I taught them, "Chill out," as a synonym for, "relax" or their favorite saying, "take it easy." Well this is transpiring into a whole slew of accidentally rude students.

Today I got a text from a student, "Jessica, Chill out. I will buy the tickets for you, you have a rest." My immediate reaction was, "why do I have to chill out?!" Then I realized that I taught the student that phrase the week before and she was just using it oddly.

Also, in a conversation with the same student today while on a walk around the downtown area where I teach this is what our talk sounded like:

me: I'm really hungry, are you?
her: Oh yes. Let's grab some bite. There is a store up the street.
me: haha, Ok.
her: Dinner will soon be around a corner. Maybe we can wait until that time.
me: Ok, sounds good to me. I have to catch the bus home soon anyway.
her: Chill out.

ahhhhhh hifhriejvoidjb. Could you find the idioms "grab a bite," "around the corner," and "chill out."

Oh well, at least we are all trying? Maybe? Sometimes I feel like ESL teaching in a foreign country is a lost cause because they are not in an environment for using the language and only get their cues from me once a week for how to use phrases and tones. It's a challenge I've been facing for over a year and I still have no idea how to get them to sound natural. I guess that's what experience is for. And patience. lots and lots of patience.

I love my job. But I have no idea what I am doing.

Dec 8, 2009

Mom, Come to China.

Just sitting in my pj's reading a little Rumi.

Gamble Everything On Love:

To a frog that's never left his pond the ocean seems like a gamble. Look what he's giving up: security, mastery of his world, recognition! The ocean frog just shakes his head. "I can't really explain what it's like where I live, but someday I will take you there."

-On Gambling, Rumi.

Dec 7, 2009

Laughter and Dumps.

Hello, Little Blog.

I have wonderful news: I bought a camera! Finally I can document life again! yayyyy. I have felt lost for several weeks without one and now feel the need to take a picture of everything. haha. Well, yesterday (Sunday) 12 of my students from last year, and one from this year, came to my home to make dumplings and hang out. I had not seen some of them in about 7 months, so it was a great reunion. They surprised me on Saturday with a text saying, "we will come to your house tomorrow, ok?" and I was like, well, that doesn't give me much time to clean! haha. That's the way things work around here though, not much time to prepare.

They showed up Sunday afternoon with pre-made dumpling filling and everything needed for a dumpling bonanza. They stayed for about 6 hours of laughter, catching up, and reminiscing about "the good old days" (aka - english class circa 2008-2009 when I had no idea what I was doing and filled up my classes with prancing around the room smiling at my students).

Here is some photographic evidence of our afternoon filled with 200 dumplings:

Mike with the first batch of dumps:

everybody loves Mirabelle:

hard at work on the 3rd (or 4th or 5th) batch:

Today I received this email from a student about the afternoon:

"Dear Jessica,
Thank you for your kind day,I am so glad that I have seen your personal colorful life,Which
beyond my imagination,This is true of you ,so cool.I have not known that you have been so many places
in China,you chinese have improved so much,when I told you somthing that I can not impress clearly ,
you could understand me ,that feeling is so wonderful.
Although you single now ,but I see your optimistic,cheerful attitude,and your life be so colorful ,I am so glad you could lead such a wonderful life!
Tomorrow will be better and better,Let us come on!
Love you!
Oh,I nearly foret ,send me photoes we took at last ,It will be a good merory in my heart!

Precious. Love it.
Thanks for the perspective, Amy.

Cheers. xo.

Dec 5, 2009

Oh Yes.

I am having an, "I'm obsessed with my life in China" day.

There's a 4 inch bow in my hair, green tea in my water bottle, and a thousand fresh oranges in my kitchen.

I would have skipped down the street today if my leather 3 inch boots would have let me.

Thanks for a great day, China. Let's keep 'em coming.

Dec 4, 2009


See you in 40 days.

(but who's counting?)

I decided to come home. Actually, my guts decided for me. I called Dad and told him that I was not coming home, I was going to Thailand to teach poor children and travel to new countries and not waste my traveling years and I felt guilty taking a huge hand-out from my parents and blah blah blah.

Well as soon as we hung up I new I made the wrong decision. I felt that gut feeling of, "whooops, you just chose the wrong door."

So, I am coming home. January 13-27 (wednesday to wednesday). It will be a total of 12 days at home, 2 days flying, which means absolutely no time to recover from jet lag at all. (It will have to be a mental battle, for sure). I will be in New Port Richey and I won't have a car, but I will try to go to St. Augustine for one of the weekends.

Because I am coming home at the mid-way point this year, I am unsure if I will come home this summer. I am still debating whether to keep this going or move back into the flailing American economy with no assets and a general masters degree, but no matter the final decision is come June, (my contract ends June 30th), I want to spend next summer traveling.

But for now, I need a break. Life in China is like constantly holding your breath, and I need to exhale. I was trying to think about what I would regret most. Would I regret going home and not using the time to explore this corner of the world? Or would I regret going traveling and not spending time with my family. I couldn't figure it out.

So in the end I chose family over Thai babies. New Port Richey over Mongolia.

Actually, I will still get to travel to Malaysia and Thailand for a week thanks to cheap flight deals and an extra week before I spend Chinese New Year with a Chinese friend, so the wanderlust in me will still be satisfied. Just on a lesser scale than originally planned.

Someone else will teach the children. For now, I need my country, my family, and my home. There's no price tag on that.

see you soon!
cheers. xo.

Dec 3, 2009

thanks for sharing, friend.

I will grow.
I will become something new and grand,
but no grander than I now am.
Just as the sky will be different in a few hours,
its present perfection and completeness
is not deficient, so am I presently perfect
and not deficient because
I will be different tomorrow.

~Wayne Dyer

basketball and life choices.

I am sitting here in my pajamas on a Thursday afternoon, recovering from a 100degree fever (well really, 37 degree because I live in celcius world) and thinking about my budget for Christmas decorations. Today I am making a trip to Walmart to stock up on supplies to make my home look festive! I'm stoked! I am having some Chi.nese friends over this weekend and I want my house to be in the spirit of the season so they can experience it a little bit. haha.

Well, these weeks are interesting for me. I have decided that this semester of my life will go down in the "Jessica's history book" as equal parts wonderful, strange, and mystifying.

I still have not had my thesis approved and we are at the deadline. I am supposed to graduate with a master's degree in 3 weeks, we'll see if that happens (ahhhh). My broken foot (remember that one?) has taken a turn for the worse after an orphan baby jumped on it while I was sitting side style on the floor last week. It sent me a few weeks back in the healing process, which is disheartening, but in the end I am still happy that I can wear my high heeled boots! (PTL for Clarks!) The orphan Christmas party is next week and I haven't planned a thing, or clued in any of the international mom's to it's existence (oops) and I have a new job tutoring some kids who can't speak a word of english because I am brooooke. They are so cute, though. Just mute. I am in charge of the chu.rch Christmas party with a team of others and I basically have been MIA while figuring out thesis junk (sorry guys). Oh-and I'm a college professor. AND I learned how to knit. I'm about 1/8 done with a beautiful green fuzzy concoction. And my rabbit has no food. Oops, gotta work on that one today.

So. That is my life. It's wonderful. and a mess. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Well, I take that back, I would like to have my thesis approved. STAT. Ya hear that invisible advisor in California....? Approve it. Thanks.

Here's some photos my students sent to me from a basketball game my friend Rebecca, another foreign teacher, and I went to yesterday. It was the annual freshman graduate student basketball game. Each major plays each other and Rebecca and I had students on each team so we went to cheer the xuesheng's on! Precious souls. My job makes my life here wonderful. That is one thing I think I may have trouble finding the rest of my life - a job with such a high job satisfaction rate. The job satisfaction here is limitless. And for that, I am thankful.

The losing team: sweet peas. (I'm hiding in the back right)

And the winning team: (again, hiding)...

I am missing you all greatly. I am truly happy to be here today, though. And I hope you feel the same, wherever you are.

xoxo. cheers.