Jan 30, 2010

play this game together.

I have a "friend" who I have known for over a year in Hang.zhou whose friendship is mainly preserved through the wonder of internet translation. When we are together we don't talk so much because we usually meet in loud, crowded places. Our main conversations consist through a Chin.ese instant message service. This makes my life highly entertaining. He translates to English and I translate to Chin.ese-sometimes typing both for extra measure.

We have to use a translator because I cannot read Chin.ese, I can only speak. Which means I can only email, text, or im with people who know the Chin.ese form of writing called pinyin which uses letters. This way I can sound it out and know the word. Many people who did not go to college are not good at pinyin and thus we either only talk on the phone or revert to Google to carry on the conversation.

I am used as a source of all things Am.erican. I keep him around because our friendship is funny to me and well...he's beautiful. Tonight I was a MAC computer price expert...have fun reading the hilariousness that is inter-cultural communication online...

(I translated the characters in pink so you can follow along)

lijisheng 07:43:50
Jessica 07:45:24
lijisheng 07:46:14
At home you?
Jessica 07:49:14
yes. 时差 (jet lag). haha
lijisheng 07:50:40
Oh, sorry! Disturb you so early
Jessica 07:51:02
it's ok! You didn't disturb me.
Jessica 07:52:30
zui jin hao ma? (how have you been lately?)
lijisheng 07:53:36
lijisheng 07:53:46
Jessica 07:55:54
lijisheng 07:58:13
Please your family, wishing them a happy New Year wish your grandmother's health
Jessica 07:58:41
thank you! when do you go home for chun jie (spring festival) ?
lijisheng 08:03:35
To go home, but only 10 days at home, we must return to work of the
Jessica 08:04:23
Jessica 08:05:35
such a short time! I was only home 12 days. 这么短的时间!我只有12天回家 (same thing already said)
lijisheng 08:06:15
En Yes
lijisheng 08:09:57
我很喜欢苹果笔记本电脑,我想买一台,但在中国买价格太高,但我朋友有在美国买就很便宜,所以我想请你帮我看下{MacBook Pro(MB985CH/A)}这个型号的在美国需要多少钱,谢谢
lijisheng 08:10:07
I like the Apple notebook, I would like to buy, but in China the price is too high to buy, but my friends are in the United States to buy very cheap, so I would like to ask you to help me Kanxia (look up) (MacBook Pro (MB985CH / A)) This model how much money in the United States, thank you
Jessica 08:14:19
I think it is between USD$1200 and $1500 for the smaller one.
lijisheng 08:16:46
Jessica 08:17:05
US Dollars.
lijisheng 08:18:52
US Dollars.
lijisheng 08:19:05
Well, I know quite cheap
Jessica 08:20:08
1,200.00 USD
8,193.36 CNY
Jessica 08:20:40
I just looked that up. 我只看到,截至 (same thing)
lijisheng 08:21:27
(MacBook Pro (MC118CH / A)) of this model number?
Jessica 08:22:29
I don't know, I'll look...
lijisheng 08:28:03
lijisheng 08:29:03
The money I have is, I really like this computer
Jessica 08:29:24
The 15 inch is 12,500CNY. I think it's expensive!
lijisheng 08:31:25
15寸的都是这么贵吗? (15 inch is more expensive?)
Jessica 08:34:04
Jessica 08:34:34
because it is bigger. 13 inches is around 9,000CNY
Jessica 08:35:22
因为它是更大的。 13英寸约为9,000元人民币 (same thing)
Jessica 08:36:16
I have a 13 inch mac book pro. I think smaller is ok.
lijisheng 08:37:17
En bigger, but I feel good
Jessica 08:37:41
:) mei wen ti (doesn't matter)
lijisheng 08:53:43
OK to trouble you
Jessica 08:54:00
no worries
lijisheng 09:10:05
How many ex-inch?
Jessica 09:10:14
lijisheng 09:11:19
You can type to tell me?
Jessica 09:14:03
在13英寸是7500rmb和15英寸的约9000元。我发现苹果的网站 (The 13 inch is 7500rmb and the 15 inch is 9000rmb. I found that on apple's website.)
Jessica 09:14:35
对不起,这是这么长时间,我在中国的互联网是缓慢的 (same as next sentence)
Jessica 09:14:52
sorry it is taking so long my internet is slow in China
lijisheng 09:16:36
Or would like to thank you, I was like a 15, and I really like
Jessica 09:16:48
Jessica 09:17:58
I am going to sleep now. 我要睡觉了 (same)
lijisheng 09:19:25
Go out when the next time you go shopping, help me see, today, thank you, come to China I ask you to dinner, thank you
Jessica 09:19:40
I'm in China now
lijisheng 09:19:47
Thank you, I thought you home?
Jessica 09:19:52
I got back to Hangzhou yesterday.
Jessica 09:20:19
昨天我来到这里 (same as above)
lijisheng 09:20:38
Oh, really ah, good, another day go out play this game together
Jessica 09:21:00
lijisheng 09:21:19
Well, you have an early rest bar
lijisheng 09:21:19
Well, you have an early rest bar
Jessica 09:22:43
我累了今天的时差,但我应该美好的明天。哈哈 bye bye (I am so tired because of jetlag but I should be better tomorrow, haha.)
lijisheng 09:23:51
Good-bye Zuogehaomeng (sleep well)

The moral of the story is...THANK YOU GOOGLE TRANSLATE...and, have an early rest bar. :)

cheers, Chi.na. xoxo

Jan 25, 2010

Mazel Tov

Amer.ica is wonderful.

The sky is blue, I haven't worn long underwear in 10 days, I can walk around the house without 2 pairs of socks on, anything I could ever want or need is only a car ride away at Walmart, nobody spits on the streets (that I have seen anyways), people say "bless you" when you sneeze, babies wear diapers instead of crapping on the street, nobody has pushedshovedrunoverelbowed me since I entered an American airport, people wait their turn in lines, there isn't a water truck singing the happy birthday song waking me up at all hours of the night, people chew with their mouths closed and don't spit on the table or slurp from their soup bowls, veggies aren't covered in oil and a glass of water comes with ice and a slice of lemon, my bed doesn't feel like plywood and my clothes come out of the dryer all fresh and soft rather than drying on my balcony and turning crispy from the pollution, I'm not doing cherades to constantly figure out what's going on, I haven't risked my life in a taxi/on a bus/walking the crowded street, nobody is yelling at me on the street because I look different than everybody else, the internet is not massively cens.ored and I can watch (almost) unbiased news, and even if I think it's biased nobody will mind if I share my opinion, I can talk about the Big Man upstairs in public without fear of retribution or worse, birds are singing outside and people actually take care of their pets....


I can't possibly write down coherently how amazing it has been to be home.
The closest thing I can say is to listen to the Black Eyed Peas "Tonight's Gonna be a Good Night" on repeat for about 36 hours.

Being in America after a year and a half in Asia is a lot like that.

cheers. xoxo.

Jan 20, 2010

oh, alice, I relate.

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked.

"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.

"I don't know," Alice answered.

"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Jan 13, 2010

Grades Are In!

I have uber respect for every professor I have ever had.

Sometimes in undergrad (and even in grad school a few times) I felt like my professors maybe weren't putting their all into their work. Little did I know the feelings of rejection when a student doesn't show up for one class or how disappointed you are when there is whispering during a group presentation. Or the feelings of earnestness when the class seems tired and you really want them to be passionate about the topic of the day. If I could go back to undergrad I would attend every class instead of skip a few times when it was sunny. Teaching is emotional.

I love it. Today I turned in my grades for my 263 students. The break down went like this:
170 A's
41 B's
49 C's
1 D
2 F's

Supposedly there is a scale somewhere in the teaching methodology world where your grades are supposed to form a curve and be decently even. I don't believe in that, however, as an oral English teacher. TESOL requires so much dedication on the part of the student that I tend to reward hard work rather than ultimate skill level. Grading in this way requires that I not only look at numbers to assess their levels, but also know each student and their desire to learn, their efforts involved over the last 17 weeks together in room 105. (geez these semesters are long). So students who make an effort to know me, who show me that they are working on their oral english as a means for their future tend to get higher grades. It's just the way the cookie crumbles. (idiom alert!)

I love the bond I have with these kids. (well, they aren't kids, but they act like it). I am glad that after a semester they understand how my expectations are different than the other Chin.ese professors. They get nasty looks if they are late and walk in the front door. They get chalk thrown at them if they doze off in class. I am not afraid to kick someone out if they are annoying the heck out of me (only happened once this semester). They are respectful, kind, and generally fun to be around. They know that I know they are busy. They know I understand what it is to be a college student, and that my expectations are rational. They must work hard but still understand that there is more to each of them than grades, test scores, or hours spent in the computer lab.

I expect them to be high caliber modern day individuals who have a chance at changing the path of their country and creating a more "outside world" friendly society. I expect them to stand up against the cultural habits of cheating, paying money to get ahead, and treating women as less able than men. I expect them to be able to hold free-flowing social conversations. To ask questions and answer questions and be sociable and not painfully awkward with people who are not Chin.ese.

I expect them to succeed.

And as my grades ended up...they are meeting my expectations. I'm a proud teacher.

In other news, I applied for my diploma today and have officially had my masters degree posted as received in December, 2009. Holla Class of '09! The graduation ceremony is not until May and I will not be attending because of my current location. It kind of stinks to not get the robe, the pictures, the family gathering...but I guess the pomp and circumstance is not necessary. My life is enriched because of the journey to the degree and that is what matters.

I miss being a teacher and a student. Now I'm just a teacher. That's weird. It's like I have to be a big girl now. Hmmm....time to apply for more school.

cheers. xoxo.

Jan 7, 2010

Old Friends, New Memories.

In the summer of 2007 I was given the chance to spend several weeks in Ningxia Province with a group of amazing people from Washington and Iowa. We had an intense experience that completely prepared me for life here in Hangzhou. In many ways I feel like I would not understand Ch.ina the way I do without that experience of the "other" side of life in this country.

One of the greatest treasures of that experience was my friendship with two girls from Iowa, Lizzie and Jess. On the last day in the public shower we decided to "outlast" all the Chin.ese girls that would shower for the whole hour and shouted "we are the champions" as we ran in a victory lap around the awkward square room. That moment will forever be one of my favorite memories.

We all kept in touch with reunions in Iowa and Washington, and then I moved to Chi.na last year and we all have not seen each other in a year and a half. In an exciting turn of events, Lizzie now lives in Chi.na near Beijing as a teacher. Jess is an incredible friend and bought a plane ticket to travel to Chi.na for 3 weeks during Christmas and New Years. I knew that I could not pass up the chance for all of us to be together again in Chi.na, where it all began!

After looking at a thousand options of how to get together over a 3 day weekend because we were still working through the holiday, we decided to meet in Qingdao which is supposed to be half way between our two cities. Well, in true Chin.a fashion, it is seemingly impossible to get from Hangzhou to Qingdao cheaply and quickly, with there being no direct train. Luckily, Jess and Lizzie are good at logistics and we devised a plan for me to take the Wednesday night 18 hour train to Lizzie's home, then bought a ticket for me to travel with them on the Thursday overnight train to Qingdao. From there I would train to Shanghai and then Hangzhou. It was allllooooooot of training, but so worth it.

It was like no time had passed, and we were all incredibly giddy. It was amazing.

We spent New Year's Eve dinner at an incredible restaurant with Lizzie's co-workers and then headed to our train. We shouted "Happy New Year" in Chin.ese to the whole train car at midnight. It was awesome to spend New Years on a train in Chin.a together.

We arrived in Qingdao to freezing temperatures and blue skies. Qingdao used to be German occupied so it has a very European feel. The city is most famous for its brewery, homemade dumplings, and seaside. We partook of each of its delicacies, drinking beer from a plastic bag on the street, eating clam and tomato and egg dumplings, and walking along the rocks beside the Yellow Sea. It was a wonderful 2 days. We shopped the night market where we each got sparkly glasses with no lenses (the newest amasian item available) and told all the shop owners that they were our "New Year's Glasses." We basically shopped, ate, and walked our way through the city taking in the grandeur of the old German governor's mansion and sitting in a noodle shop for 3 hours during lunch to escape the snow flurries. I never wanted to leave.

Alas the time came to train home Sunday morning. Leaving them was hard because who knows when we will all be together again. Lizzie is leaving Chi.na after this year and Jess starts pharmacy school rotations this summer. I am so proud of both of them. It's cool to see where we were during our Ningxia trip and to see how somehow we all ended up right back here where our friendship began. After some train hullabaloo I ended up at home at 4 am, just in time to sleep for one hour, shower, and head to work. But fatigue couldn't touch me because I was floating from such a happy weekend.

Some photographic evidence:

At one of the "bathing beaches" where people were actually swimming even though it was between -3 - 2 degrees celcius.


New Year's Eve in Shijiazhuang!

I worked this week giving final exams to 260 students. That is always an adventure with students showing up for the exam having never come to a class. (more stories on that to come later.) And now I am officially on Chin.ese New Year break until February 22nd!

The next few weeks are going to be insane. After next Wednesday I will be in Hangzhou for only 48 non-consecutive hours over the next 6 weeks. The passport is going to be getting a good workout. America is the first stop, followed by backpacking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and then spending Chi.nese New Year's at a few Chi.nese friend's houses up in northern Chi.na. There's a lot of logistics still to work out, like affording/buying plane tickets to Vietnam, getting a (legit) Vietnamese visa, getting train tickets to Shandong Province even though I will be in Vietnam when the ticket box opens, and wondering how jetlag is going to play a role in all of this. haha. It should be fun.

But first things first, today I will clean my house and bake a coconut cake.

Cheers. xoxo.

Jan 6, 2010

GMH: Gives Me Hope.


So this website is AWESOME: www.givesmehope.com. It describes itself as "FML for optimists."

I've adopted the phrase as a catch phrase and love wandering around finding things that "give me hope." It really makes the days bright (cliche, but true). Weeeeeell, a few days ago I encountered a situation that gives me hope that there are good people everywhere.

I have a student who's girlfriend is studying abroad in Seattle. He asked me if I would take some things over to America and ship them UPS to her since they have had most of their packages lost. Well, I understand that pain and agreed. So Monday he brought me a (heavy) plastic bag full of asian crap for her (teddy t-shirts, hair bows, hello kitty paraphanelia).

I rode the bus home and tucked the bag away in the overhead compartment since the bus is always so packed and I didn't want any shifty eyes from my co-workers. While on the bus there was a Chin.ese teacher who was obviously wanting to talk. It's funny after some time here you can pick up on when someone is anxious to try out their English. haha. Well finally I just leaned over and said, "hello" because the man's anxiety was killing me. Turns out he spent a year in Australia and his English is perfect. He is a math teacher at my university. So we had friendly co-worker talk until I reached home and I left the bus...without the bag from my student.

dun dun dunnnnnnn.

I realized that I didn't have the bag about an hour after I got home and called my liaison person who is basically worthless. (mean - but true). He told me, "I hope you are lucky enough" to get it back. I resolved myself to waiting until the next day to go to the foreign affairs office and see if anyone picked it up off the bus or if the bus drivers turned it into the school. I decided not to stress and just went about my happy little afternoon.

I had a dinner date and was about to leave my apartment when a loud knock on my door startled me. I opened it and low and behold it was the man from the bus! With my bag! And his 3 year old daughter!

He had continued on the bus to the next stop and had noticed that I left my bag. He told me, "I thought you might be worried so I tried to find you." I have no idea how he found out where my apartment is since he didn't even know my name, (but I guess finding the redheaded foreign teacher's house isn't that difficult). He picked his daughter up from daycare, came to my campus, and walked up 5 flight of stairs to return the bag to me.

I was stunned.

There are good people out there.

I wasn't so shocked that he had recovered the bag, but that he had taken the time to go out of his way to return it directly to me. I know that if the situation was reversed I would have maybe left the bag at the gate, or taken it to the office the next day. But this man inconvenienced himself because he thought I "might be worried".

This was a big encouragement to me. The next time something like this happens I hope I think about Li (finally got his name) and go a little further out of my way to help someone. Instead of just thinking I am doing what is right, I should do a little bit more, even if it means going out of my way in order to help someone. He really encouraged me not just to do "basic good" but to really extend myself. I'm not really sure in what specific situations, but I know that when one arises, Li's kindness will be an example to me.

Gives me hope.


Jan 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

9 Days til America.

"I should like to spend the whole of my in life traveling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home."

— William Hazlitt