May 30, 2010

Jing Returns!

It's been a whirlwind weekend like always.

Thursday night was Book Club, in which we celebrated by meeting at a local hangout instead of one of our houses because we have finally finished tackling War and Peace. (shhhh... I didn't finish). We sat and counted the weeks and realized we only have time for one more book (2 weeks). This is so sad to me. Half of our 4 person group is returning to the states for grad school next year. I'm going to miss this weekly session of reading, character analyzing, and general literacy merriment.

After book club I went to a fancy schmancy piano bar with a random man I met a few weeks ago. He called and in an act of insanity/language misinterpretation agreed to meet him. I got in his Jeep (not the first time I drive off with a person I barely know) and we went to a snazzy place. This dude cracks me up because he just wants to know english. He is unassuming, doesn't hit on me, and doesn't make me feel uncomfortable or that he has alterior motives. So refreshing from a Chin.ese male acquaintance. We talked Chin.ese for about 3 hours and then I told him it was too late and he drove me home.

The reason I chose to document this random encounter is because it marks the official longest conversation I have had with someone who speaks absolutely no English and who doesn't know me and know my Chin.ese speaking tendencies/wrong habits of speaking. wooohooooo.

Friday I went to karoake with my foreign girl posse. I love this crew. I would die without them for my weekend entertainment crowd/girl talk/general friendship. We are: Rita from Russia, Susanne from Holland, Yemi from Nigeria, Natasha from Ukraine, Lina from Turkmenistan, Kristine from LA who's mom is a Chin.ese national, and me - Jessica from New Port Richey. (A few key bff's were missing on jaunts to Shan.ghai or Kong for the weekend). I truly believe peace between vastly contradicting nations is possible, all we need is a little karoake and some patience.

Saturday was exciting because Jing came to visit! Jing is the Asian third of the DREAM TEAM. (aka my best friend trio from last year who I miss everyday). Jing is working at the USA Pavillion of the Sha.nghai Expo and came back to HZ for a night. I haven't seen her since we left Korea last year at the end of our amazing vacation.

We went to dinner with my friend Laura and then met up with a bunch of old and new friends at the Chin.ese bars we used to frequent (where we learned Chin.ese, basically). I haven't been back all year so it was really sentimental to all be together in a palce we used to chill.

We danced, sang, played Chin.ese dice games, laughed, and reminisced. Like the old days, we stayed out til the sun rose (a former rule) and then had breakfast at McDonalds while old people did Tai Chi out front (also a former tradition while in grad school). We both agreed that we loved remembering the "old times" (I'm too young to have "old times!") but that we are happy that period is over. I'm too old to stay out that late so often, I can't hang with the kiddies anymore! haha.

We woke up (too) early this morning and had brunch at the french restaurant in town (also a former hangout) and then Jing was off on her merry way back to Shan.ghai. It was wonderful to have her in town. The 24 hour visit brought in another flood of memories. In a time when I am growing increasingly nostalgic for the present, and dreading the impending changes the next few weeks will bring, I was glad to have a piece of the past in my apartment to laugh with. Hopefully next year I'll be reminiscing on these times with someone dear.

Some photos:

we ate yummy food at the best Hangz.hounese restaurant

Jing, Angel, me, Kai - reunited at an old hang out spot:
the former Fire Cicada band, best band in HZ (we used to stalk them last year):

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. -the wonder years.

Oh Jingy, come back soon! But not too soon, my sentimental heart/sleep schedule can't take it.

Walk Slow. xoxo.

May 27, 2010


Last week a 4'10" bundle of fun from came to visit. My friend Cammie lived in Hang.zhou for 4 years and left at the end of last year. Lucky for those of us still residing here, she spent her hard earned teaching assistantship $$ on a plane ticket back to the Mainland!

Wooo hoooo.

One of the highlights of her being here was her bringing her wanderlust spirit. One of the things she had on her "to-do" list was "go on a trip!" I laughed at her about this because, she was already technically on a trip jsut being here! It is true though, that living abroad makes you want to explore all the crannies around you and we were happy to help her out with that request.

Rather spontaneously, last Wednesday, Seneca, Hannah, Cammie, and myself found ourselves on a 2 hour bus to a place called Qiandaohu (thousand islands lake). We booked ourselves a hostel and packed our umbrellas since it was a rain saturated forecast.

The girls had to wait for me to get off work and bus back downtown, then someone who won't be named forgot their passport and had to leave the bus station to go back home and get it. After all was said and done, we found ourselves rolling into a new city sometime around dinner time.

After checking in and hushing Seneca's relentless recount of the horror movie "Hostel" we found a family who owned a shop and was willing to cook us dinner. They even moved a table outside for us since the odor of smelly tofu was so rampant we couldn't stop coughing.

After a vegetarian dinner (for Cam) we went back to the hostel, broke out our canned wine stash, and sat around for hours laughing about the past and present and sharing fears that our futures won't be as awesome as our present. (so good to know I'm not alone in this sentiment).

Early the next morning we head of on our scheduled boat tour around the huuuuge lake and toured various islands. it was rainy but still beautiful. It was the kind of rain you can still see through, so we were able to at least enjoy ourselves. We rode a shady cable car (haaaaate) and fed a ton of huge carp.

Of course, because this is, everything was overrun with awkward kitschy tourism. (is is possible to find a hill with a path, rather than cement steps in this country?!! Because it's been two years and I still haven't...) But alas, we were able to laugh at the randomness of it all and enjoy the scenery for what it was worth.

A funny part of the trip was that for some reason (language perhaps, haha) we were always somewhat off on the time our tour group had to be back to the boat. Our tour was in Chinese, which was not an issue for us because we either could a.) try hard to understand her or b.) not care. Most of the time we were too busy hanging out to listen, but when it came time for instructions, we were always getting the time wrong. haha. This was humorous to the boat staff who would watch us play cards from the outside windows as we waited for the rest of the tour participants to arrive. ha. They passed out orange stickers to the tourists and didn't give us one because the guide said, "I can't lose you." haha. I told her we wanted those stickers too, dang it! Just because we didn't look like everyone else doesn't mean we can't get a cool sticker, too! haha.

Anyways, we had a lot of fun on our 24 hour vacation. We laughed a lot. We reminisced a lot. And we made new memories. It was nice to know that even after people leave they can return to Chin.a and our friendships remain in tact. People here are forever intertwined because of the extremeness of the experience. (as with other life experiences).

The crappy part is that now I have to miss Cammie all over again! :)

Here's some photo evidence:

Walk slow. xoxo.

May 26, 2010

Short but Crazy Weeks.

Today I taught my last class at HDU.

There are 2 weeks left, but this week is the last week I am acually teaching a lesson that I have prepared. Next week they are giving their final exam presentations and then the last week we are eating cake and getting buck wild (or just sitting around chatting, we'll see what happens).

I was scurrying down the hall mentally going over my lesson after the lunch period and suddenly it hit me: this is the last time I do this. Holy junk. The nostalgia is almost painful it is so powerful. I guess that means it's been a good ride.

Anyways, the 3 day work week was insanely busy as always. I thought for some reason when I got this schedule that it would be awesome, but instead it has turned into 15 hour work days and weekends that don't feel like weekends at all - but instead another week.

On Monday I was able to see Lizzie and her family who were in town for a short blip as part of a Chin.a sight-seeing tour that was stopping in Han.gzhou for a jaunt around the lake. Lizzie and I met on the 2007 trip with Intervarsity. She spent this year teaching near Beijing, and we haven't seen each other since we rang in the New Year together with our friend Jes on a train from Shijiaz.huang to Qin.gdao. (good times).

It was wonderful and affirming to meet her family. There is so much to be said about being near family. Any family. When her dad met me, he wrapped his arms around me and said, "you look like you need a hug!" I was like, "dude, I need a family!" I love the Am.erican ideas of hugging and showing affection. I miss that. We hung out and walked to the West Lake and saw the water show. It was a great evening and made me even more excited for when my family visits (if that is even possible!)

Today I stayed after work in Xia.sha to be a judge at the first annual graduate student english speaking competition. I had several students make it to the final round and my dear student Sophie won 2nd place. I felt like a proud Mama English Bear. Watching my little English cubs grow up and leave the hibernation cave. It was fun, though these competitions can be a little...ummm...repetitious. When every topic is something like, "Ch.ina embraces the world" and you have heard the words "Olympics" and "Expo" more times than you can count...the brain sometimes goes to auto-pilot and you feel like you are in a broken record of robotic sounds.

Some of the students were really ingenuitive though, and that was refreshing and wonderful. I was proud to see how brave my students were and happy to listen to their improved pronunciation. I was just really proud of them.

Tonight I was chatting online with Sophie and she was asking me about my future plans. I have refrained from really discussing my personal life with my students because I think it's not professional/don't want to make them jealous/and think I'm not really that interesting to begin with.

I was telling her about going to study next year and out of no where I get this:

sophie 09:51:21
teacher,i think your life is wonderful

My response was something like: Yes, I have many blessings. And I want all my students to have many blessings also.

Yes, I have an amazing life. I have many blessings and fre.edo.m that is unimaginable to most people around me. But how does a person transfer that feeling of wholeness to another? How can I express to my students that their lives are also full of possibility? That they should not admire me and just think I have a cool life, but that they should try for their own personal dreams?

This is something I have wondered for 2 years now. I don't think I will ever find the answer, I'm not so sure it exists. But hopefully some small kernel, some teeny nugget of similarity can be found between us that allows some of them to agree with me when I say, "We are the same. Nothing has made me more special than you. We come from the same Creator."

I have like 10 more things I want to blog about but the obsessive compulsive side of me thinks they all need their own post.

some of the English competition contestants and their cheering section:

Lizzie's family! with the water show behind us.

me and Sophie!
Walk slow. xoxo.

May 24, 2010

la la la

Note to self:

Stop going on the internet after long nights out.

Until further notice, here is some photographic evidence that I have awesome friends.
Old and new.

Happy Birthday, Angel! (latin guy with his mouth wide open). You are dearly loved.
The greatest joy I have in Chin.a is my friendships.


May 23, 2010

oh yes...

I just met a man from Damascus, Syria. His name is Simon. After Simon Peter.

He wore a bandana on his head and orange flowered board shorts. We talked about Bible stories while drinking Chin.ese beer for 6 hours. It' s currently 4:08 am and I just had to log online and let you know....

...I'm so in love.

ay yi yi.


May 22, 2010

the baby news never ends.

I still remember what I was wearing when I first learned about China. It was a red and white "Coca-cola" nightgown that my mom's college best friend, my "Aunt Julie" [who I have long since lost touch with] gave to me when she was home from one of her extended times in Guatemala.

I was standing by the white leather couch in my family's first house [only 1 out of 2...not bad for living in a country on the move], beside the woven side table with the off-white lamp. I remember it all. My puppy Andre was sleeping on the green Lazy Boy chair to my left and I was mesmorized by what I saw on tv. It was 20/20 or Dateline or some other news show I should not have been watching as an elementary schooler.

The people on the screen were Asian. I had never seen Asians before. (thanks to a New Port Richey upbringing that involved lots of middle-class white america minivans, ballet lessons, and happy meals). But these people who didn't look like me were different. They were babies. And the announcer was talking about American families who would go to these far away places and bring these family-less babies to live with them. I remember what one of the women looked like. She had frizzy blonde hair and wore a red shirt. She was talking about how this Asian baby was her own, how she loved it as her own child. After her speech came a video montage of her little Asian child playing in the front yard with her older, natural born, blonde children.

I have thought about that tv show often in my 23 years. I have told countless numbers of people about watching that show that evening and how it has been the driving force for me wanting to live in Asia, help those babies, and eventually have one of my own.

Being a person who believes in grace and divine purpose, it comes as no coincidence to me that since literally my first week in this country I have been surrounded by or working with...babies.

This work has brought much heartache and strife to my life. (see previous post). It has made me questions everything I believe in (how could a higher power allow such injustices to exist?! Why doesn't the group of common believers do anything substantial to alleviate suffering in other parts of the world? Who am I to know what is right anyways? etc...)

But at the end of the day, these babies have been my driving force, my pull toward all that is truth, my understanding of the cycle of life, that we all life and die, and that I only get one run on earth - so use it wisely. These babies have allowed me to witness miracles, healing, reconciliation, and the beauty of sacrifice.

When I don't think I can live here anymore, when I am selfish, depressed, or lonely, I think of the babies and I find my purpose again.

So it is with great joy that I was able to meet my dear Chin.ese friend Stone's baby last week. Little Shi Yue was born in January while I was visiting the US. Because of weather, sickness, and scheduling I am just meeting her now! She is 4 months old, surrounded by love, and blessed with thick thighs and three chins. We have so much in common. :)

I met the doctors at Pizza hut (their choice) and Stone arrived a few hours later with baby Shi Yue in tow. It was wayyyy past her bedtime but the little squirt was happy as could be as long as her daddy was close by.

It was wonderful to meet her. I can't wait to see her grow up. I'll be here til she enters preschool, so I am hoping that Shi Yue can be the walking reminder of my time here. I want to teach her English. I want to walk in the park with her when she can walk, I want to put her hair in pig tails when she has hair. I'm excited for the chance to watch her grow and tell her silly stories about when she was a baby, making the waitresses laugh in Pizza Hut.

Shi Yue is blessed to have a family that loves her even though she is a girl. Shi Yue is blessed to have a mom and dad that chose to keep her even amidst heavy work pressure to abort because she was unplanned (mom and dad are both surgeons). Shi Yue is blessed to have parents who are determined to take care of her themselves instead of giving her to her grandparents to raise (there is no paid maternity leave in

I love Shi Yue. I hope she lives a long and healthy life. I am proud to know her and her family.

Sometimes I laugh at the journey the Good Lrd is taking me on when I think about that news show so many years ago. When my current status in life has me meeting little Asian babies in Pizza Hut, I have to grin and recognize the pattern not as coincidence, but as divine.

Dr. Xu, Nurse Zhong, (two of my best friends - and longest Chin.ese friends) and baby Shi Yue.

When life gets you down, think of the little things that give you joy; the little things that give you purpose. What is divine in your life?

There's gotta be something. Nobody is left out of this big plan.

Walk Slow. xoxo.

May 17, 2010

there is a heaven...

...and babies go there.

I recieved news today that baby orphan Harrison died 2 days ago from congenital heart failure.

We're grieving in Han.gzhou today.

But we are thankful also, that his pain is over and he is in a better place. Some friends and I have gotten to talk a lot about babies and death today and had some wonderful conversations about the afterlife. Does good come from pain? I certainly expect so.

Almighty, Father of all mercies and giver of all comfort: Deal graciously, we ask thee, with those who mourn, that casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love, through Him.

--The Book of Common Pr.a.yer

May 12, 2010

Do you speak R-fnisrnvljkdlvjdf-n?

I have spent 30 of the last 48 hours in Xiasha (the satellite town an hour outside the city, where I work). That spells - exhaustion. But in a good way.

Yesterday when my classes ended for the day at 3:15, I went to get my hair dry washed until I met up with some students from last year for dinner. Turns out word spreads fast in a town as entertainment-less as Xiasha and one of my classes had found out about Jennie and I's KTV outting last week. They wanted in on the "hang out with the old teacher" fun, too.

It was lovely. They had pre-ordered lots of great dishes and we sat around a table and chatted forever. Some of them I hadn't seen for a year. Their thesis' are due this month so they are focusing most of their attention on what they will do post-graduation come March, 2011. I made them promise to invite me.

True to fashion, word has gotten out about my future plans. (I swear I only told like 3 people, these people can GAB!) I feel a little out of sorts explaining my going to Zhe Da because that school is a dream for most of my students (the school I work for is 3rd tier, the school I will be attending is 1st tier). I don't want to make them feel jealous or bad, so I would prefer not to let anyone know, but it appears that won't be possible. Secrets don't exist in a country of 6 billion.

Today after my classes ended I went to see Iron Man 2 in the theater with one of my students. I can't say too much, but it was quite entertaining to see how it was cens.ored. There is a country in the movie where the "bad guy" originates from, and everytime the name of that country was mentioned, it was blurred out. So, people would say something like, "I got you this all the way from R-oihhelihldjnvjnd-a. I was crackin' up. Because of the Gov. ties of that country and this country, this country doesn't want that country to "be the bad guy". Even though it's a COMIC BOOK INSPIRED MOVIE. It's like the Gov. here thinks the people can't seperate entertainment from reality, which actually, in my experience, is true a lot of times. The amount of times I have to defend that is not all like Gossip Girl is outlandish. It was weird to see a censored movie in the theater. I didn't talk about it with my student, because there just is no point. I wonder what the translation was in Chi.n.ese on the bottom of the screen, though. If it was blurred out in speech, what was the translation? This just further ebedded into my mind that in actuality I reside in a land of robots.

After the movie (which was actually really good for having such a small love story component), we had some noodles for dinner and then I had to go to English corner for the last time! It was me and my Brazilian co-worker, Gie's, 12th and last English corner together. We have been English corner partners since last year and worked every single one together. We have it down to a rhythm: I threaten to run away (because it is just awful), she laughs and suggests we hide in the bathroom 'til 6:29, at 6:30 we emerge, I tell the directions and run the show, we seperate into various corners of the room and don't talk too loud to bother the other, at 8:14, she grabs me so we can go to the bus stop. It's been a good run together, but I can't say I'll miss these hours of being super exposed to random students. Some of the repeat students are really precious, but the majority of them are one-timers who just want a glimpse of a foreigner. I've answered the question, "can you use chopsticks?" too many times to count, and I'm just done.

So long, English corner, it's been real. It's been fun. But it ain't been real fun. But considering how nostalgic I'm getting, I won't be surprised if I hop on a bus every so often and join in one next year, just for memory's sake. :)

Tomorrow morning I have another phone interview with a summer camp in Korea. This will make job offer #4 in Korea for the summer. The only problem is the timing of the jobs. I would lOVE to go back to Korea. It's just It's like the way the rest of Asia should be - clean, mannerly, hip, open to other ideas, and traditional all at the same time. We'll see what these people have to say. It's all pretty much the same job: July 21-August 23, 6.5 days a week, $2000, dorm/lunch provided. I also just found a job in Ta.i.w o n at the YMCA, that on pays a little less, but the days are more conducive to my visa-lessness and home-lessness so we'll see. If I get that one, I'll take it, I think.

How are you? I miss you/my country/normalcy.

Walk slow. xoxo.

May 10, 2010


...that there is a G.0.d and he loves us...

(and am embarrassed that I was almost brought to tears in the import aisle over this discovery).

(and Land O' Lakes butter in STICKS!) No more New Zealand butter in odd square formations!


Let no man question His existance again. I'm off to eat my Goldfish.

(I paid almost a total of 10USD$ for these items.....WORTH IT).

Walk slow. xoxo.

Getting Nostalgic.

There's 4 weeks left of classses at HDU. Which means I only go to work 14 more times. I'm getting really nostalgic.

Last week my friend Jennie ventured up to HZ. We had an adventure (for another time and blog story when I have an hour to laugh and punch at these keys). Her time here ended with an afternoon session of KTV with some students from last year and this year. I basically text messaged random students whose numbers I happened to have in my phone and asked if they wanted to come, told them the name and place and about 25 students showed up for some singin' fun.

I was so happy to see old faces and hang out with current students on a more comfortable level than in class. Looking around the room made me happy. I almost forgot the 2085098347 rants I have had in my classes this year or the times of frustration and heartache over my students. ha. It's funny what hindsight does to you. Impending seperation makes me love a little deeper and appreciate a little fonder.

Here's some pics of the little monsters:

Jennie and Stream with Dante in the background.

Cathy, Lisa, Judy, me, Flora, Tiffany, Flora.

T-Mac and co.
Calvin (a fave) with Emily in the foreground (BFF's).

This week in class we are having fun. It is a nice change from the serious topics we have been devulging into as of late. The weather is [finally] nice so we are taking advantage of it. We are playing scattergories for 45 minutes then going outside with my co-worker's class and playing "never have I ever."

Scattergories is so funny. I've adapted the popular game to make it classroom appropriate (thanks, Jennie for the suggestion!). We use topics like, "things you put in a refrigerator that start with the letter "C", and "thing you pack in a suitcase." The things they come up with are hilarious. One group wants to put a girlfriend, rice, and a bomb in a suitcase. I told them I would never travel with them. And the amount of groups that said animals eat "beer" is priceless. According to other teams, people play "ice-ball" (hockey) and "horse-ball" (jockey). They love it and I love that they love it. It's a sneaky sneaky way to get them to dig into the depths of their vocabulary.

The premise of the "never have I..."game is that the group stands in a circle with one person in the middle. That person says, "never have I ever..." and then fills in the blank. The people in the circle have to switch places (which results in some funny collisions) if they have done that thing the person said. This game causes them to think quickly and listen carefully.

It's sure funny. It is amazing the maturity levels of these students versus Amer.ican students of the same age. These students get bashful and awkward over the strangest things. And most of my 24/25 year olds have never even had boyfriends or girlfriends so you can imagine the squeels when they say "never have I ever been kissed." I feel like I'm playing with 12 year olds.

Also their lack of listening skills is funny when a student says, "never have I ever killed a man" and like 5 students go scrambling across the circle, resulting in heavy questioning by me and a lot of laughs by their classmates.

Of course they target me with sayings like, "never have I ever been on a plane," (95% of them have not) and "never have I ever been to Amer.ica." I hit right back with, "never have I ever spoken Chin.ese to my parents," and "never have I ever had brown eyes."

It's all in good fun. There's so much up in the air and stressful about my personal life right now that it is nice to be relaxed and laughing at work.

But it makes impending seperation that much harder....

Oh HDU, you've taught me to be tough as nails and now you're turning me into a softee.
I keep thinking hopefully I get to do this again in 4 years. When I'm a little wiser. And they'll be callin' me, "Doctor." Ya, that sounds about right.

Missin you dearly.

Walk slow. xoxo.

May 6, 2010

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”