Jun 16, 2010


So my family is on a plane to Chi.na right now. Actually, they are on a plane to Detroit, then a plane to Tokyo, then a plane to Shanghai. They are 3 hours deep into their flight to Detroit. Bless their hearts, it's a looong journey. I know it well, having flown between China and the US 7 times. (It'll be 9 by the end of July). Poor souls. It's good, "me, myself, and I," time, though. Good time to spend with yourself.

I think I might die when I see them. I'm not sure my emotion capacity can take it!

Anywho - that's not what this post is about.

This post is about my favorite people in Chi.na:

The doctors.

(in their office. Stone -left- is on duty, while the rest of us are just farting around. Michael - center- is showing off his gift box of socks someone gave him. Christina - right- is thinking they are both nutso. She's right. haha.):

These are the people I'd go to bat for. Everytime I leave them I feel like I'm walking on air.

Tonight I met Dr. Xu at Starbucks and about 2 hours into our little chat he decided to take me to the hospital to visit the other two docs and see the newly painted room for the orphans. The organization Amway donated the money to re-vamp the room, complete with wall and ceiling mural, clock, lamps, microwave, toys, and shelving unit. It really looks great. I hadn't been to visit since they did the project last month. Sadly, I got no pictures because I was too busy playing with the 3 orphans who are in town for heart surgeries.

It's the last time we will all be together this year because Stone has to go home for some family things this Saturday. I was really sad to leave him in the hospital! But after 2 months, I'll be back and life will be back to "normal." That's one of the hard things about having this kind of traveling life - you keep leaving the people you love for prolonged periods of time because of travel or visa things. Oh well. August will come soon enough and we will be reunited.

Us under the cardiac surgery sign, they wanted a picture here to signify their work:

Probably the best part of the evening was our spending 30 minutes discussing the meaning of the words "shady" and "ambiguous." As I got out of Michael's car to go into my gate, he yelled after me, "Don't be shady!"

Ayy yi yi. hahaha.

I love those monkeys. They are quite possibly the funniest people I know. Shady, but funny.

I can't wait for my mom to meet them soon.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 15, 2010

this summer and beyond...

Hello, blog. I feel like you deserve a life update. I haven't totally laid out the plans of my near future for my friends, and I feel like it should be done. Because friends should know what's up, right? Right.

Well, my mom and sister are arriving in Shanghai in 2 DAYS! wooooooo. We are going to be spending time in Hangzhou, taking a train to Beijing, takng a train back to Shanghai, visiting the World Expo, then flying home together at the end of June.

I will be in Florida for a little less than 3 weeks, then will be flying to Korea.

In Korea I will be working for the Korean Educational Broadcasting Agency. I have a position as a summer camp counselor/programmer/english teacher for a month.

I am so stoked about this!

It is 10 hour days for a month with no day off - but in the end they hand me a bunch of USD, and unfortunately, that is the driving force of why I am there. You see - I agreed to be in/attend/love on a dear friend's wedding at the end of September. The date is right after I begin school and I have zero money to make that kind of flight/financial contribution now, so I set to trying to find a job for the summer.

Jobs in China pay little to nothing. (Hence why I can't afford the ticket in the first place). It's ridiculous. But after many hours of pra.yer and google searches, I found this job on Dave's ESL Cafe (eslcafe.com). It combines many of the things I love: summer camp, teaching, travel, and Korea. The lady who runs the camp has been incredibly efficient and I am so excited to have this chance to live in Korea. I spent a week there last year and LOVED it. Sometimes I contemplate moving there - I look at the ceiling and ask G0d why I have to stay here, when Korea is SO CLOSE and SO AWESOME. ha.

Anyways, after the camp I will return to Chi.na on a student visa and move into a dorm room at Zhejiang University. As previously posted, I will be spending 4 years there working on a PhD in Comparative Education - taught with Chin.ese as the main language. My first year will be only Chin.ese class, with other "foreigners" from all over the world. After one year, I am expected to be fluent in reading and speaking and will then enroll in my major courses with Chin.ese classmates, textbooks, and lectures.

I'd be lying if I told you that everytime I thought about it I didn't want to crap my pants.

4 more years?

Chin.ese textbooks?

How the heck did this become my life?

But I'm entering this on faith, content in knowing that my time here is not over. I was offered a full scholarship by the government to study teaching methodology of the East and West in hopes of aiding higher education reform in Chi.na. This excites me. The topic and eventual outcome of this study makes me get goosebumps with anticipation. And at the end of every month they will cut me a check, just for being there. I am getting paid to get a PhD and learn a language I love. How can I walk away?

It is also exciting that Zhejiang University is the #3 school in Chi.na.

So that is what I'm doing. Going to rock out in Korea with a bunch of little presh Korean kids, then signing my life away for 4 more years here. That means I will ultimately leave Chi.na when I am 27 (almost 28) years old. That's in a long time. But that's also really young to have spent 6 years (ahh) in a foreign country and have a PhD.

I just feel like walking away from this opportunity would be like denying a huge gift. I'll never know what it's like unless I try. So I left my job, am packing up my apartment, and leaving all my crap at a friend's house in anticipation of becoming a student again.

It's like, you have to give G0d the chance to surprise you, ya know? If you don't do things because it's not the way you would have written your life, then you'll never know the blessings that could be? Right? Little did I know in August 2008, when I boarded that plane alone, destined for Hangzhou- a place I only knew about from Wikitravel, that I would live here this long and invest most of my 20's in this place. I'm glad I didn't know. I might not have gotten on the plane. haha.

So that's that. My family arrives in 2 days. I can hardly stand myself. I'm jumping out of my skin excited.


Tell me about you. I want to know.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 14, 2010

smells like change.

Change is in the air.

I have begun the process of packing up my apartment. I love my apartment. I love love love my apartment. It has housed many joyous celebrations, witnessed friendships being created and been my place of refuge to watch movies in my underwear when the thought of braving Ch.ina just overwhelmed me. I am very sad to leave this (rent-free) place.

I am moving from my own 2 bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen and bathroom to a shared dorm room and hall bathroom with no kitchen. This is going to be interesting. I am not pleased/excited/looking forward to this. But what has to be, has to be, and I need to suck it up and be thankful for my opportunities and think of the good rather than the uncomfortable.

Packing is taking longer than expected, though, because I cannot decide what "momentos" from my travels I want to keep. My excessive moving/traveling over the past few years has almost rid me of my packrat ways. Each time I move, I throw/give away almost everything. But this time it is different because of the amount of stuff I have accumulated while traveling.

Today I found money from Singapore and Thailand just floating around in my drawer. Do I save the tourist map of Malaysia? What about the dozens of train/plane/exhibit ticket stubs and activity brochures? Should I scrapbook the postcards from Tai.wan? Do I even like to scrapbook? (no) What do I want to have for my grandchildren to one day find in the attic, and what is junk? And can I possibly leave behind the 5 stuffed animals that have been gifted to me in the past 2 years? This is the hard part. I could easily have several boxes of tourist crap. But I also don't want to throw away something that could trigger an amazing memory in the years to come.

I'm not happy to move. I'm not happy for all the changes that are occuring - people leaving the city/returning to their countries, Chin.ese friends getting jobs/studying abroad, me leaving my job to become a student again, moving out of my awesome 'hood' where I know all the shops and workers, etc.

Oh well. People deal with change all the time. No matter the life we choose/are blessed with, every person deals with change on different levels all the time.

Now, the real question is...can I keep the giant, furry panda bear someone gave me last year?

Jun 11, 2010

Inexpensive Luxuries.

One of the best things about Chin.a is that service industry-type stuff is superrr cheap, easy to come by, and accessible to all people. This includes getting your hair done, massages, traditional Chin.ese medicine, and manicures.

This year I have a routine. I get my nails done every Monday with my co-worker Rebecca. It costs about USD $1.10. I get my hair washed, blow-dried, and straightened about once a week. It costs about USD $3.00. I get a blind massage (full body massage from a blind person - known as Chin.ese medicine) about once a month. It costs about $5.00 for one hour. I get a foot massage once every two weeks. It costs about $4.50 for an hour and a half.

At each of these establishments I have my "people." It took me awhile to find a hair place I love, but finally I have a place I frequent (maybe a little toooo often). I don't even have to say anything, I just walk in and they know what I want. We have fun. They teach me words and I teach them words. It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but sometimes when I'm feeling lonely, I go get my hair done or go get a massage, then I know I will have someone to talk to and have an interesting experience.

I also see these relationships as an incredible opportunity for international relations. I am the only foreigner these people will probably ever have prolonged contact with - making our relationship valuable for transmitting ideas about both of our countries, cultures, and beliefs. It's fun to think about.

Two of my best friends are returning to the States in a few weeks for good. They have a list of "Chin.ese experiences" that they want to do before they leave. They haven't fully grasped the wonder that is the Chi.nese service industry, and have added many of my monthly excursions to their list.

So, last night we got a foot massage. Heavenly. Today we got a blind massage and hair washes. My body loves me. It has been poked, prodded, rubbed, scrubbed, and soaked to high heavens. I asked my massager to give me extra attention on my head because I have been having serious diet coke withdrawals (it's been 4 weeks without one) and I don't drink coffee on days I don't work. Needless to say, I'm in pain.

Well the Chin.ese massage is amazing - heavenly, genius, incredible, fascinating, perfect, undeniably transcendant. I completely believe in the healing properties of holistic massage after all my times being smooshed and pulled on the massagers table. My headache is gone.

My friends who are leaving got super brave and decided to get "cupping" done. Cupping is an ancient technique that is meant to release toxins from the body. What happens is little glass cups are lit on fire from the inside and then places strategically all over a person's back - causing suction to occur on that spot. After about 15 minutes, they are removed. Circle bruises remain and supposedly the coloring of these circles says a lot about a persons health.

My friends said it didn't really hurt, just became numb and was difficult to take deep breaths because it was so tight across their back from all the suctioning. Hmmm, intriguing.

My friends are rockstars. I am waaay too wimpy to get that done.

Here's us after our million massages, before the hair washes, enjoying dinner -

Katie getting her cups placed! What a BA:

This man had SO MANY cups on his back, check out the torch she is using:

Just another day in Chi.na.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 9, 2010

Round Three: Wednesday.

Goodbye, room. All you need is some air conditioning, heat, dry erase board instead of chalk, some media and internet hook-up and chairs that aren't broken and you are perfect. :)

Goodbye, fellow graduate student teachers. I will miss our morning bus rides, chants (45, break, 45 , home!), chats in the teacher work room, arm pumps to begin the day, walks to the vending machine for tea and kiwi juice, and general comradery. We had the best schedules, best students, best classroom situations, and our own little world inside the foreign teacher department (undergraduates - ew!). But most importantly, we had each other.

The secret to being voted best teacher- homemade goodies. This week's good-bye creation: 16 vanilla cakes from scratch with homemade chocolate glaze. (Thank you, ELLIE for the vanilla extract from Amer.ica!) The sprinkes were also an overseas purchase.

Goodbye Wednesday morning 8am students: Computer Engineering majors:

You are awesome. Each of you is so different from the next. I love giving you work to do independently, and then sitting back and listening to you work together. You don't need my direction as much, you like to work out problens on your own, which is wonderful at the end of a work week. I love how we never heard the bell ring because you were talking so loud. I love how I had to adapt my lessons to you because you took longer than every other class to finish tasks because you are so thorough. Not only are you good students, but you are genuinly kind. Though once I sent a student out of the room because he yelled "shit!" in the middle of class. I regreted my decision later because, Sean, you are a wonderful dude and I didn't mean to make you feel bad. My 2 students with the best english are in this class. I also spent many hours at karoake after class with these little ones. I like you guys and will miss you loads. It's as simple as that.

Goodbye Wednesday morning 10am students: Mechanical Engineering majors:

I refer to you when speaking with my co-workers as my, "little presh-heads." Because that is what you are - precious. No other class is as genuinly good as you. You are kind hearted, gentle, and sweet. I don't think any of you have a mean bone in your bodies, and collectively, you are like a big pile of sugar. I get so happy to see you because I relax in your class. I don't have to be strict or demanding or serious. I think I was the most like my natural self in your class, because you allowed me to breathe. You didn't challenge me or intimidate me, you just loved me. You did your work well and you excelled. Your personalities are so similiar that your class personality was well defined - precious, sincere, and loving. You laugh with your bellies and I like that, big hearty laughs instead of the usual giggles I get from other students. You are the only class that I let see me cry. Thanks for the hugs. I don't want any trouble to come your way, I just want you to experience infinite joy. Because that is what you have given me.

And so it ends. My two year tenure as an oral english teacher to graduate students at Hangzhou Dianzi University is over.

I am so thankful this happened to me that I got to know these people and work in this place. It wasn't always easy or fun, but nevertheless I will forever be grateful for this period of life. The mixing of cultures that my students and I experienced in class is invaluable. I am indebted to my dean at Concordia University for talking me into this job in summer 2008 in California while I cried about not being able to teach kindergarten in Shan.ghai, (due to visa woes).

"Go to Hangzhou to teach college age," he told me, "life is good there." And ya know what? He was right.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 8, 2010

Round Two: Tuesday.

Goodbye Tuesday, 8am class: computer science and automation majors;

With names like Lucifer, Mars, and LeMar, you made me smile even when I was just taking role. You were a wonderful way to start the day - no students ever missing and great attitudes even at 8am. A few of my favorite students sit among you, though you'll never know who they are, but I can name them here - Susan, Mark, and Robin. I just adore you. If we were to meet in any other circumstance our friendship would run deep. I see you as equals more than any other class. I'm not sure why, maybe because your posture and strong voices demand respect, maybe because you do your work well, don't complain, and are honest with your feelings. That might be it - you are refreshingly honest. I want to name my children after students in your class: Fiona for a girl and Robin for a boy. You've made significant academic progress, but the most important progress is in your confidence. Well done, my dears.

Goodbye, Tuesday 10am class: computer engineering majors;

You are a hoot. You are unique, quirky, and interesting. You lack the "cool" factor of my other classes and instead have a special quality - character. Just tons of off-the-wall character. I never know what to expect with you. You keep me on my toes in a profession that I pride myself in understanding. During group skits I probably laughed the loudest in this class. You bleed creativity, which is so rare amongst your peers. You have some interesting humans in your mix - and I can always count on you to keep me in check, make me keep my promises, and answer questions fully. You think differently, you solve problems in unconventional ways, and you ask smart questions. You challenged me to be a good teacher because I didn't want to be the most boring one in the classroom. Thank you for that.

Goodbye, Tuesday 1:35pm class: marketing majors;

Oh, you. Is it possible to be completely enamored with and absolutely pissed off by a group of people at the same time? Yes, you have proven to me, yes. I walked out on you once. And you called me repeatedly until I came back. You are collectively stubborn, stuck in your ways, too old/mature/grown up to be bothered with my silly class. Yet you endeared yourself to me. Engaged me in conversation before class each week. There are a few of you who I feel I know the most about out of all my students because we spent so much time together before and after class just chatting. Five of you excelled in the graduate speech contest. One of you has worked abroad in Jap.an. Two of you make me giggle just seeing you in the hall because I think you are so adorable. Maybe you as a whole intimidate me. Maybe you intimidate yourselves. Whatever the case, I wish you the best. Knowing you, you won't settle for anything less.

One more day of goodbye's...and then I am officially unemployed, uninsured, and homeless.
It feels strange to walk away from a job I love. I hope this is worth it.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 7, 2010

Round One: Monday

Goodbye, Monday morning 8am students: Automation majors,

You made me so mad fall semester. I even had to tell on you to your homeroom teacher, which caused me much embarrassment because so many of you were late so often. But then, you turned it around this semester and everyone was early every week...at 8am on a Monday. I'm sorry I was so hard on you, thank you for still being kind to me. You listened to discipline, and changed for the better and I was very proud of you for that. We had a lot of fun considering the exhaustion we were all apparently under at that awful early morning time. Individually, you are amazing people, but as a class, you have a strange countenance. I love you all the more for it.

Goodbye, Monday morning 10am students: Politics and Management majors,

You are brilliant. This is my class with the most girls in it so I look forward to the amount of chit-chatting we do every week before and after class. When we took our picture to say goodbye, you just wouldn't leave. I tried to cut the cord to make a swift and painless getaway, but you weren't having it. So we sat by the lake for an hour, just talking. I like that you can do that - express yourselves freely. You are dreamers and political thinkers. I think you have the most potential of all my classes. I expect to see you in China's news one day under a banner of change. This class has everything a teacher wants; personality, self-motivation, and respect. If everyone could interact with this class, everyone would want to be a teacher.

Goodbye, Monday afternoon 1:35pm students: Computer Engineering majors,

I'm not sure if you ever understand what I am saying to you. But your sense of humor with each other made me want to press on to get you to understand, rather than give up and render your english skills hopeless. I want to squeeze your cheeks and make baby sounds when I see you, which would be entirely inappropriate since you are a class of mostly men older than me. I will miss the "waaaaaaa!" your class called out every time I entered the room, which made me really uncomfortable and self-conscious, but I also secretly liked. You are collectively the hippest of my classes, always stylish and cocky, never timid to approach me. You are the "cool-dudes and chicks" of the graduate department and you know it, you just don't know that I know it, too. Haha, tricked ya. I hope you get your dream jobs at Microsoft or Apple or Boeing...even though your english skills are minute, you never gave up and showed me that you excel in other areas. I applaud you, I love you, I'll miss you the most.

Well, day 1 of goodbye's is over. This is no fun, but tons of fun at the same time. I'll show you all my gifts at the end of the week - got some good stuff!

Hope you are loving those around you! I'm reminded yet again of the thousands of people we come into contact in our lives - how even a short time with people can make an eternal and significant difference. These monkies have definitely impacted me, I just hope it's two-sided. :)

Walk slow. xoxo.

Jun 3, 2010

I'm Tired.

Dinner and KTV with these boogers left me so whooped that I fell asleep on the public bus on the way home after three 12 hour work days in a row...

But it's always worth it.

Walk Slow. xoxo.

Jun 1, 2010

Call me Jericho...

The walls finally came tumbling down.

I cried at work today. Big, salty, elephant tears.

In the middle of a student final exam presentation.

I've been holding back the gushiness in an attempt to remain professional and "with it" (what does that even mean anyway?) But alas, a sweet presentation addition about how much they have learned caught me in a weak moment and - boom - the inevitable occurred. I showed them I'm a human. A sad human. A sad human who doesn't want to quit her job.

I apologize in advance for the [weepy, sentimental, exhausting,] melodramatic posts and pictures I am about to leave a trail of in the internet world in the next 2 weeks.

It's just that these little monkey butts are not making it easy to leave:

Have you ever felt this way? Can't leave, can't stay....blah blah blah. I feel like there's a country song about this conflict of emotion...there's gotta be...

'til the next tear falls... (I told you....melodramatic...)

Walk slow. xoxo.