Sep 30, 2010

dorm delicacies.

As previously stated: I live in a dorm. A Chin.ese dorm. Picture yourself living in a box and take away all your privacy, then minus the fun/comfort factor by about 10, add a side of mold and that is where I live.

But I digress. I didn't come here today to complain, I came here today to show off the awesomness that is: carrot cake in a crockpot!

In my new swanky accomodations, I have no kitchen. There is a communal microwave that the Sri Lankens make smell like fish every night, but other than that, there is nothing.

This is a big problem because I like to bake for people. If I love you, I make you cupcakes. If I'm stressed out, I whip up some brownies. There's a reason my hips are large and in charge and it's not because I love rice so much...I love to bake.

I purchased a crockpot last year (hard to find) and it revolutionized my life. I made a Christmas pot roast in it. It was wonderful. After a tragic accident involving the crushing of my ceramic crockpot top when I was moving to my new home a few weeks ago, I new I needed a quick replacement.

Lo and behold my new crockpot filled with joy:

That right there is carrot cake a la crockpot. My new specialty.

The other day I was really craving veggies (weird, I know) and I really wanted to bake. I went to work searching the internet for recipes and didn't find any where all the ingredients are available here, so I decided to make one up. I took a bus over to the foreign goods store, picked up a box of uber expensive cake mix, and headed home to make magic in the communal kitchen and make the Sri Lankens jealous.

I would guess that this would be a good dessert to make if you have to bake something and prepare dessert at the same time. The crockpot can be handy like that. The cake is super yummy, but of course, there's no Publix in sight to compare this to so it might be China-ness talking when I rave about it. There haven't been any complaints from the dorm-mates though, and I'm happy to share a bit of bakery love with them.

I was talking to a dorm-mate from Paki.stan on the stairs after baking my first crockpot carrot cake and he mentioned it was his birthday the day before but that he had no cake. I marched him right up to the fourth floor to my room and cut him a big 'ol slice of carrot cake.

He was shocked that we put carrots in cake. "Healthy." I think was his response. And he was slightly embarrassed because in Eastern culture (including Paki.stan) the birthday boy/girl is supposed to treat the guests, not the other way around like in Amer.ican culture. He replied that he should be the one giving to me because of his birthday and I poo'poo'ed him, saying that it was my duty to give him cake to celebrate his life. Everybody needs some cake for their birthday, thank goodness for the carrot craving! Or Ahkmed would have gone without, and that's just no good.

Want the recipe? Ok. Here it is:

Yummy Crockpot Cake Wonder of Amazingness:

1.5 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp nutmeg
1.5 cups grated carrots
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 box yellow cake mix

Mix everything together.
Line crockpot with aluminum foil, then pour mixture into crockpot. Place a couple of paper towels between the top of the crockpot and the lid, put lid on. Back for about 1.5 hours. Check after one hour by placing a toothpick (or in my case, a knife) into the top of the cake. When it comes out clean, you're ready to go. Let it sit in there for about 1/2 hour before flipping the cake out of the crockpot and wallah! You've got yourself a slow-cooked piece of sweet yet semi-healthy wonder.

I'm planning on trying it with apples instead of carrots once everyone gets sick of the carrot cake.

Try it and let me now how it goes! Or just go to Publix and buy some carrot cake, but promise you'll have one bite for me, ok?

walk slow. xoxo.

"do what you can, where you are, with what you've got"......

Sep 27, 2010

bike locks and opera.

Today my friend Hannah's bike broke. Then she fixed it and was greeted with the applause of the grannies club playing cards by the gate to my neighborhood. That was fun.

Then I went to see an opera show at my university. I invited one of my old students who is living near my campus for an internship.

Me and Urey at the main gate to my school.

I don't have anything poignant to say because I'm exhausted. My medication is really reeking havoc this week - not sure why. Hoping for some better observations and updates tomorrow. I'm off to finish homework then hit the hay.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 24, 2010

let's play a game...

It's called "guess what I put in my mouth at dinner."




Round 1: hint: it is illegal in America, one of the most popular movie scores ever produced is about a movie starring this creature, my sister's favorite week of the year is dedicated to it...

Answer: shark fin soup. I had eaten half a bowl before I was told what it was. Then I finished the other half. It was just so good.

Round 2: makes my dad squirm, usually has an entire room dedicated to it at the zoo, was the proper choice for the devil to disquise himself in the garden of eden...

Answer: snake. I thought it was eggplant at first, (similar texture). After finding out what it was I had 3 bites. The first one took about 4 minutes and involved a lot of squirming, then 2 minutes with minimal squirmage, then I just shoved a big one in for good measure, and to make a point to my friends that I'm not grossed out by their food choices. (even though I so was).


I had dinner tonight at a fancy schmany hotel restaurant with my dear fave doctor friends.
I made them carrot cake: (recipe and more about that to follow).
I think they liked it, though in Chi.nese culture it's really hard to tell if people like your gifts...

We talked in Chin.ese and English and laughed in the same language. We talked about serious stuff and not so serious stuff. Important stuff and not so important stuff. After dining with them I always have a lot to think about. There's so many things I want to write here about what they tell me, but I have to process them first, and figure out the best way to talk about it.

These people are my windows into the true Chin.ese culture, something I will always be a spectator of, no matter how long I stay here. I could eat a million snakes and shark fins, but I'll never fully understand most of what they tell me about their lives.

But no matter, this face makes up for any misunderstanding...

Don't you just wanna squeeze those cheeks and make baby sounds??

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 22, 2010

commie choir is in session.

If you are anything like me, you sometimes find yourself sitting around thinking, "I wonder what Kore.ans sound like when they are harmonizing?"

Well, today is your lucky day!

Just when I thought my life couldn't get any weirder...
I find myself stalking No.rth Kore.ans to get video of them singing...

That is my dorm floor, and those lovely voices are my NK'ian hallmates.

I was minding my own business, sitting on my purple couch contemplating life when the heavens opened with trumpets, clapping, and chanting. Had Jesus finally come to take us all home? Nope. Just the NK'ians shouting their solidarity to the Dear Leader - for well over an hour.

Their singing literally rings through the dorm halls, you can't escape it. Next time I might march over there and tell them to pipe down a notch. It's a dorm afterall, not a commie concert hall. How would they like it if I started screaming the Star Spangled Banner with the one other Amer.ican in my building? My bets are on - dislike - but I'm no fortune teller.

Just another Wednesday.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 19, 2010

I miss my monkeybutts.

Fun fact: I miss my job.

Like, totally miss my job and can't wait to go running back once I'm done with this mess of a decision called a free PhD. (how did this happen again? I keep forgetting....gah).

Today after class, (on a Sunday - blasphemous), I met up with a student from last year, Yangxue. She took the bus 1.5 hours to see me.

Right when I saw her, we were walking through campus and I ran into one of my students from 2 years ago. He said he is coming to ZJU for a PhD starting in January, so we are on a similiar timeline. He was surprised to see me because he didn't know I had left HDU. It was a fun chance meeting.

Yangxue and I then went to a coffee shop near campus and talked for awhile, then took a bus to a book store to look for a children's chinese book for me. There weren't any good ones, so we took the bus back home and she showed me how to buy things on a Chin.ese website. (I'm in the market for a refridgerator and a small microwave oven).

We talked about what she wants to do when she graduates, her rocky relationship with her boyfriend, and how we don't understand men of any culture. I told her I think a Chin.ese guy at my school is cute and she pointed her finger at me and said, "No, Jessica. No more Chi.nese for you." Yes m'am. Maybe.

We then had dinner and met up with another one of my students who has an internship at Zhejiang University. We sat outside and talked for awhile and then I saw Yangxue off to the bus stop.

On the way home, I ran into another student of mine while crossing the street!

Once I got home, I recieved a phone call from a student in my first batch of classes two years ago. It was a student I became really close to because we share the same core beliefs. He wanted to talk about some important things and we chatted for awhile about his fears for the future, wanting to find a chrch for one of his foreign friends so they wouldn't endanger his home chrch and how to keep hope alive when people just tell you what to do and you have no choices. It was a deep, fruitful, encouraging talk, but was also a harsh reminder of the realities of living here.

It was a full, fun day filled with planned excursions and random encounters. But one thing was for certain: it solidified how much I miss my students/job/old life.

Gan Hui Jin (Daniel), Yangxue (Jasmine), and me (Ke Xiao Mei) sweating our guts out:

Yangxue and our dinner selections, she always picks the best food:

Mmmmmmmm fishy fishy:

As I sat in my room contemplating my phone call with my old student I had a random thought. If I miss my job so much, and if I love my old students so much, then I owe it to them to learn their language. After two years of intense and wonderful cultural exchange with me at the forefront as teacher, it is now time to take a grunt-worker role, put the pedal to the medal, balls to the walls, and learn this language the right way.

I want to respect them by learning their language. Because they have given me joy, I love them, and it's the least I can do.

There's over 500 little monkeybutts who used to be my students who will hold me accountable for my studies. I want to make them proud.

So now, at 11pm, I'll start my homework. Geez, I'm off to a good start (not). ha.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 18, 2010

2/3 reunited.

Tonight Jing-a-ling-ling (aka 1/3 of the marvelous "DREAM TEAM" of 2008-2009) came to visit again!

We were classmates at Concordia and co-workers at HDU and created some of the best memories I have in as the laughing, ridiculous threesome of friends who dubbed ourselves the "dream team" because of our tri-coloredness and overall awesomeness. (a bff group of a Haitian American, Chi.nese American, and huge redhead makes for an awesome time in

I could go on and on about how those were "the good ol' days" and how I still giggle to myself while walking down the street having a funny memory pop into my head....but we could be here forever. So I'll just let you know how great it was today. Not tell you how great it was 15 months ago. Gotta live in the now, eh?

This afternoon Jing texted me saying she was in town unexpectedly. We met up for dinner with our Chin.ese friend Steven and then walked down the famous HeFangJie street.

I love when Jing visits. She is working in the Expo in Shan.ghai and leaves in 2 months, so only 2 months left for random visits! It's amazing how 2 years ago when I first got to Ch.ina, 2 months seemed like such a loooong time. Now it's like - What! Only 2 months left! Amazing how perspective of time changes.

Anywho, being with Jing always brings a flood of good memories; some ridiculous, all entertaining. It's nice to be able to sit back and relax with someone who was here in the beginning. There's not many of those left.

On HeFangJie. Lovin' the beautiful night lights and lanterns in the store windows.

We saw a police man getting his portrait painted.

And watched an entertaining game of "knock the wooden dolls over" a la carnival style.

It was great to reconnect.

I'm off to bed because I have class tomorrow on a Sunday! Chinese logic says that when you give people a holiday, they must make it up on the weekends. So I am paying for this Thursday and Friday's Mid-Autumn festival by going to class tomorrow. NEWS FLASH: Then it's not a holiday! Gah. Asian common sense. Gotta love it. Or at least live with it.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 17, 2010

Grade 19.

My friends went out tonight to a "back to school" bash.

Because I am in grade 19, I did not feel utterly compelled to join in. I've had enough "back to school."

So, I skipped it to go to the market to get a new crock pot and hanging plants.

I'm a geezer.

A content, satisfied geezer. With hanging plants.

Party on, friends. I'll be here when you get back - knitting, sitting in my snuggie, flossing my teeth, or whatever else geezers do in dorm rooms on Thursday nights. Tell me about the people you mingled with, and I'll tell you about the functions on my new slow cooker.

Deal? Deal.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 13, 2010

Disney was right...

It is a small world after all.

Today I had the strange feeling that I live in a real-life Epcot.

I rode the elevator to class with a group of french girls wearing no more than napkins and sat between a guy from Afghanistan and a girl from Germany in my classes (love them). I had lunch with a guy from Burma, a guy from Hong Kong, and a girl from Italy. Was offered a smoke by a classmate from England (declined) and then went into intense debate on the status of education reform in A Russian girl asked me what "state of affairs" means in English.

I debated dating chin.ese guys or spanish guys with a good friend from Kazikstan. I met some new dorm mates from Sudan, Ghana, and Oman. I spoke Chin.ese with my dorm neighbor who is from Sri Lanka while we hung our clothes out to dry. A Ukranian friend brought me candies from her visit home this summer. My friend from Minnesota and I skyped with our mutual friend from Holland who has gone home and we watched her and her mom make dinner and hold their family dogs in front of the computer camera.

(ukranian candy) ...

Later, a North Kor.ean told me to take down my clothes from hanging outside because it was going to rain.

And my head teacher wrote me a note in Chin.ese on my homework:

That says, "hao" or "good" if you are so inclined to use English.

And all those connections were just today.

Everyday contact with dozens of nationalities is awesome. When people ask me what my favorite part about living in China is, about 10 things run through my head (travel, noodles, spontaneity, nothing, new experiences, I always wanted to be good at riding a bike in traffic, etc) but the number one answer was and always will be: the people.

When a guy from Kabul, Afghanistan and a girl from New Port Richey, Florida can be desk mates in a classroom and giggle all the way through class: there is hope for the world. One interaction at a time.

Now, I'd better go heed that N. Korean's advice and take down my underthings. It's starting to rain, guess he was right.

walk slow. xoxo.

"Just like New York!"

Here's a generalized statement for ya:

Sometimes Chin.ese people latch onto foreigners. This is how I ended up at last night's random activity of the day:

a fashion show in the fancy schmancy new mall outside of town...

with my new co-worker/boss/leech, Nini...

Nini has a lot of money and wanted to show me that she does indeed, well, have a lot of money.

Her 13 year daughter and I had an interesting conversation on the walk back to their apartment. They took a moment to stop and show me the "most richest apartments place in Hangzhou." They told me the pricest of the units per km yadda yadda and said that is why the new mall was built in that part of town.

I replied with, "wow, it is ok for people to have that much money, but they should also give to the poor people. It's ok to have a lot of money, but that shouldn't be most important."

Her daughter looked at me like I had told her to eat her boogers for breakfast.

"We don't do that in China," she said, obviously thinking.

"Well, you should."

And we continued walking in the drizzling rain back to her home.

The fashion show was fun because I got to spend time with Chinese people, go into their home, hang out with them, and share an activity together. But when people latch on to me or flaunt money at me because they think all Americans are rich and money obsessed, this is sad to me.

Being at the show was fun, but the excessive flaunt of money left an awkward taste in my mouth. Especially since I recently learned that the lady who is in charge of cleaning our dorm building makes less than 5 USD a day.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 11, 2010


My neighbor only has one pair of underwear. That - or he has 8 of the same pair.

Wanna know how I know this?


Because everyday when I look out my window, I see this -

Directly across from my window. Everyday. Sometimes he looks directly at me and cleans out his ears with q-tips.

For Chinese New Year I might buy him a new pair of undies. Just for a change of pace.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 10, 2010

this is really my life.

Zhejiang University's Postgraduate Student "Opening Ceremony."

...til the next awkward moment...

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 8, 2010

opinion train.

Buckle your seat belts, the opinion train is riding by.

I have a lot to say.

There is a large aspect of my life that I have not mentioned on the blog for about a month because of various reasons. Well in keeping with my "trying to be as open as possible" theme so that when I'm old and gray I can laugh at all this - today is the day I want to talk about this issue.

A month ago during a routine medical exam I tested positive for latent tuberculosis.

I am in "treatment" for 6 months. (5 remaining).

When I initially found this out I was told by my doctor that I needed to stay home. After several calls to the health department, she realized that she had overreacted and that there is no travel restriction on my condition - as I am not sick, just carrying around some random germs that can't infiltrate my body. Now after significant research I have realized that this is not such a big deal. Health care professionals test positive all the time.

My doctor prescribed the medications to rid my body of the germs and I have had to make some significant lifestyle changes because the medicine is freakishly strong and harsh on the organs. I am now caffeine and alcohol free. I also cannot eat vinegar, soy sauce, chocolate, or some fruits.

I have not knowingly ingested caffeine for over a month. I am also abstaining from alcohol. Both of these are drastically changing the way I live. I have had a bottle of diet coke chained to my wrist since college and I have kept many Chin.ese bars open with my patronage. Also, many teas have caffeine (green, red, black) and I live in the green tea capital of Try explaining that you can't drink tea to Chi.nese people - doesn't go over well.

Without caffeine I get tired in the afternoon and cannot stay up really late into the night. I feel very natural. I tried to go hang out at one of my old stomping grounds last Saturday night and had myself a Sprite. But explaining myself over and over again got old. And my British friend whom I was chatting with slowly started to fade away and I got sick of being there. I biked myself home around 11pm - bidding adieu to Chin.ese nightlife. C'est la vie.

Without stimulants in my body I feel very clear headed and my emotions have been in somewhat more of a stable state - I honestly see this as a very good thing to come out of this health issue. Ridding my body of caffeine dependancy has not been easy, but when you have a paper telling you you could die if you don't - it sudden becomes not so big of a deal to forgoe a diet coke. I'll drink to that (water or sprite, of course).

In the beginning of the pills I would become nauseous. I threw up several times, even once in the backward. That was an awesome moment. Since I have come to China I have had no problems though. I feel a little funny after I take the meds, but in a few hours I forget about it.

A very frustrating thing about health systems in general is that doctors feel the need to protect themselves and therefore my doctor in America would not give me my 6 months supply of pills. Because the risk of liver failure is so high, I have to get a blood test every month to test my liver before I can get another batch of pills.

I begged my doctor to trust me that I would not misuse the pills because the thought of doing all of this health junk in was daunting. But alas, she would not give me any more than one month's worth. Which means I had a little under 2 weeks once I landed here to figure everything out and get more pills since I cannot miss a day on the medicine.

Luckily, my best friends here are doctors. Talk about being provided for. One of the first things I thought of when I found out about all this crap was that my friends can help me. I skype called Dr. Xu when I was in Amer.ica and told him the situation in a mix of chinglish. He did all the ground work for me. I am so blessed. He also told me that I could do my blood work at his hospital for free.

Today was the day I was to go test my blood since I only have 4 pills left in my inital batch. After class I taxied to the hospital and begrudgingly went to the office where my friends work in the infant cardiac department. Stone and Michael were working and I gave them some chocolate bread as a love offering.

Michael was all business as he lead me to the back "injection room." I shared it with a family who was carrying around a child with an IV in his head. The hospital is always an interesting experience.

The nurse came in and started to tie the elastic band around my wrist. I immediately freaked out. I DO NOT like things around my wrist. I just bought my first bracelet, I do not wear a watch, I cannot even take my own pulse. There is one main rule in my life - do not touch my wrists. And here this 4 foot 2 girl was trying to tie an ELASTIC BAND around my wrist. That was a problem.

I shook and freaked out and sweat bullets and told Michael that Chin.ese people were weird (he is so patient when I am so insensitive at times). The nurse explained that I was too fat to give blood from my inner arm because she could not see my veins. So around my wrist the band went - and a minute later she had enough blood in her little cannister to test if my liver is kickin'.

I apologized for being a baby and she laughed and we all made friends and everything was fine. I survived, they survived, and I was given the honor of being the first foreign blood taken in the hospital. Michael told me they wanted to test it for everything to see what I am like inside. I gave him permission. Ha.

I went back into the office and hung out for a bit, chit chatting with random families who were pointing and staring at me - until Michael could write down for me the translations for the prescription I need filled. Stone overheard this and freaked out and decided to leave work early to take me to the other hospital. So off we went in a taxi to the Red Cross Hospital.

We finally found out way to the isolated TB clinic and after getting my own legit Red Cross patient card I was admitted to see a doctor. I could not have been there without my friend Stone. The doctor did not understand my prescription from the US and she did not want to treat me since she never saw my test from my doctor in the US. She said that if someone tests positive but has a negative chest xray (means the TB is not active) that in they do not treat it because the meds are too harmful for the body's systems. After much ado (well, sitting on my part, and much ado on Stone's part) I was given my meds and sent on my way. I must return each month for the next 5 months.

At the end of the day whatever "disease" thing I have is really no big deal. It is just the unknown and uncertainty of dealing with health issues in another health system using another language that is the issue. All I know is that the Big Guy upstairs was providing for me all along when 2 years ago I was randomly introduced to a dashing young heart surgeon named Michael.

Now, lightyears of experience later, when I was faced with a potentially scary situation - I had no fear because I knew my friends would take care of me. All I did today was take two taxis and my friends did all the work for me. If I did not know these people I would have had no idea where to go, there is no english website for this information.

My faith is encouraged today by the generosity of my friends and the obvious advanced provision of Someone much bigger than me. Stuff like this can't just happen out of the blue. I'll be reminding myself of this next time I am feeling down in the dumps about (which will probably be sooner rather than later, knowing this place. haha).

Anywho - it all goes down again in 33 days - whooopdeedoooda.

Of course, I had to document the fun:

My reciept from the Red Cross Hospital, check out my name:

Encouraging poster in the TB clinic:
"on the move against TB - innovate to accelerate action." I personally think this poster would be more effective saying something like, "stop shitting in the streets, dirt bags." But that's just my opinion.

My prescription from home with Michael's Chinese directions and pronounciations of how to get another prescription. My freaking home doctor has not idea how hard it is to get meds in another country. Ugh. As you can see, my meds are called "yi yan jing" in Chin.ese.

The poor nurses who had to deal with me. That's my hand post-blood draw and dear Michael sitting to the left of me.
The thing about this whole ordeal is that it has awakened my awareness to just how serious health is - especially when traveling to new cultures and environments. I have spent two years in this country holding babies, riding crammed busses, pooping in troughs, and eating from from the market. It is amazing my situation isn't way worse.

It turns out the health system in is *surprise* not good. Of course, I know the 3 best doctors in the country - my dear friends - but the statistics in this country are horrendous.

According to the World Health Organization - 1.4 million people contract active TB each year in this country. is only second in deaths of TB after India. They didn't tell ya that during the Olympic tv programming, did they?

Thankfully, in 2004 China and the WHO joined forces to try to get the standards for detection and prevention to an internationally approved level. They have not passed the criteria yet, as shortages of skilled workers and lack of health education in rural areas stunts progress of better country-wide treatment.

As of 2005, a total of 12 vaccines are free of charge to all China's children, including TB - but because of lack of resources, many village and small town doctors are not getting government money to compensate for these shots. This means that anyone passing through these towns is made vulnerable - as was I.

I am not blaming any place for this annoying health issue that I now have. As much as I would LOVE a diet coke right now - I am just thankful that it is not much worse. At the end of the day, I am really not sick, just taking some crappy meds and in 5 months it will all be over. I know people who have suffered much worse.

It is interesting to learn about how different countries prevent disease through vaccinations and other preventative measures. Surely, all cultures have room to improve, but travellers to developing countries should take extra precaution as sanitation is not at the level that our immune systems are used to.

Just some food for thought today.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 6, 2010

God will make a way

Where there seems to be no way

He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me

He will be my guide

Hold me closely to His side

With love and strength

For each new day

He will make a way

He will make a way

By a roadway in the wilderness

He'll lead me

And rivers in the desert will I see

Heaven and earth will fade

But His Word will still remain

He will do something new today

Sep 5, 2010

home sweet, crazyville.

I'm writing this blog from my fourth floor dorm room. I just forked over 1/2 of my net worth for a year's worth of internet. I tried to use the school's cheaper internet, but my VPN wouldn't work on it - it is on total lockdown. So after a few days of moaning and groaning, I sucked it up and forked over the cash for internet from an outside source (facebook! blogging! google! hooray!)

It's amazing to me that a week ago fast, decently reliable, and non-censored internet was a daily thing for me. Now it's like gold. Whatever the case - hallelujah, I'm back online enjoying a first world luxury.

So much has happened in the 6 days since I landed in Shan.ghai. About as much happens to me in a day here than all summer chillin at my parents house. Life here is unpredicable, adrenaline-filled, random, and awkward. Just the way I like it.

I'll do a quick summary of life now, as so much has changed in my situation here in Han.gzhou. Later I'll tell some of the funny stories that have been happening...for posterity purposes.

Well, I am now a full-time PhD student at Zhejiang University (top 3 school in, baby!) I live in a single room in the "old building" which is technically "off campus" and in a Chin.ese neighborhood. I know a few people in the building from last year so it's all good.

I have no kitchen, dryer, refrigerator, central air, etc. I have a desk, a bed, a wardrobe, and running water. It's simple, but it's a nice feeling to live simply. When I first arrived to my new home I was not too happy. I tried to hide it, but I was really thinking "holy crap, I live in the Chinese ghetto in a falling apart building and I'm gonna die."

It's an extreme downgrade from my previous home in Ch.ina and is lightyears away from what I am used to in Amer.ica. But then I remembered that I am living better than 80% of the world. Probably more than that. I have access to water, electricity, and food. I will sleep safe tonight. Any compaints that I make are self-righteous and ridiculous. I'm learning to love my new little home. Once all of my stuff is moved (I still have boxes at my old home), then I think I will feel more comfortable here.

I'm getting used to having so many rules. I don't do well with rules (which is weird considering I live in a communist country). We get locked into the building from 11pm-5:30am and on my first morning I woke up early thanks to jetlag and broke the handle of the door trying to get out to run at 5am. I was panicked thinking that I was trapped. Turns out, we can come and go as we please, as long as we wake up the man whose job it is to sleep in the downstairs office everynight.

It's strange being a student now because all the teachers just talk to us in Chin.ese. I'm not the one in charge anymore, is in charge. All my paperwork is in Chinese and the people who run the building don't speak English so most of my daily chatter is Chinese. This is a new thing since last year teaching English my bosses, students, and co-workers all spoke in English.

My hall consists of a Ukranian girl, Swiss guy, an Amer.ican guy, a man from Dubai, 2 Sri Lankens and 2 Malaysians. The other side of the hall is reserved for the visiting North Kor.ean students. Yes, North Kor.ean. Because of some joint-yay, we are communist-venture, a delegation of NK-ians studies at my university. They are not allowed to talk to anyone, must go everywhere in pairs and have their Chin.ese classes apart from all the other students. And they are super skinny.

I share a laundry machine with them and was told by the Ukranian girl not to use it because they wash ALL their crap in it. Lucky for me, my sink/shower/toilet is all one room so I can wash clothes in the sink while I shower. Convenient.

All the new students took placement tests in order to be placed into classes. I am a level 2 (out of 3) which is really nerve-wracking since I can't read or write. I got my books and my class schedule yesterday and I'm nervous/excited to start classes tomorrow. I feel like I'm living in a rol-reversal from my past 2 years as a college teacher. But it's a great feeling to be learning.

Having this scholarship is really awesome. Yesterday for book pick-up there was a line just for scholarship students and we were just handed our books. Everything is just handed to us for free. (except internet ugh.) I still feel really overwhelmed with how good of a deal I got. It's weird to just be handed things for what seems like no reason. I pay no tuition fees, book fees, housing bills, or school fees. I get a monthly stipend of electricity and if I go over, I get charged. I pay no water bill. I'm getting a PhD for free. This is nuts. A glorious gift that I don't take lightly.

I bought a bike a few days ago and because of the good location of my school, I'm able to get most places fairly easily by bike. Let's just cross our fingers it doesn't get stolen.

Well, enough randomness. I'm saving the good stories for later when I can give them the individual attention that every awkward moment deserves.

I am trying to find a way to upload some of the video I have taken the past few days. I have some gems. But until this connection allows that, photos will have to do. Here's a glimpse of my week:

...first dinner back in Hangzhou with my doctor friends! We are coming upon the 2 year anniversary of knowing each other. They are the first people I called when I got back into town.

...the traffic jam along the Shanghai - Hangzhou highway. I just wanted to get home and have the journey be over.
...I arrived at the school gate via taxi and my dear friend Hannah was waiting for me! She snapped this pic, this is what I look like after 40 hours of travel. Right after this, the paperwork began. A few hours later I was in my dorm room.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world. I'm off to eat some Dongbei Cai with some friends. (food from the northern parts of goooooood).

walk slow. xoxo.