Oct 31, 2010

Wan Sheng Jie Kuai Le!

...or "Happy Halloween!"

Halloween is bitter sweet because it means the holiday season is coming. October-January are difficult in Chi.na. But I've done it twice already, and I always come out at the end of the holiday tunnel with great memories and deeper bonds with friends whom I spent the holidays with.

Halloween is fun here in particular because it means walking around on an otherwise normal Chi.na day dressed crazy. I was a tiger (it's the year of the tiger in the Chin.ese zodiac and I already owned ears and tiger running tights). This meant that I got to growl/purr at a the guards for my neighborhood, a taxi driver, the store clerks at the corner mart, and random Chin.ese people on the street.

Let me tell you what, that was therapeuric/hilarious/awesome!

I also ran into one of my old students from two years ago on the street. Dressed as a cat. "Oh hi, here I am with painted whiskers on my face, what's up?!" That was awesome. We just had a normal conversation like it was any ol' day and I just was dressed like a cat.

Some friends of mine were having a gathering on the roof, so I bundled up and headed out. We barbequed meat on a stick, sang songs, took pictures, and spread Halloween cheer to the natives who thought we were slightly crazy.

Here's some photographic evidence:

This is my, "I miss Mirabelle" pose! (my rabbit I gave away last year):

Go USA/Packers? And is it strange that a homemade cheesehead reminded me of my sister?

bonding moments galore:
party on the rooftop, with lights! We even saw Orion's belt and the MOON! (first time seeing a constellation in Chi.na....normally we get no stars at all.)

Cecilia stabbed me!
Yin Jia the motorcycle girl:

random group shot inside trying to warm up:

Best quote of the night goes to my dear friend Zack:

"I'm 28 years old and here I am on a rooftop in Ch.ina talking to an 18 year old Chi.nese girl in a chicken costume."

Holidays here are...surreal.

One holiday down...some to go.

Eat some good candy for me. And while you're at it, have some caffeine for me too.

Happy Halloween from Asia!

Walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 29, 2010

Seaweed and other joys.

Today I woke up in a no-good-very-bad mood.

I might be the fact taht winter has shown up with a vengence, leaving Fall completely out of the picture and I was shivering in my sleep. I'm not sure what it was, but for some reason I woke up with a scowl.

Well that's no way to start a day. So I decided to change it.

And look for things that made me happy throughout the day.

Here's one: the view from my workplace:

On Fridays I rush after class to work to facilitate an "english corner" of sorts. It's supposed to be an hour long lunch time english lesson for whoever is not signed up for my evening classes. It has turned into a close group of 7 women doctors who I really like. We meet in a conference room on the 15th floor of the hospital. Today we played Taboo on cards I home-made, last week we read poetry. (and I get paid for this, haha). This photo is the gorgeous view of the West Lake from our room. Having a job I like (again) and Hangzhou's scenery are for sure things to be happy about.

Seaweed Pringles:

Yes, they are green. They were a new discovery at the grovery store today and despite the hefty price tag (15RMB), I had to try them. I may or may not have just eaten half the can. Oops. I love all things seaweed! And look at that hilarious picture on the can!

Today I had 2 classes, work, poetry group (!!!!), grocery shopped, walked 2 miles home with my crap because there were no taxis, cleaned my room, and now I'm baking a cake in my crockpot for a picnic with some old students tomorrow. Then I'll study a little bit and call it a day.

Happy Friday to you.

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 28, 2010

how to make a reservation in China.

True story:

Yesterday I needed to make a reservation for my class dinner. (see previous post).

I was having lunch with a Chinese friend, Ting Ting. On the restaurant card it had one street name with two different address numbers and two phone numbers. I was not sure which one to call for the reservation. I was mulling this over while Ting Ting was in the kitchen.

Finally she cried out, "Just call one of the numbers and ask them if you have been there."

"Um, what??"

"Of course they remember you. Who could forget..."

So I called the first number listed and asked them if a large white woman with red hair had been there before? Sure enough, I had.

Only in this country.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 26, 2010

the mini-UN.

Today was good.

I'm exhausted.

But it was good.

I couldn't sleep last night because I was so worried about the class dinner that I had planned for tonight. Because I am class leader, it is my duty to plan class events. I decided that tonight would be a good night for a dinner at a local restaurant near my dorm. I wanted my classmates to experience a different part of the city and eat my favorite of China's regional food: Dongbei food. (from the northeast of China, sooooooooo good).

I called at lunch to make a reservation and they would only take us at 5:30. Because I had told everyone to meet at 5:30, I decided to go ahead of everyone and order the food and then wait for them.

This gave me so much stress.

I hate ordering food. In the past 2 years in China I have had little to no influence on what I eat at Chinese restaurants. I let others choose for me (since usually I cannot read the menu anyways). This way I always get to try new things. This hands-off approach has worked up until now...when it was my job to order dinner for 17 people.

I did the resourceful thing and posted a "HELP" message on my Chinese instant message site this morning. I asked for names of Dongbei dishes in pinyin, the chinese alphabet system that I can read. When I returned home from class today, there were 10 dishes listed by my previous students. I wrote them down, went to the restaurant, and ordered them with a few old favorites that I know of.

It turned out fabulous. Many thanks to my old students.

We are like a mini-united nations. Not all of us speak good English, so I felt kind of bad about that, but everyone laughed and had fun. The food was good and the waitresses were really nice to us after I chatted them up a bit.

The only thing I think that could have been improved is that I did all the talking. I went and got more rice, ordered more drinks, and called out when someone's chopsticks fell. I should have forced my classmates to practice, but other than that, all was well.

I was just so happy to see them all laughing and bonding.

our restaurant, one of my faves in the area:

These are the people I see every day...17 out of 23 members of our class. Introducing from left to right: David from England, Dimi from Belgium, yours truly, Makastaka from Japan, Kenneth from Hong Kong, Joe from USA, Steph from England, Evi from Germany, Monse from Chile, Kaung from Burma, Luis from Spain, Jan from Germany, Blas from Spain, Ondrej from Czech Republic, Hye Ju from Korea, Inna from Ukraine, and Isa from Ukraine.

We spend more time with each other than with anyone else. We are in class everyday together, same schedule. I'm so glad it all went well. Now that the first "event" is over, I think I'll be more relaxed at future ones. I was a little worried how everyone would gel together, but it was all magical. I don't know why I ever worry. What a waste of time. It always works out.

I have an interesting feeling when it comes to relating to these people. You see, they will all leave soon. Some in December, some in January, most by next summer. While I am here for 4 more years. Language learners will come and go while I am here studying for my PhD. This is the only time I have foreign classmates who are not Chinese. I have this feeling that it is my duty to serve them, to show them the way around here, treat them to some good times, and to help their memories of their short time here be good ones. But I don't feel like I can get too close. Because they will go. And I will stay.

It's such an eclectic crew. So many different points of view and so many different life stories. Around one table playing "never have I ever." For 2 hours. haha.

I'm so glad I'm here. But now I need to sleep.

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 25, 2010

Camp Ridiculous.

Sometimes stupid ideas turn into really fun times.

A couple of weeks ago Hannah, Nate and I were having lunch during class break at a place we have dubbed the "Noodle Palace." It is a palace because the little muslim boys who work there call back your order in an intercom system and the kitchen has a window (semi-cleanliness!).

There are muslim noodle shops everywhere, always run by little families and always dirty and delicious. This one puts them all to shame. But I digress, this post is not about the Noodle Palace, it is about the great/stupid idea that started at Noodle Palace and became a reality.

Anyways, we were eating and somewhere along the line of conversation it was decided that we would go camping on the mountain that sits behind our campus, Lao He Shan. Nate is an uber-nature person and I guess his love of camping was contagious because around 11pm last night we found ourselves at the base of Lao He Shan ready to ascend.

The thing is, it has been raining for three days. And is still raining. And was forecasted to rain all night (it did).

But we didn't care. We were going camping on the mountain by school.

Nate loaded up a pack with his 3-person tent and 3 sleeping bags and junior choir sing-a-long books. Hannah had a broken star-making machine and snacks, and I brought Peeps and toilet paper.

Most of the scenic mountains in Chi.na have concrete steps going up them (they ruin it), so we just marched our way up the mountain in the rain, stopping once in a random pagoda to take off some layers where I showed off my brilliance and put my rain jacket back on backwards and got soaked. haha.

About half-way up the mountain we stopped for our breath and decided that our camp needed a name. After a short brainstorm session we looked around and realized it was all ridiculous. We were on a mountain in a city, at midnight, in the rain. Thus, Camp Ridiculous was born.

We made it to the top around midnight, set up the tent, peed in the woods, ate tuna and crackers, and sang songs and read from Nate's journal until 3:30am.

A short two hours later we were woken up by Chinese men yelling outside our tent.

Talk about an adrenaline rush.

(no-offense, but)- Chin.ese people can be unpredictable in their behaviors. You can't really ever tell what someone is going to do or how they are going to react because logic here is um.....different and they've been exposed to less modern things and behaviors.

We were a little worried with how our bright blue tent would be greeted by the natives. Especially since we had no idea if we were even allowed to be there, just sleeping in a tent. haha.

So we sat and waited. It is a known fact that when old Chinese people hike in the morning they like to yell out. "Ahhh ahhh!" We heard the men hiking back down and yelling into the distance. Since it was so foggy, there is a good chance they didn't even see us in the rain.

We waited a little while longer, then decided the best thing to do would be to pack up camp and head back before more natives showed up. While we were packing everything up in the rain, several people walked by and we just told them "zao shang hao!" (good morning) like it was no big deal we were hanging out in a tent at the top of the mountain. Everyone greeted us with smiles and was really amused.

We hiked back down and witnessed more old people doing their morning exercises - hanging from trees and bouncing rhythmically up and down. It scared me at first because I was jumping from no sleep, I round the corner and there's an old lady hanging from the tree. That gave us a good laugh.

We eventually made it down, three-way high-faved, and parted ways.

And I just slept all morning/afternoon when I really should have been grocery shopping/doing homework/planning my lessons/hand-washing my laundry...etc.

But it was worth it to sleep at Camp Ridiculous.

hahaha. We are convening again for lunch at the Noodle Palace tomorrow. I wonder what crazy idea we will come up with next...?

Walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 23, 2010


My beautiful friend Olga got married today.

It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Two months ago Olga and Abel had a civil ceremony in their home country - the Congo. But being as they both live longterm in Chi.na (for school) they knew that they needed to sanctify the marriage and decided to do it here with their chrch family around them.

It. was. incredible.

The officiant was from New Zealand. The ring bearer was from Ecuador and the flower girl from Nigeria. The bridesmaid was from Ghana. The songs were sung in English and the vows were said in French. The photographer was from Germany and the videographer from Hong Kong. A woman from the Bahamas caught the bouquet. People in the crowd were from every continent but Antarctica.

And when the groom kissed his bride a Congolese chant erupted through the rafters that sent the New Zealand-ite pastor into a bouncing frenzy of happiness.

There was dancing. There was unrestrained joy. There was praise for this new life beginning. It was casual yet reverant, loud yet peaceful. Unlike any wedding I have ever heard of.

It was contagious joy.

Take a look at some kodak moments:

baby Grace waiting for the ceremony to begin:

the HICF (Hangzhou Int. Chrstian Fellowship) people in attendance:

the bride and groom walking down the aisle:

the bridesmaid and groomsman:

listening to the sermon:

me and the beautiful bride:
right after their parents called into the service!

It was moving. We are all far away from our homes, yet surrounded by love.

Here's wishing a lifetime of happiness to Olga and Abel.

Oct 22, 2010

say my naaaame, say my name...

I have three names.

And I think it's about due time I explain/record them. You know, posterity purposes.

I really believe in the sanctity of naming. The past two years when students would ask me to give them an English name early in the year I was always a little uncomfortable because I didn't know them well. How do I know if you should be a "Michael" or a "River"? "Anna" or "Rose"? I usually would give them several names and have them choose - that way they had ownership over their name.

I never fully understood my student's double name lives (I only know them to this day as their english names) until now. Only I get to have 3!

This is the breakdown:

I am called Jessica by my friends who are not from Chi.na. About half of my friends in the dorm call me "Jessica". On the weekends with my non-Chin.ese friends, I am "Jessica". At chrch, I am "Jessica". And to most people at the hospital I am "Jessica" or "teacher". I try to get them not to call me "teacher" though. I prefer my given name over someone yelling, "teacher! teacher!" down the hall.

However to 90% of the Chin.ese people in my life I am . (pronounced - ke xiao mei). This is a relatively new thing this year that my Chi.nese friends are calling me my Chi.nese name. I've had this name for about a year, but very few people regularly called me it. I used it as a way to chat up random Chin.ese people, ("hey - wanna know my Chin.ese name?! whooopdeedooo") but it wasn't a regular part of my life. Now that my life is decidedly more "Chin.ese" my old friends are insisting on my Chin.ese name and my new-er Chin.ese friends seem to also use this more than Jessica.

This is shortened often to just "Xiao Mei," so I have to be on guard to both the "K" sounds and "X" sounds so that I remember to answer when I'm called. ha.

But what does 柯 晓 梅 even mean, you ask? Well, let me tell you! ;)

Several years ago in Ningxia I was given a Chin.ese name by my Chin.ese roomie, Caroline. (It was - Zhou Hui Jin). When I moved to Ch.ina I kept this name and was excited to tell it to everyone. Except that no one understood what the heck I was saying. And I didn't know how to write it. So that was a major bust. I didn't even really know the meaning except that Zhou was the oldest King or something and Hui means smart. Lame.

I eventually stopped talking about my Chin.ese name because it became a mass of confusion whenever I talked about it. And if there's one thing expats in Chi.na do not need - it is more confusion.

Fast forward a year and I still live in Chi.na (last October). I feel like it's high time I have a stinkin' good Chin.ese name. Because Chin.ese names have so much meaning attached to them I knew there was no way I could choose one for myself. I wanted someone close to me to choose it. But who?

On a routine trip last October to an orphanage we were seated at large round tables and I looked around and realized that that group of women really knew me well. We had been working together on the orphan outreach program for about a year and I decided that I trusted a lady named Ke An Rui to name me. She is a middle-aged mother from Tai.wan who I have grown really close to. I brought it up at lunch and she was very honored. (this made me happy). She said that she needed time though. No worries, I thought, I've been without one for a year, whatevs.

Well, truth be told, 10 minutes later when we were all done eating, Ke An Rui appeared from out of the bathroom and announced, "I've got it!" She explained that she had been thinking really hard in the bathroom of the perfect name for me. Seriously. hahahahha. How hilarious.

And thus, "Ke Xiao Mei" was born. She wrote it down for me on a scrap of newspaper and explained it to me.

The "Ke" is the same as her family name. Also because of "Jessi-CA." So we are now kin. The "Xiao" means dawn. It is the moment that the sun hits the horizon. "Mei" is a kind of flower, "Mei Hua" that is native to Hangzhou and that grows in the winter. It is known for thriving in harsh conditions. So my name means, "a flower that blooms at dawn." She also described it to me as, "hope and beauty in hard times, and hope comes in the morning." She told me this was fit for me, and I shed a little elephant tear. So meaningful.

I get mixed reactions to my name and have become a sort of cheerleader for it. Older people tell me my name is beautiful. "Hen you yisi" they say. (lots of meaning).

Young people tell me my name is like an old person name. That no one has flowers in their name any more - I'm outdated. Basically, I am the Chin.ese "Gertrude." Cool, I always liked older names. So I champion my name as a not old, but awesome name, given to me by a woman who I deeply admire. My name was a gift to me, how dare they bash it! haha. Not to mention half the people I meet have ridiculous English names - but that's another story.

On my paperwork at school, and in the dorm I am called "ke xiao mei." It is the first name I am called every morning by the men who sit in the lobby of my dorm and watch everyone go in and out (paid stalkers). Today I was marching down the stairs in heels and when I rounded the corner the old dude said to me in Chin.ese, "I heard you and I knew that was Ke Xiao Mei!" Yup, that's me, I thought. ha.

It's even on my visa paperwork. This name is legit.

My listening and speaking teachers call me "Ke Xiao Mei" or "Xiao Mei" (the Ke is my family name, so sometimes gets dropped - traditional Chin.ese way). But my head teacher likes to switch back and forth between Xiao Mei and my third name...

班长 (pronounced - ban zhang).

You see, Chin.ese education is...special. In college the students are placed into classes. They have the same schedule/teachers/live together. Ch.ina likes to make little tight knit communities that don't know much outside their circles. (this goes in the work place, too).

Every class has a leader - the "ban zhang." "Zhang" means leader. This word is also used in the words for boss, principle, manager, etc. "Ban" means class.

The ban zhang's job is to basically be the model student and the teacher's secretary. They are responsible for planning class activities, answering student's questions about anything, buying train tickets for the whole class at holidays, letting the class know of announcements and upcoming tests, and reading the dictations first (the rest of the class repeats after her). They can't miss class.

This is me.


I recieve several texts/emails every week with random questions. "Where can I get a good massage?" "What busses go back to school, I'm lost." and "Where can I order a pizza?" Have been some of my favorite questions. There is also a girl who misses a lot of class because of some seminars she must attend, so every day I email her the class notes so she can keep up.

On Tuesday we are having our first class "event." A dinner near campus at my fave restaurant. (It sure pays to be the leader! We are eating what I like! haha). I am also coordinating some volunteer opportunities for us at a local autistic school...more to come on that when it finalizes.

Long story short - my class is diverse and awesome and I'm happy to be able to round everybody up for some good times.

My teacher asked several weeks ago who should be the class "ban zhang." Everyone looked at me and he just said my name with a little tilt of his head. And thus I earned my third name.

My head teacher mainly calls me "ban zhang." When I am walking in the hallway I might hear him call to me, "ban zhang." When he calls to me to answer a question, I am "ban zhang." Today he referred to me as, "Xiao Mei" during an example (he always uses me as the example and it makes me slightly uncomfortable) and it took me a second to realize he was talking about me.

Names are so cool. They really become a part of your identity.

Yesterday a classmate was passing out snacks during a break and offered one to me, "ban zhang?" Another classmate giggled and said, "what the heck is your real name anyways?"

Well, I have 3. Take your pick.

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 19, 2010

pumps and fans.

Today was good.

Which is good because it means I've been drug out of a major low.

Yesterday in my 8am class I plummeted low. I have been entertaining negative thoughts about my schooling (hence why it doesn't appear very much here in bloggy world). I looked over at the hilarious British girl next to me and whispered, "I'm quitting." Thing is, I meant it.

I hate my classes.


hate hatity haterific hate.

I had forgotten about the reason why I am involved in this mess of a school system.

For a few weeks my feelings were growing - snowballing slowly. Until yesterday I was sitting in class and couldn't take it anymore.

I went to lunch with my dear friend Hannah. As we were sitting waiting for our food I told her about my low point and how I needed to climb out of my hole or risk wallowing in negativity for several years - or worse, become a PhD dropout. (dun dun dun).

She echoed my sentiments (albeit not as dramatically) and we decided to find a solution. We needed to get back to the "why" of our schooling. We needed long-term perspective.

We talked about what is in our "motivation box." What can make us more motivated, more content, and more willing to work hard, rather than sit and let all this happen to us like lame ducks.

I realized, my motivation box is full: learning to read and write Chin.ese, love of Chi.na (yes, surprisingly, I do love this ridiculous country), deeper cultural understanding, networking, money (where else would I get paid to go to school?) and who seriously graduates with a PhD and no student loans!?, responsibility to my family, hopes of my dream job upon completion, having an impact on education reform, deepening relationships that have been built over the past 2 years, an ability to learn about education from a new point of view, being called "Dr. Griner" in 4 years...

but most importantly:

God gave me this gift. I have to work hard. I have no choice but to make the most of this opportunity.

I realized that I had begun to feel like I had given my life to Chi.na and was not recieving much back except for losing touch with friends and everyday discomfort.

But I realized sitting at lunch that that was just the opposite of the truth.

I have not given my life to Chi.na only to receive nothing back. I have given my life to God and will recieve everything. More than I can even imagine.

That was a nice refresher. I don't want to go into that hole again (though, I probably will. Kick me if that happens, will ya? :) )

Tuesdays are my long days at school. I am taking the equivalent of about 17 credit hours (and working and leading the orphan/outreach at chrch). Tuesdays are really exhausting because I have class from 10:00am-4:30pm straight, then have to prepare for work on Wednesdays.

That's a lot of Chin.ese going in.

But today, I was tired, but content. I didn't want to jump off the roof like I do most Tuesdays. It was manageable.

This cheesy "motivation box" just might have worked. Perspective: word of the year.

On a less serious note (wheww, I've been draggin' you through the mud lately, haven't I, little bloggy?)...

Does anyone want to sign up for the International Conference on Pumps and Fans? I hear they have openings...

I saw this sign on campus while walking to class this morning and had to snap a photo...what does that even mean?

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 18, 2010

Let the games begin.

Today after classes I took the bus to Xiasha where I used to work to see some old students and pick up an Amazon package. An old student ordered it for me since I can't legally have a Chin.ese credit card.

I thought I would get to come home early and get on my homework - but alas, I was sucked in. I ended up at a movie theater watching a German movie that was dubbed over in Chin.ese (no subtitles). It was...a weird experience. I have no idea what happened. A bunch of people shot each other, then some guy danced around in a hotel....I dunno. haha. I understood what people were saying to each other, but couldn't get the whole movie's premise. Gotta study harder.

With that in mind, here is my latest addition to the ever-growing research library...

Alright, PhD, let's do it to it. Start your research engines....

I'm just so happy this one's in English. Fo' real.

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 17, 2010


My mommy loves me:

This tri-cycle driver, however, does not:

Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

I got a package to end all packages yesterday which was the perfect punctuation to a really awkward day. Whoohooooo. I was the envy of the dorm (still weird to me that I live in a dorm...but whatevs). When I translated the cost of shipping said package for the workers in the dorm, they freaked out. It's about how much money they make a month. This either means international shipping is outrageous, or they are under-paid slaves. (I vote both).

Today after morning services a friend and I went to the furniture market to help ourselves "nest." I still can't afford a fridge, but gosh darn it I need somewhere to put my clothes. The weather is changing fast which means autumn and winter clothes have come out of hiding from the depths of my luggages and have made their way to my floor, with no where else really to go.

That needed to change, so it did.

Today I bought a beauty: a used, decently crappy set of dresser drawers. I am stoked on this find becuase drawers are rare and usually expensive! Even a set of plastic ones in the grocery store run for about $50USD. It's nuts. But I got my broken/dusty/used beauty for about $9USD. Whoohooooo!

My friend got a couch for 30RMB ($4.50USD) less than I did - darn, she bartered better than me! :/ Oh well, can't win 'em all.

We paid this dude to drive our stuff home. Because we can't write our own address (note to self - learn how to write address. But geez louise I just learned how to write my chin.ese name last week! That will take time...) he was kind of thrown off. He would not listen to us, just demanded that we write our address, when we were speaking perfect chin.ese to him giving him detailed, simple directions. He just would not listen.

I ended up completely losing patience and acting like a nasty person. Finger pointing and chinese ranting. I wanted to let him know I thought he was a little monkey turd. Ugh. Embarrassing. I apologized and paid him extra and he walked away smiling and unscathed, not really aware that I was really mad. But I knew.

It is common discussion among foreigners who are here a long time that living in Chi.na makes you a nasty person because the environment is so hostile/harsh. I'm really trying not to be one of those people but today I failed. But tomorrow is a new day, and I believe in mercy.

When I came home and saw all the things I just recieved in the mail I was reminded how blessed I am. I have no business being a snot-head to people who have so much less than me.
I need to learn to be more patient when in stressful encounters with chin.ese people.

Live and learn. :)

Walk slow. xoxo.

PS: I have a dresser, I have a dresser, I have a dresser, hey-hey-hey-hey! :)

Oct 16, 2010

a haiku.

An ode to the patients of the Hangzhou Red Cross Hospital TB Unit where I spent most of my afternoon:

You pushed me, I cried.
Ever heard of privacy?
Learn to wait in line.

I refuse to accept Chi.na as a world power until I can go to the hospital without the chance of being spit on, peed on, pushed by other patients, cut in line, and without my medical records being read on the computer by all other waiting patients.

Seriously, people...get it together. Or at least stop being so proud of yourself.


Oct 14, 2010

That Time Again...

Time to check and see if my vital organs are still kickin' while on the TB meds...

After my english class at the hospital, Dr. Xu took some time out of the ICU (where he is stationed tonight on duty) to meet me in the cardiology unit where I get to have my blood taken every month.

After last month's embarrassing showing, I decided to be more brave. We were in and out of there in 7 minutes flat.

Dr. Xu put my vile of blood in his desk drawer, where it will stay until the lab opens tomorrow morning (ew)...

But not before making fun of me profusely...

I have to get my kidney and liver functions checked every month just to make sure my TB meds aren't taking too much of a toll. It's no big deal really, just making life that much more interesting. Two months down, Four to go...

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 13, 2010

Hi-ho, Hi-ho...

There is reason to celebrate today! (and every day, right?)

Today I officially started my new job!

After weeks of working for free administering placement interviews and answering emails, today was my official first class at Zhejiang University Children's Hospital.

I was hired to be the new english teacher for the hospital. Basically, the hospital is highly regarded in China - home to some of the most renowned surgeons in the developing world. Because they have many international contacts and welcome foreign teams of doctors several times a year, the hospital keeps a little space in the budget to teach the doctors english.

And I get to be the lucky one to do the job!

I work 3 days a week for a total of 6 hours - but it is 45 minutes away by bus so that hikes up the total hours.

Wednesdays are the intermediate class, Thursdays are the advanced class, and Friday is an "english corner" all call with no class role. There are 33 students in the intermediate class and 30 in the advanced class. We meet in a conference room in the hospital and I have access to a computer (!!!) and a small whiteboard.

Today I was so nervous about starting the new job. I'm just worried about the differences in needs between computer grad students (my previous students) and health professionals. I want to be the best teacher I can for them and I wasn't sure how to go about addressing their needs - when I don't really know their levels or ultimate goals.

Turns out - all will be fine because my class was very well recieved and my new "students" were easier to relate to than I expected. I guess all middle age Chi.nese English learners respond the same to different types of teaching methods. These guys were just as precious as my previous students. They are far removed from the classroom and have signed up for this class (free for them) on their own accord. This is nice. Everyone in the room wants to be there.

Our 2 hours were filled with many laughs. They came out of their shell more quickly than my college students and were very eager to answer questions and participate. I'm so excited.

I am so much happier in front of the class than being a member of the class. To me, being a teacher is way more fun than being a student. I get that zip in my veins when I notice a light go off in someone's head, that they understand and have gained knowledge. There's a feeling of control when the pacing of a class is just right; when you can sense when it is time to move to the next item on the agenda and the class is jiving right with you. I love to respond with, "yes," "good," or "almost," when students are brave enough to speak out. I love when a student doesn't understand and we trudge through a mountain of vocabulary and examples in order to reach comprehension. I love to set class goals and notice months later that they have been achieved. I love to create a place of comfort, a safe place to learn an awesome language - a language that allows many Chi.nese people to express themselves in ways they can't in their native tongue.

When I'm teaching - I'm alive.

I am so happy to have this job. PTL. Thank the big man upstairs.

I got this job because of Dr. Xu. He gave my resume to the big shots at the hospital and the rest is history.

When I was standing in front of the class I had a "whoa, this is my life" moment. I looked out over the surgeons, pharmicists, anestesiologists, nurses, and doctors- most of whom were wearing white coats and thought to myself, "holy crap, this is real. These asteemed professionals are listening to crazy me like I know what I'm talking about." I sometimes have to remind myself that I'm "qualified" to do what I do here. I still feel like a 21 year old punk kid running around Chi.na doing crazy things.

I feel a deep sense of respect for these people who save lives on a daily basis. They were all acting happy to meet me, when really I was so honored to meet them! I think it's going to be a good thing - me and those white coats chillin' each week.

On a practical note: I am so happy to be employed after 5 months of unemployment because that means at the end of the month when I get paid I can afford to buy a mini-refridgerator! And if I pinch my pennies right - a toaster oven! :) :) :)

Having a fridge would revolutionize my life. Ohmygosh a fridge...cold water bottles, chilly air keeping food fresh, the ability to buy vegetables and take home left-overs! and a mini-OVEN. BAKED GOODS.

Ok, gotta stop, I'm lusting after appliances. What has my life come to?

Moral of the story:
Teaching = awesome
Getting a hard-earned paycheck = awesome
Having a job you love that also helps you buy appliances = priceless

walk slow. xoxo.

Oct 10, 2010

lunar birthday surprise.

I got back from a week-long trip yesterday morning at 4am. (update on that coming after some processing time). :)

I had 8am and 10am class. Which I slept through. Oops.

Around 11:30 I was woken up by a text message from Dr. Xu, "come to lunch, call me when you get a taxi" with a Chin.ese address written below. Okay, I thought. So I put on a dress, threw on some makeup and headed out the door.

Thirty minutes later I pulled up to a fancy schmancy neighborhood with houses. (most chin.ese live in shoddy apartments.) When Dr. Xu came to pick me up at the gate he announced that we were at Dr. Li's weekend home for a party. Dr. Li is one of the most asteemed heart surgeons in Chi.na and he is Dr. Xu's mentor. I was commanded quite sternly that I had to speak Chi.nese during the party.

Cool, I thought.

We arrived at Dr. Li's amazingly gorgeous home and I walked into a home full of Dr. Xu's best friends cooking a huge meal. In attendance were the head nurse her husband and son, Christina, Stone his wife and baby, and Dr. Xu and his girlfriend (our first time to meet, slightly awkward to be the foreign female best friend, but that's another story).

I went straight to the kitchen to catch up with Christina who was slaving away over a big pot of noodles. Michael was in a particularly jolly/hyper mood and came over to us to check on the noods. He announced that those were for him. Why? I wanted to know. "Because it is my lunar birthday!" he said. So he has to eat the birthday noodles. (for a long life).

I sucker punched him for not telling me we were going to his birthday party. Turd ferguson!

Just another example of never really knowing what is going on around here. ha. I was so glad i brought gifts form Ninxia for the doctors, at least I didn't feel like that much of a loser.

We all sat down to a huge meal and chatted and laughed. They drank a lot, cheersing each other while I sipped my water and watched the spectacle.

After lunch everyone seperated out for their after lunch naps. Everything was just so natural. Michael, Christina, and I headed outside and layed on a blanket in the yard (so weird to have a yard!). We layed there looking at the sky and talking for about 2 hours. They eventually fell asleep (both snorers, haha) and I just layed between them thinking about how amazingly blessed I am to be included in this group of people-such a rare thing in Chin.ese-foreign friendships. They have invited me into their Chi.nese world, not me inviting them into an english world. This was a very powerful thing for me to experience. It's been a long time of investment and patience on both sides for our friendships to be this strong. I am so grateful.

I just kept laughing to myself. There I was chillin' in the yard with my friends, speaking chinese, and fartin' around. Like it ain't no thing.

As they rested, Michael played music from his new MP3 player. Soon the music started playing Aaron Shust, who is a faith-based singer. Michael was awaking and started singing along to the music. I can't describe in words how this makes me feel. What a presh-head.

Soon Dr. Li came outside to start lighting up a bbq. (they eat allll the time!). Michael looked at me with sleepy eyes and asked me, "What does adore mean? How do you adore G0d?"

Later we tried lighting a fire for barbeque. They thought that because I am an Amer.ican that I should be a barbeque pro, which unfortunately, I am not. After some finaggling we got some coals burning and I sat back and let them go to town. Michael's gf and I strung pieces of octopus, mushroom, and spicy peppers onto sticks and everyone else started their jobs - taking care of the baby, getting meat sticks ready, or bringing out more drinks.

I had to leave around 6:30 because I had dinner plans. Michael only texted me about lunch but expected me to stay all day/night. ha. Oh culture, what a weird thing. A few more doctors had showed up for the evening/drinking portion of the party, so it was easy for me to slip out with just a few hugs around the bbq.

As I was leaving I gave some gifts from Ningxia and reminded Michael that "life is a gift."

"Yes," he said to me, "and so are people."

My thoughts exactly.