Nov 30, 2010

language, spanx, and gojiberries.

Wanna know how Thanksgiving Round 3 was?

I went to class. I was the only American in class because the one other American was travelling. I baked 9 dozen cookies for my students and classmates so my classmates were pretty excited about Thanksgiving, even though they don't care/know nothing about it.

Then I went to work and gave away more cookies. And talked about pigrims, searching for freedoms, feasts, how the Native Americans and Pilgrims shared culture, and that Abraham Lincoln established Thankgiving during the Civil War to remind Americans to rememeber where they came from. Cool stuff. I was about to burst into a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, but then I remembered where I live. ha.

Then I went to my friends house where they had prepared Tom the Turkey and other Thanksgiving eats. I was way late, so Tom was gone, but I got to feast on mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and stuffing. Yum. My friends are awesome.

Then Friday morning I got up extra early before class to skype with my fam! I don't use skype much because my connection is bad and it makes me cry. Whenever I see my grandparents or dogs I sob. But it was worth it because I love looking at those faces!

Thanksgiving dinner in a bowl:

my class brought me a box of chocolates on Thanksgiving:

Here are some things I am particularly thankful for this Thanksgiving no particular order, aside from the obvious things I am and should be thankful for like family, guidance, mercy, friendships, provision, etc...

I am thankful for:


My living situation is awesome because I live in a constant state of second-language-ness. In almost every conversation I have, one or more of the parties is not speaking their native tongue. I love language. It's genius. We are all a brick in the tower of babel. Here is a note my Swiss neighbor left on my door the day he moved out last week. I was not home when he was leaving. I kept this note because I want to remember him and because I love the word "experienceful." What a genius word. Use it. I'm so thankful.

My new yellow Spanx (summer 2010 purchase)/Free Transportation via friends or my awesome bike.

I LOVE SPANX. Also, Alexina drives me home from chrch on Sundays on her swanky pink motorscooter. The taxi's to chrch are realllyyyy expensive (9$ roundtrip, I make 300$ a month. That's a big percentage at 36$ a month.) We have so much fun yelling to the natives as we wiz on by. One day I will take a video to show you everyones faces when they see us coming. It's priceless. I am so thankful for her scooter and my awesome bike that takes me to class in the mornings. My spanx make wearing dresses more modest while on my bike/her scooter, and the free transportation really helps. I'm so thankful.

And Goji berry, honey oatmeal.

I got a huge bag of Goji berries (a Ningxia specialty) on my trip there in October and have been slowly making my way through the bag by way of oatmeal with honey. This is my go-to breakfast and often is also my dinner. I love this meal. I am so thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. I sure missed my family/America/turkey. But being here with so many things to be thankful for is not bad.

Happy beginning of the holiday season! I have a 10 inch tree somewhere in my cupbards to pull out soon...hmmm....gotta look for that!

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 28, 2010

worlds collide.

Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life thus far.

When I was a teacher at the university, I always tried to have a good mix of social awareness lessons with my plain ol' English lesson junk.

Because of the social mentality of my country of residence, I felt/feel a responsibility to share different/radical ideas like justice/fairness/women's equality/adoption as an option/respecting intellectual copyrights/fidelity, etc.

It is a safe generalization to make about this country that most citizens (especially the educated) think that technology and money can solve their problems. And that the government will take care of everything so they don't need to do anything if something is wrong.

This mentality takes a toll on social welfare efforts.

I'm not here to compare, BUT, for perspective's sake...

Each year in America, approximately 70% of households donate to a charity, for a total of $180 billion dollars. There is a clear link between charity, religion, and politics.

Only 11% of Chi.nese households donate to a charity each year. Again, there is a clear link between charity (very little), religion (no religious freedom), and politics (the mess of economic materialism and wacked out socialistic ideals that is Ch.ina today).

My students are a product of this system.

So, last month when a student I am very close with, Yangxue, called me to tell me she wanted to organize a volunteer event, I was pleasantly surprised. And stoked.

She told me that my stories in class of the orphans has resonated with her and that she wanted to help. Because she is the class monitor, she has the power to choose what the class does for their activities. She asked me if I could help them volunteer.

I told her to raise money or collect milk powder and to wait. I had some phone calls to make.

I have never taken a group of Chi.nese to an orphan facility before. It is one thing for the workers to open up the facilities and allow foreigners into the place because we give lots of money and we are not Chi.nese. It is a totally different story for a group of Chi.nese students wanting to see something that the government is not proud of. A lot of the social strife of this country is hidden, exposed only to those who have full pocket books and foreign passports.

And technically, foreigners are not allowed in the main orphanages. I have been snuck into the Hangzhou Orphanage one time (shhh), but most of my work is at village orphanages and the orphan rehabilitation center (what I call the "hospital").

So, I made some calls. Gave away a lot of chocolate. Promised English classes to a lot of people's kids. (ugh). and eventually, I got a Chinese text telling me, ok, come over Jessica, we trust you. Score.

I called Yangxue and she told me that my former employer was donating the money for the class to rent a van to drive from where they live (an hour away) and was helping with the cost of the milk powder. The students pulled their money together and got 12 cans. (about 200$ worth - awesomeness).

These students do not have a lot of money, but they wanted to give. They gave cheerfully, and they were sincerely interested in listening to me as I explained to them about's orphan situation, international adoptions, and opportunities to do good in their community.

They arrived Saturday morning and I met them at the hospital. They split into groups and I went room to room visiting them and telling them about the orphan work. They played with the children for about 2 hours.

During this time, we were introduced to a little girl who will be flying to America on Monday (tomorrow). She has been adopted and will become a US citizen. This really affected my students. As such nationalistic people, this was hard to hear. I held the girl and thought of her life. It is so strange to see adoptions from this side.

When you are in Walmart and see a family with an asian baby, think of where that baby came from. I am there. In the orphanage. Someone cared for that child in an orphanage for months, maybe years, and felt sadness when the baby left. Volunteers gave money and time to keep that baby alive. We're here in the beginning, before the baby's name changes and identity changes and native language changes.

It's awesome. It's weird. It's sad. It's meaningful.

My students were exposed to all of these thoughts and more as they wandered around the halls, clutching baby hands and tickling baby feet. There were a few awkward moments of the mostly male crowd just staring at the kids not knowing what to do. "Don't just stand there and stare at them, touch them!" I said. Touch is so good for babies who do not get regularly held! So they did.

And I was proud.

I feel like so many things added up to yesterday. Two years of relationships with the women in the orphan care hospital, my masters thesis on orphan care, talking to my students about my thesis and work at the hospital and hoping that they internalize one kernel of what I was trying to inspire them with. Trying to be an inspiring teacher, but feeling utterly incompetant.

And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

It all came together. My worlds collided. My students held orphans and provided for them.
My students were touched. They felt validated and meaningful. And their donations were appreciated.

I was reminded of the importance of being a bridge. My student Yangxue often calls me a "bridge." I've always loved her for that because it makes me feel special. I may be a cracked, doubting, bitter bridge, but I'm still a bridge.

I am so glad my students walked over that bridge and used their Saturday to make a lasting difference. Milk powder is a necessity that they provided to the babies, and touch, love, and laughter is an intangible gift they also brought with them.

I'm a proud teacher.

Enough chatter, let's look at some faces:

this baby was dropped off at the hospital (abandoned) a week ago by her parents. She doesn't sleep at night and bites herself. She is the saddest baby I have ever seen.

This is Maggie. She is going to be my fellow American. Cheers, Maggie, to a life with a front yard, apple pie, fourth of July fireworks, and after school ballet.

This girl's parents have chosen to keep her despite her handicap (heroes). She comes to the hospital on the weekends to give her parents a break since she can't attend normal school and there are no places for ESE children to learn.

My students outside on the roof with some kids.
this kid loved these guys!

KingC, my student from 2 years ago, was entranced by this little woogie baby. I'm very proud of him, he's gotten a job with the Chin.ese internet engine, Taobao.

all of us, Lin, my Chinese big sis, to my left. The sign says that they are HDU's 2009 entry computer science majors.

I rode the bus with them back to Xiasha and hung out for the day. We had some good conversations. Seeing the babies made them think about the seriousness of having a child (um...DUH).

Another topic of conversation was what they would do or feel if they had a handicapped child. This was interesting to hear. Some students voiced fears and concerns that their one allowed child ('s one-child policy) would end up handicapped like the orphans. They discussed how they would feel if they had no child to care for them in old age and how their lives would be different with a handicapped child.

It was interesting to have this kind of dialogue. I'm proud of them for digging deep, something they are not encouraged to do often.

I'm proud of my baby boogers, they did a great thing yesterday and I was honored to be there. I am thankful for the experience because it reaffirmed my call of being here, encouraged me in my work, and gave all of us a chance to be together doing something good.

I left feeling very satisfied with my life in Ch.ina. PTL.

And here's something I've been thinking about lately....
"charity sees the need, not the cause."

Go hug a baby. 10 points extra if it's asian.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 26, 2010

while america has black friday...

10 minutes ago:

I'm freezing. I want to go to sleep. My room has no heat and it's -800 degrees outside. So I sleep with a hot water bottle (heaven!). I need to go fill up said water bottle, but the hot water source is over on the N. Korean side of the hall and they are obviously drinking and having themselves a merry old time.

I decide I don't care about entering their territory. I'm cold.

I wonder myself down there in my pajamas.

On the way, the leader spies me and gives me a jolly, "Ni hao." (Chin.ese is our common language).

Wheww. I'm in the clear. All's good.

I fill up my water bottle and venture back into their hallway and the leader calls out to me in front of a bunch of them, "Mei nu," (beautiful girl), "Ni shi nali ren?" (what country are you from?)

This goes through my head in 2 seconds: Shit. I'm from America. And your country just killed 2 S. Korean soldiers and my country has thousands of soldiers stationed in S. Korea. How much do you know and will you hold country allegiance against me and I'm just cold and wanted to fill up my water bottle and I'm still made at you for eating my chocolate pudding last week out of the communal fridge. Bastards. Don't blow me (or my people) up with your uranium mines, please. Thanks. And why don't you spend more money on grains and then your people won't eat tree bark for dinner and how did you get this lucky to be the leader, you must be really nasty mean. Go eat a burger.

But instead, I answer, "Mei Guo." (America).

He gets a shocked look on his face, then puts his left arm around me. Homeboy smells of cheap Chi.nese beer and has a cigarette lit in his right hand. (in the dorm. not allowed).

In my mind, A N. Korean leader has his arm around my shoulder. Ha. This is cool. And watch your step, Jessica. Be a good representation of your country and faith. And my water bottle is really hot. Ouch. Should have worn gloves.

"American, really? Well, then, come to our room and sing us a song." -arm around my shoulder tightens and starts to lead me towards one of their dorm rooms.
"I'm sorry, I can't tomorrow I have things to do, I have to get up early." (true story). -I pull away with all my might trying not to make anyone mad, but trying to stand my ground.
"What do you have to do?"
"I used to be an English teacher at another university and my students are coming to see me." (semi-true).
"Ok, next time, beautiful girl, we let you go for now." -his arm around me lets go and I'm free to leave with my water bottle in tow.
"Ok, have fun, Good night."
"Good night."

Mission accomplished and then some.

Will someone please pinch me? I live in CNN.

What should I do? Am I over-reacting by thinking it is uber unsafe to to into a dorm room with middle aged drunk N. Korean men and sing karaoke? (they are all middle aged men - zero females). I want to see people as all the same. And inherantly, I believe we are. But there are a lot of other factors that play into relationships and I just don't think I need or want to be hanging out like that with them. Truth is, the haunted looks in their eyes scare me.

What would you do? Make up an excuse, or go sing/be put on show and not care/relish the moment as awesome and weird?

Oh, and happy black friday. :)

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 25, 2010


I woke up this morning to just any other day in

Thanksgiving Day. "Gan An Jie" in Chin.ese. ("with peace holiday").

But for me it's a day to take stock. What is important? What are the daily ways I am blessed and can be a blessing to others? I need to name the things I am thankful for. (we all do). And I need to live like I believe that I have things to be thankful for. Workin' on this.

I was contemplating these things, saying some prayers, and focusing myself on counting my blessings when I recieved a timely text...

I open my wallet and find no money
I open my pocket and find no coin
I open my life, find you,
then know how rich I am.
Happy Thanksgiving, Jassica, my friend.

from one of my students from last year at HDU.

Happy Thanksgiving from There is so much to be thankful for.

walk slow. xoxo.

Meet Tom. (Meat Tom?)

My friend Nate rode a bus 3 hours to a turkey farm, picked up this little booger, and brought him home to Hangzhou. He now lives in the window of my friends apartment, eats corn out of a bowl, and disturbs the curious neighbors with his loud cackles.

His name is Tom the Turkey. Tomorrow he will be Thanksgiving dinner.

I won't eat him though, because I'll be at work. (no Thanksgiving dinner for me this year, C'est las vie.)

I'll never look at a frozen butterball the same.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 24, 2010

You, Me, and TB.

This weekend I found my little white pills to be dwindling, so I planned my monthly trip to the TB clinic. This time, though, I was not going to be reduced to a bumbling, crying mess like last time so I brought in back up in the form of my dear friend Hannah.

Having a friend there didn't quite work the way I had hoped though, instead of turning into a sobbing hullabaloo I was an empowered angry person. An empowered angry person who looked down on this country for making me sick.

I need to work on my pride. I need to be reminded that people get sick in other countries, too, and that this could have happened anywhere. I need to not blame an entire country for my "sickness."

But it's just so easy. has the world's second largest per capita cases of TB in the world (second only to India). TB is the leading cause of communicable disease related death in Chin.a. There are 1,306,000 new cases of TB in every year. There are 13,000 new cases each year in the USA, 40% of which are immigrants.*

Why is there so much TB in Well, let me tell you.

TB is spread much like the common cold. It is airborn. Every time a person who has active TB coughs, sneezes, or spits, TB germs are spread. Someone who has untreated active TB will spread the disease to 10-15 people a year.*

Well, in Ch.ina, people don't cover their mouths when they talk/eat/yawn/sneeze/ever. It is not uncommon to see a man (or woman) blowing their nose with their fingers on the side of the street or hawking up loogies. I quite often walk into puddles of spit and snot. And because diapers are so expensive, children pee and poo on the side of the street; over grates, trash cans, and just about anywhere else.

Also, TB affects bodies whose immune systems are not strong. HIV/AIDS is a growing problem in because of lack of sexual health and awareness. HIV and TB are closely linked. So are TB and smoking. Becuase so many people smoke in and the air quality is poor, people are more apt to become sick if exposed to TB germs.

Poor public hygiene/smoking/other disease = TB spreading like wildfire. did this happen to me? - a non-smoker, non HIV haver, random girl from Florida whose just trying to make a difference and live out my youth in Asia?

One word: orphans.

In the past 2 years I have spent many many hours in a hospital. I now even work in a hospital (ironic and awesome). Because I was exposed to sick babies, people, and not everyone gets vaccinated here, I was somewhere along the line exposed to someone who had active TB.

Those germs got in me, but could not penetrate me because I was vaccinated as a child, as per American law (God bless it). So my TB is latent, I'm just a "carrier." But carriers have a 1/10 chance of catching full-blown TB at some point in their lives so I have to be treated like I have TB.

Which is no fun.

My little pills make me barf, nauseous, anxious, and throw up blood. And living in a culture where the common answer to any mild medical ailment is, "drink hot water," makes for some frustrating interactions.

Take my texts yesterday for example:

I was throwing up blood again. Not a lot, but still not something to be taken lightly. I text my bff Michael who is a heart surgeon: "I'm coughing up blood again, what should I do?" His reply: "drink more water and vitamin C."

My reply: "So I shouldn't be worried?" Him: "Drink hot water and tell me if you feel bad."


Dear mom and dad, if I ever have a real medical emergency in, just let me go to Heaven. I don't want to deal with these people.

There, it's in writing. I don't trust this place.

So now you're probably thinking, "why did she stay in, is that smart?" My answer: it doesn't matter where I live. I have to take 3 pills a day for a disease I do not techincally have. These pills will make me sick no matter where I live. Being here is not harming me nor anyone else. The damage is already done, and in 3 mere months (half way!) this will all be over. I was cleared by the Florida Health Department for international travel, and the visa office in Hangzhou was given the opportunity to look at my medical paperwork (though they did not).

I am selective with whom I tell only because people give you a freaky look when you say, "I have latent TB." But I have been spilling the beans to more and more people because I like to joke about it and when I crack a TB joke and no one knows I have it, it's not so funny.

Whenever I see a man spit on the street I say, "TB!"

Whenever a friend is going out at night I warn them, "don't get TB!"

It's funny. Trust me.

The good news about TB in is that there is currently a 5 year initiative program for the detection and treatment of TB in being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this program village health workers are being paid a bonus every time they identify a case of TB. (which can be hard because latent TB has no symptoms).

I guess what all of this is about (besides just wanting to get my thoughts out. I'm surprosed if anyone is still reading this...) is that health is a serious thing. (like, duh.)

I can't imagine what it would feel like to have something more serious. So many more people out there deal with things that make my 6 months with TB seem so trivial.

When my doctor was first over-reacting to my positive testing, I had a flashing thought that this is what it's like to be told you have cancer. Now, that is dramatic, because my case does not even compare to cancer, but any negative health news is freaky.

I feel like in all of this I am being prepared for something and I don't know what it is. I've learned so much about international health statistics, vaccinations, child care, and sanitization standards. I am witnessing the sick, the dying. I am lining up with people whose X-rays are cloudy, who yell at the doctor bartering for their monthly medications. I am in the clinic with people who will not live a full life because TB will eat their lungs before they have a chance to realize their dreams.

I'm one of them.

But I will be ok. Not every person in that clinic is so blessed as I am.

For me, I will take my pills, barf a little, and then it will be done. This will all become a rather amusing few chapters in the book I will write about this Chin.ese blip in my life.

But for some of the people I encounter, there is a different path. I don't know why I am being given these things to witness, but I know that someday in my future I will look back on this time and say, "Oh, so that was what this was for." Maybe I am supposed to be more empathetic towards human suffering. Maybe I will have to share my new-found knowledge of TB treatment with someone. Who knows? All I know is that this random time in my life is preparing me for something later, something unknown. There is a reason for this that I do not know yet.

Outside the clinic with my hott pig mask on and my new bottle of meds!

there's no waiting rooms in China! Everone piles in (cuts in line) and listens to each other's prognosis and looks at each other's X-rays. This is unbelievable to me.

I. hate. those. pills. Please notice how I am "Jesska." I am in the system only as "Jesska." No ID, no passport number, no last name, no address. Just, JESSKA.

Be thankful for your health today. Or at least to be alive. It's a gift.

Walk slow. xoxo.

*all factual information taken from the World Health Organization web site:

Nov 21, 2010

An Ode.

Pink bike of mine
you give me joy.

You're greater than the
grandest toy.

Without your wheels
I would be walking.

And closer to the
Chinese mocking.

But with your speed
I fly right by.

And do not see the
natives spy.

Though sometimes death
is very near.

Because the natives
cannot steer.

Though your bell
does not work.

I can yell, "move!"
like a jerk.

Your basket holds
my purse and books.

And you've got 2 locks
in case a stealer looks.

Rain or shine
we go together.

With a sexy poncho
we brave any weather.

You take me far
you take me fast.

I hope that you
forever last.

You give me freedom
to go and roam.

Around this crazy place
I call my home.

Nov 19, 2010

Field Trip to 捎兴。

I am 24 years old and today I went on a field trip.


Zhejiang University piled 12 busses full of foreign students (about 500 total) and bussed us an hour away to the small, sleepy town of Shaoxing.

Two years ago (pre-blog days) I visited Shaoxing with one of my best friends and a Chin.ese student. It has turned out that I have already visited most of the "tourism-worthy" towns within bus distance to Hangzhou, but I was still happy to go on a trip with school. It's still cool to see things a second time with different perspective.

16 out of 23 of my classmates went, and we had a jolly good time. I seriously love my class. We spend every day together and we are quite the eclectic bunch. As much as I gripe about being here, experiencing this with my multi-cutural class is probably one of the coolest experiences I will have in my life. (I know, quite the lofty stement, 'eh? But I mean it.)

Take our bus chatter topics for example: marriage customs in Germany, religion, British stereotypes of Americans and vice-versa, maternity leave customs in various Asian countries, Korean fashion, Spanish camp-style songs, and dirty jokes in every language.

After arriving in Shaoxing things got even more interesting. Chi.nese planning and 500 students from across the globe was hilarious. We were never really told a time to meet at each place we went and I have no idea what the significance was of each place we went. It was funny.

We arrived at our first stop, some guy's tomb, which was essentially a huge statue on a mountain top. We were told to 爬山, (climb mountain), and sent on our way up the 8,000 flights of stairs to the top. (mountains in have cement stairs up them). Imagine Middle Eastern men in robes, No.rth Kor.eans with their pins on their lapels, African women in headgarb, European girls in short skirts and 4 inch heels, Chi.nese Italian men in sparkly peacoats, South Koreans with their huge, fake plastic glasses, and Americans in hoodies, all ascending this mountain at the same time.


After (sweating my guts out even in the freezing weather) meeting at the top for some photos and running into a few friends from other classes, we headed back down and climbed aboard the bus again this time destination: food.

All of us ate at the same restaurant that was reserved for us. The food choices were: strange. I'm still randomly getting a whiff of this one kind of tofu (cue: Jessica go brush your teeth). The highlight of the meal though was the duck served in its entirety. The interesting thing about eating meat in Ch.ina is that they don't let you forget that this was once an animal - whereas the meat I eat in 美国 (USA) doesn't resemble a once breathing thing. Regardless of the shape - it was delish. I think 3 of us ate the whole quacker.

After lunch we went to some nature area. I'm not really sure what it was. It was some nature place dedicated to the art of Chi.nese calligraphy. We just wandered around for 1.5 hours. At one point I saw some friends and broke away from my class. Soon though my friends needed to meet the bus and I found myself alone. Amongst 500 people. That was social anxiety I have not felt since highschool! haha. Soon I saw some people I know, though, and that was the end of that. Oh, highschool.

We boarded the bus and drove home, everyone passing out from the exhausting day.

Here's the pics!

the quacker (head to the right), before a dozen chopsticks attacked it:

some man's tomb we hiked to:

oh, 谢谢, thank you, to the restaurant:

the majority of my class, Lin Laoshi (teacher) in the front row right, red jacket:

old friends:
practicing writing my Chin.ese name (柯哓梅)in water on marble stone while my bestie in class, Stephanie from England, looks on:


Now I'm home, recooperating and about to go to a friend's to watch a pirated copy of Inception.

All in all a good, tiring, entertaining day. (aren't they all, though?) :)

晚安, good night. or 早上好, good morning, wherever you are.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 17, 2010

Labor Year, Coconuts, and Dancing.

An update in 3 parts:

I've been struggling this year. I haven't been thrilled with the content of my coursework or the framework of my university. Frankly, going to school in this culture is exasperating, frustrating, and unbelievably insane.

Every day something happens that makes me feel like I live in another dimension.

My life's not as "fun" as is used to be, I miss my old job, my living standards are sub-par for the developed world, I miss the free time I used to have, and I have just not been jiving with this whole situation.

Yesterday after laying my head on the desk in class and just utterly wanting to walk out the room and never look back, I had a realization. I told myself:

Do it or don't. Wholeheartedly or not at all.

I told myself to leave. I told myself to go home and pack my bags and leave this blasted place. I told myself if I was so miserable in school to just throw in the towel and go. There is no use being here if I'm going to complain as much as I have been recently. And then that little voice inside me cried out, "No! I'm not ready to leave yet! There is so much work left to do!" The thought of leaving terrified me because I don't want to go.

And that settled that.

I will stay. And I will do this wholeheartedly. Because that is the only way to do things.

So, I have labeled this year my "labor year." It is very clear that once my Chi.nese is wicked good, things will be much easier. I have to labor through this year in order to get to the next step, which is PhD coursework and officially starting my dissertation (which I'm stoked on). I've been admitted to the program on the basis of a high score on a Chin.ese test in June. So, it's time to labor on.

No more excuses. No more whining about how I can speak but not read. No more moping about the awful teaching methodology in and how teachers have no idea what they are doing and how the administration is about as competent as an umbrella with holes in it.

No more. Suck it up, work like a maniac, and get this done. Then things will be better.

Of course, the other 800 aspects of my life are rockin. I love my job. I love my chrch. I love running the orphan program. And I have a decent social life. It's just that school needs to become a primary focus, not just the thing I do during the day time.

My teacher gave me a book for learning characters. It should help with the mental block that I have going on. There's this insane fear that I have about Chi.nese characters. I have never felt such emotional strain about something I am learning. It's not just Chin.ese. It's my life. I've never had to work this hard in school. Ever.

So, year of labor it is. I will work my butt off and hope that next year is better. Expectations: adjusted.

Anywho: today was funny.

On the way to work something amusing happened. I fell asleep on the way there (normal), and woke up to the old lady next to me feeling my hair. Like, literally had an entire curl in her hand. "Hi," I said in Chin.ese. "Is this color real?" she asked me. haha. It's like, totally normal to be treated like an animal, being felt while I'm sleeping. haha. We went on to have a cute little conversation before I exited the bus for work.

Then in class I gave my students notecards and their first assignment was something I have coined as, "verbal journaling." I give the students notecards with random stuff on them, "what is something you have learned that nobody taught you," "what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses," "if you could create one new law what would it be," blah blah blah. They have to "verbally journal" this topic to their partner, and then the partner repeats what they said back to them. This works their comprehension and listening skills as well as their oral expression skills.

I love this activity because it is hard for them and easy for me, they talk for over 45 minutes by themselves, and in the end 9/10 students feel so proud of themselves. It's awesome.

So, one of the cards was, "describe the most beautiful thing you have ever seen." I was walking around the room and just haphazardly listening to each pair when I saw something written on a student's notebook. "Coconut tree." She had looked up in her electronic dictionary how to say it. The most beautful thing she had ever seen was a coconut tree.

I asked her about this and she described to me a time when she visited a province in the south of China (Hainan) where there is beach. It was the only time she has been to a tropical place and she was enamored by the coconut trees.

I loved this. What a simple thing. A coconut tree. And yet here she was talking about it as the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

I need to be more observant to the small things around. As someone who has traveled a lot and seen a lot, I still need to be reminded of the beauty and wonder of a coconut tree. G0d's hand is everywhere.

I loved this. I am so thankful to her for this reminder.

Here's a picture of my Wednesday evening Intermediate class. There's 20 people in the class but we average 15 each week because they are sometimes on duty in the hospital.

Then after work I got a call from my dear dear friend. She was upset and went on to tell me a story of how she had just been wronged by a teacher. Without going into detail I will explain that the teaching system here is radically different. And foreigners and Chi.nese people are not treated the same. And some things that happen here in the classroom would be illegal in America (such as blatantly mocking students).

We foreign students take care of each other and carry each other's pains. I was raging mad and hopped in a taxi to ride the 20 minutes out to where she was at another campus. She got in the cab and we immediately knew where to go: foot massages.

Foot massages make everything better.

I love the foot massagers. They are my friends. We laugh. We get to practice Chin.ese in a non-threatening situation and my friend and I get what we lack so much here in physical touch. It's just glorious.

After the one hour of delicious amazing-ness we were saying, "what injustice?" "what nastiness?" That hour redeemed the previous two for my friend. We always hang out a bit after paying for our massages (about 6 bucks for one hour, ha). This time, we danced. And had a min-photo shoot brought on by some of the girls hanging around. The boss is a ladies man and always has random women hanging out. They love us, and I was so excited that today they wanted pictures! I have been dying to take pictures in this place forever but not sure if it would be ok! Whoohooooo today was the day!

Lo' and behold: foot massage heaven that wipes all tears away:

He Bu Wei, the boss/ladies man:

The boss man's lady friend #1:
oh yes, we danced:

Look for some coconut trees today. Or at least bust a move. It makes everything better.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 15, 2010


"But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan."

I spent 10 hours today with my Dean from Concordia and a business professor who is visiting from America. We had lunch by the Linyin Temple, a meeting with the leaders at Zhejiang University where we sipped tea and they sat around in suits and I smiled and nodded constantly.

Then we had dinner with all the new cohort students in Hangzhou. Two years ago when I was beginning my Concordia masters degree, there were 3 of us in Hangzhou. Now there are 20.

The group is really diverse and interesting. I think they are going to do a great job here. I liked listening to their stories and helping them with small issues. Everyone's experiences are so different.

It was nice to encourage everyone and let them know what I'm doing after the program and how it's opened so many doors for me. There's also talks of future employment, so we'll see what happens.

I'm tired. But it was a good, full day. My voice box needs a break. Or I need to learn to be more concise. Either one. ha.

I also visited my teacher and found out my mid-term score for grammar class. I think I did horrible, but my teacher told me, "good job, you passed, you are a great student." I'm not sure when getting a 68 on your mid-term constitutes being a "great student" but whatever. I just need to pass. I have a masters degree already and I just need to pass these classes to be eligible for the HSK in June (the big test I have to score high on to enter my PhD program). There's no more trying to impress anyone, I've already got 2 degrees. I just don't care about grades. I just need to learn Chinese.

I just said just 800 times. just just just just. haha.

There's just so much to think about. For now...I'm going to rest and be peaceful.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 13, 2010


Upon reflection of my little bloggy, I realized that I don't include hardly enough of the random, hilarious encounters that make up each day living here in the PRC.

So here are two stories from this week to make you (and me) smile:


On Wednesday, my friend and I went to get foot massages at my favorite back-alley massage place. The workers there are my friends and their reflexology is legit. When customers come into the ratty shop and see me and my friends (I love to introduce people to this place), they are completely surprised and want to ask tons of questions about us.

Wednesday was no exception. An elderly man came in and started asking the workers about my friend and I, (thinking we couldn't understand). When asked where we were from, my reflexologist didn't hesitate and shouted out, "USB!"

Huh? I looked at my friend. Then we burst out laughing.




Last Sunday morning I took in an orphan donation collection box to chrch. We are in the process of collecting milk powder and winter clothes for the babies. I used my new oven box and wrote in green sharpie on the side "Orphan Donation Box." I gathered up my stuff, and headed outside to catch a taxi to chrch.

It is basically impossible to get taxis in this city and I was standing on the corner for quite a long time. I was totally daydreaming, not paying attention really to anything going on around me.

Suddenly I was shocked out my my stupor by the jingling of 3 kuai coins (about 45 cents) being thrown into my box. I looked at the man next to me and said hte first thing that came to my mind, "why did you do that?" I was so deep in thought that I didn't think to speak Chin.ese first and I forgot what I was holding.

He responded to me in perfect English, "I read the box."

"ooohhhhhhh," I got it. He was donating to the orphans!

I gathered up the money and gave it back to him and told him that the box was for milk powder and clothes and that I was heading to chrch.

He didn't understand me. He told me I should write that in Chin.ese on the box. But the people at my chrch are foreigners, I told him, we speak English. It must be written in English.

"No one knows what you are doing here, you need to write it in Chi.nese" he said to me as the light turned green for him to walk across the street. (our entire encounter was maybe 1 minute).

I patted him on the shoulder as he turned to walk across the street, "thank you, you are a good man." I wanted to tell him that there are a bajillion ways for him to give and help the poor in our city. I wanted to tell him that he was an example of generosity that I rarely see in his country-men. I wanted to tell him that his 3 coins in my box meant something to me and gave me courage to stand before my chrch and ask them to give. There are people out there who are willing to help. Even the random man on the corner who could read the english on my box.

So thank you again, random man. You restored my faith in humanity for at least an hour that day.

Here's some photos:

The weather has been b-e-a-utiful this past week! I am trying to enjoy it as much as I can because when winter comes I will long for these days...

11.11 is "singles day" in China. The youngsters go crazy (as I have in the past). This year I "celebrated" by going to work, then having dinner with these two monkeys (Michael and Stone):

Then I got some action, from a chicken head: beak to beak,

Last but not least, here's a joke my classmate told me:

Why did mozart get rid of all his chickens?

Because all they said was BACH BACH BACH.


I hope things are well in your corner of the world.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 10, 2010

Nothing and Everything to Say.

I feel like I have so much to say and nothing to say.

Like, so much has happened in the past 2-ish days, but I don't know how to make them into a coherent, point-driven post and I'm not really sure if any of it is important anyways. haha.

But in the spirit of documentation and connected-ness: here's a random recap:

I cried during my grammar midterm. Cried. My teacher came over and put his hand on my shoulder and told me to quit my job. (I'm the only one in my class who works regularly). His exact words in Chin.ese were, "You work too hard. Leave your job you'll know this." Quitting my job is not an option that is possible or that I want. This was very upsetting and did not help my mental stability during the test. I don't wanna talk about it. :(

Of course I had to compensate for those emotions so I went home and baked/cooked like a maniac. This brings me to my next point: I am now the proud owner of a small toaster oven and a powder pink bike!

This means I can now bake for people and feel like a woman/human/first-world citizen again and I am a rolling/peddaling member of Hangzhou society. This also means that my chances of dying in transit have increased exponentially. And that I need to stop cussing at people in Chin.ese when they cut me off/scare the crap out of me/bump my bike tires with theirs. (sometimes knowing the language is a bad thing...haha.) Hey now, don't judge me, I'm workin' on it! ;)

I've learned how to install a Chi.nese character writing system on my MAc for free. So now I can do stuff like this: 哈哈 by myself. Which is awesome because I can practice typing to people by myself without using Google translate now!

I've also switched my cellphone into Chin.ese mode for good. That means that I have to practice reading every time I set my alarm, forward a text, etc. It also means that I can type in Chin.ese to my friends. (this option is not available in the english version that it has been set on for 2 years.) This was very exciting as last night on the bus I was texting the docs in Chin.ese and they were so surprised! whoo hooooo. Small victories.

My room is a mess because I've been catching up on handwashing all my laundry (the pits). And I've made a new life goal. When I graduate and have a PhD and get an awesome job, the first thing I am going to buy is an AWESOME washer dryer combo and a lifetime supply of gain detergent, downy fabric softener, and dryer sheets. I MISS HAVING A WASHER and DRYER. so much. so so so much. If anyone has any tips on handwashing clothes/sheets/towels, let me know. Because so far my clothes are losing shape and not really getting clean. Exciting stuff, I tell you.

Yesterday was my oral midterm. It was easy as expected. But I couldn't read some of the sentences we were supposed to read, so that was a little disheartening, but when she asked me to introduce my family I talked for about 10 minutes and she had to cut me off. Automatic A.

In an hour I take my listening test and then I am done with these midterms. This is going to be an interesting week to reflect on.

Tonight I'm teaching a class on intonation. When I tried this with my college students last year it bombed because they just don't get it. Teaching a tonal language speaker American English inflection is tricky. Here's hoping these doctors get it. Should be interesting either way. Last week I had them listening to Rascal Flatts and The Beatles filling in missing lyrics. I figure that was so fun for them that if I bomb out one class, they'll forgive me.

Here's a random assortment of pics from the last few days...

look closely...this man is related to my dad...(reading the paper while he DRIVES!)

in the fancy imported section of the grocery store, with my new OVEN! This purchase also resulted in the oven dance, oven chant, and oven lovin song.

after test photo shoot with some of my fave classmates:

I had to buy this bike because it has my name on it! ;)

Last night my classmate Steph and I spent 4 hours shopping in markets and the night market. We stopped for dinner here. Nothing beats meat on a stick for dinner. ha. And a new scarf and umbrella to make you feel better about your midterms.

Whelp...I'm off to take a test.

I hope all is well in your world.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 7, 2010

.4% +1

This coming week is my midterm week.

My hardest exam - grammar/reading/writing is tomorrow at 9am.

I'm more nervous for this test than any test I can remember, (besides my masters thesis experience, that stands alone).

I've spent the last few days trying to detach my emotions from Chi.nese but it just doesn't work like that. Learning Chin.ese is emotional. It's survival. It's status. It's the difference between ordering dinner and telling directions to a taxi driver to going hungry and getting lost. I'm surrounded by it every day. I can't turn my ears off.

In the last 2 years I have had a metaphorical bag of Chinese. As I interacted, I would shake my bag of words out and Chinese people would have to put together the meaning. Now, I am learning in a classroom and the pressure is intense. My bag of tricks doesn't cut it any more.

I am facing up to my illiteracy. I am learning to read and write. And it terrifies me. I shake and sweat in class when we go around the room reading. I panic when I am asked to read something. For 2 years I have ignored Chinese characters and now I could kick myself in the butt for it.

But Chi.nese is not my self-worth.

Repeat after me: It's just a language. It's just a midterm. It's just a language. It's just a midterm. It's just a language. It's just a midterm.

And - these crazies (and by crazies, I mean the gov.) are paying me to be here. So technically, I get paid to take this test.

There, I feel better now.

Wanna know what learning to write Chin.ese looks like?...

A whole lotta this:

That paper basically says:

"I study Chinese" "I like to eat apples" "have have have have have have" "want want want want" "expensive cheap expensive cheap" "light heavy light heavy light heavy" "know think feel know think feel know think feel."

I feel like I'm learning to write "caveman."


A fun fact someone told me that I have no factual data on: Only .4% of non-Asian Americans can speak Chin.ese.
Make that, .4% +1.

See you on the other side of this test...

Nov 6, 2010

today's thoughts.

Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,"You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky.


Nov 3, 2010

panda face.

If life throws you latent TB...

wear a cute mask!

A lady at my chrch who was once upon a time a nurse in Scotland found out about my *special* circumstances and freaked out on me that I work in a hospital and don't wear a mask. (for my own sake, I am not a threat to anyone but myself).

Her exact words were, "this is not something to mess with."

OKAY FINE, I bought a mask. A cute one. And I'll be marchin' my pink panda bear butt into work wearing this thing for the next 3.5 months (when my treatment ends).

I call it, "latent TB fashion." Now if only this mask would cure the nausea...

Hey...if life gives you lemons...or Tb....or whatever...

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 2, 2010

once a teacher, always a teacher.

There's a Chinese saying that goes, "Once a teacher, a teacher for life."

This idea is so true here. I'm learning it more and more and I walk the line between being a student myself and keeping in touch with my old students. I'm constantly correcting essays, meeting up with students, or answering emails from my old little munchkins.

Last Saturday I was invited to a "barbeque" in a flower garden near my home with some of my old students. I was busy. But I went. And we had fun.

Here's some pics:

Good thing they remembered the, "ways for flavoring!"

Pauline with her meat on a stick:

the whole class:

oiling up the meat on a stick:

corn time:
lovey doves:

Once a teacher, a teacher for life.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 1, 2010

Baby Meeting.

Happy November! (how did that happen so fast?! do you feel the same way?!)

Anywho, today was good.

I love checking people's license plates to make sure I am getting in the car with the right random stranger.

It happens to me more than the average person, I think.

Today after my classes I found myself checking the license plate of Li Na's husband to make sure I was getting in the right car. He was to drive me to a farmer's restaurant about an hour away from Hangzhou.

We were having a meeting about me taking over the orphan program at chrch and setting up a time to visit another orphanage. I have a group of students from last year who have organized a drive of milk powder and are ready and waiting to deliver the goods to the babiez. (awesome-ness!)

Because this is Ch.ina (well, to be fair, I think this happens everywhere...) everything takes a lot of time to happen. Nothing is really efficient. We have to have 800 meetings to discuss a little thing like a orphanage visit because there are a lot of rules concerning who can go when outside people don't have a relationship with the orphanage. This is why these meetings are so important. They keep up our "guanxi" (Chi.nese business practice of relationships that is hard to obtain).

Eating and hanging out builds our guanxi, allows the chrch and the orphanages to have continual partnership and keeps us all safe. Of course, the real benefit besides all that serious stuff is that I sincerely love these people and could not imagine my life without them.

I met the two hospital worker women 2 years ago. The older one, Li Na calls me her kid. And allows laments how she doesn't take good enough care of me. haha. Precious. Both have become family* in the past 2 years.

Today's lunch was productive in business and personally. We have decided an orphanage to sponsor, have divied up the work of collecting children's winter clothes and milk powder, and we had a darn good time doing it.

I love these meetings. I love the wheeling and dealing that goes into Chin.ese business practice. It's all a game. And I like to play.

I also love the bonding that comes when a group of women come together. It's powerful. We do most of our business/chatting in Chin.ese with the help of my iTouch dictionary and a woman from chrch who is of Chin.ese descent.

Today's lunch was fresh from the farm and it was DELISH! I love these farmer restaurants. The food is legit.

Here's some proof:

Chinese mom (who is now retired) and sis:
there was some dancing from our Scottish belle:

and lots of eating, I wished this meal lasted forever:

Kitty cat also had a great lunch:

Hangzhou International Fellowship orphan committee and Hangzhou Orphan Rehabilitation Center Sponsorship Secretaries, an amazing partnership that is changing lives one child at a time (haha when did I start writing Hallmark cards?!?!):

I can't wait to get some warm clothes on some babiez!

Now I'm off to the grocery store then studying for the evening...Midterms next week! EEK!

"If you can't feed one-hundred people, then feed just one." -Ma Teresa.

Walk Slow. xoxo.