Mar 31, 2011


Verbal snippets from an average Thursday...

1. Scene: buying a sprite from the newpaper vender near my bus stop. Vender lady: "You bought a sprite 2 days ago. Now you buy another one. You will get fatter. You have to buy a water." (hands me a water.) Me: "ok."

2. Scene: riding the bus to work. A little boy (maybe 10 years old) I have seen before while riding this bus gets on board and notices me sitting in the back, then runs over to me, "Hey! It's you! The yellow haired foreigner! Why are you on this bus? Can you understand me?" Me, "Yes, I understand you. I am going to work." Little boy: "Hey everyone, this foreigner speaks Chinese!" Then he scampers off to the front of the bus.

3. Scene: At work having a chat in English with some of my doctor students. Li An, "Jessica do you want to hear a funny story?" Me: "of course." Li An: "In some places in China people use children urine to boil eggs. Then they eat the eggs. People who do this think it is great. I will email you the story." Me: "ok, I'll be waiting."

4. Scene: Michael waited for me to get off of work and then announced that he would be driving me to the gym so we could talk. While in his car, Him: "You look much better than before. I know why you love your hairdresser. He made you more beautiful." Me: "better is not a compliment." ... Him: "There are some foreigners coming to the hospital from America in 2 weeks. I am so nervous about meeting with foreigners." Me: "But I'm a foreigner." Him: "you are not a real foreigner! You are a Chi.nese foreigner! You know me." Me: laughing hysterically.

5. Scene: In listening class, teacher is explaining that holidays must be mandated by the government or else future generations will forget the culture and not practice the old ways. Thought a lot to myself - do you think it would be like this in America? Do we have any holidays that have to be mandated or else they will be forgotten by the next generation? I can't think of any, can you?

Just some pieces of my day that I found amusing. Otherwise it was a normal Thursday - class, work, gym, home - with a million random encounters in between.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 30, 2011

good people.

I'm coming to terms that my days start at 6:46 with a cup of coffee and end at 11:30 with a sleeping pill.

Today after class, my classmates and I headed to the nearest KTV for their lunch buffet and some karaoke. I am the "class leader" again, so I have the duty of planning class trips, managing emails, and just being the go-to person for the class. The only perk of being class leader is that I get to plan where we go, therefore we do a lot of karaoke. haha.

When I went into the KTV place to reserve a room yesterday, they remembered my Chi.nese name. "Ke Xiao Mei, welcome, are you brining more groups of foreigners?" was said to me when I walked into the door.

That's awesome.

Here's a photo of some of my class (minus 4 who already left)...

We are 15 in total, hailing from Spain, Nepal, England, Australia, Denmark, Burma, Japan, Korea, Germany, Portugal, and I'm the only American.

It was fun. We really need these bonding activities. Last semester our classes were way more fun after we had gone on a few outings together. Being from such different cultures and having such different ways to relate/make friendships, we really need outside activities in order to have a "gelled" class. I think our time was successful.

The only people who had trouble finding songs to sing were the 2 guys from Nepal. There were Spanish songs, Japanese songs, Korean songs, and English songs, but nothing the Nepalese could sing. I think they were even a little shocked by the Lagy Gaga music videos my Japanese classmate requested. It's interesting to see how different people react to the overt sexuality in Western culture.

Some Korean music videos....

I had to leave the kaorake early to go home and prepare for work. I had plans to show an episode of Grey's Anatomy from my USB, but as usual the hospital's computer was crap. My students thought that watching the episode on my personal laptop (brought for back-up in case the hostpital's didn't work) was too small. So I had a "teacher's nightmare" - I made up an 1.5 hour class on the spot.

And you know what? They loved it. All 19 of them. One of my biggest classes ever at the hospital.

I put them into pairs with people thye did not know and told them that they had 2 rules. They were not allowed to speak Chinese and they were not allowed to stop talking. This gave me time to think and prepare what to do for the next hour.

Everything worked out, we had plenty of laughs, they were patient with me, very complimentary, and I got to know them a little better. We had a good time.

I left there thinking how lucky and grateful I am to never have had a job I didn't love. I have honestly loved every job I have had. (summer camp counselor, preschool aid, college teacher). If I have to leave this job for other opportunities I will really miss it. I love my job. no matter how much headache the commute on the public bus and dealing with manipulative bosses - I love my students and our interactions.

After class I walked down the street and met up with my friends Alexina and Ujama for dinner. While I was walking I seperately ran into two of my students from the hospital. One is going to America TOMORROW (along with my friend Stone). This is very exciting, I about pummeled my student over with excitement! America! So soon! For the first time! I wonder what it is like to see America for the first time. I told her to eat a huge salad with ranch dressing for me, and to tell me all about it when she gets back in 2 months.

My time with Alexina and Ujama was short, but fun. Alexina is taking some time off from school and going back to Ghana for a few months (where she is from). We went to the night market and had a delicious Chin.ese meal. They explained to me hair weaving and braiding and then we taxied home.

There's good people in my life. Classmates, students, friends. I may not love it here every second and I may be 3 seconds from wanting an American flag tattood on my forehead...but in reality, my life is good here.

Tomorrow, another busy day. Good morning, good afternoon, and good night - depending on wherever you are on the globe.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 29, 2011

tired. busy. happy.

Things are good.

Things are busy.

The days are warmer.

My schedule is full to the brim.

Yesterday I was at a meeting with my old Dean and Professor from CUI and some business partners. There are some exciting things on the horizon. I need to buy some more suit jackets.

I went to the hair dresser 3 times in 5 days. I'm obsessed. Like, obsessed. My friends want hair cuts now that I've found a good place and I have a VIP card so if they go with me, they get 50% off. So a 9 dollar hair cut becomes $4.50. :) I love going there.

School is busy. I still can't believe I'm learning Chin.ese. My attitude about school could still use some adjusting, but it's getting better. My teachers are decent and I can see a lot of progress which is encouraging. I am reading whole stories now, so there is more motivation to work hard.

And Stone is leaving for America this Thursday! He will be observing at a hospital in LA for 2 months. We met today for one last good-bye and pep talk before he leaves.

"You know," he told me, "tell me what to look out for in America."

I wrote him a list of things to do/see/eat.

I've also been to the gym (almost) every day since joining. It's working its stress-relieving magic.

So basically, this is a random post to say, "Hi! I'm alive and well and busy as crud!"

Here's some photos:

Homework. blah. This is my life, writing and memorizing characters...

Goodbye, Stone! Have fun in America!

A dinner meeting...

I'm tired. I'm happy. I'm in fake love with my hair dresser.

What more could a girl ask for but a schedule full of good people and meaningful interactions?

Wishing you sunshine and goodness wherever you are.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 27, 2011

a story, a soapbox, and a request.

I don't usually post about things like this.

There are very large parts of my life that don't make it to e-world.

But I found out some news today that forced me to my knees and I feel the need to tell the story. To have it memorialized. To throw it out here into e-world to be read and felt. Even as I type this, my keyboard is wet with tears. I just need to tell you.

I have a casual acquaintance named Gong Qin (family name withheld). He is 45 years old.

A few days after Christmas he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had 6 months to live. This morning I was told that he recieved wrong prescriptions from the hospital. He now has a week. If that.

But this is not the tragedy. Because the truth is, we will all die.

The tragedy is how this man's heart has taken to his news. He is a Believer. He has been involved in Chi.nese fellowships for many years. He was raised as a Budhst and changed his mind after reading the Good Book for the first time in his 30's. He believed the stories inside that book and it changed his life - gave him hope, direction, and a purpose. It changed his family life, his work life, and his politics.

But this week Gong Qin has asked to be buried as a Budhst. Because he can no longer believe in a Father who would do this to him; who would cause him to be a victim of medical malpractice and to have his life cut short when there are so many years left to live.

He is so angry. He has given up in one week everything that turned his life for the past 10 years.

This is what I want to scream from the mountains....people, God is a master story teller. You can't run when things get bad. People go to the movies and pay hard earned money to see destruction on the big screen and then freak out and become angry and doubt His presence when destruction happens in real life.

Take for example.
I have a Japa.nese classmate.

She is a rock.

Every day I look at her and wonder what she is thinking. How can she be so peaceful when her home country is in turmoil. I doubt I could have the self-control she does. Thankfully, her family was not impacted by the natural disasters because she is from the south, but she has friends who have died in the north.

She is not angry at God. She understands that bad things happen. Even to good people. That these horrible things are not to give us reasons to turn away or doubt that a big, nice, fuzzy guy in the sky loves us and cares for us. That's not how it is. These are things to add to our story on earth.

People rescuing each other. Depending on each other. Countries policing each other and aiding each other. People die. People survive. People are resilient. God is a story teller that only wants us to recognize Him and for us all to be saved in the end. He doesn't wish for any of us to perish in the end (hell), but our time on earth can't be all rainbows and butterflies.

Crap happens. But God is just and does not forget us while we wail and rebuild and work.

I hope to see Gong Qin before he dies.

I hope he changes his mind. And that he clings to the ideals that he built his healthy life around. I hope that he realizes that he shouldn't run when times are hard, when death is knocking and the end is near. I hope he remembers that there is hope and that death doesn't have to be the end.

I've probably said more than I should.

So now I just beg you; friends, friends of my parents, classmates, countrymen, random blog readers, please remember Gong Qin today. Remember him while his body is in pain, and while is soul is in turmoil.

There's a story being written. It's a big one. More intense than any story Hollywood can churn out. It's life.

walk slow. xoxo.

please be mindful of comments made on this post. thank you.

new obsession.

I have another Chinese obsession to add to the list.

Hot cupping.

The obsession list now includes: foot massages, hair washes, tea eggs, babies, and hot cupping. That's a nice well-rounded mix of obsessions, right?

Yesterday's session was kind of intense. My marks are realllly dark around my shoulders. Apparently, according to the darkness of the bruises, I'm about to keel over and call it quits. Or something is wrong with my "qi." Or I sit at a computer/in class/on a bus too often.

I'm choosing to roll with the later.

Check it out, these go all the way down to my pant line, but I'll spare you that much viewage:

Fire cupping has been happening in China for over 2000 years. How it works is someone lights the inside of a glass cup on fire, then places it on your pressure points along the spine. The idea is that the spine carries your "qi" and that cold badness can get into your body.

The hot cups create a suction and bring the "bad blood" to the surface and essentially pop the blood vessels (culminating into huge hickies/bruises). The darker the bruise, the worse your health (so they say). Hot cupping helps with circulation.

No modern medicine backs up these claims, so I take my impending doom with a grain of salt. But I do know that I sleep like a baby after I get it done and it feels so releasing. I'm a hot cup convert.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 25, 2011

perfect day.

If I could create the perfect China day, it would be today.

The sun was shining (no blue sky of course, but sunshine is welcome!) I went to the gym, went to class, took my friend Zach to get a haircut at my hair place. got my hair cut for the first time ever in China. (best haircut of my life - no joke). laughed a lot there. went to Subway for dinner. got a foot massage. got hot cups on my back. took a taxi home.

a great day. a full day. all my fave things in one day: releasing stress, hair washes, foot massages, chinese chats, good food, and authentic experiences.

I hope you experience this much happiness in one day, wherever you are.

Good night.


walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 24, 2011

"crap" and other fine english words.

So, in one of the most random occurrences of the century, one of my dear Chi.nese friends that I have known for 2 years happens to be my listening teacher this semester.

I know, weird.

We have turned around what could have been a super awkward experience into a super fun one. She is a student at my university and was hired on as a teacher to the foreign students as a part time job. Just by happen-chance, my class ended up being one of her 4 classes. It's cool though because we have been able to grow even closer and we get to have lunches together twice a week when I have her class, Mondays and Thursdays.

Today a trio of us were having lunch and Tingting (my friend/teacher) told me a story.

Last week in class, Tingting taught us some Chin.ese slang, "da jiang you," or "add soy sauce." This is used to express that something doesn't have to do with you or something you don't care about.

In class a few people were not understanding Ting's explanation in Chin.ese. So I hollered out, "it means you don't give a crap."

"Ohhhhhhh," people sighed in understanding. And then class moved on.

Well, apparently, Ting decided to teach the same slang phrase to another class and they weren't understanding her either. She said in English, "it means you don't give a crap," and the class uproared in laughter (remember, one class is made up of dozens of countries - most of whom English is not their first language, so they are learning their 3rd or 4th language using their 2nd or 3rd language - crazy).

She asked them why the strong response and someone translated "I don't give a crap," back into Chin.ese for her...but instead, they translated it as, "I don't give a shi*t."

She was stunned that she had said this in class, and then was stunned that I had said this in class! Today she wanted to ask me what the difference between "crap" and "sh*t" is and if it is ok for girls to say, "crap."

My friend and I explained that "crap" is not really a nice word. But, if you are around friends and have a good relationship with them, it is not offensive. It is not something to say to your boss, grandparents, or teachers, but it is ok among friends in the right context.

Translations are funny. One sentence got translated a few too many times and ended up with a different meaning than intended.

I love Ting. We have so much fun learning slang. This week I've taught her, "cutie-patootie," "skanky," and "peace-out." ("skanky," came from when we were trying to figure out another person in the cafeteria was from what Asian country. I said I thought she was Chi.nese, but Ting said she was wearing too few clothes to be Chi.nese, she must be Thai. "True, I responded, she does look too skanky to be Chin.ese." And thus a new vocabulary word was born.

In other news:

The upcoming graduates are marching around campus taking pictures in their robes. I can't help but think to myself, "3 more years Jessica and that is you...just 3 more and you get that cool robe...just three more and they'll be calling you doctor..."

Three more years.

That's a whole lot of time for new vocabulary words. ;)

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 23, 2011

Laundry Trees.

They say money doesn't grow on trees.

Maybe so, but on sunny days, the trees around the hospital grow baby clothes.

Laundry trees. It's magic.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 22, 2011

Gettin' Nakey with the Natives.

After 6 hours of Chin.ese class today (blah), I was stoked to go back to the gym for some more anger burning and mind wandering.

After panting and sweating my way through a workout I felt awesome and headed into the locker room for a shower. I had plans to go across the street to Subway for dinner (student's special) and then walk home from the gym - doing some errands along the way.

Now - the locker room in Ch.ina is a special thing. There is noooo sense of modesty and hair dryers are used to dry more than just the hair on your head (get my drift? :/) In a society that blatently stares at foreigners, the thought of being a naked foreigner could be a daunting one.

I guess not anymore.

Some of my most memorable moments in Asia involve nudity: getting every crevice of my body scrubbed by an old Korean woman in Seoul, oil massages (and hot cups) in Shenzhen, and the now infamous group showers in Ningxia twice a week for a month.

Needless to say, I've seen me some naked natives.

So, today, when I was de-robed and about to hop into my shower stall at the gym I was surprised to hear, "Jessica!" called out from down the shower room corridor.

There was my Chin.ese aquaintance Dan Dan. Naked as a jaybird.

She scurried on over to me and we carried on a 3 minute conversation in Chi.nese, (homegirl doesn't speak english). I told her I just joined the gym and she was excited. She asked me if I went alone and I told her yes. "Well, I'm gonna shower now!" she said. "Me too! Bye!" I responded.

And off she pranced to another shower stall.

It wasn't until our conversation was over and I was safely alone in my shower that I thought...I'm in a Chi.nese gym having a naked conversation in Chin.ese with a Chi.nese person like it ain't no thing.

Ya, so that happened. Ha.

In other news:

Mango and orange double flavor oreos have also happened. YUM CITY.

Good thing I joined that gym.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 21, 2011

Hello, gym.

What's the cure for a broken heart? Muscle-y men, duh.

So naturally, I joined the gym tonight.

Trainers named Wiwi, Pinky, Kite, Jetty, DJ, Feel, and Arun await me in the group classes.

Or I can just cardio out my anger on the fitness floor. My main reason for making the financial commitment to a gym (for the second time in Ch.ina...first time was 2 years ago) is that I have a lot of pent up frustration and anger and hurt and general negative emotion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going around flailing my temper, but after the recent episodes with he-that-will-not-be-named I have been feeling more negative toward the Chin.ese and toward my life here.

I need a positive way to rid myself of negative energy. I need to exercise out my anger. I need a release. What better way than a cycles class with Jetty? haha.

I've wanted to re-join a gym for some time, but it has not been possible financially. I was saving money for my trips to America and Shenzhen and did not have much extra besides what it takes to live on.

This semester I have happened upon 2 tutoring jobs (remember Xiao Wu?) and in one month those jobs will pay for my 6 month membership at the gym. Whoohooooo. These tutoring jobs have given me a lot more wiggle room. I actually make more money now a month than when I was teaching at a local university. So helloooo luxury! A gym membership is a luxury, and I am so thankful for it.

Tonight I did 30 minutes on the elliptical and some weights and I feel amazing. I feel good about this place. There wasn't much staring and there were several other foreigners there. The applicaton form was even translated into English and I could sign my English name rather than my Ch.inese name. (it's the little things that count).

Apparently it's a popular gym with foreign students because it is on our bus loop and is cheaper than most other crazy-expensive Chin.ese gyms.

I may or may not have alterior motives....

Just kidding- mom and future employers. I don't know how that picture ended up on my camera. I would never stalk a kung-fu class of muscle-y men. Never. ;)

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 20, 2011

just when you need it most.

Today in the International Fellowship we had a guest speaker from Sydney.

Her name is Mae and she is 95 years old. She's done orphan work in Nepal and travelled extensively throughout Asia and the Pacific holding babies, raising funds, and motivating people toward social justice movements.

Basically I fell in love with her after 2 seconds.

It was uplifting and empowering to hear her speak about her life, her reasons for visiting Chin.a now (she has spent 5 years in her village without traveling and was feeling "antsy"), and what she has to say about young people doing overseas work in these times.

She spoke to us from the heart, encouraged us as people who are living in a foreign land, and reminded us of some truths that may be forgotten in the crazyness of everyday life.

1. information only turns into transformation if you do something about what you hear/read. (have you donated to Red Cross yet to help those in Japan? If not...why not?)

2. faith and fear do not exist together.

3. there is a purpose and a plan for each of us that only we can fulfill. 6 billion people in the world and 6 billion plans.

4. claim these five things everyday - that we should be fulfulled and growing; spiritually, mentally, socially, physically, and financially.

Her final words were what really got to me. As you've probably guessed, I've been in a slump lately. Since returning from my trip to American and Shenzhen I've just really not wanted to be here. It's not easy and I'm discouraged at the long road ahead. I'm sick and tired of being frustrated 95% of the time. But as Mae was talking I really felt like she was speaking the right words at the right time.

She said, "there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you are at the very center of His will, whether you are comfortable or not, you are at the center."

mmmmmmmm. Good stuff to hear as a frustrated foreigner who knows they are doing what is right, but frankly would rather be at home watching BRAVO tv, eating pizza, and shopping at Walmart.

I told myself a little, "suck it up, get back on the good perspective track" and thanked the Big Man for all my blessings...even the ones that I never would have asked for.

I just kept thinking "what kind of woman do I wnat to be at 95?" What kind of stories do I want to tell? I want to tell these stories. So I have to suck it up. (for lack of better terms, haha).

When I'm 95, I want to stand before a fellowship in Ch.ina and encourage them - knowing that I fought the good fight, withstood long suffering, and clung to joy in adverse situations.

I've got another person with an incredible, divine story to look up to...thanks, Mae.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 18, 2011

hot hot hot (cups).

When I was in Shenzhen a few weeks ago, a friend and I got hot cups while 4 of us girls were getting massages. We were at a fancy schmancy place getting oil massages and one of the massagers recommended I get hot cups to help my bad skin. (they say it helps any ailment, basically).

So...I went for it. After 2 years of refusing to do this primitive thing, I did it.

They got a bucket full of little glass balls and sprayed alcohol into them, lit the insides on fire, and then attached them one by one to my back. 12 in all.

(yes, that's me!)

They leave them on your body for about 10 minutes. It's a suction sensation - not painful, but weird. I felt like I couldn't take deep breaths and had to get my breathing into a rhythm. Other than that, I actually enjoyed it and plan to do it again. It felt very releasing.

This is what I looked like a few days later, back in Hangzhou....

This is what Rui Rui and I looked like right after we did it. We thought we were so cool.

The darker you are, the more "bad things" were pulled out of your body. Basically it makes huge hickies on your skin, but ancient Chinese medicine says that if you pull the "bad blood" to the surface, then your impurities or ailments will be cured.

Love those ancient Chinese secrets. haha. I'm losing my mind. What's next...acupuncture? Tai chi lessons? Kung fu?

(photos courtesy of JW :) )

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 16, 2011

Here piggy, piggy.

So...I wasn't the happiest camper in the universe yesterday.

Today is still a little funky, but luckily I have some little piggies to make me smile. I introduce to you - my breakfast:

...frozen bread that looks like piggies.

Now tell me that's not cute enough to make even the most steadfast scrooge smile a just a bit.

Oink. Oink.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 15, 2011


Today, I feel like I live in zombie-land.

All these people are zombies. They all look the same, act the same, think the same. They do whatever their zombie leaders tell them and don't dare break the zombie code of zombieness.

They live their little zombie lives unaware of the great big world outside zombie-land. They have no idea that there are places in the world where non-zombies live in relative freedom.

Sometimes non-zombies can come live in zombie-land but they can never quite fit in. The zombies will point, stare, talk about, manipulate, steal from, and alienate them. A few zombies will befriend the non-zombies, but they can never fully understand each other. They come from too different a place.

Then when the zombie leaders decide to crack down on the internet so the zombies cannot find out what is happening in the outside world, the non-zombies who live in zombie land will become very sad. (cue: me).

I don't like the zombies/zombie-land today.

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.
~Henry Steele Commager

Mar 13, 2011

Meet Xiao Wu.

This kid, Xiao Wu, does not speak English except for the words, "banana, orange, and TV."

It's now my job to teach him. Every Saturday from 4:30-5:30pm for 13$. (discounted price because I got the job through relationships).

My head teacher last semester is Xiao Wu's mom's friend. She asked him to get her son an American teacher since his school English book is "too simple." My teacher told her about me and one Chinese phone call led to another and I suddenly had another commmitment.

When I met Xiao Wu and his mom for the first time, they were walking down the little alley that leads to my dorm. When I first saw them, both of them started running towards me all excited. It was a super precious moment.

This week we learned, "tall," "short," "tree," "turtle," and "grandma and grandpa."

Doubling his vocab in one day ain't too shabby, right? :)
This is gonna be fun - I hope.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 12, 2011


Shout outs to the amazing customer service over at my VPN company...I'm back up and jivin' with the freedom train for the time being...

The last two weeks have been crammed full of life.

I: spent 11 hours in the hair salon over 2 days chemically straightening my hair, started up my job at the hospital again after interviewing new students, began tutoring 2 different teenagers, was trained for a job as a college professor, became class monitor of my new class, was asked to become the Godmom of my friends Angel and Haiyan's unborn baby, ended TB treatment and began drinking caffeine again, bought a new bike since mine was stolen, went to two dinners with MAIS students, began being tutored by an ex-student for the HSK, filled out forms for a 4,000USD orphan donation and went to 20 hours a week of Chinese class.

It's been 2 weeks full of news, change, beginnings, meetings, and ultimately: gratefulness. Gratefulness for moving forward in all areas of life: professionally, academically, physically, and personally/spiritually. It's not all easy, but it's all good.

Here's some pictoral evidence...

new hair...I am soooooooo stoked on this...

new job starting in September, 2011, this time I am at the back of the class observing the teachers - this was my practice/training run as the new boss-lady-teacher-woman (that included 2 meetings with Chinese officials):

dinner with my Chinese BFF, Michael, giving me tips on how to culturally deal with my ex's upcoming nuptuals. I love this man, even if he pays more attention to his iPhone than me...hahaha...

the weather has been beautiful, so there has been some bike riding to pretty places to reflect, read, study, and just sit with friends (isn't my new bike a beauty, my Scottish dormmate told me to be awarke of "gay thieves" because of the color)...

Spring is coming, halle-freakin-lujah...

and of course, the Chinese language continues to have a firm grip on my schedule, thought processes, social interactions, and self-esteem...

Look, mom, I can write!

Cheers, VPN people.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 11, 2011

shout out to the chinese gov...

Just a little note to say that my little bloggy will be out of commission for a short bit.

Because of world circumstances, the Chi.nese internet is being cracked down more than usual and my VPN company is experiencing some roadblocks. Usually my VPN allows me to get around the Great FireWall and use sites like facebook and this blog, but for now these things are not accessible to me because I have the VPN installed on my computer. Email is also spotty.

I'm in talks with the VPN company about new portals to the internet, but for blog, facebook and various other news sources.

For those of you in a free country - do not take it for granted.

Peace, for now.

walk slow. xoxo.

(this post was written from a friend's computer with superpowers.)

Mar 7, 2011

Business in the Red Country.

Whew, so now that all that is off my chest, I'm gonna tell you about my fun fun adventures in Chinese business dealing this week.

Many of my "foreigner" friends and I have discussed and agreed repeatedly that one of the most difficult things about living in China is the difference in how business is done.

This week I got a nice little reminder of just how deep those differences run.

I have been in negotiations with my new boss over a (incredibly small) pay raise. Because of my class schedule, I have had to drop my Friday lunch time English corner at the hospital. Losing these 4 days a month of salary would be detrimental to me. So I asked for a 50rmb raise (about $5.50) for each of my Wednesday and Thursday classes to make traveling an hour on the public bus each way "worth it" for the salary after losing Fridays. This would mean I make 50rmb a week less than before, rather than 150rmb less (what I made for a Friday class).

I could make a ton more money private tutoring out of my home and not commuting, but I keep this job because relationships are so important in China and I've got mad "guanxi" (relations) with a distiguished hospital. Also, my friends work there.

Last Thursday I was on schedule to go into the hospital to interview new students - my classes begin this week.

I repeatedly told my boss that I would not go in to interview the students if I was not getting my raise. I was planning on quitting to tutor if I was denied the raise. I made this very clear and was told over and over to "wait a little" and "just come in."

Basically, I was being "Chinese manipulated". (common occurence).

On Wednesday I texted my boss and was like, "I need to know by tomorrow morning if you will give me the raise. I'm not coming to interview if I don't hear from you." She responded with, "I'll let you know tomorrow." And I was satisfied with that answer.

But lo' and behold 30 minutes later my phone rings. It was Michael, my Chinese BFF who is a heart surgeon at the hospital.

Oh Lordy. I thought. I knew what was coming. The lines between business and personal are blurred here. And things were about to get dirty.

I answered the phone and our conversation went like this:

Michael, "So I hear you are asking for a raise of 50rmb." (I hadn't told him about my dealings, because my salary is none of my friend's business.)
Me, "yes. Michael I don't want to talk to you about this."
Michael, "Yes, but I just need to ask you if you would give (boss's name) more time. Things take time at the hospital and you should just give her more time."
Me, "So she asked you to call me to ask me to give her more time. She's making you do her business."
Michael, "It's not like that. Just give her more time."

...and it went a mix of Chinese and English. I explained to him rather forecefully that I was not happy that my boss had employed my good friend to get her way, knowing that we have a deep friendship and that I listen to Michael.

Basically the whole situation dripped of manipulation and non-professionalism. I would never have asked for a 5 dollar raise if I knew it would cause strife.

I told him that he was not to talk to my boss, that my salary wasn't his business, that I didn't want him in the middle of this, and that his friendship meant more to me than my job. I hung up in a tizzy. (I'm a deeply emotional being - for better or worse).

I was blazing mad for about 15 minutes. I regretted mixing business and friendships in China because the line between the two is often gray.

I had a dinner to go to and so I didn't have a lot of time to sit and think, I hopped on a public bus, still fuming, and decided to do the American thing - be honest.

I said a prayer, took some deep breaths, asked for mercy and patience and self control, and dialled up my boss.

I told her that I did not appreciate her discussing our business dealings with my friends who have nothing to do with English class. I told her I didn't want to work there anymore because I felt my friendships were compromised. I told her that when working with "people from developed countries," she needed to use professionalism and tact.

I told her I felt manipulated and didn't understand why they were dragging their feet. I told her that I expected a "yes" or a "no" and not a million "maybe''s or "later''s. I told her that I had given her ample time to decide (7 weeks). I told her that asking Michael to call me was gravely upsetting to me because I value our friendship more than anything in China and having him get involved in our negotiations was crossing boundaries.

I let it all out. I never raised my voice. But I was honest with how I was feeling and allowed her a chance to respond.

She told me that this was the "Chinese way." She told me that she didn't mean to make me angry. She told me that other people in the financial department hadn't given her an answer and this is why she couldn't give me an answer.

Then she thanked me for "teaching her the foreign way," and expressed that she liked my, "frankness."

I thanked her for being patient with working with someone from another culture. And gently reminded her that since she works in the foreign affairs department and often makes business contact with foreigners, that she needed to remember this incident and not manipulate the pants off of future business partners.

I got my raise.

Thursday when I went in to interview the new students. I gave my boss a necklace from Miami when I was home a few weeks ago and held her hands and told her I was thankful for her listening to me. She hugged around my waist and all was well.

Later, I saw Michael and he just laaaaauuughed at me. "You were sooo mad yesterday," he said with a smile on his face. And then we laughed about it. He said my boss called him freaking out saying she wanted to cry.

"Foreign women are so powerful," he said and then sucker punched me and said in the next breathe, "Want to see the new orphans in the ward?"

"Ya," I said. And all was well.

Ai yi yi. The cultural lessons never end.

walk slow. xoxo.

uncomfortably honest.

I'm hurting tonight. Wasn't going to write about it, but it feels weird to not mention. Even here in e-world.

I was going to tell you how tonight I spent 6 hours at the hair salon. How they re-did my hair completely for free. How I love my hair. How much fun I had chatting in Chinese for 6 hours with the hairwashers and how I love my new friends. How I have a new group of "people" and how I feel so brave and awesome. How kind they were to me and how many awesome conversations we had.

But instead. You get to hear how I'm breaking into tiny pieces.

While I was sitting in the hairwasher's chair I got a phone call. It was the only person I have ever loved. My ex-Chinese boyfriend. The person I was planning to have a life with - or at least the only person with whom this has even been a possibility.

He's getting married October 30th.

And it's not to me.

He was "letting me know so I didn't hear about it from someone else." And asking if I would come. Ya, he's not the smartest crayon in the emotional IQ box.

I'm going to be very, very far away from Hangzhou on October 30th. It sounds like a great time for a weekend trip to Mongolia. Or Zimbabwe.

I thought I was over it. I thought I had moved on/matured/grow up. But I also didn't think I would have to deal with this just yet. I knew it would come eventually, but was hoping we would stop talking or I would at least have more time.

He said their parents are pressuring them. They are both nearing 30 - the age where if you are not married in China there is something wrong with you.

October 30th is almost 2 years to the day since our "togetherness" imploded.

My insides are melting. I feel like I lost a competition. All the feelings of rejection/being lied to/being mistreated/insecurity are surfacing again.

I swear to you I have enough China drama to write an encyclopedia of stories. Someone give me a book deal.

Or at least a ticket to Mongolia for October 30th???

Please and thank you.

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 5, 2011

the germans are coming, the germans are coming.

Today a couple of Germans (and a Chinese girl) showed up at my dorm and made me traditional German pancakes.

I'd say that's a Saturday well-spent.

(you don't get any pictures of me 'til my hair's done. ;) )

Jan (pronunced "yawn") was my classmate last semester and his sister is visiting from Germany. (apparantly Germany is on Spring Break right now.) Jan has told me often that I remind him of his sister, so obviously we had to meet while she is in-country.

We cooked and chatted for 6 hours.

Last night I got a foot massage by little Chinese men. This morning Germans cooked me pancakes. Tomorrow I'm going to hear a sermon by someone from Ghana.

I decided I really like my life. I live in EPCOT.

Auf Weidersehen.

walk slow. xoxo.

reminder to self.

“Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace.”

Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO, Director-General

I almost quit my job in a fit of tears a few days ago. (there's been a lot of tears lately, hair, job, relationships - whew). I am so glad I didn't. (I'll tell you about it later. Waiting for dust in my soul to settle so it'll be a nice post, not a nasty one). ;)

This pic is from Thursday's interviews of new students at the hospital. Those are some of my students who are already in the class who came to visit. We are looking at pictures of Mae's (far right) toddler son.

So, from me to you - please be nice to anyone you encounter in America who doesn't speak English. :)

"Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace." Check.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 3, 2011

bikes, blood, babies, and bawling.

So today was another doozy.

For the sake of life, I'll spare you too many details and just show you pictures.

Let me first introduce you to my new mode of transportation (the pink one). My bike was stolen while I was home in America, so this is my new replacement. I went to several stores before choosing her, picking out a "car" is a big deal! It's hard to find bikes that "fit" foreigners, aka the seat can be raised high enough so that my knees don't smack my chin when I ride. Well this one's a beauty. I was told by a friend that she, "looks like Florida." A little pink in a black-infused world (most everything in china is black - people's coats, bikes, pollution...) goes a long way.

I was in class from 8-2:30, then went to the hospital to interview new students. There are a lot of accountants and tech workers from the hospital coming to English class, should be interesting. After the interviews, Michael and Christina were waiting for me in the ICU to take my blood for the last time!

and I got to see some orphans who are recovering from serious heart surgery. This one is 3 months old but only weighs 5kg...praypraypray...

then I went across the street to see how much their permanent hair straightening costs. And ended up going for it. (my boss handed me an envelope of money that I wasn't expecting, that might have been the final push.)

This was me at 7pm saying goodbye to my curls:

this is me 5 hours later!

It was traumatizing/awesome. (actually, I have a feeling that is how I will describe my whole China experience to my children one day...traumatizing and awesome).

They were hurrying throughout the process and I kept telling them to slow down. What took my friend 4 hours to get done in another city took these guys 2. That was a bad sign to me. I kept getting out my itouch dictionary, typing in "perfect" and holding up the Chinese character to show them, "I WANT IT PERFECT." Then I would type in 'excuses,' and show it to them and be like, "NO EXCUSES." (i'm a turd, that's how I've survived here this long.)

When they were taking out my hair when it was supposed to be "done" I freaked out inside. It was NOT straight, and this crap is permanent! There was no going back.

So, I got really quiet, really serious, and called Michael - my precious Chinese angel. I told him to tell the people to fix my hair or else all of the western world would reak havoc on their shop.

I'm not sure if that's exactly what he said, but it was sure darn close because those guys were serious after talking to him.

Then I texted my best American friends and told them to call upon the angels. We were gonna have some pryer group. Yes, there are revolutions and strife all over the world, but in that moment, we were gonna lift up my hair and beg for a good outcome. haha. Hey - He cares about what we care about, right? haha.

Anyways, they re-did the whole process while I bawled my eyes out. My mom called me while I was in the chair surrounded by asian men staring at me uncomfortably and I couldn't hold it in any longer. (Don't mom's have that power?)

Cultural lesson #07847385: Chinese people do not show very much emotion. So a large, blubbering red-head is enough to make even the toughest dude waaaay uncomfortable. They kept handing me tissues while I acted like a fool. I refused to talk to them except to say, "you messed up. you ruined me." We had had a great connection during the whole time and then BOOM everything changed when my hair looked like doo.

They re-did the whole process and I am decently happy with my hair. It's not perfect, but it's straight. I have to wait 3 days then I have to go back there for them to wash it and condition it. Until then, I have to be really careful with my hair. I can't put it in a pony tail or put any clips in it. I guess Sunday after I wash it I'll be able to see what I really did to myself.

I made sure to make a happy face and be really nice when I was paying/leaving. I joked with the guy who did my hair and thanked them for staying late. It was just me paying and talking with about 10 hair dudes standing around. I think they were all scared how I would be when I was leaving. The guy who did my hair told me that foreign girls get upset and emotional more easily than Chinese girls, I told him, no, we are just more honest with our feelings.

Basically, the way this straightening works is that all the hair on my head is now permanently straight. New hair will grow in curly. So I have to get it re-done every few months or perm my hair curly to allow it to grow back in naturally.

If they did it right (which we will see Sunday), my hair will never get frizzy. Ever. In humidity, rain, tornadoes, nothing, my hair will never have frizz.

My plan was to keep this up for about a year, then perm it in America sometime in my third year and have almost all my natural hair back by the time I graduate in 2014. Have this be my fun little China experiment. But the way my hair took to this treatment, I'm not so sure if I'll keep it up. I might have a perm sooner rather than later. We'll have to see.

What a day. What a life.

Here's my reasoning, just because I know that people will (and have) asked me, "why! why do that to your curly hair!" Well, this is my rationale: people should do what they want.

When I am old, I want to say that I did not let things hold me back. In the realm of adventure, I think I am no-fear. But when it comes to my body, I have been afraid to do things I wanted to do (like tattoos or nose piercings or blond highlights). I've been jealous of my friends/sister who do these things because I "never could."

Finally I asked myself, well why not? I don't want to be so bound to my natural red curls that I can't experiment and try things and not live in jealousy of others for being able to change up their looks. So I researched, waited about 7 months and finally yesterday, did it.

And you know what? I'm glad I did. I'm proud of myself. Even though it's not exactly what I wanted and I blubbered to my mom as she gave me a good ol', "That's why I say never to do anything to your hair...." Because now I will never wonder what it would be like to have straight hair. I wanted to do something, researched the options, and I did it. It wasn't anything that would affect anyone other than myself.

Even though I know I have to deal with the, "why!??!" from friends/family and hair that is probably less pretty than a day ago, it's about more than hair - it's overcoming fear and taking control of what you want. Grab life by the balls.

I wanted it so I did - boom shaka lacka. And now I will live with the consequences of weird hair. But I don't regret it. Not one bit.

You hear that, future child? Do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt others. Live with the consequences. Don't let fear/other people's ideas stop you.

Yes, all these life lessons span from hair...hahhha...

Til we meet again...

walk slow. xoxo.

Mar 2, 2011

today was 800 blog posts...

I have a speech to give tomorrow. My speaking teacher is a student at my school and is about 4 years old and 3 feet tall. She has never taught before and didn't realize it's ridiculous to make speeches start on the second day of class, and lucky me my name is the first on the class roster.

No worries though, I've got people.

Today was a crazy day in one aspect. I am emotionally exhausted from dealing with negotiating with my boss. (I'll write about it tomorrow when the situation is hopefully resolved). I had dinner with the Concordia MAIS group at PIZZA HUT(!!!) and then came home exhausted but still needing to prepare my dumb speech. No worries, though, because I decided just to do what I did last semester and teach some Chinese proverbs and idioms. Easy shmeezy.

Here is a glimpse into how I get my information. I have a Chinese QQ messenger account with over 400 former students added to it. When I need something, I send out some mass messages and BOOM, I am inundated with answers and help.

This particular chat is with Steven. He was never my student, but became my friend while I was working at the university. He was/is in the guitar club and would perform at all the university functions/performances/whatevers. I feel like I have a "one-up" on my classmates because I have this amazing pool of resources and information in my former students. Look how easy this is:

Jessica 柯晓梅 09:30:14
hey steven! can you help me, please? How do you say the chinese saying "one foot cannot stand in two boats?" what is it in chinese? I want to teach it to my chinese class tomorrow but I forget...
steven(quitar) 09:34:22
I show you in pingyin
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:34:46
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:34:51
or hanzi
steven(quitar) 09:35:49
yi jiao bu neng ta liang chuan
一 脚 不 能 踏 两 船
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:36:19
steven(quitar) 09:36:26
can you get it?
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:36:32
got it
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:36:41
someone taught me before but i forgot. haha. thank you
steven(quitar) 09:36:55
you are welcome
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:39:00
i have to give a presentation in chinese for 5 minutes, so i will teach them this saying
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:39:36
do you know any other good sayings in chinese I could teach?
steven(quitar) 09:43:53
I will graduate soon
steven(quitar) 09:44:14
steven(quitar) 09:44:25
let me think it
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:44:30
cool! what will you do then?
steven(quitar) 09:44:59
to work
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:45:26
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:45:30
in guangdong?
steven(quitar) 09:45:56
I have recived an offer by a company in Guangzhou
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:47:10
cool! good job
steven(quitar) 09:51:03
do you konw "person cannot be of two minds"?
steven(quitar) 09:51:19
in Chinese is
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:51:37
no i dont know that one
steven(quitar) 09:51:50
ren bu neng san xin er yi
人 不 能 三 心 二 意
steven(quitar) 09:52:59
can you get it ?
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:53:09
cool, ya i get it
steven(quitar) 09:53:16
steven(quitar) 09:53:25
good student
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:53:34
wait: what's the last yi? mind?
steven(quitar) 09:53:35
nice teacher`!
steven(quitar) 09:53:39
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:53:47
haha hen hao laoshi haha
steven(quitar) 09:53:48
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:53:54
cool, thank you!
steven(quitar) 09:54:05
it mean "mind"
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:54:11
i need to go write my speech now. i'll tell my classmates you helped me, haha
Jessica 柯晓梅 09:54:14
steven(quitar) 09:54:34
yeah~!thats cool
steven(quitar) 09:55:00
nice cooperation

Thanks, dude. :)

Other exciting exchanges today include:

1: My Scottish dormmate fasted during Spring Festival for 33 days. He did not take anything into his body for 33 days except water. He looks like he has cancer, his face is so sunken in. He claims it was the best thing he has ever done because he rid his body of everything and now only puts good in. He is one of the most wacky, interesting, determined people that I know. He has been known to say things like, "I just need some F*%&*& Jesus in my life!"

Anyways, we were chatting outside our dorm today and he was talking to me about the upcoming HSK test we will take in June. He told me that he lent his books to one of our dormmates but wants to give it to me. He said, "You know that Indian guy. Pakistan. Whatever. Short. Beard. Well, you come get me, and we'll go find him and kick his ass. Well, you'll kick his ass and I'll watch because I'm weak."

I laughed for like 30 seconds. This is really my life. A Scottish dude is telling me to go gick a Pakistani's bum while he watched because he fasted for 33 days. THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE.

Well, I'm not going to be kicking anyone's bum over a study book and that "Pakistan guy" is my friend. It was just such a funny exchange.

Also, I was on the phone with a Chinese woman today discussing me tutoring her 15 year old son. Ms. Fang is a friend of my last semester's head teacher. I just adored my teacher, we built a strong relationship over the 5 months because I was the "class monitor." Well, I saw him in the hall a few days ago and he asked if he could give my number to his friend to tutor her son. Sure thing, I said. I'd do anything for my teacher. (like a good Chinese student, adapting those Confucian ways, haha).

Fast forward to today, she calls me and we are chatting in Chinese while I am in the grocery store buying a bike, (again, another story for later, seriously today was 800 blog posts worth of occurrences). We decide on our time and price and location and then I did the obligatory, "weeeee my chinese is so bad, heehee," thing that people are supposed to do to be humble or whatever in this culture and she responded with, "Oh no, your chinese is so good. Lin Laoshi (my old teacher) told me that you speak like a native, but that you read like a baby. This is why I just call you and don't send you a text message, I was afraid you couldn't read it." Then she giggled.

So, I speak like a native, but read like a baby. Thanks, teach. haha.

Today was nuts. Tomorrow will be too. Actually, I'm not sure any day will not be nuts until June. Or I leave this country. :) But nuts is fun and adrenaline filled, so it's all good.

Also, I drank a cup of coffee today. First one in 6 months. And it felt like heaven.


walk slow. xoxo.