Sep 29, 2011

j-o-b

Today in a nutshell, (remember, brevity?):

Student visitations: 3
Times I said the phrases, "Learning Chin.ese culture is key to your success as a foreign teacher": several
Chin.ese universities visited: 2
Hours spent as an observer of an English class: 4.5
Hours spent as a teacher of an English class: 2
Hours commuting in a bus/taxi: 3.5
Hospital students in class: 8
Minutes spent deciphering the term, "Maple Syrup Urine Disease" from a hospital publication: 18
Hours spent online as "Professor Jessica" after returning home from all this hullabaloo: 3
Texts from my creepy professor: 5
Times I wanted to reach through the phone and cut off his balls: 5 million
Bottles of boiling water drunken from water machines at Chi.nese universities: 6
Lost cups of yogurt because I accidentally left my fridge cracked open all day: 2
Times during the day I thought to myself, "I love my job I love my job I love my job": a lot
Hours I want to sleep tonight: 9 million

Amount of times I will regret this blog post because it's just thrown out there into internet world without any care where it lands: unknown

Pics:

Today was another jaunt around to different universities to check on my masters students and observe some classes and grade them. It's fun. I like it.

(Chinese uni's are all the same, big, grungy, and in need of a good bleach scrub)...


I was feelin' super sassy this morning apparantly because I snapped this pic of myself in the uni bathroom before observing an 8am Business English class. I don't even remember taking this picture, but I know what I must have been thinking, "I lost 25 pounds and I will take my picture whenever I feel like it, dang it. And I'm lookin fine in my 2004 Target old lady/wrap dress and I'm even wearing a slip, so now is a great time for a pic even though there are Asians pooping 2 feet away in those stalls.")

Ya. Something like that.


Then I put on my "teacher hat" and enjoyed re-living the glory days when I was a foreign teacher and life was easy and wonderful. Well, I thought it was hard then, but little did I know what was coming (isn't every stage of life like this?)

Now I'M the observer giving grades. I'm the one with the "answers." I have to stop myself from giggling sometimes when I'm working because I'm so tickled that this is for real.




Then I headed back into downtown to teach a class at the hospital. We discussed Chine.se medicine and giving diagnosis' in English for scenarios that I made up while riding the bus. (ex. Sally's daughter was bitten by a dog. The cut is 1 inch deep and won't stop bleeding. What should her mom do?) Then I grabbed another bus and came home for some e-work - finishing up the observation forms/grades from today and zipping them off to my students.

Now I'm here telling you about it. And chuckling to myself.

I'm so tired. I love my job(s).





walk slow. xoxo.


Sep 28, 2011

the soul of wit.

My mom's been saying something to me a lot recently when I ramble/complain/whine/verbal diarrhea to her on the phone...

"Brevity is the soul of wit."



(photo: the sky looking amazingly fabulous this afternoon on my 45 minutes bike ride from one campus to another...)


So, in the theme of my mother's wisdom, here is my blog update...


Going to school in Chi.na is very very very very very hard.

Very hard.

After a 15 hour Chine.se day today, I am very thankful that tomorrow I get to put on my teacher cap and observe 3 more of my students. I like being a teacher/in charge so much better than this Chin.ese nonsense.



walk slow. xoxo.


Sep 26, 2011

12 hour work day.

Today was my first day of student observations as the professor!

One of the main parts of my job as a "practicum instructor" is to visit my students for a class and grade them/help them with their teaching. This is such a great job for me because I really care about ESL teaching in C.hina and I see this as a huge chance to help my students become more comfortable with their lives here. There are so many factors involved in these visits besides just giving grades - and I love it. I get to be an encourager, guide, cultural liaison, and mentor all at once. It's a dream job.

7:00am:

drinking soy milk at KFC because I was 1.5 hours early to my first class. I used that time to edit the hospital's papers on "gastroenterology."



I went to two colleges today, the first one had especially useful English in the potties...

The second college was an umbrella parade...

and was nestled amongst the mountains on the outskirts of HZ...

I really love my job...


5:30pm:

Creepy fake-ish smile at the end of a long day observing students in their classrooms. 2 observations down, 10 to go.



Long day. Good life.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 25, 2011

prickly little things.

Have you ever seen a water chestnut in its natural form?

I hadn't until my old boss, Nini, brought me a plastic baggy of boiled water chestnuts to her daughter's tutoring session last night...



She often shows up with random food stuffs....boiled corn on the cob, imported apples, kiwis, and now...boiled water chestnuts. In their prickly, brown shells. I was amazed by the little suckers.



Cool. Thanks, Nini.






walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 23, 2011

things change.

Some things don't always go as planned. I had a whole complainy/dramatic blog post ready for you.

I had a whole past about how I feel un-included, segregated, and left out of my Wednesday afternoon class with the Chi.nese folk. (graduate research methods in Chine.se is no joke.)

I was going to tell you how I fought tears in class yesterday. How I couldn't answer when called on, how the other two foreigners in my class are natively Chin.ese people from Asia - so when my professors talks about the "foreigner" he is talking about....me.

I was going to tell you how my classmates leave me out. How they didn't even pass me a text book when they were handing them out. How I didn't get a student survey because, "it doesn't matter to me."

Then I was going to tell you how I binge ate bread last night. And then had horrible nightmares. And woke up this morning and vowed to take the day off the gym and get emotionally well - I ate "clean" all day and used my ipod calorie counter just to keep order in the courts.

Then I thought about telling you that I found out why my hallway always smells like fish. My Iranian hall-mate was slinging WHOLE fish around the kitchen; cleaning them in the sink, then putting them in plastic bags. Then he walked back to his dorm. (?)

But then I went to work tonight at the hospital.


And had a fabulous 2 hour class with some lovies. My classes are smaller now - not sure why. A few years ago I would take this personally, but now I realize that there are a million factors other than the shallow thought of, "do they like me?" that determine whether people come to a free night class.

My favorite characters remain, and we had a great class on, "daily conversations in America." I have a handful of students who will be going to California in March and they are eager little beavers about random America questions.

Tonight they asked me about drink re-fills, baggage claim areas at the airport, bank terms, and how to buy American medical textbooks online and have them shipped to the hospital in Cali.

I'm their window into the unknown world of extra-large McDonalds cokes, amazon.com, and liberty.



I really love this job. I really love all my jobs. All three of them.

I sat on the bus on the way home and smiled. Teaching and being with my Chi.nese students really are my happiest times.

So then I came home and got a text message. It was Chin.ese and I could barely make out half of it. It was to, "dear classmate," and signed a name, so I knew it was one of my classmates letting me know something.

So I opened up Google translate and grabbed my ipod dictionary and got to work deciphering the message. Two seconds later my phone rang with the same number as the text. I took a deep breath, scrounged up all the Chin.ese I have within me, and answered with a chirpy, "Wei?" (Chin.ese phone greeting).

It was a dude classmate who told me he has been established as the "banzhang" (class leader). He needs to me turn in some of my class paperwork to him, as it is now his role to keep order and know all my business. We chit-chatted for awhile and I took the opportunity to try to make a friend. It's really been bothering me since class yesterday that I might not have relationships with my Chin.ese classmates and I saw this as a chance to make it known that I can talk (because in class I really can't, so they think I can't talk and don't approach me).

We blabbered on and he seemed generally happy with being able to chat with me. i'm not sure who I was talking to, because I don't know most of the classmates names, so I asked him to find me next class. I hung up so happy to have a little "in" in the class. I want him to go tell the others that I can talk so that some of the "foreigner fear" is diluted.

So now I changed my mind.
I don't want to tell you about emotional eating, or being ignored by the Asians, or my Iranian hall-mate's fish fetish.

I want to talk about how awesomely eager and precious my doctor students are. And the gloriousness of the English language. And my new friend in research class who actually gave me the time of day. Whoever the heck he his.

So that's that. Things change. :)




Walk slow. xoxo.




Sep 21, 2011

yours and mine.




...I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
"Yes."...






~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation

Sep 20, 2011

poor kids.

I often feel bad for my future children.

Because when they complain about anything, they are going to hear responses like this:

"Oh ya, you hate chores? Well, when I was in my twenties in Chi.na I had to hand wash my underwear in a sink that was shared with N Koreans!"

"Oh ya, school's hard? Well, when I was in my twenties in Chi.na I had to read 200 page books in CHIN.ESE entitled, "Why Economics Is Not Yet A Science" and write papers on it in CHIN.ESE." (true story, due tomorrow, not lookin' good).

"Oh ya, you have problems you need to solve? Well, when I was in my twenties in Ch.ina I had to pull off the road in rush hour traffic to fix my bike basket with hairties found in my purse."




SO THERE, metaphorical kids.







walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 19, 2011

legal.

Today's mission: extend my visa!

Because of the crazyness of life/non-being in office of the international department people...I have not extended my visa for this year, and it expires tomorrow! So I woke up early today on a mission to get legal.

Because nothing is logical/easy in this crazy world, extending my visa took almost all day. My friends and I laugh that if you get one thing done a day in Ch.ina, then that was a productive day. Things just take a lot of time and patience and humor.

I'm really relieved to be done with this errand. The gov. has my passport until next week, when I go back to the office to get my new visa. I can't believe this is my FOURTH year long Chi.na visa. My passport is going to run out of pages soon. ai yi yi.

Here's some pics:

Yesterday I met my friend Ji at a cute cafe. She was a little bit late, so I started talking to the cafe's cat. Next thing I knew the cat was in my lap and asleep! I want a pet so bad!!! The other customers kept looking at me like I was a crazy person because I was sitting there with the cat in my lap and a big smile on my face. Pets make life better. I want one. I found out later her name is Xiao Qian.


Today, Hannah and I met for lunch and the bike ride to the visa office (about 30 mins by bike). Along the way we rode beside West Lake and stopped for some pics. We really do live in a beautiful place. It's sad that after living here so long I sometimes forget how special this city is. I spend my days in classrooms and my dorm, when there is so much beauty around.

This pic was taken by self-timer while balanced on my bike basket!



Then we tried for some jumping pics....hahaha...and the natives kept thinking they were getting a free show because they don't understand RUNNING SKIRTS...



After our photo shoot and running into some friends who were also biking (small world), we made it to the visa office and found a hoard of foreigners also wanting to remain legal citizens in the Red Country. A mess of languages filled the air. I ran into a Turkmen friend and a Nepalese girl from church. All with the same mission: get a number so we could be seen this afternoon.

The way the system goes is people line up about an hour before the doors open. Then when the doors open, there is a bum rush to a number machine. When the numbers are gone, you have to go home and try again the next day. This happened to me last year, so this year my friends and I wised up and showed up an hour before they opened again after their 2 hour lunch break (rough life, huh?).


Hannah was a genius and got to the front of the line ot get me a number. I then had to wait about 1.5 hours until my number was called (I'm tellin' you, there is soooo much wasted time here). So what do you do with 1.5 hours outside the visa office?

More jumping pics!



Finally I was called, I sat for 2 seconds, handed the police officer my form, signed a paper, and left without ever saying a word.

And with that, I'm officially legal for another year in Chi.na.





walk slow. xoxo.



Sep 17, 2011

safety first.

For Mamaw and Gramps...



video


A few nights ago I was at a friend's house watching a movie and my grandparents called (!!! yay!!) They expressed concern that I would be biking home late at night (my friends live about 15-20 minutes by bike from me).

So, on the way home I thought I would video tape myself so that my dear grandparents could see that the streets are safe and that I'm not biking through any back alleys or anything - all main roads that have people on them 24/7.

It's actually - in my opinion - much safer to bike at night because there isn't crazy weaving traffic, it's just me and the open road and random bystanders.

I love you Mamaw and Gramps. Thank you for caring about me.


walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 15, 2011

accumulating chapters.

I have many words today.

Bear with me.

I'm still upset by my Prof asking me to sleep with him a week into our 3 year academic relationship. I'm not sure how to go forward. There are so many cultural assumptions at play, and I need to respond in the best way that would preserve our academic ties and maintain my own self-dignity.

I got a 6am text yesterday morning from him saying, "do not worry. I just want to give you books for an open chinese mind."

Um, ya. Homeboy sobered up and thought, "shit."

He asked me to go to his office yesterday afternoon. I cried on the bus there. Just felt so dirty and unsure of how to proceed. And also like no one takes me seriously. (thanks, Devil, for planting these thoughts in my head.)

We met. He touched my upper leg and asked me why I'm nervous. He leaned against me and asked me to delete my text messages. I looked him in the eye and said, "no."

We had a moment stare-off where we both knew what the other meant. He wants the evidence gone. I'm keeping those texts for the next three years.

He's clever, charming, and manipulative.

But so am I.

I left his office and went to my first day of class at the hospital. It went well. After work I asked Michael and May to stay and chat with me because I needed Ch.inese culture guidance.

Let me just say that I have been provided for in every situation. There is someone to help me in every situation I have encountered. This is so wonderful to acknowledge.

We went to Pizza Hut and I cried and told them the story. Michael fumed. May hung her head. Apparently students sleeping with their professors is very common at my school and May has been through the same experience.

They gave me good cultural advice. Apparently, I handled it the wrong way but I know how to go forward now. Michael also told me to be careful of my phone because my Prof. might try to steal it. I think this is dramatic, but I'm glad to be made aware of the "maybe's".

It's really sad, but knowing that this is "normal" made me feel better - like I didn't do anything to bring it on. Michael thinks it won't happen again, but that I need to tell him to stop touching me and I need to not be alone with him in case he gets angry.

Also at work are many cultural stereotypes. As a white female, I face these often. I haven't mentioned much on the blog, but have an idea for a future post. The short version is this: Chin.ese men watch Western porn. And also, Western media does not help with the portrayal of women and morals (Gossip Girl? Desp. Housewives? - all widely watched in Chin.a).

So they meet a white girl and think "porn star, big boobs, crazy in bed, loose morals." I've encountered this idea many times in my years here. But never this in my face.

According to Michael because I was, "too nice," my Prof thought he had a chance. Having an outgoing personality translates to open sexuality. Well whooopdeedooooo. I'm glad I know this now. No more smiling. No more nice Jessica.

I can't believe this happened to me. My academic bubble was violated and I don't feel "safe" anymore in our academic relationship. But there's no other choice but to move forward, be very serious about my studies, and pray for people who intentionally violate and hurt others.

Anywho...moving on...here's some pics from my gloriously random and difficult Chi.na school experience:

the school store on the campus where I live, loving the sign, "Come on, You're Welcome!" The Chi.nese says, "We welcome you."

I took this pic in my "educational research methods" class. I can't read the notes on the board. ahhhhhhhhh. I had a few moments of, "I can't believe my life has come to this. I am sitting in a Chin.ese class, listening to Chi.nese, reading notes in Chin.ese, just chillin. How did life go from - Masters, teaching English, learning Ch.inese...to this." My first day in Chi.na I knew 3 words. Three years later I'm in a Chi.nese program. It's all very surreal sometimes.

This is my stealth pic from my class every Wednesday. I sit, listen, take deep breaths, draw hearts in my notebook, check my dictionary now and then, and sometimes make faces at people around me.

Some of the girls in class have taken a liking to me (thank God) and take pity on me. When the professor says to read a certain book, they grab my notebook and write it down for me (since I can't write well, haha).

One girl leaned over during class and told me her dorm number and told me to come visit her sometime. "I don't know where that is." I told her, "Can you give me your number?" - really happy to make a friend in class. She took my notebook, wrote her number, then wrote "Snail". "My English name," she said. hahaha. So yesterday I made a friend named Snail. haha.

The guy standing in black clothes at the top of this photo is my teacher. He chain smokes during class and I don't think he's washed his hair since 1982. But my classmates seem to like him, they laugh sometimes in class, so apparently he's funny. I would laugh too, if I knew what the heck he was saying. :/

a beautiful, rare blue sky day...this building is where the education department is...

This photo is from a dinner with my Professor and his other PhD students. It was a nice time. He drove me and his secretary (the is pre-creepyness) and we met everyone else there. The students were 3rd years, 2nd years, and then there are 3 of us who started this year.

It was great to meet people in the program because I have felt very alone in this for a while. I got to observe everyone and try to figure everything out. A few of the students were very eager to know me because they need English/Chin.ese translation help. Heck ya, I'll help them. Because then in 2 years they will be helping me!

One part of Chi.nese culture that just kills me is the drinking at formal dinners. It's so strange. They have to fill their cups and cheers each other in "respect" and then drink the whole glass in one gulp to "show respect."

I do not drink at these dinners for many reasons, 1. I'm trying to lose weight and gulping beer is not going to help me, 2. I do not trust my mouth if I drink too much I might start telling people what I really think, and boy is that not a good idea, and 3. I have a much higher tolerance than Asians, so I don't want them to think I drink a lot just because I don't get drunk as fast as them. They'll make assumptions off of this about my character and I don't want that.

This backfired on me a bit though, when my professor told me I will never fuly understand Chines.e culture if I don't drink. He told me I have "two choices: drink, or go home." I told him to buy me a ticket.

And then wondered for the ga-billionth time, "what is my liiiiiiife???"

All in all, the dinner was great because I got to meet other students in years above me, and the two students in my year. These people will have big roles in my life. They seem like really smart, really good people.


About an hour after returning home from the dinner was when the text messages started. So I know my teacher was trashed when he sent them.

Michael told me last night after I explained everything to him, "you are having a true, real Chi.nese experience."

And ya know what? He's right. With the good, comes the bad. With the ups, come the downs. I'm in a maze of culture and language and trying to find my way through.

These are the things that will make chapters in my future book. So thanks, creepy Professor.
One day I will slander you in my best seller.





walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 14, 2011

ummmmm

I had a whole blog post planned about today. Complete with stealthily taken photos of my classroom experience and a dinner tonight with my professor and some other of his PhD candidate students.

But then, after I returned home this text message exchange happened between my drunk professor and sober me (official dinners in Ch.ina require a lot of drinking, I always refrain because many people get forced to drink against their will)...

Professor: Are you free tomorrow night?
Me: I teach at the hospital from 5:30-7pm.
Professor: After that?
Me: No plans.
Professor: All night?
Me: I don't have any plans after I get off work at 7pm.
Professor: You mean you are open?
Me: Yes?
Professor: Are you sure what's meaning?

*at this point I start to panic*

Me: No? Is there another school function?
Me: ?

----no response-----


WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

Sep 13, 2011

Mid-Autumn Festival.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Today is the day for mooncakes, and whatever else marks the significance of the Mid-Autumn Day. (3 years in Chi.na and I still can't get all the holidays straight. But to my defense, I don't think the Chine.se can either...)

I was invited by Lin to a lunch with Michael and our friend Judy. I was allowed to, "bring one friend," so my friend Yemi came along too. I think they wanted to talk some serious things in Ch.inese and so thought that if I brought a foreigner friend, then I could be distracted in English/not feel left out while they chatted and didn't have to deal with me. That was really thoughtful. I appreciated Lin thinking of me. She's such a gem. These are my people in Chi.na and I was so happy to spend the day with them celebrating Mid-Autumn-ness.

We met at a backwoods farmer house turned restaurant about an hour outside the city...


Here, you could choose your bird or fish to eat while it was still chirping or swimming (see the cages):


Lucky for us, instead of birds, Lin chose crabs...


And I only obviously shuddered twice while touching the fur on its claws and trying to figure out what parts to injest. I ended up eating two...

After we ate our faces off, it was time for a photoshoot, for some reason Michael did not want to get within 2 feet of me, haha...


And mooncakes!


I sometimes forget Hangzhou has so many mountains around us...


more photoshoot...


then suddenly I found myself dancing with little Asian ladies in matching red shirts...


Oh, you want to see more? Well lucky you, I lost all pride 3 years ago when I stepped into Chi.na and became a big redheaded commodity forced to dance on command and smile when I feel most awkward. Witness my dance lesson by the "boss" lady with awesome hair, and yes I realize now watching this vido that I look preggers/hefferlicious in this dress and no, I did not wash my hair this morning...ugh...


video




Happy Mid-Autumn Day! Eat a mooncake and do whatever else you're supposed to do! (Dance with Asians? Eat crabs? Take a drive in the mountains? I still don't know...)





walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 11, 2011

biz. trip #1 = success.

I have a student who emails me with the header, "Dear Professor G." I may or may not absolutely love this to pieces.

Professor G.

ahhaahhahahahahahahaha.

Well, Professor G went to Shanghai this weekend for my very first expense paid, "business trip." I was excited. Last week I recieved my expense report info (including a monthly budget for phone bills/cab rides/formal dinners with Chi.nese business partners and students/and casual coffee, snacks with students). Also included in my expenses is a semesterly trip to Shanghai for corporate functions - round-trip train tickets and a generous budget for a hotel stay.

I was stoked on the hotel. As a self-proclaimed budget travel extraodinaire (3 weeks in Europe for 1000$ what what!!), I was excited to pick out a cute, clean, and more comfortabe place to stay than the places where I usually lay my head (three people in a double bed in Thailand for 5 nights? Ya, that happened.) Having a nicer place to stay because I'm on "business" made me feel like a grown-up and not a backpackin' wanderer.

I arrived early Saturday in order to see my fave Brit Steph who now lives in the city. We had lunch and went to H&M which is glorious compared to our HZ one. Why is everything (western) better in Shanghai!!????! Then there was some trouble because the directions from the internet were wrong to my precious hotel, so I ended up going back to Steph's to shower and get ready for my dinner while she was a great friend and looked up the real hotel info for me and mapped out how to get there by subway.

A good scrub and 800 pounds of makeup later, I was in the tube and on my way to the dinner. I greeted some of the fellow teachers and had a seat at a table. "Hi, are you a student?" the pretty blonde girl next to me asked. "I'm a teacher," I replied.

Yikes. haha.

The rest of the evening was good though. Lots of talking and reassuring the students that everything will be ok. Meeting the new group of students took me back to the year that I came to Chi.na in that group - everything was new and these people were my world. Because the group this year is almost double the size of my group, they don't seen to have the close-knit-ness that my group did. But they are very interesting people from so many backgrounds.

I got to meet 9 of my 12 students and I am so excited about them. Like - wanna pinch their faces and make pom-poms and follow them around cheering, "you can do it! change the world!" - excited.

They have questions, they are curious, they speak their mind, they seem to be adjusting to life abroad. These are all great signs to me.

This morning I was asked to leave by the hotel because the person who had reserved my room for the next night was arriving early (um...rude).

So I too the subway again to see an old classmate from my MAIS year. We had brunch, she cooked me a fab plate of french toast and we caught up after not seeing each other for 1.5 years. It's weird to have lived here so long that I haven't seen some of my friends in years.

Then I was off to find Steph again to grab some luggages I had let her borrow for her move (we made a fabulous plan to meet in the subway station for a pass-off since my phone had run out of money) and then back to Hangzhou.

I rested for a bit, after the guard to the gate and my Iranian dormmate helped me with my luggages (presh heads). Then I was off to the gym and grocery store where the Chin.ese fellow behind me told me to, "go back to my country," after I told him that he was being rude for placing his goods on the check-out counter before mine when I was in front of him in line. That was special.

I just shook my head and turned away from him. But what I should have done is say, "I'm Professor G! You can't cut Professor G!" (just kidding, ha).

Some pics:


The French Concession, Shanghai - I loooove the trees here:


I thought about applying to the store, "Struggle" but decided against it...(look closely at the store sign):

Me and D on her amazzzzing balcony overlooking Shanghai (I have home jealousy). Sooo great to catch up!:
On the train ride back to HZ, "Hunting for Yummy"(the Chin.ese says, "hunt fresh")...

Cabbing home from the train station:


Wheww. Whirlwind weekend.








walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 9, 2011

some days.

Some days are full of adventure, quality conversations, adrenaline, and discovery.

Some days are spent all day in bed. Like today.

My health matches my mood today. I'm hacking up phlem, running a fever, and coughing with my mouth wide open like an old Chin.ese person on the bus, with little to no care about where my germs fly. (#tuberculosis).

I woke up with a sore throat about a week ago and started swallowing down my stash of vitamins and chugging tea. But, alas, today the sick bug caught up to me and my mood plummeted along with my energy.

I feel fat. Lonely. Tired. Far away from home. Whiny. Poor. And then guilty for feeling all these negative things when I know they aren't rational.

Usually on these days I stay away from the blog. Because it ain't pretty. But tonight as I was packing for my *business trip* to Shanghai tomorrow, I thought, "I need to blog these emotions, it's real life."

So here I am. Telling you that I feel like crap. Not for sympathy, but rather, for honesty's sake.

In other, less dramatic news...the N Koreans are back. Yesterday as I was unlocking my bike outside the dorm and having a chat with my Sri Lankan neighbor, up marched the NK brigade with their tiiiiny suitcases - like, smaller than US carry-on size. It took a sec for me and my neighbor to realize what was going on, then one of them smiled to me and waved enthusiastically. "Welcome back!" I hollered in Chi.nese, more for the entertainment value than an actual welcome.

It's the same guys as last year, but there's fewer of them and I haven't seen their leader dude yet. Maybe he stayed in the homeland and another guy is the leader this year? Who knows. Weird people. Sad.

I'm off to Shanghai tomorrow for the welcome dinner for my new job. It will be the first time meeting my students in person (we've had some e-contact, but nothing face to face). I'm nervous a little...I packed 3 outfit choices. I just want to make a good first impression and be taken seriously.

I'm also stoked because I get to stay in a nice hotel and write it as a job expense! woooooo! AND I get to take a taxi to the train station instead of the hour long public bus because it's a "work expense"!

It's the little things, I tell ya.

I'm off to take some of my last Tylenol PM pills (hope I don't get sick again this year! ahhh..) and call it a random day.

Some days are just like this. And it's ok. Tomorrow's new.




walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 8, 2011

brave, strong, and hopeful.

Today was hard and awesome. Exciting and terrifying. Normal and painful. Life-giving and life-sucking.

Today was my first day of PhD class.

I woke up after a not-so-good night's rest and went to the gym for a good shake out of my emotions. The treadmill has become my therapy sesh and boy did I need it this morning.

Therefore, my "first-day of school" picture was taken in the locker room of the gym, post-run and pre-class. You're welcome, Dad! (this is a fam tradition. we have a first day of school pic since I was 3...can't stop now...)


When I got to school I was so nervous and filled up with water from my run that I made 3 stops here...to the glorious potties. I'm definitely out of the more "developed" foreign classrooms and into the Chi.nese area. I got the pleasure of looking at other people's turds float beneath me while I peed into a trough (and I go to an Ivy League school - get your shit together, Ch.ina - literally)...

I wandered lost until I finally found the office where my class was to be held. It looks like there have been some disgruntled students that have gone this way before me...


Today's class is called, "Educational Graduate Research Methods," or something like that in Chin.ese. There's about 20 people in the class and we sit around a conference table. My teacher is an old dude who walked into the room, made direct eye contact with me, then turned to the student closest to him and asked them, "does she speak Chin.ese?"

Oh I wanted soooo badly to reply, "No, I just landed on this planet from Mars. Where am I and what language are you humans speaking? Please take me back to my spaceship." I need to learn that in Chi.nese. Too bad they don't culturally understand sarcasm.

My teacher smoked about a pack of cigs while he spoke. I had no idea anything he was saying. He called on me about 800 times and 799.5 times I just stared at him blankly. It is shameful to have people talk about you while you are sitting right there. I wanted to die. I wanted to run away. I wanted to punch my teacher in his chimney of a face for embarrassing me purposefully in front of the class. But no, I smiled, and took random notes, and tried my darndest to focus listening to Chin.ese for 2 hours. (it's really hard to keep focus when listening to another language for that long...the mind wanders to English...)

He did tell some interesting stories about the history of education in Chi.na pre and post Cultural Rev. I can't divulge as much as I would like, but there's some interesting stuff there about schools closing, books burning, teachers being exiled, etc. It was fascinating for a moment to sit in a room full of Chin.ese people being extolled the virtues of their country and being given a history lesson meant to spur them on toward greatness.

I felt for a moment like I have been given a front row seat to the Ch.inese education system that is so rare.

Then I went back to feeling like a doody when the teacher explained that there's "no way I can understand because I am not Chi.nese."

Well, thanks for the reminder. Like having my classmates stare and giggle at me profusely is not reminder enough that you are all one and I am different/not one of you.

At the end of the class, I leaned over and whispered to the guy next to me, "I don't understand the teacher, what do we need to prepare for next class?" His eyes got big and he said that we don't need to prepare anything, but that we are having a discussion on, "logic."

Well that should be a hoot. I'm going to look up some "logic" terms and try to learn some words before class so maybe I don't look like quite an imposter/ding-dong mute.

After class I just really wanted to have a good Chin.ese chat with someone - to remind myslef that I CAN speak this language, so I went to my favorite little clothing shop that sells factory samples from American companies (I once got a Max Azria dress for 6 bucks, but this time didn't buy anything). Then I met a friend at Starbucks for salads and coffee - good comfort foods. Later we decide to be even more self-indulgent and go get blind massages and hot cups.

Fabulousness. My "chi" is right again. :)


One of my absolute fave massager dudes did my hot cups. We had a fabulously uplifting discussion while I was topless and face down on the massage table with burning cups on my back.

Turns out he is a Believer and wanted to talk about some of his recent issues. (I am SO thankful I can have these conversations in Chi.nese). His family does not know he believes and he asked me how he should tell them. He could face complete ostracization - being cut off from family funds and communication. He just wanted to talk about it.

Of course, I didn't have anything monumental to say because there is no way I could relate or fully understand his situation. I don't know what it is like to be prosecuted for something I believe. I could only give him a listening ear (and safe, because Chi.nese people often feel safer talking about these things to foreigners) and encourage him to be brave and strong and hopeful.

My dear, sweet massager friend has a life 8 million times harder than I will ever understand. And I complain about being embarrassed in a class - something so fleeting and juvenile.

As I talked with him I felt a little tug inside. While I was telling him to be brave and strong and hopeful I reminded myself also to harbor these traits in my ghastly Chin.ese class.

I will go to class next week and be brave and strong and hope for the best - and then probably go drop a nervous doody in the trough. The literal trough.

Running and PhD classes in Chin.ese, blind massages, hot cups, and counseling sessions...just another day in Crazyville.



walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 6, 2011

moving, BSB, and class.

Moving is hard work when you live in a foreign country and don't have a car. Yesterday was spent with dear fave Brit Steph helping her with her move to the great city in the North. (Shanghai).

We dragged her things down the road, hauled them onto 2 public busses, then managed our way around the train station only to find there were no more return tickets. Therefore, I could not aid her in the journey, (I had to be back in HZ by last night because of needing to continue to attempt to register for classes this morning).

Hauling huge-ass luggages is no joke when there are asians staring at you. At one point a migrant worker was counting up her bags while I waited for her to buy a ticket at the train station. 'Hi,' I said to him. 'She has too many things,' he said condescendingly. 'Foreigners have a lot of money,' is my standard (snotty) response.

ha. Maybe life would be better (and easier) with less. Helping her made me dread the day I finally leave this land. Lord knows I'll be sending 800 packages back to the US. Can't live without my Made in Chi.na crap!

We had 2 hours to kill before she was off on the bullet train, so we sat in KFC at the window seats and played a game of, "wave and smile at random people to freak them out." I love that game. Some people wave enthusiastically, some people pretend to not see us, and some people double take like they just saw a ghost. Love it. So entertaining.

Contemplating life while moving:

Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff stuff...


Hangzhou train station - always a blur:

Today was particularly exciting because it involved the discovery of a framed Backstreet Boys poster circa 1997 (says the reciept)! This was found in my friend's newly rented apartment. Baller. This is proof of how awesome Asia is. Still idolizing the BSB.

As we were admiring the newly found treasure, this photo fell out the back of the poster frame. It seems to be the "funny" photo for a highschool class - circa 1997. Awesomeness.

Today was also awesome because I am officially signed up for PhD classes! After 2 more hours in the office, lots of Chin.ese yelling and a little secretary shouting, "no more foreigners!" To which I replid, "Don't be afraid of foreign people!" - I am now officially enrolled in classes.

This is my schedule - can you read it? Ya...I can't either. :/ hahaha.


I begin class Wednesday afternoon so I still have tomorrow to chill and mentally prepare for the Chi.nese beating I'm about to take. Because I passed that dreaded Chi.nese test (whooo) I'm enrolled as a 'regular' student, meaning I will be treated as one of the Chin.ese, sitting in classes taught entirely in Chin.ese and being the only whitey in the room. Bring it.

I'm packing my red lipstick for the first day. And maybe will put a Backstreet Boys pin on my bag. You know...for cultural immersion's sake.




walk slow. xoxo.