Nov 28, 2011

all work and no play... my life right now.

Today was another 2 observations. Tomorrow is my last observation day of the semester! Then a million grades to do (I'm a little behind....yikes...) and then it's the homestretch to Christmas break.

On my Chin.ese schooling side of things, I have a 2000 Ch.inese character paper to write and still some paperwork for the major change debacle. Before I can peace out of the country.

I started class with a Chinese tutor (Leo) yesterday and now have a butt-load of work to do. I realized how many characters I have forgotten this semester since I have not been practicing reading at all. Dang it. He sent me home with a list of words to translate from English to Chin.ese and memorize by next week: neo-classics, Daoism, The Analects, Maoism, etc. Hard stuff.

It will all get done. Just cranking through. Answering emails, calculating grades, and trying to remain as professional as possible. (note to self, telling your student your butt is chaffed from the 32 mile bike ride is NOT professional. ha.)

Today's work pics:

English Accent Training Center:

view from the 4th floor of the Zhejiang College of Chi.nese Medicine:

I might have a problem with excessive self-portrait taking:

And this is how I feel about getting up in 5 hours to bus 1.5 hours to my last set of observations:


walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 27, 2011

32.2 miles.

It's amazing how different your life is when you lose a substantial amount of weight.

A year ago, if someone asked me to bike 17 miles to Thanksgiving dinner with them, through the city, over a river, and into the outskirts of the city limits, I would have said no in a heart beat. No way could I keep up or I would have been too afraid to try and keep people back.

But last week, when my super-biker friend and fellow MAIS alumni Julie asked if I wanted to join a crew of students and bike to the MAIS Thanksgiving dinner in BFE, I said ok - happy to burn the extra calories and help me earn another scoop of apple crisp.

I trust my training now. I understand my body, muscles, and heart rate. I know what I am capable of and I knew that a 32 mile ride would be no problem. Hallelujah.

It turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the year for me. We had such a blast.

I arrived at Julie's apartment (my old apartment that I lived in for 2 years!) at noon. We hung out, looked at maps of the city, and geared up once our student friends arrived (one all the way from Shanghai).

Last year when students were moving our of my dorm, I grabbed a helmet from the trash pile. Turns out, I will be putting it to use more often!

The four of us headed out and one of the students kept watch on his Garmin, (dear Santa, I want a Garmin!) After crossing the bridge about 6 miles out, and past the city congestion, we stopped for a self-timer photo-op.

I wish I had a video camera on my helmet because what we biked through was amazing. Chin.ese highways, farms, vegetable markets, under bridges, past apartment buildings. At one point a child tried to out-run us. We must have looked like such a show to the natives.

Strawberry farms:

We stopped several times to look at the map and ask passersby for directions.

The bike I used was left by a disgruntled teacher at Julie's school who just up and left in the middle of the night about a week ago. Well lucky me, I bought the bike from Julie for really cheap so now I have a road bike! It is even foldable. How cool. I'm excited to have a new hobby/way to socialize/exercise. I don't like running in groups, but biking in groups is so much fun! (as I just found out).

Two hours and ten minutes later we arrived at the college where our dinner was being held! It took only 1.5 hours to get home. Driving through the city during the day was hard because there are so many people and we had to carry our bikes up and down stairs at some bridges.

I changed clothes into my, "teacher" clothes and then we went into the culinary school kitchens to see the Chin.ese culinary school students preparing our Thanksgiving feast! Our dinner was held so far away because this school has a culinary school who could prepare western food for us. It was a great way to give the Chi.nese students this experience and give us a great meal not available anywhere else! The students all shouted in awe when the hams came out of the ovens and were taking pictures of the food on their cell phones.


It was great to see so many students together and my bosses from Shanghai. I have an awkward time transitioning into my new role in the program at these larger social functions. I am much better at my job in smaller groups. I am sure this will change with time as I grow into my role as Professor.

After a few hours of dining and chatting and a few extra helpings of everything, I changed back into my stretchy pants and we headed off into the night for our ride back in the cold.

What a wonderful day.

In the theme of thankfulness, I kept thinking to myself that I am so thankful for my health and my body that allowed me to have such a good experience with great people. And I am thaknful for Julie inviting me on the full day's journey.

Another memory filed away. The day I biked 32.2 miles for Thanksgiving dinner. Awesome.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 26, 2011

business lunches and bus rides.

For me, "going to work," means taxi'ing to a university to observe an English class. My students are the teachers. "Working" means sitting at my computer inputting grades and reading lesson plans/journals/discussions.

It's fabulous. Except that my students live all over the map so I have to go in a million directions to get to them.

There is one district where there is just a long road with universities lined up on either side. The university students live in shared dorms. I have several students who teach in this district, so this week I'm just returning every day to the same street.

I was alone for lunch yesterday so went down to the "rubbis street" to get some grub. There are vendors outside selling duck necks, candied hawthorne berries, fried noodles, and roasted sweet potatoes.

I purused some little shops, bought a new blue shade of nail polish, and headed back across the street to observe another class - caught in a sea of black haired students 6 inches shorter than me, notebooks in hand.

While walking around the rubbish street I had a funny thought moment of, "one of these thiiings is not like others!" ha.

Take a look:

check out the sugar canes for sale on the right:

Then I rode the bus home. My job compensates my work expenses, but I have to front the money. Which means I split my trips equally bus/taxi because I can't personally afford so many taxis. Taxi there - bus home.

When I research travelling in India, all I keep hearing about is how crowded it is. Well, today I was on a bus so crowded the driver stopped opening the front door to let people in. Stood like this for 45 minutes holding my bag and computer and in heels:

view out the front:

I think India will be fine, considering this is my commute. haha.

All in a days work.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 25, 2011


This fourth Thanksgiving in, I am thankful for a job that I love.

(and worked for 10 hours on Thanksgiving day)

"My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is art teacher."

I am thankful for friends who become family in this land so far away.

I am thankful for an American potluck with africans, europeans, middle easterners, and chin.ese...
I am thankful for my many blessings.

I am thankful for travel opportunities to see the world and deepen my understanding of the complex ties that bind us all.

(Team India!)
I am thankful that our Dutch friend showed up in his American flag shirt.

I'm thankful for my kitty cat, dried persimmons, a new bike basket, and instant coffee.
I'm thankful for my new library card that gives me access to a few English books and having a scholarship to learn in a language I love.
I am thankful for my students - from both ends of the earth who often teach me more than I teach them.
But I am mostly thankful for my family - who never tells me no, asks me smart questions, and when I come up with a crazy idea tells me, "go for it."

Happy Thanksgiving from

Thankfulness, thankfulness is what I long for.
Thankfulness is what I need.
Thankfulness, thankfulness is what You want from me....

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 22, 2011

quotable Xu Xue.

It dawned on me today that I'm a grown-up.

It's really been hitting hard lately, but today as I sat at my computer after a full day of work and replied to emails of people thinking I have answers or connections it hit me: holy crap I grew up. I have a lot of responsibility.

It's kind of exciting. I talked on the phone for an hour today with my boss/co-worker/mentor person. We discussed lesson plans, the future of our program, transportation issues, student issues, and our relationships with our Chin.ese counterparts. When I hung up I was high on life. I really love this stuff. Thank the good Lord for provision and direction.

So, another round of student observations has started. I thought I would be a great idea to leave at 6:30 with my student for her 8am class so that I could attend her class, meet for 4 seconds with her administrators, then head back downtown and get on with my life.

Of course, things never go as planned. I went to visit the administrators and they asked me to stay for lunch, 2 hours later. It's my job to keep good relations with these people, so I had to say yes. And I found myself on a 1.5 hour "walk" around the campus with one of the student assistants whose job it was to keep me company until lunch time.

At first my attitude was not good inside, I was disappointed in not having my plan to get back by the afternoon pan out. But then, I got to spend 1.5 hours chatting with Xu Xue, the student assistant, and absolutely loved this kid by the end of our walk. He was hilariously quotable and we had some good chats.

Everything works out for good. There is good in every situation.

Observing my student's class:

The campus is located on a former government park. When I asked Xu Xue why, he said because, "the land was cheap."

There are tea fields behind the classroom buildings. Gorgeous.

Xu Xue in front a sign proclaiming to, "embrace the world." He is a 20 year old international trade major. I expected to have to talk Chin.ese most of the time, but to my surprise homeboy's english is genius. He had a lot of cultural observances and questions for me. He was refreshing and interesting to talk to. It's through these chats that I really learn about the ideas of this generation of Chin.ese people.

His quotes during our walk include:

-"What's with this Justin Beiber fever? He is just a boy who can sing and dance."
-when I asked him what his favorite tv shows were, "Don't judge me, but I like Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. The BBC version because it is more exquisite."
-"What's with all the screaming in reality tv?"
-"Philosophy is dangerous why do you study that? If people become philosophers they can change the way people think and that is dangerous. Very dangerous. I do not go deep to philosophy because I am comfortable and do not want to think different things. I think we are all like that."
-"Studying abroad is a waste of time. Going abroad for work is better."
-"There is a kid in my class with no friends. He is always alone and studies. And his math score is perfect." My response, "Ya, but when you die do you want to be remembered for being a good person or being good at math?" Him, "Maybe both."
-"I want a job where I can go on planes here and there and everywhere all the time."
-"When I was a freshman I used to go in the mountains with my roommates and do crazy things." Me: "What kind of crazy things?" Him: "Pick the baby bamboos and go back to our dorm and cook them!"
- "Over the mountains there is a small village. We would have never known if we did not dare to climb over the mountains."

What a great unexpected hour with a new little friend. This is how I will learn Chin.ese philosophy.

The lake on campus, just trying to waste time til lunch. "Take a picture so I can show my mom," is my usual quote:

Finally lunch time:

The international department of Zhejiang Science and Technology University, one of my students, me:

Then I came home, napped, had a conference call, answered a million emails, hit the gym, and thought about my life.

My grown up life.

And why is there so much screaming in reality tv? Hmmmm...good question, Xu Xue. Good question.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 21, 2011


Today was a great day for:

Tackling laundry mountain. How we do our laundry in the dorm is: 1. Pile it into bins (as seen on the floor). 2. Carry it to the archaic machine with no lid. 3. Fill up the bin with hot water from our drinking tap (against the rules, but they can suck it, I want clean clothes). 4. Hand drain and re-fill to "rinse". 5. Carry back to dorm in the bin and hang as pictured here until dry (usually a day).

It was also a great day for riding my bike around campus getting work done.

There is still major-change paperwork to do, I printed, signed, and scanned my contract for next semester's work (I don't have a printer/scanner so have to go to a shop to do it), and checked the international bank atm to see if my American moolah could be taken out to buy work clothes for my job meetings this week.

Unfortunately, I'm a dumby and forgot that it being 3pm time on a Monday meant that the bankers in America were sleeping and I still have about 4cents in the US bank. Maybe tomorrow. haha.

While I was on campus I ran into my little french admirer. Funny enough, he had texted me this morning, "Hey haven't heard from you in awhile how are you?" and I never responded. Then out of the sea of students, there he was walking towards me as I left an office building.

Ha. He asked me when we can hang out and I went into a 10 minute long speech about how I was, "heading to the library and really busy with work and leaving town to grade my students and blah blah blah." Poor kid just stood there while I rambled my old lady responsibilities. "Ok see you around some time," he said. "Wow," I laughed to myself as I rode my bike away. I have crossed the thresh-hold to adulthood. A cute little European wants to hang with me but I would rather go to the library and do work. C'est la vie.

And check that CURLY HAIR! I found a trick to get my hair curly until my natural curls grow back in, which will take a few more years. (waaaa).

It was a good day to go to the library to look up some Chin.ese philosophy books since the ONE textbook my advisor told me to read before my classes start costs $140.00 on US Amazon. Um nooooo. But lo and behold the library is closed on Mondays. Every time I ride my bike by it I think it looks like a Mormon temple. Do you?

It was also a good day to respond to/send 8 million work emails. My second round of student observations starts tomorrow (at 6:30am!) so I'm about to be slammed busy for a week straight. Good thing I love my job. And I'd better enjoy it now because starting in January things will be doubly busy. Yikes.

Good thing kitty keeps me company while I slave away in e-world!

It was a good day to be alone. With observations coming up and a lot of travelling on the horizon, I need to make time to just be with me. I'm slowly learnig how to protect my emotions and keep everything even keel. This means balancing days with lots of friends and human interaction with days like today - where laundry and errands take precedence.

It was a good day to be productive. Nothing special or out of the ordinary happened. But the weather was nice and I got a lot done. That's a winner to me.

I hope your day was good to, wherever you are.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 19, 2011

team india.

There are few things in life that give me such happiness as planning a trip.

There is just nothing like looking at a map and thinking, "hmmm, where do I want to go this time?" And then making it happen.

Today was spent with Team India doing what I love: making lists, checking prices, working calculators, checking advisories, and ultimately - making a dream trip to India happen.

We spent 4.5 hours finalizing our itinerary and booking all of our train tickets for while we are in India. This required checking seat availability, adding up the legs of the journey, deciding on extra days in certain cities, contemplating "safer" vs. "economic", and making sure we were ending up in the train stations closest to where we wanted to end up.

I love this stuff.

All in all we each are now the proud holder of 7 one-way train tickets - including 3 overnights (2 legs over 20 hours). We have one first class, 2 second class, and 4 lowest class tickets spanning across Northern India. We each paid a whopping $93.53 total. Total.

The next step is booking hostels. I'm in charge of this. Yippeeee I love it!

We are trying to get all of this done well in advance and before the holiday/finals season hits. We don't want to leave anything to last minute; we want it all to be booked before we get on the plane. Booking tickets and hostels as you go has worked well for me and my travel companions on many other occasions, but I don't want to leave anything to chance in India.

I'm really excited to travel with these guys. We are a "motley crew" as Adam put it today. My female friends say I am, "brave" because these two have some personality and attitude on them...but we all know who is in charge here. :) jk.

It all started with a simple phone call from Zach about 2 weeks ago. People had been starting to discuss Spring Festival plans and I hadn't given it much thought because since my travel besties left 2 years ago, my big Asia trips have subsided. Z called and said, "You want to go to India. I want to go to India. Let's go to India."

But I couldn't make that big of a commitment and was knee deep in school drama of changing majors. I told them to let me see how my life panned out. I thought about it for 5 days - then booked my tickets. The rest is history. School worked out (I think), I got a promotion at work, and someone already volunteered to watch my baby cat.

The way I view it - I owe it to my kids and grandkids to have these stories. My grandparents have stories of a honeymoon in Cuba and African safaris. My mom has camp stories of tipping canoes and only getting socks for Christmas to pay for camp. My dad has stories of being force-fed Chi.nese food in Hong Kong and being held hostage at gun point in Latin America. I will have stories of Korean earthquakes, frozen Chin.ese ice castles, Malaysian markets, and Indian trains.

I've kind of been hell-bent on India since my Gramps, who has traveled the entire globe, said to me once maybe 2 years ago that, "India is one place I didn't get to." Well Gramps, we're going to India. Because everywhere I go my family goes with me.

I can't believe we are really doing this. I've been talking for over a year about how I can't leave without going to the Taj Majal and volunteering in Mother Teresa's Calcutta home...and now both are happening. I don't believe in "bucket lists" but if I were to ever draft one, the Taj and Sisters of Mercy would be high on the list.

Team India, (adam, zach, moi):

Mu Shu may have some wanderlust of his own:

I love planning trips. I want to go to India so I am going to India.

This is a wonderful season of life.

walk slow. xoxo.


The small man

Builds cages for everyone

While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the


walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 18, 2011

simple sentences.

It's rainy today. I'm in a thoughtful yet scattered mood.

There's a lot to do today: online grading, respond to emails, laundry, dishes, India research for the "team meeting" tomorrow, gym, sign/scan my contract for next semester, organize teaching paperwork (that cat has scattered all over the floor), order some schoolbooks on Chin.ese Amazon, and if all things go as planned, a night-time massage with a friend who is going through a hard time. (nothing lifts the spirits like a good 6 dollar rub down).

Amidst the scattered-ness, there's some great thoughts:

1. Three cheers for globalization (and hopefully finding pants for people over 5'4")...

2. Went for a long walk yesterday. I love this city.

3. There is now a pin-pong lunch-time tournament initiative outside the gym. (My gym is on the second floor of a business complex). Businessmen come play ping-pong on their lunch break. (lunch breaks here are loooooong, like 2 hours).

4. I love my baby Mu Shu cuddly-doo. (who still had no shots because I can't sneak him out of the dorm without him crying.)

5. I got a "promotion"! As of next semester I will be taking on all of the Hangzhou students for the program I teach for. Instead of 5 schools and 12 students, I will have 10 schools and 25 students. I will be teaching 6 credit hours (2 sections).

I am very excited. I love my job. I've had a bit of a learning curve this semester, so I am glad that I did not start with that many students - it would have been overwhelming. Easing into the responsibility is a blessing.

I am yet again amazed how everything works out. I just was paid my first check and turned around and spent it on a ticket to India. I have been wondering if that was a responsible choice, but then I find out that my salary will be doubling. What a blessing. I now have no quelms about my upcoming trip to India as a financial mis-step.

See? Scattered. But good.

walk slow. xoxo.

Nov 16, 2011


I love my blog.

But one hard thing about the blog is sitting down and choosing a story to tell. Oftentimes, there are 4 or 5 situations floating in my head from the 24-48 hours since I last posted, and I have to choose which story to highlight - which means 3-4 stories never make it into e-world. Choosing which story and then naming that story is sometimes a hard choice.

I had several ideas of what to name this post, all varying from different stories I could tell about the past two days.

So here are the titles and their snippets, but sometimes I just can't shoose:

"Tears of Joy and Purpose"

Tonight I recieved a message on the Chinese e-messenger QQ. It was from a student from my second year at HDU, Sophie. She wrote me this:

Jessica ,真正的良师+益友 :)

The message translates to: Jessica, a true mentor. Blessings.

I cried a little. I love my life. I miss my Chi.nese college students, but life has moved on and I have so many new students to care for (Americans, doctors). But no matter who I teach, or who I have the honor of interacting with, my Chi.nese college students will forever have a special place in my heart and memory. I am so glad we keep in touch online.

"Sorry, I'm too old for you."

I have a french suitor. It's cute - but I have no idea what to do with this kid. He is making me feel old. I am flattered by his pick-up lines and the fact that he is interested in an old lady like me, but I really just need to tell the poor kid to go flirt with someone his own age.

It began at my friend Steph's birthday party a few weeks ago at a restaurant/bar/expat hangout down the street from my dorm. I was a few glasses of wine in, and had reached the point of tipsyness where I think everyone is awesome and everyone is my best friend.

A cute little European dude leaned from his table toward ours and we started chatting. He explained he's from France and I yelled out all excited that my Mamaw is from France and used my 3 phrases that I remember from 3 years of highschool french class. I said something that was funny, and the little kid was hooked on my old lady charm.

And he hasn't let up. I get texts in French. He invites me out with his little dude friends. I've run into him several times since and he is very friendly and flirtacious. I get texts that say things like, "let's hang out Friday so that you can tell me about being a supermodel and I'll tell you about being a rockstar."

Homeboy's got lines.

I'm flattered, but I feel like he's misplacing his charm. He needs to go find a little cute Asian and woo her. I'm old, busy, and only looking for serious relationships with marriable men. My eggs are drying and I don't want to mess around with a little 21/22 year old.

I told him a few nights ago that I was, "too old for him." He won't take that as an answer. He's charming and harmless and I'm flattered that a young chap thinks I'm worth flirting with...but at some point I've gotta let the little dude know that I'm not really interested in a semester fling.

"20 Sources"

I can't say too much on the blog about my job, but I do want to say how amazing it is to be a thesis advisor. I have had another student ask me to advise their thesis (now I have 2!) and I am really honored. This should be an interesting journey for both sides.

I've got my kiddos researching for their literature reviews. We are starting with 20 sources, honing in on what research they want to conduct, then going after 20 more sources for a total of 40 at the start of researching. I really want my kiddos to do great work, I'm excited about this. I'm not sure just how qualified I am to be reading thesis', but the only way to get qualified is to do stuff, so we're taking the academic plunge together and hoping for the best!

"Red Stamps."

I got all the stamps for my paperwork! I am going to the office to turn them in tomorrow. My old advisor practically filled out the paperwork for me! He took the paper and got the other education department signatures for me while I waited in his office. He's making up for something, that's for sure. I think my new advisor is awesome and I can't wait to sit down with him and hash out my study plan. He doesn't want to make the plan until everything is finalized.

I told the only other foreigner in the ed. department tonight that I am changing majors. We have become friends and I'm actually sad to not have him to text about everything. He was sad to see me go, but so happy for me. It is great to have friends share in your joy. He said to me, "I didn't think it was possible to switch. It really is a miracle." Amen, brotha. I got those red stamps!

"Dinner at the Wyndham."

Last night I received a last minute text from my British friend Abbie asking me if I wanted to have a free, fancy schmancy dinner at the Wyndam hotel with her for her birthday. My plans for the gym went out the window and I found myself at a Mexican buffet with silverware, guests in suits, live entertainment, and guacamole!

She said she thought of her friends who would most appreciate the dinner and thought of me (since I'm broke). I was so thankful to be included in her day, and thankful for the great food!

"Big American Fat Girl."

There is a foreign girl at the gym who is sleeping with one of the trainers. It's big gossip. At Abbie's after-party someone was there who is close to the situation and was confiding in me some things (I'm always that person people tell their secrets to). Then, half-way through our chat, his eyes light up and he goes, "You're her!"

Um, what?

"You're the girl she was talking about!"

Apparently, the foreign girl was telling him how there is am American girl who is always at the gym and, "used to be really fat and gross but has lost a lot of weight." This foreign girl was discussing me and saying she's, "jealous" of my results.

That was hurtful to hear. I don't think I have ever been, "really fat and gross." And frankly, I think people feel body judgement and body jealousy because they feel badly about themselves.
My weightloss journey has been very personal and quiet and to be spoken about by an almost stranger in that way is hurtful. I feel badly for how broken inside she must be.

It was a good lesson in making sure I am not taking about people in a hurtful way behind their back. It's not pretty.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

When I was having dinner at the Wyndam the general manager (Abbie's friend who gifted her the dinner) came over for a chat. I had never met him before, and we were discussing whatever people discuss when they first meet. He was very interested to hear of my life (doctorate studies, professorship, etc) and told me, "You are a very impressive young woman."

Coming from a 50'something year old man who has run hotels all over the world for 30 years, that was a great compliment.

He then looked at me squarely and said, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

I was taken aback for a split second, then recovered.

With complete confidence I responded, "I want to do what I am doing now. I'm at the beginning of my career."

That was an awesome feeling to know that for sure. I'm at the beginning of my career. Hopefully it morphs and changed and grows, but this is the right path.

So, those are my stories. Here's some pics:

the Commie bulletin boards in the philosophy department:

BAM! red stamps of officialness:

this guy was looking out the window of a building at school and I loved the composition of the moment:
the Wyndam. With workers from Volkswagon in suits next to us.

Dinner not at the Wyndam. Our Wednesday night tradition of dinner before class.

Wednesday dinner dudies:

at this restaurant. The name literally translates to, "Northeastern wind taste."

Class. Bah.

Panda shoes.

So there's my stories.

Til next time the stories pile up and I need a place to store them...

walk slow. xoxo.