Jul 31, 2012

purposefully slowly.

Summer is almost over for me since I work on the American school schedule. My American students start arriving to Ch.ina next week. I've got emails coming out the wazoo. I'm also nervous. But, shhh, don't tell anyone. 

Regardless of the work that must be done, I'm trying to live purposefully slowly in preparation for the coming year and the many changes that are about to happen quickly in the next month and a half. 

"Purposefully slowly" includes evenings at the lake by myself. (well, and a billion of my closest Asian friends).

Have a look...

 Beautiful, eh?

Here is my thought of the day:

"A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God's boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it."

-Dwight Moody. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Half a Tale and a Beautiful Town.

There are so many things I wish I could tell you, little blog of mine. 

But alas, sometimes the most heart-wrenching, uplifting, glorious, or harrowing tales go untold or half-told because of security reasons, censorship necessities, personal privacy (not that I have much concern of this), not wanting to cause unnecessary concern for my family, or in the interest of friends whose lives shouldn't be spelt out on the internet (even in a small corner such as my own).

Censoring is hard for me, still, after years of blogging. I want to write everything. Lay it all out there in New Times Roman 12 font so that my grandkids know that I was once-upon-a-time in Chi.na rocking out the best I knew how. 

Alas, I have stumbled upon yet another life experience that prob shouldn't be google-able. But oh man is this story good. I have to document. So, dear blog, you get half a tale. A statement without a story. Meant only to spur on your imagination and remind me of my own memory. 

Here goes: 

Yesterday, I drove a Mercedes on the highway in Chi.na. 

I don't have a Chinese drivers license and I don't know how to drive stick.

It was not a "joy-ride" it was a "safe-your-life" ride. (And I refuse to drive with a Chin.ese person in the afternoon if they have not had a nap ever again. Because this was the second time in a few months that I have thought I was going to die at the hand of a sleeping Chine.se driver.)

Ok, now that I have told my half a tale, let's get on with the real reason for this post! Yesterday's day trip to the beautiful water town of Xitang.

There are a few American girls visiting from the hospital in Cali that works with my hospital here in HZ, so the hospital has organized a million activities to keep them occupied during their stay. One of the girls' mom has a high-up position in the hospital, so the Chi.nese hospital is bending over backwards to impress/accomodate her. Mostly unbenownst to the girls. 

It is funny to see both sides of "culture exchange" and business practice. The girls expressed to me that they feel smothered and that a lot of the interaction is contrived, while my Chine.se peeps have expressed to me that they are stressed and feel nervous about handling the girls' visit. It's funny to council both sides. I tell the Americans that the C.hinese only want them to be safe and only have positive experiences and I tell the Chin.ese to chill out and add some free time to the schedule. It's like I have to go between the two sides and explain how the other side thinks. haha. 

Anyways, as part of the "yay Chi.na" show, Michael was told to drive the girls to a nearby town for sightseeing. He asked me to go along to speak English to the girls and keep everyone company/entertained. I was happy to be included. 


It's about a two hour drive to Xitang from Hangzhou. I visited there 4 years ago (my first year in Chi.na) and loved it, so it was fun to go back and recognize sights. Parts of Mission Impossible 3 were filmed there, so there are signs with Tom Cruise's face all over and some restaurants have signs that say, "Tom Cruise ate here." 

They call Xitang an "ancient town" because the building structure is from Chin.a's past. It has all been rebuilt as a tourist site, and you have to pay to enter the "town." It feels very Disney World-esque, but is still very beautiful. 

We had the perfect day to go, blue-ish skies and a high of 99 degrees. Don't worry mom, I brought my sunbrella. :)

love the greenery

We wandered around, had lunch, went inside a postcard shop where you can send postcards from days in the future (super cool!) and then took a boat back to the front entrance.

Duck head on a stick (bottom left)

This man was fishing using birds! He would smack the water and the birds would dive into the water to catch fish then bring them to him. They were trained! It was so cool.


All in all, we had a great day. The girls were super nice and Michael got to practice his English and be a tour guide! It was also fun to have a secret language with Michael since the girls don't speak Chi.nese. haha. 

I was reminded how many gorgeous places there are around HZ and I was happy to get out and explore a little! Especially on the hospitals dime...haha. 

our little group

I hope that the girls can take back with them stories of their time here to teach others about the orphan work that is going on in the hospital and the goodness of the people.

When they aren't asleep at the wheel, of course.


walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 29, 2012

a week in review.

I was a slow-poke blogger last week. 

By the time evening came each day I was too tired to write, so a lot of great stuff went untold! Here are some pics to fill in this week's memory when I'm old. (I'm a poet and don't know it). 

Mushu has decided that I should never sleep again in my life. He accomplishes his goal by meowing at my face while I sleep or deciding to sleep on my back/stomach whatever is facing upwards. This is not exciting and I am thinking kitty character camp may need to be established. 

kittyyyyy let me sleeeep.

In more exciting news, Ch.inese class is going (expensively) well. I love my teacher, I am her biggest fan, and my notes look like someone who knows what they are doing. And I'm kinda proud of myself. toot, toot. 

not too cool for school.

My friend Yemi and I are keeping up our dinner dates at the best restaurant ever, Green Tea. "Bread Temptation" is the best thing on the menu. Literally cubed bread topped with ice cream. The two of us finish this thing. Then I go home and do squats. #trustory.

worth it. 

A fave international student hang out joint closed a few months ago to move locations. It is now re-opened with a nerve-racking sign in the bathroom.

Who translated that?

And my monkey child is still up to no good and precious as ever. Our three-hour-a-day classes are going ok. He hasn't thrown me out the window yet and I get to brush up on my simple math skills.

He is better than me at math. 

And I caught this corgeous sunset from the bus window. We NEVER get sunsets like this in downtown. It was a fab moment.

grace everyday. 

My friend Michael gifted me these pearls for heping with a project. A wonderful (and much needed) reminder that I am loved by those around me and not lacking in anything. Don't you know that about yourself too? If I could send you some pearls, I would. ;)

I've got good people. 

And that, my faithful friends (or just my memory, haha) was last week in review. On to the next post that is the hilarity of today...

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 25, 2012

blog void filler.

Just some thoughts from the day...

My daily hours with the munchkin have grown from 2 to 3 and I think the little dude is going to mutiny me. Three hours is a long time for a little dude! 

Today he came running into class munching on something. "What's that?" I asked. In perfect English he replied, "Duck tongue!" Then handed some to me. I shook my head and he looked forlorn, "You..no...like...duck tongue?" Not wanting to break his little heart I replied, "It's ok, I'm not hungry." 

Jessica teacher no like duck tongue. 

Mushu has a new favorite sleep position that cracks me up. He sleeps face down on "his" panda. He used to curl up between the panda's legs but he has long outgrown that area. Now he just face plants. Silly kitty bug.

I've been missing that African boy a lot lately and reminiscing on the whole situation now that it is a safe distance behind. I've been reading some old books on my shelf and finding bits of wisdom that help me to see the situation clearly. Missing someone you know you can't have is hard. I think I'm feeling this way just because I have too much personal time and taking pictures of my cat sleeping does not count as social activity. Ha.

Here's a little nugget that was especially nice to read today...

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”       -Elisabeth Elliot. 

A nice little nugget, no?

Duck tongues, kitty sleeping, and personal thoughts. That's enough for today. :) 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 24, 2012

The Background and The Speech.

I met Gao Rui Zhi (Caroline) 5 years ago this month. 

I was a bright-eyed, idealist, youth-group bred senior in college traveling on an Intervarsity summer trip to the rural, poor, Muslim autonomous (only in name) province called Ningxia. It was there that I would recalculate my life plans and goals. The outcome of this trip eventually led to me still living in Chi.na today, 5 years later. 

The summer camp was awesome and hard. Caroline and I lived together for a month in a dorm room regularly used for 8. My job was to befriend her, speak only English (I only knew English!) and participate in daily culture exchange classes. I had naive dreams that I would befriend this Chi.nese girl, that we would get along beautifully and laugh together and share each other's culture and she would see a light in me. 

This did not happen by a long shot. And I laugh thinking how naive I was - how little I understood about culture and differences and how out of touch I was with the reality of short term projects abroad. 

Caroline and I's friendship was rocky at best. She is moody, stubborn, and has a temper that could light up a room. I am moody, stubborn, and have a temper that could light up a room. We're a fabulous match. :) I had no idea what was culturally right or wrong to do or say and she was not in any mood to ever explain anything to me. I felt like I was walking on egg shells around someone I could barely communicate with. She criticized me, called me fat, told me I was too loud, said she wished she was matched with the more beautiful Asian Americans on our team. She constantly told me what to do. I hate being told what to do. 

But we were partners. The fluffy dream of Chi.na that was in my mind was a mirage, but the reality of cultivating a meaningful friendship through trials was very real. 

This trip was ultimately my life dream to travel to Chi.na come true. It was very formative for me and I can't believe it's been 5 years. 

When the Americans were boarding a bus to leave the city, Caroline's last words to me were, "You will return to Chi.na. I will see you again." And in my heart I knew she was right. 

2007. Guyuan

A year after the camp, I would return to Ch.ina as a graduate student and university teacher, living in a more prosperous, developed part of the country. My life in HZ felt very easy compared to the experience in Ningxia, where Caroline remained. Two years after moving to Chi.na, I made good on my promise to return to Ningxia and took a 36 hour train to visit her in the capitol Yinchuan where she worked as a teacher.

I was there for almost a week and things between us were no different than three years before. She still told me what to do, she still critiqued my look only this time I was, "more cooler," and I gained points for speaking some Chine.se. Since my understanding of Chin.ese culture had grown after living here for some time, I then understood why she did certain things and was able to respond appropriately.

She introduced me to her boyfriend and asked that I return to Yinchuan for her wedding the following year. I said I would do my best to be there.

2010, Yinchuan

Yesterday I returned home from Caroline's wedding in Ningxia. I spent the whole weekend with her, following the wedding process from beginning to end - as per her orders. I know now that when I am with Caroline, I don't ask questions and I just do what I am told. It works best that way. :)

2012, Yinchuan

Her wedding is a story I will tell here in e-world another time. I still need more processing.

Today I just wanted to tell the back-story and the story of the speech. 

Caroline and her hubby-to-be picked me up from the airport bus stop and within 10 minutes of seeing each other again I was told that I was the only bridesmaid, the photographer, and that I would be giving a speech in Chinese at the wedding. 

Oh, and that they had canceled my hotel reservations (I dumbly gave her my hotel info so she knew where I was staying) so that I would stay with them the whole time. 

Of course. I thought to myself. Of course I am the bridesmaid, the photographer, and giving a speech and finding out the day before. Why would I think it would be any other way? ha. My main concern though was that I would get a shower and be able to hold it together on little sleep and no personal time/space.

I told myself to put on my big girl panties, suck it up, plaster on a smile, bring my Ch.inese vocab to the forefront of my brain, and count my blessings because things were about to get real. And they did. 

The next afternoon I found myself in front of 150 Chin.ese guests, mostly farmers, teachers, and policemen giving a speech in Chi.nese I rehearsed in bed the night before.

The English translation goes something like this:

"Hello everyone, my name is Jessica and I come from America. I am very happy to join in the wedding celebration of Gao and Gang with you all. Gao is my oldest Ch.inese friend, so our relationship is very special to me. I met her 5 years ago at Guyuan Teacher's College where we were roommates for an English program. When the camp was over she told me I would come to Chi.na again and she was right. Gao is always right. *laughter*. I hope that everyone here can join me to wish them "yong jie tong xin" (forever marriage together heart) and "bai tou xie lao" (white hair something old - traditional Ch.inese wedding greetings that I googled). I wish blessings for their marriage and blessings for you all."

But here is the speech I would want to give if it was appropriate:

"Hello everyone, my name is Jessica and I come from a suburb in Florida. When I was growing up I dreamed of going away to Ch.ina to help the orphans. At that time, I was very immature to think of only an isolated cause and to think that I could make any sort of difference without sacrifice. I came to Chi.na knowing nothing of Chine.se culture or language and that is when I met Caroline. She lived with me and put up with me even when I acted weird and asked too many questions and said sorry and thank you too much. Through these last years, Caroline has told me her story and I have told her mine. Our stories are very different. We come from different worlds. But we love each other because intercultural friendship takes time, patience, and a willingness to do things that are uncomfortable. I have learned this from Caroline. When I left Guyuan 5 years ago I never would have guessed that I would still be living in Chi.na now, I never would have guessed that I would be able to speak Chi.nese to you, and I never would have guessed that she would welcome me to join in her wedding party here in Ningxia. This goes to show you to expect the unexpected and to anticipate greater things than you can imagine. I stand before you, Ningxia workers, as a girl from suburban Florida. We could not be more different, yet our love for the couple is the same. I hope for your wedding Caroline, that you show your husband patience and love, that he always looks at you with admiration, and that you do not have a baby until you want to - not when your parents say you should. Blessings to you all."

pic of a pic of the speech. professional. 

So that happened. More stories to come.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 20, 2012

Yup, this is happening.

It's been two days where I keep repeating to myself, "Yup, this is happening." Said in a I'm giving into the moment and acknowledging this is my life kind of a tone. 

Yesterday I signed the contract for another year as an adjunct professor. I'll have two sections of the same education class I taught last year (about 25 students total) and four thesis advisees from the past co-hort (one of whom is almost done!) I emailed my contract in with a melancholy spirit (my job still overwhelms me), but after telling myself, "This is happening, suck it up and be thankful you have a contract to sign when so many people need jobs," I was ok. I stood in the print shop for over 30 minutes for 4 prints and scans because things just take awhile sometimes. 

At least I had Mao and Karl Marx looking over me from the print shop walls.

In Karl Marx we trust? 

Then, last night I received a disturbing text from my Chi.nese friend in Ningxia, Caroline. She asked me, "When are you arriving in Yinchuan?" I had thought that her wedding was next weekend and had been warring with the decision to go or not since plane tickets to that barren part of Chi.na are expensive and I do not have time for the 36 hour train because of my tutoring gig. I immediately knew that something had gone wrong in planning/translation/my brain because she would not be asking me that question over a week early.

After some texts, I realized I had mixed up her wedding date and she is getting married THIS weekend!  Dang. Some quick decision making and tripadvisor'ing happened and I now have a million zillion dollar round trip flight to Yinchuan leaving Saturday morning. I still don't have a hotel though since most hotels there don't have online booking (It's literally the middle of no-where). There's only one hostel in the whole province but it hasn't had a review since 2008, doesn't have a website or phone number, and is not on hostelworld so I'm thinking it doesn't exist anymore.

I can't believe I am going to Ningxia this weekend! It is where I first discovered Ch.ina, Caroline is the first Chi.nese person I had a meaningful relationship with (we met 5 years ago this month!) and I am excited to be in the Muslim autonomous region during Ramadan. I can't believe I ever contemplated not going. Money comes and goes, but relationships like this one have to be worked for and sometimes even sacrificed for. Loving Caroline as a friend has been painful our whole relationship, and so it makes sense that going to her wedding should cost me. If it was easy/affordable it would seem out of place according to our history. ha.

I fly up Saturday morning, the wedding is Sunday, and I fly back Monday afternoon. Another, "Yup, this is happening," moment. Mushu was a very attentive and helpful trip planner.

sleepy baby.

This morning when I arrived at tutoring, the mom asked me to add on another week with the kid, so that is great news and a financial blessing.

I was all happy about that until the kiddo and I sat down to begin our lesson. I was wearing a new costume-type ring that is very large. He pointed to it and went, "I know why you like big rings. Because you are fat, fat, fat."

I just stared at him.

Due to less than 8 hours of sleep, I was not in the mood to deal with a comment like that, even from a child.

"I am not fat," I said.

He looked at me like I had told him I was purple.

"Yes, you are fat, sooooo fat," he said and then wrote, "FAT," on his notebook. As if writing it made him get his point across better.

"Let's read a book," I said, ending the conversation that I could not believe I was having with a 7 year old. I know it's petty, but his comments really did hurt. It's like no matter how much weight I lose I will still be called fat to my face. I wish it was easier to disregard those things, but they still sting. Especially on a coffee-less morning such as today.

Almost two hours later, Eason and I were finishing the lesson with his handwriting book. I have not used this book yet in our lessons and so was flipping through it while he finished another task. I landed on this page...

Yup, that's real life Chin.ese education. It felt like vindication and helped me to let go of my anger at the kid. Don't hate the player, hate the game. It's not his fault he lives in a culture where his handwriting book calls a metaphorical Billy fat.

Maybe I'm hyper-sensitive. Maybe Billy and I need to start a support group.

After the lesson, I had the taxi drop me off in a different part of town where I went to the Xtian bookstore to get Caroline her wedding gift.

Wedding gift...

the character means, "love."

I'm off to Ningxia in two days. The kid I tutor thinks I'm a fat lard. And I am officially a professor for a second time around.

Yup, it's all happening.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 17, 2012

Tales of 'Baby Duck.'

The little boy I tutor has a silly sense of humor. 

After we read the, "Ugly Duckling," last week he resorted to calling me Ugly Duckling. It came out like this, "Go away, Ugly Duckling, want play ipad." Which, if you speak "ESL kid" you would know means, "Go away, I want to play with my ipad instead of hang out with your ugly face." 

Yesterday when I walked into the house after our weekend break he called out, "Hello, Baby Duck." 

Today I was commanded, "Jackie Chan, read book!" 

So I guess that is the progression of life: ugly duckling -> baby duck -> Jackie Chan. Makes sense to me. And as long as the mom keeps wiring money to my bank account, I don't care what the kid calls me. 

Speaking of the mom. I haven't seen her since our first day of class last Monday. With this job I am being given a window into the super rich Chin.ese. I've heard about this world second hand, but never seen it with my own eyes, and boy is it interesting. 

The Fillipino nanny and I chat after class. I feel like she needs a sounding board since she knows no one in town and is stuck in the house raising these kids all day every day. Through these talks she tells me of her world. What amazing stories hidden in this women and this place.

She is 33 and divorced and 6 months into a 2 year contract with the fam. She was hired in Hong Kong (where the kids will go to school) because Ch.ina does not allow foreign nannies to get visas. I did some googling and found that there are over 140,000 Fillipino nannies in HK and the average salary is under 400USD a month. (4000HKD). 

She tells me about the family and from what she doesn't tell me, I observe myself. The parents are married, but live seperately (normal in Chi.na). The dad has a go-kart factory in another city of the province and goes to visit the kids once a month in HK. When he is there, he stays in a hotel not with the mom and just takes the kids to lunch. They are a marriage of contract, meaning they give each other "face" and can continue their businesses seperately. 

The 2.5 year old daughter was born in HK (illegal crossing of the border as a pregnant woman in order to have a baby in HK - this is big business here in Mainland among hte rich people), therefore she is a HK citizen and the family can obtain visas because of the 2 year old's status. I asked the boy if his grandpa visits him in HK and he said, "No, he has no visa." 

Today Eason was telling me how many classes he takes a summer. There is no "summer camp" like we know it in the West, just classes. Art, swimming, English, Japanese. Tutors from all over the world. Eason's last English tutor was from Norway. The one before that was Singaporean. I am the first American tutor (which I think is why his accent is funky sometimes). I asked Eason who drives him to his classes and he replied, "the driver." The man I initially thought was the dad is actually the live-in driver. 

I'm not saying this way of life is wrong, it is just so different than my own ideas of how a family should work together as a unit. I also don't believe that money takes the place of love or care. There is nothing wrong with being rich, but kids deserve present parents. What good is it for a kid to have an ipad if no one reads him a book at night and tucks him in? It is also a bird's eye view of the intense pressure that a value-less society places on children of parents whose God is money and success. Materialism looks different here. 

Interesting stuff for a Baby Duck to be observing. 

two little ducks

Besides tutoring, I have found a happy place! The pool with lane lines! I can't believe a pool has been so close to me for so long and I am just discovering it!

There's a pool in there! 

Yemi and I went together on Sunday (felt good to swim/meditate after the news of Amanda's passing - water is so healing). And today I went after tutoring - had the taxi driver take me straight there! 

The thing about swimming in Chi.na in lap lanes is that the Chin.ese swim the same way they walk on the streets, bike, do business, etc....it's orderless. There are 5-7 people in each lane and people stop in the middle of the lane, try to teach their kids in the lane, don't let people go in front of them who are faster, stop before the end of the lane, etc. As a former swimmer, I was taken aback at first by the disorder, then learned to swim around it once I put 2 and 2 together that of course people who can't stand in line at Walmart would not know proper swim lane etiquette. (ok, rant over). 

I kept thinking to myself that the old swimmers at the YMCA would be pissed. haha. 

Besides dodging people, swimming feels fabulous. The way the pool works, you pay about $2.50 for an hour and a half time slot. After every time slot, everyone is kicked out of the pool and a new rush of paying customers come in. After work I make the 12-1:30pm slot. When everyone is kicked out of the pool the real fun begins - the showers. 

It's just a big room with shower heads and the natives get naked, then form lines behind shower heads. So you wait, naked, in line while the person in front of you showers - about a foot away from you. Today, without Yemi's support, I was slow to join the herd, but alas I found myself butt naked being bumped into by hairy, old Chi.nese women and thinking to myself, "Dear God my book better be a best seller if I have stories like this one." It's really fun to be showering yourself communally and hear a little kid go, "Mom, look at the foreigner!" I had the momentary conundrum of not knowing which side to give them to look at - my cottage cheese ass or my 36 D's. Tough decision. Bless us all. (and you for reading this). 

Regardless of pool etiquette and shower experiences, having a place to swim is awesome. I told myself I can go 2x a week. Since I already have a gym membership, I don't want to spend a lot more money on working out, but swimming will be included in the "fun" category of my spending. Three cheers for the pool! 

And since you just read about my personal judgements of the rich and my shower experiences, have a good laugh, you need it. My friend sent me this pic from Walmart...

Three cheers for translation. 

pork butt. 

Catch ya later, baby ducks. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 15, 2012


I've lost a mentor and the orphans have lost a champion. 

Amanda de Lange, 1961- 2012. 

Seven years of foster home service: 168 babies cared for, over 250 surgeries, and 81 foreign adoptions. 

You can read about her life here and here.

I once asked Amanda, "What can I do to run a foster home or help a bunch of orphans like you?" She told me, "Grow up first. Know who you are. And then take every chance God gives you even if it scares the hell out of you." 

A few years after that conversation, I still remember those words. I remember her handing me a baby and asking me to care for it overnight then handing me a suitcase and ushering me into a taxi alone. I remember her pushing a Chin.ese dude in the Shanghai train station who said rude things about two white ladies carrying a Chin.ese baby. I remember grocery shopping with her and noticing the large amounts of pork fluff and cookies in her cart. "Protein for the babies, sugar for the nannies," she said. I remember her giving tv interviews in Chin.ese in a hospital room where she was waiting on orphan surgeries she had fundraised and the surprise on the announcers face when her Chin.ese was spot on. I remember sitting in the back of a taxi with her discussing Mormonism vs. Protestantism and realizing that in order to get the "job done" interfaith dialogue and comraderie was imperative. I remember she showed me the best ice cream in Chi.na - the kind in white tubs for 7rmb.

I remember her wit, tenacity, courage, and faithfulness to her beliefs and the babies.

This loss runs deep. There is so much work to be done. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

so excited I could cry.

Today was a regular ol' Saturday...

 Rach and I got haircuts...

humidity - 1, haircuts - 0

Mushu and I took a nap together and he woke me up by chewing on my toes telling me he was hungry...

 Got an evening foot massage with Yemi while we watched Blood Diamond on the tv's. And I remain true to my old conviction that I don't want a diamond engagement ring...(pink sapphire all the way, FTW).

Pre- reflexology soak. Happiness. 

And then Yemi and I returned to the dorm and she told me with a sly little grin that she had something to show me.

It wasn't this black mold growing on the walls...that's old news...

no wonder my plants don't survive. 

TADA!!!!! We got an automatic washing machine!!!!!



One of my main complaints of the dorm is that we didn't have an automatic washer. We had this archaic thing that you had to fill yourself with a tub and then squoosh around. But not anymore! This baby is a Panasonic! With different settings! There's no hot water hook up, but I still have my bucket and can pour hot water in from the boiler seen behind the washer.

They only replaced the washer on the second floor. (There is one on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors for the whole dorm). I am hoping they plan to replace the other two as well, or else the wait for this washer is going to be intense once the new students arrive in August and the dorm is full again.

But alas, for the next few weeks, there are few people in the dorm and I can do all the laundry I want in a real washer for free!!!!

This is a game-changer, baby. Life just got a whole lot more convenient and comfortable.

PTL, Hallelujah, Amen.

Whooohoooooo! Happy Saturday!

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 13, 2012

hug it out.

It's one of those Friday nights.

I am at home with my cat in my lap, green face mask generously applied to my face, looking up plane flights to anywhere, and contemplating opening an e-harmony profile.

It's one of those nights where I think I'm lonely but I'm not sure - because I'm happy. Can lonely and happy exist together? Maybe.

I'll leave you contemplating that philosophical nugget while my cat and I hug it out.

Happy Friday.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 12, 2012

"head and shoulders" like you've never seen it before.

These summer days are really fabulous. 

Today I got my first week's pay for teaching this little monster...

Maybe I can use the money to get a hair implant on my giant forehead...

They live in a foofy area near the river and I walked out to the river to check out the "view" after our morning session. Turns out there is no view besides mud and gray...but at least I got to see something new. That was fun.


Foofy area.

trees, mountains, smog, rich people. 

I met up with some friends for manicures this afternoon and got briht green nails. I think I was influenced by the fact that Eason and I read, "The Princess and the Frog" today. Manicure time was fun. I had a precious girl do my nails who told me if I am lonely this summer, to go see her and then went into a 5 minute story telling about how her and some friends went to the Hangzhou Amusement Park and she was so scared of the roller coasters. Absolutely precious and so fun to be talked to in Chi.nese like a normal person - to hear real life stuff. I just loved her spirit. I'll def be going back there for a nail polish and some high-quality company.

During my Walmart run this afternoon, I picked up this awesome fan. It's a fan in the shape of a rice bowl and then it comes with stickers you can place on it in to shape of different foods. Awesome invention alert! I tried to make mine vegetarian but added some fish balls. (I'm also failing at being a real life vegetarian, but that's another post all together...) I love this fan! So cute! I can't wait to be the fat foreigner waving my rice bowl fan at the bus stop. Yum Yum. Pass the soy sauce.

And for your viewing pleasure, here is Eason's fabulous rendition of "head, shoulders, knees and toes." Sorry I can't figure out how to flip the video. I'm tech-dumb. But turn your neck to the left and watch my little student during one of our "breaks" where we sing a medley of songs because he is 7 years old and has too much energy to sit in a chair for 2 hours and do textbook exercises. Our medley consists of, "Head and shoulders," "The more we play together," and, "I am special." The dance moves are entirely him. He was totally cracking me up so I grabbed my phone to be able to share the moment. 


I have bright green nails, a fan shaped like Chi.nese take-out, and a hip-shaking 7 year old student. Good day.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 11, 2012

a screaming child, a napping man, and other equally exciting encounters.

The summer routine has solidified itself. I'm likin' it.

Daily tutoring gives stability, a steady income, and an early wake-up call (but not tooo early, PTL). And afternoons of Chi.nese class, errands, time with friends or alone, and the hospital work give my life fullness and a feeling of personal indulgence. 

I can really only do these days a sliver of justice by sharing some short stories of the last 48 hours. 

~Recently, I met a Chine.se teacher, Emma, who studied Chi.nese and then opened a "studio" in Hangzhou to teach foreigners. I liked her right away. She came highly recommended by some foriegn acquaintances. She is professional, not giggly like so many of her counterparts, and I could tell during our conversation that she would be a great teacher. I begged her to find a time slot for me this summer and we had our first meeting yesterday. She is double the price of standard classes, and this almost kept me from sealing the deal, but I am so glad I went through with it because she is well worth it. She was prepared, she evaluated my skills carefully and accurately and together we formed a plan for my Chin.ese learning over the next year with the eventual goal of passing the highest HSK next June (dream big, I say). It was so exciting to be on this side of things! 

It was funny - we have conversed with each other in Chi.nese socially a few times and she came into the lesson thinking my level is very high based on these interactions. We chatted for awhile and she told me her aim was to, "break my confidence," to help me to learn. "Hunny, I have no confidence, I just like to talk and know how to have a conversation," I told her. Then she pulled out a passage for me to read. My knees started sweating. My body language changed to a scrunched up position, and I stumbled over my words, barely knowing any of it. "Um...maybe we need to work on your confidence," she said. "I'm confusing. This is why I need a private tutor and not a class," I replied. I am so, so, so happy to have Chi.nese class every Tuesday. It's about time. When I went to leave she said to me, "We are the same. You studied English and teach English, I studied Chin.ese and teach Chine.se." I think I found the Chin.ese me. Cool. Time to get reading! bah. 

~I really hope to God one day that my kids are not screamers. Because the one I currently teach every morning is a screamer, and Lord help us all. He understands English and can follow directions well, but when asked even a simple question he responds with the pounding of fists and very loud, aggressive yelling. I remind him to, "use his words," to express himself, but I am not sure that 2 hours a day with me will undo the semesters of frustration and academic stress that he is obviously feeling. How do you reverse the affects of an over-pressured school system on a young child? How do I get this kid to realize that even though all he does is have foreign tutors come to his house day in and day out that he is more important than a test score or if he goes to international school? How do you be a light in a stressed kids life? I'll get back to you on those answers, and I might take earplugs with me to work tomorrow. 

~Finally, my AC is fixed! PTL! The stars and the moon and the whatevers aligned and this afternoon it worked out for me to take Mushu to my friend's dorm and then go tell the dorm monitors that my AC is broken. I've not been sleeping and I've been easily angered and I knew that living in 100+ heat is the culpret. I sent Mushu to "camp" for the afternoon and headed downstairs to tell whoever about my problem. I knocked on the office door, but noone answered and the cleaning lady walked by. "My air conditioner is broken who do I tell?" I asked. "It's rest time," she said, then she went and knocked onthe window of the area where the dorm dudes hang out and sleep at night. The mean one was working and he lifted his head from the desk with his usual snarl (seriously, it's incredible that someone could snarl this consistently), and he snapped at her, "When I am done with my nap I will go upstairs and look at it," and then put his haed back down. It was 1:15pm. I was shocked, but not shocked. This is a perfect example of Chi.nese productivity and work ethic. Who gives a crap thatm y air is broken? It's nap time, and who cares that it is this guy's job to deal with the dorm issues and he is in his 40's - no one messes with nap time. I looked at the cleaner with big eyes and asked her, "When will he come?" "2 o'clock," she said. "OMG," I muttered as I fumbled back to my sweltering cat-less home. It's not that I had to wait, it's the principle of the matter. Lesson learned - nap time > work duties. 

At 2:15 I had not heard from anyone and had to leave for work at 4, so I went downstairs and found Mr. Sleepyhead pacing the hall. "Are you done resting?" I asked snarkily. He replied that he had called the repairman. Sometime later, a dude in dirty boots marched into my dorm and I now and the happy dweller of an air conditioned room. Happiness! I'm gonna sleep great tonight! Might even take a nap tomorrow, too. ;) 

~Last night I had the pleasure of going to KTV with my friend Rachel's summer camp girls and some volunteers from America who are here for the camp. A 30-ish first grade teacher sat with huge eyes and  stiff shoulders as she watched the Ch.inese girls bounce around and sing off key to their favorite songs. I found it fascinating to watch her obvious discomfort and was reminded of a few times in my C.hina tenure when I have found myself at KTV with both Chi.nese people and visiting foreigners. It is strange to know that you will never be Chi.nese, that you will never be fully accepted, but that you have crossed the border into, "strange" territory as seen by your own nationality. It's like a no-man's-land of identity. The Chi.nese think I am weird because I am not Chi.nese. The Americans think I am weird because I like/do Chin.ese things. I expressed this to Rachel who mentioned the movie, "Lost in Translation." Yup. That sums it up well.

I've got a screaming kid, a napping dorm guard, and a Chine.se teacher with high hopes. 

Turn down the AC and pass me a diet coke. It's gonna be a great, though randomly lost in translation,  summer. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 9, 2012

summer time.

Mom's been gone a whole week and summer time is kicking into full swing. 

A few weeks ago I made a list of things of, "summer to-do's" including restaurants and activities in HZ that I have never experienced before. A lot has changed in the past 3 years and now I find myself in groups of people talking about places I have never been. I want to try out a lot of these new places especially since my students also live in HZ and I want to be up-to-date on my info of activities and special places to recommend to them! 

One thing on my list is to find a swimming pool! Over the years I have heard of friends going to pools, but the thought of being with a bunch of staring Chi.nese people while in a swimsuit was not a happy one. 

This summer, though, I really wanted to find a pool to swim in because I love to swim as exercise and the gym is sooo hot! Sunday, Yemi and I set out to find the pool in the botanical garden a 15 minute walk from our dorm. 

We found our way and paid the $3.50 entrance fee. 

And it was such a glorious afternoon! The pool was more busy than I expected and the lack of lane lines made it difficult to swim laps, but I was able to dodge the kids and get in a short swim which left my shoulders screaming and me so, so happy to be in the water!

Yemi and I sat by the pool reading magazines and it felt almost like America. Soon I'll try another indoor pool that supposedly is more conducive to swimming laps. I am so happy to have finally searched out a pool!

Today I started my month-long summer job. I am tutoring a 7 year old monkey every day for the next 4 weeks. He is a Ch.inese kid who is starting at the International School in town come Fall. His parents want him to do the Grade 1 book before he enters Grade 2. Soon he will be schooling in all English, so he needs to be comfortable with foreigners (i.e. ME).

He's a presh head and we are just doing textbooks so the job is easy. He comes from an elite fam so it is an interesting look into the lives of people that I don't come in contact with on an average basis. They even have a live-in Philippino nanny. For about 10 minutes I thought she was E's mom. haha.

I'm so thankful for this job. For two HZ summers in a row, I have been gifted a perfect summer job tutoring short-term. Hallelujah.

Swimming, teaching..... a little bit work a little bit play......just the way a summer's supposed to be!

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jul 7, 2012

hot as hades.

I keep reminding myself that somewhere around 40% of the world's population lives in a slum and I need to be thankful for what I have. 

But even with those statements meant to gain perspective, I am still perturbed that my air conditioner is broken and it is a "feels like" of 102 here in glorious, humid Hangzhou. 

My friend called it, "Hellzhou," the other day and weather-wise, she might be onto something. 

Even Mushu is exhausted by the summer heat and lack of cool air conditioning. 

Little does he know that he is the problem. Without a secret cat, I could just tell the dorm guys and have it fixed in a week. But alas, I am mentally forming a plan to get it fixed without them finding out about Baby Kitty. 

I suck at puzzles and logistics though, so figuring out what to do is taking some time. 

Meanwhile, I have purchased a bamboo sleeping mat that the Ch.inese people use to keep cool while they slumber in the summer. (these people use like zero electricity, even in the Chi.nese student dorms they have no AC). 

I have found that sleeping naked on this thing is a thousand times cooler than in regular cotton sheets. (sorry for the visual). The only problem is I am slightly concerned about getting a splinter in a strange place. But the coolness outways the risks...

I'm also now a card-carrying member of the sunbrella club. My mom got me this sun umbrella in the Shanghai subway and I'm wondering why I've scoffed at the things for so many years. It's hot as H-E-double hockey sticks and this thing helps deter the sun. (behind the pollution, of course). Thanks, mom!

 In other, less boiling news, because it is summer and we should do fun things, Yemi and I went to our fave restaurant a few nights ago. Instead of ordering the "fragile melon of pig's ear is inserted," we tried to get the, "vegetable salad," as our vegetable.

But they were out of vegetable salad and instead brought us lettuce drenched in peanut butter.

Apparently this is what they thought foreigners would like? Interesting. It wasn't bad, though apples or celery would have been a better choice than lettuce.

Tomorrow is my last day of rest before I start my 6 week, "summer routine," of tutoring a kid and taking Chi.nese classes next week. I think I'm going in search of a pool. I have a sunbrella I'd like to show off.

walk slow. xoxo.