Sep 25, 2012

The surprise.

Two Saturday's ago. I was at the bar with friends celebrating academic accomplishments. 

In a red dress, leopard heels, and brimming with gallons of happy energy. 

I felt a tap on my shoulder, faint but purposeful. 

I turned.

And found myself face to face with my Ethiopian love. 

Anxious eyes, a nervous smile, and that sweet little mole on his chin.


"You're back." 

"This was the 'surprise.'" 

(I had been told for the past few weeks I would have a surprise.)

And there he was, flesh and blood. Smelling of expensive cologne. Looking dapper in a sweater vest. 

No longer a phone call to another corner of the earth. Touchable. 

I knew it was coming. I knew he would come back, for me. 

Then flowed emotion. Shock. Confrontation. Joy. Pain. Questions. Accusations. Forgiveness. 

A week of discussion, tears, milkshakes, hair massages, slow kisses, story telling, homemade dinners, long bus rides, memory recollecting, laughter. 


But trust, once lost, is difficult to find in the rubble of a young, broken relationship. 

My eyes gave me away. 

"You look at me like you think you are making a mistake," he said. 

"Marry me in two years," I said. Challenging. Hoping. Trying to piece together what I want out of my future and my present. 

"I can't."

And with that, we found our ultimate divide. I hope for marriage. He doesn't. 

"We are wasting each other's time."

And with that he left. 

But not after one last kiss. 

I slobbered on him, tears uncontrollable and snot unavoidable. 

Forgetting I live in a dorm, I wailed. 

And wailed. 

And wailed. 

Til a neighbor friend knocked on my door. 

Then I made slobbery, teary jokes to cover my embarrassment. 


So like that,

After 7 days in person, my love has been lost yet again. 

Three break ups. One person. 

Too much. 

He brought me this scarf from Addis Ababa, the city called "New Flower." 

I will wear it with joy of a story in my past. A story that ebbed and flowed in dramatic fashion. A story that taught me how to love and respect myself. A story that finally got closure. A story that does not give me pain, but instead leaves me with a longing for something better. 

And I will move on. 

Ever forward. 

Chasing the light. 

Who wants to marry me? I'm available.*

Just kidding. 

Kind of. 

*Exotic upbringing and chin moles not required. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Sep 19, 2012

I'm Legal.

After two unsuccessful trips to the other side of town, I finally recovered my passport today with a residence permit valid for another year. I'm legal until September 5, 2013. Whooo.

People from every corner of the world line up at the visa office for the chaotic experience of trying to be legal. My friends and I call this yearly duty a chance to encounter, "multi-cultural body odor" since everyone stands so close together to jocky for a position and the wait in close quarters is often hours long.

Everything went well today. On all fronts: odor detection and otherwise.

Glad to have that yearly 100$ errand out of the way.

See you next September, visa office. You'll know me, I'll be the one wearing deodorant.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Sep 18, 2012

The "P" Word.

[The "P" word = rotestpay in pig latin.]

If you have been reading the news, you are away that there are alot angry people in Ch against a certain Asian neighboring country.

At first, a few days ago when my CNN homepage started reporting the news, I thought nothing of it. I have been told hundreds of times over the past four years about the hatred for this neighbor. I had students give speeches about it in English class, I've had strangers tell me how bad their neighbors are, and I have been to the "Museum of Jp Aggression" in Nanjing. I rolled my eyes and went about life like nothing, because for the most part my experience here in HZ has been peaceful and pleasant.

But a few days have gone by and the political poo has hit the political fan. There is nothing more unifying than a common enemy and I find it interesting that this whole shabang occurred during a time when the Chin. VP went "missing" for a few days. No one is caring about that if they are busy hating someone else. Diverted attention. A Commie method that has worked for decades.

I don't want to say too much for obvious reasons, but though the "p's" in HZ have been unnerving, they are nowhere near as violent as other cities in Ch. A Starbucks was blown out in another city and gas stations are refusing to put oil in Jap. made cars. Panasonic has closed plants because of vandalism and violence, and I am scared to go into a sushi shop. For real. Jap. based grocery stores have been vandalized and a hotel had it's windows blown out this past weekend. Today, streets were blocked and pol. officers on duty because of pol. groups chanting in the streets with hate banners. Police officers. Unbelievable.

The thing is, "p's" in Ch. are different than everywhere else. There is only one side. They are chanting against an enemy that cannot hear them. And frankly, the fervor of the uneducated and ignorant is scary.

My taxi driver turned off the car this afternoon while we watched the "p" go by. At first I was nervous to get out of the car and take pics, but then decided that I didn't care. After about 20 minutes, the road was open again and we were free to continue about our day. I took the opportunity to ask my driver, "What good does this do?' As the caravan screamed and shouted beside us. "This is just annoying to every citizen, this does no good," I said.

"JP is evil!" he said and shook his fist.

I shook my head. "Have you ever been there?" I asked.


"Do you know any JP people?" I asked.


"Then how can you say that? Don't be ignorant and uneducated. You sound dumb when you say hateful things."


I'm sick of hate-talk. I'm sick of ignorance. I'm sick of hearing people hate on another group of people without any answer as to why. This is happening now in the Arab world and this is happening now across Ch. Passion fueled by political motives is wild and uncontainable. And in a country where homeland is king/god/religion...this is even more true.

Let's all hope for peace. I want to go to the local sushi joint without being afraid. Let's hope that's possible soon.

Cars stopped for a pol. brocade. on the other side of the street marching. I took this pic from the passenger seat of a taxi...

What Mushu thinks about all the firecrackers outside....

Again, I feel like I live in CNN.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 15, 2012

little things add up.

I've been incandescently happy lately. 

For no apparent reason. 

Just happy. 

Happy to be here, happy to be me, happy to have a cat, happy to be financially secure, happy with the people around me, happy to be learning, happy to have a supportive family, happy for job opportunities, happy to have enough to eat, happy to have a gym, happy to be a single, strong woman, happy with my language tutor, happy with the change in weather, happy to live in a non-violent society...

And then a little card like this adds to the happiness and I realize that you don't need a grand event or a dramatic occurance to be happy. 

The little good things add up. 

I hope you add up your little things and find happiness, too. You don't need some great thing to be happy. The good bits of normal days are enough when added together.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Sep 14, 2012

that time again.

It's that time again. 

The "travel, observe, grade, smooze, encourage, repeat" part of my job has started once again. Today was my first observation out of 60 this semester. 

8am bus face.

I have 30 students in 3 cities this semester. An uptick from my meager start of 12 students in one city at this time last year. 

The class was a great start to a busy semester. My job is part laison, part teacher, part counselor, and I think it's a good role for me. I'm thankful for my job because of the interesting people I get to meet. It's hard work, it's rewarding work. I'm not exactly sure how I will survive the semester with starting collecting data for my dissertation (a post to come soon! exciting things happening!) and also my other part-time job, but I know it won't kill me. *knock on wood* 

 high school class.

The highschool class that I visited was funny. It is a "joint-degree" program with a high school in the states. The students are carefully selected and are paying $17,000USD a year (massive amounts of money in Ch.ina) to participate in the boarding school program. At the end of their high school years, they will receive the diploma from their Chin.ese school, and also a diploma from the affiliated American high school. This is gold to these Chi.nese kids and their futures. I spoke with the director of the program following our visitation and she spoke of the education business within Ch.ina with great fervor. It was interesting and eye-opening. I'm thankful to get to participate in all of this cross-cultural education of young people. It's fascinating.

Hangzhou Normal University Affiliated High School. 

There is a big work decision in the works that I am grappling with right now. I don't want to chat about it in such an open space (privacy? weird!) But I want to mention it for memory sake. I have to make a choice regarding my future that I did not think I would have to make for at least another year - a choice that would change my location, title, and the trajectory of my near-future. I've been blessed with a big choice. Cross your fingers for me. :)

Obviously Mushu is rivoted with all this work talk....

sleeping kitty. 

Sorry my work talk will be so vague. I want to mention my job since it is 30+ hours of my week, yet I sense the need for more professionalism in my new role. 

Geez. Growing up! Weird. 

work slow. xoxo. 

Sep 12, 2012

little helper.

It's hard to get any work done around here because my assistant is an attention hog...

walk slow. xoxo. 

Sep 11, 2012

what to blog about?

I lamented to a few friend the other day that I think my blog is boring now. "Gym, work, Asians..."
Then I went on to tell her some stories of my past days and she said to me, "Blog about that! It's hilarious!" 

So, thanks Julie. For reminding me my life is worth writing down. :) 

This week has been relaxing and nuts at the same time. Pre-planning and advanced information do not exist in Ch.ina, so while my classes are supposed to start next week, I still do not know when or where they are. Ha. This used to drive me nuts, now I understand to just exist in the "limbo" of no information and know that everything will work out eventually. Always does. 

This non-knowing of my own school schedule makes work life difficult because I can't start my observations yet or even plan them because my own students don't know their own schedules. It's a twisted, uniformed cycle. Oh well. 

I do know that I have one class in which so far I am the only female and the only person not from Pakistan, India, or Egypt. Should be interesting. 

The campus is briming with new students - Chines.e and foreign. This means the same thing each year. The freshmen youngsters are wide-eyed at the foreigners and the foreigners are having panic attacks. 

Every year I run onto someone having a break down in the school convenience store. Last year it was a girl crying asking me about cleaning supplies. Yesterday it was a girl asking me where to buy shampoo. We were in the shampoo aisle. Haha. 

I can totally relate to their stunned faces and open-mouths while walking down the street. It was only a few years ago I would hyper-ventilate in the grocery store because it was so overwhelming. It's my turn to give back now, to help calm some storms and tell people that everything will be ok. Just don't buy the generic brand shampoo. :)

All of the North Koreans are new this year, so they look especially wide-eyed. They also look poorer than last year. My friend said they looked like, "1970's Asia" which is an accurate description. They also apparently don't learn how to wait in line in primary school in North Korea because while a line of over 20 foreign students - all from different countries - waited to sign a paper in the international office, a group of about 6 or 7 NK's barged by (if 5 foot bodies can "barge") and cut the line. I wanted to be a turd and call them out, but then I realized I was given the chance to be patient and non-entitled, so I kept my big mouth shut, thanked heaven to be born into Western privilege, and continued waiting. A small character victory. I'm sure there will be many more chances to make good choices. :) ha. 

Today I went into the visa office to extend my visa yet again. My passport will have 6 full page C.hina visas when it is returned to me in a week. Wow. That's a lot. I'm glad I went and got extra passport pages added last year when I went to get my India visa, because otherwise I would have to go now. 

Last Saturday I had a meet and greet with my American students. About 1/3 of my students were able to come (I was happy with that due to travel/life) and we had a casual, personal brunch at a local hang out. It is great to stick faces to emails and to hear voices instead of message board posts. I had contemplated canceling the meeting after so many students couldn't come. And honestly, I got cold feet about meeing them. But then at the end of our 3 hour meal, one student said in a quiet voice, "I feel so much better about teaching now." And I knew it was all worth it. 

My job is causing some stress. I don't want to talk job details on the blog, but I'll mention vague feelings here or there. Despite the stresses, I walked away from Saturday's gathering feeling sky-high. Feeling like I am doing the job I am made for, that I have been given the opportunity to use my gifts and be a good teacher and mentor. I am excited for the new year with my students. There are some big and interesting personalities in the bunch and I know it is going to be a wild ride. Just the way I like life. 

Marathon training is going...ok. The weather is cooling down a bit and I soon need to take my runs outside since they are starting to be more than an hour (6 miles). My brain just can't take that long on a treadmill and my mind gives out before my body does. I never leave a run feeling like I gave my all. And that's a problem. 

Yesterday I was hauling on the treadmill - bouncing away with my red face and nappy hair flyin', when a Chi.nese girl who was waiting for a treadmill came and stood behind my treadmill. My gym is the "popular" one in the city, so during peak hours you have to wait for a treadmill. People usually scope out the treadmills and park themselves behind the one that looks like the person will get off soon. So it was obvious this girl thought I should be about done by the looks of things. Little did she know I was just getting started - 2 miles into a 5 mile run. 

After a few minutes, she looked really impatient, and one of the trainers who was walking the floor passed us and noticed her waiting. He walked up to my treadmill, looked at my stats, and then told her, "She still has a long way to run, find another machine to wait for." 

I smiled on the inside. Aw, my gym buddies know my routine. Presh. And thanks for getting her away from my personal space! :) haha

So that's my life update. 
Gym, work, and Asians. 
Same ol' same ol'. 


walk slow. xoxo. 

Sep 9, 2012


 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, 
our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson.

Sep 7, 2012


This week I am mentally celebrating my four year Ch.ina Anniversary. There is no cake, but there is lots of contemplation! I cannot believe what my life has turned into. It is wilder, weirder, more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. 

To put into perspective just how stinkin' long I have had a Chin.ese address, here are some facts: when I moved to Chin.a, Bush was president, the word "recession" was not around, Twitter was not popular, the Beijing Olympics had just ended, and international travelers could take two 50 lb. bags for free. 

I moved here in the stone ages. 

On September 4, 2008, I flew into the Hangzhou Airport and was greeting by a Ch.inese stranger holding my name scribbled on a paper sign. I got in the car with this stranger who drove me to my new home, a university in the center of Hangzhou. I remember looking out the window, wondering why it was so "cloudy" (helloooo smog!) and thinking to myself, "I did it." 

What I did not know then was that my life would become intertwined with this place and four years later I would still be here. With no expiration date in sight. (Well....June, 2014.....but who's counting?) 

I had stars in my eyes and idealism floating through my veins. I spoke not a lick of and was illiterate to the world around me. Yet, everything was grand, exotic, new, and interesting. 

my first visit to West Lake, Sept. 2008.

At the same spot with my mom, 4 years later - June, 2012

These past four years have been everything and nothing I could have hoped for. The amount of change that occurs within a person in four years is incredible. I think of who I was then, and who I am now, and the person is almost unrecognizable. The idealism is gone. And in its place is a deeper feeling - gumption. I have a clearer sense of self and a more concrete goal for my life.

The past four years have held a lifetime's share of highs and lows and I can honestly say that if I died tomorrow, I would not have any regrets about my life. I'm so proud of that.

In the past four years I have had two pets - a rabbit who lives in the countryside now, and a cat who I plan to return to America with. I've loved and lost twice - one Asian, one African. And still hold both men in my heart. I've lived in two places - a two bedroom apartment, and my current dorm room. And I've never paid a bill (housing, school, or other-wise). I've owned pink 4 bikes, one yellow, all of which have been stolen.

My travels have been a great exploration and an eye-opening realization that our world is small and my worldview pre-Ch.ina was very narrow (still is, in many ways). I've traveled to the temples of Korea, snorkled on the beaches of Thailand, and wandered the streets of Singapore at night. I've seen the giant Buddha in Bangkok, eaten chicken rice in Malaysia, and waited in line at Hong Kong Disney World while eating an ice cream cone. I've experienced an earthquake in Taiwan, seen the ice castles in Harbin, and watched the rats run through the hallways of Indian trains. I've lit fireworks during Chin.ese NewYear in Beijing, pet water buffalo on a family's farm in the countryside, and trudged my way through the Great Wall Half Marathon. I've climbed Yellow Mountain, learned to make dumplings, and backpacked through Europe with my sister.

And yet with all these travels, it is the conversations over coffee that matter most. The long walks through bamboo forests and along bike trails to talk about life and the meaning of it all. Behind the plane rides and train rides and excitement of movement, there has been a common thread of truth - of a plan bigger than the day's circumstances.

One of the greatest things about living abroad are the people I have met. I have friends who are Buddhist, Mormon, Muslim, Athiest, Sikh, Hindi, Unitarian, Rastafarian, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Catholic, and Christian. I have friends who are Communist and attend Party meetings. I have friends who meet in clandestine places in order to worship. I have friends who have been jailed for their beliefs. Most of my friend's first language is not English.

I can tell what country a white man is from by his pants. I can tell what part of Africa a man is from by his skin tone and hair style. I know a French girl before she speaks. I know a South American by their tank tops. I've been chided by Europeans for America's medical care system, and told by Middle Eastern men that my country is ignorant and racist toward their kind. I've had classmates from all corners of the globe and have decided that being from America - a land of such comparative wealth and freedom - is a blessing not to be taken lightly. (can't choose where you are born!)

I've been mentored by two amazing women, one Malaysian, one South African, one of which is now in America attending seminary and one who has passed away entirely too soon. I've attended one African wedding and three C.hinese weddings. One of which I gave a speech in Chi.nese and acted as the lone bridesmaid.

I've had four jobs that I love - university english teacher, private english tutor, hospital english teacher, and am now in my second year as an adjunct professor for the university that sent me here. Talk about full circle. I've had over 300 Chi.nese students and 50 American students. The orphan program is now entirely Chi.nese run and has exploded beyond my wildest dreams. Over 50 heart surgeries have been funded through local efforts. I have worked myself out of a job. I am not needed anymore, and that is a wonderful feeling. I could disappear tomorrow and the orphan work will continue regardless.

I've learned that hot water cures all ailments, sweaters should be worn when it is less than 80 degrees, sparkles and hairbows are perfectly ok and even expected during the day, and that wearing your clothes for more than one day in a row is normal. I say, "maybe" too often, grunt, "mmmm" at people instead of saying "ok," and have learned how to cross traffic without having a heart attack. I know to get on the bus with my elbows out and that 24 hour hot water is a luxury, as is a soft mattress, air condition, and central heating.

I've made so many mistakes. I've let people down. I've not held up my end of bargains. I've had freak outs, allowed fear to grab hold of me, and not emailed or called people back in time. I've cried. Oh, how I've cried. You could fill a river with the tears of the past four years. (not pretty). I've been harrassed by a teacher and thrown my passport at the international laison of my university. (not my proudest moment). I've fought the office to change my major (something not common in Ch.ina) and won after shouting, "I can do hard things!" at a dean. I cuss more than I used to and I am worried that my newly enlarged temper might follow me back to the States one day. I am already planning on re-entry counseling because it is going to be necessary.

These past four years have been wild. I have no idea what two more years in Ch.ina will hold. One thing's for sure, I will be different then than I am now. Hallelujah. With more trials, challenges, joys, and triumphs comes more chances to grow.

I have decided that my 20's are dedicated to Ch.ina. These are the years in which I am making my most exotic stories (gosh, I hope). There will be a season for settledness, for marriage, a family, a yard, bills. But for me, those things come after a season of discovery, travel, intercultural relationships, and faith building. All in due time. Or so they say.

There really is only one thing I know for sure - and it's at the end of my life when I stand at the pearly gates, the Big Man is going to say to me, "Well wasn't that one heck of a ride? Come on in and see your friends who are already here. We'll hang out until your other friends arrive." And it will all have been worth it.

It's been four incredible years. I am so thankful and undeserving of the provision, safety, and blessings I've experienced. I always wanted an interesting life. Careful what you wish for. ;)

Here's to another year, Chin.a.

Hip, Hip, Hooray.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 6, 2012

out of hiding.

After two days of hermit-ing it up in my room and chugging unkown Chin.ese herbs like my life depended on it, I am now feeling much better and venturing out into the world. Hallelujah. It's great to be alive and well. 

It's been a rainy few days, but that has only freshened up the air which is a nice change and brought cooler temps (80 instead of 102). I'll take it! 

HZ<3 td="td">

I love weeping willows. 

Yesterday I rode the bus all around town searching for teacher clothes but the only foreign things are way too expensive or not teacher-y enough. I have visions of cute button downs, pencil skirts and pumps but alas none of that exists here in sparkle, tacky, fun-sized world. (where's a Target when you need it? waaaaaa).

I did, however, lust after this girl's gold sparkle bag enough to take a stalker pick while riding the bus. I love your bag, stranger girl!


A friend and I got our nails done and I told my nail girl I wanted a, "teacher color," because I couldn't decide. I ended up with a nice gray. I'll take it.

fit for a teacher. 

I was able to get Mushu some imported ear drops and he hates me for it. Little does he know those drops he hates so much are going to heal his little furry ears. He is currently ignoring me which is not going so well considering we live in a dorm room. Silly cat full of catitude. (After I typed this, he came and sat by me on my desk. I guess catitude has its limits and my furry friend is back).

sweet baby cat.

And when not jaunting around in the rain or answering a million emails, I have been reading fascinating materials on medical things I have no idea about. The hospital told me they would pay me extra for editing these articles and then when I was paid today after english class, there was no extra money. This has happened twice when I was asked to edit, told I would be paid more, and then not paid. I'm not sure if I will say something to my boss or not. Being taken advantage of is not new around here, and I never know when to speak up and when to just say, "Who cares. It's not worth the struggle. I helped someone. I'm not dying for the extra $30."

But $30 could buy me a sparkle bag....hmmm....should I say something? I'm so bad at this.

coronary artery lesions. cool? 

Things are good. Normal. Great. Healthy.

Thank goodness. Onward we go.

walk slow. xoxo.

Sep 2, 2012

olive oil and cold remedies.

It was a gorgeous moon a few nights ago as I made my way to the outskirts of town to see Batman with a few friends. Things like stars, the moon, and the sun are commodities around here so I especially enjoyed being shined down upon by the glowing moon. 

There are only a certain number of foreign movies allowed into Ch.ina each year, so I try to make it to see the big ones and feel like I am doing my American duty to stay somewhat in tune with pop culture.

Movies here are just as expensive, if not more, as back home (I paid $13 bucks for my ticket). And you are assigned seats. I like having assigned seats at the movies. It makes things simple.

Unfortunately, since Friday night I have become incredibly ill. Bad timing with the start of the semester, but good timing I guess because I do not have classes yet and my work has not kicked into full gear - it is still on-line focused for another week or so. 

I am not sure how the head cold, body shakes, feverish-ness got me as I have been eating healthy, taking my vitamins, resting enough, exercising, and drinking water. How did these germs get me!? Ugh.  

My dear friend Natasha today brought me some Chi.nese medicinal tea for head colds and I've been hoping that tomorrow I will feel better. I like that many Chi.nese medicines are tea-based. Ch.inese people hate taking pills as they are associated with Western meds. I have not ventured too far into Ch.inese medicine, as thankfully I've only gotten sick about once a year and have a life-time stash of Dayquil and Nyquil from the States. But I figured this tea couldn't hurt and I need to get better fast - why not a one/two punch of Dayquil and secrets! haha. The best of both worlds conquering my flu. 

The tea is delicious and sweet. And I have no idea what is in it. But I don't care.

My room is a den of sadness because not only am I hawking up a lung and sick as a dog, my baby cat has ear mites! I have been pouring olive oil in his ears as per a google search, but he hates me for this and his ears aren't getting better. I really hope I am well enough tomorrow to go searching for cat ear drops. Poor guy. I cried over his little inflamed ears yesterday. I can't imagine how it must be to be a mother of a human. I cry over my cat. haha. He is now sitting in my laundry bucket, with ears matted in imported olive oil, giving me the stink eye:

So that's all the excitement from my corner.
I'm off to drink some unknown tea.
Fingers crossed for health!

walk slow. xoxo.