Oct 23, 2012

bodily fluids.

I know what you're thinking.

"So Jessica? How ya been?" 

Ok, maybe you're not thinking that, but I'm going to answer you anyways, fellow internet user. 

And I'll answer you in story form. Just for fun. 

Today I did not have to visit any students and was overwhelmed by the open day. I had lunch with a friend, sat in a coffee shop reading a text book on Confucian whatnots and then got really hungry and went across the street for some take-out dumplings. 

The day was gorgeous, the sky was blue, and I was wearing my favorite spandex capris. Fabulous. As I walked the mile home, I kept reaching into my cardboard dumpling box and grabbing the dumplings one by one. Each squishy, warm pocket of egg and tomato making my hunger disappear bit by bit and my mood rise even greater as my blood sugar levels returned to normal. 

I rounded the corner to my neighborhood as I shoved the last dumpling into my mouth and smiled to myself a little bit. I was full (slightly over-full), but it was a good contrast to the hunger I was experiencing 30 minutes before. 

Just as the last mooshy dumpling hit my stomach, I heard her doing it. 

I shouldn't have looked. 

But the 102 year old grandma blowing snot rockets out her nose into the shrubbery in plain site was unavoidable as I passed through my alley. 

For a split second I thought I could hold it together. 

But out they came. 

Every last dumpling. Onto the pavement. Some still even recognizable as dumplings. (I need to chew better, apparently). 

She stared at me while still leaning over the bushes, fingers pinching her nose.

I stared at her while leaning over with my hands on my knees, my face a mixture of laughter and disgust. 

After a few seconds, we both walked on in our seperate directions. Both having left our bodily fluids in the alleyway. 

This true story of my afternoon is a great analogy for how I handle being a long-term resident of Chi.na. Most of the time I can hold it together - sometimes though, you gotta let it out. Then keep on walking. 

So....how are you? 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 18, 2012

"thank you nuts" and other musings.

Is it me, or is this week/month/year/decade flyin' by? Holy moly. 

The winds outside are picking up speed and strength and I found myself thinking that it's time for the semi-annual clothing swap, where all my summer/fall clothes get packed away and winter clothes get preference in my small, dorm wardrobe. Say it ain't so!

Life's happenings are keeping up with the swift movement of the calendar. Here are some musings that have no rhyme or reason...

Mushu's obsession with the water machine has passed and his new obsession is my desk top candle that is lit most of the time I am home for an extended period. He sits on my desk staring and occassionally swatting and is even more mesmorized when the candle gets blown out and ceases to exist. I swear my cat is baby Einstein-bred. You can SEE the wheels of his little cat brain turning and thinking. What a smart baby cat booger. Love his furry face. 

kitty genius. 

Chinese lessons with my tutor are going well. Last week I mentioned to my mother that I was contemplating canceling my tutoring sessions because work is so busy that I have to meet at a different time each week and because it pains me to pay over 1/3 my monthly stiped on a 2hr a week class. But I know meeting with her is "working." I feel confident in my spoken Chi.nese fluency and my reading is (slowly, ever so slowly) improving. She's a magic, patient genius. So I'll keep trudging along, shelling out the red 100's like it ain't no thang.

Emma Laoshi. 

It was Michael's 'lunar birthday' a few nights ago, so we had cheesecake on top of our usual pasta dinner at his fave coffee shop. Look closure...what's on top of the cheesecake rounds?...

lunar birthday boy. 

Tomato. Of course. Tomato slices on cheesecake. Chin.ese chef's trying to be "Western" and failing.

that's just wrong. 

Michael's Macbook Air is pimped out 'Merica style. He told me I could get one of these for the low price of $15usd. Ha. Stars and Stripes forever!

Also in this pic, you can see the topics we discussed during dinner. We discussed the meaning of "ew" and "yuck" (in regards to my response to the tomato slices...). We discussed the need to say, "Bless you," after someone sneezes and, "Excuse me," when you sneeze yourself. We discussed the difference in "shipping cost," and "postage," and that the words, "guys," and "chicks," and when it is appropriate to use them. We discussed, "chiropractor," and "dermatologist," and "eczema." All the important stuff.

bone doctor.

Tonight at the hospital was more special than normal because it was the first lesson after the interviews to go to America. I asked my boss to let me know the final decision on who is going (10 out of 30 were chosen). But before she entered the room, I knew who was chosen by the cheesy grins on their faces. I am so proud to say that every one of my students who interviewed was chosen except for one (whose english level is low.) I am a proud momma duck. My baby ducks are flying the nest to the land of milk and honey (southern cali, haha).

It is now my job to make sure they know how to "play it cool," and don't freak out when they hear phrases they don't understand. I am upping the idiom lists and referring more to culture. Tonight's idioms included, "take it up a notch, above and beyond, and tackle an issue." I taught the phrase, "The best things in life are free," and they mis-interpreted "free" to mean "freedom" not 'no money.' I had to explain that I wasn't making a political statement, I was making a economical statement. Ha.

After class, all the people who were chosen to go to the USA wanted to chat. They were strategically waiting for me at different points of my walk to the bus stop. It was funny. One doctor was waiting for me on her e-bike outside the main hospital gate. I was with another doctor when she stopped me and said, "I have thank you nuts." "Excuse me?" I asked. And then she pulled a bag of candied walnuts from her purse and gave it to me. I put those walnuts in my bag with a sense of pride and joy and squeezed her 4 foot 10' self. I'm proud of my doctors and the fact that they think I'm any help at all is funny to me and also humbling. And you know what? Candied walnuts are good!

Good night from Chinaville.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 14, 2012

Happy Sunday.

My Shanghai-based boss and co-worker were in town this weekend for a seminar, training, and "field trip." 

It's been busy. 
I feel very much like an adult. 
I have taken account of my patience, crisis-management skills, and managerial skills and find them all to be elevated from the past but also eligible for upgrades. 

It was a good working weekend. And now the work week begins. Bah. 

There is a new hire coming onto our team (thus this weekend's training) and my work load will be decreased next semester by 1/3. This is a blessing because I currently work over 40 hours a week as a part time adjunct. (Thanks to Hangzhou's crap traffic and the location of my students and their schedules). My work load will go back down to around 25 hours a week and life will be more "do-able" for a ding-dong pretend adult like me. I took on an extra class this semester in order to help a co-worker and this has proven to be more than I can handle with a dissertation to write in Ch.inese. But everything works out and our new adjunct is great, so I am pleased with how life always works out. It really always does. 

Overall the weekend was a success and I was happy to have some "face-time" with my students and boss/co-workers. It's nice to be together as a team since I work independently from them here in HZ. Teams are so important. 

Anyways, because I am limiting my work discussions here in e-world, here are some pictures and captions from the weekend, mostly from today's lunch at the Longjing tea fields....enjoy...

Zhejiang University Xixi Campus

Green tea...

My co-worker and I stopped to take pictures of each other on our phones...

trekking through the fields to get to our restaurant...


then the boss lady brought out tea from three different picking times for my boss to sample and purchase...he is a tea connoisseur...

we sampled the three different teas and noticed the leaf shape and size (smaller is better)...

Longjing tea...Hangzhou's specialty...

riding the bus home...

I hope your weekend was wonderful. Happy Sunday.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 12, 2012

parking lots in DC: and other work musings.

'Jessica, are you going to be on time today?' my Ch.inese boss Helen asked me when I answered the phone this morning at 8am. 

'Um, yes, I am planning on it,' I said. Mentally checking to make sure that our meeting time truly was at 1:30pm and that I wasn't supposed to be there at 8am. 

'Ok, see you then!' she chirped before hanging up. 

Weird. I thought, and then dove head first into my morning of phone calls with my American co-workers. 

Today I felt the pressure of professionalism. And wondered yet again how I got these roles and when I will feel ready for them. (Though I have the hypothesis that no one ever feels completely competent...we're all just good pretenders...) 

One hour I was discussing logistics and navigating the ego mindfield of working with all middle aged males, the next hour I was sitting in a conference room in a children's hospital with some of the best physicians in Chi.na interviewing doctors for the opportunity to undergo a mentorship in California or Seattle. 

For one short moment I disengaged from my "professional Jessica" self and let out a half-giggle. What is my life? How did this happen? 

This afternoon we (me, the president of the hospital, and the director of something), interviewed 24 candidates for one of two partnerships at Seattle Children's Hospital or Loma Linda Hospital in So Cal. Every native Chin.ese person you meet who is going through overseas study or work programs has gone through an interview/testing process such as this one. I like being on this side. I think it will make me qualified to work on the "other side" in the future. 

I know that Dr. Luo spent his national day with his wife and 6 year old son memorizing his self-introduction. I know that Nurse Yun's parents don't think she should go abroad because she is not married and "will not be respected." I know that Dr. Wei's wife lives in another city anyways, so he doesn't care about being away from his family for two months. I know that in interviews in Ch.ina questions about your marital status, religion, politics, health, and if you have a child, can and will be asked and the answers will be used for or against you. I know that these interviews are necessary and that my opinion matters to the board, but that ultimately the people who are chosen are in good favor with the administration - regardless of how they perform. 

It's a different world here. And today I was "in charge" of the interviews for this year's crop of hopeful doctors. 

A few weeks ago I gave a lesson at the hospital on interviewing. I told the students that in America, their "soft skills" matter just as much as their medical talents. I told them that their ability to get along, to survive another culture, to try new things and be open to differences would determine whether they were successful in America - nut just how many cardio surgeries they can perform in a month. 

Today I not only got a good glimpse at the soft skills of these doctors but also received another culture lesson. 

Here are some snippets of the interviews: 

I asked a nurse who has been to America before what city was her favorite when she traveled the east. She replied, "Washington DC! It is the cultural center of the America! And there are so many parking lots! And the museums are free!" 

I asked a nurse how her colleagues would describe her and she answered, "so small and softly." 

I asked another nurse how her colleagues would describe her and she answered, "fat." 

I asked most of the doctors why I should choose them and not the other candidates. This is a difficult question for Chin.ese to answer because of the conforming nature of their education and society. Some answers I received were, "I am just a common man." "I cannot say I am different or better than the others." "I have nothing special only hard working." 

When I asked them what they thought would be the biggest challenge of living in America, 22 out of 24 replied, "the food." One replied, "Medical terminology English," and one replied, "Nothing."

Good times. Good times. I love my doctors. 

After a few hours of interviews, I gave my opinions, we discussed it all in Chi.nese, and then I posed with my ladies for a photo op... 

The hospital is near and dear to me. I don't know exactly what goes on in the bureaucracy of that place, but I am happy to be a small slice of the doctor's English and inter-cultural education. And they teach me by letting me observe it all first hand. 

There's no education like it. 

Boss Helen, Crazy teacher, Big Boss Annie

View from the 15th floor. 

Tomorrow is another "professional" day.


walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 11, 2012

workin' on my qi.

Today I met with my Chin.ese tutor, went to the gym, answered a thousand work emails, chatted with my boss on the phone, told some students to suck it up (not really, but kinda), met a friend for pizza, then we decided our day needed a little pizzaz...

Enter: blind massages and hot cupping. 

Next on the agenda, clean my bathroom mirror and do side crunches to work on those pesky love handles.

And by that I mean, watch Survivor on cbs.com while occasionally looking over my shoulder and admiring my newly acquired spots.

I love hot cupping. Hurts so good.

I also love listening to the dialogue while getting massaged.

another customer who came after we chatted and introduced everything about ourselves including marital status, weight, age, years in Ch.ina, that my hair is naturally red and curly, and salary (most of which I lie about)..."Where are they from?"

my massager: "They are from America."
customer: "How do you know?"
massager: "I am international. I can tell where people are from."
me: "giggle."
customer: "She understands us! She must understand us!"
me: silent.

...5 minutes later...

customer: "Their hair must be dyed." (my friend also has auburn hair)
massager: "It's natural. It is deep yellow like all Americans."
customer: "Oh."
me: silent.

We turned an average Thursday into a fun one.
Hope yours is good, too.
With or without detoxifying your qi or dying your naturally deep yellow hair.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 10, 2012

another 14 hour day. literally.

Another day in my professor persona...

full-burqa'd classmate taking a snooze next to me.

Zhejiang University of Science and Tech.

half African students half Chinese students. voluntarily segregated.

foreign teacher dinner. 

Sun up to sun down.
Every day I'm hustlin'.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 9, 2012

candy corn and taco seasoning.

Today was special. 

I woke up at the butt-crack-of-dawn and got a 7-something am train to Shanghai to meet up with one of my BFFs mom! My friend Ellie's mom is in town for a tour and had a free day to spend with me. I was so excited to go meet her. 

G train. Hangzhou - Shanghai

I met the group of 4 at their hotel and then we ventured to a temple in the middle of the city...

Jing An Temple

It's so fun to watch people experience Chi.na for the first time. I found myself saying things like, "Ch.ina is so special..." and "In my city we...." haha. They were gracious to put up with my motor mouth and energy.

teach 'em young

After a stroll through the French Concession, we made our way to the Pearl Tower for a delicious noodle lunch and a trip to the viewing deck! I had never been up the pearl tower and was so excited. I kept thanking them for my "staycation."


The views were cool.


170km from home! ha.


The Huangpu River. Overlooking the "Bund" area....

view from Pudong

I was only brave enough to take a few steps out on the glass platform! Kicking myself now for not laying down and getting a cool pic! Next time...

that's a long way down. 

We traveled back to their hotel via subway (they are real travel troupers) and was gifted a bag of goodies from "Merica! I kept trying to pay her, but Ellie's mom was so generous and insisted I take the gifts.

me and momma!

I got: razors, face wash, books(!!!), taco seasoning, candy corn, Crystal Light packets, and a bunch of Estee Lauder samples (lipstick!) It was like Christmas! I'm really feeling spoiled since my mom came last June, then sent me another large package, and now this personally delivered package. I may never move back to America if people keep sending me things! (haha, jk).  

Most things are available here in some form (face wash and razors, for example), but I still hold onto a few of my American brands for quality purposes. And things like lipstick and candy are a treat that make a day a little sweeter. Tomorrow when I am on the bus to work, I will pop a Crystal Light into my bottle of water and be reminded of Ellie's mom's kindness, and Publix, and America, and all things good and wonderful and convenient. :) ha. 

my goodies.

What a special day. It's like my Ellie friend was here, only not.

Thank you, Ellie and Momma! First and foremost for spending the day with me and hanging out, and also for the sweet gifts.

I have great friends. Near and far.

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 8, 2012


Someone send me a sticker! 

I voted today! (via absentee ballot for the second time...wow...)

My absentee ballot popped into my email inbox last week all the way from suburban Florida and this morning I faxed it into my neighborhood precinct thousands of miles away. Easy as pie. 

The lady at the copy shop where I paid 10 cents to vote asked me what I was doing. 

"Making my choice for America's president." 

"This is voting?" 

"Yes, this is voting. You see? I mark this name or this name and then sign it. I can make my choice and hope for the best." 

"How do you know the best choice?" 

"I don't, but I do research and choose because of what is important to me. I just hope for the best." 

"Oh. Americans. So many choices! How burdensome!" 


And then I went and bought a coffee to celebrate the freedom to vote as a young woman living in a Comm country. I'm thankful to live in this day and age. I am thankful for my country. 

If you have the freedom to, vote in November. And hope for the best. It's your right. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Oct 5, 2012


It's been a whirlwind last week. 

It is National Holiday week (or "Golden Week) in Chi.na. I don't have off work since my job is based in the good ol' USA, but my classes were canceled and most of my American students are traveling so the work load is light(er). It feels strange to not be traveling - strange to rather have a quiet week at home instead of braving the crowds. I think this is a sign of age. Or poorness. Or something. 

I've reached a point in my Ch.ina journey where I feel like I've "seen it all" and would rather be surrounded by my people in my home city. 

I've got great people. Really, really great people. 

Here's a glimpse of my past week in pictures....

workin' it...

Sophie's first time making pizza! Yemi rented a fancy hotel with an oven for her birthday and we made tortilla pizzas!

Happy Bday Yemster!

With some past students at a work function in Shanghai...

Blue skies in Shanghai!

Shanghai train station madness...

view overlooking Hangzhou from a tea house for a Chin.ese grandpa's birthday...

Birthday feast...

Yemi's boyfriend's grandpa wanted foreigners at his birthday celebration. I fit the bill...

Just one of the family...

So. Many. Tourists. In. Hangzhou. For the holiday...Ahhhhh....

Tea with my BFF who leaves for America (for two years!) next month...I may have to go into mourning...not sure how I am going to survive...can't talk about it...

Dinner to celebrate Rachel's parents visiting (not pictured)...

Four years ago when I moved here I never would have thought I would feel this at home in this strange land. But I guess it really is the people that count. Wherever you are. 

walk slow. xoxo.