Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bucket List

Nothing really exciting is going on in my life.  I only have had one eventful thing in the last week that's even worth documenting.  I'll get to that in a minute.

Water came back on today.  WOO!  I only went 1 day without it, but I've been spending a lot of time at the dance studio, so coming back and having no water = not the best situation.  We're good for now though.  Speaking of dance studio, I've spent about 6-7 hours there this week and it's only Friday.  It's about time I get back in shape.  Seeing myself 'try' to 'dance' is pretty embarrassing right now.  Flexibility has gone downhill, strength is non existent, balance is awful.  I'm not even letting myself actually dance until I think I'm ready for it.  It might be a while.  Sometimes the owner, who lives above the studio, comes down and just watches me for a while and gives me a thumbs up occasionally.  He's an older man and pretty nice.  I just hate when people watch me attempt things I don't feel good enough at.  Then I tapped for a bit and some other man told me he wanted to go take a nap so I packed it up for the day.

Visa stuff is still incomplete.  I'm so ready for this to be done with and no longer an issue.  Maybe before August it'll all get settled.   If not, I'm leaving.  [I'm coming home then no matter what.  That's supposed to be a joke in case you didn't get that.]  Yesterday I went to have some part of the process taken care of and then went back to my boss's house for lunch.  His wife was cooking a traditional Hunan meal.  She's always working when I go over so it was nice to see her.  My boss had a friend from KM over too.  He was pretty funny.  Lunch was really good.  I love that Chinese meals are usually made up of 5-10 different dishes.  There's so much variety.  And none of this was too spicy which was nice.  We had moose (delicious), a turnip dish, other vegetables, some really incredible pork dish, a few other things and then... the stinky tofu.

-This is the highlight of my week.-

I have a bucket list for my time here and stinky tofu has been inconsistently on the list.  I take it off sometimes out of fear and then add it back on because I feel brave one day.  Well, we had it.  They all knew I was scared to try it so they watched me intently as I ate it.  Not bad.  I'd choose stinky tofu over yak butter tea any day!  This was prepared differently than the stuff they make on the streets.  It was in a bowl w/ sauce and wasn't fried.  It smelled bad if you put it up to your nose.  The street stuff reeks.  You can smell it from far away and it's nasty.  THAT is next on my list.   And we had some wine too.  I'm new to the wine world and this was a dry red wine... not my fave.  They toast A LOT in China.  I think in half an hour we toasted maybe 6 times.   That's much more than you ever seem to see in the states.

CHINA BUCKET LIST (in no specific order)
1. Watch a sunrise
2. Be a tourist for a day
3. Learn to make jiaozi (potstickers/dumplings)
4. Learn how to play mahjong 
5. Learn Chinese [I can speak some, but not as much as I'd like.]
6. Play Chinese jumprope in China
7. Have a whole outfit from China
8. Rent mopeds
9. Try stinky tofu
10. Learn to make baozi (steamed buns)
11. Watch someone I've lead, lead someone else [This one is in the process I think.]
12. Climb the mountain [It's an awful climb, but I want to do it again.]
13. Celebrate Chinese New Year in China
14. Participate in the Water Splashing Festival [This one happens in April.]
15. Send off a lantern during lantern festival [Sunday night hopefully.]

That's what I have for now.  I add things when they pop in my head, or after I've done them so I can keep track of the awesome things I get to do.

Lantern festival is on Sunday.  I'm going to my boss's in-law's house for dinner but I hope I get to make it to the lake that night to see everyone setting off their lanterns.  I have high expectations for this event. I hope it measures up.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Beautiful Things

Things are on the up I think.  No more tears for now.  I'm feeling more rested which helps me see things positively.  Sleep makes the biggest difference for me here.  No sleep leads to severe culture shock.   But when I'm rested, everything seems fine and dandy.  I understand the importance of sleep and I have plenty of time to do just that right now.

The other day I got to go to my 'sister's' house with some friends and a few other people.  I think there were 11 of us total.  She had sent me pictures of what things looked like and I couldn't wait to go.  The wild flowers are everywhere and the weather is just perfect.
We take this picture every time I go to her house.
She had so much family over visiting.  I hadn't been there since summer of 2011 and every time I had gone there it was just her and her parents.  To see it filled was fun.  We played games, one of which I'm pretty sure was a drinking game, but we used water.  She said it was mountain water, and of course I believe her, but I said many yarps over it hoping that I wouldn't spend the next few days with the 'China Slimfast' because of that decision. (I'm fine.  All good.)

We then went wandering around town for maybe 2 hours.  We walked down to the lake, to her elementary school, through tea fields, and back to her house where we had dinner before heading back to town.

Titanic re-enactment.

Tea field.

It was a lovely day.  I did get a massive sunburn though, like beautiful dark red on my chest.  First sunburn of the year: check.  Lesson learned: at 6,000 ft, in the bright sun, sunscreen is a must and not just a good idea.

And then today I decided I needed to leave my apartment.  I hadn't left in 2 days.  I know that sounds depressing/crazy/pathetic/lazy.  It is.  So I got out this morning.  The town is alive again!  Partially.  Half of the stores are open, people are out, it feels so good.  The new grocery store in town is open.  There's one just like it but it's further away and up a lot of hills.  This one is much closer, brand new, and beautiful!  I rode past it and then decided to turn around and check it out.  I may have teared up like I was stepping into Target for the first time in 7 months.  I'm so happy!  I didn't spend too much time checking out what they had.  I sort of assume it's the same as the other one, which I'm somewhat familiar with.  I rushed myself mostly out of fear that my beautiful fashion bike would get stolen.  I was so excited that I almost didn't care if it got stolen though.  Haha.  It's fine though.  The only downside to today is that my favorite milk tea place wasn't open :(

Lesson planning and movies are on my list for today.  I'm finding my little things to keep this place beautiful to me, and it's never very hard to do that.  Two more weeks until school starts again and my lesson planning should be 100% done by that time!  Feeling good!!!

Happy Saturday everyone :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chinese New Year

Xin nian kuai le

It has begun (and it is NOT over yet).

The 2 week long celebration is going.  It's not as crazy as I expected it to be.  I do hear fireworks every single night.  Sometimes at 4 in the morning.  People are still with their families.  Stores are still closed. 10 more days until we close it out w/ the Lantern Festival.  I am beyond anxious for that!!!!

I spent Spring Festival with my friend and her family again.  Her daughter and niece know me and they are just adorable.  They did the whole entire Gangnam Style dance for me, we played house, played games.  They're just fun to be around.

Her family made a big dinner (of course).  Chinese custom is to set off firecrackers before your dinner so from 4pm on, there were firecrackers going off everywhere.  It was sort of awesome.  Another custom is to pay respects to your ancestors.  They have their pictures and they put food in front of it, do some rituals, and burn these little boats they make while throwing fake 100 RMB bills on the fire.  I asked my friend if it was a Buddhist custom and she said no.  I thought that was interesting.

Dinner was delicious, as always, and then it was up to the rooftop (after some games with the girls) to light off our own fireworks.  Everywhere you looked there were fireworks going off.  It was great.

We headed down to the lake which was now filled with people.  Fireworks were exploding right next to me and lanterns were being lifted up into the sky.  I loved every minute of it!  By about 9 I was ready to go back and get some sleep.  Fireworks went until at least 4 the next morning.  Ambien kept me asleep, but wore off at 4.  I've been sleeping fine since then.  Somehow they don't bother me once I'm asleep.

The next morning I rode my bike around to see what was going on around town and if anywhere was worth walking around with my camera.  The stares were incredible.  White girl in town during Spring Festival?  Welcome to my life.  The park in town was loaded with people.  Found my spot!  I took my bike back and walked over.  I spent about 2 hours just moseying around, taking pictures.  There was a lot going on.  It was fun.

 Ok so this park has rides in it.  This one, I want to go on!  It's like China's version of Splash Mountain. So I decided to take a few pictures.  I see this one car coming down, making its splash and as the water fades, I see this old woman with the biggest smile on her face.  That moment made my whole day.  Look at her!  How cute is she?

Since then things have been more mellow.  I think things will get a bit crazier at the end again.  I hope so at least.  This 80 degree weather makes it easy for me to get out during the day, and the cold at night makes me want to sleep for ever.  It's a pretty sweet balance.  I'm feeling the jet lag a bit, but I have plenty of time to rest and I'm trying to be somewhat productive with the time I have.

That's all for my New Year festivities.

Friday, February 8, 2013

(Chinese) New Year's Eve

Another post?  Yup.

What an interesting start to Part 2 of this crazy adventure.

It took 3 flights to get back to LC.  The first 2, fine, great, dandy.  The transition between the 2nd and 3rd almost gave me a heart attack.  BUT it was an incredible way to get focused again (I'll explain).  I landed in KM and had an hour to get 2 bags, check in again and get to my gate.  Usually they take us on a bus out to the plane so I was assuming I had even less time because I couldn't miss that part.  Baggage claim sucks!  It really takes forever and it tests the small amount of patience that I do have.  The yarping began.  Intensely.

Let's start at 3.

By 3:15 I had my bags (miracle #1).

There was another customs check point thing and people's bags had to be scanned.  The lady just waved me through and I didn't have to check my bags, or I misunderstood and just ran through illegally (miracle #2).

I speed-walked(?) like an idiot up to the counter - the wrong one because the sign lied to me.  Ran to the correct one and had a line to wait in.  Chinese time!  I told the group of girls in front of me that I had 30 minutes to go to my city.  It was a terrible attempt at decent Chinese but they understood and let me jump ahead (miracle #3).

I had 2 bags to check, but am allowed 1.  They told me the fee for another and I was completely ok w/ having to do that.  But wait!  Problem.  This man who worked there ran me to another place and I was supposed to check my bag because I had hairspray in there, but he just said it wasn't a problem and so we sprinted back (miracle #4)

But I still had to pay, so we ran to another counter where this guy took his sweet time.  The guy who took me there kept looking at his watch and telling me not to worry, but I could tell he was a bit worried for me.  Finally, I get things paid, I run back to the first woman, get my passport from her and then run to the security line.  Another roadblock.

[This was all preparation for the Amazing Race.  Now I want to do it more than ever.]

I had a short line and made it through security in probably 2 minutes.  When I realized how far away my gate was though, I panicked.  I started running with my laptop still in hand.  I didn't have time to put it back in my bag.  I'm out of shape, tired, and not at sea level anymore.  Running made me want to throw up.  I saw one of those golf cart things and asked the guy to take me to my gate.  [Time update: It's about 3:40 by this point.  The exact time my flight started boarding.  I'm panicking.]  Another couple was already on the cart so he took them first and I'm thinking that this moment would be what made me miss my flight.  Had I missed it, I would have had to get into KM and find a hotel for the night, get back in the morning, and attempt to make it on the morning flight.  He gets me to my gate, but no one is there except for one worker.  She tells me it's a different gate.  The guy takes me there (3:45) and drops me off.  I had to run down an escalator and a few gates away until I reached mine where everyone was lined up to get on the plane.

My ticket gets scanned and I'm walking onto the plane w/ tears in my eyes.  The stress was over and I realized that I wasn't even back 'home' yet and I'd already seen the Father provide for me in a sort of big way.  My friend and her husband and daughter were waiting for me when I arrived.  I went to their house for dinner and then came back to my apartment, showered, unpacked and slept.

To be honest, yesterday was difficult.  I think I cried on every plane I got on.  Leaving home this time was easier and harder all at the same time.  I know what I'm doing these next 6 months.  I know when I'm coming home.  But I know how much I'm coming home to and how much I'm missing.  I have some big stuff going on and not being there for a lot of it is hard.  I'm trying to keep my mind on my 'no bad days' principle and it's helping.  Today I decided to venture out and hope that a grocery store was open so I could stock up on some produce before the city shuts down.  This city is dead.  On a street w/ about 30 stores, maybe 4 of them are open.  Banks are closed.  Streets are empty.  It's just dead here.  It's peaceful and gives me time to transition back w/out being overwhelmed, but it's not the same city I left.
Campus is empty.  It's so quiet.  
Normally this place is filled w/ food vendors and students.
2 restaurants and 1 convenient store were the only things open.
Something is being set up for tonight I'm guessing.  I hope I get to go check it out.

I'm pretty sure these are the fireworks for tonight.  If you look at the left you can see they go around the corner too.  
Awful selfie.  Yup.  It's like 80 degrees here in the sun.  It's HOT!  And I'm SUPER white.  AND I brought my flat iron so I have straight hair. WOO! Ok, I'm done.
Tonight is New Year's Eve so at midnight there should be a huge fireworks show at the lake (I saw the damage they plan on doing and it looks like it'll be intense).  The 2 week celebration officially kicks off tomorrow.  Fireworks, firecrackers, good food, relaxing.  I'm looking forward to it.   My friend is picking me up tonight for dinner with her family again.  Let's hope the jetlag doesn't kick in.  I'm feeling pretty tired right now but I don't have time for a nap.  Also, I'm waiting for the water guy to come by but it's been a while and he hasn't shown up.

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


It's over now.  My beautiful 3+ weeks in America have passed and I'm on my way back to China right now.  It couldn't have been a better trip home.  It was SO much more than I expected in a very, very good way.

I was welcomed home after 30 hours of traveling by my family & Evan.  It felt so weird to see them in person and not through a computer.  It kind of freaked me out for the first hour.  After that I was ok.  I had my moments with other things though.  Target gave me my first culture shock moment.  I teared up while holding 6 boxes of mac & cheese.  I had another moment at Walmart when I saw their chip aisle. The culture shock I thought I would have didn't happen.  It could have been that I prepared myself enough that I didn't feel it as much, but it was definitely not like I was expecting.  Driving happened on day 2 and thankfully that went very well.  

My awesome sister got me a ticket for the Color Vibe.  It was my first 5k.  I don't run.  It's not something I enjoy.  I thought I would die, but it was easy.  It helps when people are throwing colored powder at you the whole way.  

I got to have lunches & dinners with people, coffee dates, random run-ins.  I made a few trips out of town to go visit people.  Had a few opportunities to speak in clubs and show some pictures.  

Jet lag didn't hit me!  I think I was so excited that I was running on adrenaline for 3 weeks.  I probably averaged 6 hours of sleep a night.  Right now I feel exhausted.  Part of that is from the 15 hour flight I just had and the holding back tears because I hate saying goodbye.  I landed in HK at 5:30 this morning (China time) and it feels like it is exactly that.  My day is far from over though.  2 more flights and who knows what else.  Rest will come... eventually.

Bac to my trip though.  My family took a little trip to SF and went to the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Botanical Gardens across from that (all in Golden Gate Park).  We, or I, had never been there so that was nice.  [The weather when I was home was incredible.  It only rained once, and for the most part was beautiful with cloudless, blue skies.]

My mom's side of the family came over every Tuesday for family dinners.  It was such a great way to see all of them multiple times while I was home.  The second week, my sister and mom helped me make Chinese food.  It was pretty good.  There's something about Chinese food in China that is just so much better.  I made the same stuff there that I did at home, but it's better there, or here I guess.  I am excited for my morning street-side baozi and my random jiaozi stops.  Mmm-mmm.

I had my first wine tour & tasting also.  That was exciting!  We went to this massive castle.  It was gorgeous.  That day was one of my favorites at home.  Almost every day was great, but that one was a little better than most.

I spoke at a few 'clubs'.  That was fun.  I think I'm almost over my fear of public speaking.  Hopefully these next 6 months will cure it completely.

I wish I had more time to see people and do things, but the longer I stayed the more settled I became.  I really wish I got to spend more time at the studio though.  It felt so good to go back there.  I even got to teach!  I can't wait to spend lots of time there when I move back.  After saying goodbye I walk out and see this.  Then they ran to the other door and waved as I drove by.  I hate driving and trying not to cry.  It's a safety hazard.  That's what they do to me though.

It was a good trip home.   9 more hours (if things go as planned) and I'll be back in LC and up to who knows what.  I'd like it to be sleep, but it won't be.  I have my camera on me though, so I'm ready for adventures... then sleep.  My body feels so confused right now.  It's 4 pm at home, 8 am here and I kind of feel like it's 5 am and I never went to sleep.  I slept about 3/4 of the flight here.  It was off and on, but 7 of those hours I'd just wake up to change how I was sitting (yay for window seats!!!!!!!).  The man who threw up somewhere around me woke me up though.  THAT was not pleasant.

Chinese New Year kicks off on the 10th, but might be starting tonight for me.  My goal is to get rest, and go find adventures (in a safe way, don't worry).  There will be posts to come and I'm hoping plenty of pictures to accompany them.

Thank you so much to everyone who paused their lives to spend a little time with me.  For those that I didn't get to see, I'm sorry.  Once I get home, we'll make up for that.

Keep yarping for my next 2 flights please!  And that I adjust back ok.  (I'm a bit worried that culture shock might hit and I really don't want that to happen).