Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Life?

This was written on 2/11/12.....

So....now I've been in China for a month. You still don't get to know
that yet. I'm trying to fix that!!! I want so much to share this with
you guys. I want to be able to look at the Internet like I'm used
to..................BUT! They moved me in with a host family. They
didn't give me my own place. So, the family already had the Internet.
I couldn't get the foreigner Internet. So, I have to come up with a
new plan.
I'm working on it.
I've been teaching for about two weeks now. But, this next week will
be the first time I meet all my classes. They aren't really my classes
though. I've been teaching a class on Tues/Sat that is a bunch of 8-11
year olds. Their teacher just had a baby. So, they have me until she
comes back in May.
My schedule looks something like this.........but, again, this next
week will be the first time I've done all of it-
Monday- Teach two hours of one teacher's class.
Tuesday- Read for an hour in the library (which I have been doing. And
it has been fun....for the most part). Then I teach two hours of the
class I have been teaching.
Wednesday- Off
Thursday- Read for an hour in the library.
Friday- Read for an hour in the library and then teach two hours of
another teacher's class. That is three different classes so
far........that is a lot of names to learn. LOL.
Saturday- Read for an hour in the morning. Do stuff in my office.
(They gave me an office with a pretty great view. Except today. It is
pretty windy and the dust has made the sky so thick and dirty
looking....I can't see the mountains as well. Then I teach two hours
of yet another class! Then lunch. Then a FOUR HOUR CLASS of the kids I
see on Tuesday. Yeah. Four hours of trying to get them to understand
me.
Sunday- Hour of library. 2 hour class (more names to learn). Afternoon
hour in the library.
WHEW! The past two weeks has been the library hours on the Tues/Sat class.
This is hard. It doesn't feel like real life or a new life. But, it
has only been a month. I should try to be more patient. But, I
honestly thought these kids would know a bit more English. And some of
them do!
But, to give you an example.....my lesson on Saturday was about
summaries. The book instructed me to teach them to summarize stories
like the one we had just read....and to create some other examples for
them to summarize.
Right. Cool. I mean, you would expect them to be able to communicate
some.....wouldn't you???
Most of them can't tell me what they had for breakfast.
So, this is harder than I thought. That's all.
The family they put me with is super nice! But, the mom and son don't
speak much English. And the nanny can only say 'hi' and 'bye-bye.'
There is only one other native English speaker teaching here. The rest
of the teachers are Chinese. So, I don't hear the English language
much anymore. :) But, I've learned a few more words in Chinese.
So....that is pretty cool!
I hope you all are well. I miss your faces. And your voices. :D

Year of the Dragon

This was written on 1/22/12...

What a celebration! And this is only day two! *sigh* I'm sorry you guys won't get to read these until long after it happened. SO ANNOYING!

But, anyway......yesterday was day one of the Spring Festival. The fireworks started going off at about 10am. They sound like gunfire. People can buy fireworks of any size and set them off just about anywhere.......including in between apartment buildings! That is a crazy sight. And......looks like a serious fire hazard. AND you get hit with debris when you're walking down the street. :)
At about 5pm the fireworks started getting REALLY LOUD. It sounded like a war broke out in the area. I can't even imagine what it sounds like in the big cities.
We went out at about 8pm. We stopped to buy fireworks and then stopped to watch various displays as we waited for a taxi. The fireworks are everywhere! In every direction there is something going on and the colors are all beautiful and vibrant.
We met up with a bunch of people at the Jinshan Temple and Park. My guide for the night was a girl named Nicole. She was there with her cousin (who didn't have an English name and I could never get his Chinese name right. I caused a lot of giggling.) Nicole instructed me on how to buy incense so that I could make my wish for the new year. All the bundles of incense seemed so big! But, I chose a sort of middle size and paid the man. He handed me two candles and the incense, which I took with my right hand. He grabbed them out of my hand and handed me the candles to the right and the incense to the left. I was confused.
We walked to an area in front of the first temple....there was a bonfire made out of the discarded incense and two tower things of candles. Nicole explained that you were to light your candles with the right hand and then use them to light the incense with the left hand. She said you had to hold the incense with the left hand because the right hand was used to kill the meat you eat. It wasn't holy or something.........I couldn't remember to keep it out of my right hand. So, I hope that doesn't mean I ruined my wish!
She told us that we had to bow three times in each direction. Starting with the east, then south...ending with the north. Each bow we needed to repeat our wish (or you could pray). She said that some people will do this all night. Just keep going in circles. But, since we were only wishing...and not praying....we only had to do it once.
So, I did! But, I'm not going to tell you what I wished for........
Then we threw our incense on the bonfire and went to a tower thing that is some kind of well. Nicole told me to try and throw a coin in and if I make it....make my wish again and rub the tower. So, did that....and then we walked into the first temple. Nicole told me to take off my hat and bow before Buddha three times and say a prayer.
"That's okay. Thank you. I don't have anything to pray for."
Cousin: "You must pray so that the Chinese god can forgive you."
"Forgive me for what?"
Cousin: "FOR NOT BEING CHINESE!"
So, I knelt down and said, "sorry I'm not Chinese. Happy New Year."
Then we walked into another temple and I became totally "interested" in what the monks were doing......to avoid more kneeling and more apologizing. I also didn't want to take my hat off again. I mean....people are already staring at me! Why give them hat hair? :D
Then we walked outside the temple and park grounds to light off fireworks galore!
It was such a fun night. I came home a bit earlier than everyone else......but, I'm also the "old" one in the group. LOL. Well, I am about 10 years older than everyone.......but that isn't why I came home. I don't have the money (or the desire) to be in a bar until 3 or 4am. Does that make me old? Smarter with my money? Normal? Who knows.......
This morning the fireworks started just after 7am. They have calmed down now, but I bet after people are done eating lunch....BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

So.....

This was written on 1/18/12...

People stop and stare. They stop in the middle of the street and sometimes point at me. Sometimes it is funny. Especially when I'm walking around the city with Nick. The girls here will stop and sometimes run into things while staring at him. He told me that he caused an accident once.
My favorite is the confused look from the men....like they can't decide what I am. And my favorite from the women- this has happened twice....women will stop and put a protective hand on their child while watching me walk by. LOL! What am I going to do to the children? Seriously. So funny.
And, I'll admit, slightly unnerving. Hee hee.

FOOD! Food! food!

This was written on 1/18/12...

The first thing they fed me in China: McDonald's. The second thing they fed me in China: Rice and chicken. The third thing they fed me in China: McDonald's. So.........EW. I've now had McDonald's in the US, Paris, Shanghai, and Zhenjiang........and I've decided that it is GROSS ALL OVER THE WORLD. :)
They fed us so much on the plane and then McDonald's twice on day two....I was still full on day three and had a piece of bread. Literally. I couldn't even think about eating. I felt like I was going to explode.
So, on day four.....Nick took me to get something to eat. I had pork curry. It just about blew my mind. People told me that the food here would be different than I'm used to...........and they weren't kidding. It is lighter, flavor punches you in the face, and it all seems so simple. Fantastic and simple.
But, everything here is dirty. So, I do miss that about Chinese restaurants at home. They look like they get cleaned.......
Then, day five, Nick and I went to meet up with a teacher that was visiting from another city. We stopped for lunch at a hole in the wall type place. I had a plate of white rice covered in fried eggs and tomato chunks. SO GOOD. You guys, SO GOOD!
Zhenjiang is famous for black vinegar......it is pretty tasty. :) It goes great on rice and eggs.
That night........that night......something horrible happened. I ate my first weird thing. I don't really want to talk about it. I can't even type this without remembering how much I wanted to throw up. LOL.
I'll just give you the list of foods I ate. You can decide which one made me want to hurl.
Ready?
Tofu Skin, Potatoes, Something that sort of looked like cucumber, Duck Blood, Boiled Bread, Ginger, and Seaweed.

Well, two of those things made my tummy angry...........but, only one of them made my tummy REALLY ANGRY. I'm sure you can guess which.....now I'm done talking about it.
Today (January 18th) I had a bowl of noodles from a side of the road type place. Like....they boil the noodles in a big thing on the side of the road. ADVENTURE!

I don't know when you guys will get to read this.....hopefully just after the first of February. By then...I will probably have more food to talk about. :)

Leaving America

This was written on 1/18/12...

I got to LA on Monday night. It was the 9th of January. Lorrisa picked me up at the airport...we didn't get very far before we had to turn around and go back to the airport and pick up another friend. :)
Then Lorissa took me over to IO West. I got to watch Tilt play! It was a great night.
On Tuesday, Tiffani took me over the Chinese Consulate to turn in my paper work for my visa. TALK ABOUT CUTTING IT CLOSE! Man, that whole visa thing was freaking me out. But, when we actually got to the consulate, it was a pretty simple process. They took my passport and my papers and asked me when I was coming back. I said tomorrow....she filled out a form and told me to bring it back tomorrow and pay.
THEN............WE WENT TO DISNEYLAND! Greg met us there. Magic. Magic. Magic. Magic. What a great way to say goodbye to America. My favorite place....some of my favorite people!
We had such a good day! The World of Color show is AMAZING! You guys......please go, if you haven't. AMAZING.
Then, on Wednesday, Joey came to get me. He took me back to the consulate to get my visa. SEE?!?! Some of my favorite people live in California. :) It was so good to see Joey. We had a great Greek lunch. Then we just hung out. Just talked. Laughed. Good times.
That night I HAD MY LAST BURRITO. Oh, sad day. LOL. I shall miss the burrito something fierce. Tiffani, Lorissa and I went to eat. It was lovely. I'm very grateful for my fantastic friends. You guys are all amazing. I hope you know that.....

K. So, Thursday came. It was time to go. *sigh* Tiffani took me to the airport on Thursday morning. I'll make this part short. It was a 14 hour flight. That is a looooooooong time. :) But, the funny part was.......I knew someone on the flight! Rob, a guy I went to church with for a while in Texas (Chase Oaks), was on the flight! He was going to Shanghai to visit his girlfriend. That was a nice surprise.
I arrived in Shanghai on Friday at about 8pm. Not a nice surprise= No one was there to get me. After about an hour.....I started to panic. I turned on my Blackberry, PRAYING, that it would still work. (I had called in California and shut off my service). They hadn't shut it off yet......so, my email still worked. I had an email from Shirley asking what time I arrived on Sunday. I don't know why, but she didn't think I was getting in until Sunday. I responded and told her I had been at the airport for about an hour. LUCKILY, she was sitting next to her computer. She and I emailed back and forth until we made a plan. She reserved me a hotel room in Shanghai. I took a cab there. My first night in China was not awesome. It was a pretty creepy hotel.
A girl named Vanessa came to get me the next day. We took the train to Zhenjiang.
Then...another not so nice surprise: I was told I was staying in Zhenjiang until the end of the month. I will arrive in my "home" city on the 30th. (You guys probably won't read this until after the 30th.....cause blogger doesn't work over here. I have to get a special kind of Internet)
So, I'm staying in an apartment with a teacher from England and a teacher from Scotland. Nick and Terri. They are awesome. This apartment is not. LOL. Everything is broken. But, technically, they said they would provide housing.....it doesn't say how great the housing is......*sigh*
I keep reminding myself that I signed up for this on purpose. LOL.
So, I'm here.