Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've always been surprised that I was drawn to China. I have been known to breeze past Asian-inspired food, history, art, decor etc...even when I knew that I'd be coming here, I was quickly bored when Mom wanted to linger in the Asian Art wing of the Met during our NYC vacation. I worried when I arrived about how I would decorate my apartment using only Chinese prints and fabrics.
After trips to both the massive Three Gorges and now to the karst scenery of Yangshuo, that boredom has passed. When you see the limestone peaks that protrude straight up out of the ground with no warning, you know that only Chinese art can come close to capturing the grandeur. I am hesitant to post pictures because they simply will not do the scenery justice.

Seeing the peaks reminded me of the earthquake scene from The Land Before Time, when cliffs spike forth out of the ground to the sound of cymbal crashes and screeching violins. I don't quite remember much of the film, but looking at Yangshuo, I felt sure that something like that must have happened here.

There were several moments of awe and wonder that struck Fawn and I--both relatively measured and even cynical girls--during our trip. The first occurred sometime between 5 and 7:30 Thursday morning, as we rode the bus from Guilin to Yangshuo. The sun began to lighten the sky slowly until, glancing out the window, we could see the peaks set in dark against the sky. Is was as if, boom!, we were in another world. The previous one of Wuhan haze and industrial filth and cramming and tight trains and cigarette smoke melted away and this new one was edged with green topped cliffs and clear rivers and warm sunshine.

The second major "wow" moment came on the Yu Long River. We floated through the scenery filmed in the movie The Painted Veil and that also appears on the back of China's 20 yuan bill. All of a sudden, a collective gasp went up from the boat. I hate to admit it, but I think that I may have grabbed Fawn's hand in my rapturous state. There, as we rounded a bend in the river, was a massive yellow moon emerging from behind one of the peaks. It was still low and heavy in the sky and looked close enough to touch from the pinnacle of the nearest peak. We shot pictures but none of them show the awesomeness of that moon. I've never seen it that large--it inspired me to do a quick Google to see if the moon is actually larger in China. I never did find out, but for now, I'm saying that it is!

As for the rest of the week, we perfected our bargaining skills on Xie Jie, the main strip of Yangshuo that overflows with kitschy Chinese souvenirs; we enjoyed relatively well-done Western Food, including hamburgers, pizza and the best Sunday brunch that I've had in a long time; we made friends with travelers from Beijing, Greece, Scotland, Germany and Canada; we rented bikes and rode through "Faamas Weeliges" (we pronounce them as Farmers' Villages") and climbed mountains, even following the footsteps of our "king" Richard Nixon, who visited here on his historic journey to the East; we burned permanent memories of our time in China into our wrists (just wait for pictures!); we shared our overly analytical observations of life and people and ourselves with each other; we took naps and slept in; we posed for the obligatory photos with Chinese children and middle-aged men; we met Fawn's incredible friend John who works in an orphanage here; we ate some more; shopped some more; and had a great, relaxing time.

Fawn is leaving for America in less than two weeks and I can't really express how bummed I am about that. She was a perfect traveling mate--smart and obsessed with figuring people out, incredibly hilarious, a ham in front of the camera, filled with spiritual depth and intuition, and just one of those really fun and spirited people who are perfect to spend a full day, or several full days, with. We're hoping that she'll return to China in a semester or two...but we'll have to see what His plans end up being for her, so I'm trying not to pout or try too hard to persuade her to stay. For now, I'm going to miss having a travel buddy who I know I'm compatible with.

I'll post photos as soon as Fawn and I do the exchange--and hopefully will even have video coverage for the true fans out there. Coming Soon! If you click on Fawn's blog--she'll probably have her account posted pretty soon--so you can read her version of the week! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Running from Thanksgiving

There are things that we don't do here. We don't talk about the food that we miss. We don't reminisce over family traditions, our favorite ways to relax on a Sunday afternoon or the best place to find a wide open highway to speed down in your car. Ok...by "we," I mean "I."

It's just a mistake. You start thinking about home--and before you know it, you're crying in a McDonalds as you order a Big Mac (hasn't happened to me yet--but could). Instead, you focus on life NOW, here, in China. And life here is fabulous. It's magical. It's new. It's vibrant. It's thrilling!

And then Thanksgiving comes and smacks you in the face. Everyone at home is preparing for time with family, great food and the comfort of yearly/generational traditions. And suddenly it's a little harder to remember how much I love it here. And suddenly I feel that maybe my family needs me to be home. And suddenly I miss turkey--and my family doesn't even EAT turkey on Thanksgiving--we don't like it that much, so we grill steaks instead!

So--I'm practicing the age old avoidance tactic of denial! Fawn and I are leaving tomorrow afternoon for Yangshuo, where we will spend 4 days among the stunning limestone karst peaks and rice fields along the Li River. Yangshuo is an international backpacking colony near Guilin (it's in the South of China--so it should be fairly warmish). We will live fabulous lives in China and completely forget all that we are missing at home. There are plenty of foreigners gathering in Wuhan to celebrate Thanksgiving together, but I think that since nothing can compare to real home, we might as well make use of the time off from teaching (our schools give us Tgiving and Friday off in deference to our culture).

I'll be sure to take plenty of pics to share when I return! If you want to get an idea of what we'll be seeing, type "yangshuo" into Google Image Search and feel incredibly jealous of me while you eat turkey and watch the Cowboys. I love you all! Happy Thanksgiving!

Until my next post, here are some pics from the past month or so for your enjoyment!

A student gave me these slippers and I wear them almost everyday now--the apt floors get really cold!

"Here, feel it kick.."

Just kidding--the backpack is filled with all those sweet potatoes for the mashed sweet potatoes that Fawn and I made for our last Wuhani gathering.

Me and the D's (one of my PhD classes--we spent a Saturday afternoon touring a bunch of empty buildings--it was when I got to know many of them)

"I've got JOY like a fountain" with Adam on a Tuesday evening Celebration meeting

Ok--these pics will need an explanation! One afternoon, Adam, Jeremy and I were invited to go to a National Day Celebration with the Governor of the Hubei Province. On the way--I was informed that I'd be receiving an award! A former teacher of our university was being honored, but since she had already left the country, I accepted the award on her behalf.

I've been here 2 months and already have been honored by the Governor.

"I'd like to thank the Academy..."

From Honors to Lizards:

This darling creature was IN MY APARTMENT! I'm not even going to try to be cool about this--I freaked out. I live on the 5th floor! How did a lizard/newt/salamander get into my apartment??? I screamed when I saw it and Adam, man that he is, stomped on the thing. It was awful--his first stomp didn't do the job (man that he is)--so he had to keep stomping to put it out of its misery. Hopefully, no animal rights activists are reading right now! To be fair, I may have yelled for Adam to kill it---but seriously, a girl can't be held responsible for her shrieks when there are lizards in her apartment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Descriptive Paragraphs

My English Writing class was assigned two paragraphs a few weeks ago. They were to pick one object and write an objective description with one paragraph--using facts only. Then they were to write a subjective description of that object--sharing how they feel about the object, memories, associations etc...

These didn't really follow the directions, but I thought they were beautiful anyway. I have a few poets in my class--it's a shame that our activities have nothing to do with creative writing. I'm supposed to prepare them to write academic/professional articles for publication in scientific/agricultural journals. But still, the poets work their way into the class, it seems. Here you go (typed in original grammar):


As we know, monkey should live in the forests, but I saw it in the street. It was a small ,brown and ferocious monkey. There was a rope tied around its neck. Many people were playing with it . They gave it a bottle of water but the bottle’s cap was shut tightly . The monkey wanted to drink, however couldn’t get. So he shouted and jumped , and the around people were laughing aloud.
Saw it. I think the monkey is lovely but pitiful. It’s only a toy of the people and a tool of making monkey. They had lost their natural personality. That says the monkeys are no longer monkeys.

A landscape painting

There was a landscape painting in my bedroom and it was a beautiful picture. Mountains, sea and sky made up into a fresh scene. The painting was full of blue and green colour. Of course, that’s the colour of life. So many sea gulls circled in the air, and it looked as if they were enjoyed liberty.
If I was the gull, good feeling would come out soon. As opened my eyes slowly and looked around, I had noticed where the light come into my room. After then listened carfully to see if there were any new sounds surroundding me. Suddently, I filled with my body and sensed the freshess in the air. Yes, it’s a bright day ,and also it’s a new beginning for my life.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Odds and Ends

Many apologies for the delay in posting--sometimes it's just the day-to-day and more important to live life than write about it. My thoughts are scattered these days--it probably means that I'm avoiding laundry or some other responsibility...

So here's what's been happening lately:

Halloween--This was a fun holiday to share with my students. I dressed up like a witch for each class and handed out candy--we watched It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and looked at pics of Halloweens past that my mom was gracious enough to email me. Sometimes you forget how charmed American life is--and then you explain that as a child you dressed up as princesses and angels (and all the other stuff) and went to every house in your neighborhood til you had a bag bulging full of candy. I think my students had fun.

Yichang Girls Retreat--Sisters from all over Hubei gathered in Yichang (5 hours from here by bus) last weekend for a few days of fellowship, conversation and Celebration. We focused on "Becoming Virtuous Women" like the one in Prov 31. I was the guest speaker Friday night and shared a lesson on "The Ideal Woman"--which I am OBVIOUSLY more than qualified to discuss! Hahaha! Seriously, there were about 50 girls in all from Enshi, Shiyan, Wuhan, Yichang, Danjankou etc...and I am amazed at the organization, creativity and patience of Beth and Amy in Yichang--who hosted the weekend. I think everyone had a really uplifting time. Many Thanks to Him for that!

Living History--As I've been getting closer to my students, I'm beginning to hear fascinating stories of their lives during the past decades. My PhD's are a treasure chest of information--one student shared his story of living for 3 years as a child in caves in the mountains--his family had been rich landowners and his grandfather fought on the wrong side of the civil war--so when the government changed, they were in danger. They hid out for 3 years and then lived in a shack for 10 years after. Another student had a grandfather who was a teacher during the CR, so when the students rose up against the authorities--he was attacked. He had a mental breakdown during that time (common for many during the CR), and he never quite recovered. He passed away a few weeks ago.

This is all very cryptic, I know....I can only share bits and pieces online. All this is just to say, read up on Chinese History of the past 60 years or so. It blows my mind--and now that I have people who are sharing with me their stories, I can't get it out of my head. I'll tell you all the rest when I come home to visit or something!

Celebrating Single Men--tomorrow China celebrates National Single Men Festival (this is how my students translated it--not sure if that's the actual title). It's every Nov. 11--so it's on 11/11, get it! It is the day when all of China's single men join together for a big meal and lots of alcohol to celebrate their bachelorhood. Why would this be a national holiday? Hmmm....maybe it's to make up for the fact that due to a certain period of history, there is an age bracket of youngish people with 50 million more men than women! (Again, these are my students numbers, Lonely Planet says 23 million) It's called the "bachelor bomb." Guess they should have thought that through before they drowned all those baby girls, huh. So I guess this is China's way of saying, "oh, we're sorry we killed off all your potential wives as babies. Have a drink, on us....not really, it's on you." I've been warned not to eat alone tomorrow night--all that alcohol and machismo could be a little taxing.

Sooo...that's everything for now. Things continue to be generally wonderful...sure, there are days when all I want is a Jersey Mike's sub sandwich and days when I wonder how Effective I'm being at my Purpose...but as a whole, this is all just a good fit for me. I love my new friends, I love the Connections that keep happening, I love seeing how BIG my Father is. I can't imagine anything better.

That said, I love and miss all of you at home like crazy. I am Lifting you Up all the time. Have a Happy Bachelor's Day!