Sunday, March 30, 2008

Random Saturday Writing

Today was cold again and wet and rainy. I am sitting here in my apartment, drinking coffee and listening to old singles from Blues Traveler and Barenaked Ladies (I must have spent too much time in the B section of iTunes) and feeling the wind hit the drafts in all my windows and rush through my apartment, blowing doors closed and rattling the unwashed dishes in the sink like a mother reminding me to do my chores. I spent the day reading articles from the New York Times and plowing through another Mao biography, laying in bed and not washing those dishes and not doing laundry and not sweeping the dust that all this wind assaults my apartment with and not even picking up the paperbacks and old magazines that lay half hazard around the foot of my bed.

It’s one of those days when the whole world seems to be in turmoil—blowing around in this spring wind. The Times tells me that the cost of rice is rising sharply throughout the world; and that the conflict a few provinces over is not resolved and that my students will never know for sure which side they can believe or trust; and that the American War in Iraq (what it’s called over here—odd that that’s also the structure they used to refer to the one in Vietnam all those years and lessons in world conflict ago) is again unhinged; and that the Kenyans are still at a stalemate while their neighbors in Somalia exchanged gunfire over sacks of grain; and that something to do with sub-primes and hedges and shares could cause, or has already caused, the big D in the US economy…

And I am 23 and can’t wrap my head around any of it. And I desperately want to. I want to be able to understand the web of connections that define globalization. I want to inspire my students to think critically about the news that’s fed to them—but without making the rookie mistake of wading in over my head. I want to show through my response to all of this swirling news that there is something that makes me IN but not OF all of the uncertainty, that calls for me to find a way to help, that shows me that these are all stories of a Family who I love, because they all were made to reflect Him.

After September 11, Mr. Rogers appeared on a PBS public service announcement, discussing ways that parents can help their children respond to what happened. He said that when he was a child and passed a car accident or saw a tragedy on tv, his mother would say, “Look for the helpers, Fred. Look at all the people helping.”

I think about that all the time. I get carried away thinking about my role here sometimes. It has something to do with the American mindset in general, I think, this urge to teach or respond or cure or just comment on the situation that I see—this urge to use my classroom as a forum to pontificate on the ways of Freedom of speech, press, religion…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And then I stop and take a deep breath and remember how JC refused to be dragged into commentary on the swirling politics and current events of his day—simply saying “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” and going about His business. And I remember that my business is His business—and that right now, I’m called to be a helper. Maybe someday I will be wise enough to wade into the social/political justice issues of the world—maybe someday I will be called to work for human rights and civil rights and obtaining the freedoms of speech, press, religion for everyone—but now I am a learner. Now I am just a helper. And now I am 23 and there's plenty of time to figure out the rest...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Off the Calendar...Connected and Disconnected

Soooo....apparently it's Easter weekend. I don't know what to say...I guess I didn't see it coming.

Honestly--I remembered St. Patrick's Day, I remembered my mom's birthday, I remembered the first day of Spring...but Good Friday and Easter...EASTER...I somehow missed. ...Easter!

It wasn't until a good friend here called yesterday to make sure I could make it to an Easter dinner this Sunday--and like an idiot, I had to clarify..."this weekend, you mean? Easter is this Sunday???"

It bespeaks a certain disconnection with the world, my former life, the Ch-ch Calendar, Lent, all of it...this ignorance of the upcoming Easter. Usually this is a sacred season for me--the rebirth present at Spring, the fasting and discipline of Lent, the solemnity of Good Friday and the feast of Easter. I love it--it's so much better than Christmas--because with this season we can actually be fairly certain of the date and the time frame of everything that we're celebrating--plus, Easter is what it's all about. Easter is the light that we bask in luxuriously as we reach and stretch out of our falleness towards the Kingdom. Easter is the source of our Hope. EASTER.

And I forgot it.

So, what, you may wonder, have I been doing...that so consumed my time, thought, energy, memory...so as to sever my connection with the roots of my heritage???

Well...uhhhh....I've been gorging myself on YouTube clips of Conan O'Brien, Letterman and Ellen; downloading way too many random songs from iTunes; catching up on the routines of my favorite stand-up comedians, reading the New York Times critics' reviews of my favorite movies and tv shows (it's what I do to relax), reading the commentary on the primaries, watching clips of Obama, subscribing to The Daily Show via iTunes (around 8 p.m., the previous days' episode is ready for downloading), pursuing random "how to" searches on Google (how to: begin running when you hate running, defrost frozen meat, dye my hair blue, prevent osteoporosis, make italian red sauce, register for an absentee ballot, make oatmeal from scratch, make a bed with hospital corners, choose quality pearls, speak with a british accent....the list goes on and on...), and even going old school with some quality time on homestarrunner.com.

In short, I've been connected to high-speed internet.

For two weeks (...or has it been three???) I've been connected to a brand new, personally installed, DSL line that I paid to have put up in my apartment. Our contract requires that the school provide us with internet access--but what they provided was essentially slower than dial-up and was shared with the computers in all of the students' dorms--so that during hi-volume hours, it slowed to such a crawl that I was spending 30-40 minutes just to open one email. I couldn't use Skype and was dependent on calls from the States made with others' Skype credit or with phone cards (Tim is a saint for all the phone cards he's bought over the past 7 months). It finally became much more time and cost efficient for me to pay personally to have my own private line installed from the internet company.

It really has been sooo much fun to be so reconnected to the web-world--and for a while I allowed myself some glutton/binge-level abuse of my new line. Now I have to reenter CHINA and start regulating my time a bit more--which is helped by the fact that with the protests happening a few provinces over, YouTube and several other of my favorite websites have been completely shut down by the Great Wall--so that limits my access to some things as it is.

So as I try to return to life as usual in China--I thought I'd share a few pics of what I've been up to while NOT surfing the wonderful web. Happy Easter to you all!

Around Wuhan:
The trees are all blossoming

The Motel in this picture says "Smile Motel." When I saw that hot pink looming above the filth and destruction--I just had to jump out of my cab and get a picture of it!

Sara Foster, Me and Danny Bateman on a night out in Wuhan.

Hi! I'm Sally Homemaker! Ingredients for my homemade Italian red sauce (...but not the brocolli--that's for my honey-glazed, sesame sauteed brocolli).

The results of my 2nd attempt at making my homemade sauce--it turned out pretty good this time!


National Tree-Planting Day:
similar to our Arbor Day--except that in the US, we don't systematically round up all the foreigners and bus them out of town to camps...er...uhhh...I mean..."Friendship Forests" and force them to do the manual labor of planting trees on an eroded hillside. This was one PR stunt that I didn't so much enjoy...had to wake up at 7 on my day off and go join other foreigners to plant trees so that the news stations and papers could have something to present for the day. This is me and Yana--one of my coteachers--with shovels in hand.

Notice the forced smile as I hold up one of my trees.

One of my many lovely classes! They're so cute!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thoughts on a Spring Morning

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed--Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, Springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And if the OLYMPIANS think it's hard...

...imagine what it's like for the rest of us! I found this article amusing.




The U.S. Olympic Committee has tried to figure out how to avoid the danger of tainted food at the Summer Games.

And in case you're like me and rarely/never click on links, here are some of my favorite passages:

COLORADO SPRINGS — When a caterer working for the United States Olympic Committee went to a supermarket in China last year, he encountered a piece of chicken — half of a breast — that measured 14 inches. “Enough to feed a family of eight,” said Frank Puleo, a caterer from Staten Island who has traveled to China to handle food-related issues.

“We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive.”

In preparing to take a delegation of more than 600 athletes to the Summer Games in Beijing this year, the U.S.O.C. faces food issues beyond steroid-laced chicken. In recent years, some foods in China have been found to be tainted with insecticides and illegal veterinary drugs, and the standards applied to meat there are lower than those in the United States, raising fears of food-borne illnesses.

....

“It’s all a matter of how and when you work it (Local Food) into your diet,” he said.

Sometimes, the athletes do not have a choice. Mr. Korzun recounted several times when teams competing in foreign countries were presented with culinary challenges. The triathlon team encountered a dish called “Be Dental Alveoli Quick to Salad Bangkok Hot Paddle Fish,” during a meet in Thailand. And the men’s weight lifting team was served barbecued guinea pig before a competition in Peru.

Myles Porter, who is hoping to earn a spot on the judo team for the Paralympic Games, said he lost about 20 pounds during the Para Pan-American Games in Brazil because he ate mostly pasta.

“You can’t just eat that for two weeks and expect to be at your best,” Mr. Porter said.

To limit those occurrences, Tyson has provided all United States team members with duffel bags containing a hot pot, a power adaptor, recipes and replenishable pouches of chicken that they can take to international qualifying events over the next few months.

In preparation for the Olympics, Tyson will ship beef, chicken and pork to China. When the food arrives, customs agents will review the shipment — the U.S.O.C. has budgeted 10 days to complete this process — before it is delivered to U.S.O.C. representatives and taken to a holding site at Beijing Normal University. The food will remain there for about three weeks until athletes arrive.

“The security is so tight that there is pre-screening before it even gets to me,” said Terri Moreman, the U.S.O.C.’s associate director of food and nutrition services.

...


The U.S.O.C. will send measuring cups because, as Ms. Hamilton noted, the United States does not use the metric system. Kellogg’s has been asked to supply cereals like Frosted Flakes and Mini-Wheats, as well as Nutri-Grain bars, because those products are not readily available in China. Finding molasses, they learned, is next to impossible. Ice? Also a challenge.

...

She anticipates arriving in Beijing in mid-July to become accustomed to her new kitchen and to meet the Chinese staff that will be assisting her. By then, many of the woks will have been removed, replaced by mobile ovens and griddles,...

Once athletes are finished competing, they are free — encouraged, even — to sample the local fare. That could mean munching on live sea horses or hard-boiled fertilized duck eggs — though steering clear of adulterated chicken breasts.


All I have to say is, there have certainly been times that I've wished for a duffel bag filled with replenishable pouches of Tyson chicken...ahh, to be an Olympian...

Friday, March 7, 2008

For your consideration...Beijing 2007

I firmly believe that this video is too long--but unfortunately I edit by asking the question "But...would mom want to see that?"...and, I think she would! Hey--I never claimed to be Scorsese. Just try to enjoy the soundtrack if nothing else!

I know that it's pretty late for me to finally post this--but better late than never!


video

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Best of Backpacking SE Asia--a quick view

Here's a look at the best of my photos from my Winter Break trip--more will follow eventually--I haven't yet met with my travel mates to exchange our photos. Hope you enjoy!!!


VIETNAM

One of our many methods of transport on our trip--a modern day rickshaw

The prison museum in Hanoi--once called the Hanoi Hilton

Pic of Sen. John McCain as a POW being treated in the Hanoi Hilton

Lake view in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Delicious Vietnamese coffee!!!

Old city of HoiAn

MORE delicious Vietnamese coffee!

Some of our favorite beach vendors in Nha Trang--the one on the left is smoking lobster, on the right sells fresh fruit..."Heeeeyyy...is it meee you're lookin for?"

Vietnamese beach vendor

Relaxing in style--on the beach in NhaTrang

A glimpse of hours upon hours on the buses

Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Saigon

View of Saigon (Ho Chi Menh City) from our hostel window


CAMBODIA--TEMPLES OF ANGKOR

Entrance to the Angkor Thom Temple complex

Views in Banyon Temple--each tower has a face "facing" north, east, south and west

Do we look alike??


Ta Prohm--the "jungle temple" where trees have taken over...also where Tomb Raider was filmed

View of Angkor Wat from atop another temple in the complex
All of us in front of Angkor Wat (Jen, me, Justin and Rachel)

Inside Angkor Wat

Yeah....that's a Buddhist monk checking his cell

I totally posed it up for this one

This one too...I'm pathetic

That's me at the bottom...posing.

THAILAND
Railay Beach (south of Phuket)

Our Beach


Ahhh...Paradise


Monkeys playing in trees by the beach

Our buggy bungalow set against the cliffs

View inside of our bungalow

HONG KONG
Whata city

Incense coils hanging in the Man Mo Temple