Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloweens Past

 A look back through the years...

Our mom is a pumkin carvin genius--see the "Halloween" spelled out in the smile.

1987--I'm the clown in blue
I'm guessing this is 1988

1989--I am the King of Rock n Roll. In China, Elvis is known as the "King of Cats"

Laura and Dylan same year

At the Sigmon's--I'm guessing around 1991?

The year we got creative with abstract costumes: Laura is the cow, I am a grandfather clock, Dylan is a #2 Pencil.

The abstraction continues: Dylan as Crest Toothpaste

Halloween during my chubby years: 1996

Pics of Halloween Present will come soon....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Funny thing happened on the way to dinner:

What was it? was the mafia.

There's this street in Wuhan that we call 'Corruption Alley.' I've never asked before why it is called that--I guessed that it was a funny chinglish semi-translation. Typical. I've been hooked for the past few weeks on a soup that my Uighur friends introduced to me on Corruption Alley. (Uighur is a minority predominant in the Xinjiang province of China--a province that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and others--and with a culture that reflects the people's central role as traders on the ancient Silk Road that runs through it. The language, culture, religion and food are drastically unique from traditional Han Chinese.)

Anyway--this soup is delicious. Many soups in China are really watery and without much flavor--but not this. Spelled to the best of my phonetic ability it is called s-yook aush. It's heavenly. It has a tomato-based broth, it's savory, includes small pieces of Muslim noodles freshly made, lamb, celery, peppers and all other sorts of deliciousness. It's almost like a savory, middle eastern minestrone. 

So--on a rainy evening I traveled far and wide up to Corruption Alley to meet the twins for some soup. They met me at the door. "We should not eat here," Yultuz said. She then explained that her professor informed her that the restaurants in the area were in league with the 'mafia' and that perhaps it was dangerous to go there. Apparently, many of these shops use their restaurants as a cover for drug dealing and other criminal activities...turns out: Corruption Alley is actually corrupt.

Being the naive American girl that I am--I asked, desperate for this soup, "Well, but--they won't do anything to us, will they? I mean...we just want the soup! That's all!" 

Apparently it's a risk we shouldn't take.

As I hopped into a taxi to head to the new dinner destination--it occured to me: the Mafia just changed my dinner plans! I am living a life where my plans are changed because of...the Mafia. No big deal really....except know...that's weird. Surreal. Something.

So anyway--the evening ended with a lovely meal at a hot-pot restaurant that was really tasty in its own way. Hot pot is a favorite of many here in Wuhan--and this was probably the best I've had. It didn't, however, erase that pervasive craving for my s'yuk aush (another attempt at spelling). Here's hoping I can find another Uighur restaurant somewhere in the city that is not under the influence of the Mob. We'll see...

Pics from dinner:
a Hot Pot


Me, Tina, and Kunduz at hot pot

My delicious lunches these days: oranges, pomegranate, sweet potato, toast with butter (found at the import store) and diet coke withOUT lemon (for the past year and two months, the only diet coke available in Wuhan was w/lemon. I jumped up and down in the supermarket when I found it sans citrus!)

What I eat when I don't want to worry about corruption or mafia...yummm. We feast on life in China!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Attaching and detaching all at the same time

There are so many times when I sit and stare out of my eyes—trying to will my eyes to soak in all the scene before me. I sit and look and try to figure out what it is—specifically, numerically, definitively—that makes the panorama before me different than America or all that which I am familiar with. 

I do it most in the countryside or ‘nature zones.’ Before I left I would take hikes at Radnor Lake in Nashville or along the trails in NE Tennessee and SW Virginia—and I’d stare at the flora and fauna, the foliage of deciduous undergrowth and old Appalachian hills and valleys. I’d look at it and try to figure out what made it so American. Because it is. It’s American and there’s nothing to match it anywhere else in the world. I do it as I drive along the interstate too—the hills and farmland along I-40 in Middle Tennessee or the rolling turns of I-81 through Virginia. I can’t figure out exactly what it is—the shade of green or the shape of things—but it’s only there in America. American art has captured it. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman captured it. I can’t seem to be able to with my own words. I’ll have to let the experts do it…

The cities are easier to figure out. Our cities simply aren’t old enough or packed enough yet to feature the hodgepodge madcap tumbling jumble that are Chinese or even European cities. These ancient cities where buildings have been built on top of other buildings and then a new building built around that. Where you walk past a row of storefronts with no clue that the gap in the sidewalk is there because it was once a street—a street that now is a building—and that if you find your way behind that building, which you probably won’t because there are no alleys leading to it and you actually would have to traverse several blocks north to find the entrance—right there a few yards behind the row of stores you walk beside—there is an entire hidden neighborhood of twisted rows of street vendors and shack dwellings and alley upon hairpin turned alley—all that once was accessible but now is hidden because a new row of buildings went up. Hundreds of people live and work behind the walls of the strip shops—and you’d never know except that sometimes you smell the food the vendors are hawking from their stalls or see the smoke rising from their charcoal briquettes. There exists none of our puritanical efficiency with straight lines and city grids moving outward from the city square. The cities are teeming—literally swarming—with life and movement and floor built upon roof built upon roof because there’s no room to grow except up, diagonal, or overhanging.

And everyday my attachments to America both grow and detatch. Every day I let go of a piece of what ties me to home. “As quietly and naturally as a twig falling into the Mississippi I dropped out of the stream of American life.” (henry miller) We must let go of it because home is not there anymore—it’s not what it was when I left it and we can’t actually return to what is in the past. And everyday I realize that what remains….what is left after those pieces that I must release are released…that is the pure love that I have for home. For America. For Kingsport, for Nashville, for Texas, for Roanoke, for the South…all of it. For New York, For Chicago, for Boston. I don’t yearn for driving or sandwiches as much as I once did—I don’t have to follow obsessively the releases of new movies or tv series or pop music. It is ok to not know these things any more. I don’t need to be in the loop anymore on the current pop culture of home. It doesn’t matter to me here. And so I let go of that piece.

I haven’t written much this year on this blog, and I was worried about it for a little while. But now I think it’s ok. It’s ok that things or everyday events aren’t quite so expository in their nature anymore. It’s ok that my ‘new life in China’ that I wrote of last year is now just my life in China…in fact, just life. I am no longer a year-long tourist. I might not be totally a resident yet—but something in between. This is a good step. I am really happy here. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sia - Day Too Soon (Acoustic)

Jeremy introduced me to her and I have no words for how lovely she is. I've listened to this song about 30 times today so far--and I just can't stop. I like this acoustic version better than the studio version. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oh no....Lucy's found a new toy

This craze has hit the facebook world in a big way--and I'm jumping on the bandwagon. It's just too hilarious. Upload your photos and see yourself through the generations!


1966 (my favorite)





Friday, October 10, 2008

This is too much fun

See how well you know the world--just click "visit" at the bottom of the page.

My high score is 5881

Leave a comment and tell me what you get!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It’s 6 a.m. and the sun has not yet risen over Wuhan. The sky is charcoal blue and the air in my apartment is cool. The cleaner came two days ago and it still surprises me that this dust-free dwelling is my own.

I gave up on a good night’s sleep about an hour ago and have been playing at damage control ever since. I’m one of those who should just stay awake once passing a certain threshold point in the night. If I slept now, I wouldn’t wake up until the afternoon. So I turn on the lights and open the curtains and rest—but don’t sleep.

I’ve been sick for two weeks and now a cold has set in. I’d like to know what became of my immune system during the past month. I sit here and eat one of my precious packets of oatmeal brought with me from America and listen to the workers sweeping the street below.

There are so many things that I want to share but can’t. I love this country. I love the kindergarten below my apartment—waking up from afternoon naps to the sound of children playing. I love my students’ faces when I call them by name. Ivan said it once when I said “Hi Ivan” as she walked into class. “You know me?” she asked. “Of course I know you!” I replied. “I am happy of that,” she said. Sometimes my heart overflows.

There are so many things…and those things are all that I want to write about. Please forgive the lack of content in postings lately—maybe someday when I live in the US again, I will share all these thoughts that are bursting from my heart. Until then, I’ll try to come up with some of the crazy anecdotes of life in China that are now routine occurrences in my weeks and months. A chicken foot poking out of someone’s purse in a shopping mall. A taxi driver pointing at me and saying “you are a foreigner” (in Chinese) about 5 times in a row. The hats from our travel agent…

Until then, I’m going to go teach and then crawl into bed for a nice looonng nap! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wulingyuan/Zhangjiajie: Hunan Province

For a while I was beginning to wonder if China had lost its breathtaking appeal for me. After living here for a year, I thought I knew what to expect. I felt like I couldn't be really surprised by all that much. I was wrong.

There are really no words to describe the immense wonder at seeing layers upon layers upon layers of karst peaks rising out of the morning mist. It was lovely. None of my photos do it justice.

Unfortunately--Katera and I both had a difficult time--our parasitic disease that I mentioned in an earlier post is mostly over--but the meds that we have to take to clear it up cause a bad case of nausea--so we had to cut our first day short and rest in the hotel. Both of us ended up taking turns vomiting--so that was a treat. Oh well--even a sloshy stomach couldn't ruin the trip. I'm really glad we went. 


I'm holding a postcard showing the scene behind me: one of those peaks on the left is called "fairy presenting flowers."

Five Fingers Peaks

One of many Chenglish signs--if only exploitation always cohered with protection!
The Tujia People, a Chinese minority, are a majority in Zhangjiajie (the city we stayed in). They carry their babies on their backs in these carriers made of bamboo.

A glimpse of October holiday crowds--the whole country travels during the same week. We are waiting in line to take the cable cars up one of the mountains.

A traditional Tujia folk story acted out at one of the performances.

Who can resist a cheesy Chinese photo op! Not me!

A Tujia saleswoman in traditional dress. She refused to have her photo taken (for free--they don't have a problem with photos) directly after trying to sell us keychains that contained our OWN images--made with photos taken secretly without our consent! I really like this pic!

The age of cell phones really makes for wonderfully ironic photos.
The keychains: We were having a rest right after we climbed down 3000 steps of a mountain when we noticed that a man was walking past us taking our photos. Now, I don't mind stopping and letting tourists take pics of us with their kids or stuff like that--but it's a little rude to just blatantly take our pic without even asking! So we all gave him the unamused, annoyed stare. He took his photos and left. 
Within 5 minutes, we were approached with these, our pics in a keychain for 5 yuan. The opposite side has a pic of the park. They are now for sale somewhere in Hunan. What a racket.

To see more of my pics, click here for the whole album.