Thursday, December 24, 2009


I'm busy enjoying my Tennessee Christmas, which came complete with a snowstorm that kept us at home for several days (though it was a few days early...I'm still glad that we had a White Pre-Christmas, if not a White Christmas). It's been great to see all the old ornaments and enjoy time relaxing with family and just getting that much needed rest. Many Christmas Blessings to any of you who still read this!

In keeping with one of the colors of this season, I thought I'd post some pics of China that I've taken lately. The theme is, quite obviously, RED.

Boats on French Street, Wuhan

Photo Shoot at Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Child playing at Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Everyday construction, Wuhan

On the street where I live, Wuhan

Everyday construction decked out for 60th Anniversary, Oct 1, 2009, Wuhan

Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of PRC, 10/1/09.
On the street where I live, Wuhan

10/1/09, Wuhan

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photos from Xi'an!!!

As promised, I'm FINALLY adding some pictures to my overly-wordy blog. Here are some shots from my last trip to Xi'an. Enjoy!

This little girl was flying kites near the Drum Tower. I love her

A pillar inside the Great Mosque in the Muslim Quarter. The Great Mosque is really interesting in the way it combines Chinese and Islamic architecture.

The Big Goose Pagoda. Xi'an was the end point of the Silk Road and you can really see the influence here...the simplicity is of this pagoda is unique in China.

Trying out the local cuisine...this is Yangrou Paomo. It's a soup with lamb and bread pieces and tastes really good.

Finally on our way to see the Terracotta Warriors. They take you first to the workshop where they make replicas. Soooo fun.

Warriors, warriors, all around...

but not a drop to drink.

This is the farmer who ACTUALLY FOUND the Terracotta Army...he was just digging a well and pulled up a head. Now he comes into the museum whenever he feels like it and signs copies of his book.

Seeing the warriors for the first time. This is Pit 1, the largest.

I had a picture of this guy in my 6th grade history book.

Like I said in my post about the trip, I was most fascinated by the pits where the warriors had not yet been restored. Notice the warrior buried up to his shoulders...

Notice the lone face emerging from the mud in the middle.

Xi'an is one of the only cities to still have its old city walls. We spent a little while walking around on top and I got this shot of this guy napping in the shadows of the wall.

Katera and I on our way out of the city. We got a motorized tuk-tuk to get to the train station when there were no free taxis.
More photos of China to come!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggidy jog.

I've been back for a week now and am finally feeling able to rejoin the world. Jetlag this time round has been much more pronounced than I remember it last time. It's getting better bit by bit, but man, I've been sleeeeeeeppy!

My first week back has been all that it needed to be. I began the week at my aunt and uncle's house in Charlotte and was able to catch up with family and with Katie and David, a couple who I worked with in China last year who are now dear family to me too...then mom and I "bopped" down to Atlanta for a day. Mom's a huge fan of this blog where the blogger has now made a cookbook and was doing a book signing tour around the South, so we went to see her and to check out the shopping in ATL. I was too wiped out to go to the book signing, but did manage to do some damage in Macy's and Bloomingdales the next day. When you've been surrounded by Chinese fashion and have been wearing the same clothes for 2.5 years, it's amazing the pull that shopping now has! Then we drove back to my hometown and I've been resting and enjoying the couch and the driving for a few days.

Here are a few random thoughts from the first week back:

--I may have mentioned this last year, but the feeling when you first arrive in the airport in San Fransisco or LA is o.v.e.r.w.h.e.l.m.i.n.g. After alllll that time living among people who speak in a language that you have no hope of understanding, suddenly your ears are FILLED with the english-speaking conversations of everyone around you. It's like when you get glasses after going for a long time with fuzzy vision--all of a sudden you can see EVERY leaf on EVERY tree and EVERY blade of grass. You cannot tune out the conversations of those sitting on the other side of the waiting room, much less those right beside you. It almost makes me feel like I'm going mentally insane...all those WORDS...all around...that I understand.

At first it's kind of fun, but it quickly becomes annoying...because, you know what, people can be obnoxious. They say dumb things. I do not exclude myself from this category of "people"...but yeah, sometimes being able to tune people out is a good thing. And it takes a few days to regain that ability.

--Speaking of obnoxious, I have an impulse to tell EVERYONE that I've been living in China for 2.5 years and have been gone from the States for 1.5 years. And to repeat it many times. In an obviously showing-off way. Some times it's out of the counter of the sub shop in San Fransisco when I was about to eat my first authentically American-made deli sandwich in a year and a half--I was so excited that I was grinning from ear to ear like an idiot and felt the need to explain my ridiculous joy in the corned beef and rye that I was ordering. But then other times, like when I'm standing in line at Kroger, there's no reason to tell the person behind me in line that this is the first supermarket trip I've made in so's absurd. I do restrain myself alot of the time, but sometimes the obnoxious comment pokes through anyway.

--It's insanely gorgeous here in East Tennessee. Yes, it's the beginning of winter and yes, the trees are bare, but this is seriously one of the most beautiful places I know. There are soooo many colors...even with the leaves already fallen, there are just sooo many colors. And the sky is SO BLUE. Even this morning with cloudy skies and rain, the clouds were grey and's just so different from the dingy smog-covered skies that cover Wuhan. Even when we get days with "blue sky," they don't compare to what we have here. Apparently, I'm one of the only ones who sees all of this...I keep telling mom, "Oh, that's so pretty." and she replies, "WHAT are you looking at?!" and I point out some random hillside or patch of woods that are probably nothing special...but I'm happy to be looking at it.

--There's a lot of junk available here. Now, I have a few qualifiers to this comment: there is very possibly JUST AS MUCH entertainment industry junk in China, I just don't understand it. Also I enjoy some basic celebrity gossip and cheap junk food as much as the next person. For heavens sake, I've watched all the seasons of Gossip Girl! So I'm not superior about this one...but goodness! There are soooo many different outlets for just plain junk over here. Whether it's food or entertainment or just stuff....the shear VOLUME of it all is overwhelming. It makes me want to not get a tv when I come back to the States. But I'm sure I will. And I'm sure that I'll sit with the rest of the masses and watch all about Tiger Woods and his many mistakes. But I wish that I wouldn't.

Here's the thing, right now, I'm on vacation. So yes, I'm going to watch some of the junk, and I'm going to eat some of the junk, and I'm going to buy some of the junk. And I'll feel ok about it because I'm about to return to a much less junked up lifestyle; where the TV I watch is what I buy on DVDs, where the food I eat is made from scratch and fresh vegetables and high fructose corn syrup is much less present, and where I don't buy many things because most of the things I would want to buy aren't sold in Wuhan. BUT--the REAL challenge is for all of you who are here, and for me when I return to the States to live.

In China, it feels like you have to make an effort to FIND the junk: I have to actively search to read the internet stories of celebrity misconduct, I have to go to the import stores (and walk quite a way to get to the bus or taxi) to buy the unhealthy snacks (ok...not totally true since I CAN now order some fast food for delivery...but it's more expensive so there is still some personal prohibition), and I have to actively search for junk that I would really want to bring into my house.

Here in the's all THROWN at you!! All this junk is SHOVED in your face all the time everywhere! Why read a book when you could watch E!? Why buy fruit and cut it up and serve it with yogurt when you could have it already blended into a "healthy smoothie"...although the smoothie comes with massively high levels of sugar and dye and artificial flavoring? Why conserve and save the environment when you could buy millions of throw away one-use items for oh so cheap!? It just feels like it would be sooo much harder to live simply here. My mom does a good job of it though, and I'm grateful for her example. I just hope I can show such discipline when I return. And again--this is not coming from a "judge-y"'s coming from a perspective of knowing how easy i would give in to it all and quickly have a life that it just filled up with junk. I'm grateful that China has taught me so much about a more simple lifestyle.

--I can't stop driving. Seriously, on the way home, when I'm supposed to turn right to go home and park the car, I can't. I love it sooo much that I end up circling the house twice before I can actually stop. Driving is one of my favorite things in the whole world. And I love being back in my hometown, this little place full of so much of my personal history, so many memories of friends and loves and fun times on these roads that I just keep circling them and laughing and singing along to my music again. It's really lovely. I'm so glad to be back.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

quick update

I'll write a real post soon, am currently just trying to recover from jetlag and alllll that travel! But since I'm back in the States, I've finally been able to add some photos to facebook...will try to add some on here soon! While you're waiting though, you can check out this album of my trip to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors here! Hope you enjoy!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

We keep on goin...

Another Thanksgiving in China has come and gone...and the mood of the day seems to be "good riddance."

The problem with holidays in English language learning is that by the time they finally come around, you've been teaching culture class lessons on the day for so long that you're sick of it! For example, in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving, I spent one hour-long class teaching the food vocabulary, another hour class of "Thanksgiving dinner role play," one Q&A session (2 hours) on the history and culture of Thanksgivings past and present AND attended a 3 hour, school organized Thanksgiving party for our students...which included teaching 3 groups of students the craft of making a turkey out of their handprint. Then, my boss took all of the foreign teachers out for a Thanksgiving Brunch complete with round-the-table "What I am Thankful For" speeches. All of this was before the actual Thanksgiving day. Then, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, our group of foreigners in town always gets together for a traditional meal, so that was another round of thanksgiving!

Anyway...I AM thankful for all of it and DID enjoy it all thoroughly. There was great food and fellowship throughout the events. But I can honestly say that I'm perfectly comfortable with moving on.

Especially because Thanksgiving was the last big thing to do before coming home! Now the path is clear up til Flight Day!

I still feel a bit in denial that I am about to go. It doesn't seem real to me, that so soon I will be back home. Someone asked me what I missed the most about America, and besides my friends and family, I can't really name anything specific. It is as though I have forgotten that the things I once missed exist. There is just this vague haze of memory of the things in the US that I don't have here...cheese, milk, little debbies, Chili's, citywide sanitation...and I can't quite FEEL anything specific--longing, desire, anything--about them. They all just comprise this blur called America. I just know that it is good. That I like it. That it is home. I'm ready for my vacation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nothing to tell!

In China, at least in my life, sometimes the lack of a story is a story all its own. Every week is filled with possibilities of disaster or adventure or both. What are routine errands in the States become massive quests here in Wuhan. A recent expedition to a friend's house for dinner, for example, involved a bus, a taxi, two long walks, a case of roosters, and a sweet potato.

With so many opportunities to be waylaid by some random bizarre detail, you begin to prepare well in advance of an errand for the fact of unforeseeable detours. For example, you need a needle and thread to repair an undone seam: you state that on Tuesday you will MAYBE go to the fabric market. You don't make any other plans for Tuesday and you don't even try to guess at how long it might take. You gird yourself for the adventure and hope that whatever comes, you will 1) get the supplies you need and 2)that the adventure will at least have a smidge enough humor to provide some good laughs in the retelling.

Anyway, I say all this because I've begun to complete all the large and small tasks that must be done before my upcoming trip to the States. I wanted to get my teeth cleaned and buy new contact lenses--both tasks that are much cheaper to do here in China. I also needed to buy a few Christmas gifts and exchange some money.

All of these tasks require preplanning. There are locations to be found, appointments to be set (except not really), Chinese friends to be requested as translators, dates made etc. After hearing friends' stories of dental or optometry visits, I was sure that I'd return with some excellent tales of culture clash. I spread out the trips and secured 4 free mornings to finish it all. I was prepared to be exhausted by the end.

I don't know if it's because I've lived here for long enough that I'm too comfortable to notice the issues. Or maybe Wuhan's massive growth has caused the city to become more globalized and efficient. Or maybe the stars all just aligned in my favor....

Because I have nothing to share! I completed all of my errands with the help of a friend in one day. It's all done! There were no delays, no surprises, no frustrations. My teeth are clean and healthy. My contacts are supplied. My gifts are purchased. My money is American. I feel just all seemed too easy!

All that's left now is for me to get all my laundry done and pack! But since those initial errands went so smoothly, I have some extra time on my I suppose the procrastination can begin now! I'm sure by the time I board the plane, I'll have some sort of near disaster to share. I am still me, after all!

Monday, November 16, 2009

First Snow and I couldn't wait...

Wuhan is all snowy today. The snow was mixed with sleet and slush yesterday, but this morning we woke to a light frosting and all day it's been coming down. Though the accumulation has remained as nothing more than a dusting...I couldn't help but get the Christmas music going!

In class this afternoon I taught my students to sing "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow." All day I've been rearranging my Christmas songs into the combinations that I like best.

And never before has the song "I'll be home for Christmas" made me sooo happy!! Just thought I'd share!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Disaster Highs

It's 3 a.m. and I can't sleep. The world just ended 3 years from now. It was awesome.

I'm speaking of the new disaster flick 2012. I blame the fact that my first kiss followed a viewing of the movie Armageddon, but I'm a huge sucker for a good full-on disaster film. The more ridiculous and formulaic, the better it is in my book. Aliens, asteroids, nuclear warfare, perfect storms, volcanic eruptions, sinking ships, mountain avalanches, splintered freeways, tornadoes throwing cows around... you name it--if it's on the big screen, I'll be joyfully there, gnawing on twizzlers in stressed out rapture.

The big screen is the key though. I don't care for any of these once out on DVD...the mildly witty humor, obvious deadpan comments, vague moments of semi-scientific explanations, absurd escapes, heroic sacrifices and human togetherness need to be seen and heard in massive proportions to be any fun...a tv screen amputates away all the mindless vibrant joie de vivre of the genre.

Over the past few years, one of the things I've missed most was having great, mild date nights of food and movie. It's plain and routine and I love it. The movie theaters in Wuhan seldom show anything in when they do, we usually make a point of trying to go. For this reason, in the past year, I have seen 3 movies in Wuhan theaters (and 2 in Beijing...which gets a bunch more of the international it doesn't count in this discussion): Valykrie (or however that one with Tom Cruise as a German was spelled), Transformers 2, and now 2012.

The first two were obviously duds, and it is a testament of Americans' innate love of a movie date that we all went at all. AND WE ENJOYED IT. The joy of movie theater movies is that if the movie is crap, you can laugh and make fun of it together while enjoying the atmosphere. The AWESOME joy of CHINESE movie theater movies is that you can also mess with peoples' minds. A row of foreigners draws attention....and so when that whole row of foreigners laughs simultaneously, everyone's going to notice. When those foreigners all laugh at a dramatic moment on cue from a pre-agreed-upon signal, everyone's going to get confused and wonder what their subtitles aren't telling them! And maybe they're even going to laugh along, pretending that they get the humor as well. It's wrong...but so fun.

Anyway, as soon as I heard of 2012, I knew I desperately wanted it to come to Wuhan. A review mentioned that the scientist character would utter "My. God." NOT JUST ONCE....but TWICE! And that the director...whatever his name the type who's perfected worldwide disaster to the extreme...he's not just going to crush the White House, he's going to crush it with the USS John F. Kennedy battleship! He's not just going to have water flood some mountains, he's going to have it be Mount Everest! How could you ask for anything more!

And obviously, it did open in Wuhan. Disaster movies do well in China with only subtitles (not the usual redubbing) b/c you don't have to worry about everyone understanding the plot for it to be enjoyed. Plus, China actually has a role in the plot of the movie, so when we arrived, the first 2 showings were already sold out. We had to wait till 11:30 to see it, and the theater was packed! The movie did NOT disappoint! Cars drove through buildings!, airplanes brushed mountain peaks!, limos jumped cliffs!, California fell into the water!, the President was noble!, the expendable bumbling idiots met their end!, families found the love!, humanity found the love!, my heart raced and lots of cola was sold!

Without giving anything away, the movie is much more enjoyable if you:
1. Play your own version of a drinking game anytime there's obvious foreshadowing
2. whisper "dead dead dead" to your partner anytime a new character appears who will obviously not make it
3. Insert the line, "Wanna procreate?" into the dialogue any time the couples who will obviously be united by the disaster speak.

Ok, I'm finally coming down from the rush that was 2012 and will finish this up and go to bed. I don't know if I would ever recommend this movie in the States...the point of all of this is that I've lived over here for almost 2.5 years, so anything English in theaters is a drop of water in a parched land.

In closing, I'll share the line that got the biggest laugh in the Wuhan theater (foreigners and Chinese alike....though I think we the foreigners laughed harder at it):

Character 1 to hero as they fly in a small bush plane away from disaster (paraphrased for understanding): "So, where does this secret map that you just almost died to retrieve tell you the secret location is where we must go to save our lives?"

hero opens map to reveal the PRC with the word "CHINA" written in red across the country

hero: "We're gonna need a bigger plane."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remembering the Summer Commute

I wrote the following during the summer, but somehow in the haze of heat and work, I never posted it. Now that the weather is chilly and descending into cold, I thought it might be appropriate to pause and remember what was. I mostly write these descriptive posts for myself so that I can remember the little details when I'm back in the States. Not sure if they're as enjoyable for the readers though...oh well! Hope you're all enjoying the scarf weather wherever you are! ~LucyP

The Summer Commute

There is construction noise at all times, without end. First comes the sound of hammers and drills, then a welder and you can see sparks falling from somewhere above you. This morning, they are replacing something outside, dangling from windows and scaffolding that you can’t quite tell without leaning out the window—which is a bad idea. It is 7:30 and the noise will continue in various forms all day. Later, they will replace cabinets next door. Then it will be the building that’s going up down the street. Horns and the wail of the cardboard cart passing far below. You wake to urban life. The bed is hard and the sun is partially obscured by the adjacent high-rise.

And so you brew your favorite tea and play the music that reminds you that God’s grace is sometimes just moments of peaceful breathing in the midst of chaos. Morning is for tea and coffee and toast and fruit and responding to emails and reading news headlines and whatever else comes along.

But then the hour comes and you must step out into the blazing street, radiating heat stored from years of summer and dust that smacks your eyes while your nose can now smell only the putrid puddles tossed from the street vendors along the curb. And you merge into the pedestrian traffic of all mankind and walk the twisted jittery line of fitful bump and dodge and halt and speed-up that is the daily walk to the bus stop. There is the hobbled man collecting plastic bottles out of the trash bins, the grandmother holding a toddler by both hands as he walks in wobbling half-steps, his baby genitals on proud display framed by the traditional split pants found everywhere here. There are the stands jutting out with jiaozi and baozi and zongzi, smoke envelops you briefly passing Xinjiang shaokao, the lamb skewers heating over open coals and somehow it always smells like dirt even when it tastes so good.

Now you pass the hair salon and this gets dangerous as they claim all sidewalk space in front of their shops blasting with Korean pop music and you skirt onto the road with the motos and bicycles and whizzing taxis and buses. Don’t swing arms too wide and look before you venture further away from the curb to avoid the grate that is clogged with strips of cabbage and corn husks and green shoots from nowhere in particular. Now you cross the street and look both ways regardless of the lane you are crossing because there are cars around you on all sides with no solid yellow lines seen in the eyes of these drivers. It is frogger but it is life, so you do it now with everyone else and without blinking and forget that it is a strange thing to see cars use the sidewalk as a lane, or to watch a bus form its own lane between two streams of oncoming traffic.

And then jump onto the bus as inches forward, never actually stopping because a full stop seems to make it stall. It just slows to a crawl at the stops, so you learn to hit the ground running. Wedge and squeeze your way to the back and maybe find a seat while now the heat of the street is replaced by all too many bodies crammed together. The windows will be open in the back and on the 2 kuai buses the a/c will be running weakly, so there might be slight relief enough to wipe your brow of the grit that is everywhere. Lurches, jolts, screeching brakes, the bus gets more and more packed along the route. Flashes of life pass blurred: a family of 6 all on one moto, a bicycle loaded with full 5 gallon water jugs so high that they hover over the rider’s head, a peasant carrying a splintery wooden yoke on his shoulders with sheets of glass wrapped in plastic hanging from both sides, so many women wearing tight cheap heels on the broken jutting tiles of the walkway, stores overflowing with chintzy plastic jewelry, blankets spread out on the sidewalk filled with parasols or rubiks cubes or knives or zip drives or watermelons, all for sale by the peasant squatting beside, idly fanning themselves with a feather fan.

Then it’s your stop and you know without sight because the stinky doufu (a fried toufu that’s known for it’s gag-inducing smell while being cooked) vendors congregate here all day every day. Wedge and ease your way off the bus and it’s the jigsaw dance of the pedestrian sidewalks again. The buildings are taller here and giant outdoor screens loom above you, casting their luminous digital tech or LCD colors onto your face advertising lexus cars and whitening cream and wahaha pure water.

The streets are busier and you use the crosswalk, but you must control yourself because the crosswalks are tiny battlefields over and over again all day long. The ranks stand shoulder to shoulder on each side waiting for the light, and at the signal of the flashing green man, they advance upon each other, banners waving the in wind of passing traffic. A wall of humanity marches straight for another wall, closer and closer and you wonder if you might all pause and begin yelling Red Rover Red Rover. But no, everyone keeps walking, a game of chicken, who will turn aside first. And something of a warrior or just an American rises angrily in you and you ask why you must be the one to make way for them to cross, why they can’t figure out that there are walking lanes just like traffic lanes and everyone should stay to their own right-hand side of the crosswalk instead of fanning out like an old-fashioned infantry. And so depending on the day and the goodness in your heart, you either swoop your shoulders to the side and walk sideways through the onslaught, dancing to the right then left then far right and making way for them to pass you as you pass them…or…you steel your face and square your shoulders and set your jaw and look straight forward with head held high and eyes of fire and you march. March! You march and you dare them to barrel into you or brush your shoulder. They do the same.

And then, after all the fury of the street, you are standing in front of another nondescript skyscraper of 60 floors (maybe) and walking through the revolving doors that are always too slow for you because you’re always so close to being late. There’s no a/c in the lobby but it’s cooler in a dark cave kind of way. The elevators on the left take you to the 10th floor. The office is modern with glass walled classrooms and new computers. You go first to the washroom to wash your hands and tidy your face and try to cool down, grab a water, and finally, it’s time to teach.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Xi'an and other things...

I don't know if it's because I've lived in one place for over 2 years now, or if it's because living in a city of public transportation means you pay more attention to the weather, or if Wuhan just has more predictable weather patterns than what I've known before, but I've become a Wuhanren Farmer's Almanac.

For the third year now, I've seen fall arrive all in one day...or well, week. There is always a slight push and pull for a week or so, and then, one day, it rains. It's a miserable cold rain that is really nice if you can stay inside and drink tea and read, but if you have to go anywhere, it's soggy and drippy and runny-nosey. And then the rain clears and the next days are breezy and nice, cool in mornings and evenings and shade, and fall is here for a little while. The sweet potato vendors pop up here and there, the markets slowly but surely begin to overflow with oranges, and short sleeves completely disappear, not to return until after May 1st next year. It's really lovely--and this year, it was a neat experience KNOWING that this is what would happen. The first year, I experienced it all with new eyes and the second year I wasn't quite sure if it would be the same...and then it was. This year, I knew. Fall came and we greeted it like a friend we'd invited over for dinner. We knew it would arrive. It did.

And now, right on schedule, we all have colds.

So I'm up sniffling and coughing late at night, waiting for the tea I drank to kick in and clear me up enough to lay down. It's always a shame because the weather is so great that you want to be outside enjoying it, but instead your stuck inside a cocoon of sinus pressure and sleepiness. Blah. Oh well, it will pass. I know this too.

Last weekend I got out of town for a quick trip north(ish), to Xi'an. Katera and I took a 13 hour night train there and spent a day and a half exploring the ancient capital before returning on another 13 hour night train. It was a really really great trip. I was itching to get out of town for a little while and Xi'an was the last major city that I absolutely HAD to see before leaving China.

Best known to foreigners as the home to the Terra Cotta Warriors, Xian was the capital of China on and off well before Beijing hit the scene. There is a saying in China that "if you want to see the past 50 years of China, go to Shenzhen. If you want to see the past 500 years of China (or maybe 100? I forget), go to Beijing. If you want to see the past 5000 years of China, go to Xi'an." And it's true. There are several really fascinating elements of the city and we were able to see just about everything in our short time there.

Besides the Terra Cotta Warriors (which are actually located outside of the city), Xian was the final point on the Silk Road and there's a thriving Muslim Quarter in the city today. It's also one of the only Chinese cities that still has a surviving city wall that surrounds the inner section of town (The wall even has a moat! So cool.).

It's a city filled with history. And it's the kind of history that makes you excited to be walking on the dirt of the place. To be stepping where people have been stepping for thousands and thousands of years. Since before Jesus.

For some reason during the weekend, I kept coming back to that point. It's funny growing up in the US, because we don't have much geographic reference to really really old things. Our history is a drop in the bucket, a mere couple hundred years. Although the Native Americans may have trod where our feet now tread, we don't have much remaining from their time. And so it's hard to comprehend how OLLLLLDDDD the old things are here. And thus, my mind goes to the best/easiest reference point that I know. The BC/AD split. Somehow, it helps my mind wrap around things....that what I'm looking at is older than Jesus. That if He had felt like traveling, he could have seen these same things that I am seeing now. Maybe He did (up on the rooftop in the temptations...the kingdoms of the world...). It's random and I'm not trying to make any religious point...I'm just sharing that it's one of the ways my mind works.

Anyway, we saw all the major sites. The Bell Tower (where a bell was rung every sunrise) and the Drum Tower (where drums were beat each sunset), the Muslim Quarter (where we ate the local specialty, yangrou paomo, a soup that has lamb and crumbled up bread in it and was really filling) and the Great Mosque (which was really cool and combined Chinese and Islamic architecture/decor in a really beautiful way), the Wild Goose Pagoda (which looked more Arabic than Chinese and was gorgeous in its unique simplicity), the famous water and light show that is the largest in Asia (and reminded me of Opryland Hotel..sorry culture! Globalism got me!), the City Walls, the Subway restaurant (where we had lunch...again, sorry culture! I miss America!) annnnnnnndddddddd......

The Warriors.

What can I say. They take your breath away. Well....err....mostly they do. All of the travel tips about the warriors mentioned that some people come away disappointed from their experience because the access is so distant. You do have to push and shove a little to get a front row view, and you're at a bit of a distance. It's different than the pictures that you see of them. And Chinese museum etiquette is quite "different" (there are other less-nice things I could say here). So, that said, I was prepared for it to be neat, but not great. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by the awesome grandness of the first pit, the detail of the soldiers and the shear idea of it all.

The discovery is one of those that all little boys (and girls!!!) should read about, because it sends your imagination flying. In 1974 a farmer was digging a well in his fields and his bucket pulled up a terra cotta head. The PRC gave him about $10 (USD) and took over, uncovering one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the century. (Ok...maybe the kids shouldn't get too hopped up on the story because then everyone would end up with big holes dug in their backyards! I seriously kept wanting to walk out into the nearest field and start digging myself!)

The farmer who found the head was ACTUALLY THERE the days we toured. He is really old and now a multimillionaire, he comes into the museum and signs copies of his book for tourists when he feels like it. So although he was initially jipped, he's doing well now. We didn't buy his book, but we were able to get a few clandestine pics of him signing. I can't post pics here on blogger w/this proxy--but I think I'll be able to put them up on Facebook soon.

Anyway, the details of the Terra Cotta Army are well known: no two faces are the same, they were likely made to guard the first Emperor Qin from enemies in the afterlife...or at least, Qin assumed that he'd continue ruling the afterlife just as he did the living, there were probably over 8000 soldiers, most of which are still buried in the pits, they were made around 210 BC etc. If you don't know, wikipedia it.

Mostly, I think I was most fascinated by the story of the discovery. It's just effing exciting! Nearby the pits, you can see the hill of Emperor Qin's burial mound. It is currently impossible to excavate because there are currently no archeological techniques that could ensure preservation and also there's a possible mercury poisoning issue. (again, wiki/google it for more details). It's exciting that there's still more to be found, it's all just waiting there underground.

Next, Katera and I both noticed that the faces of the warriors do not seem similar to the faces of those who we are constantly surrounded by. I have yet to mention this to my Chinese friends, I'm curious if they see a resemblance. But I suppose I don't see many similarities in the portraits of Rembrandt with today's caucasians either.

Finally, my favorite part was a bit macabre...but I really enjoyed looking into the pits where many of the soldiers hadn't yet been pieced back together. Emerging from the dust/mud would be an arm, or a lone foot, or a face. In one the soldier was still mostly buried, but with his shoulders, neck, and head uncovered, and the rest beneath the dirt. It was weird, but all those little bits here and there, broken and strewn about...those were the pits that I couldn't take my eyes off of.

Overall, when I get to see these amazing sights...the sun rising in the mists of the Great Wall, the trees literally devouring the ancient temples of Angkor, the mysterious stone jars jutting up here and there in the plains of Laos, and the hundreds of warriors standing tall and firm together side by side in the orange mud of their pits...I'm just stunned. Stunned that I am seeing it with my own eyes, stunned that I am here, stunned that these sights are now a part of my story. It's extraordinary.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I can access blogs again!

Hello again. I had planned to post updates more often last month, but the internet is blocked in many many different places, and the blocks are playing "pop-a-weasel" with the proxies that we use to get around it all. I just downloaded a new one yesterday, we'll see how long this one works!

It's the day after Moon Festival and the streets and market were quiet this morning; people all moving slowly after a night of feasting under the full moon. There are still countless moon cakes filling the shelves, and it is strange to see them without hordes of shoppers sifting through them all so possessively, trying to find the box that will earn them the most guangxi from the recipient.

National Day came and went too. October 1 marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. Beijing apparently went all out with pomp and spectacle while simultaneously tightening it's icy grip on internet and security in the rest of the country to assure control of the news cycle. In the days before National Day, a man peddled slowly down the main avenue of Wuchang with a crookety wooden wheelbarrow piled high with Chinese flags and each tiny shop along the way paid their due and proceeded to mount the ol' red and yellow in whatever way they saw fit: some dangling from twine, some placed in old buckets and then balanced precariously on the doorframe, some just punched into drywall. The cities were told to limit their own celebrations to give Beijing its deserved attention, so as far as I know, Wuhan had a fireworks display along the river and that was all. My students slept in and went shopping. I did too.

And now I'm sitting in the sun of my window seat, drinking coffee and trying to ignore the sounds of a neighbor practicing his recorder and the car horns blaring 20 floors below. Red beans and rice are simmering on the stove and cornbread is warming in the oven for lunch. I bought several art books a few days ago and have been practicing pencil sketches, so the coffee table is strewn with crumpled up papers of mediocre attempts at perspective or shading. My Book is open next to them and soon I will spend some time outlining upcoming Studies for the semester.

I always hear married couples use the line that they can't imagine life without each other. Then parents say that they can't remember what they did with their time before they had children. I always imagined that I'd someday say the same things. I've been thinking today though as I look around at my peaceful apartment and think of my future, that I won't be able to accurately say either. I am 25 and single, which isn't a big deal at all...but I can and must imagine my life without someone else being there. Now hopefully, if I get a husband someday I'll be able to say all the lovely cliched things about how much being together changed my life and allll that..but right now, yes, I CAN imagine my life without whoever he is. It's a good life. I have really fun daydreams of my future, and if no husband comes along to change the plans (which...lets face it, I'm still hoping that the plans DO get changed by someone!), they'll still come true and my life will still be really cool.

And similarly, in these quiet moments with my blog and my coffee and cooking things from scratch and my Book and my silly drawings, I KNOW how I am spending my time before children. I'm trying to revel in it, to enjoy it to its fullest while this chapter is here...because someday when I have kids screaming around me and only have time for Zatarans boxed (or microwaveable) red beans and rice and I don't get to sit and drink coffee because it's time for soccer practice or whatever...I will hopefully know then that I've had my time to myself and that I didn't take it for granted.

I don't know who instilled it in me, probably my mom, but I'm really grateful that someone taught me to not take things for granted. When I bounce up the stairs, I sometimes remember to take a moment and be thankful...right then and there...for knees that don't pop or creak yet and muscles that don't ache from stairs. So I feel that someday, when my knees and muscles don't work quite so well, I'll know that I enjoyed them while I had them. Right now, I can tell that allergy season is on its way, so I try to take deep deep breathes of air and to actively enjoy being able to breathe without difficulty, because once the leaves start falling then colds and allergies will likely come, and I'll miss breathing with ease. And maybe someday, my time will no longer be so much my own, and this chapter of life so luxuriously filled with time and peace and reflection will be passed, and I'm hoping to say that I appreciated it to its fullest.

So yeah, to close this post up: take deep gulps of air, climb some stairs, stretch, draw, read, drink coffee in the sun, cook, whatever you do...and enjoy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Round Three

With two years of life in China passed, I now find myself experiencing cyclical moments for a third time and I cannot help but pause and mark the reality of this. Somehow, me…this normal, average person…is beginning a 3rd year of existence in China. Bizarre. Here are my random thoughts:

  1. The simple fact that someone lives in China does not make them intrinsically cool or open-minded or fun. We get treated really special over here, our students give us a lot of attention and typically act as though they might kiss the ground that we walk on…but it doesn’t mean anything. We are not that cool. Some people are very cool people, some people are very interesting people, but moving to China does not automatically grant you any personality value that was not already there within.

  1. I miss our puritanical compulsions towards sanitation and order sometimes.

  1. I still miss driving.

  1. I care much less about the workings of Western pop culture (or did until everyone just came back from a summer in the US and are referencing movies and songs that I didn't know existed!).

  1. Yes…but. In a nation of so many billions of people, it is impossible to generalize. For every statement that I have probably ever made (or will make) there is always an exception. Sometimes the exceptions to a generality compose an entire province, sometimes the exception is still larger than the entire population of the U.S., sometimes it seems like an exception simply because “I know a guy who…” Anyway, we all make these statements all the time about “China,” or “the Chinese” as explanations for something or other…and we’re always immediately partially incorrect. There are a billion angles to this harmonious nation, and two years in Wuhan have revealed a few of them…but only a few. Nothing on this blog can give a definitive view of The Great China…just like a foreigner spending 2 years in Kingsport, Tennessee would be not fully equipped to comment on all of America based on that experience.

  1. There’s a line in one of my favorite “songs”…it’s an inspirational speech set to music that came out in 1999 or so called “Wear Sunscreen” that says, “live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.” I think about that sometimes as I find my interactions with some veering away from the southern hospitality and gentility of my upbringing. Wuhan is not NYC, but it has more people and is notorious in China for being a city of tough, hardened personalities. The dialect even sounds angry. Though my friends who I’ve met from Wuhan have all been so kind and giving and lovely in every way, a case study of street scenes alone would show a sharp-edged urban environment of people driving hard bargains on the street, working any angle to get ahead, pushing, shoving, and yelling at those who get in their way. Perhaps this urban mentality has worked its way into my thinking, or maybe I’ve just lost patience with some of the more intrusive aspects of being a foreigner here…but I find myself forgoing southern gentility in favor of blunt, direct, forthright assertions these days.

My first year, strangers would walk up to me on the street and ask to “make friends for to improve my englishes.” They’d follow this request with persistent requests for my phone number. Back then, I would politely offer my email address instead, or explain that I’d love to be friends but I’m very busy but maybe they could come to the school’s English corner and see me then, or that my phone was not working so I couldn’t share it with anyone...etc. Now, I just say No, Thank you. If they persist, I say No, Thank you. If they persist louder, I turn, stare them in the eye, and say No. Thank You. (ok, ok…it sounds really bad—but I’m only really really direct when they get really really up in my face—which does happen on a semi-regular basis)

  1. I have to fight harder to keep a humanistic worldview sometimes. US and THEM gets into my thinking too often…. it’s just harder putting it all into practice when you’re such the outsider here.

  1. Absolutely everything that is done in China can be partially…sometimes fully…explained by the following: There are a lot of people in China. When new foreigners move to Wuhan and are filled with so many “Why?” questions, I'm sometimes tempted to just repeat each time as a response, “There are a lot of people in China.”

  1. I’m very very very American. And Southern. It’s deep down in me.

  1. This is my last year in China. Of course, nothing is certain, but I feel highly confident that this chapter of life is coming to a close. I’m ready for this to be my final round of things in China and to start considering where the next chapter should be…right now it’s looking like India!

The truth is that along the way, there are days when I am absolutely confident that this is exactly where I am meant to be, there are days when I feel so utterly exhausted by the struggle of life here that I can’t remember why I came, there are days when I think I could stay another 3 years, there are days when I think that it might be best for both me and China if I just quit it all and leave tomorrow.

Before I first came to China, I went and sat on a cliff overlook in SW Virginia that has been a thinking spot for me through the years. I tried to take a moment and enjoy who I was at that precise time, the Lucy-before-China. Because I assumed that moving to a land so completely opposite would have to change me somehow. I didn’t move here for that change, I wasn’t searching for anything; I was just following where I felt I should go.

And now two years in, I’m not sure that I did change all that much. I believe much more in the possibilities of alternative lifestyles (uh….meaning, lifestyles that vary from the typical school-college-work-marriage-mortgage-kids-retirement path that so many of us are taught is the way of life), I am more confident in myself, more sure that it has been His Hand all along doing something with my life, I know myself more… I’ve learned a lot, I’ve practiced a lot, but in all, it’s not something that changed me so much as it’s been something that forced me to put into practice all the things that I have always been. Sometimes I’ve failed at that. There are some weaknesses that have come out in the process that have been given too much time and nutrition that I have to eliminate. But overall, the past two years have been vibrant, crazy, lovely, absurd, and wonderful.

And now I have one more year—round 3—to seize and try to do to the fullest all the things that I came here to do. I have one final year here in China to try to be someone who brings joy into this spot of the world, who reflects light into dark places, who learns to give her time and energy to others. We’ll see how it goes!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This was funny

This is a funny post from I don't normally read but was intrigued by the title:

100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About

posted by Nathan Barry on the blog "GeekDad." I'm not sure if the link I just made is working (our internet is still royally blocked in all sorts of ways over here) if it doesn't...copy and paste this:

I found it pretty funny and related to a bunch of these...though I'll confess that many of them were just from my days in elementary school before the changes came about. Here were my favorites from the list:

-remembering everyone's telephone numbers
-not knowing who was calling you
-laserdisc (we had one of these in our middle school classrooms....hilarious)
-Waiting for the television-network premiere to watch a movie after its run at the theater.
-Taking turns picking a radio station, or selecting a tape, for everyone to listen to during a long drive (in our family there were no turns....just NPR alllllll the way from Virginia to Texas)
-Using a road atlas to get from A to B. (ok...I still do this sometimes...but yeah, mostly I'm all mapquest when I'm home)
-Blowing the dust out of a NES cartridge in the hopes that it’ll load this time (when electronic things don't work, including my cell phone and macbook, I still try to blow on works sometimes!)

This concerns me:
-Hershey bars in silver wrappers.
Are Hershey's no longer coming in silver wrappers??? What's going on over there???? made me smile. Hope you enjoy the bit of nostalgia. Any additions of your own?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer whatnot

So the summer is finally beginning to wind down and I finally had a day off after a round of 21 straight days worked (most of them being 7.5-10 hour days too!). I have 4 days left of work for this month, then hopefully settle into a more regular schedule in September.

It's been a crazy summer but overall one that was what I needed. I'm mostly settled into my apartment, though I still have one box and one suitcase left to unpack...we'll save that for my next day off...3 days from now. Here are some comments from life on the 20th floor:

--I get deeply, irrationally pissy when people from floors 2-5 use the elevator. After two years living in a 5th floor walkup, I've become a bit critical, I know. But seriously...if they don't have bags and aren't infirm, quit holding me up! Not that I wouldn't have used an elevator to get to my 5th floor apt if I had had one, but come on...I paid my dues.

--my complex has these great walking paths all over the place, a pool, and I have roof access with a view of the lake. It ALMOST makes up for the fact that my windows directly face the building across from me..very limited view.

--speaking of the view, I suppose there might be an age where being able to see naked people when you glance out your window might have been a funny thing...a novel thing...something. But 25 is not that age. It's annoying and gross. From my couch, a glance to the right gives me view of 9 floors worth of communal dwelling, windows lighted at night, curtains never closed to hide away any intimate moments that may need to be hidden. Sometimes this is amusing...seeing a couple fighting in a hallway and then seeing both sides of a closed door as the woman inside waited for the man, who was leaning hopefully against the outside of the door, to leave. Other views...well...they aren't so amusing. I don't want to see all that business...but I also don't want to close up my own curtains's just too dreary with them shut. (although I at least have the courtesy to close them before I shower and whatnot...oh well.

--another note on the view: *before you read: I need to share--this is NOT as bad as it seems it's going to be. Just follow it through* Ok, so one afternoon I was watching 30 Rock and enjoying a cup of mint tea when I saw, hands down, the most awful thing I've ever almost seen in my life. I had been looking at the liveliness of a plant that sits by my window when the corner of my eye caught something white and about 5ish feet long hurling downward past my window. I screamed one of those nightmarish inhaled screams/gasps/shrieks and froze, pulse racing, knees and arms beginning to shake. I really think I've never been more terrified--as one of those out-of-body, primal forces moved me to the window to make sure of what I thought I saw. Thank God, literally, what I instead saw was a striped white and pink towel, that though once was falling downward had now been lifted again by the wind and was floating around somewhere near the 8th floor now. It must have been hanging to dry up on the roof when the wind set it free, letting it fall past my window and causing the deepest shock that I've felt in a while. Maybe it hadn't even been falling so fast ...but out of the corner of my eye, the glimpse I saw was enough to make me think the worst. It's made me add a request to my YARPs at night...please let this building never experience the thing I thought was happening...

On to more pleasant topics:

I went and got my hair cut today. Over a year ago (May 2008), I had my hair chemically straightened here in China. It was ok, nice to not worry about humidity and whatnot, but my hair always looked really lifeless, so I decided to let the "perm" grow out. It's been weird because as my hair grew, the top part grew in curly/wavy, but the bottom lengths were still stick-straight. Today, my hair had finally grown enough that I was able to get the last of the permed hair cut off. It's nice to be back to natural. Anyway, at the hair salon, I really liked the product that we used to curl my hair, so I bought a bottle. The back of the bottle is so classic Chinglish that I had to share. Beware, there is randomly placed, nonsensical cussing underneath:

Funny Hand
Characteristic: The special shape formulation
canbe made alive with texture in curly hair,mo
re Imply to moisten the formulation speciallyc
an be quickfor fuck of Curly hair compleme
' humidity,is lustrous and vivid and bright
the curly hair.It still imlles to do not gl
ue toget fed up with the formulation s
-pe cially making your show hair it is
clear diy todo not glue to get fed up
with increment luster, increment cu
-rly haira degree.

*spacing, spelling and grammar left the same....ohhhh China.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cooking Cereal?

Ahhh...the awesome stories that we collect while teaching English in China.

For the past few weeks, one of the courses I teach features coteaching; I am paired with a Chinese English teacher and together we share the teaching responsibilities for our class. During the course, my coteacher, Maggie, shared this story from her first week in America (she lived there for about a year):

One her first day in America, Maggie was introduced to her home and town by a fellow Chinese citizen living and working in her her town. This new friend took Maggie to WalMart and helped her find items to get settled into her new American life. One of the first items she showed Maggie was a box of cereal...saying that it would become one of her favorite American food products. Maggie bought a box or two and went on with shopping.

The next morning, Maggie prepared her first American breakfast. She poured the cereal into the bowl, boiled some water, added it to the cereal and began to eat.

At this point in the story--I began to laugh uncontrollably. Maggie joined the laughter. Our class waited, confused. No one understood why this might possibly be funny.

Maggie then went on to explain the joke. After trying her first bite of cereal, Maggie called her friend and asked how she could love it so much. The friend didn't understand. Then she asked how Maggie had prepared it and also began laughing.

Anyway--we then told the class about cereal and how we eat it for breakfast. I thought we did a good job explaining, until I recieved this email tonight. I thought you guys would enjoy:

I bought the kind of oatmeal you and Maggie mentioned in our class when she told us her first breakfast in America . I think I cooked it according to your description. I put some in a bowle and poured some cold milk into it . I waited for about 5minites. But it seemed the oatmeal stayed the same as it hadn't been cooked. I sure I bought that kind which can be cooked with cold milk . so ,what's wrong?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tomorrow's the big day: Eclipse 2009

Sorry it's been a month since I last posted...I'm on the 10th day of a stretch of 16 straight days in which I'm working 7.5-10 hours a blogging isn't exactly on my mind! But with all the excitement, I had to update:

July 21 (Bloomberg) -- The longest full solar eclipse this century, lasting 6 minutes and 39 seconds in some areas, will plunge cities, including Shanghai, into darkness as it passes over India and China tomorrow.

OH YES, my friends, I'll be experiencing the wonder of TOTAL ECLIPSE 09!! Tomorrow morning we'll be experiencing the darkness of a total eclipse, and WUHAN is right in the line of shadow.

Ok so, of course, I was one of the last to know about the eclipse...well, except for the poor farmers who have never heard of such a thing, and will probably have a major freak out tomorrow morning! Anyway, for about a week, I've been noticing these "3D" looking paper glasses being sold on the street. I guess I've been in China for too long, because for quite some time I just walked past them without thinking much of it..."Oh, China's into 3D now...maybe it's like when the SuperBowl halftime show was in 3D and we all got the glasses attached to Pepsi bottles...whatever." I really just figured that there must be a hit 3D movie out or something...

But no, they're not 3D, they're SOLAR VISION glasses. Wearing these foilish covered glasses will allow all the Chinese to stare safely for about an hour and a half at the slowly diminishing and reappearing sun. This definately beats the "pinhole in a cardboard box top" method that I remember from my childhood.

I think that there was actually a full or almost-full eclipse when I was in kindergarten or first grade in the US. I'm not sure and I'm too tired to look it up... Anyway, all I remember from it was a SEVERE distrust in the people who told me I'd go blind from looking at the sun ("But I stare at the sun all the this!!" "NO LUCY!!!"), and the annoyance of looking at the shadow of a pin hole in a shoebox lid waning and waxing when we could've just looked up and seen the thing for real.

Anyway, I'll be teaching tomorrow morning when it hits, but I'm sure such a momentous occasion will call for a break from I'll be sure to take pictures of the fun. For now, pray for our retinas and sanity as we experience TOTAL ECLIPSE 09!!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When it rains, it pours

Sometimes it all seems to pile up.

When I logged onto the internet today--I quickly found that all Google-related web services are now blocked over here. This means Gmail, Gtalk, Google Search, Google Translate and a billion other services that I use on a daily basis.

So--to keep count, here's the roundup of items blocked by our lovely Great Wall:
-Google and all its wonders
-Blogger (ok--that's through Google, but I'm still listing it separately)
-MySpace (occasionally, when they're in the mood)
-Twitter (I don't really care about that one)

the list probably goes on and on--these are just the ones that I've noticed. I'm not placing any personal feelings about this blockage on here--just sharing that it's blocked. Also--that I obviously am able to function despite the block.

Finally--I received this warning from the US Embassy yesterday. I thought I would share:

June 19, 2009

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the quarantine measures imposed by the Government of China in response to the 2009-H1N1 pandemic that may affect travel to China. This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2009.

Current quarantine measures in China include placing arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms into seven-day quarantine. Although the proportion of arriving Americans being quarantined remains low, the random nature of the selection process increases the uncertainty surrounding travel to China. The selection process focuses on those sitting in close proximity to another traveler exhibiting fever or flu-like symptoms or on those displaying an elevated temperature if arriving from an area where outbreaks of 2009-H1N1 have occurred. We have reports of passengers arriving from areas where outbreaks have occurred (including the U.S. and Mexico) being placed in precautionary quarantine simply because they registered slightly elevated temperatures.

In some instances, children have been separated from their parents because either the parent or the child tested positive for 2009-H1N1 and was placed in quarantine for treatment. This situation presents the possibility of Chinese medical personnel administering medications to minors without first having consulted their parents.

The Department of State has received reports about unsuitable quarantine conditions, including the unavailability of suitable drinking water and food, unsanitary conditions, and the inability to communicate with others.

Travelers to China are reminded that all foreign travelers, including U.S. citizens, are obliged to follow local procedures regarding quarantines and any other public health-related measures. The U.S. Embassy will be unable to influence the duration of stay in quarantine for affected travelers. The Chinese government will not compensate people for lost travel expenses. Travelers to China are urged to consider purchasing travel insurance to protect against losses in the event they are quarantined.

For more information on U.S. Government policy during a pandemic, and for travel safety information, please see the State Department’s “Pandemic/Avian Influenza” and “Remain in Country” fact sheets on Further information about 2009-H1N1 Influenza, including steps you can take to stay healthy, can be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website at, the U.S. Government pandemic influenza website at, and the World Health Organization website at

I guess I'll just say that I'm wondering if maybe I should've come home for the summer after all. It's gonna be a long day!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Worth a thousand words

Everything is still blocked up over here, so I can't post pics to my blog. Maybe eventually we'll get access back, but I'm not holding my breath. If you'd like to see pics of my latest adventures, use these links to see my facebook albums:

Hiking and Camping on the GREAT WALL!!!!

My Birthday:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Change and other things

The rain has been falling all day and outside it smells like swimming pools and cigarettes and weed-wacker exhaust; although as far as I can tell, cigarettes are the only legitimate odor present. I've been living for the past weeks under my mosquito net--which comes in a tent-like structure with pretty pretty cheap purple lace as an accent. Now that climbing in and out of bed requires an extensive zipping and rezipping process, most of my day-to-day belongings are found sprawled at and around my feet--my laptop and camera, a book by Capote and another by E.B. White, two thin theology books by Bonhoeffer and Barbara Brown Taylor, an orange highlighter, the second season of 30 Rock dvds, a "Survival Chinese" pocket dictionary, a few socks, a few one yuan bills, a packet of tissues, my cell phone, three pens, a ponytail holder with two bobby pins attached, and an empty water bottle. Strange bedfellows, I know...but I'm most comfortable with a moderate level of clutter surrounding me.

Summer is only just beginning to pull its punches and show its hand. I keep the refridgerator stocked with water and jello, fresh fruit and yogurt...because the idea of actually cooking anything seems a little overly ambitious these days. As I've mentioned many times before, Wuhan is one of China's four "furnace cities"--and the heat is a wet, heavy, humid, air sapping heat. It hasn't totally hit yet--only strong hints of the summer to come. So far I've kept my goal of no a/c--but the fan has been spinning at full speed for a few weeks--so it's a relief to turn it off for a few hours as the rain pours down outside.

The school year is finally winding down and I'm preparing for another change in pace. A few months ago I began looking around Wuhan at the other employment options here--after two years of teaching with my university I wondered if I should consider the jobs in town that offer a higher salary or a different type of work. After considering several different options, I have finally accepted a position with a training school here in town. It's a company that provides English language learning for students, business people, and anyone else who wants to improve their English ability. I'll be working a little bit more than my schedule at the university--but I'll earn a salary that allows me to totally support myself and forgo the fundraising I've been dependent on for the past two years. With the economic climate being what it is in the US (and everywhere), I'm really blessed to be able to do the Work that I do and still earn a living.

And so at the end of this month I'll be moving from my shady green neighborhood and my cute apartment at the top of the stairs to somewhere new. I'll be looking at apartments soon, but am guessing that I'll be much closer to the center of town in a much more urban setting. I'm both excited and sad. I love my little apartment here, with the preschool/kindergarten below and the trees rustling beneath my window. I love the sounds of the street sweeper in the mornings and the wail of the recycling man pushing his cart down the alley. All the birds in the trees on the hill. Even the radio broadcasts projected every afternoon through the campus PA system. I'll miss it here.

But, change happens. I'm really thankful that I'll still be in close contact with my students and will still be able to Reach Out to them--maybe even more effectively since I will no longer be an employee with their school and can have more freedom to Hang Out with them. I'll still be doing exactly what I came here to do--just with a different job to pay for me to do it!

My mom used to say that I had the hardest time with change. And of course it was true. If we changed the type of twinkle lights on our Christmas tree, it would bring tears. I got moody if our furniture was rearranged. I cried miserably each time we moved towns or houses, each time we changed schools, each time life shifted. I hated the instability of my early life.

I think about that all the time now. I used to pray so often that Father would give me a life of stability. A life where I could get married and settled and never move again. Never make my kids move. And now I laugh when I think that I've moved in and out of places every year for the past 7 years. (ok ok--last year I didn't move apartments, but I had to pack up all my things for the summer and move them out--and for four years of those 7 I was in college and just moving dorm rooms--but it all counts) I laugh when I think how I'm so grateful for it all now--the changing houses and schools and churches and lives--so grateful that my habit of clinging disparately to one set thing was over and over again challenged.

Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with change in a big way--I don't even live in the U.S. but I feel really sad that Conan has moved from New York to L.A. and has a new set and new time slot!

But there is a difference in the tears that I once cried over change and the tears that I now cry. I still feel it deeply--but no longer despairingly. Because I know that G_d took all those changes in my life and gave me strength. I know that the adaptability I was given through each change eventually brought me here to China. I know that He blessed me with this awesome life that I lead--full of changes and an unknown future--that to many seems quite unstable. I accept all this change because I know that He DID answer those prayers of my youth, not quite with an unchanging way of life, but with an unchanging Presence. The stability of His Spirit. The stability of His guidance. The stability of His Purpose.

The reality of life--or at least, the reality of the life that I've been Called to in this moment--is that in order to grasp the stability of my Father, I have to give up the stability of location. I have to be open to the new places and changes He brings my way. I have to detach from these Things I've come to love--my apartment, my schedule, my neighborhood--in order to stay attached to the One I love. I'm ok with that now. I know it's worth it.

So I've committed to a third year here in Wuhan--and it should be quite interesting. Right now I'm letting myself be a little sad over moving and changing--but I'll be sure to update you when the sadness passes and the excitement hits! Because I begin teaching in July, I will not be returning to the U.S. this summer. Instead I'm planning on taking a month long vacation around Christmas--after two years away from my family during the holidays, I'm ready to return to a Tennessee Christmas! So please keep me in your Thoughts--this means that I'll have spent a year and a half in China without a trip home--which is an emotional adjustment to make when most of us come for 10-11 months and then go home each summer. I know I can do it--I just need His help as I do. A year and a half is a long time to go without seeing your family at all. But I think that knowing I get to be with them for Christmas will make it worth it! (although I'm going to go crazy if I don't get to see my sister and brother-in-law SOMETIME in the next year or so--if y'all read this--I'm coming to Germany if I have to sell everything that I own!!!)

End note--I still can't post pics or links via this proxy site--Blogger is still shut down over here (along with YouTube, Myspace, Twitter, and countless others). So if it ever comes back I'll fill up my blog w/pics. Until then I'll just have to be really really descriptive! Love to you all!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Updates of Spring and Youth

Sorry to any readers who I may still have out there...blogger has been shut down over here and I'm only now finding a way to post (assuming that this DOES post!). Alot has happened since my last update, so I'll try to take some time in the next few days and give summaries of life over here. For now....

Spring: Wuhan had a few miserably hot days, but mostly our Spring has been lovely, with breezes sweeping through the apartment and enough rain here and there to slow you down and make you drink tea by an open window. I've kept my windows open for about a month now and have loved waking up to soft winds and the sound of children playing in the kindergarten below.

Birthday: I turned 25 last month with allll sorts of fun and am continually reminded of how blessed I am. The day before my birthday, my Reading Group students came for Study at my apartment and brought a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of coke, a cute wooden fan with pandas on it, and a gorgeous plum blossom ink painting. I was blown away because I didn't even think that I had told them that I had a birthday coming. My students are SO considerate and sweet to me. I really can't express how glad I am to have them in my life. We had a great study that night that really encouraged me for the Work that we can do here.

The next day I made the trip across the Yangtse River to eat at my favorite restaurant in town, Aloha. This place has the best western food in Hubei--hamburgers and mexican options and incredible milkshakes. After lunch I returned to my side of town for our weekly ladies YARP meeting--at which Katera surprised me with a REAL American birthday cake with REAL icing. In China, the cakes are really decorative, but they taste more like a very plain shortbread cake and the icing has little to no sugar--so they're not my favorite. But Katera had a western coffeeshop in town make me a real cake and it was one of the best things I've eaten all year.

After YARP, it was time to be young and frivolous. For explanation of what occurred, you need background: Blue is my all-time favorite color. I am also a big fan of monochromism--my favorite paintings, outfits, housewares etc are typically always just different shades of one color. I've noticed that when shopping I'm always drawn into the stores that group their clothes together by colors. It's one of my things. Finally, I've always wanted blue hair. I've toyed with the idea of dying it blue many times, but either didn't want to bleach it first or felt that it wouldn't be a good career move or have just been too lazy. Some have asked me why I would want blue in, what type of statement would I be trying to make with blue hair. Rebellion? Punk attitude? Unconventionality? No. I JUST. THINK. IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL. I love blue hair.

And so, upon turning 25, the stars aligned and all my wishes came true. I found a blue wig in a streetside shop earlier this year, I found a sparkly blue tank top on the day of my birthday, I got a manicure with bright blue polished topped with blue sparkles, and loaded on blue eyeshadows in many shades for a night of beautiful blue fun. The outfit was complete with fake eyelashes and my wig securely on and me and some of my favorite girls went out for a night on the town. We danced it up like we would be in our mid-twenties forever. I can certainly say that I've enjoyed my youth!!!

The Great Wall: And now I have just returned from my second trip to the Great Wall. We spent two days on the wall, camping overnight between. I'll write more about this tomorrow--but it was one of those moments in life. We went to a section that is less touristed and so for long stretches had much of the wall to ourselves. We saw the sun set over the wall and woke up in time to see it rise, with wisps of fog and mist rolling over the wall and mountains as the light filled the sky. Incredible. One week into my 25th year, and I was spending the night on the Great Wall of China. During the rest of our trip, I was in Beijing partaking of la vie americaine -- all of the Western restaurants and shops that the capital of this country has to offer. I saw two movies in the theaters, Star Trek and Wolverine, and ate hamburgers, sandwiches, mexican, and indian and even had a quick spa stop. It was lovely. More to come on that.

So--assuming that I am still able to access this site to post, I'll have the complete Great Wall tale and others soon. I don't think I can post pics currently and it's not letting me hyperlink--so I'll put my pics on facebook and you can see them there until the web returns to normal--if it ever does. Stay tuned for more as I have time...