Nov 26, 2011

Oh the holidays :)

You know those people who are like, "I hate Christmas," and then proceed to give reasons why they hate it, such as:
  • You should have the Christmas Spirit all year, not for one day.
  • Christmas songs are annoying.
  • People only really care about getting presents, which is really selfish.
  • I'm only going to give you a present if I think you actually deserve a present. I don't want to feel pressure.
Blah blah blah. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the people who say "I hate Christmas"-- despite how genuine their reasons seem-- are just saying it because they want to hate something that most people love. I'm sure there's a term for that kind of person, but being around people who speak little-to-no-English for the past 3+ months has made me forget most of my English. It's pretty tragic, really. I'm not sure I'm still qualified to teach these little kids. Good thing I'm not taking an English class this spring.
Anyway, I just wanted to preface with that so that my next statement holds more weight.
I don't hate any of the holidays. But Thanksgiving is easily my least favorite. It's mostly about eating and being thankful for things. As far as being thankful for things goes, I really like to hope that I show thanks for my blessings all year, but it's nice to have a specific day set aside for that, because I probably don't actually show thanks every day all year. It would be fantastic if I did, but it doesn't happen. And the eating of food? You've got turkey, stuffing, pie, and then other side dishes and desserts that are filled in for each family. Turkey, stuffing and pie are pretty mandatory no matter what. The reason Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday is because I don't like turkey or stuffing. The two things that Thanksgiving is really built on. And I try them every year, but they just don't get better tasting. Haha. It's really sad.
This year, however, was one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had (and one of the lamest Halloweens I've ever had, which is sad because Halloween is one of my favorites). It all starts on Thursday. Obviously.
We had a special craft thing we did with the kids where they all made turkeys with their parents. It was cute and fun. But the real party comes that night. For dinner on Mon-Thurs, we go over to the Chinese teachers' apartment and eat with them. On Thanksgiving, they cooked us a particularly big dinner-- with turkey :) It was really delicious and very sweet of them to do. They even had dessert for us. Fruit salad! So good. It was so nice.
Then the next day we went to Xioulan and ate feast number 2 with the girls there. It was like a real Thanksgiving dinner (minus the turkey and stuffing ha). We had KFC, mashed potatoes, corn, broccoli dish with onions and carrots, rolls, stuffed peppers, and a couple Chinese dishes. I'm sure there were other things, but they escape my attention. For dessert, we had pumpkin pie, donuts, cookies (which Morgin baked from scratch. She's AWESOME.), and a baked apple crumble thing. It was so awesome. We went around the table and said something we're thankful for, just like back home (even though that's a pretty recently adopted tradition that my family's picked up).
It was awesome. I think the best part was that it was a real Thanksgiving. We were going to have the same group of ILP girls that went to Beijing. That's the Xioulan girls, us here in Nanlang, and the sisters (plus their one other roommate who couldn't make it to Beijing). But the sisters weren't able to make it for dinner. It was sad, but these things happen. We still had food for all of them, so the Xioulan girls went downstairs and invited some of their Chinese teacher friends up for dinner. So we had Americans sharing a tradition with the Chinese. It was awesome. :) I loved it. Easily the best Thanksgiving of my life.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm so thankful for the support you've all shown me while I've been on the other side of the world. :) Love you guys!

Nov 20, 2011

It's a DLSASTER. It's an incredible MBSS.

You know how people in America get shirts or necklaces or tattoos or whatever of Chinese characters? And then they think they're all cool because they have something in Chinese, and it probably says something awesome?

Well the reverse is true in China. There's English everywhere, especially on shirts. And you know how, when you see those Chinese characters, you think, "I bet that actually says something really stupid"? Well, I've found that with the English, it usually either doesn't say anything (ehkdijflsldk), or it does say something, but has a typo.
For example, we were on the sky train the other day, and there was a guy wearing a shirt that said something about needing a green environment and then said on the back, regarding the current environment, "IT'S A DLSASTER." Aside from that, it was a totally normal shirt that I wouldn't be surprised to see anyone in America wear.
So I'm pretty sure that when shirt companies look at a batch of shirts, and find there's a typo on it, they think, "Oh no. It's a dlsaster. Let's just send it to Chlna. They'll never know."
And probably most of them won't ever know.

Nov 19, 2011

Hang on. Qualifier.

Ok, so we've been back from vacation for about 5 days, and although I feel like I love it here more than I did before I went to Beijing, I don't think I love it as much as I did while in Beijing. And I don't think that actually has anything to do with me loving Beijing. I'm pretty sure I can pinpoint exactly what it is that made me love China so intensely.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some lonely little girl with no one to talk to. That's not it at all. I believe a couple months ago, when I got to China, I said I'd write an email about my awesome roommates. I think I'll now actually do that.
Annalisa. She's my head teacher, and she's a great one at that. I feel like I've learned a lot from here, and she's definitely helped me to become the teacher I am. More than that, she's helped me become the person I am. She's been a great influence on my life, and I love the example she sets for me. She's loud and funny. She has about twelve different voices she uses. She has the strangest dreams. And I know that she really cares about me. I think she's made the most effort out of all my roommates to become my friend. Which is very nice, because we have pretty ridiculously different personalities. She is a wonderful person. I love her :)
Mandy. She's so awesome, I love her. She and Anna have a LOT in common. She makes weird faces. She has a couple of her own weird voices. She's very nice, and she genuinely cares about the people in her life. Her laugh and smile is very contagious. We share a lot of interests when it comes to media-- How I Met Your Mother, Relient K, Friends... Other TV shows and bands. Haha. Aside from that, our interests are pretty different, but I love her :)
April. She's my literal roommate. We've had our fair share of late nights talking about nothing. We get along well. And man! Can that girl get crazy hyper! Our personalities mesh best when she's in a calmer state, or when I'm in a more excited state. She's loud. She laughs all the time. She's sweet. She's gets on my nerves occasionally (though nothing specific comes to mind), and I'm sure I've gotten on her nerves before. I mean, we live in the same room. I'm with her constantly, it's bound to happen. And I love her anyway :)
But (there's always a but, isn't there?), had I met any of these girls back home, I don't think we'd be the friends we are now. I think I'd see them at church, and we'd sit next to each other and talk and laugh, but I don't imagine we'd randomly decide to run to the store together really quick. I don't think we'd decide to go out to dinner. I don't think we'd go get our hair done. I could be wrong, but I think I'm so different from them that if I weren't forced to be close to them, I wouldn't be. It just wouldn't have happened naturally.
I'm not miserable, or even unhappy. In fact, I'm more than content. I love being here, and I love being with these people. But none of them are really people who I clicked with immediately. Even after 3 months of being here, I'm still the quietest one in the group. And it's not because I'm shy or anything, I just don't have a lot in common with all of them, personality-wise. Which isn't a bad thing! We have totally different personalities, and that happens. I'm not better than them, and they aren't better than me. We're just different.
However, we went to Beijing with 2 other schools. There were 12 of us total. 4 from our school, 6 from the school in Xioulan and 2 from another school, which name I do not know. Because there were so many people, there was a wide range of personalities. And there are 4 or 5 girls in the rest of the group that I do click with right away. So while I was in Beijing, I was able to be with people who I think I would naturally gravitate toward back home. And having that closeness with some of the other girls, PLUS being in an awesome country that I love with my entire heart, I realized how much I don't want to leave.
So yes. That about sums it up. I love my roommates, and I'll be so sad to have to leave them all in a month. It will be strange, to say the least, to not be with them 24/7. I just wish that my relationship with them was a little more natural, like their relationships with each other.

It's official. China has won my love.

I love China. Really. I loved it the first 3 months I was here, but it was different. I loved being here, but I was also cool with the prospect of going home and getting back to the "real world." I used to describe it to people in terms of a percentage. I was split 60-40 for Staying In China-Going Home. There wasn't much that was keeping me tied to one place over the other.

Don't get me wrong, though. Under no circumstances was I unhappy with being in China. I loved my kids, I loved teaching, I loved the food. I sometimes loved my roommates (HA. Sorry guys, I'm just kidding. I always love you). But I also loved my life back in Colorado. I loved going to school, I loved my family, I loved my friends, I loved the cold.

I'm not really sure what it was that changed, either. But something happened over the last weekend, when we were in Beijing, and it clicked. I was 100% contended to be in China. Honestly, I feel like I could stay here forever and be happy. But I can't. I have to go home in 4 weeks.

I love all you guys back home. I do. But I'm not excited to leave. I'm excited to come give everyone presents and to see everyone again and start up school (I'm really really excited for my classes this spring), but I have a life here in China, and I don't want it to end. Sad.

I <3 BJ!

I loved Beijing. But sadly, I didn't get an I <3 BJ shirt. Maybe next time I'm there.

So for our last vacation, which was 4 days, we decided to go to Beijing. We left after teaching on Thursday to go get bus tickets to Guangzhou-- where our train was at-- but they didn't have anymore seats. So instead, we got tickets on the sky train (that were cheaper and less time consuming. Hmm. Wonder why that wasn't our first option. Meh, whatever). The train ride to Beijing was 21 hours, and that is quite a long time, so I didn't want to be stuck wearing jeans for all of that. So I wore my pajama pants, and packed a pair of jeans and a couple shirts, then I'd wear my pajama pants back home on another 21 hour train ride. Well as we're waiting for the sky train, I realized that I left my pants at home. Haha. Oops. So that's why in every picture of me in Beijing, I'm wearing pajama pants. Didn't have anything else.

So we got our train at like 6:30 or something on Thursday, made it to Beijing on Friday at 2 or so, then our group (which included the girls from 3 different schools) split into 2 groups. 4 of the girls went to the Pearl Market, and the other 8 of us went to get Mexican food. I know, I know. We're in China. Why would you get Mexican food? Well, because I live in China, so being able to get Chinese food isn't that big of a deal. I eat Chinese food for 3 meals every day, plus snacks in between. But there is no Mexican food anywhere in China that isn't a really big tourist hot spot. So yes. We were awesome and ate Mexican food. And it was fantastic. Friday night was their Ladies' Night, so they had burritos for only 15 yuan (or you could get their vegetarian burrito for 10 yuan). That was a nice surprise. I got a pollo asada burrito and then also split a carne asada chimichanga with Jessica. So much food, but it was so delicious.

After dinner, we met the other group at a Chinese Acrobat show. It was pretty sweet. Unfortunately, the traffic was really heavy, so our taxi took FOREVER to get there, and we only saw half the show. But you know, it was ok. Because the half of the show we saw was well work the 17 bucks I paid for the entire ticket (seriously. They had those motorcycles in the metal ball thing driving all fast and awesome. and then they kept adding motorcyclists. There were five. FIVE. It was insane), and the taxi ride was actually a lot of fun. It was nice to sit there and talk with Ashley and the sisters-- Courtney and Maddie. Those girls are awesome, and I miss them terribly now that I no longer see them every week at church. Boo for having to come home!

Anyway. After the acrobat show, we hit up a night market. Jessica, Caley, and Ashley tried scorpion. I thought about it, but seeing the scorpions move around kinda made me decide against it. Ha. I don't know, eating something that's alive and has a stinger isn't exactly on my bucket list. I know, I'm so unadventurous. I think I'll be ok though. I did eat some delicious fruit thing that was coated with melted sugar. Mmm. Once the night market closed, we headed back to our hostel and called it a night.

The next morning (Saturday) we were up and at it early early so we could see the Great Wall. So awesome haha. I don't really actually have much to say about it, actually. You know how it is. Get a van ride there, climb up a ton of steps to get to the actual wall, hike the wall for a little while, take awesome pictures, head back down, possibly do some shopping (I got some dried kiwis. Quite possibly the best fruit ever to be dried). Except that I did have an awkward moment with another tourist. So if you look way up the wall, there was a section where you could see some Chinese writing on the ground. I was just chilling there up on one of the guard posts, and a girl was taking a picture of it. She said, "[blah blah take a picture] even though I don't know what it says." She seemed nice and friendly and everything, so I chimed in with, "I hope it says, 'The Great Wall.'" Ha. I thought it was amusing. Not the funniest thing ever, not particularly clever, but an amusing thought none the less. She just looks at me, dead serious, and says, "No. It doesn't." Oh ha. My bad. What a crazy lady.

Side note-- before leaving the guard post I was sure to pretend to light a fire and say, "Now all of China knows you're here," and then I imagined someone looking at me saying, "Perfect." I rock. Also, I totally did some of my awesome Kung Fu moves on the guard post. I was probably fighting off some of the Huns.

After the Great Wall, we went to the Silk Market, and then we were going to go to the Pearl Market, but everyone was having so much fun at the Silk Market that we just stayed there. I got some pretty cool stuff. Some of it is touristy China stuff, but I also got 3 pairs of cons (for 45 yuan each:: about 7 bucks) and a Converse hoody. Oh, and a duffel bag. I was originally going to just get rid of the duffel bag I brought here but upon comparing the one I bought in Beijing to the one I have currently, I can't justify getting rid of it. It's too high quality. The only thing that's really wrong with it is that the strap is breaking (which is funny, because it's only breaking because I had too much heavy stuff in it when I came to China because I was over the weight limit of my checked bags by quite a lot, but wanted to bring everything I had packed anyway, so I just moved the heavy stuff from my checked back to my carry on). That's fortunate, though because the duffel bag I just bought came with 2-- check it, TWO-- shoulder straps. So now I've got two duffel bags, and I'm excited :) After the Silk Market extravaganza, we went to get dinner. Ha. Yeah... we got Mexican food again. Ashley and I were in kahoots this time, though, and we split some pollo asada nachos (quite likely the best nachos I've ever had. legit.) and another carne asada chimichanga (and I'd only actually had frozen chimichangas, so aside from the exact same one I had had the night before, it was probably the best I've ever had also). So goood!

Some of the girls went to see the Bird's Nest after dinner, but I've never really been an Olympic fan, and I was really tired, so I just went back to the hostel to sleep and prepare for another RIDICULOUSLY early morning.

Sunday Sunday SUNDAAAY. We went to see the Forbidden City/Tian'anmen Square. It was so awesome. I loved it. We only had a couple hours there, unfortunately, because we had to catch our train home at 1 that afternoon, so we had to be on our way back to the hostel for our stuff at 11. The Forbidden City opened at 8:30, and we were there well before that, so we still had 2 hours. We ended up splitting up into different groups so that people who wanted to spend more time in the Forbidden City could all hang out together, and people who wanted to be in Tian'anmen Square could go there earlier. Courtney, Maddie and I ended up staying in the Forbidden City the entire time. It was SO COOL. And we barely saw anything! It was really awesome, though. I loved it. We were there so early that the pictures we took are just of us. There aren't ridiculous crowds on every side of us. It's nice, I definitely wouldn't change that. It was fantastic.

Then we hit the train back home, and got back to our apartment at 2 on Monday. It was a good vacation. Beijing is so awesome, and I am definitely going to hit it up again in the future. But I'll spend more time there, that way I can see it all :)

Oh, and for the record, trains suck. Sitting for 21 hours is not fun. Some of the girls in our group actually slept on the floor haha. Which was convenient for me, because then I got to sleep over two chairs, and I could put my feet up.

Oh oh oh oh. Actually, I do have one more story. We were on the subway, and we met a guy who looks JUST LIKE Tony Stark. It was remarkable. Like, if you told me that Robert Downey Jr. is living undercover in Beijing, I would be 100% positive that I met him. I'M ON TO YOU, ROBERT DOWNEY JR. Ha, but really. It sounded like him, looked like him. I'm (partially) sure it wasn't, but it was still exciting.


Hello World! Ha. Sorry for the delay. For some reason blogger has stopped letting me post blogs... I don't know why. But before I left, Chaelomen helped me set up the email-blogging. I only just looked up what my email address for my blog is, but hopefully this works and you guys will be able to read the 4 blogs I've been saving in a draft in my email (that way I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say).

I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. Unfortunately, they don't celebrate it in China. Fortunately, I'm a foreign teacher and the schools that ILP works with are all about giving the kids a taste of American culture. So we got to dress up and decorate the classroom, and we even hosted a party with the kids and their parents, and that was fun.

The decorations were mostly made out of construction paper. We had a TON of pumpkins and ghosts and bats and the like. There was a little pumpkin patch with a construction paper scarecrow set up in it. It sounds super ghetto, but it actually looked pretty good. The school even splurged a little and got some Halloween decorations. We had some webs, spiders, and this skeleton thing that's motion-activated. For a country that doesn't celebrate Halloween, they had a curious amount of decorations and costumes available... Any idea why?

Our party was pretty awesome, too. The little kids sang Wheels on the Bus (not a Halloween song, I know, but it was the only English song they knew well at the time) and then did a little dance thing. Then the Chinese teachers performed a dance, and then Anna, April, Mandy and I all danced. We did the Monster Mash, with some Thriller moves thrown in there. We actually wanted to learn the entire Thriller dance, but we were too lazy. haha. These things happen. We started actually trying to learn it ON Halloween about 5 hours before the party. We're awesome.