Wednesday, December 31, 2014

IT'S 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

The sun is out, the sky is clear and blue, and the air today smells fresh. Folks, it's 2015 in China, and soon it will be 2015 in America as well. I'm wishing you all an incredible New Year! Sending love and prayers your direction, for blessings, joy, and prosperity. 

Cheers!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

If I should die !?

Whether or not I wanted to walk in a forward direction, the subway was so packed, if I didn't walk with the crowd, I would have been run over. Trampled by a wild herd of Rhinoceros' (Fuck, what is the plural for this word? I want to say, "rhinocerosi" haha! *ahem*).

Hold my purse close and pray, "dear God, help me survive!" Holding onto Bee for dear life, praying that Karen not let go my arm. If one of us were to lose our grip... death. Certainly, death.

But after we have gone up three flights of escalators, we surface in Guangzhou-- and here, I want to say that we, "surface in open air," but the word "open" is totally unacceptable.

Air! Hallelujah, thank you Lord! I can breathe! But still can't move !

Guangzhou is a city of notable size, as far as cities go in the Guangdong province-- so the Chinese tell me, at least. Well, even having been told that Guangzhou was a big city, I was in no way prepared for the massive number of bodies bumping into mine. I thought the walking strip near my garden was big. Woo-hoo-hoo my friends! What a nasty shock. My gut said, "run, home to Dongguan!" and then my heart said, "Oh shit, Katy, Dongguan is your home now?!" and then my brain said, "hey, dude, focus before you get lost and then die."

Tomorrow's headline will read: Random Caucasian Carcass Found Outside McDonalds in GuangZhou, Only 400 RMB!

Okay, so I must focus, stick with my girls, and cringe, behind my smile of course, at the number of people that touch me simultaneously. Forget having personal space, I just want to choose my own direction to walk in. Maybe lemmings don't have a choice either. Poor lemmings, they get such a bad wrap!

The city was frightening. Vast.
A labyrinth.
Not the kind you see in a movie, with the obvious exit that is observed from birds-eye-view. No, this was a,

"you're fucked"

 labyrinth that would make anyone want their mommy. I am unashamed. Mommy! Save me!

But really, it was pretty epic ( and I mean that in every aspect of the word-- think, The Odyssey, then weep with me).

 More soon... I'm tired now.

Good night everyone ! Hope your Christmas was lovely also (but hopefully yours did not involve Lotus Eaters or Polyphemus).

Cheers!!!

Happy Christmas in Guangzhou


We went to explore. We went for shopping. We went for adventure. 
What did we find?


The perfect chance to put on our party clothes and.....


.... make friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What, WhAt?!



Celebrating my 25th with the ladies! 
Sometimes we classy...

And sometimes we aint!



Workmates




Everyone at English First Dongguan

Third Place, 

Second Place

First Place

Merry Christmas

Hey everyone!

 Merry Christmas!!!!

I'm wishing you all an absolutely perfect Christmas holiday! In fact, when I close my eyes and pray to Jesus, I tell Him that each one of you must be surrounded by the smell of Christmas trees and ginger bread cookies. You should all be choking with laughter, overflowing with joy, surrounded by loved ones, and happily stuffed with holiday food. If any of these things seem unpleasant to you, Jesus knows what you like, and I've asked him to deliver it to you. OK,  I know Jesus and Santa aren't the same thing, but I have some faith for sharing.

Let me tell you a little about Christmas in China...

The Big Picture: China as a nation is non-religious.. sort of. Perhaps the politically correct way to explain how Christmas fits into China, is to say that the holiday is acknowledged due to western influences brought on (probably) by the massive quantity of foreigners that have relocated here. The local's in Dongguan (DG) do not usually receive this holiday off-- Christmas isn't celebrated in China as a Chinese holiday, but merely acknowledged as a holiday of the western world--, but foreigners such as myself receive Christmas day off. It is a strange system, and for some reason, it frustrates my heart that not all employees receive the holiday off.

Work: EF celebrates Christmas in two ways. First, they throw a huge party for all of the students. We dressed up in costumes, made pizza, gave out presents, and sang some Christmas music. The weekly life clubs at school were all focused around the topic of Christmas, but explaining a holiday (and the meaning of that holiday), in a language that students are learning (and not necessarily proficient in), is complex. For instance, the smallest students, Small Stars, are 4-6 years old, and can only learn things such as how to say, "Merry Christmas" or recognizing images such as presents and Santa Claus. While the meaning behind Christmas can be explained to the older students, there is a great amount of variety among the teachers as to what exactly this holiday is about. Obviously, I have a biased opinion!
The second way in which EF celebrates Christmas is by throwing a work party for all the employees. Gary took us all bowling (yes, bowling in China!), and then to a Brazilian restaurant (think Rodizio Grill), for dinner. At dinner we exchanged secret Santa gifts, ate gratuitous amounts of food (insert cough), and enjoyed each other's company without the pressure of obligatory work related conversations. Aside from the frigid weather, and the unrelenting rain, the experience was quite wonderful.

Nancheng district: My garden is located in Nancheng district, DG. Karen and I took a stroll down Nancheng walking street, which is basically a street mall (kind of like the 16th street mall in Denver, or 6th st., down in Austin). During the evenings, walking street fills up. Shoulder to shoulder, Karen and I bump into each other and bump into strangers as we try and wiggle our way forward in the crowd. It takes a strange amount of concentration to not trip on the stones beneath my feet (nothing is truly level/flat in China, and walking can be treacherous), and not trip on small children ducking between their parent's legs and then shooting out into the sea of up&down people. Every storefront has a "Merry Christmas" sign on it, and most employees are wearing Santa hats. There is at least one Christmas tree on every block. They are enormous, fake trees, lit from top to bottom and covered in enough bling to justify my internal inkling to steal just one of those beautiful ornaments (I would never! Sort of...).
Beyond the clacking store clerks (who stand in the entry way of each store and try to goad us inside), more prominent than the smell of freshly baked bread (yeah, that's a big thing here), I hear Christmas Hymns. All of the stores are playing Christmas music-- not just Frosty the Snowman stuff, but true, real, gospel hymns. Of course, none of the store owners (or most, I'd bargain) have any idea what the songs are actually about. They probably selected their Christmas music list based on a search for "popular Christmas music."
Jesus, they are singing about Jesus. Karen and I walk side by side and sing a long. The crowd begins to part and people stare at us as we sing, "Christ the savior is born." This is one of the strangest feelings China has offered me yet-- it is the feeling of being surrounded by all things unfamiliar, but one single thing is like the tiniest candle light, and it transports my brain back home. These people are strangers, their culture is strange to me, they do not understand me (nor I them), and they do not understand this Christmas song. But because I understand the Christmas song, I am no longer in China. I travel through time, and I am sitting on a blue leather couch, watching our puppy tear up red wrapping paper, and laughing with my little sister while my brothers tromp around the living-room in their flannel pajamas. In China, I can time travel.

Christmas Day for Katy: Bee (colleague, roommate and friend), Karen (colleague and friend), and I are all planning on taking a day trip to Guangzhou. Guangzhou is the nearest large city, and this will be my first experience outside of Dongguan-- which is actually considered a small, industrial city. Guangzhou  is wildly populated with foreigners, and visiting the city, I expect, will be less jarring because locals wont feel any need to stare at me (they see foreigners everyday, nothing new to see here)! Tomorrow morning we will take a bus to a subway, and a subway to a cab, and a cab to a hotel where we will drop our bags and hit the town. One day of wandering around the big city, one night in a Chinese hotel (dear God, I could commit murder for a bath tub or a hot tub). Christmas day in China will be a day filled with fierce girl time, and with these ladies, that always means good food and tons of laughter! I will report back about the adventure after it happens, and probably with some scandalous pictures!

For now, I'm wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Be blessed, and know you are loved, and I'm praying for all of you. Cheers everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Narf!



Today I am praising God. To be so far away from everyone I know, far away from all things familiar to me, and yet, to still feel at home; to have His voice whispering to my heart, "peace."

In the stillness, I am not restless for a sound-- no longer am I restless to hear an answer to the question my heart asks. Instead, I am filled with a calm reassurance:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had o opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

Phil 4:4-13

My thanks goes out to the body in Texas, who has been praying, continually and with fervor, on my behalf. God has truly answered your prayers, and I am so grateful to you all!

To Paul From Hong Kong-- With Gratitude


The walls and tables and chairs and cushions and couches were striped. thick lines, clean and simple. baby blue and soft cream. The interior, while vast, was cluttered in a comfortable fashion, with little white tables and little white chairs, all covered in cream and blue cushions. Delicate tea cups proliferated on every surface.  Curling handles of porcelain bloomed out of white teapots that were decorated with ornate blue flower designs. No doubt they were all hand painted.

Paul was tall. His forehead was "strong," the type of thing one had to observe when allowing themselves to gauge what type of man he was. They would observe his soft brown hair, that fell to his shoulders in loose waves. They would observe his tall and broad frame, and then consider that his posture and respect for physical space made him altogether approachable. Yes, his eyes seemed welcoming and gentle, but not in an overbearing manner. This man was friendly, and frank, and above all else, honest. These were obvious facts about his character that he carried with him politely.

Paul was in his office, a small room behind a wall of tiny teacups. He was running his fingers over lines on a piece of paper-- paper with meaningful figures on it. His white chef's coat was clean, freshly pressed, indicating that, although the night sky was already digging it's way into the heavens, Paul was only getting started with his work "day." His wisdom lines rested in a happy manner on his cheeks and around the corner of each of his eyes. What a sweet-heart, some 90 year-old woman might say, if she saw him, sitting at his desk with marked concentration.

Katy was energetic, naive even. She had entered the facility based on a rumor that had found it's way to her by some unknown--fate, destiny, God. She stood, shifting her weight from one foot to the other and distractedly glancing from one blue stripe to the next. Wonderful wallpaper, she noted to herself. She could hear the light clinking of porcelain, in the adjoining room.  One small female voice responded to her question, "let me speak to the owner." The small voice then tickled another nearby,  The young women in the wine house whispered, pointed at Katy, and then relayed some verbal message down a line of women and into an area of the wine house of which Katy had no vision-- though her attentiveness to the chatter had no bearing on the unfolding of events.

Katy glanced around her with jerking movements, sat for a moment, and then stood again as she saw Paul approaching her. She looked at him first to explore his personality, his wrinkles from, no doubt, years of laughing. Then to shake hands.
"I've heard you sell cigars." She spoke plainly.
"No, I'm afraid not." Now Paul was observing Katy. What was he looking at? A young girl, could she even be over 18? Tall and round, red-faced and eager.
"Oh." So much disappointment in her voice.  "They are very hard to find in this city.
"Yes" He was delaying a moment, looking her over and trying to determine what exactly a young girl would want with a cigar. "Where are you from?"
"America! I've just moved here to teach and I'm having an awfully hard time finding a place to purchase cigars from."
"Yeah, you can't buy them here. I have only my personal cigars, but I do not sell them."
"Can I order them in bulk from you?"
"No." His eyes searched past Katy's defeated expression.
"This city!"
"Surely you don't  mean that you smoke cigars?"
"Yes! Yes I do! And I'm just having the hardest time..."
"I tell you what," Paul stepped behind one of the many surrounding shelves of teacups. He disappeared a moment, and then returned holding a wooden box. "I tell you what. I will not sell this to you, but I will give you one. My friend just brought these back from Cuba"
Katy's mouth fell open. She corrected herself before Paul looked up from his business fighting some plastic wrap that held together at least a dozen Cuban cigars. Katy, could not however, hide the lust from her eyes.
"Have a smell, then" Paul handed her a creamy brown cigar that she placed under her nose.

Katy inhaled slowly; a little pepper, a touch of spice. She closed her eyes and took a second sniff. The cigar was full of rich flavors, smooth and warm, like Heaven.

Katy spoke to God first, "Oh Jesus," though in that moment Paul wondered if she was cursing, then she opened her eyes, "thank you so much."

Paul was watching, waiting, smiling. "I'm happy to share."


Monday, December 8, 2014

Make My Day, Everyday


Smell Before You Touch

Getting off the airplane was like stepping inside of Dr. Who's Tardus. Everything suddenly got bigger. Think New York City and then multiply your mental image by 10. Think red woods in Cali, then cry. China is huge. Every building scans upward infinitely. Every building is vast, taking up so much space in diameter that circling around the base of one would take a fair chunk of time out of your day, not to mention walking around a whole "garden" filled with identical structures. Zoom out and see that it isn't just inside of the garden that buildings form a giant, towering maze. These structures are China. Step outside of the garden and there are more gardens. Buildings are wall to wall, leaving enough narrow space in between each other for people to walk, single file down the alleys the buildings form. Some buildings are crumbling, and some are brand new. They all share equal space, they all have many inhabitants, they all are too much for the eye to truly consume their details. Everything is overwhelming.

Inside the garden are brick pathways and tall plants. Bridges, lakes, rats in every bush, small children squatting to use the restroom, the sun in your eyes, some man in a straw hat, a bamboo pole across his shoulder and a bucket of water teetering on each end. Walking quickly past him is a young man in a tailored business suit, eating a shrink-wrapped chicken-foot and staring at me like I'm the one that is out of place.  Children wizz by and school girls on their bikes ding bells to tell everyone that they are coming around the bend. Cars are parked on the sidewalk. Cars are parked in the street. Everything moves and nothing is still.

Outside the garden a cloud of confetti explodes in my face. People in colors walking around. They all move at the same pace, but together they twist and turn around each other with such fluidity that I am not sure what I'm watching. Car horns and babies. All I can hear is car horns, and babies. One of the guards at the gate is saying hello to me, and I walk by in a daze, but I'm sure to wave. Everyone is staring. The side walk is so wide; a bike lane, a walking lane; a lane for plants. And I am always swimming upstream. Poor salmon. There are bamboo pagodas back to back on the sidewalk outside of my garden. One is selling fruit, rows and rows of fruit. The next is selling socks and stockings, and the next one has children's toys-- one isn't a pagoda at all, but a wooden wheel-barrows of nuts. Or are they nuts? Everyone is yelling and frowning. They look so angry. They aren't angry though, they are just talking. To see someone smile, is rare. To hear someone laugh, is even more rare. But they aren't sad, angry people. This is just their culture. My smile is strange to them. My laughter is strange to them. People everywhere rushing around, their forms pause only long enough for them to take a good look at me before putting their foot firmly into the next step in their day.

Six feet by six feet. This is the size of the restaurants along the base of every block. Massive buildings that lose themselves in the foggy sky all meet the earth with this one thing in common: restaurants. At the base of every building there are several restaurants. All back to back, all with wicker baskets sitting in the entry way, steaming something that smells like vegetables and something that smells sweet like custard. It smells amazing. Tables are set up on the giant side walks, round tables with places for 10 people to sit. families share tables, strangers share tables. Everyone grabs with their chopsticks from the same bowl and they all eat together. I can hear them chew, I can hear them yell. Everyone is drinking.   Steam drifts up into the already humid and sticky air, and I am hungry.

Every block is so massive, it has at least one (if not, several), corner store(s). China's version of the 7-11 has a red M shape on top of it, so they have been labeled, "m-marts." The one downstairs and out the garden gate is small, but the owners are very friendly. Inside are rows of packaged chicken feet. They are cured in something brown and peppery looking. There are chicken's eggs, also marinating in some strange brown juice. My appetite loses itself.  On one wall there is a variety of noodle bowls made for the microwave, all featuring a man's face smiling and some part of the cow that we don't speak of. The coolers along the wall have bottles of tea and juice; when I open the door though, I find that the cooler isn't "cool" at all, but rather, it simply isn't warm. The Juice bottles themselves feature bright pictures of fruit (who knows if that is a blue berry or a dingleberry, either way I'm nervous). The man behind the counter is smiling, watching me hesitate over, well, everything. I can't be rude, I must buy something. . .


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Something is Happening

Sometimes, it's just harder to get things out. To receive the signals being sent to my brain (by my eye-balls), to understand the images, interpret them, and spit the information back out in some relevant manner. Right now, I really can't sort out emotions, or the reactions. Reality and truth start to shift under the lens of a new society. It is confusing, frustrating, and sometimes, painful.
My thoughts are not complete right now, but ideas are forming.

I remember a few years back, meeting up with a friend of mine at a restaurant on the 16th St. Mall. He had just returned to America, after a year in China, and so I was eager to hear about his experiences.  I remember sitting across the table from him, and being so curious to see his pictures and hear his stories. He was so excited to share about his adventures.

I was surprised however, when he explained to me one of his frustrations: he told me that people frequently asked about his time in China, but that they did not really listen. I remember wondering, how many people ask just to be polite, and not to actually hear an answer. He said, people expressed some curiosity, but they quickly lost interest when he tried to tell them. Further, he told me that those who did stop to listen, didn't care to understand the way he cared to share with them.

Even now, sitting here with my laptop, in my bed (that isn't a bed at all), in my apartment, on the 13th level of my building, in my garden, in Nancheng, in Dongguan, in Guangdong, in CHINA, I know that what I am recounting above is not an accurate depiction of my thoughts, nor that person's exact words, but I am trying to explain something I don't even understand fully myself, so please be patient, and bear with me.

I remember sitting with my friend, and recognizing that he was so passionate about everything he was telling me. I could in no way understand why, but his passion mattered to me because he matters to me, and so I listened with all the passion I could offer back from my inexperienced self.

Now, I find myself reflecting on that moment because I can feel that I want to explain something, and I'm not sure .... not sure who actually wants to listen. And even if you are listening, will you understand? What is this moment like? Think of a time when you had a profound personal revelation--one so great, how can you not share? But the revelation is so intimate, who would really want to sit through what will likely come across as some kind of mad rant?

In trying to describe what it is to have a life, I automatically want to make some analogy that helps my idea form a more accurate image for you. I think, life is like a universe-- ever expanding existence. But the word "universe" is the wrong word to use, because there is so much darkness in a universe; empty space constantly growing...  we can't see it all.

Life is like a cave (be quiet Plato!).  We are in the cave, digging. Some dig with their hands, some with a spoon, some with a shovel. Some people dig forever in one direction, looking for something specific. Some people get bored and give up digging; they sit in what cave-space they have and are comfortable. Some people might look for a bigger spoon or other people to dig with. The more you dig out of your "cave," the more your world expands. As you dig you learn and discover-- the more you dig the more room you have to see (let's not complicate this with "light" talk).

What am I getting at? Someone just stuck some godamn dynamite in my cave, and I don't even know where to begin. I have no idea how to explain to you, all the new shapes I can feel under my feet, all the new clumps of earth I can smell, all the new shades of light that burn my eyes. Something is changing. When I grow passionate to tell you, and share, will you listen enough to understand, will you care enough to listen?

I remember so clearly, the look in his eyes, when he wanted someone to understand. His eyes were hungry for someone to listen passionately while he told about his experience.

Right now, I want to explain to you what is going on. I'm in China, and something is happening.

I don't know how to tell you, so you can really hear what I'm saying. Where I am now, things are really different from where I was before. That sentence reads so simply, but it means so much more.  Until this exact moment, I don't think I was even able to admit to myself that here is different, so I couldn't see. Until now, I was not ready to see. . I am in China, and something is happening.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chinese, What?!

The very first time feels like this: uh, he doesn't look Chinese....

And then there is a pause. My mind becomes aware of itself  as some invisible wall bends and shatters. My own mind, hiding entire rooms from myself; this room didn't exist before, or was I just unaware?

After the first revelation, the room vanishes (poof) as quickly as it revealed itself.
Gone.

I'm no longer surrounded by, "_____" people. I'm just surrounded by people. Every stereotype of physical features is made obsolete as the curves and edges of human forms become sharp realities. Recognition occurs.

Perhaps, in stating this, I betray some hidden facet of racism-- though I do not perceive myself as such.
     Perhaps then, I merely examine the obvious.

The word, "_____" has not simply undergone a change in meaning, nor has it shifted weight within my vocabulary;"_____" appears to have fallen out of my lexicon as a whole. The letters form a sound I can't pronounce.
   "ch"
       "in"
           "chin?"
no.
      "nes"
           "in"
              "ch"
                  "inches?"
no.
Fuck. What
  is that word...
                           "SINCHES!"
That isn't quite right
      ...."cinches" so
                   ..."Chess!"
fuck.

What a bizarre phenomenon.

This morning, the sky was clear blue. There were tufts of white flattened against the blue, sprawled out like cotton balls, unrolled by the fingers of some playful child.  I marveled at the sight from my bedroom window. And then again, as I headed through my garden toward the Taxi bay. I stared at the sky, almost unable to look any other direction. Treasure the moment when color breaks my morning to me.

At last I peel my eyes back to earth, flinging myself to the right so as to not trample...

Hang on, his features aren't the same.
     He gives himself new depth, so distinctly himself.
            I give him new depth?

I see clouds, and blue sky, and people. And suddenly, I am so aware of my "western" ways.
Because I am strange to everyone around me, I am strange to myself.

Q: "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."
Hint: Dorothy is not strange because OZ isn't Kansas. Dorothy is strange because Kansas isn't OZ.

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Killed a Bee Today

      My balcony is equipped with a clothesline; the apartment unit has a washing machine, but no dryer.  Today was laundry day, so naturally, I was outside shaking out clothing to hang up. Out of nowhere (at least it seemed that way), a bee fell onto the balcony, landing with a rather dramatic thud. I looked down at it in shock. For a moment, I stood motionless as it wiggled a few of its legs around and propped its stinger up in the air.
        My first thought was, "WOA, there are bees in CHINA?!"
        My second thought was, "oh shit, I'm allergic to bees." Then my mind was consumed with the silly, "what if's" that a mind can come up with when there is too much room for thinking. What if it stings me and I die on the balcony? Noone will find me until it's too late! I continued to stare at the bee while considering my fate. After a few more seconds of watching the bee struggle to move, I placed my laundry bucket on top of it.
      Something strange flicked around inside my stomach. I've always been allergic to bees, however, I've never felt threatened, or been afraid of them before. I continued to hang my clothing out, but when I finished, and lifted up the laundry bucket, I found the bee even more crippled than before. My heart sank.
        I felt shame as I walked back inside and left the bee to suffer through its few final minutes of life. What the fuck? Really though. I could have left the bee to dance around with its awkward little stinger sticking up while I continued to hang my laundry, right (this is a rhetorical question, you don't have to answer)? It would have been like we were doing a little dance together, he with his stinger and I with my clothesline. What's wrong with me, yo?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vance Joy in the Classroom



         The EF "mission" in the classroom, as I understand it, is not simply about teaching English as a language, but also includes instilling ideas regarding the culture that is inherent in the language. Due to the fact that English users around the world represent varying and distinct cultures of their own, I cannot pretend to be an expert representing the entire gamut of English speakers (that would be both silly and foolish). However, I do my best to bring my culture to the table, and to explain that this is my perspective and not necessarily hard truth that encompasses all native English speakers. After all, I am only one American, and we are all so different. Moreover, English speakers do not only come from America! While these facts may seem fairly obvious to my readers, the concept of culture and variety is not something my students necessarily understand (yet!).
       The picture above is from one of my HF classes-- roughly 10-12 years-old. We are learning about movies and movie genres in class right now; comedy, action, cartoon, etc. I thought long and hard about the best way to explain the emotions, actions, and movie types, to a group of children that not only crave stimulation, they wont listen if they aren't interested (yes, this is the grand age at which students will literally yawn in your face if they are bored-- the pressure is on!). After some deliberation, I decided that the best way to explain movie genres was to first show them (shout-out to ZV for an awesome Comp-I course that doubled as a film class-- you inspired this lesson).
          Currently making waves on the radio in Denver is Vance Joy's, Riptide (as a side not,  if you haven't watched the music video for this song, I highly recommend it, as it mixes a very literal representation of the lyrics with a classic but twisted movie style).  Lights out in the classroom, children confused, and Riptide on the projector! Over Joy's voice, I can hear the students squeal, laugh, and gasp as they watch and listen. Afterward, we talk about what they saw in the music video that matches up with their vocabulary words. Was there a gun? Who shot the gun? Cowboy!? Which genre of movie is this? Western! What about escaping, did we see someone escape? Which genre of movie do people escape in? Action! Yes, they get it!
        "Do you like this movie?" I ask them. Noone speaks.
      "Do you not like this movie?" Still silence.
    "Do you like what you saw?"
                             All together, "NO! I do not like!"
"Do you like what you heard?" All hands up, "YES!!!"
                      Okay Vance Joy, your music is safe; the children of China say, "yes." And while your music video has excellent value as an example of film genre and culture (two thumbs-up for cinematography and mise en scene that mirror distinct periods in American film history), the meaning might be lost on my young students, who think that smeared lipstick and "black down under eyes" is, "wrong." In my next lesson, I'll have to try and explain that sometimes, a little "wrong" is alright.


On Teaching

Between all nine classes (well, eight classes and one "life club"), I teach over one-hundred students every single week. This is not a number even remotely near the image I had in my mind of what, "teach in China" would require--trying to memorize names gives me an even greater amount of respect for my college profs (how do you remember so many faces?).  However, teaching so many students does allow for some very interesting life-moments:

1. Trying to pick up a Small Star student (4-5 years old), from behind and swing him around. When he kicks, screams, flails, and runs for the nearest exit, I realize, by gazing at the side of his frightened face, that he was not my student at all. Why do  small children all look so similar from behind? I think his mother hates me.

2. Saying, "hello Peter" and patting a Small Star on the head (from behind), only to have him turn around and say in perfect English, "I am not Peter. My name is Leo." Also, not my student. His mother might also hate me.

3. Walking into a classroom and asking students to pull out their books. When the appropriate teacher for this class walks in and gives me the, "what the fuck" look, I must admit that I do not recognize students in my own classes enough to distinguish them from another class. I leave with my head hung in shame, and go to the next room to try again.

I could go on forever, but surely you get the picture. Secretly, I weep at the end of the day. But in time, I'm sure it will get better! A little about my Small Stars:

I start my week off with my only Small Stars class, which has ten students that I teach twice a week in the evenings. These students are absolutely precious. They are not only adorable, but the level of interaction required is the one I perform best with (I think). Students must be highly engaged at all times in order to retain information. This means I have to use wild body language, make bizarre faces, and occasionally make fart noises throughout the class period (i.e. I get to be myself). If you were to walk in to my class during the middle of a lesson on animals, you would find me on the table and children climbing up my legs while I make monkey noises and fill my cheeks with air. This image is not far off from my everyday behavior, and the children spend 88% of their time in class laughing.

One of the greatest aspects of teaching this age group, is that they all want approval and attention (which translates to, "love me, please!"). Their desire for attention manifest in the following ways: Tiger loves to pinch. If you don't respond immediately to his every beckoning, he pinches you over and over and over. No, it doesn't feel gentle. When correcting his behavior, (telling him to share something like glue or scissors), he hangs his head due to the public shame he has just received in front of his classmates, and then continues pinching. However, after showing him how to share, and then asking him to do the same, I reward him by smothering him in manic hugs and kisses. His reaction to the lovin' is the very picture of delight. He just wants love, damn it! True fact, all ten of my Small Star students just want love. And me too. I'm so overwhelmingly happy when one of them walks up to my and kisses my arm, or takes my hand, or hugs me. How sweet, how pure is the affection of a child!











Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The China I Dreamed Of

When I was younger, I used to close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to live in China. Using Google Images to look at pictures simply wasn't on my mind ( did it even exist in the mid-90's?)-- my imagination, however, was active. In my mind, I could see dirt roads, brick and concrete buildings, children playing in the streets, and the sun-- I very distinctly felt the sunlight on my skin. I imagined a place where life could slow down, a place where even the hands on the clock were permitted to take a break. Calm, quiet, serene. This was the way in which I allowed myself to relax. 
   
As I got older, I stopped taking the time to find my quiet place. You can only imagine how surprised I was, then, when I found myself in the middle of a beautiful area of China that distinctly resembled my dreamland. Walking down streets I had never physically been to before, a feeling of nostalgia began to stir inside of me. 

This kind of nostalgia, the kind I experienced, is the kind you get when you visit a friend and they are baking something that smells exactly like your grandma's kitchen always smelled, and the smell overwhelms you with memories. This is the kind of nostalgia you get when you randomly hear a song on the radio that, "takes you back" to a point in your younger days when you were surrounded by friends and laughing unreasonably hard over something trivial. This is that nostalgic feeling that comes when reviewing a lifetime of experiences with distinct satisfaction and a hint of joy.

Two very wonderful friends of mine took me on a walking tour of what used to be downtown Dongguan. It was there that I found the China I used to dream of:   














Oh Yeah, I be missin' some thangs!

 It is currently 4:57 AM, on Thursday, October 30th (in China!). Back in the states, these sleepless nights ain't no thang! Here in China, right now, well, tonight is round two for this insomniac. And that's alright, because I am up for a reason (amen, amen, amen!). However, I am a creature of habit, and on nights like this one, I have a routine that usually makes the droopy eye-lids less interesting to my thought process. There are some thangs I do be missin:

 3:30 AM, bored with netflix, I throw a sweat-shirt over my PJ's and stumble quietly down the stair-case (so as not to wake up the sleepers), and out the front door (carefully, so as not to let the kitties out). I get in my car (oh, how Yvette purrs), and shift her happily down the 6th avenue frontage road.

The mountains frame the scene; the stars illuminate a deep, rich sky; the air is crisp, fresh with the moisture that peaks in the hours between night and morning.

Kingsupers.
         I miss the KS.
Shuffle across the deserted parking lot, pass the self check-out. The night crew knows my face, my pajamas, the way I walk. They no longer turn with curiosity toward the movement weaving in and out of their peripherals; my presence has become a natural part of their nightly routine.

Ice-cream.
         Nothing can stand in my way. B&J's? Chunky Monkey (truly sent from heaven). Talenti? Coconut, or Cherry Cordial (hello Joy, please meet my taste-buds. Taste-buds, this is Joy). HD Five? Green Tea (refreshing, like a bridge over troubled water! Oh wait...).

That's right everyone, I'm talking about ice cream.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nerd Alert!

Warning: the following information may not be suitable for anyone at all. Please don't judge me.

Exactly how terrible is it that I spent the majority of my day off inside of the Dongguan Library? Tucked into the "foreign books" section, reading Haruki Murakami's, After Dark-- a very complex, very intense story, originally written in Japanese, translated (with much care), into English, and discovered among a bevy of other bizarre classics. The pages and spine of the book were in such fine condition, I can only assume it had never been cracked before. Fear not, Mr. Murakami, I'm coming to mark the pages of this story with the prints and bends of my adoration.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Decontamination; The Chinese Physical


     Today I had to go to the hospital for a “physical.” As part of the application for my work Visa (the one that enables me to stay in the country, now that I have entered it), the P.R.C wants to know that I am not contaminated—by their own standards, of course. I met the assigned EF local employee, at the school, and he drove me to the hospital.

     Coming from American, where there is a guaranteed hour wait (minimum) in any health facility(unless you've been shot in your groin), I mentally prepared myself for a long day of waiting. When we arrived at the hospital however, there was paperwork, more paperwork, more paperwork, more paperwork, and then shuffling from room to room. No wait. My mind went into relax mode, until: 

      I was shown to a room, where a small man asked me to take my bra off. “What?!” He pointed to a curtain for me to go behind, then pointed to an X-ray machine. Jesus. I did as he instructed and then faced the machine. “closer.” He said, pushing the small of my back slightly. I stood closer to the black box looming at my boobs. “closer.” He said it again, and I moved closer again. But it wasn't enough “closer!” he pushed me into the machine.  He moved my neck and my arms around, and I stood limply, not wanting to resist lest the struggle prolong the process.  “Now, hold your breath!” He left the room. Awkward silence. Nothing happened.  

     I heard his voice shoot through a speaker in the room, “No! take deep breath. Bigger! Now hold!!!!!” Seconds went by before he returned. “Bra” he points to the changing curtain. I re-clothe and exit the room, thinking the ordeal is over. I was wrong. 

    Another hallway, some stairs. A woman demands my arm through a plastic hole in the wall. I stick my arm through and wait, on the other side while she draws blood.  Then an eye exam which I failed (certainly). They weighed me, and measured me, and squinted at me (or are they). Why are you giving me an ultra sound, I told you I’m not pregnant!? My word is my bond woman, stop rubbing that cold shit on my belly! But she doesn't understand.

       Things seemed to be winding down. Then I was directed to a room with a curtain for a door and inside, only a bed. On the bed there were several small wires (with suction cups on the ends), and long, thick, wires (with metal clamps on the ends). Are we jumping a car in here? A woman came in and pointed at the bed.  Oh no. She kept pointing. You can't "jump" people lady! Still pointing. I laid down. She pulled my pants from around my ankles, rubbed something brown on my skin and then put one clamp around each leg. She repeated the process on my wrists. She pulled up my shirt, lifted my bra, and placed the suction cups along the bottom of my chest. The cups pulled at my skin, which is not used to such abrasive contact. The room was quiet. 

       There were no beeps or clicks, no sputtering lights or electric shocks. I waited. There's nothing worse than silence. She didn't talk, and from my reclined position on the bed I couldn't see what she was doing. The air grew still and my heart slowed. When does the test begin? What's happening? It's cold in here! I’m waiting, waiting. 

     What are the Chinese people doing?! I’ll tell you what, they are trying to scare foreign devils. I’m 90% convinced that machine didn't do a damn thing, and she left me strapped onto it for several moments (worthy of the sweat they inspired). She was striking the fear of the P.R.C into me. Eventually she just took the clamps off and had me leave. Unless it was a brain washing tactic, I don’t think that mechanism had any medical purpose. Thanks China.

      The final task, is one that everyone must perform at some point in their life: hey everyone, it's time to pee in the plastic cup please! Now, I'd like everyone to consider how difficult it is to pee on command (especially in a humid environment where you sweat your fluids out). Next, I'll ask you to consider how difficult it is to aim when peeing into a tiny, little, plastic, testing cup (more applicable to women, men have it so good). Finally, I'm going to remind all of you, that even under such duress, you have a regular, western toilet (urinal, whatever), with which you are familiar, to use while performing this task. 

     I did not. 

     In China, they use the Eastern toilet, the squatting-hole! Yes, these medical experts expected me to squat over a hole in the ground, aim accurately, and pee into the plastic cup (which, by the way, was smaller than the ones we use in the US).

 I’d like to take a moment to thank Lisa, for teaching me the proper technique when performing the squat position. In addition, I'd like to thank Kim, for our lovely camping trip to the Springs, during which time I obtained much practice squatting while urinating. Without you, I would not be where I am today. 

Even Perverts Here are Nice




      Being in China, at least in Dongguan, is very peaceful. The Chinese have an entirely different way of life than Americans-- the pace everyone goes at here is so calm. In the morning, children come out and play, even before school. Older men can be seen exercising at small parks built into the Garden. There are designated areas, outside but still in the garden, with tables where friends play games with one another. Women stand outside talking to each other with their babies in their arms. In the afternoon, lunch breaks are usually 1.5 hours long; this gives everyone time to stop and nap. Are you hearing this, they have designated nap time!? In the evenings, the old-folks get together and dance outside of the garden gates; this is also a form of exercise as well as a cultural tradition. There is much time and recognition given to the physical and mental needs of human beings. Here, in Nancheng, health and prosperity are given great weight in daily routines. 

      Further, I would say that the vast majority of the Chinese people I have met here, are the sweetest-natured people. The concept of crime (if it exists) is so grossly different than what crime is in the U.S.A. Being in China is like growing up in the 1950's in Iowa -- children out alone after dark, women out alone after dark. What is going on here?

     I can walk home after work, which is a good 20 minute walk down a “main road,” and not have to worry about my personal safety at all. Alright, I did this on the rugged streets of Denver as well, but not without hardening my gaze and shifting my walk. The hard-boiled appearance required when you are walking around, on your own, after dark, in most big cities in the U.S. (the one's that I've lived in anyway), doesn't exist here. Being female and alone is suddenly no big deal. The biggest concern I've even had is simply being naive about prices when bartering for an item with a merchant. How ridiculous is it, that this is my greatest dilemma? What is mace again?

     With all this information in mind, I find it only natural to want to tell you about my one "close encounter" (even perverts here are nice):

     Today I ventured out from my apartment and walked the main road from the Nancheng district (where I live), to the Dongcheng district. I’d quantify that distance for you, but I have no idea how to. City blocks are gigantic here, and comparing them to a US city block makes no sense to my brain. Miles… how many miles did I walk? From the city to the mountain! Lets go with a LONG walk. Anyway, on the way to Dongcheng, a man on his bike (older), started to ride along next to me and talk. 

    At first, I tried to tell him, in Mandarin, that I couldn't understand what he was saying. Then I realized he was speaking Cantonese. Oh Jesus, Thank you! I said, "hello" in Cantonese and fumbled through a few lines. Oh wow, My Cantonese sucks. I think in an hour of talking I understood maybe three sentences. But the take-away detail from the previous sentence is that there was an hour of talking between this gentleman and myself. How is this possible, you may ask yourself?

      For the first few minutes he rode slowly along next to me. After about ten minutes, he indicated to me that I should get on the back seat of his bike (me laughing and shaking my head, "no"). After mild persistence on my end, he dismounted to walk along next to me. We went around blocks, he pointing and saying the name of each building. Here is a library. Now a community center. Then a business structure. 

     After a while he pointed to the sun and covered his head. He pointed to a thick patch of trees in the park, and started to lift his bike over the park wall as an indication that he wanted to go to the shady place(no pun intended). I had to rationalize through his set of hand gestures. Yes it was bright outside, but the weather here is insane, all things considered, it wasn't that hot. However, the Chinese people do value pale skin, and getting burned or tan is considered low class (it means you work outside, and is the physical manifestation of being working class). 

      I shook my head, again telling him, "no." He longingly looked at the trees, but pulled his bike off the wall and continued to walk with me. We went for a few more blocks, he still talking, and myself occasionally insisting that I did not understand him. When we passed by an open area of grass (much more public), he walked over to a shady patch and sat down. I followed.  

     Do you have a shiver yet, dear reader? I did :D. As we sat in the shade, he leaned over and rested his elbow on my leg. Yuh. That was his great move! He said in Chinese, "I really like American women. I love America." Then he looked at me with an expression I would expect from my cat when he is trying to seduce an extra meal out of me. 

      In the US, I'd have laughed at a man who made his signature move in this manner. However, I know that in China, the culture doesn't allow for physical contact.  Furthermore, men should never approach women this way. This knowledge did not stop from me from laughing my ass off as I stood up, asked to take his picture, and then started to walk away, calling, "bye-bye." All the while, he was panicking behind me. Poor guy. Non-verbal communication is a bitch.

Everybody Loves Pictures (in no particular order)!

 Street Market
This is the market directly across from my garden.


 Route 66
The greatest coffee shop ever! First of all, the barista here is not only beautiful, but she makes better coffee than I've found in most places in Denver (I'd attempt to spell her name but I would mess it up). Two thumbs up! Also, can see why I love it ?

 My Bay Window
Thank you to everyone for helping me decorate my room. Special thanks to Sara, Nikki, Lauren &Hazel.

 Peanut Butter
This one is for Grandma. Your wisdom is a constant blessing to me. 

 The Library!
Yes, even though I can't read anything in here, as a literature major (and lover), even just knowing where the library is brings me joy. I know some of the folks from MSU Denver will understand. 

 "AHHHH!"
I'll give you three guesses, but you only need one!

 The Jesus Guitar
How it came to me? Through the wardrobe in the spare-room (literally)! I can therefore only assume it's from Aslan. Thank you Jesus!

 Snickers
You better believe they taste exactly the same in China. 

 The Fridge
Hey Ma, I finally have a fridge!

 Inside the Garden
This is a walking path inside of my Garden. Isn't it lovely?

 The Sky
The view of the sky, taken from the walking path. So Exotic!

 Alleyway

 The Garden
This is the view of the back of my garden, from my laundry room. 

Home

No jet lag, no culture shock, are you sure this is China?!


         Let’s take a moment to discuss shopping and eating in China. Street Markets are everywhere. In every alleyway, along every main street, even in front of giant and glorious malls (the Chinese are fearless). The food in street markets is fairly self-explanatory; everyone sells grapes, apples, etc. These words, the noun-words, are things I cannot say in Mandarin. However, my stomach tells my eye-ball, “yes, thank you.” So I know I can trust them. Check plus life!

     On the flip side, there are shapes and sizes that I do not know; I can’t recognize them and am unsure what to do with them. This prickly object, that could be a fruit (question mark), and is larger than my face (huge question mark), looks dangerous. Plus it’s green; doesn't that mean it’s not ripe yet? Raw!? Shit. To cook foreign looking objects, or not to cook foreign looking objects? That is the question! Warning: eating raw or uncooked may cause death by strange illness. Double shit. Is this going to kill me?!

      OK. I can shop street markets for all kinds of things, fruits, vegetables, rice, bla bla bla. But when it comes to branching out, I am nervous. Without google (why do I still not have internet), I can’t translate the words, “can I consume the flesh of this fruit while it is uncooked?” from English to Chinese. RAWR, says Katy’s stomach!

     Alright, I'll move on for now. How about protein? White devil want beef! The meat counter in a street market? Slabs of unmarked animal lying in the open air on a table (for God knows how long), being jabbed by fingers that are prodding for resilience (Lord knows how many fingers), waiting for one word: “purchase!” No Criticism to the locals; they have stomachs lined with steal, and I am in awe of them. I however, am bred in captivity, which means my meat must be very "clean" and "safe," or I’ll die. To break in stomach lining week one, or not to break in stomach lining week one? Now that is the question!

     So then, what I can’t get at street market I will have to shop for in a store. Something in Chinese-- can’t read. Something else in Chinese, still can’t read… AHA! Walmart?! Since when does Walmart sell eels and stingrays? Oh, by the way, they are alive. Damn China. You are too good to be true. I can grab cocoa puffs and pet the wildlife? Sea World has nothing on this. OK, OK. But seriously, I want protein. Maybe some dried meat (please carry beef jerky)?

     Biggest dilemma ever: the packages with English writing are few and far between, and they are meant for the white devil, so naturally, I think it's a trap. Plus I really want the full Chinese experience. So I want the package with all Chinese writing. But what is inside?

     In the end, I bought a packet of hotpot mix that features a man’s steaming face on the front. It must be spicy-- hotter than the white devil for certain.  If I mix it with the rice, while I’m cooking the rice, won’t it make rice-a-roni? The San Francisco treat? No… no it won't. It actually makes this: 



Lonely, But Not Sad


For starters, hello from China! I've arrived! I've only been here for a day and a half, and I already have so much to say, I don’t even know where to start.  Perhaps the very beginning:

       My flight from Austin (bye family!), to Houston was a grand total of 23 minutes in the air. It bordered on pathetic. The four hour layover in Houston was also kind of pathetic, but the isolation freed my mind from the mania of preparing to move (which clogs out all potential excitement within the business required).  Boarding the plane was the first moment—the one where my emotions started to catch up with my knowledge. I’m moving to another country. At the next airport, there might not be any English. Shit.

       51K. That was my seat number. How on earth could there possibly be 51 rows in one airplane? Anyone who has ever taken an international flight would have known that 51 isn't even halfway down the plane. I, however, am ignorant.  Everyone boarding the plane was Asian. Push, push, push. I've never felt quite so gawky and large.. quite so in the way. 51. 51. 51. K. Please be a window seat, dear baby Jesus, please! But it wasn't a window seat, it was the middle.

       And here, I’d like to give my first shout out to a man named Tony. Seated in the isle chair, “I think I’m next to you.” I pointed and he got up to let me in. Flying is always an adventure. Whether you are crammed between a mom and her child or next to that old man that falls asleep on you and snores constantly, there is always something to hold onto that makes landing just that little bit more awesome.

Sitting next to Tony was like sitting next to a best friend. First of all, this guy legitimately had my back (how many strangers can you say that about? Exactly!).  If it weren't for Tony, I would never have made it through customs --it may be the job of the stewardess to announce and hand out cards for entry into China, but if you sleep through that announcement, it sure as hell isn't her job to wake you up and tell you. Tony knew though. The second I was done drooling on myself he was all over that situation.  Ha, I would have blissfully gotten off the plane and been stuck, forever, at an airport in Beijing, not allowed to board my next plane, and with no way to contact anyone. Tony, you’re the man.

So, the airport at Beijing is huge.  And when I say huge, I mean, pick the biggest airport in American and then X4 that, at least. This place was gigantic. I was lost and white, with zero Mandarin skills and suffering minor fuzziness of the brain (bound to happen after 14 hours of sleep on the previous flight). This place was like visiting OZ-- with less glamour and no good witches.   When I made it through customs and back through security, I followed signs for my terminal. As I went up and down stairs, and through strange hallways, I observed as the airport transitioned from Cherry Creek to Five Points (what up Denver!). This was when I became mildly nervous about my school location (which, I might remind you, I chose). If departing flights to Guangzhou are given the “rustic” section of the airport, how does Beijing (and China for that matter) feel about Guangzhou?

The terminal was actually a waiting room for a bus. Which everyone crammed onto and took out onto the runway; much like an airport I once visited in California. None of this matters. Here is what I took away from the Beijing airport:

The air was moist, even inside, enough so that sweat was slowly forming drops and making beads that traced their way down the sides of my face and along the curves of my back. It wasn't warm though, it was cold sweat. People around me were wearing pants and t-shirts, and I was bundled in a baggy CINCINNATI sweater, confused by my body’s reaction to the weather. The loudspeaker kept ringing and a woman’s voice would trail off for several minutes in a dialect of Chinese I could not make out. After the announcement was finished in Chinese, it repeated again in English. The English version was given by the same speaker though, and was just as confusing as the Chinese. So I sat and waited for the boarding process to begin.

He shuffled one foot closer to me, and then paused. After inching his way from the opposing set of chairs, he had managed to diminish the distance between us considerably. He stood not even a foot away now; probably 8 or 9 years-old. His shirt read “convers” and his shoes were knock-off chucks.  His hands clasped behind his back, he swiveled side-to-side a few times. I smiled at him, making eye-contact for the first time; his eyes lit up. He smiled back, staring.  An uncomfortable amount of time passed by, all the while he just looking and smiling. I had to turn to do something, to break away from the intense excitement in his eyes.  He didn't stop staring though, his eyes remained locked even as he moved to the empty seat next to me and sat down.

The voice over the loudspeaker rang again, and the word, "Guangzhou" was clear. I stood with my things and looked at the boy still sitting and staring. “bye-bye” he said, and he waved at me. He just kept looking and kept smiling. There is something so incredibly rich about the gaze of a child. He was looking at me but he was observing and learning at the same time.  I wish I had something with me that I could have offered him to thank him for his time, and his enthusiasm. Thinking that way, however, only further displays the gap between my capacity to love and his. Why couldn't I stare back the whole time, smiling and shining with him? We lose that when we get older, the ability to look at something with so much avid enthusiasm, with our full, unashamed attention. When was the last time you looked at something and really took all angles of it in? I can’t even remember. But this boy inspired me, to give meaning with my eyes, and appreciation in my presence. I only wish I had asked his name.

Alright, so the flight to Beijing was uneventful. I had an entire row to myself, and enjoyed the meal that was provided on the flight – perhaps too enthusiastically for the modest travelers around me. I tend to slop food around when I eat—as in, I’m M.F. starving, and this S. needs to be in my mouth right now! This method of eating, however, can appear uncivilized, and certainly might be perceived as such by the well-mannered comrades on the plane.  

       Landing was lovely, but the airport presented complications. The P.R. of China, apparently doesn't approve of locked luggage. As you can see, they have their own methods for resolving such issues:


A picture is worth a million words, right? I guess I won’t be using this  piece of luggage on the flight home!

       Tom picked me up from the airport. Tom is another EF employee, who exhibits all the characteristics of a true NY native; one hand on his phone and one hand on the horn. In China, the horn is not meant as a warning, and it is not used sparingly. In fact, when drivers here honk, it is almost the equivalent of saying, “Hey bruh, what-up! I got a Ford too!” Horns are a sign of awareness, enthusiasm, verve for the road! This sounds like an easy thing to understand (now that I've laid it out so nicely for you), but when you are in a car with a total stranger, cutting across four lanes and honking at an empty street the whole way, life starts to look so grim. Darkness was everywhere, for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. And then we arrived at the Garden.

       In China, everything has a cush name. Apartment complexes aren't, "complexes" at all, they are, "gardens." Gardens are themed, decorated, and secure. My Garden has at least 24 buildings, each with at least 15 floors. All identical. This place is like a five star resort. Beautiful, spacious, well lit, well ventilated. I walked inside and my mouth dropped. White marble floors, ornate ceilings, detailed wood-work everywhere! Did I mention the ceilings are vaulted? A full patio, air-conditioners in every room, fully furnished! My bedroom has a G.D. bay window—it doesn't get more cush than that! I must be in some kind of heaven.

      And outside? Well, outside, everyone sweats. Walk and sweat, and walk and sweat. I've never been this thirsty in my entire life. I feel like a fish. And might look like one at this point. I also will likely never take a hot shower again. Why would anyone shower in hot water, ever? Silliest thing. In fact, I can’t believe I ever did it. Cold water is where it’s at.

       Night 1: I had hot-pot for dinner and went to a local dive with three other teachers. The teachers are each so unique in their personalities, but they are all united in how adventurous and kind they are. Everyone is young, everyone is out-going, everyone is beautiful. 

      Day 2: I explored the markets around my garden (which includes a Walmart), found some food places, and then had legit dim sum for lunch-- so delicious--, with two of the other teachers—don’t worry, I ate for both of , Sara.

       Moving to another country isn't a sudden shock, not like I might have anticipated based on stories. In fact, when I landed in Guangzhou, the humidity was familiar to me (hell, I just came from Texas). My mind instantly associated the air around me with home. The smell of cigarettes, even inside of the airport (they have designated smoking rooms), was also familiar; OK, Texas meets Vegas, this makes sense still. When I look around and everyone is staring at me, I don’t instantly think that they are looking because I’m a foreigner, after all, aren't I staring back? People are inherently curious.

       When I look around, everything is big. Buildings are tall, communities are built out; people are everywhere. The scenery is tropical; I hear birds screeching and children laughing, cars honking. My mind wants to trick me, as though someone stuffed me on a fake airplane, one that was stationary, for two days, and then released me into a part of American that I've simply never been to.  Same world, same people, same life.  When I feel far away from everyone, it isn't because of the distance; the distance doesn't exist in my mind. China, Denver, Austin, where-ever I am, I would always be far away from someone I care about.


I feel far away because I’m lonely. No, not the kind of lonely we think of at home, when you’re sad because you are alone in an environment where familiar people are easily accessible but not immediately present—it is easy to be sad when you want to be close to familiar loved ones. My lonely is different than that kind of lonely; it isn't sad-lonely. This is the lonely that is separation.  In a world of connection, where internet unites knowledge and people, therefore creating instant familiarity, I am in China. I currently have no internet, and no way to contact my friends at home to let them know that I am safe. I know that everyone is far away, and so distance does not play a role; I am not 18 hours from my parents and wishing I was closer. I am not 20 minutes from my sister wishing we were having lunch. My mind knows that these things are no longer feasible. I am in China. And because those things are not possible, I am alone. Here I am lonely, but not sad. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3 weeks and counting (or something like that)

Well my sweet cupcakes (and everyone else), the time has come (at last)!

My visa application has been processed, and (believe it or not), approved by the Chinese government.

"What does this mean?!" you may ask yourself. Well, I'll tell you what it means! To put it simply, I should be flying (squeal) to Guangzhou ~ Oct 1st, 2014.

I can break it down even further (if it pleases you), by observing that today is September 10th. In light of this fact (and using our deductive reasoning), this means I have three weeks left in the U.S. (exactly).

Don't panic; this is not the time for panicking. This is time for celebration! 2 weeks in Denver. 1 week in Austin.

Then:
BOOM!

... take off.

There will be more, soon.

Kate

P.S. I'll try and tone down on using the parentheticals next time (I promise).