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.