Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This too Shall Pass

You know those times when people say, “don’t worry, we will all look back at this later and laugh about it”? Hurry up later!! Last week we went for an extension to our soon to expire visas. They told Frank one price a few days before but the day we went, it was almost 9x’s more. Why? They first thought Frank was from Africa! For every country except the US, it is cheap but because it is hard for them to come to the US… you get the picture. Makes sense, but I wasn’t prepared for the sticker shock and it just about ruined my whole day. That was Friday. Sunday, we both had a great morning, then Frank went to play ball. I met him there a few hours later. While they were playing, with a wife sitting close by the bags, a guy came up behind her and snatched Frank’s backpack. All the people watching had nothing to say, until the cops came and suddenly, everyone was talking. Frank and another guy had tried to run him down but he had disappeared. The police took Frank and an interpreter friend aside to talk and before we realized it, they were gone! The police had put them in the car and driven away to the station without a word. We ran to another officer to find out where they had been taken and before I knew it, I was on the back of a scooter, holding on to a tiny Chinese policeman, with another guy behind me, holding on to the officer too, weaving through 4 lanes of traffic! It was pretty funny. We knew finding the bag was a lost cause but you have to try, so we sat at the station for the next 1 ½ hours until they sent us home with a receipt for our report and a list of what was lost, namely, all our credit cards, house keys, bus card, a psp, memory cards, some personal books and so on. It was a good day for them to steal it though because for once, Frank did not carry his laptop. We had friends rush to our apartment to head off any burglary and we had the locks changed that night. That part was easy. It’s only stuff after all. But, they had also stolen Frank’s only pair of jeans and he caught a chill in the winter air in his sweaty ball clothes. Monday morning his temperature was 104! I was so glad we have a tub! I put him in a cool bath and put compresses on him. I got his temp down to 99 but the next morning it was 104 again. His skin was so hot! This time I got it down to 98.5 and we thought we had licked it. But he was still bad this morning, 102. So, now we sit at the hospital since 10 am. He is on his third bottle of IV meds and we have to come back the next two days for more. He has severe bronchitis plus they are treating him for H1N1, just in case. The hospital is very efficient and clean, except for the people sitting in the hallway next to the many no smoking signs, puffing away. Our doctor also gave him zhongyao, Chinese root and stick tea. It is black and thick and bitter and should work. So, he will get better soon. A solution to a visa problem will present itself, our house in the states will sell, or disappear and then, we will have a nice long laugh.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Poetry Blog

I asked my students to write 10 lines of poetry for homework. After editing by the writing teacher, this is what they came up with:
#1 Friend
Sometimes in life
You will find a special friend
If you sometimes cry
They will make you smile
If you feel lonely
They will accompany you
If you can't find the way
They will guide you
If you have a friend like this
Please treasure them
#2 I Saw a Star Last Night
I Saw a star last night,
A beautiful star
A shining star
A glamourous star
I thought I love this star
I asked the star,
Do you like to be a star?
The star answered,
I am a star,
I can not choose what I will be
But I love being a star,
I asked the star,
Can you be my own star?
The star did not answer,
Because the star flew away,
I didn't feel sad,
I saw a star last night.
#3 Darkness
If the world falls into the darkness
I will never give up to find the light.
That way will be difficult.'
Maybe I can't remember the right street.
I believe faith still exists.
I can find the exit.
The other side is a beautiful world.
It is place I will be lost in the dark.
But in the darkness must adapt.
Pretty good, huh?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Best Friends!

November 10, 2009

The other day, I was riding the bus to work and I saw the cutest thing. Three old ladies bounced onto the bus, literally. They were laughing and giggling like school girls. They climbed into the front seats which left their feet dangling in the air. So imagine please, 3 seventy+ yrs old ladies, feet swinging because they are too short to reach the floor, giggling and whispering like 13 year olds. I thought about how long they must have known each other and all the memories they must have shared to be that close after all this time. In China it is very common to see young girls walking arm in arm down the street even 4 or 5 at a time. I imagined how long they have spent walking together arm in arm, through marriages, children, grandchildren, sickness, deaths, etc. It is a special thing to have friendships like they appeared to have. I treasure mine. Even though I may not be near enough to walk with them arm in arm or laugh and giggle together, in my heart we are together every day. I miss you Milissa, Rayna and Sharon!!!



November 15, 2009

This is an expression I learned today. It means looking for something which is right under your nose. It translates as 'Riding the horse to find the horse'. In America we say, ‘If it had been a snake, it would have bit you’(In the South, anyway). Today two of my students' parents took me to lunch and then dropped me off at a donut shop (Dona Donuts- a knock-off of...what? ) and here I sit. The donuts, by the way, are not why I came, they are not very good. The place has WiFi and is usually not crowded. Anyway, I had been hunting for my sunglasses all morning and suddenly in the car, the kids started playing with my hat and I grabbed it. Guess where I found my glasses? If it had been a snake, it would have bit me! 骑马找马!哎呀!!AIYA!!


学校郊游Xuexiao Jiaoyou (School Outing)

By this time you have probably read Frank’s account of our field trip so I won’t have anything new to add except pictures. Our school took us on a free field trip to a local lakeside park. We had the opportunity to spend all day talking to people in almost complete Chinese. I don’t think I have spoken that much Chinese in one day since we arrived. The weather was perfect and I did not dress for it. I was bundled up in a sweater and hat with handwarmers just in case and ended up cooking in all of it. One of the students brought a Frisbee and we played in the recently watered, muddy grass and somehow managed not to slip. I thought for sure, I would be the one but, for once, I escaped with only muddy hands. They had a lunch set out for us of barbecue stuff on a stick. We are pros at cooking outside, thank you mom and dad and so our lunch was soon underway. We got a kick out of watching other tables’ lunch go up in smoke or burst into flames. Maybe we should have helped but it was more fun to watch other foreigners offer to help only to make things worse. The only item we were hesitant to try was the “hot dogs”. Let me rephrase that, I refused to try them because been there done that, and sweet weird tasting hot dogs on a stick just ain’t my thang! Frank, the least adventurous eater of us all, was the one who learned the hard way. One bite was all it took and into the trash it went. Our teacher was surprised. “This is American food. We never had hot dogs in China before the western influence.” We had to explain that like many western things China tries to imitate, it lacks a certain….westerness. The only western thing about them was their shape. After lunch we all retired to a huge field where some played soccer, threw the Frisbee or participated in silly games. I got the highest student record in the chopstick ball bearing game. Pick up as many ball bearings as you can with your chopsticks in one minute. I reached 24. The only person higher was a teacher, Chinese. Pretty cool! We also could write characters, identify measure words or answer Chinese riddles. Every time you won, you got a ticket and they could be used to buy prizes. My teachers huddled around me and even though I had no clue what some of the answers were, they would tell me so I could get more tickets. Mind you, I was doing pretty good on my own but they were having more fun trying to get me as many tickets as possible. There was an enormous teddy bear that was 35 tickets which I was getting close to but didn’t want. Want am I going to do with a 3ft tall dust magnet? They really wanted me to get it though. It felt weird to take their tickets when I didn’t win them so in the end I split them with a friend and we both got a smaller teddy bear and a bunch of little things. We spent all day at the park, enjoying the sun. I even got some crocheting done. It was very relaxing. For dinner they took us to a large restaurant that served farmer’s fare which is, we discovered, what we have been eating regularly since we moved here. On one wall was an enormous picture of Mao. The food kept coming and we ate until we could eat no more. This may have been the only field trip I have ever been on where I actually learned something.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Thoughts

We went to a western restaurant for dinner last tonight. We ate Chinese food, ironic. I t was really good, but the interesting part was watching them load up food in a van for a catered party. The servers brought out plated dishes and just set them inside the back of the van. No saran wrap, no chafing dishes, just the plates of food on the floor of the van. One wrong turn and the family dog will be eating very well tonight. How Chinese.

We are starting to get into a routine now and I find it hard to have time for myself. We have class until 12 every day. Mon. and Thurs. I work after lunch and then Saturday and Sunday as well. Somewhere in there, I have to buy groceries, clean house, study and prepare for all the classes, do my own personal study regime, practice Chinese out and about, do laundry and so on. I feel the weeks flying past me and I often can’t remember what day it is. Today, Frank was sick so we canceled our plans for the day. I came home after work and cleaned house and did laundry, without getting shocked. Yeah, that’s still not fixed. By the time I finished, it was time to go to dinner and I just got back in a little while ago. I don’t feel overly exhausted, just confused often, as if I were spinning with a blindfold on. I have a calendar in my bag , and one on my phone. Any other suggestions for better organizational habits? I really enjoy my classes, the ones I teach and the one I learn from. Because of my progress with the language, my courage has grown and I find myself talking to strangers more often, without waiting for them to speak first.

I took a different bus the other day, just to see where it went. An hour later, it still hadn’t pulled into a main terminal. I got off at what I thought was a hotel to find a restroom. It turned out to be an ornate mall just for watches. That is to say, there were two floors, glossy tile floors, an immense chandelier hanging down two stories and in every shop, there were watches. Imported watches, Chinese watches, all expensive. There were no other customers. The bathrooms all had western toilets which was a pleasant surprise, and very clean too. (This is very important to us here). The place was fancier than a five star hotel and only the guards, janitors and salesgirls were enjoying it. I have never seen that much attention given to a watch.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


In the News!

In The News:
Yesterday the municipal government began an ambitious new campaign to remove the ubiquitous gobs of spit that cover the city.

Rather than introducing fines like Hong Kong or pushing public campaigns against spitting as has been done in Shanghai, the clumsily named ***** Municipal National Hygiene City Establishment Task Force (昆明市创建国家卫生城市指挥部) has chosen to distribute millions of small green bags that would-be street hockers can fill with their phlegm.

Each day, the municipal government will distribute 116,000 of the free antibacterial bags, which it refers to as "environmentally friendly phlegm bags" (环保口痰袋) as well as "dragon saliva bags" (龙涎袋).

At yesterday's press conference announcing the beginning of the new anti-loogie drive, Olympic torchbearer Yang Guixi (杨贵喜) read aloud the philosophy behind the campaign:
Getting rid of the bad habit of public spitting is actually not difficult: a tiny piece of tissue, an environmentally friendly phlegm bag, this can make us have a healthy way of behaving and an atmosphere of civilized living. Actually, the bitter lesson of SARS has already told us, each and every one of us can become the bodyguard of the dignity of human lives, all that is needed is for us to spread the word and come together and we will definitely be able to eliminate bad habits!

In a city where spitting wherever one wants is a deeply ingrained habit for a substantial portion of residents, getting people to stop spitting in public is a rather lofty goal, reminiscent of the city's failed attempt to ban car horns at the beginning of 2008.
Starting today, ***** district will begin a new campaign in which district hygiene department employees will patrol the streets looking for spitters, litterers and others who infringe upon general cleanliness.
People caught in the act of spitting, littering, dumping dirty water, painting graffiti, posting ads without authorization, walking on grass will be subject to fines ranging from 100 to 500 yuan.
The municipal government has announced a plan to provide bicycles for free use by the public, according to a report. The report said the plan has been received by the public with approval, tempered with a skepticism that the bikes will all be stolen.
These are some of the important issues facing many Chinese cities trying improve their international image. I thought you might find them quite interesting. I find them useful on days when I really need a laugh.


A Funny Thing Happened!!!!!

A girl I work with shared this story with me. She, her husband and his brother, about 26 yrs. old, came home late from a concert and stepped into the elevator. The brother, who is just visiting, is one of those guys who fiddles with stuff. Just for fun, he stuck his fingers in the gap of the elevator doors (ok, its a Chinese elevator, there are gaps). Just as his brother yelled, “NO!”, the elevator came to a screeching halt! For the next 40 minutes they would sit on the dirty elevator floor with the culprit rocking back and forth in laughter. “They are going to charge you 5,000RMB for this you know”. “I don’t care, it is so worth it”, he said. He was taking pictures and having a grand time. What in a four foot empty space do you photograph more than once? Finally, the guards started knocking on the doors. The conversation went something like this:
(bang,bang) Can you hear us?
Yes, we can hear you!
(bang,bang) Can you hear us?
YES, we can hear you!
(Bang,bang)Wait a little while, ok?
Um, we know. (It’s been 40 minutes already)
(bang,bang) Wait a bit!
After repeating this conversation a few times, the guards finally they pried the doors open and helped them out. They didn’t get fined and he has a funny story to take back home with him. I just won’t be getting in any elevators with him!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

China Update

Let me begin by saying how nice it is to be back. Something has been missing this past month or so. I have not been taking many pictures because, who would I share them with? I have not been writing because, who would read it? My sister Jennifer has lovingly volunteered to be my blogger liason. I write and send her pictures, she will load them on the site. Thank you so much sis. I don’t know if Blogger will ever rise again and I was unable to find another site to post to that didn’t have content I didn’t want other people stumbling upon. If anyone has other ideas such as blogging sites that I could start a new one on that isn’t blocked here, please send all your suggestions thru the message board on blogger. Ok, here is part of what you have missed, I will try to sum up: We started school and are now up four lessons, we both got work and have both lost work. We teach at a University 3 hrs a week and I have two weekend jobs, for a grand total of 7 hours a week for me. We are still looking for more hours so we can sustain ourselves here. Our house has not sold yet, the tenants are supposed to be evicted soon. We are waiting patiently and hopefully for things to work out. That part is quite stressful but then we are not the only ones with difficulties, right? No one said things would be easy. Anyway, We have moved, that was a feat in itself. Our lease was up October 15th. We had to start looking at new places as soon as we got back amidst starting school and looking for work. We had just as much trouble this time as the last plus, rent has gone up all over the city. Our place went up too, even the maintenance fee. There is no maintenance. The elevator worked sometimes and we had to pay extra to store our bikes. Construction and traffic noise kept us up at night and the dust from both made it impossible to keep the place clean. We finally found one apartment in our range after 2 weeks of searching. It was big enough in a nice complex. There was water damage on the floor in several places and the kitchen sink and cabinet had completely collapsed. The windows overlooked the local tobacco factory. We were told the landlord would fix the sink but not the floor. Their solution? No worries, put some rugs down. Sure. We waited a few days for the repairs to be made but they never called. Then I started calling every day and after a week, it was still not repaired and we were just about out of time. We went back and demanded our deposit back. They did not want to lose our money so the showed us 4 apartments that day (after having trouble finding even one a day to look at) and the last one was IT. The same complex with gardens, and two balconies that overlook them. Only by looking far to the left can I see the tobacco plant. This place is almost like a house. It has two levels, the living room is two steps down from the rest of the apartment. There are two bathrooms, one asian and one western. Our first western toilet in China!!! And there’s more! We have a tub! It is made for a short person but still, Frank can sit and soak as long as he wants just like at home. My kitchen is open to the dining room and there is even a pantry. I didn’t know those existed here. I have no storage shelves right now but the fridge is in there and the rice cooker and toaster oven sit on the floor. Still, a pantry!! I finally feel at home here. I like coming home, I have slept through the night since we moved. Some nights, there is no sound at all and we wonder what’s wrong. Usually, the only noise is from barking dogs and playing children. You can forget you are in a city and that we are on the 12th floor of an apartment building. I can’t believe we ended up with this place. I am so glad the landlord never fixed that sink! We found some curtain material at a fabric market that was torn down just like the second hand market. Moving was easy too. Some friends came over to take our long couch down the ten flights so we wouldn’t have to pay a fortune for moving. Then when we got it all the new place, I realized I could take the couch completely apart and fit it all into the elevator instead of hauling it up 12 flights. Ooops, guess that would have been helpful a few hours before. The movers were actually disappointed they didn’t get to carry it up for the extra money. I had to insist that they put it in the elevator and show them how to take it apart. Oh! The apartment came with pets! A huge fish tank, about 70 gallons. The landlord said it came with the place and so we have to take care of it. It was black with algae and had 4 goldfish in it. A friend knew what to do and now it is crystal clear with 10 fish in it. Here are some pics: