Sunday, May 31, 2009


My last private class was today. I wanted to do something fun with food that would only take an hour. I tried no bake cookies at home but they wouldn't stick together. Does altitude affect that? Instead I introduced my students to the All-American PB&J. We learned new vocabulary: Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread, Spread, Spoon, (no knives), Sandwich, and of course, PB&J! They each made their own sandwich, following my directions. They loved it! Hands on activity while learning a new language has been scientifically proven to enhance recall. It is called muscle memory. It's even better when you get to eat what you learned. Delicious!

Monday, May 25, 2009

School's Out

We had our last day of school at the library Sunday the 24th. Minutes before I started, my assistant informed me that a cameraman would be present to take footage for the library records. GREAT!!! We played games and sang songs and then I had to tell them I was leaving. The parents sighed, which I guess is a good thing. After classes were over they all came over for pictures and to tell me thank you. I thought it was so sweet considering I have only taught a handful of classes here. I will miss the kids, they are so cute! See for yourself:


Monday, May 18, 2009

Hot Tub Ah! Make Ya Sweat Ah!

After over a week of Chinaitis (the stomach version), the chance to relax at a nearby hot springs was welcome. How we missed that this place was so close is beyond me. We have already made plans for regular visits once we return. About an hour out of our city, depending on traffic, we reached a smaller city famous for its hot springs. A friend had done some research and found a Japanese one where all the pools are outside. Most of them are just rooms with tiled pools and the water is piped in. This place however was perfect! Twenty different pools spread out over several acres of dense forest. You can spend all day and go in every pool for as long as you like. There is a restaurant when you get hungry, bathrooms (with paper) and a bar with fresh fruit juice, tea and beer. They even deliver to your pool. Some of the pools were unique. Coconut milk, Sour Apple (like soaking in an apple martini), Strawberry Kool-Aid( which put Frank over the top, soaking in red kool-aid? Can life get any better?) Orange, Rose Water and one with fish that eat your dead skin. That was freaky. It tickled me so bad I couldn't put my feet in without laughing. I have spent years building up the callouses on my feet and the fish swarmed so heavy I couldn't see my feet. I would have had to spend the whole week in there to see a difference. Braver souls immersed their whole body in the pool. More power to them! It was definitely the noisiest pool. Frequent gasps and squeals and even screams as the little fish nibbled away. Massages are extra, but clothes are not a requirement so we passed on that. I learned my lesson months ago. Since we were the only foreigners there, we were a spectacle, and many people came to the tubs we were in to make conversation. This was not relaxing since my brain had to go into gear, but it was worth it since we made several new friends to visit once we get back. My favorite pool was the coconut milk since it made my skin feel so soft, and the rose water which had rose petals floating in it. It was so fragrant, and that's where we were surrounded by people eager to meet us. The cool temperature and a gentle mist of rain added to the occasion making our day a wonderful and memorable experience. If anyone comes to visit, we will you take you there. How's that for bribery?
"OWWWW!"-Eddie Murphy as James Brown

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chinese Exam

We have been sick with Chinaitis for the past few days and canceled our classes for the week. Our teacher however, made sure that we did not miss out on taking our exam and e-mailed it to us. The whole exam thing was my idea, I actually asked for one. You can imagine Frank's expression at that moment. I actually enjoyed taking it, it was the most challenging study I have done in months. Again, imagine Frank's expression when I told him. I know, I am a nerd, sorry. I have not really enjoyed learning Chinese because class has not really challenged me. This did and I spent three hours this morning finishing it without ever getting bored. I hope my grade reflects that. This is the most excited I have been over learning this language in quite awhile and that is really sad. Maybe I should ask for tests every week. I don't want to imagine Frank's expression on that.


"Fill in the blanks? What blanks?"-Mandy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Job

Ironically, now that we are so close to coming home, I suddenly find work. It's part time and only for this month but was greatly needed. I also have two classes at the same place Frank teaches. This job though, is at a kindergarten about an hour away. I teach and play games with two classes for a half hour each while the teachers take pictures of me. Then I wait for an hour doing nothing until its time for the parents and grandparents to pick up the kids. Then, I am to stand at the door so they can see me. You see, I am a display. Look, we have a foreign teacher at this school. The fact that I will only come twice a week, not teach the same class and be gone in a month is all irrelevant because the pictures say this school has a foreign teacher. This is a very common practice in China, and while it doesn't help the children very much, it does supply work. The hour I waited was spent watching a few teachers practice a dance for a program to be held at the end of the month. They even let me join. It made the time pass quickly. The only downfall to this job is the traffic I have to get through to go home. I was on the bus for 2 hours. I listened to my MP3 player and tried to make conversation so the time would pass faster. I am very glad to have the extra work. I hope when we return, that this sudden rush of job offers picks up where it left off.

Bubble Bath!!!

The friends who stayed with us a few months ago gifted us with the use of their bathtub. For those of you blessed with Western bathrooms, this may not seem much, but believe me, when the only bath you have had in 7 months was at a spa with absolutely no privacy and full of unashamed women, this was almost emotional! She even added bubbles! And stout beer! Even in the states, I preferred showers over baths but I lasted a whole half hour. It was wonderful. Frank of course was in over 2 hours. It was such a gracious and thoughtful gift. Funny how even the littlest things mean so much when you haven't had them for so long. I don't know if we will be able to handle having a Western bathroom at our disposal for three whole months! Too much luxury!

Coming Home 回国家 (hui guo jia) Part 3

We have three weeks to go before our return for the summer. Emotionally, I am already gone. Mentally, I am trying to focus on life here keeping my routine of work and study. And there is a small part of me that is even hesitant to go home. That is the most surprising of all. Perhaps it is the fear that things can never be the same, coupled with the fact that we don't plan to stay home. For the past seven months we have traded the stresses of life in America for life here. There is a very big difference, with life being much simpler here. Just planning our return has brought back some of that stress. What will we do for work, will our house sell, will we be able to buy our return tickets, all these things weigh on my mind. I know that help will always be there but that doesn't stop this worry wart from thinking about it. I have been told that it takes a few trips back and forth from home to get used to these conflicts, but that it does get easier. And I have faith that true friendships can't be severed by time and distance.

"Expectation postponed is making the heart sick"-Wise Man

I recieved a few complaints about my blog on fried rice because I left out pictures of the person who did the cooking. Frank. In my own defense, they were left out because they didn't turn out well. But here it is. Frank has taken on all kinds of domesticity here. He cooks, washes dishes, cleans the bathroom. He's amazing. It's very nice to have the help.


Monday, May 4, 2009

中国衣服 (Chinese Clothing)

An update on my clothes. After I ranted and raved about how terrible they were, I went back Sunday morning and everything was done! Not totally what I wanted, but close enough, and I paid them and left. It was actually better than I expected so I'm happy. After all, I was able to put my shirt over my head this time! There was a different girl there this time, the sister of the other woman, she was very sweet too and wants to get together with me next week if we have time. Bonus!


I finally got to play tennis yesterday! I was excited the whole day. It has been very difficult to schedule regular physical activity. Frank has his basketball every Monday, but I couldn't get anyone to do anything with me. (Is that supposed to tell me something?) I bought badmitton rackets that now collect dust, because schedules just never matched up. We did try one day to play volleyball, but all the courts were taken and we got in trouble for playing on the grass. So, when a friend finally said yes to tennis, I was stoked! Frank even agreed to play. I soon realized how rusty I was, but so were the two guys so we just had fun. Then an Indonesian guy who was watching, asked to play. When he hammered my return into the ground, we realized we had agreed to play with fire. He ended up on Frank's team which kept him smiling for the next hour of play since there was no taking this guy down. I was just grateful for the chance to play and can't wait till next time. It is nice to have a regular routine of something physical. I hope I can turn this into one. Tennis Rocks!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

You're American? Really?

Do I look Chinese? Come on, you can tell me. How about Thai? No? Then why are people always asking me if I am? Two days ago I was talking with a shop owner and two ladies came up to me to ask the price of something. "Oh, I'm not the owner", I told them. They looked surprised and said, "but you were speaking Chinese". They should have listened for a few more seconds and then they would not have made the mistake. My conversation skills have a time and topic limit. It doesn't take long for the dictionary to come out. The only time I might be mistaken for Chinese is in the morning when I just get out of bed and can't open my eyes yet. My skin complexion however, is very similar to theirs so I'll give them that. If I walk around with shades on and don't talk, perhaps, maybe, I could fit in. Not really.

Growing Pains

I took this picture in front of a kindergarten yesterday. It says so much about this system whatever country you are in. There is a facade of freedom but the truth is, very few are truly free. I find that people here are just beginning to get the urge for it, still hesitating to think for themselves but wanting to. They embrace Western culture because of the relative freedom we enjoy. One example is their view of children. I have never seen more babies and pregnant women in my life. It seems as though that is their goal in life, but what then? Many women go off to work, leaving the baby to be cared for by grandparents. Many of the mothers to be are so young, married out of a sense of responsibility, not love. But, like a seedling fighting through the winter snow, individuality is struggling to surface. I met a woman who had been married for awhile but with no children. She felt that life was too difficult to have children, and they had made the decision to wait. It was a shock to me. I am usually looked at with surprise and pity when people find out I have been married for almost 13 years and still have no children. "WHY?" That it is our right to decide for ourselves to have or not have, is strange and as foreign as our faces. Being here is like watching an entire population growing up, trying new things and ideas, many adopted from the west and not all good. Some of it saddens me since Western culture has so many vices and those are adopted more quickly than other ideals and principles that many Westerners are taught from infancy. One day, the childlike curiosity and enthusiasm will pay its dividends in 20/20 hindsight. I understand how parents feel, never wanting their young ones to fully grow up and lose that innocence.
People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tailor Made?

It has been almost 2 weeks since I ordered some Chinese clothes. I have learned a valuable lesson. Don't order Chinese clothes. Last week I went by twice, only to be told that nothing was ready except my wrap skirt, which really wasn't when I put it on. Yesterday morning I went by again. They were closed for the Chinese Labor Day, but I could see the dress I ordered thru the window. I checked back in the afternoon, this shop is quite a walk from my home by the way, and they were open but no one was in. So, I took the dress, went in the back and tried it on. No go, they cut slits up the sides and had way too much fabric up top. Finally someone showed up and I explained the problem. They casually listened, not really hearing me, so we will see what it looks like in two days. I also was expecting a shirt and my shorts. I actually had to ask about the shorts before they finally told me that they had been unable to find the fabric I wanted and I should pick out something different. Couldn't they have told me 2 weeks ago????!!! I asked for my old pair back and had them take the price off my bill. I still don't have shorts! The shirt was beautiful but had the wrong color trim on it. I figured I would just deal with it and went to try it on. I couldn't even get it over my head! The neck hole wasn't big enough for anyone but a baby's head! What exactly do they do in the sewing room, watch TV and never look at what they are doing? So basically, I still have nothing to show, they didn't even have my wrap skirt and that was the easiest of them all. I have learned my lesson but I still have to deal with the problem until it is over! Ah, China!

Fried Rice

Here is a simple recipe for Fried Rice:

The most important thing to remember is start with cold rice. Use last night's leftovers, rake a fork through it to loosen the grains. This recipe uses about 3 cups cooked rice.

Fry 2/3 pcs of bacon in your wok. Cook until crispy then chop finely
Beat one egg and set aside
Chop an onion and saute it in the bacon fat.

Dump the separated rice into the hot grease, make sure it's not too much grease for you or add oil or butter if not enough. There needs to be enough to keep the rice from sticking to the pan. Stir constantly to separate all the grains. Make hole in the middle and pour in the egg. Cook slightly then stir egg into rice mixture. Pour a few tablespoons of soy sauce down the side of the wok and incorporate into the rice mixture. Keep stirring until it starts to stick to the bottom and it's ready to serve!

Variations: You can add vegetables, green onions and garlic are nice. Saute them with the onions. Leftover meat is great too, chicken and shrimp are my favorite. Chop them up and add after the rice. Pouring the soy sauce on the side of the wok allows it to smoke before it hits the rice, enhancing its flavor.

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach"

-Wise Woman