Everything went smoothly today. I got up, took the #28 bus to the bus station and waited for Nikki (a student teacher at my school) to show up. Like most Chinese people, she
showed up over 20 minutes late. You think I would learn that meeting at 8 am really means 8:30. I stood there and waited while person after person kept on trying to talk me into taking their bus, bike, van, or back to Leshan. I have gotten to where I stare blankly in front of me and don't respond. I know this seems heartless, but it is what all of the Chinese people do when they want to be left alone. It is the most effective method of getting people to go away who simply want to take all of your money. After about 30 minutes of trying not to gain too much attention, Nikki comes running up to me in a sun-dress and high heels. I shook my head at her, saying, "Nikki, we are walking A LOT today. Why in the world are you wearing high heels?" She exclaimed that she does not go a day without wearing high heels and that she does not own a single pair of flat shoes because she is
really short. I explained that a lot of men like short women, but she said that in China men prefer women to be just a tiny bit shorter than them--not too much because they want their child (which they of course hope and pray is a boy) to have good genes and grow up tall. If the mother is very short, the child will also end up short. It is always interesting hearing Chinese logic. When Nikki and I planned on going to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha, I had a feeling she would wear a sun-dress and high heels, so I wasn't too surprised. I just knew she was going to be in extreme pain by the end of the day, and her pain was going to become my pain.
Besides the late start, everything else went pretty well. We got on a bus, arrived in Leshan, and then took another bus to the Giant Buddha. We got stuck in some traffic, but after 30 minutes of sitting at a dead stop, we made it. We then had some lunch and headed towards the Giant Buddha. They told us we had to also buy a ticket for the Buddha park, so it cost us more than we thought. Oh well, little things like that don't seem to phase me anymore. The first thing we saw when we entered the Buddha park were two men holding monkeys, and for 25 yuan, you
could get a picture holding one. When people see foreigners, they say to themselves, "Jack Pot--here comes some easy money." So, one man practically threw the monkey on me, and when the monkey started holding my hand, I knew I had to get a picture; it was worth every penny. I didn't especially like how the man treated the monkey, but what could I do? Save him and bring him home as my pet? Trust me, I was tempted...
Nikki is a Buddhist, so she wanted to worship at the temples that were around the park. What this entails is kneeling on a pad that is placed in front of a Buddha statue and then bowing three times, pausing for a few seconds in between each bow. The person will then light a candle and burn some incense. It was interesting watching her take in her religion. She wanted to worship at every statue, so this took a while. Once she was done worshiping, we headed to the Giant Buddha, taking quite a few breaks on the way because Chinese women don't have very much
energy. This goes for Chinese men as well for some reason. As everyone was dragging themselves along, I had to remind myself to slow down. I also had to remember that Nikki, bless her little soul, was wearing high heels. She is an amazing friend, but I don't understand her logic sometimes. I told her that she should purchase some flat shoes for when she is going on outings like this, but she explained to me, in a tone so confident and unmistakably sure, that beauty is everything. I looked at her and said, "Hm...Nikki, beauty fades with time. You too will grow old, so what should
matter is inner beauty." She agreed but said that one should strive for inner and outer beauty. She also told me that I should wear contacts so that my beauty could shine through. Several times throughout the day she said, "I do not like your glasses!!!"
I wanted to say that I didn't care if she liked my glasses or not, but I held my tongue and reminded myself that English is indeed her second language.....so maybe she doesn't know she is being rude.
We made it to the Giant Buddha and had to stand in line for a little bit before making the long trek down the steps. It isn't that far to the bottom, but the line doesn't move very fast because everyone is taking pictures. I was getting really irritated in line because everyone's umbrellas were hitting me in the face--some from behind, some on the side, and others in front of me. As soon as the sun comes out, women frantically pull out their umbrellas to shade their skin from the evil sun. Yes--Chinese people are TERRIFIED of the sun, so a tan is not beautiful in this country. White skin is what every girl desires. In fact, I have to be careful when buying lotion and soap because a lot of the women's products in China have skin bleaching elements in the ingredients. Nikki kept repeating how disgusting dark skin is throughout the day. A lot of people told me that Chinese people are racist, and I am starting to think they are. Chinese people admire and love beauty, and because they do not think dark skin is beautiful, they detest it. They do not detest each other necessarily, but they will examine skin color. If a Chinese person's skin is even just a little bit darker than most Chinese people's skin tone, it will be acknowledged and scrutinized. There is a teacher at Golden High School who is Vietnamese, and she once told me that other Vietnamese people look down on her because her skin is darker than most. I
didn't really think this was true, but now I see how Asian countries are--and it is quite disturbing.
Overall, the day was great. I thought I was going to have to carry Nikki home, but she somehow managed to make it back. I told her that her feet were probably going to fall off and that when she woke up in the morning, they most likely wouldn't be there anymore. She thought this was really funny but also scary. The thought of not having feet probably gave her nightmares. She would be better off with no feet because she is the kind of girl that should be carried everywhere
anyway. I really do adore her as a person, but sometimes her girlishness can get to me. I mean seriously, buy some tennis shoes.
I go crazy when I have NO ONE to talk
to. Talking to Chinese people doesn't count because we spend most of our time saying, "What? Can you repeat that? What? Say that one more time. Wait....what?" Yeah, that is how most of my conversations are these days. Or certain Chinese people talk to me to improve their English, so I play the role of the teacher all of the time when I really just want someone to laugh and talk with. Even when I went to the Giant Buddha with Nikki, she kept asking me to teach her new words. It is okay sometimes but not all day every day. I have a student at school who loves to talk to me every second of the day. At first I was a little annoyed, but then I realized that we could learn a lot from each other. I decided to answer her never-ending questions and have also been emailing back and forth with her for a few weeks. She is such a nice girl, and I think I might miss her the most when I leave. This isn't Clancy, the girl I hung out with one Saturday. This is a different girl named Christina (I gave her that name because she requested me to give her an English name, and Christina sounds a little bit like her
Chinese name). She has braces, is kind of dorky, and LOVES Titanic like most Chinese people. We talk about Titanic almost every day, and she says that she thinks I look like Rose. She also thinks Jack would be the perfect man if he wasn't poor. I then taught her the phrase, "Money doesn't buy happiness." I don't think a Chinese person could ever understand that phrase because in China, money is everything.
Here is my email correspondence with Christina from the last couple of weeks: Christina:
Hi,Tara. I hope you can send one of your phtot to me. Thanks!I will send my phtot to you. Me:
Here are some pictures. These are mainly from the school field trip. Christina:
Thanks for your photos. I hope you can remember me when you back to the USA. And I think your photos are perfect and really beautiful. Oh, I sufe the Internet on weekends. Me:
Of course I will remember you!!!! You are an amazing girl who is very nice. I will take your picture with me and will tell all of my students in America about you. Christina:
I think I am a luck girl that I
can make friend with you. I think, although you are my teacher, we also can be the best friends. And in my opinion, I had an unusual experience that I have a friend: You. Could you please give me your students' e-mail in America? I hope I can talk with them. Thank you! Finally, I will remember you forever, too.Me:
Yeah, I will definitely send you some of my students' emails once I get back to America. I don't have their emails right now. I think you are a great friend, and I am very lucky to have you as a student.Christina:
Thank you! I am so happy that I can make some friends in American. Are they activity like you? Are they so friendly? And are they like talking? I hope they can like taling with
me, although I'm not so good in English. Oh, if they think I'm really so good in English, please get over. By the I, now I always think, as a student in China, it's really so tired! Today, I did my homework for the two to three hours! I did my homework for along time, but I didn't finish it. So I really want to be a student in America.Me:
I think you would love America. Maybe you can ask your parents about studying abroad for a while when you are in high school. I can look and see if there are some affordable programs and see the cost. It would be a very good experience for you, but not all Americans are nice. There are mean people all over the world, but the culture would be good for you to experience. Christina:
In fact, I really want to go to the high school in America. And yesterday I talked about it with my mother, she said: "In our family, you can't go America to learn. First, you are not good enough as a exchange student to America; Second, we aren't very rich but an ordinary family in China, so you can't to go any another coutries. Because if you want to go there by ourslves, it will be a the highst price
for our family." But when I go to the university and I can do the best, maybe I can as exchange student to America to learn and maybe I can life in there. I believe that I can do better in study, although study all the subjects except English are too difficult to learn for me. Oh! I am really gold to make friend with you.Me:
I am sorry that they said that. Maybe in the future when your English progresses you can find a way to study in America for a semester. Just believe in yourself and amazing things can happen.Christina:
I am really gold that you always encourage me to study better. Today, I read newspaper about historical events Titanic. I read half the through, I was surprise to read news: one hundred years ago, there was a person called Jack! When I read to there, I said: "I'm really clever, mom. I remember some moths ago, I said that I thought maby there was a person called Jack. And that time, you didn't believe it. But now, I am a winner! Ha ha!" I was really happy that time. But there didn't have a girl who called Rose......Do you think I am really so crazy? In fact, when I wacthed that movies, I became crazy about all the news and things about Titanic. I am Titanic 's super fans now! And last, I want to tell you a thing about me, and It's a secret: In China, there are two boys like me! And one of them is my boyfriend! YOU CAN'T TELL ANYONE ELSE! THANK YOU! Me:
Hahahahaha. I am not surprised that there was a man named Jack on Titanic. I wouldn't be
surprised if there was a woman named Rose on that ship as well. That was a very common name. In fact, my Grandma's name is Rose. That is so exciting you have a boyfriend!!! Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. Christina:
I know that name called Jack or Rose is common in America. Finally, I hope you can play with me and we can have a dinner together Friday. OK?Me:
Yeah that is great. I will see you for dinner. Can't wait to meet your mom!!! It will be good practice for you to be our interpreter. It will show your mother how amazing your English really is. Your writing will get better in time--just don't give up. 5-23
I had a HORRIBLE nightmare last night!!! It felt so real that I was delirious when I awoke. This is what took place: I was helping my mom and Dennis move. We had until 5 pm to get everything out, and Dennis was trying to
control everything and put things in the moving van his way. He was being difficult, so my mom and I were stressed out even more. To top it off, all of my stuff was still in my bedroom. It was as though I never moved out, but there wasn't enough room in the storage unit for my stuff. I said I wanted to keep my desk, but Dennis said there wasn't any room left for my stuff and to take it all to the Goodwill. I was really mad at him for not caring about my stuff!!! My mom was really stressed out because it was then 4 pm, and we had one hour to get everything out and cleaned. Dennis then said that I better just leave because I wasn't even helping. He said I was just standing there all day doing nothing, but I was cleaning and working really hard. Then my mom tried to tell him that I was helping, but he said that he knew I was just watching Glee
in the kitchen. I said I wasn't, and we all started arguing. We then only had 30 minutes to get everything out and cleaned, so I started throwing all of my stuff in bags. Both of them were yelling at me, saying I wasn't working fast enough. I then woke up and was in a panic. I guess my mom and Dennis selling the house and moving has been bothering more than I thought. They say your repressed thoughts and emotions come out when you are sleeping, and I was really overwhelmed with moving items out of the house--even though it was just a dream. I also woke up and was immediately irritated that Dennis didn't think I was any help. Hahahahhaha. Funny how dreams can feel so real. I feel much better now but am really glad that I wasn't there for the move
because if I didn't handle it very well in my nightmare, how well could I have handled it in real life? Just thinking about that house makes me sad because that was my house since I can remember, and the memories we shared as a family are mainly within that house. I will take all of my memories with me and will always remember our time in Golden, Colorado. I love you mom and Dennis and will see you very soon!!!!5-24
I asked the school if I could take some time off when Jill and Scott came, and they said yes months ago. The other day they said they weren't sure if I could take any time off, even though I haven't missed a single day of work all semester. I then told them I WILL take time off and that my contract says I can take personal days. They said that I could take Monday and Tuesday off, but that was it. I said that I need the Fri. of the following week and will even make up the classes by moving them to Thursday. After much negotiation with Buckland and the school, along with Greg yelling at me on the phone, I am officially allowed to take three days off as long as I make the classes up by moving them to other days. So, in reality, I am not missing any classes at all. I will work from 6:00 am-6:30 pm Mon-Thursday in order to take Fri, Mon, and Tues. off. I am fine with this, but they really made me fight for my rights this time. It will be worth it, though, because I will get to explore an area of Sichuan that few foreigners get the opportunity to travel. I am so excited.
Yesterday was amazing. I walked through Huang Long Xi Ancient Town, bought tons of amazing Chinese things such as hand carved and painted chopsticks (Yep....I am a chopstick kind of girl now. So maybe I am not a true American girl anymore????), some playing cards that have Chinese pictures on them, a panda friendship key-chain (Jessie has the matching panda key-chain, so we are linked as friends forever--even if we don't live in the same country), a panda magnet, some beautiful lipstick cases, and the best thing of all--a hand carved frog that makes noise when you rub its back with a wooden stick. It is AMAZING. After we left, I realized I should have bought a whole bunch of these frogs for my family and friends. Too late now....
After we explored all that the ancient town had to offer, we went to the bus stop, bought our
tickets, and tried to get on the bus, but it was already full. As we were realizing we would have to wait for the next bus, we overheard a foreign woman yelling Chinese and throwing her hands in the air. There were 3 other women with her all shaking their heads. We turned around and observed the situation for a while. Jessie could of course understand her, so she explained the situation to me. This is what was going on: The women had bought their tickets and had stood in line for quite some time. When the bus arrived, all of the Chinese people swarmed to the bus, pushing them out of their way. They were upset because they had been waiting for a long time, while some Chinese people had only arrived minutes before the bus arrived. The women thought the tickets should have a departure time, so people who got there first could get on the bus first. The bus station in Chengdu always has a departure time, but this bus station didn't print the departure time on the tickets for some reason. It was a small town, so they probably didn't think it was needed. Jessie then explained that the man in charge said that he would go ask 4 Chinese people to get off the bus, so they could get on. One of the women said that wasn't necessary and that they would just wait for the next bus, but the women who was yelling in the first place
wasn't exactly thrilled with her friend's decision. We all sat down and waited for the next bus, which we were told would arrive in 25 minutes. Jessie and I chit-chatted, but Jessie kept looking at the 4 women. Two of them were white and the other two looked Asian but not Chinese. Jessie said she thought the foreign women were from France and the other two were from Japan. I shook my head "yes" but really had no idea. Eventually Jessie had to ask, and it turned out the foreigners were from Germany. Jessie was right about the other two women, as they were Japanese. Jessie then continued to talk with the women and explained how Chinese recognize and admire Germans for their critical thinking. The women laughed and then looked at me, wanting to know what Americans thought of Germans. I said I didn't know what Americans think of Germany as a whole but that whenever I think of Germany three things come to mind: World War II, Hitler, and the Holocaust. I left it at that, but there are usually a few other things that come to mind when I think of Germany, such as people having a short temper and people always
sounding mad (the German language just sounds angry...doesn't it?) The women laughed and said they completely understand why I would think of those things when referring to Germany, which is why they choose to live in China instead. They didn't have anything nice to say about their country, but I still really want to visit. We absorb what we are taught in school, and it feels like I was taught more about WWII than any other aspect of history. Therefore, I have always seen Germany as a gloomy country with a dreadful past, but my view changed somewhat on Saint Patrick's Day while in China. I met a wonderful, gorgeous man that night who was charming, funny, intelligent, and every girl's dream. We talked all night, so I soon found out that he was from Germany. He told me stories about his country, and his amazing smile made the country look quite inviting. That night was quite eventful, and after walking the streets of China until 5 am and promising that I would visit Germany someday, I somehow got sidetracked by a lady holding a monkey and lost him. Patrick was his name, and now I tend to think of him whenever I think of Germany.
We talked to the ladies a little bit longer until the one German lady who was mad before started getting really impatient for the bus. It had been over 25 minutes, and she was losing her cool. I then told her that there are two things that DO NOT exist in China it seems: lines and time tables. If you are standing in "line" anywhere, you must be prepared to defend your place. Also, Chinese people are never on time, and it isn't considered a big deal.
The bus eventually showed up, so we headed back to Chengdu, grabbed some dinner, and then headed to our final bus stop. As we were walking to our bus stop, Jessie brought up the German people again and told me the following Chinese joke:
A pin is accidentally dropped in a room full of objects.
will use their eyes and touch the floor with their hands until they find the pin.
will use special eye glasses and a magnet in order to find the pin.
will use critical thinking, write down all of the possible equations, and determine the location of the pin based on scientific reasoning.
That is how the Chinese joke goes. For fun, we
decided to add on other countries to the joke. I asked her what she would say for Americans, and she said, "They will pray that God will help them find the pin." We laughed, and I asked, "Do all Chinese think Americans are super religious?" She said "no" but that that is her image of Americans. I then asked what Chinese people as a whole would most likely say about Americans, and she replied, "The Chinese believe all Americans are rich." So, this is what we decided for the Americans: Americans
would hire someone to find the pin.
We then continued with other countries... Canadians
would lock the door of the room so no one would get hurt by stepping on the pin. They would then look for the pin the next day with fresh eyes.
would proclaim, "Oh well...it is just a pin. Let's grab some drinks and call it a day."
would start cursing and stomp out of the room, declaring that nothing that small should exist anyway.
That is as far as we got because Jessie's bus came to the stop. I waved goodbye and realized that I am going to miss her very much when I leave. 5-28
The FIRST thing I want to do when I get back is sign up for a phone plan and get a new phone, so I can talk to everyone!!!!!!!!!! The next thing I want to do is get a hair cut. After 20 hours of dealing with airports, layovers, luggage, plane food, and lack of sleep, I don't know if I will want to eat anything right away. I know this sounds weird, but I am REALLY looking forward to some salad--fresh greens and veggies but NO OIL!!!!!!!!!!!!! I repeat myself--NO OIL!!!! I am soooo sick of it. I asked my friend Jessie what kind of oil they use in the food here, and she said vegetable oil. It has taken its toll on me.
Within my first week home, I am going to have to have some pizza. I tried having some in China, but it just isn't the same. If I get a phone, a haircut, and some salad within my first day back, I will be very happy!!! I also look forward to when I can take a bath. I have really missed taking baths!!!5-29
This song is very popular
in China right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB1i1rHl0og&feature=fvst
. It is called "Wan Wu Sheng," which means "all lives arise." The words you hear are Tibetan, and it is well-known throughout China because it was performed at the Chinese New Year's Gala. This video shows what the Chinese New Year's Gala performance was like: http://www.yinyuetai.com/video/342113
. For the Chinese New Year's Gala performance the words were changed to Chinese Mandarin. The lyrics have the same meaning, depicting a harmony where human beings and nature live together and arise as one. I think this song is very beautiful, and I recommend everyone to listen to it.
I had dinner with Christina and her mom last night. We had to walk about 20 minutes to her apartment, and we had to go through some of the nastiest streets to get there. There are parts of this city that are disgusting. The streets are covered in a gooey filth, and a horrible, strong odor
follows you everywhere, while people all over the street are abusing animals. Let me explain in detail what I saw. At first, the filth and smell of the street overwhelmed my senses. I then had to jump out of the way as a man with a butcher knife ran after a dog. The dog was faster than him, which is a really good thing, because if the man had gotten close to the dog, I would have had to protect the creature and probably would have gotten hacked up in the process. After the evil dog killer walked back to his store, he made a point of kicking two bunnies who were shivering with fright. In order to get to Christina's home we had to keep winding through back alley through back alley. I kept on playing Elvis' song "In the Ghetto" in my head as we came closer and closer to all I hate about developing countries. We then passed by a family playing cards and making
small talk. There was a dog right by the lady's leg, and he was convulsing in agony, enduring a slow and painful death. This dog was literally dying and no one was doing ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was really upset and almost tried to help the poor thing, but Christina pulled me away. We finally made it to her apartment, and the street was decaying outside the entrance. We walked up to the 3rd floor, and her mom welcomed me with open arms. She can't speak any English, but her smile was all I needed to feel welcome. Christina then taught me how to play the Titanic
theme song on her piano until dinner was ready. Her mom made sooooo much food, and it was amazing!!! There were four dishes. The first dish was celery and peanuts in an amazing tangy and slightly spicy sauce. The second dish was spicy tofu, the third was cauliflower, and the last dish
was a soup made of egg and tomato. I ate quite a bit and then Christina and I went to the park. Young men were break dancing, older men were practicing Kung Fu moves, and the ladies were either practicing the Cha-Cha or doing Chinese dance aerobics. It was interesting watching everyone in motion. Overall, Chinese people are a lot more active than Western people.
We headed back to her home because her mom wanted me to have some cherries. She bought the really good, big ones, not the tiny ones I got from the cherry festival. Christina then showed me album after album of family pictures, while their kitten kept trying to paw her way up my leg. Christina's mom thought it was really funny and said that it was a sign that the kitten wanted to go to America. It was getting late, so I started the 45 minute walk home at 10:15 pm. Only after I started to walk the deserted streets did I worry about getting mugged. I have been out late before, but I usually have my
bike, making it harder for someone to catch me. I walked really fast and made it home in one piece, and even though I was a little nervous walking in the dark, I felt safer than I would in Denver or in Greeley. I remember one night in Greeley I had to walk a ways in the dark, deserted streets, and I thought for sure I was not going to make it home. China has less crime overall, probably because people don't have guns.
Sunny was telling me a story while at work today about how a man broke into a lady's store to rob her, but she was an expert in Kung Fu, so she captured him easily. She then tied him up and tortured him for 3 days before letting him go. He then reported her to the police, and she was arrested. Sunny thought this story was hilarious and couldn't stop laughing. I too found it to be
interesting and quite ironic. Sunny then said that he thinks the Chinese should be allowed to have guns because it creates an equal playing field, so people would be less inclined to commit crime. I told him that guns do not help lower crime rates at all and that China seems safer than America. Granted, if you really want a gun, you can get one underground. I mistakenly came across an underground shopping district that sold all sorts of illegal items. They obviously don't try too hard to hide such things, since I found them when shopping for cool panda stuff. I was in shock when I realized where I was, but I also couldn't help but look through some of the restricted items. After seeing some interesting things and almost buying one of Mao's little red books, I hurried away. There is obviously no way to truly control a country this big.
I went over to John's apartment today to help him coach some students for their English videos, and boy was I in for a surprise. John is another Buckland teacher who works at a different school on the edge of the city, and he is 63 and Irish. He is a rowdy one, and this was only my second time hanging out with him. I am good friends with his 23 yr. old Chinese girlfriend named Shiny, and she really is a ball of sunshine let me tell you. Yep, a 63 yr. old foreigner dating a young, beautiful Chinese girl; I see this all of the time, so it doesn't even phase me anymore, although I often wonder what in the world they are thinking. Shiny is the nicest person I think I have EVER met, so when John (everyone just calls him "Irish") started bossing her around and treating her like she was a stupid maid, it really got to me. I asked her a few weeks ago what their relationship entailed, and she said she goes over there every night to cook him dinner and clean. I asked her if this bothered her, and she said it didn't, which is why I let it go. I started to question his real feelings for her after I heard that she plays housewife, while he simply plays video games and watches movies. Once I saw how he treated her, though, I really lost my cool.
Before I got there, she had made 6 dishes for
lunch--all of which were exquisite--but all John had to say was that it was too spicy and that she should have thought about him when making the food. She should know better than to make the food so spicy. Later, when she went into another room, John whispered to me, "You know, she is great and all, but she requires a lot of training. You have to keep her on track, or she will just be all over the place. I have to tell her what to do if I want anything to get done around here." I didn't say anything but had a strong urge to punch him in his face while singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect."
After 3 hours of watching such treatment, I really wanted to get away from Irish, so I suggested that Shiny and I go to the supermarket to buy ingredients for jiaozi (dumplings). He said Shiny and I should take the bus, but I suggested walking since we had been sitting all day. He snapped at me, saying that that was a stupid idea, and I held my tongue but gave him the look of doom. He must have sensed something because he backed off and started acting very nice as we walked out the door. The instant we walked out of the apartment, I exclaimed, "He treats you
like you are stupid!!! You deserve better than this!!! Why do you let him treat you this way???" I couldn't hold back my anger. She gave me the most innocent look and said, "Oh...I thought maybe something was wrong with me because he is never happy with anything I do. I always feel that I could do better and that he is trying to make me a better person and girlfriend." I then explained that when a man loves you and cares for you, he does not talk down to you and make you feel miniscule. I also admitted that he might care about her but that he doesn't seem to have much respect for women in general, given the way he spoke to me. I told her that there is a reason this 63 year old man has never been married and now lives in China. I begged her to please consider a different path because this one will only demoralize every bone in her body. I then went on and on about how wonderful, beautiful, smart, amazing, and special she is, and I meant every word. She thanked me and agreed that she perhaps needs to break things off but that he won't let her go easily because she takes care of him. Without her, and I actually think she is right, he will be utterly and completely lost. I don't know what her future holds, but I hope our talk can guide her in a better direction. I try not to get involved in domestic issues, but when a dear friend is being verbally abused in front of my eyes, I can't remain silent. I understand that women are not considered equals in this country, but that doesn't mean I can allow Irish to break down the most amazing Chinese woman I have yet to meet. In fact, as I write this, I am holding back tears because his behavior is barbaric,
ruthless, and sickening. It was like watching those bunnies being kicked on the street. Why would anyone want to hurt an innocent creature?
I truly believe that China is a country from the past. We don't need to invent a time machine because the past is in the developing and 3rd world countries, while the future is in our dreams. Since I have lived here, I feel like I have gone back in time before the women's movement, before plumbing and clean water, before manners and behavioral norms were set in place in order to create "sophisticated and elegant youth." This is a time before "freedom of speech," health insurance, retirement funds, and individuality. Living in a place like this really changes how a person thinks and sees things. Although there are amazing things about China, seeing women submit to aggressive, alcoholic, and abusive men is not one of them.
I know Irish KNOWS I said something
to Shiny because he had a suspicious look when we came back from the supermarket, but I paid no attention to him and focused on making the best dumplings a girl can make. Shiny and I had a great time cooking together, and while we were eating, we watched the movie Everything is Fine
. I of course shed a few tears and probably would have been a waterfall if I was watching it by myself, but Shiny didn't show any emotion. She then explained how she doesn't ever cry. My other Chinese friend Jessie also said she NEVER cries, so I am starting to think Chinese women don't cry. I don't think this is because they don't feel, but they have been trained at a young age to live for men--cook, clean, have a son--these are their duties. I am started to think crying isn't a curse but a sign that I am alive.
All of the women in China are numb. This doesn't mean they are bad people or that I dislike their company. In fact, I adore my Chinese friends, and my heart aches with the thought of leaving them. In fact, I am no longer looking forward to going home because my life has finally started here. I have friends, I know how to teach to a class of students who don't know very much English, I can navigate the bus system and push rude men out of my way, even if they have a large sack of apples as a weapon. I am really sad that I am leaving, but I need to give Canon City a chance. I just don't know if I will ever find friends as caring as the ones I have here, and I worry that maybe I am leaving the best life I have ever had--even though my job is far from ideal. I guess only time will tell if I chose the right path. I officially know that my decision to come here was the smartest, most valuable decision I have made so far, so
maybe my next journey will be just as rewarding. 6-4
Even though I have no idea why I came here, I have decided to use my time in this country to find myself, accept myself, and then in the end, truly love myself. Someone once told me that you can't truly love someone until you know how to love yourself, and I think that is very true. When I say "love yourself," I mean accepting yourself, every good quality along with every flaw. It also means to forgive yourself and to admit that maybe you didn't always handle things the right way. It means to let go of things that were done to you, so you can start living in the present.
After all of these months meditating, performing Tai Chi, listening to my own thoughts, and trying to embrace this country even though it
is repelling at times, I have come to the conclusion that I am who I am. I have certain tendencies that I can work on but can't fully erase. For instance, I get stressed. I get stressed by big things, little things, stupid things, and important things. I have to just accept this and find the best way to cope. I find that meditating every day is the best way to help me relax, but another thing I struggle with is motivation. So, even though I know meditating and doing Yoga and Tai Chi will make me a more stable person, I lack the motivation to do it everyday. I can get myself to do it every other day, but I strive for more than this. I know my Aunt Kathy walks 4 miles EVERY day, and I admire her for her determination. I don't think I need to do it everyday necessarily but at least 5 times a week. Another thing about me is I seem to always take things personally. I need to realize that everyone has bad days and that just because I happen to be in their way doesn't necessarily mean I had anything to do with their behavior. Also, I know that
this is hard to believe, but I am really emotional. I have gone a month at a time where I haven't shed a tear, but I had to REALLY try. I cry for a variety of reasons: stress, reflecting on past memories, watching sad movies, finishing a really good book series (Yes....I did get teary eyed when I read the last page of Harry Potter
. The ending was very powerful, and I was sad that I was done reading such an amazing story), saying goodbye to my mom and Dennis at the airport when I was coming to live here, and hard breakups. I know I cry A LOT, but it doesn't mean I am weak; it simply means I feel. I feel so much all of the time, and this, in a lot of ways, is my biggest problem. I sometimes wish there was a button that could turn off all of my emotions, but there isn't. I can't hide how I feel. I am who I am, and I need to embrace my emotion and use its power in other ways. Tears are not the only release for feelings as strong as mine. I find that writing and
meditating really help stabilize my mind and make crying a less frequent event. I feel that I still have every ounce of emotion I came here with, but I also feel that I handle things better than I did before. I have noticed I don't cry or get worked up like I used to. Granted, I watched a movie today that really got to me, but I didn't try too hard to hold back the tears because sometimes it is healthy to let your emotions run free. I will forever embrace all that is me, even though I am far from perfect. 6-6
Jill and Scott showed up today, and we went to a Sichuan Face-Changing Opera. It was pretty cool, but there wasn't much singing. I will have to check out a Beijing opera and see if it is different. The best part of the SIchuan opera was the face-changing at the end. About 4 different men kept changing the color of their masks, but you can't see them doing anything, making it
appear as magic. They practice for a great deal of time, so they can perfect the speed at which they pull the string of their mask. It was pretty cool.
It was so great seeing them today!!! We will have so much fun together in Tibet. We leave the morning of the 8th, and I can't wait!! 6-12
I just got back from Tibet. Originally, I was going to explore Tibet and see Mt. Everest, but the Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to foreigners right now because of the recent immolations. We hired a personal guide to drive us to the border of TAR, and in Tagong, it is 90% Tibetan--prayer wheels and all. It was the most AMAZING experience of my life.
Because of this experience, I am addicted to traveling. I will HAVE to plan a trip every couple of years for sure. I will, therefore, have to marry someone who likes to travel, so it can be an aspect of our lives. I am soooooooooooooooooo glad I did this, and honestly, I am dreading
coming home. Life is simpler here, and I don't really want to go back to working day and night. As an English teacher, I will never get a break, especially since I will be assisting Speech and Debate. I need to stay positive, though
, and face all of my fears, and since living in a small, dinky town has always frightened me, especially after my experience in Greeley, I need to take the job and live a life I have avoided since college. Maybe it won't be so bad. 6-15
I only have 1 full week of work left!!! Can you believe it? I am still in shock!!! This has been the longest and yet shortest 6 months of my life. I can't explain it really. I feel like I have been here forever, yet I still have so much I want to do. There just isn't enough time to do everything. I think I have done quite a bit though--Shanghai, Yangshuo, Chengdu, Leshan, Sichuan Province (Tibet), and soon to be Beijing. I'd say I have been quite adventurous overall, and I am glad I
have documented everything so well so as not forget a single moment of this trip. 6-18
I am reading Christina Baldwin's Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest
, and I am enjoying every second of this book because it is helping me stay more positive. One of my favorite quotes is "the decision for growth is lifelong and subtle and takes us through many twists and turns." Although she is referring to the twist and turns
within our being, I feel that it can refer to the path we choose in life because you might choose a direction and without any notice encounter a detour sign, which then makes you turn around and approach a different path....but more cautiously this time. When I saw the path for China, it looked a little bit scary but also vibrant and exciting. I took the path expecting great things to happen, and they have but not the way I thought they would. When I dreamed about China before coming here, I
envisioned late nights with friends, clubs, constant enjoyment--an escapade. I tried that, but that wasn't what I was meant to experience here. Instead of crazy nights enjoying my youth, I opened my eyes for the first time in my life, saw a different world, swallowed my pride, cried tears of fear and loneliness, clawed for stable ground, couldn't find balance, fell hard, looked up, saw through my pain to find a rainbow, cried tears of loneliness interspersed with freedom, let go of the pain, learned that dance, Tai Chi, and Yoga are sources of healing, wrote about my observations, grew stronger each day, looked forward to waking up in the morning, started laughing more, stopped crying, saw the largest Buddha in the world, climbed the mountain that birthed Taoism, saw Tibetans praying in the pure daylight of the sun, walked the streets alone while feeling whole, saw the most beautiful peaks I have ever seen in the world, learned that having even just one friend is enough, learned to smile more and frown less,
learned to teach with my heart and not just my mind, and learned to NEVER give up or run away from my problems. In the end, everything happens for a reason, and I am a better person because I struggled through the beginning. I made my life better by being positive and strong, and now I know nothing can ever defeat me--even Canon City can't be that bad. Baldwin also states that "each of us must decide to grow or not to grow. . . . There is a moment of yes-saying that needs to occur, some tipping of the scale." Although I am sad to leave China, I need to start saying "yes" to Canon City and "goodbye" to China. Why does saying goodbye have to be so hard?6-21
I have had a great week because I have only been teaching for about 10 minutes per class, and the rest of the time has been devoted to showing Michael Jackson videos, dancing like MJ, and singing along to the songs we know. Last week I taught Michael Jackson songs, so this has been two weeks of MJ for my students. I call this the Michael Jackson Obsession Unit, and it has been quite successful. In fact, the craziest thing happened today. The bell rang, but all of my students BEGGED me to stay just so we could finish the "Thriller" video. They then sat there for another 10 minutes after the bell, completely enthralled by the dancing zombies. This has been by far my greatest accomplishment in China. I created over 800 Michael Jackson enthusiasts. Granted, they all said they loved him before, but I just embedded MJ in their brains for life. I sang along and danced to every song, and because
they think I am the coolest foreigner on earth, these students now have an urgent desire to learn every MJ song along with the moonwalk. Hehehehehehe. See, there is more than one way to teach English.
As a gift, the school gave me a huge box of eggs, but they aren't normal American eggs. No, they are wacky, people really eat these????, kind of eggs. There are a total of 61 eggs in this box. 1 is a special delicacy, and all it is is a really salty egg covered in a gooey brown rice. It is the best one by far, but I still couldn't get it down. 20 of them are just salty eggs with a brown yucky center, and once again, I couldn't get it down. The last 20 are covered in a brown, thick powder, and the yoke is injected with a red slime that is both spicy and salty. This was the
worst one by far, and, big surprise, I couldn't get it down. The other 20 I didn't even want to know. The school told me to take the HUGE box of eggs home to share with my family, and not to worry because they don't expire for 6 months. I smiled, said thanks, and walked away, knowing perfectly well that I was going to get rid of them before getting home. I walked over a mile carrying that heavy box of eggs, but I made it to my block and started handing them out to everyone. The restaurants near my apartment, my security guards, random people passing by, the nice lady at the shop next to me who has been so amazing to me these last 6 months--everyone got an egg. Everyone said "shia, shia" and tried to hand them back, but I refused. Everyone was laughing and surprised at my generosity. Little did they know that I just wanted those eggs out of my hair. They are all gone, so I am now free from the nasty Chinese eggs that haunt you
even after they are gone. May we never meet again!!! 6-22
I am going to go out into the city today and explore one last time. Then I am going to focus on packing and preparing for Beijing. I booked my hostel and am now trying to figure out which part of the wall I am going to. I am not going to the Badaling section because that is the most popular section that everyone goes to. Granted it is the cheapest tour, but I want to go to an area that isn't crowded. I can't decide between Jinshanling, or Mutianyu/Simatai. The last tour is the most expensive, so less people will probably be on that section. I might do that one--although the Jinshanling section is supposed to be amazing. I am also going to go to a Beijing opera, an acrobatics show, and probably one other show, possibly Kung Fu. They cost around $30 US dollars each and are only an hour long, but I might only be here once. I am going to spend
a lot in Beijing because I want to see everything, but it will be worth it!!!6-24
Tomorrow is my last day of teaching....I am so torn because I have really grown attached to my students. I have never bonded with students like this before, and even though I had my moments where I wanted to run away from my job, I am going to miss their excited nature. Chinese students are very different from American students, and I am going to miss their charm but not the large classrooms. Surviving China was my biggest fear for a while and now going back to America and teaching in a small town is my biggest and greatest fear. It is interesting how my mind always finds a way to keep me unsure; I need to follow Eleanor Roosevelt's advice, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." I need to follow this new path, but not before I explore Beijing for 5 days. Yep--I am going to Beijing on the 27th all by myself. Well....I guess you could say I am going with all of my luggage. I have more than I came here with so that will make my Beijing trip an interesting one. If anyone knows me,
they know that traveling around a big city all by myself with far too much luggage is a huge fear for me, so here I go, facing my fears again. Keep your fingers crossed, so I don't do something to get myself in trouble. I have a tendency to get myself in the worst situations without trying....Don't worry mom, I will survive!!! I look forward to a BIG hug from both you and Dennis on July 2nd!!!6-24
I finished my last day of work today, and it was quite dreadful. First, when I woke up, I looked out the window to see that it was pouring down rain--POURING. "It will die down before I leave," I tell myself, but it only got heavier. I then walked to work because I don't get as soaked if I walk. I biked once when it was pouring rain, and it took all day for me to dry out. So, I walked the 20 minutes to work,
but it took more around 30 minutes because I had to wait at all of the lights. By the time I got to work, my feet were completely soaked (Jee--maybe I should have worn my rain boots), my hair was frizzled to a crisp, and my face was melting off. As I walked to work, I realized that I am not going to miss this part, so maybe this was the best way I could end my time here because now I won't miss it so much.
After I finished teaching, I went to the bank to convert my money, but they told me I couldn't convert any money unless I had my receipt from Wells Fargo, showing how much American money I converted before coming here. I have no clue where that receipt from 6 months ago is, so I left and began to panic because I am also not allowed to bring more than 1,000 yuan out of the country. So.....if I can't convert the money to American currency, and I can't take rmb into the states then what should I do? Granted, according to Buckland, I should be able to use my Chinese bank card in America, but I was told this by Buckland, and Chinese people aren't usually very accurate. Jessie then called the bank, and they said Chinese people can exchange
money easily. It took some convincing, but Jessie agreed to meet me tomorrow to help me convert the money. We will see how it goes. I then asked Jessie why China won't let me exchange the money without my receipt, and she said it has something to do with China not wanting me to take more money out than I came in with. I find that to be really strange. I guess they look at your receipt and only allow you to convert the same amount that you converted originally. Jessie thinks it is to encourage foreigners to spend their money on traveling and shopping. I then went to an ATM only to find that Buckland still hadn't paid me yet. They said they would pay me this morning, but they hadn't, which caused more problems. This is what I mean by Chinese people not being very accurate. After many phone calls, they agreed to pay me later in the day--after the deadline for conversion--which is why Jessie has to meet me tomorrow. I really hope it goes smoothly tomorrow, or Jessie will have to listen to me endlessly complain about China's "system" of doing things or lack-thereof.
I have been arranging, rearranging, and trying very very hard to get all of my luggage to fit into 2 suitcases, my backpack, and my computer bag. I tried to fit my computer into my backpack, but it won't fit, which is quite unfortunate. Why did I buy such a big laptop? I only have 1 day before I leave for Beijing!!! 6-25
My last day in Chengdu: Jessie helped me convert my money and then we grabbed some lunch and said goodbye. This was by far the hardest goodbye I have experienced so far in China. We talked for a few minutes before her bus arrived, and she told me that my parents are going to be surprised at how much I have changed. I asked her what she meant, and she said, "When you first arrived here, you were very unsure of yourself. You were scared, and I had to take you shopping to buy food because you were so uncomfortable in China. Now you are strong and can handle anything. The word 'change' isn't such a scary word anymore because you know that
nothing can bring you down." We then gave each other a hug, said we were going to miss each other like crazy, and walked our separate ways. As I walked away, I could feel tears filling my eyes, but I held them back somehow. I walked down the main road to my apartment, looked around, and realized that this was the last time I would walk down this crazy road full of spit, leaves, and traffic. It was a bitter sweat feeling, full of sadness, fond memories, and irritating moments. Many thoughts ran through my mind: "Oh look!!! Over there is where that car pulled out in front of me, and I crashed!!!...Oh yes, this is where that really good looking Chinese guy works. Too bad he doesn't speak any English." Goodbye Chengdu. It has been real, and you have opened my eyes to a world full of wonder and excitement. I will miss you!!!