Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slow Punk Rock Song

Sing it slow, sing it loud
hold on tight...

Eighty trips, eighty trips
more or less, more or less
what will it be
more or less
fill it up, fill it up
this pretty prison

'Round the sun, 'round the sun
truth or dare, truth or dare
what will it be
truth or dare
drink it up, drink it up
this ride is ending

like this it's s'posed to be
long face disgrace
misplaced embrace

Back to dust, back to dust
wrenching guts, wrenching guts
what will it be
wrenching guts
spit it up, spit it up
it's almost too late / (alt: it's never too late)

like this it's s'posed to be
retrace worst case
backspace my face

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This road is most definitely the happiest.

It's still happening, I keep mixing up the Chinese words for "fast" and "happy" even though I know the difference perfectly well...but when I speak quickly they get mixed up. Tonight in the taxi the driver came to an intersection and asked me which road I wanted to take (both leading to the same destination, but depending on the time of day one is faster than the other) so I tried to say "please take whichever road is faster" but it came out "pease take whichever road is happier." He shot me a funny look so I laughed and corrected myself and he laughed at me. And then he randomly asked me how to say "bú yòng xiè" (不用谢) in English and I wasn't quite sure of the most correct translation since I don't hear it too often but thought it meant something like "no problem" since it translates literally to "no use thanking" so I told him "no problem" and so for the rest of the ride he practiced saying "no problem" to me over and over and over. How very weirdly fun and random.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lucky number?

Just woke up from a dream in which I was trying to teach a friend how to play the lotto. We were back in the states and my friend from China was visiting and she wanted to play, so we went to the gas station and bought some tickets. The dream ended with us trying to decide which numbers to pick. And then I woke up and turned on the light, got out of bed, and saw this tiny sticker on my foot.

Out of all my bizzaro dreams lately, this one is kind of weirding me out the most. I have never played the lotto, and have never believed in signs, but...???...who knows!

Either that or I was quality inspected during the night by inspector number 31, a blue collar worker on an intergalactic quality inspection mission.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

that rainy day

Remember that rainy day we had a picnic under a big oak tree and you asked me, "Does this tablecloth sound green to you?" and my head unzipped right then and all of the birds flew away and the mushrooms turned upside down and caught the rain and we drank mushroom flavored rain out of mushroom caps and I said, "Yes, I do believe it does, but how can we be sure of anything" and you tossed back the rest of your tea and took a bite of the cap and chewed it up and said, "mmm this tastes like blowing up balloons for her birthday party" and you laughed until you cried so I picked a white dandelion and touched the tip to your nose and asked, "and how does this feel?" and you smiled and said, "it feels like Chopin's preludes have been tucking in the nocturnes" and then I blew the dandelion seeds across your shoulder and we watched as the wind carried them and lowered them to rest on the tips of the wet grass and the sun rode a horse out from behind a cloud and lit up your face and you rolled back down to the tablecloth and looked up to the ocean and said, "everything smells like an orange car in a funeral procession" and then we paused to breathe in the temperature and you hummed us to sleep with the sweetest breeze.

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I love you, Robert Duvall

Last night I dreamt that I was married to Robert Duvall, and we lived together in a log cabin out on a prairie somewhere. I was in the kitchen drying some dishes I had just washed, and Robert put on his boots, walked past the kitchen to the front room and said, "I'll be back in a bit" as he left the cabin and closed the door behind him. I walked to the front door and looked out the window, feeling a little sad that he didn't kiss me goodbye. I went back to the kitchen and finished drying the dishes. Robert returned shortly, and I walked to the front door to greet him, and he smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a stack of Form 1040 tax forms and a Cup 'O Noodles.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Baby steps

Just finished teaching my Friday night classes of teenagers, and I think we're making progress..... I still wanted to strangle them, but only at three-quarter strength.

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Should I be worried?

Had another facial hair dream in which I walked around telling everyone in Chinese "Guā wǒ de húzi! Guā wǒ de húzi!" which basically means "Shave my beard! Shave my beard!"

Between this and the lost mustache dream, should I be worried? Maybe I've been studying too much Chinese lately, and maybe not the most useful vocabulary for a female.

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Something's missing

A darn truck honking outside my building woke me up an hour early again today. I was in the middle of this long dream where I was walking through this huge maze of a house going around to person after person asking, "Do you know who took my mustache?"

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lace, ruffles and bling, oh my

One morning last week as I was standing at the entrance of the kindergarten to greet the kids as their parents drop them off in the morning, a little boy and his mother came up to me. The mother spoke Chinese to me but I didn't quite understand her, so I looked to my coworker who speaks fluently and asked him to translate. He said, "She said her son asked her why Teacher Liz never wears dresses."

I started laughing because it was such a cute and innocent thing for the little three-year-old boy to wonder about, especially when all of the Chinese teachers wear skirts or dresses nearly every single day. It's true, I never wear dresses or skirts to work. I only brought a single backpack with me when I left the states, and it didn't contain any of my nicer clothing. So what I wear here is what I've bought here, which is slim pickings for a girl who doesn't prefer lace and ruffles (which seems to be the big fashion here in this part of China). I did buy one skirt though. I wore that skirt to work once and then immediately regretted the decision when I realized that it's near impossible not to flash the entire class when you're sitting on one of those teenie tiny kindergarten chairs.

So I squatted down face level to the little boy, smiled, held out my hands and he placed his hands on my palms, and then knowing full well that neither he nor his mother could understand a word, I told him, "Well you see, Peter, I enjoy wearing dresses very much. But not all women feel that they have to wear dresses everyday to assert their femininity or to boost their self-confidence."

My coworker stood by snickering into his hand, and I smiled sweetly to Peter and patted him on the head.

I may not be a great teacher or able to relate well with toddlers, but I like to think I may be doing a small part in keeping feminism alive in the Far East.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Woke up a little too early today

No, of course I didn't just scoop instant coffee into my cereal bowl instead of my coffee mug, don't be absurd.

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Man In The Moon

oh the man in the moon is looking down on me
from those big eyes I cannot hide
or maybe that's just how it seems
from this scratch of earth far above the great divide

the man he fades, day by day, nothing's what it means
fists in pain pounding out the sound
or maybe that's just how it seems
eyes closed, straining to hear, my ear pressed to the ground

rhythm of the tides pull me in and out of sleep
all this life spread upon the bed
or maybe that's just how it seems
while my quiet mind is communing with the dead

everything's a race, is that how it's s'posed to be
I must be runnin' just for fun
or maybe that's just how it seems
cursing these numb legs as I chase the setting sun

don't choose to be so blind, yeah something's telling me
there is no time that does not fly
or maybe that's just how it seems
waiting so long to turn an eye up to the sky

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Wait, which part do you have a problem with?

Today, on the month-long quest to teach my students about Christmas, I popped in a CD and played Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for them. Then I showed them a flashcard of a reindeer and explained in English (using lots of exaggerated miming) that Rudolph is Santa's number one reindeer because his nose is red and it lights up super bright so he can see where he's going when he flies Santa's sleigh all over the world so he can jump down chimneys to deliver presents and eat milk and cookies. Then I looked over to my assistant Chinese-English teacher and said "Ok, can you please translate that so they understand?" and I'm pretty sure it was the biggest "WTF" look I've ever received in my entire life.

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Everyday's an Adventure (or Why I Love China)

Each time I leave my apartment I prepare myself for an adventure. I never know what kind of adventure -- whether good or bad, surprising or disturbing, eye-opening, mind-expanding or omg-crawl-back-into-my-shell-why-do-I-ever-leave-the-house -- but it never fails…the adventure always happens.

Today's adventure was a simple trip to DC Chéng (DC城 / DC City), the local electronics mega warehouse, to price Nintendo DS units for my lovely nieces and nephews back home. I figure they might make a cool present if I can get them at decent China-prices at hopefully better than China-quality.

Really I was looking to check out the games since the kids may already have the DS units. My friend in Beijing told me you can get game cartridges that have just about every game imaginable on them. What I discovered today is that they have blank SD cards, and they have hundreds of games (.nds files) on their computer, and they put the files on the SD card and wha-la! I remember a not-too-distant-past when I was up-to-date and in-the-know on the cutting edge of most things internet and technology, but maybe this is a sign that the edge is getting edgier and I'm getting, well, what's the opposite of edgier?

So anyway, I left my apartment and didn't encounter any neighbors, which was an immediate win. Then I hailed a cab without having to wait, and when I told the taxi driver where I was going, he understood me on the first try. I was feeling pretty darn good.

The taxi driver asked me the usual taxi-driver questions like where are you from, how long are you here, what do you do for work, etc. I'm a pro at these questions now. Our conversation was flowing pretty good and I was feeling pretty awesome. It feels good to hear and see proof that my language skills are improving. And he seemed like a really nice, polite gentleman, telling me that America is a very good place, etc. Then he asked me my age. No biggie, some of them do that. So I told him sānshíwǔ (三十五 / 35). And then...

He asked me if I am married, to which I replied no, I'm not married. I've found it to be a pretty common question with the chattier taxi drivers, so again, no biggie. But then his eyes almost popped out of his face. Like omg you're 35 and not married?! It's not the politest response, but still not out of the ordinary. It's happened to me a few times now. I didn't bother to go into details like well I was married but not anymore because really, would it go over any better than never having been married at all? The answer is no, no it wouldn't.

Then he asked me if I'm sad because I'm not married. I laughed because it surprised me, but then remembered that many women here are very distraught, like insanely so (by Western standards) if they aren't married well before 30 years of age. So I told him no, I'm actually very happy, and I like being alone. And then his eyes pretty much fell out of his face into his gaping-jaw-dropped mouth.

So this is where things got weird (Yeah, they weren't weird before this). He said some stuff really fast that I didn't quite catch, so I asked him to repeat it. He repeated it and pointed to me and then pointed to himself, and I thought nooo, he can't be saying such things, noooo. So I asked him to repeat again, and he did. This time with hand motions signifying two people coming together, like miming the "side-by-side" motion with the index fingers of each hand. And then I was pretty sure I understood his meaning, but thought nooo, this polite gentleman couldn't possibly be saying such things. So I asked him one more time to repeat himself, and he did. This time with a sign language I had never really seen before but understood its meaning immediately. Because he was driving with his left hand, he used only his right hand to push his thumb in between his index and middle fingers, in and out, in and out... (I know you're totally doing this right now, admit it).

Shortly after arriving in China, I had a similar experience and wrote about it here. Slightly different sign language, same meaning.

So then my eyes popped out of my face and fell into my lap. I quickly replied "Tīng bù dǒng" (听不懂 / I don't understand).

Doot da doo ::look out window:: la la la

::awkward silence::

Then as we slowly approached my stop he began apologizing profusely. I smiled, told him no problem, gave him my cash and high-tailed it out of the cab.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to not understanding any Chinese at all. Either that or from now on I'm just going to pretend like I don't understand a single word.

Or better yet….. Always respond with, "Yes, I'm absolutely married, very much so, like so married you wouldn't even believe it. Like if my marriage cloned itself and had marriage babies and those babies got married and had marriage babies and so on, that's how married I am…times infinity."

Whew! So with that experience behind me, I proceeded with the Nintendo DS reconnaissance mission. After searching floor after floor of small, squished-together electronics stands, with vendor after vendor shouting to me to come see their wares, most of which are identical to the stands on either side of them, I finally found the hand-held gaming counter. Side note, prior to leaving the apartment I actually took time to look up the Chinese words for Nintendo and wrote them down best I could, but turns out no one understood what I was saying or the words I wrote down. Apparently they call every kind of game console the same thing…"yóuxì jī" (游戏机 / game consoles). Ok, learned something new, cool.

Luckily I went during a very non-busy time of day, and the kind lady at the counter took time to speak slowly and deliberately with me. We were able to communicate effectively (even if not so efficiently), and she even wrote down all of the information for me so I could take it home and do more research on prices and see exactly which DS systems my nieces and nephews may or may not already have. She even took all of the different DS models out of the case and lined them up for me (in order of oldest to newest, even!) so I could take photos.

Despite the taxi cab conversation finale, I'm going to call today's adventure a major success, especially in the language department. Heck, I even learned some new vocabulary in the sexual relations category. Bonus!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Listen up, future husbands.

Today before class started one of my little 3 yr old boys ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and kissed the back of it and then looked up at me and smiled before running away. I think my heart melted. This is now the standard by which I shall judge any future suitors. Um, except for the running away part.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

A quiet, brutal month

Crickets are chirping all over this blog this month. November is already over and this will be the only post. It was both a long and fast month, and a short and slow month.

I participated in NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- and wrote 50,000+ words of a novel in thirty days. It's a goal I've had since 2007, the first time I attempted it and failed. I think I wrote one sentence back then. I was working too many hours at the time and had very little time to devote to it. So I figured hey, I have loads of free time this year, so I better do it now or never. And even though it only takes writing 1,667 words per day over the course of the month to accomplish the goal (which I keep thinking shouldn't seem that difficult), I'm still asking myself if it really happened…did I really just write a novel? Well, I can't really call it a novel…more like a very, very bad first draft. But that was the goal…to just write write write no matter what, leaving the inner critic locked in an attic somewhere, starving. And even with all this free time, it was still exhausting. My brain is mush.

Here's the nifty little certificate they give you for crossing the 50,000 word finish line…

It was a weird feeling crossing that finish line and realizing I completed a goal that always seemed impossible. I'm a notorious procrastinator who never starts anything until the last minute, and then takes huge leaps to accomplish something (this goes way back to middle school homework assignments, through high school, college, job after job and so on…). I used to start my high school term papers at 4 or 5am the morning they were due (sorry, mom!…all those mornings of flipping on the light and probably waking you up well before you had to be at work). The number one thing I will take away from this month is not a best-selling novel, but long-awaited proof to myself that baby steps and perseverence really can add up to something…unexpected. I found myself trying new things and exploring different ways of thinking. Basically I was finally taking time to play and have fun instead of rushing to beat the clock. That was the best part of NaNoWriMo for me. I may never again open up the manuscript to read it -- because I would probably shudder and trash it immediately -- but just knowing it's there on my hard drive, and that there's a beginning, middle and end, gives me this weird (more like "alien") feeling that I can do pretty much anything. And then I laugh because all those nothing-ventured-nothing-gained and you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to cliches really are true.

Moving on…

On a less positive note, the teaching gig has been testing the limits of my patience. I still absolutely adore teaching my three-year-olds and five-year-olds during the mornings at the kindergarten. That hasn't changed. Teaching them, goofing off with them and just being in their presence is so rewarding. It's like this weird crazy feeling of pure joy that I don't think I had ever experienced before.

It's my Friday night classes of seven/eight-year-olds and twelve/thirteen-year-olds that are really pushing me to my limits. Every Friday night for the past month, the students have been misbehaving more and more, to the point where I just want to jump off a bridge into an icy river, with raging white waters and big sharp pointy rocks.

Maybe that's an exaggeration.

How about we just decide to gather up all the thirteen year olds around the world and lock them away until they're fourteen or fifteen.

Yes, that sounds good. In fact, from time to time, I still call or e-mail my mom to say, "Hi mom, remember when I was thirteen? Yeah…I'm sorry about that." No joke. I was awful. And I still feel bad about it.

It's like we turn thirteen and turn possessed. Something literally takes over our bodies. Yes, besides hormones. I keep wanting to make an alien invasion analogy, but I feel like someone's already made the connection between teenagers and pod people or body snatchers. Anyway, Friday nights are not fun for me right now. But I'm now a firm believer in another favorite cliche…what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I will seriously be able to kick some major ass in anything I do from here on out.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Ting bu dong!!!!!

I love how insane this place is. I have tried to pay my utilities bill every day this past week and every day the building's office is closed, and today I asked the security guard when it would be open again and he told me it's only open in the mornings now. So I said well, I work in the mornings so I can't be here then. So we both shrugged and that was that.

Tonight someone started banging like crazy on my door but I thought it was my neighbor's door since they are adjacent to each other. So then I went to my kitchen to do dishes and I heard someone start yelling...and I look up and it's my crazy neighbor lady. Our kitchen windows face each other across an open space (and I have no kitchen curtains and therefore no privacy but that's another story for another day). This is the neighbor lady I can never understand, and by now I'm convinced she's speaking another dialect. She kept yelling at the top of her lungs and I started getting pretty annoyed so I yelled back "TING BU DONG!!!!!" several times which means "I don't understand!!!!!" so she started laughing at me.

Next thing I know she's banging at my door again. She handed me a receipt for my utilities bill and I handed her the money and we agreed she'd give me my change tomorrow. If things weren't so bizarrely convenient here (in an upside-down-inside-out sort of way), I'd have gone a lot crazier by now.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lemon Yellow Black

I dream of someday
a conversation with a grieving friend
laying my hand on his shoulder and sshhh I'll say
Do you know what would be good right here?
some yellow

I'll be back in 5 rices.

Today I went to the restaurant next door to order take-out. I gave them my order and then said "Ok, I'll be back in 5 minutes" so that I could run to the market and pick up a few things. When I returned, the waitresses looked at me kind of funny and one of them held up her hand with all fingers outstretched and said "5 minutes?!" sort of incredulously. Was she judging me on how long I took? I thought I took exactly 5 minutes. Why so shocked? I said "Yes, I came back in 5 minutes." Then all of the waitresses busted out laughing. Turns out they thought I wanted 5 orders of rice when I said I would be back in 5 minutes. One of the waitresses bolted for the kitchen to correct my order. When I said "wu fen" for 5 minutes, it sounded like "wu fan" for 5 least I think that was the confusion. Adventures in language.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I just found another centipede in my bathroom (this is the 3rd or 4th one in a month), this time in the middle of the floor instead of in my shower. I captured it in a jar and counted its legs. It only has 40 legs. I was hoping this meant that the creatures I've been finding are not centipedes, but perhaps some friendlier, less deadly creature. So I googled "is it a centipede if it only has 40 legs?" and discovered that the average centipede has 40 legs. Dang.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I realized today that I've developed a new skill.

It's called my Monkey-See-Monkey-Do Spidey-Sense.

In my three year old classes at the kindergarten, when one of the kids does something silly, and the other kids think it looks like the best thing ever to have ever been invented ever in the universe ever, then they all immediately start doing the same thing.

Then, in a split second, the class descends into chaos, madness, insanity and all that other stuff that makes it impossible to regain their fragile little paper-thin attention spans.

Last week, one little boy pulled his t-shirt up over the back and onto the top of his head so that only his little face peeked out of the neck hole. The shirt was pulled so tight that it caused his arms to raise up and out to the sides like a tiny little scarecrow. Within 1.5 seconds, at least a dozen other students were doing the exact same thing. They were all actually keeping pretty cool about it, just tiny giggles here and there. It was I who was rendered helpless, incapable of continuing the class due to laughter-breakdown.

After 7 or so months at this job, I've gotten pretty good at detecting which silly behaviors are likely to spread like wildfire. My spidey-sense is now fully developed. I see the silly behavior and immediately know it's about to take off. I just seem to lack the ability to redirect the behavior before it spreads.

Why? Because these kids so darn adorable! I admit that I secretly want it to spread so that the adorability factor skyrockets through the roof. The kids love it. I love it. Win/win, right?

Except sometimes... the other Chinese teachers in the room do NOT like it. And then they punish the kids for their silly behavior. And then of course I feel guilty.

They're just toddlers for crying out loud. Let them be silly!

This morning in the middle of one of the classes, a little boy started doing the wah-wah-wah yawny-motion thing... hand over the mouth like patting his yawns, and making a noise like WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH. I zoned in on him right away and was about to redirect his attention, but then stopped. He was too cute. I was overpowered. Kryptonite. (Btw, please forgive the mixed superhero references.) Right away, about 8-10 other kids started doing the same thing. The classroom was filled with WAH WAH WAHs out the wazoo. It was great.

If I were to stay in China, I would start a preschool/kindergarten where the primary focus is to teach creativity and silly behavior. Oh, and reading and other important stuff like that.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Please pass the tissues

Damn you, The Color Purple. After 25 years, you still make me cry like a baby.

Good China Day

I think it's only fair to also post about my Good China Days when I have them.

Yesterday was one of those days. Well, except for the whole getting punched in the spine incident yesterday morning at the kindergarten. But hey, he did it with a smile and a lot of laughter.

The rest of the day was a GCD.

I didn't get accosted by any neighbors.

I got to sit down on all my bus rides.

I didn't miss my bus stop.

I spoke a lot of Chinese with people and -- here's the best part -- they understood me.

My heart was melted into big puddles of pudding by one of my little three year olds yesterday. I was just standing on the playground during their recess, and little Harry walked over and looked up at me, so I crouched down to his level, and he reached and put his arms around my neck and gave me a big 'ol hug. I nearly died. His face was so straight and sincere. It wasn't even one of those "I'm crying and miss my mommy and I really need a hug right now" hugs. It was as if he thought *I* needed a hug. It sounds crazy, but that little hug was one of the biggest hugs I've ever gotten. I'm going to have to keep teaching kindergarten forever so I don't start to miss being around the little munchkins, and decide to have some of my own. When you have your own kids, they're only 3 for a year, but being a teacher, it's an endless stream of 3 year olds and all their adorable insanity. That's what I have to keep telling myself, because after yesterday, parental-type-of-thoughts whooshed through my mind.

I was given two new classes at the university yesterday. Freshman English majors. The classes were great, and the students are enthusiastic and eager. Gotta love Freshman. They're not yet completely burnt out and cynical.

So yeah, it was a good day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hazard Pay

2 unfortunate incidents at the kindergarten this morning:

1) Got sneezed on IN THE FACE by a little girl. Snot everywhere.

2) Got punched in the spine by a little boy. My back insta-spasmed and I had to stop and stretch it out for awhile.

These three year olds are lucky they're so darn adorable.

And I need hazard pay.


I've had too many of these moments. This goes out to all my techy friends...

Bad China Day

Today was one of those days we call a Bad China Day.

It's not like I was in a bad mood all day, or that any of this nonsense really upset me. But upon taking inventory at the end of the day, this was a tad bit of a BCD. It certainly wasn't the worst by any means.

The morning was great. The munchkins at the kindergarten were super adorable and happy and I had a blast horsing around with teaching them.

I even received a gift. Score.

We were even served fish for lunch at the kindergarten and I didn't choke on any of the ten thousand billion microscopic bones.

Things were lookin good.

Then I rushed home from school to shower and change and rush back out to get to my afternoon classes at the university.

While I was running around in my apartment about to hop into the shower, someone starts banging on my door. I knew exactly who it was.

The meter man.

He comes every month on the 24th or 25th to read my water meters so they can calculate my monthly utility bill. Well, he usually comes in the evening, so I figured I would ignore his knocking and get showered and ready so I wouldn't run late for my afternoon classes. He could return in the evening.

The banging on my door was relentless and growing louder and louder. This didn't seem like him. He's a jolly fellow with a moderate knock. This was full-blown OH MY GOD THE BUILDING IS ON FIRE!

That is the only time that kind of knocking is acceptable.

Or maybe if their baby has fallen into a well. And all the villagers have already died in the fire and you're the only one who can help.

I got out of the shower and by this time the knocking was shaking the walls, not even exaggerating.

I was peeved by this time so I took my sweet-ass time getting dressed and ready while not answering the door. The knocking stopped.

Then as I grabbed my shoes to sit down and put them on, the knocking started again and at the same frenzy and absurdity. I answered the door and there was my crazy neighbor lady. Yes, I feel justified in calling her crazy after 8 months of living next to her. It's legit.

She scurries into my apartment and starts pointing at my flourescent lightbulb on my living room ceiling and rattles off a bunch of Chinese. I'm convinced by now that she's only ever speaking Hainanese, which is a completely different language than Mandarin, since I can never seem to understand her. Yet I can understand my other neighbors just fine, for the most part.

Anyway, I knew what she was trying to tell me. The meter man wants to come in and check my meters for the utility bill.

I nodded and said hao hao hao hao hao (which means yes I understand, no really, I understand, yes for realz I get it) as I crowded her toward my front door.

I shut my door, put on my shoes, grabbed my bag, left my apartment and fled the building. Without being seen by my crazy neighbor lady nor the meter man.


As I rushed to the bus stop to catch my bus, I was not in the best of moods. I'm a private person who likes to float anonymously and invisibly through her little life. China rarely allows me that luxury. But hey, it's made me appreciate those things all the more! Some day I'll write a big boring post on "why I loved China" and it will be filled with those kinds of things.

I caught my bus and away we went. Side note, I've been teaching at a university in the afternoons, and it requires me to take a city bus to the university's "old" campus, and then catch the school shuttle to their "new" campus where I teach. Then I do the reverse after finished with my classes. So it's quite a lot of schlepping to and fro.

En route, I received a text message from the supervisor of the foreign languages department…

"Lisa, please bring the Junior's English textbook with you today."

This isn't the first time I've been called Lisa. It's not even the second or third time. It seems whenever I tell someone my name is Liz (btw, Elizabeth is too long and complicated so I go by Liz here), they inevitably change it to Lisa. And yes, even after I have texted them and/or emailed them and signed my name "Liz." I've given up being confused about this.

Well today was my Tourism English class for Juniors, so I thought ok cool, I already have the textbook on me. I didn't bother asking why he needed the textbook. "Why" is a pointless question here.

I arrived at the school and called the supervisor so we could meet up and I could figure out why he needed me to bring him the textbook. I met him, pulled the book out of my bag, and he frowned and said, "No, that's the Junior's English textbook, not the 4-year Junior's English textbook."

I smiled and told him, "Yes, you texted me to bring the Junior's English textbook. The text message didn't say 4-year." (Side note: the Tourism English classes are for the 3-year vocational students, which come to find out is not what he wanted.)

I knew good and well you should never point out a mistake to someone here, especially not your supervisor. But I did it anyway because I was feeling snarky and justified. And I have very little to lose here since I'm merely filling in for a few weeks until the other American teachers arrive.

I also think months of dealing with the administration at my own school has worn on me. Nothing makes sense, and it's not supposed to. If something starts making sense, someone quickly throws a wrench in it.

One of my American coworkers has so sweetly dubbed one of our Vice Principals "The Creator of Problems." We try to figure out what her job is and what she's supposed to be doing with her time, and all we can see with our own eyes so far is that she jumps into the middle of well-oiled machines and starts unscrewing the bolts. At least she's friendly enough.

So anyway, I asked him why he needs the textbook, and he said, "Because you will be teaching a different class now." And he pulled a different textbook out of his bag and handed it to me. He said, "This is the 4-year English textbook for the Freshman and it starts tomorrow." It's the same time as my 4-year English class for the Juniors, so I asked what would happen to that class. He told me that one of the Americans has arrived and will take over that class.

And guess what, I got a full 24-hour's notice on this change. Not bad for this place, actually!

Then I go to my assigned classroom, and none of the students are there, and it was time they should be. So I chased my supervisor back down and asked him to check which room I'm supposed to be in. He told me "N403." I said, "I was in N403 and no one is there, do you mind checking again? The new schedule you sent me this weekend says N403." I ran with him upstairs to the administration office, he spoke a bunch of really-fast Chinese with a woman there, and then started to leave the office. Um, excuse me sir, did we get anywhere here?

I asked him, "Did she confirm the room number?" And he replied, "Yes, room N403."

Alrighty then. I took him to my room N403, and said, "See, no students, and the bell is going to ring soon. They're usually here by now." He frowned, whipped out his cell phone and started texting someone. Then a minute later he looked up at me and said, "N406." Ok, great. I rushed down the hall to N406 and there were my students. Hooray.

It wouldn't be so bad if this wasn't already the third time this sort of thing has happened with failing to inform me of my own room numbers.The students somehow magically know. Is it so hard to inform the teacher? Apparently. I arrive at my empty room and peek my head back out the door and into the hallway until I see a small herd of students file into one of the other rooms down the hall. It's comical. Especially when some of them see me coming from one of the other rooms. Totally professional, right?

So I taught this afternoon's classes and headed out to wait for the shuttle back to the old campus. The shuttle arrived and it was standing room only. It's a 25-30 minute ride. Which normally wouldn't be that big of a deal, but have you ever ridden a Chinese bus? Thankfully I've ridden enough of them now that I no longer have heart attacks from the sheer insanity of the experience. But it's certainly not a relaxed ride when you have to be on high alert to shift your balance every .25 seconds to keep from plowing into the people around you, or through the front windshield.

I made it back to the old campus and rushed to the bus stop to catch the city bus home. I was so tired today from not getting a great night's sleep and rushing around all day, that I fell asleep on the bus.

And missed my stop.

I woke up a couple of stops later, luckily recognizing where I was. I said what the heck and rode a couple of stops farther to be let off closer to the Carrefour shopping center.

I figured this was a stupid enough day that I deserved some shopping in the foreign foods aisle. And I bought some delicious pasta and sauce and walked all the way home.

And guess who came a knockin' on my door not five minutes after I settled into my apartment.

The meter man, with his smiley face and kind demeanor, actually cheered me up. He doesn't understand a word of English, so I told him (in English) "You're so nice. You make me happy. Thank you."

My First Cake-sized Mooncake

Today my school gave each of us teachers our very own mooncake. When I was handed the bag, it nearly slipped from my grasp. I was not expecting the thing to weigh as much as it does. This sucker is dense!

The quality of the following video isn't that great, but I like the way it shows the whole mooncake-making process...


Do I regift this beast, or break out the heavy duty silverware and challenge myself to a mooncake eat-a-thon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Q is for Quality

This totally isn't a post about the lack of quality in Chinese brand products.

I just wanted to say that for the first time in all my 30+ years of using Q-tips, the tip of a Q-tip broke off in my ear canal. Yes, it just happened to be produced in China, why do you ask?

Shuffling in Beijing

When I visited my friend Charlie in Beijing this Summer, we all went to "The Square" which is a big outdoor mall area where all the locals come together to do their thang. Lots of different kinds of synchronized dancing, kung fu, calligraphy, you name it. Here are some videos of the shuffling craze...

Every day I'm shuffling...

Kindergarten Highlights

Can you tell I'm procrastinating doing my lesson planning for the week?

Here are some highlights from the kindergarten since being back to work after the Summer holiday. I've posted these on Facebook, but my mom isn't on Facebook, and I know she and some other friends and family might appreciate these...

September 3rd: Today's first day of school was one big cry-fest for my 100+ 3 yr olds. Or more like a giant cry-scream-snot-pee-fest-a-thon. I basically just ran around wiping teary eyes and runny noses and offering hugs. The "wa yao baba!" (i want daddy!) and "bu yao!!!!!" 's (don't want!) are still ringing in my ears.

September 5th: This semester is off to an exciting start... I nearly lost a thumb today. Yep, one of my new students is a biter. But he looks all sweet, innocent and happy smiley until it's too late and he's already biting you. Gonna have to grow eyes on all sides of my head.

September 10th: One of my 5-yr-old students won't speak a word of English to me, but today he came up to me after class and asked me in Chinese what the US Dollar and Chinese RMB exchange rate currently is.

September 14th: Could barely stop laughing long enough to start class today after seeing what one of my 3-yr-olds was wearing... her t-shirt read "HIT THE FXXKIN' ROAD!" Well ok then! At least the shirt on the girl next to her read "Keep Smiling"

September 18th: Favorite t-shirt on a 3 year old today... "A friend in need is a friend. Isn't it?"

Yes indeed.

Robert Loggia

Thanks to my friend Jen's Photoshop skills, my weird dreams can be brought to life. Not that they necessarily should...

I dreamed that I was walking to go meet up with Robert Loggia and when I met him, he handed me a corndog, and he had written "Big Papa" on it with ketchup and mustard. And so I ate it. The End.


Long story short, I was telling one of my Chinese coworkers about the legendary Sasquatch, and she asked what it was. I didn't have enough Chinese vocabulary to explain it properly, so I drew her this picture. She gave me a look of extreme weirded-outness.

Can you blame her?

Sshhh Secrety Certificates

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is coming, which means it's time to eat some mooncakes...

Last week one of my coworkers gave me one of the egg kind (like the ones above), and it was actually pretty good. Cured my sweet tooth without being overly sweet.

Today, one of my coworkers came up to me after class and slyly pulled out an envelope, hunched over it to hide it from plain view, and said, "A student's mom is giving these to you know what these are?"

Uhhh, it's an envelope?

So she opened the envelope, looked side to side to make sure no one was looking and pulled out 2 mooncake certificates and said, "These are mooncake certificates. Don't tell anyone you have these, especially not the principal."

I told her ok, it's our secret, and asked her to thank the student's mom for me.

I feel like I'm involved in something highly illegal. Sshhh.

Haikou Haircut

Poor blog, so neglected. I decided I'd finally take time to write something one day prior to it being a month since my last post. Just so I can say I didn't neglect my blog for an entire month. Ha, take that, blog.

Yesterday I finally finished uploading all of my summer vacation photos. It took exactly a month since returning from vacation, although there were many slackery days since then. Here are links to all the photos tagged Beijing2012 and Cambodia2012. I have yet to classify them further, or caption them. I feel like I need a breather from the constant clicking just to get them uploaded. Captioning will might commence next week.

Well, it's September and all of my pals in the states are commenting on the beautiful Autumn weather, and making me extremely jealous and nostalgic of my camping trips in the Rocky Mountains last year.

The weather here in Haikou has been more tolerable the last couple of weeks. I'm only sweating 13 hours a day instead of 18.

I don't know where I'm off to next after this year's teaching contract is up, but it's certainly not anywhere in Hainan. I've enjoyed many things about living in China, but the weather in this part of China is a huge downer. It's funny, because most people I talk to who live here (both foreigner and Chinese alike) moved here because of the weather. I do love the sunny skies. I'll give 'em that. The next place I live will have all four seasons.

Today I was feeling shaggy and adventurous, so I went for a haircut…my first haircut in Haikou.

I got a haircut in Beijing at the end of July, and another haircut in Phnom Penh at the end of August, but something still wasn't right. Third time's a charm, right?

I think I'm becoming addicted to Asian haircuts. They usually involve at least a 15-minute head and neck massage, ahhh.

Well, this haircut turned out all right I suppose. At least they mostly fixed the mess I had made of it over the last six months of chopping it myself. And last week I took the scissors to it again. Ladies, you've been-there-done-that and regretted it. I have too. I was running on about 3 hours of sleep that day when I grabbed the dull kitchen scissors and went to the bathroom mirror. I grabbed my hair and pulled it straight up, moved the scissors in for the kill, and then hesitated. I said to myself, "I've had very little sleep and am using poor judgment. I know I will regret this. Stop. Put down the scissors. Step away."

And I did. I put the scissors down and walked out of the bathroom.

Then, after putzing around for about ten minutes, I went back to the bathroom and started hacking away.

I still felt pretty good (proud? victorious?) that I had displayed such self control in leaving the bathroom that first time.

It's like when you have a sweet tooth and you really want cookies, but you know you shouldn't, and so you put the cookies into your basket at the market, walk around with them for a little bit, and then put them back on the shelf before you check out. Yes, victory is yours.

And then you buy and eat the cookies the very next day.

It's better than never having displayed self control, because doesn't it all balance out somehow? 0 + Self-control + lack-of-self-control = 0. It's a wash, even steven. But 0 + lack-of-self-control = -1. You lose.

Oh, anyway, the haircut. Today I didn't even look up any haircut-related vocabulary before I ventured out. I was basically only armed with the words for cut, short and long, and of course the rest of my generic vocabulary.

I stepped into the shop around the corner from my apartment, and about a dozen heads whipped in my direction. Then a gentleman rattled something off that I didn't understand and everyone in the joint started giggling, male and female alike.

I have yet to see another foreigner in my neighborhood, so everything I try to do in these parts turns into quite the spectacle. The people around here just aren't used to dealing with foreigners, and it almost seems as if they can't understand why I can't understand Chinese. I know quite a bit of basic Chinese, especially if they speak a little slowly. Sometimes when I tell them I don't understand something, they break out the pen and paper and start writing it in Chinese characters. Which of course is about a thousand times worse since I know very few characters. (And also, why in the world would I learn how to read Chinese before I learn how to speak it?? But our sense of common sense is senseless in some parts of the world.)

Anyway, after the giggling subsided I started trying to tell one of the stylists what I wanted, which basically went like this… (Note: the word for short is "duǎn" and the word for long is "zhǎng")…

::hands at the back of my head:: "duan duaan duaaannnn" ::moving hands over the top of my head and toward the front:: "zhang zhang zhangzhangzhangzhang"

The giggling turned into major laughter.

But hey, it worked! I got exactly what I wanted.

And it wasn't awkward at all when all dozen or more people were sitting and staring at me throughout the entire haircut. Nope, not awkward at all.

Actually that sort of thing would have felt awkward about 7 or 8 months ago, but it's amazing how quickly you adapt.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer vacation books

I read four books while on vacation...

The Hunger Games (thanks, Nicki!)

The Good Earth (thanks, Jen!)

Don Quixote (fully titled "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha") (thanks, Amazon!)

Bou Meng, A Survivor From Khmer Rouge Prison S-21 (thanks, Bou Meng!)

And started another book called When The War Was Over, Cambodia And The Khmer Rouge Revolution (thanks, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum!) I'm not even 30 pages into the full 632 and already captivated by the history.

Oh, China. I can't say I missed you much. Please don't be mad.

Well, I'm back in China.

Can you feel the excitement?

Within a half hour of being back in Haikou, I was already told by two different people that I'm too "black" ... I got quite the tan while in Cambodia for a month. And being any darker than a fish belly is considered undesirable here. I am now the epitome of female hideousness by Chinese standards... Tan, size 9 (size 40) feet, curvy hips, and short hair.

And within that same half hour of arrival, I was asked if I had a husband (a pretty standard question within the first few minutes of meeting someone here), to which I replied "no" to which my taxi driver replied "Why not?" to which I replied "I don't want one" to which he replied "You will find a Chinese husband" to which I replied "I really don't want one." But you know, I said it in a nice way. We both awkwardly laughed it off.

I wasn't in the best of moods traveling back to China today.

I arrived at Phnom Penh airport this morning, and the first thing I saw were perfectly neat lines of people queuing up to their respective airline counters for check-in, and then...

I see the "queue" for my flight to Guangzhou. A blob of Chinese travelers. That's the typical Chinese "queue," which I have grown used to since living in China. But after 4 wonderful weeks in Cambodia, full of smiling people, courteous people, people who know how to form a line, well, it was the reality-shocker that I was leaving this beautiful country and its people to head back to ... situations that try your patience at every turn.

The queueing was just the beginning. I won't whine it to death, but after two short-ish flights and three airport maneuverings, I was quite fed up with the shouting, shoving and butting-in-front-of-me-in-line happenings. And no, it's never pleasant to hear loogie-hocking noises on an airplane.

I'm rarely if ever a confrontational person, but I did yell out a couple of EXCUSE ME?!?!'s in Chinese today. The expressions on their faces told me they understood.

I made it back to my apartment building and was immediately greeted by two of my neighbor ladies (who I have written about previously) who greeted me with squeals of delight, hugs and huge smiles and a bunch of Chinese I didn't understand. I instantly felt better, happier, frustration and negativity out the window, and remembered that the majority of my people interactions here in China are pretty positive. And I remembered that I usually shrug and laugh off the more frustrating cultural differences, because they are fascinating learning and mind-expanding experiences. I try to see even the most annoying of things as "different"... and not "bad" or "wrong" just because it's not my culture.

If I've had my coffee.

Four or so more months left of this year's teaching contract. I'm wondering if I can do another year in China. Is the love of the language and deep desire to become fluent enough of a reason to stay? I wish it was easier to be anonymous here, but because there are very few foreigners in the area of the city where I live, I'm still gawked at whenever I venture out of my apartment, and the looks usually aren't very welcoming. It hasn't bothered me too much, more amusing than anything, but long-term? Hmm. I have a feeling my school will soon inquire whether I want to stay another year, which is why this question keeps popping up lately. I'm finding it difficult to think of a reason to stay in Hainan, but I can see moving to another province if I decide to stay in China. In Beijing this Summer I felt completely anonymous since there are so many foreigners there no one gives a hoot about you. And listening to the Mandarin spoken in Beijing reminded me why I fell in love with the language in the first place. It sounds quite different than the Mandarin spoken way down here. Guess we will soon see what happens!

Now, time to upload hundreds of vacation photos and get to blogging about it. So many wonderful experiences had these past 6 weeks. So many interesting people met. So much awesome food eaten. So much sweat sweated.

Cambodia is freaking hot, but still less humid than Haikou!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Battambang My Homestay

I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here at Battambang My Homestay guest house. Free bike usage all day, everyday. Homemade delicious Khmer breakfast every morning, prepared by the owner's wife. Lovely gazebos to lounge around in while using their superfast wifi. Fresh fruit and ice cold water delivered to your door every evening before bed. And situated on the outskirts of town where it's very peaceful, and you wake up to the beautiful music coming from the nearby pagoda. (And sometimes you wake up to the very rude rooster ... rudester). Tomorrow I leave for Phnom Penh, but kinda wishing I was staying here in Battambang a bit longer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cambodian Bat Cave

Here are a few short videos of a bat cave near Battambang, Cambodia... so many bats!

Back to the land of speaking (and drinking coffee)

Just finished my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course. It was an unforgettable experience, and one of the most challenging and worthwhile of my life. Here is a snapshot of my room (thank goodness for my beloved mosquito net in the Cambodian countryside!)

I'll write more about the entire experience as I take time to fully process it over the coming weeks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Heart Cambodia

Today has been one of the most unforgettable, adventurous and heart-warming days of my life. I arrived in Battambang by bus this morning where a tuk tuk driver was waiting to take me to the guest house. The owner greeted me at the gate, showed me to my room, and then he lent me a bicycle so I could go explore the town.

I found a cute lil restaurant where I chatted with a French tourist who is also a teacher. Then a massive downpour rolled through town so we waited it out in the cafe, and he invited me to hang out in the afternoon and ride bikes since we both had borrowed bikes. We ended up going to the market to try to find sacks of marbles, which was an adventure in itself since very few shopkeepers knew English. He knew the Khmer word for marble, so we walked through the huge market asking everyone, "marble?" over and over until we finally found someone selling them. They all had a good laugh at the crazy foreigners looking desperately for marbles.

Then we rode our bikes around the mud-puddley farm roads on the outskirts of town, stopping wherever we saw children playing. Each time we found new children, we got off our bikes, handed them some marbles, and showed them how to play. The looks on their faces was something I'll never forget. I don't think their smiles could have gotten any bigger. It was such a blast. The parents looked so happy as well.

After riding our bikes through the muddiest streets, my tires started to get so caked with clay-like mud that my bike stopped moving altogether. We had to keep stopping to dig the mud out of the tires with sticks and rocks and fingers. After about an hour of this, we were completely muddy head to toe, drenched in rain and sweat, and having a blast. Feeling super guilty about muddying up the bike I was lent, we found a gas station where we mimed to the owners to ask if we could wash our bikes off somewhere. They led us to the outdoor bathrooms where we were able to dip out buckets of water out of a huge sink and clean the bikes as best we could. All of the mud from the bikes pretty much ended up on us. Then we cleaned up the gas station bathrooms, said our goodbyes, and went on our respective ways.

Tonight (after a much-needed shower), I took the bike and rode to a cafe the guest house owner recommended, had a delicious Khmer meal, and then rode extra slowly back along pitch black country roads enjoying the fresh air and nature sounds. The sounds of nature out here on the far edge of town are amazing...and LOUD. Frogs, crickets, and dozens of other sounds I can't place, but I'm sure they are huge bugs and creatures I don't wish to encounter.

When I returned, the guest house owner invited me inside, gave me some bananas and we chatted about volunteer opportunities in Cambodia since he has worked with NGOs for several years and knows which ones are legit. Tomorrow I'm taking a tour around Battambang province to ride the bamboo train, visit a winery, and a couple of more temples that were recommended.

I've only been in Cambodia 3 days, but have already fallen in love. After a couple of days of Angkor temple tours, tuk tuk rides wayyy out on the country farm roads through remote villages, attending a family-and-friends party thrown by the first guest house owner with lots of great food, drinks, singing and dancing, I already feel completely immersed and at home. The people are so warm and welcoming, the food is amazing, and this country is breathtakingly beautiful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I'm not sure what was most mind-blowingly awesome today...

That I found the Mao Mao Chong ("caterpillar") restaurant on my first try today, that I successfully navigated my way through my first Chinese haircut (after 6 months of cutting it myself into an uneven mass of mayhem for fear of not being able to communicate how I want it cut), or climbing the Great Wall after only seeing photos of it for so many years.

You're right, it was the haircut. Success!

Ok ok, Great Wall. So many pics to upload but this hotel internet is as slow as a mao mao chong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where is the caterpillar?

My friend Charlie recommended a bar/restaurant near where I'm staying called Mao Mao Chong, which means "caterpillar" in English. So I walked around for about an hour this afternoon asking people on the street and in shops "Where is the caterpillar?" ... it's no wonder every single person burst out laughing at me. I had to keep telling them, "Yes, I know it's funny. But it's a restaurant."

I never did find it, but I looked more closely at the map and will try again tomorrow. Today was quite a full day with so many pictures to upload (if my internet will cooperate) and tomorrow I'm visiting the Great Wall. Excited!

Virginia is For Losers

Today during my visit to Tiananmen Square, I saw the cutest sweetest looking old lady, dressed all in lace and carrying a beautiful laced umbrella.

Her t-shirt said, "Virginia is For Losers"

Sorry, Virginia, she's not one of your fans.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Made it to Beijing! (via the train ride from H-E-doublehockeysticks)

Arrived in Beijing today after a 33 hour train ride, over 3000km or 1900 miles, from way way South to way way North. I can now check off my bucket list "try to have the nastiest travel experience ever."

Luckily I had mentally prepared myself for a nightmare experience for weeks in advance, and I found myself having the most patience I've ever had in my life. I was a peaceful little buddha.

But somewhere around hour 18, I was shocked awake by a screaming baby sitting at our table. Nothing was going to make this baby happy. Next thing I know, I start to smell something awful, and I look over, and the mom is holding the baby over the aisle (the baby is wearing split plants btw) while it poops all over the floor just a foot from our feet. (I'll spare you the details, but this was not your normal little baby poop).

No one made a big deal or said anything, and the mom wiped it up with newspaper the best she could. The most anyone did was discretely cover their noses. But because all she had was newspaper to smear it about, the last 15 hours of the trip were pretty smelly.

I conjured up all the happy places I could think to go to in my mind. And the baby screamed for several more hours late into the night, and off and on until about 4am, again, while no one even said anything or grimaced. I did have an urge to gently pull the mother aside though and tell her, "You know, it's probably not the best idea to feed a one year old baby a bucket of spicy instant noodles and a bunch of candies for dinner."

Overall it was quite the experience. I was lucky to have a seat at all (so many people had to stand in the aisles or sit on a nasty floor near the restrooms) and lucky to have some cool seat mates for most of the trip.

There were so many weird, annoying or disgusting things that happened that I found myself just laughing to myself. I think that's all you can do here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Darkness at Noon, last page

I just finished Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, and the last few lines are my favorite of the entire book...

There was the sea again with its sounds. A wave slowly lifted him up. It came from afar and travelled sedately on, a shrug of eternity.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shopping and Tipping (and a very unoriginal blog post title)

There are many things I like about living in China, but shopping is not one of them. I didn't think I could like shopping less until I experienced it here.

Not even counting the lack of personal space (hello lady who set her things on top of mine on the checkout counter, even before I finished unloading my basket...and why are your toes touching my heels and why can I feel your breath on my neck...)......all I think when I'm walking through the aisles is "wow, China is one big bedazzled Dollar store." Ok, to end on a nice (and totally unrelated) note, I love how many taxis there are in this city.

Speaking of taxis, my new favorite thing is to always carry little individually wrapped pieces of fancy candy with me wherever I go. Since the taxi drivers nearly always refuse my tips, I now tip them in candy. I've realized the need to tip runs very deep. They seem to really like candy tips, but maybe they're really good actors.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weird dream convo

I had a dream in which a friend and I were having a bizarre conversation. I don't remember much of it, but this was the last exchange before I woke up...

Me: Why are we humans so quick to judge each other from our preconceived notions.

Friend: I dunno. Are fish superstitious?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Attack of the Zombie Children

Three year olds are so freakin hilarious and WEIRD. Today I was reading Lady and the Tramp to my youngest 3-yr-old class, and we got to the page where the evil siamese cats are introduced.

And one little boy stood up, raised his arms out in front of him, and then slowly started walking towards me while making the zombie noise "eeeEEeeeEEeehhhhHHhhh" and then, of course, ALL the kids stood up and did the same thing. Next thing I know, there are over 20 tiny kids shuffling towards me with arms outstretched going "eeEEehhHHhhHhhhh"

I was like WTF?! I died laughing and looked over to the Chinese English teacher and said, "This is by far the funniest and weirdest thing I have ever seen in my life." and she looked just as thoroughly confused by what was happening. We just sat there laughing our asses off while a whole class of zombie children shuffled towards us.

We finally had to get serious and stand up and say, "Ok zombies, sit down please!"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Salvi The Man

Last year around this time I cat-sat for my friend Jen. She brought over her two cats, Salvador and Cher. Cher was just a baby at the time. And this is Salvi, trying to seduce me by attacking my ear...

Thank you, Jen, for sending this photo to me today as a reminder of how big of a stud your cat is.

Darkness at Noon, p135

The Third Hearing, an extract from Rubashov's diary...

     "The maturity of the masses lies in the capacity to recognize their own interests. This, however, pre-supposes a certain understanding of the process of production and distribution of goods. A people's capacity to govern itself democratically is thus proportionate to the degree of its understanding of the structure and functioning of the whole social body.
     "Now, every technical improvement creates a new complication to the economic apparatus, causes the appearance of new factors and combinations, which the masses cannot penetrate for a time. Every jump of technical progress leaves the relative intellectual development of the masses a step behind, and thus causes a fall in the political-maturity thermometer. It takes sometimes tens of years, sometimes generations, for a people's level of understanding gradually to adapt itself to the changed state of affairs, until it has recovered the same capacity for self-government as it had already possessed at a lower stage of civilization. Hence the political maturity of the masses cannot be measured by an absolute figure, but only relatively, i.e. in proportion to the stage of civilization at that moment."

A fleeting moment

utterance of dissonance

leave our lips
                        hanging thin

faded snapshots
                        we are

forgotten gestures of skin

A poetry prompt from The Sunday Whirl. Although, I only used seven of the words.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


This night is filled with fire
fire in your eyes
eyes ablaze with fury
fury never lies

lies quietly in the shadows
shadows of the soul
soul wearied by a sleepless mind
mind matters have taken their toll.

Toll, a fare paid long ago
ago spent on a youth
youth consumed by contempt for now
now there's only room for truth.

Truth knows not of a future,
future is now within
within this moment is yours to choose
choose this fire as a spark to begin.

A poetry prompt from Poetic Bloomings. An attempt at loop poetry, where the last word of the first line becomes the first word of line two, and so on, with rhyme scheme abcb.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I just learned that our kindergarten stays open a couple weeks longer than most of the other schools here in Haikou. And there's one word that describes all my students this week...


Done learning. Done being well-behaved. DoneDoneDone. They are wild little maniacs. It's almost as if their parents have sleep deprived them and then fed them a pot of coffee before coming to school each day. Our last day of school is next Friday. It's going to be a lonnng week and a half.

One little girl who is usually one of the sweetest and most engaged in class did something yesterday I couldn't help but laugh at. I tried to tell her that since she's been so good, I'm choosing her as one of the first kids to participate in today's game. I tried handing her something for the game, and she just sat back in her tiny chair, slowly lowered her eyelids til her eyes were closed in that very bored-and-not-having-it sort of way, and then simply raised her little arm and gave me the no-no-no hand. I died on the spot. It was the action of a very mature and privileged adult who has just been brought a subpar bottle of champagne. She's three!


Land diverse in beauty of fields and oak tree leaves,
yet longing more by far
the spirit of the pioneer
i n d i v i d u a l,  by the heart

led into open spaces, desire to breathe
in air never exhaled
by the singular mind or creed.
A quiet pride in ours who failed

is a nod to those who tried, for they are the free
spirits of our homeland,
the real we in whom we believe,
bound together without a brand.

A poetry prompt from naming constellations.

This prompt was all about Javanese poetry forms. I chose to try the tembang macapat form called Mas kumambang. It is supposed to follow the theme of longing or homesickness, and adhere to the structure 12i, 6a, 8i, 8a, where the number indicates how many syllables in the line, and the letter indicates the vowel sound of the final syllable of the line. I strung three stanzas together, and played around with different "a" vowel sounds in each stanza.

Since I recently wrote about my culture shock experiences, I was feeling especially drawn to the theme of homesickness. Couple that with tomorrow being our Independence Day, well, my poem quickly took on a pretty overtly patriotic tone. Setting aside the circus of politics, and the poetic inclination to build layer upon layer of hidden meaning, this one came out pretty simple and close to the surface. As a side note, I've only lived away from the US for a short time, but already I appreciate more than ever the way we nurture individualism and creative thought from a young age. This Independence Day holds a special meaning to me this year, my first 4th of July away from home.

Monday, July 2, 2012

For My Mother

Space is the least of what she shared with her mother.

Her greatest treasures born of a will not her own.

A spore will mushroom in the warm shade of the tree.

Carried by the wind and uprooted with ease, she draws every day from the soil.

A poetry prompt from:
the imaginary garden with real toads

This is my attempt at the ancient Koan form of Chinese poetry.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blodwyn Pig - Dear Jill

I didn't really discover Blodwyn Pig until last year. I had packed up my truck and hit the road north out of Denver to go camping up in the mountains outside of Fort Collins. I think it was in a coffee shop somewhere on the drive up where I stopped that I saw a blues/rock CD at the counter. I recognized some of the musician names but none of the songs, so I bought it for the long drive up. It was going to take me another few hours to get way back into the mountains and I didn't really have much music with me. I'm so glad I picked up that CD and discovered this amazing song.

After returning home from one of the best camping trips of my life, despite getting yet another speeding ticket on the drive up, I decided to look up Blodwyn Pig to see what else they had done. I learned that Mick Abrahams, the original guitarist for Jethro Tull, left the band to form Blodwyn Pig because he wanted to move toward more blues/rock. I wonder how they came up with the name of their band.

I can listen to this on repeat, endlessly...

Please Do Not Stampede the Toilet

Today I visited a coffee shop and used their restroom, which is one of the nicest I've seen so far. They have two stalls for the women. One of them has the traditional squat toilet, and the other one has a western toilet.

I have grown to like the squat toilets because it's easier to hover and not have to touch anything. As weird as the squat toilet may seem to us westerners at first, it's starting to make good hygiene sense to me, and now I actually prefer them. I have a western toilet in my apartment, and I'm very very very happy about that, but in public restrooms I prefer the squat toilet.

At my kindergarten, the women's restroom has two stalls as well, one for the squat toilet and one for the western toilet. All of my coworkers prefer the squat toilet, which I didn't quite understand at first. The western toilet would be completely free, and still everyone would stand in line for the squat toilet. Now I get it.

Anyway, today at the coffee shop the squat toilet was in use so I used the western, and I saw this cute sign...

The sign says 请勿踩踏 (Qǐng wù cǎi tà), which the Google translation site translates literally to "Do not stampede."

Hee hee.

I tried to translate it again by retyping the characters into the site, and it translated it slightly differently to "Do not adopt step."

I guess either way it translates, point taken. But really, the picture was pretty clear. Although it does kind of seem like the foot is shouting at the toilet.

At first the sign seemed kind of strange, because why would they need to tell people to not stand on the toilet. But then I remembered a friend telling me that people do not like sitting on the western toilets, for the hygiene reason, so some people stand on the toilet seat, turning the western toilet into a squat toilet. A very tall squat toilet. Hmm, that could be pretty dangerous. Probably best to have a sign.

Passport Photo Phreakshow

Today I went to get more passport photos taken, because it seems you can never have too many here and I need more for the upcoming trip for the visa paperwork.

I was wearing a gray shirt, which the photographer apparently didn't like (I assumed he was telling me it wouldn't show up very well against the white background) and so he pulled a crumpled up black blazer out of a dirty corner and made me put it on. It was covered in fluffy dust bunnies and had the most ginormous shoulder pads you've ever seen. Straight out of the 80s, but times 10.

They also wanted me to take out my earrings (which are super tiny in the first place) and I politely declined, and then a lady came at me with a comb, and I politely shooed her away. I don't think they were very pleased with my appearance, but I didn't know all of the Chinese words for "No thanks, I've done this a million times before and my hair is adequate and my earrings are fine as they are." ... so I'm sure I looked like a jerk foreigner just waving my hands at them and saying no no no it's ok it's ok it's ok.

Given the amount of sweat I was sweating, and the massively-shouldered blazer, needless to say I wasn't super pleased with the photos, but it's done, whew. And I asked them to print way more photos than I need so I don't have to do it again for a very, very long time.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Culture Shock

Or maybe this post is better titled, "Why I Gave You The Cold Shoulder This Month, China"

This month I learned that I'm not special. I am not immune to the various stages of culture shock.

There are countless articles you can find online to describe the stages, and they seem pretty darn accurate to what I've experienced so far. I've experienced a sort of overlapping of the stages at different points over the past five months of living here. I was definitely in the honeymoon stage for a couple of months, and then it felt like I skipped straight to the understanding stage for awhile, and then this month I regressed back to the frustration stage. So it feels like I went a bit out of order. But in hindsight, I can see some these stages have overlapped a bit, or gone back and forth here and there.

Anyway, this post kind of sums up the month of June, or my Frustration Stage.

In addition to reading about the symptoms of Culture Shock, I've been reading a lot of blogs of perpetual travelers and expats, and several expats who live here in China. And I'm feeling a whole lot better knowing that what I've experienced is nothing new.

It's nice and all to feel pretty tough for being able to move to a new country by yourself and go-with-the-flow, take things as they come, learn, adapt, challenge yourself, go to bed every night feeling more grateful than you ever have in your entire life, and waking up each morning ready and excited for more.

But it also feels good to admit when you have those days where you feel completely the opposite of all that.

I've had a lot of frustrated moments this month. A lot of whispered curse words. Angry laser death eyes. Clenched teeth. Exasperated sighs.

I feel very fortunate that these feelings have come and gone and not lingered long, and most times I started laughing at myself almost as soon as I experienced them. I don't think a "me" from ten years ago would have been so fortunate, so yay, hooray again for being on the rollercoaster to 40, wheee!

So here we go, my Culture Shock Frustration Stage Photo Essay!...

Ant Infestation On A Colossal Scale.

This is a photo of the window sill in my shower. This isn't even the worst of it. This is merely a teenie tiny fraction of the ant horrors I've dealt with recently. Ants were litruhhhhly pouring out of the crevices, nonstop, forever and ever. And ever. Almost every other day for a few weeks now, I've been spraying them with my shower head, killing swarms and swarms and swarms of them, endlessly. How can there be so many?!!! If there is a hell for killing innocent lil creatures, I may be found there someday. And I will be covered in ants. But as of this moment, I am vowing to stop killing them. I will let them live in peace. But all of this is null and void if I ever see them in my bedroom. I think Hell has the same clause.

People. PeoplePeoplePeople!

Let me just say, the people here are quite lovely for the most part. I have experienced so many random acts of kindness that I find it very difficult to complain about this, so I do it mostly out of loving fun. The woman in this photo is actually really nice and lovely and sweet and la la la. She is a bank employee. My coworker took me to the bank so I could activate my account for online banking, so that I could purchase things online should I ever need to. In this photo, she is holding my passport. And she's been holding it and staring at it for about a half hour by this point. She is trying to figure out how to enter my information into her computer. Apparently information in English isn't so easily entered into Chinese computer systems. This is the same woman who opened my account a few months ago, and she did the same thing then. It turns out, it's not really the system's fault. It's her. On both occasions, another bank employee finally came over and resolved the issue in a matter of seconds. But this woman seems to like to sit and stare at my passport for a very long time while shouting things in Chinese at my coworker and I, and then laughing really loudly when we try to ask her what the problem is.

Anyway, this is just one little example of the people frustration this month. After several frustrating experiences, I did a couple of things I'm not really proud of. I started exiting my apartment building and immediately putting on my sunglasses to avoid eye contact in hopes of avoiding conversations with neighbors and strangers. And I even pretended to be talking on my cell phone while walking past the more chatty acquaintances. I'm sorry people, it's not you, it's me. I swear!

Hainan Weather.

I actually like this photo because it's really colorful, and I really do love rainstorms. But the weather lately has really been a downer. I don't mind the rain so much. It's the damn heat and humidity. When I say I'm constantly sweating, I'm not exaggerating. I'm even sweating right now as I write this. Maybe I've lived in dry climates for way too many years. Thirteen or so years in Los Angeles and a couple of years in Colorado. And I've been really trying my best to hold off on saying that tropical weather is not for me. But I give up. Tropical weather is not for me. I really hope I feel differently soon. Otherwise, living in this part of China may very well be a one-year-only kind of deal. On the plus side, I'm saving a ton of money on lotion. My skin feels fahhhhbulous (when it's not disgustingly sticky).

Chinese Traffic.

This picture doesn't even come close to doing justice to typical traffic situations around here. I just didn't have a good one to show. Most other expats would laugh if they saw this photo while I complain about the traffic. Anyway, there seem to be no rules of the road here. Forget about driving, I have only attempted that once in my coworker's car when he asked me to take over driving because he was tired. I did fairly well and it wasn't even that scary. But as a pedestrian, you better have eyes on all sides of your head. Just this morning, I almost ate it. Bit the dust. Pushed up some daisies, or what have you. I was in an extra-traffic-frustrated mood when I saw a car barreling towards me, and I thought hmm, I have the right of way here, so I'm going to keep walking and see what he does. Well, I changed my mind when he was a few feet away and not showing signs of slowing down and then honked at me repeatedly. I jumped back and he sped on by. This has happened so many times, and I've heard so many similar stories here, that there is definitely no hope of this ever changing. So I'm going to become a good little Chinese pedestrian and keep all 1000 eyes open in all directions and heed the right of way to the insanely rude drivers. This is where the cursing under my breath happened several times this month.

Chinese Cuisine.

I have to say, I think I have enjoyed Chinese food much, much, much more while in the US than I have here in China. Maybe the US interpretation of Chinese food is less accurate and more salty. Maybe I just haven't found the best restaurants yet, or ordered the best dishes. But I have been getting a little homesick for some good food variety. Living in Los Angeles for so long definitely spoiled me. I had access to any kind of cuisine I could imagine, and some of the best sushi in the universe. Yes, the universe. Oh, and people don't hock up massive loogies and spit on the floors in US restaurants. That photo above is of a half of a chicken head and a big 'ol chicken foot, displayed beautifully on top of some yummy veggies. This was served at my kindergarten, and I picked up this bowl before realizing what the contents were. I started eating the veggies underneath the chicken parts and then realized, holy crap, that's a chicken head. And that's a chicken foot. And then I quickly went back to the kitchen to return the chicken pieces because several of my Chinese coworkers have said how much they love to eat those parts. And as soon as I walked into the kitchen, one of them was there to scoop them out of my bowl, very excitedly. I no longer eat the chicken here because it is usually very bland (and sometimes unpleasant tasting) and usually very rubbery, but I do really like the way they prepare the pork. And to end on a positive note, in every restaurant where I've eaten here so far, the eggplant dishes are DELICIOUS! One of my coworkers even said to me, "Why do all you foreigners love our eggplant so much?!"

It's funny, I've read a lot of blog posts from other expats who have at least one post dedicated to the frustrating things they've experienced in their new home abroad, and each one has admitted that all of the positive things outweigh the negative by far, but it wouldn't be a truthful blog by omitting the negative. So this one is mine. I'm allowing myself this one whiney post as I dig my way out of the frustration stage and back into the understanding and acceptance stage. I really do thank my lucky stars every night as I drift to sleep, and usually several times throughout the day. I feel very fortunate to be living this life right now. So here's a fond farewell to June. I'm very excited for this Summer vacation, and for what the rest of this year holds. Including an all new batch of students at the kindergarten come September. I feel so much joy every single day when I am around all those little munchkins, that it makes all of this petty stuff seem so insignificant.

I may have serious dislike for China Customs, but I have serious love for my friends

Earlier this week I woke up laughing from a dream. This one takes the stupidity cake. Arianna Huffington was telling me a knock knock joke.

Arianna: Knock knock, daahhhling.
Me: Who's there?
Arianna: Tony Danza, ahhhbviously.
Me: That doesn't make any sense. Why should that be so obvious?
Arianna: ::blank stare::
Me: You should have asked me, "Knock knock, who's the boss?"

I messed up my regular-ish sleep schedule this week by taking afternoon naps, staying up really late and still getting up really early. Maybe that's the reason for so many weird dreams this week.

On Tuesday, my birthday, my coworker took me to the local police station to get registered. Apparently you have to register with the police station each time you exit the country and reenter, and no one told me I needed to do this until now. So I've been living here somewhat illegally since I returned from Hong Kong back in February. Oops.

I was a little nervous wondering how big of a deal the police were going to make of this. But luckily my coworker has lived here several years and is fluent in Chinese, and was able to speak with them about it. And by the tones and smiles, I think he was sweet-talking them.

By this time, I had forgotten it was my birthday and was just focused on smiling and looking very sweet and innocent until everything was sorted out. I didn't tell anyone I know here in China about my birthday because I never really celebrate it anyway. The police woman then handed me back my passport, smiled, and wished me a happy birthday in Chinese. It sort of stunned me back to reality and I thanked her. And then my coworker gasped and said, "I didn't know it was your birthday! Why didn't you tell me?!" Because I like my birthdays to just sort of roll on by, that's why. But people think you're weird when you admit to things like that.

Anyway, everything turned out swell. I was really not wanting to go to Chinese jail on my birthday.

My good friend Jen mailed me a birthday package earlier this month, and it was FANTASTIC! It was full of all of the awesome American junk food I love... Sun Chips, Mac-n-Cheese, Reese's Pieces, and.....BEEF JERKY!!! (along with a bunch of other yummy goodies)

The beef jerky was extra special, because Jen calls it my "dog food" because she hates it so much, so I know it was an extra big deal for her to include it in the birthday package. Thanks, Jen! I ate the junk food all month long, but saved a beef jerky for my actual birthday dessert...

and it was fabulous.

By the way, I don't think I have enough mean things to say about China Customs. They opened my birthday package and went through all of the contents and harassed me with numerous phone calls and emails wanting me to give details about each and every item in the package. HELLO, it's a birthday present, I have no idea what it is! But that did not satisfy them. So I had to bother poor Jen to tell me what my birthday presents were, how much they weighed, and how much each item cost.

I was so sad to have to ask her to do this. It wasn't that I cared about the surprise being ruined for my own sake…it was the fact that she put so much thought and effort into sending me a package, not to mention the expense, AND she loves to give presents and surprises so much, it was heart-breaking. It made me sick to my stomach.

They also opened the wrapped birthday present and did not bother to put it back in the wrapping or even the envelope to cover it back up again. Thanks, China Customs. You're a real sweetheart.

All that aside, the package was the best thing ever. Besides all of the amazing junk food, she got me a first edition book…Pablo Neruda "Memoirs" … a first edition! From my birth year, 1977! It's in pristine condition and I can't wait to read it. Since China Customs opened the present for me, I told her I would at least wait until after my actual birthday to start reading it. That probably makes no sense at all to normal people, but it made good sense to us.

You want to see another awesome birthday present I got from one of my best friends? J posted this picture on my Facebook page as a happy bday…

Seriously, I love my friends. I'm a very lucky kid.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I do a wipe

Something kind of interesting happened this evening.

I was sitting here at my computer, listening to music and trying to book a train ticket online.

Then there was a knock at the door. It was 7pm, hmm.

I rarely have people knocking on my door, and never this late in the day.

Then I remembered, ah ha! is the 25th, and the happy man always comes on the 24th-ish. And since the 24th was a Sunday, he must be coming today instead.

I call him the happy man because he's always smiling.

And no matter how hard I try, I can rarely remember Chinese names when people tell me. I usually have to make up some ridiculous story in my head in order to remember them. For example, I once met someone who told me his name was Wen Yue Liang or some variation of that, and so I remembered the sounds of the words and then used my dictionary to translate them to "ask" (Wen) and "moon" (Yue Liang). So now when I see him or I think of him, I think "oh look, let me ask the moon!"

Anyway, happy man is the man who comes around to each apartment once a month and checks the water meters. He usually appears at the door in his white tank top, flip-flops and shorts, a 3-ring binder open in his arms, and always with that signature smile.

Tonight he came rather late though, but still smiling. I let him in, he checked my kitchen and bathroom water meters and was about to leave. I then thought oh yeah, I better tell him I'll be gone on vacation next month at this time so he doesn't think I'm avoiding having to pay the water bill.

Not that I have any idea how to say most of that in Chinese.

But since I already made the "Oooh!" noise and index-finger-in-the-air motion to signal him to stop and listen, I had to think quickly and improvise.

I'm pretty sure what came out of my mouth translates to something like "July August me go..."

Oops, forgot the words for vacation.

Since I already had the Google Translate site up for translating the Chinese train ticket website, I quickly looked up the words for vacation.

He then made the "ahhh!" noise to signal his understanding, and then rattled off a bunch of Chinese I didn't understand.

I think he said something about him being gone as well, and when I return, I can call the office to have someone come over and check the meters.

That is about 12% confidence and 88% guess.

So I pretended I understood him and said "hao hao hao" (because repeating the word "good" over and over and over is what people seem to do here when they agree or understand).

Happy man left and no sooner had I made my way back to my dining room table where I was sitting before happy man came did I hear another knock at my door. I assumed happy man forgot something, so I returned to the door and opened it.

But to my surprise, it was my neighbor lady. She let herself in and started chatting quickly about something, but I had no idea what she was saying.

Side note: This is the neighbor lady who gets frustrated with me because I can never seem to understand what she's saying. And the reason she seems to get so frustrated is because she has usually just witnessed me understanding one of my other neighbor ladies perfectly well. I can hold full conversations with my other neighbor lady, but not this one. She may even think I'm purposely pretending to NOT understand her. I don't know if I just have a mental block with her or if she's really mumbly or if her accent is way bizarre to my ears. I just don't know.

Anyway, I told her that I don't understand what she's saying, so then she started to mime.

I absolutely love when my conversations here break down to the point of miming. I'm only being half sarcastic. True, I would much rather be fluent and perfectly able to understand everything everyone says, but I'm just not there yet. And I really do love miming. It's fascinating to see how many mime-actions are universal.

Hey, it's a small world. And we're not all as different as we like to believe.

So neighbor lady started making wiping motions with her hand, like she was dusting something in the air. She kept repeating "Wǒ bàn yī cā le" (sounds like "wah bahn yee sah luh" kinda). I wasn't familiar with that phrase, so I told her I didn't understand. So then she started moving through my apartment while pretending to dust everything, while still repeating the phrase.

I had a feeling the only reason she would randomly appear at my door immediately after happy man was here, was because she met happy man in the hall as he was leaving and he told her I was going to Beijing on vacation.

And that all apparently happened in about 5-10 seconds time. It's no longer surprising to me how quickly word travels here. It's pretty freaky at first, but then you get used to it.

Dude, viral marketing probably originated in China. (this is probably completely inaccurate)

Anyway, I quickly sat down to translate the phrase since the trusty Google Translate site was still up, but my VPN had since timed out and the site stopped working.

By this time, neighbor lady was no longer mime-wiping the air. She had started snooping. That's really the only way I can think to describe what some people do here when you let them into your apartment. They just kind of move room to room, sort of with their face extended and looking everything over, peeping around corners, eyes shifting everywhere all at once. Snooping. But you know, in a totally innocent and friendly way.

She told me in Chinese "You're going to Beijing?" and I said "Yes, in July" and then she repeated the phrase again, and I told her again that I didn't understand.

Of course I could have confirmed what I thought she was saying by asking her if she wanted to clean my apartment while I was gone, but I did not want to open that can of worms.

First of all, my apartment is clean. I clean the heck out of it every single week, top to bottom, inside out...mostly because the amount of dirt that comes in from the street is mind boggling. It's a keep-up-with-it-or-drown-in-filth sort of thing. I will shut all of my windows before I leave town, so I doubt the place will get unbearably dirty.

Second of all, I do not wish to have someone in my apartment while I'm out of town for six weeks. She's already snoopy enough right in front of my face. Can you even imagine???

Since I came to China with only a backpack full of belongings, I don't have many personal items in my apartment, so it's not a huge deal for someone to be snoopy here. And luckily the "Dream Journal" I keep is written in English, so she wouldn't be able to understand how insane I may be.

Another side note: Last night I dreamed I was going bald. I looked in the mirror and looked similar to this guy, only you know, the female version...

It may have something to do with turning 35 tomorrow. All of my birthdays have come and gone with no thought to the age, the number, and on several birthdays I have forgotten it was my birthday until someone reminded me. But this time around, the number 35 keeps flashing in my mind's eye. Like DING DING DING, slippery slope to 40! You're at the top of the 30's rollercoaster! You're at the part where your stomach is in knots, heart pounding through your chest! AHHHHH!!

I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow with my arms in the air and happily screaming. That's the fun part of the rollercoaster that comes after the terrifying part.

Anyway, where was I... Oh yeah, no thanks. I like the feeling of privacy, of knowing (or at least pretending) that no one will be in my personal space while I'm not around.

So neighbor lady left, frustrated with me as per usual, and I returned to my computer to restart the VPN and try to translate what she had said. I think she was saying 我办一擦了 which Google translates to "I do a wipe."

Ah ha! So my assumption about her wanting to clean my apartment was correct! I think?

And good on ya, woman, for your amazing miming abilities. You were definitely wiping. Nothing lost in translation there.