Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magic candle holder

One of my new favorite things in the whole universe is holding a lighter to the bottom of a tall skinny candle and then sticking it to a flat surface, and MAGICALLY it stays standing, ahhh!

I learned this trick only recently when staying in Nepal, having never really used the tall skinny kind of candle until then. Due to the 14+ hours of power outages a day, I often lived by candlelight when the generators weren't running. I had a candle holder in my room, but one day I saw one of the hotel staff do the melt-the-bottom-of-the-candle trick and it was like that scene in Amélie when she whisks the blind man around town and then he lights up and stands there glowing when she leaves him basking in all of his newfound seeing-without-sight. Well, maybe it wasn't as dramatic as that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Story time

Today in one of my junior classes (age 3ish) it was story time and I was reading The Ugly Duckling. When all of a sudden one of the sweetest lil boys in class comes up to me holding his stuffed doggie and climbs right up on my lap and puts his arms around my neck. I think I died right then. I'm still dead. I can't even find the words to describe what my heart did in that moment. Then the Chinese teacher came and pulled him off so I could finish reading the story to the class. But I wanted to stop her so badly and just sit there and hug him forever. AHHH these kids are truly killing me with cuteness and love.


I am a firm believer that we must have a magical internal time-keeping system, that is always running, without our awareness.

For as long as I can remember, and far too many times to count, I've woken up exactly one minute before my alarm went off. I know this happens to a lot of people. Why is it??

Do you think it happens more when we look at the clock right before we close our eyes to fall asleep, and then something inside of us says, ok, let's keep track and wake up exactly one minute before the alarm so we don't have to hear that nasty thing?

And it has never mattered what time I go to sleep, what time I wake up, how many hours of sleep I've had, etc. etc. I've never been able to figure out why it happens.

Hi, mom!

My mom taught me the value in never taking yourself too seriously
And this one is because I won't be enjoying another fancy Starbucks coffee for at least a year
And this is now what I do all of the time here in China because everyone does it to me first (it seems like this is the international mime for "American")

Reformatting the brain

These are the things I wish were programmed into my brain before leaving the states, and would calculate automatically…

Celsius to Fahrenheit
°C * 9/5 + 32 = °F

Kilometers to Miles
km x 0.6214 = mi.

Kilograms to Pounds
kg * 2.2 = lbs

Milliliters to Ounces
I'm not even going to put this formula here because ounces has always been a bizarre measurement and it means nothing to me anyway, so take that, ounces.

Kilometers per Hour to Miles per Hour
kph / 1.609 = mph (or kph * 0.622 = mph)

I wonder how long it'll be before I start thinking in these measurements without having to do the conversion. Is that like when you're learning a new language and then magically at some point you start thinking in the new language? Seems like a long ways away.

Second Chinese Lesson

This week my principal gave me Chinese Lesson #2. Here we go!...

1) wǒ     I / me

2) wǒmén     we

3) nǐ     you

4) nǐmén     you (plural) / you guys

5) tā     he

6) tā     she

(Notice how he and she are pronounced the same -- tā -- yet have different characters)

7) tāmén     they




er (or liăng depending on its usage)












Then she wrote down a random number -- 1,219 -- and had me say it in Mandarin... "yī qīan er bǎi yī shí jiǔ"

It's very logical the way numbers over 10 are formed. For the teens, you just take 10 and the number and put them together, like so: 11 is shí yī; 12 is shí er; 13 is shí sān...

And when you get above that, you just put the number, then ten, then the number: 21 is er shí yī; 22 is er shí er; 23 is er shí sān...

These are the two sites I use when reproducing the Chinese lessons my principal gives me:
Chinese characters:

I also learned that each Chinese character is a one-syllable word in pinyin. So for example wǒmén is two syllables and therefore two characters 我们. I'm not sure if this is always the rule. By the way, this has been a very useful site in my beginning stages of learning Mandarin. I highly recommend watching the Pronunciation lessons and practicing often -

Thirsty Top 5

The top five things that make me thirsty are (in no particular order):

1) pizza
2) garlic
3) ice cream
4) soda
5) popcorn

Some of the best things in life. SIGH. And no matter how many times I brush my teeth or how much water I drink, the thirst is unquenchable.

The Journey

Yesterday I learned that if the Earth was compressed to about the size of a peanut, it would create a black hole. Ok, paraphrasing -

And I learned that Franz Liszt's daughter married Richard Wagner, which for some reason blew my mind thinking "wow I bet they made superhuman-musician babies," and 1,000 Wikipedia clicks later, I now know a lot of useless stuff about their family all the way through to Franz's great-great-grandchildren. Funfact: Wagner's grandchildren were encouraged to call Adolf Hitler "Uncle Adolf."

Today on a restaurant menu I saw the following... "Dried plum rice blast frog" and "A duck chin beauty"


Do ducks even have chins?

Total sidetrack here, but why does nearly every coffee shop and restaurant here in Haikou play Beethoven's Für Elise, almost on repeat? Even my washing machine plays Für Elise when I start it. What is China's obsession with this composition? I'm not complaining since I love it, just very curious.

And today I continued my research for one of my science projects called "How to Consistently Buy Good Cookies in China When You Can't Read Chinese Food Packaging." I'm following the Scientific Method:

1) Ask Question -- Is it possible to consistently buy good cookies in China when you can't read Chinese food packaging?

2) Do Background Research -- Buy cookies. Eat cookies.

That's all I've got so far. I'm stuck on step two... repeatus infinitus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Skin Stealer

I blame/thank Shel Silverstein for a good-sized chunk of my weirdness...this poem in particular, which I can still recite by heart...

Skin Stealer
by Shel Silverstein

This evening I unzipped my skin
And carefully unscrewed my head,
Exactly as I always do
When I prepare myself for bed.
And while I slept a coo-coo came
As naked as could be
And put on the skin
And screwed on the head
That once belonged to me.
Now wearing my feet
He runs through the street
In a most disgraceful way,
Doin' things and sayin' things
I'd never do or say.
Ticklin' the children
And kickin' the men
And dancin' the ladies away.
So if he makes your bright eyes cry
Or makes your poor head spin,
That scoundrel you see
Is not really me--
He's the coo-coo
Who's wearing my skin.

And the illustrations, oh dear! Burned into my brain for life. Thank you, Shel.

Found this movie of The Giving Tree while reading more about Shel's life. I bought the book for one of my tutoring students a couple of years ago and he made me read it to him over and over and over and then he read it to me over and over and over, and I think it got better each time...

simian shenanigans

There's a monkey climbing up the inside of your skeleton
no, I mean my skeleton
it's eating my gelatin

Sunday, February 26, 2012

outward / inward

Today I finished reading R. D. Laing's "The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise." I will be reading this again soon. Here's a passage from the last chapter that I can somewhat identify with...

"Who is not engaged in trying to impress, to leave a mark, to engrave his image on the others and the world - graven images held more dear than life itself? We wish to die leaving our imprints burned into the hearts of the others. What would life be if there were no one to remember us, to think of us when we are absent, to keep us alive when we are dead? And when we are dead, suddenly or gradually, our presence, scattered in ten or ten thousand hearts will fade and disappear. How many candles in how many hearts? Of such stuff is our hope and our despair."

But for a long time I've identified with the following one above other philosophies along the same vein. It seems to go a bit deeper, or more to the source, than the above (and is a bit cheerier), or who knows, maybe it's apples and oranges...

"What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else."
-Joseph Campbell

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On inspiration

"The mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within...could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the result; but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline; and the most glorious poetry that has been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet."
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Zoo Story

I just finished a book called Absurd Drama in which there are four plays...

1. Amédée or How to Get Rid of it, by Eugène Ionesco
2. Professor Taranne, by Arthur Adamov
3. The Two Executioners, by Fernando Arrabal
4. The Zoo Story, by Edward Albee (I liked this one so much I read it twice)

I enjoyed Amédée and The Zoo Story the most out of the four. The other two just seemed sort of obvious, or not as absurd as I was hoping. Here's part of a speech ("The Story of Jerry and the Dog!") from The Zoo Story I really like...

It's just ... it's just that ... [JERRY is abnormally tense, now.] ... it's just that if you can't deal with people, you have to make a start somewhere. WITH ANIMALS ! [Much faster now, and like a conspirator] Don't you see.? A person has to have some way of dealing with SOMETHING. If not with people ... SOMETHING. With a bed, with a cockroach, with a mirror ... no, that's too hard, that's one of the last steps. With a cockroach, with a ... with a ... with a carpet, a roll of toilet paper ... no, not that, either ... that's a mirror, too; always check bleeding. You see how hard it is to find things ? With a street corner, and too many lights, all colours reflecting on the oily-wet streets ... with a wisp of smoke, a wisp ... of smoke ... with ... with porno. graphic playing cards, with a strong-box . . . WITHOUT A LOCK ... with love, with vomiting, with crying, with fury because the pretty little ladies aren't pretty little ladies, with making money with your body which is an act of love and I could prove it, with howling because you're alive; with God. How about that? WITH GOD WHO IS A COLOURED QUEEN WHO WEARS A KIMONO AND PLUCKS HIS EYEBROWS ! WHO IS A WOMAN WHO CRIES WITH DETERMINATION BEHIND HER CLOSED DOOR ... with God who, I'm told, turned his back on the whole thing some time ago ... with ... some day, with people. [JERRY sighs the next word heavily.] People. With an idea; a concept. And where better, where ever better in this humiliating excuse for a jail, where better to communicate one single, simple-minded idea than in an entrance hall? Where? It would be A START! Where better to make a beginning ... to understand and just possibly be understood ... a beginning of an understanding, than with ... [Here JERRY seems to fall into almost grotesque fatigue] ... than with A DOG. Just that; a dog. [Here there is a silence that might be prolonged for a moment or so; then JERRY wearily finishes his story.] A dog.

At the annihilating edge

I started reading a book by R. D. Laing called "The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise." Here's one of the many passages I read today that moved me...

"But what we think is less than what we know: what we know is less than what we love: what we love is so much less than what there is. And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are.

Yet if nothing else, each time a new baby is born there is a possibility of reprieve. Each child is a new being, a potential prophet, a new spiritual prince, a new spark of light, precipitated into the outer darkness. Who are we to decide that it is hopeless?"

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I remember in the not too distant past, I would actually go out and socialize on a Saturday night. But these days I'm happy staying in and pondering things like… how do you really pronounce "Goethe" ???

Like this?...

Or like this?...

I think I'll go with this...

Gosh I love the Internet.

creatio ex nihilo

The silence before creation
of being from non-being
is more revealing than
the peeling corner
of wallpaper

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Chinese Lesson

The other day, the Vice Principal of my kindergarten gave me this lesson book. She even wrote my name on it, how sweet...

She wrote down all of the Chinese consonants and vowels (what they call Initials and Finals respectively) and had me practice with her. She made the sound, and I repeated the sound. Sometimes I repeated the sound multiple times until she was pleased with my sound-making. It looks easy, but some of the sounds are produced quite differently than how we would make them in English. And some sounds don't even exist in English.

Today, my Principal gave me a paper that she made for my first Chinese lesson. I figured something that may help me learn the intonations and Chinese characters faster is reproducing each lesson here on my blog, using translation sites to help find the same characters. Here's Lesson #1, in pinyin (pīnyīn - the phonetic system), the English translation, and the Chinese characters (called hanzi I think - hànzì)...

A: ní hǎo     Hello
B: ní hǎo     Hello

A: zǎo shàng hǎo     Good morning

B: zǎo shàng hǎo     Good morning

A: xiè xie     Thank you

B: bú kè qi     You're welcome

A: duì bù qi     Excuse me / Sorry

B: méi guān xi     That's ok / No problem

In around 2006 I started studying Mandarin on CDs just for the heck of it. I figured what better way to kill time in Los Angeles traffic than by learning a new language. A few reasons for choosing Mandarin came to mind... 1) I've always thought Mandarin to be a beautiful language, 2) Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, the only language spoken by more people than English, and 3) Since I was in the business world, it made practical sense to learn Mandarin for the future (was fairly certain I'd be interacting with Chinese companies or business people at some point in the future).

So I started playing the CDs in my car as I drove around Los Angeles to my various client's offices, practicing speaking the words and phrases after the man and woman on the CD, mimicking their intonations. I was pretty good about doing this on a somewhat regular basis for awhile, but dropped off in the last couple of years. I was surprised though at how much resurfaced as soon as I arrived in China. Something clicked and I was saying the phrases from the CDs as if I had been practicing them all along. I remembered how to say "Excuse me, please let me ask..." and "I speak English" "Do you speak English?" "I speak a little Mandarin" "I don't speak well" and most importantly, "I want to order two beers."

Friday, February 17, 2012

tour de seahorse

Why are so many things described as a 'tour de force'?? A term so over-used that it loses its OOMPH. Even the stars are sitting suspended in their eternal blackness discussing how the recent creation of the Milky Way is a stylistic tour de force! A masterpiece! harrumph harrumph harrrumphhhth

ISPS (Intergalactic Space Postal Service)

Someday we humans are going to feel really silly when we realize we should have included "Planet Earth" in our mailing addresses.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dream journal

I have started keeping a dream journal to try to remember my dreams. I've always been bad at this and could never seem to remember my dreams, except on rare occasion. But now that I have a notebook and pen beside my bed, I seem to remember them. Magic? Is it simply because there is now a notebook there? Weird.

Anyway, I seem to be able to remember about three big dreams per night, and I quickly write them down first thing in the morning. I'm hoping this also leads to a better memory in general, because it seems these past few years I can barely recall anything at all! So I start with writing the most recent dream memory, and then as I am finishing that one the previous dream seems to come to mind so I sketch that down, and then the previous one and so on. It's like I'm working my way backwards into the night.

Maybe someday I'll sit down and type them all up into one big long nonsensical storybook.

Plumbing problems

My shower drain started draining very slowly over the past couple of days, and today nearly didn't drain at all. Then my toilet stopped flushing, and no amount of plunging was helping. I told my coworker and he arranged for a plumber to come over (since my coworker speaks fluent Chinese, and I do not). And here's what the plumber told me...rather, mimed to me after he realized me no speak mandarin (yet!)...

So no more flushing toilet paper down the toilet. Into the waste basket it shall go. This makes me somewhat sad, but I'll adapt. This was the custom in Guatemala when I visited a few years ago, and in areas of Nepal, and now I'm wondering... just how much of the world has this custom of not flushing toilet paper due to the sewage systems not being able to handle it. After doing some online reading and speaking with other travelers, it seems most places are like this, except for Europe and North America? Just curious.

Looks like I'll be making more frequent trips to take my trash to the dumpster.

Foods for thought

I've been reading a book called "The Human Situation" by Aldous Huxley, one of my favorite authors. I picked up this treasure in the wonderful little bookstore in Kathmandu, Nepal, run by the little old man who has read every single book in his store. It's really more of his personal library than a bookstore, with so many first editions you just stand in awe and try not to drool as your eyes scan the dusty shelves. I picked out a few books, and then based on what I had picked, he discerned my preferences and scurried off into one of the dark corners of his library and then reappeared with another book...

Here are a few passages I read today that really got me thinking...

"Nationalism uses all the devices of education to create an artificial loyalty to areas with which the individual is quite unacquainted and to people that he has never seen."
. . .

"We must bear continuously in mind that everything that is happening now, such as the explosive increase in population and the advancing technicalization of every aspect of human life, is happening in the context of nationalism. Consequently, it all takes on a very dangerous quality, precisely because it is taking place in the context of what appears to be the strongest quasi-religious fervor of our period, and in a world order which by definition commits those who believe in its theology to war with one another and to continual preparation for war.

This war ethos has been reduced to a kind of absurdity, as innumerable people, including those who are now preparing for war, are never tired of pointing out. War has reached a point where there can be no victors and where the only purpose which can be achieved by entering upon it is the complete destruction of the combatants and probably the destruction of large areas of not only civilization but life itself. Everybody knows this, and yet all the people in decision-making positions in the world today -- and there are not very many of them -- are so completely the prisoners of the theological-nationalistic system that they find themselves under a compulsion to go on willy-nilly preparing for something which they know must be disastrous. One has this extraordinary and paradoxical spectacle of unprecedented skill and knowledge and devotion and work and money being poured out on projects which can lead not to life, liberty, and happiness, but only to misery, to servitude, and to death.

The rationalization of this is in all cases the old Roman adage, 'si vis pacem para vellum' (if you want peace prepare for war)."

. . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . . ~ . . .

Today I also stumbled upon a short story by Kurt Vonnegut called "2BR02B" which is worth a read. It's really short and quick and is a good one to let roll around in your mind a bit...

I downloaded it for free to my kindle app on my computer...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

qíng rén jié kuài lè (情人节快乐!) = Happy Valentine’s Day!

where does all the wax go

if I burn a thousand candles
and breathe the wax of a thousand candles
will you taste the scent of a thousand candles
on my lips
as the vapor of a thousand candles
escapes my waxy lungs

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

I'm not sure why, but ever since I can remember, I've had this strong reaction to Bob Dylan's music…his guitar, harmonica, lyrics and voice…all of him. He is such a treasure, and listening to him makes me want to burst. You know, in a good way. Here is a gem I stumbled upon today while practicing harmonica...

Today's practice music on my favorite harp site…

Monday, February 13, 2012


I'm starting to develop an irrational fear of umbrellas.

It's always raining here in Haikou and I'm always walking and people are always using umbrellas and I'm always nearly running into the points of the umbrella, face first.


I am starting to become obsessed with this girl's videos. They're awesome and hilarious and so much fun...

OMG美语 (OMG Meiyu)...which translates to OMG American Language! her account on Youku, the Chinese YouTube...


And here is a little bit more about her...

Stop. Potty Time.

Today in my last class I learned the universal kindergartener face for "I'm going to stand here and pee my pants right in front of you, and there's nothing you can do to stop it."

I was speaking to the boy and asking him to repeat the sentence, and he had this look of deep concern with a touch of fear in his eyes, a slight crinkle to his forehead. And I thought this was strange given that he was one of the more lively and talkative students just a few minutes earlier.

Then all of a sudden he grabbed himself and out came a big pee stream from the bottom of his pant leg. Poor kiddo.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Then after class as I was leaving the classroom amidst all of the kids leaving the classroom to take their bathroom break, I hear behind me a little boy shout "Bye Liz!" (that's my name here in China since "Elizabeth" is way too long for anyone here, even the teachers), and I turn around to say goodbye to him, and he is standing there in front of all his classmates with his pants and underwear down around his ankles and waving goodbye to me with the biggest silliest smile on his face. I nearly died.

Never a dull moment.

Chinese physical exam

This morning my principal took me to get a physical in order to get the work visa, and I'm still reeling. They swooped me from room to room, from doctor to doctor, each one performing a different test. First they took my blood, then my weight and height, then an ultrasound of my entire mid section, then an ECG (electrocardiogram) and holy crap that was the freaky one since I had never had one before…they made me lay down and lift up my shirt and bra and pant legs and then clasped all of these metal-plated things to my wrists and ankles and put all of these suction cup things all over my chest and then said "relax" (yeah right, lady)…then had to pee in a cup, then a vision test, then a man stuck his fingers into my abdomen really really hard and it hurt bad enough for me to yelp a big "oww!" and then an X-ray of my whole upper body. All of this was done in about 30 minutes. Super efficient.

Greatest Love Of All

Have been watching Whitney Houston videos since her passing. It's amazing how these songs bring so many feelings to the surface, feelings from junior high and high school. Here is one of her more inspirational songs...

I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be

And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kwest for Kwik Kaffeine!

I have been on a quest for good instant coffee since arriving in China last weekend. I became somewhat addicted to Nescafe during my 6-week stay in Kathmandu, Nepal, which lasted from just after Christmas to the first week of February. Up until about a few months before leaving the states, I would have never even considered drinking instant coffee. But at some point I tried the Starbucks "Via" instant coffee and thought it was good enough in a pinch, which meant I started drinking it every morning when I got to work. But at home, I always bought and brewed fancy froo froo coffee beans, whatever that means.

So in Nepal, when you ask for a pot of coffee, they bring you Nescafe. Hey, whatever, it was good. Then it was great. Then I was addicted. Add to that a healthy dose of Nepali sugar and Nepali milk, and wham, no turning back.

I was sure to buy some Nepali sugar and powdered milk (and Tokla brand tea and masala spices for making Nepali masala tea) before I left for China. I arrived in China and went to find some Nescafe at the market. I found Nescafe, but all words on the box other than "Nescafe" were in Chinese. And on the front of the box there was a big "1:2" ... wha? So I bought a box of Nescafe and came back to my apartment to make some. I opened one of the lil pouches in the box and it looked awfully funny. It looked like a bunch of powdered milk or creamer with tiny brown flecks mixed into it. Were those flecks the actual coffee?! Oh no no no, I don't think so Nescafe! I boiled some water so I could taste test it, seeing how I had already opened it and there was no returning it to the store.

Sure enough, it tasted like...actually I don't know what it tasted like. It's not unpleasant, but it certainly isn't coffee. And it most certainly doesn't provide a sufficient caffeine buzz. Big fail.

So I went to another market to search for real instant coffee. None of this powdered-whatever business. I bought a tin of instant coffee, but again, most of the words were in Chinese, so it was another gamble. The only words in English were "Instant Coffee" and this time there was no "1:2" which I was now convinced was the source of the problem. Was that supposed to mean 1 part coffee, 2 parts mystery powder? Seemed like the case.

I came home and opened the tin, and once again I was severely disappointed. This time there seemed to be even fewer brown specks. And once again I boiled some water to do a taste test. Yep, same results. No real coffee taste, no real caffeine buzz. So sad.

I have gone to the market a couple of more times in hopes of finding real instant coffee, with no additives. Here's what I have so far...

Today I bought a tin that was all Chinese except for a "3:1" on the front. I sure hope this means 3 parts coffee, 1 part mystery powder! But I got it home and this tin doesn't have a simple peel back cover. I need a can opener and my apartment didn't come with one. Dangit! Back to the market.

I even resorted to buying the canned and bottled Nescafe to see if it packs a punch. So far, a big thumbs up to the canned stuff. Finally, I felt a teensie weensie caffeine buzz. Ahhhhhhh...

Adventures in dining

Earlier this week I went to the coffee shop next door and tried to order lunch. I was unable to read the menu, but luckily there were photos of some of the dishes. I pointed to a plate of steamed vegetables and tried to make it clear to the waitress that this is what I wanted. She didn't understand, so I somehow miraculously conveyed to her that I would like her to simply pick something and bring it, anything. By this time I just wanted food, any food, and would have been happy with anything. I'm still not sure how I was able to communicate that, while completely unable to point to a picture to say that is what I wanted. I'm getting pretty good at miming, or so I thought. I point to picture of vegetables, then to me, then to vegetables, then to my stomach, then to vegetables, then to my mouth and make chewing motions and go mmm mmm mmm and rub my belly. Still, no luck.

Anyway, she understood that I just wanted her to pick something. So she pointed to some Chinese characters on the menu and looked at me as if to say, "Is this ok?" and I nodded and smiled and off she went. I was excited to see what she would bring.

And to my extreme delight, she brought this...

I love eggplant! How did she know?! I was ecstatic! I had set my expectations really, really low, just in case she brought something with chicken feet sticking out of it. I was thrilled that she brought one of my all-time favorites!

So later when she came back to refill my water, I mime-asked her if she could please write down the name of the eggplant dish in Chinese so I could use it later when trying to order. Somehow she understood my mime question, and she gave me this (I wrote the English of course)...

So today I went to the coffee shop just to get out of the apartment, get some sunlight and do some reading. And when I got there I started craving the eggplant dish. Luckily I had the above note with me, and I showed it to the waitress. She looked a little confused, but then went "ohhh, ah ha!" and I nodded and smiled (something I'm getting really good at doing) and off she went. She brought me the same eggplant dish, so I was very happy. But this time there was no rice with it. When she came back, I tried to ask her for a small bowl of rice. First, she just brought an empty bowl. Oops, my bad. I tried again, and this time I really thought I did it right. But this is what came...

Wha? Huh? Oops. These eggs were really good, btw.

Then finally I remembered that I had my iPad on me and that I had downloaded a mandarin ebook of flashcards. I quickly pulled up the flashcard for cooked rice and showed the waitress...


Here are the receipts for my eggplant and coffee, so now this is what I'll bring with me in the future. I'm sure at some point I'll want something other than eggplant...

Baby steps.


After about five or so days of being here in China, I noticed that my quads were really sore. Like, abnormally sore. I thought really long and hard about what could be causing this soreness. I certainly have walked a lot since arriving, but I walked a lot more in Nepal and never did my quads hurt like this.

Then the lightbulb came on. It could be one of two things...

1. I am now a kindergarten teacher and my students are teenie tiny, so I am constantly squatting down to meet them on their level.


2. Chinese public toilets. The squat toilet (I took this photo from a Google images search, and it accurately represents all of the public toilets I've seen so far, although this one may be a tad bit cleaner)...

But I'm gonna go more with #1 than #2 since I haven't used the public toilets THAT much yet.

Sounds of Haikou

I guess any time you find yourself in a new setting, your senses are sort of overloaded. New sights, new smells, new tastes, new sounds. So I thought I'd dedicate a post to the sounds of my new home. I live in a city called Haikou, which is pronounced HIGH-ko, and is the largest city in the Hainan Province, which is the little island off the southern coast of mainland China. I live on the third floor of a big apartment building, and because I am in a busy area of the city, there is constant noise around the clock.

Lots of horn honking. And it's not so much that the horns are honked out of frustration, anger or road-rage. It's more of a "hey I'm coming, please don't hit me, because I know you're not looking when you zoom across 4 lanes of traffic."

There's also this really weird car alarm, or some sort of alarm, that goes off at least a few times an hour. It might be the most annoying sound in the world, so I'm training myself to tune it out.

I can also hear my closest neighbors, the ones just next door. They are pretty quiet for the most part, but once in awhile they start speaking very loudly at each other. I think a large family lives, dad, son, grandma, grandpa, maybe even aunts and uncles. So sometimes it sounds like things get a little heated. A funny side note, our front doors are directly adjacent to each other, and they open outward. So if we both try to exit our apartments at the same time, our doors smash into each other and we're trapped inside. And it's already happened. We got stuck for a couple of minutes because they didn't understand me saying, "Ok, you go first" and I'm sure they were saying "Ok, you go first" in chinese but I didn't understand. So finally I went.

I noticed a funny sound the first time I did laundry in my cute little Chinese washing machine. When you start the washer it plays Beethoven's "Fur Elise" and I love it! That was the first song (besides Mary Had a Little Lamb) that my grandma taught me on piano.

At the coffee shop next door, which is quickly becoming my home away from home, they play some sort of CD on repeat. Instrumental versions of the following three songs are played constantly, and I love it…
1. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (from The Lion King, yes!)
2. My Heart Must Go On (from Titanic, yes!)
3. Ave Maria (which reminds me of the Chris Botti version, yes!)

Another sound I've noticed makes me very curious. I hear some sort of trumpet song at 6:45am every morning from somewhere far off in the city. It makes me think of someone playing the trumpet in the military to tell everyone to get up and eat breakfast, it's very strange.

And last but not least, one of the sounds I hear nearly everywhere, is that of a huge loogie being gathered in someone's throat. On my first visit to the coffee shop next door, I noticed a man constantly making the loogie noise, and as I peeked over at him, I saw him spit the loogie into the corner of the coffee shop! I was like oh no no no surely I am seeing things. But he kept doing it! So then I tried to see if there was a potted plant or some sort of loogie receptacle in the corner, but nope, none. He was spitting onto the floor. And then at a different cafe yesterday, I noticed another man do the same thing…just spit a big 'ol loogie right there onto the floor beside his table. I guess it's totally acceptable here. And now I know never to set my bag down on the floor in any public areas. Lesson learned.

Reading extravaganza

I'm so happy to have time to be reading again. Three books in two weeks, so happy! What's weird is that all three books I chose were written in the 1970's, just a funny coincidence I guess...

1. The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird
2. The Body Electric, by Thelma Moss, Ph.D.
3. The Facts of Life, by R. D. Laing

I picked out a few quotes from the third book that I really like...

"Are we all essentially, equally ignorant?
but some are more ignorant than others, ignorant
of their ignorance, hence thinking they know?"

"Am I unaffected by anything?

One cannot pluck a flower
without disturbing a star,
it has been said

And if the stars are disturbed?"

"Let your heart be like the sun
Shine alike on everyone."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lucid dreaming?

I had a strange experience last night that I chatted with my friend Jen about this morning. Instead of rewriting it, here's the chat...

“well i just got into bed last night and was lying there really still, sort of like meditating, deep breathing stuff and trying to make my body feel really light, and then i noticed the sounds outside my apartment were just sort of floating far away below they were going under water...

and the vibration sounds in my ears (hard to explain) were becoming a bit louder, like when you can hear power lines or something...

and then i felt the vibrations start going through my body, a little at first, and then stronger and stronger

and then in my mind i lifted my hand, even tho i knew that my real hand wasn't lifting, but in my mind i was telling my left hand to lift, and then i felt it 'come out of my body'...again hard to explain, so i kept going with that feeling, with the rest of the areas of my body.....

until it felt like my whole body had separated

and then i floated up to my ceiling, and in my head i said turn over

and i did

and i saw myself in my bed sleeping

and i was floating so i said to myself, i want to fly, and then all of a sudden i was in a very different place, very vibrant colors everywhere, and the grass and trees were very green

and i was flying slowly over all of this green grass, lots of rolling hills

so then in my head i was trying to control my flying and i came closer to the grass to fly low, and all of these tiny lightning bugs appeared and i flew through them as they were lighting up all around me

and the rest of the dream i was flying around exploring, and i saw lots of strange birds that i'm not even sure exist

and then i flew near a clothes line near a house or something and i picked up this big colorful sheet, and i was holding it above my head as i was flying

and then at some point i saw a couple of little kids and i flew near them, and they tried to take the sheet or something, and they weren't that mean or anything but they really wanted the sheet so i gave it to them and then i was back in my bed, awake

the end”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Made it to China

There's so much to write about in just the few days I've been in China, that I don't even know where to begin. I also feel like I haven't even fully absorbed and reflected on all of the things I experienced in Nepal. I'm sure the coming blog posts will be full of scatter-brained-ness and a mishmash of all kinds of nonsense. In the meantime while I try to compose some complete thoughts and sentences, I'll just paste something I wrote in an email to my mom about a couple of experiences in the last couple of days here in China. I really do love people so much...

"People here are so funny, I love it. I was leaving my apartment and this woman approached me all smiling and speaking chinese very quickly and excitedly, and making hand motions at me and then toward my apartment and then to herself and toward her apartment, and I figured out that she was telling me that we are neighbors. So then she hooked her arm through my arm like we were best friends, and we rode the elevator down together (I'm on the 3rd floor of my building) and she kept walking with me like that, arm in arm, just smiling and smiling until we had to part ways hehe. So cute.

Then last night I was leaving this little market by my place after picking up some air fresheners (cuz everything is so musty smelling in my place because it's so wet and moldy all of the time) and as I was walking out of the market, this older man was walking in, and as soon as we made eye contact he smiled super big and his eyes got all big and he yelled right in my face "HELLO!" and gave me a big thumbs up. It was hilarious! He must have been so excited to practice his only English word. That's exactly how I feel when I get to practice my chinese on people. I must look just like him...all crazed and maniacal, yelling broken mandarin at innocent people."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I am plant food

I am reading a fascinating book called "The Secret Life of Plants" and this passage really gives a different and interesting perspective of man's purpose in this world...

"Was it not one of the ultimate purposes of the human bodies to serve vegetal life, surrounding it by emitting carbon dioxide for the plants to breathe, and manuring them with human bodies after death? Did not flowers and trees finally consume man and, by combining his remains together with raw earth, water, air, and sunlight, transform and transmute human bodies into the most glorious forms and colors?" - Gustav Theodor Fechner (1839)

I really love how this makes me feel completely tiny in this world, yet full of purpose in this life.