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.

Tube Technology!

"Chop, chop, let's go!"

(here's the studio version...

The second decree: no more pollution, no more car exhaust,
Or ocean dumpage. From now on, we will travel in tubes!

We'll lead as Two Kings, oh, yes,
We'll f**kin' lead as Two Kings.

Get the scientists working on the tube technology, immediately.
(Tube technology.) Chop, chop, let's go.

Ok anyway, as I was trying my best to book a train ticket from Haikou to Beijing for the upcoming Summer break on China's train website that does not yet have an English version, I decided to use Google's translation site, and was surprised at one of the translations...

A train route from "Beijing to Northern California" ???

What?! I didn't realize there was a speed train from China to the USA!

I figured it was a poor translation, but it still made me curious if such a concept had ever been toyed with, so off to Google I went.

And found this interesting article - Here are a few images of TUBE TECHNOLOGY! (borrowed from the article)...

How amazing will it be when we can travel in tubes?! Real live TUBES! I hope I'm still alive when super-high-speed-tube-travel-time (SHSTTT) comes.

Ok, back to translating this dang website. Crossing my fingers I actually end up in Beijing and do not accidentally purchase a ticket to Tibet.

Which reminds of another train trip I do hope to take someday!... - They even give you oxygen to prevent altitude sickness. Neato.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who's taking care of the modern male???

While out on a long walk yesterday, I saw two signs on buildings that made me stop and do a double-take...

1) Hainan Modern Male Hospital

2) Healthcare Sex Store Of Love

#1 made me wonder the obvious things like, what if you're more of a traditional male, is this hospital not for you? Do you have to be a little bit hip, a little bit metro, a little bit of a jaunty man-about-town? Homo masculinus modernus. And I'm guessing no women allowed?

And #2, well, probably too many questions to list here.


I bought this DVD the other day, not having heard of the movie beforehand. I just finished watching it and loved every minute of it. And now I want to move the "work on a dude ranch" item up to the top of my bucket list.

My grandpa had horses, so I was lucky enough to get to be around them and ride them as a kid. But I've only ridden as an adult a few times since then. I miss being around them.

And now I need to see the movie The Horse Whisperer. Apparently Buck assisted with the movie and is one of the real horse whisperers.

Here's the movie's website, which has another version of the trailer. The original music is beautiful as well.

Adagio For Strings

I took advantage of this long holiday weekend to completely mess up my sleep schedule. It's one of those little joys in life. When you're so used to a schedule of getting up really early and going to bed early, that it becomes a weird little thrill to stay up way too late and try to sleep late. No matter how hard I try, I am rarely able to sleep past 8am on a weekend, no matter how little sleep I've had.

Today was one of those days. I stayed up until 4am but still couldn't sleep in past 8am, darnit. I woke up and my brain went into insta-overdrive and I couldn't quiet it down again, so I gave in and got up and on with my day. And so of course, around 5:30pm today, it was nap time. I fired up the iTunes and queued up one of my most favorite of recent downloads, a top 100 list of classical compositions.

I drifted happily and peacefully to sleep somewhere in the middle of the first track, Gluck's "Orfeo Ed Euridice" and woke up in the middle of the 19th track, Bach's "Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude" which totaled somewhere around 2 hours of blissful napping, ahhh.

The next track is what inspired this post. I had heard it many times before, but today it seemed to really strike me as one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I've ever heard. Samuel Barber's "Adagio For Strings"

I began to wonder when it was composed and made a guess of somewhere in the late 19th century before consulting Google (what did we ever do before the Internet and search engines?).

And I was surprised to find that this piece was composed in 1936, so recently! So then I started Googling more to find out more about the piece and the composer, and decided to post some of the things I dug up. Really, most of this is easily found within the first few pages of a Google search, so it wasn't deep diggin'...but I really enjoyed reading more about a piece of work that has been so inspiring to contemporary artists such as film directors, musicians and writers, among many others no doubt.

This performance seems to be one of the most popular, probably because of its connection with September 11. Original broadcast from the Albert Hall in London September 15 2001. Leonard Slatkin conducts the BBC Orchestra.

Then I stumbled onto this interesting essay that I'm still making my way through...

The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"

And then found this NPR story on All Things Considered... The Impact of Barber's 'Adagio for Strings'

Of course no Internet-search-&-click-o-rama would be complete without at least glancing through a Wikipedia article. David Lynch's 1980 Oscar-nominated film The Elephant Man, Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film Platoon, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Oscar-nominated 2001 film Amélie are just a few of the movies that feature this composition (a few of my all-time favorites!) There's a longer list in the article, including TV shows and video games.

Then things got even more surprising. I loved stumbling onto the discovery that Adagio For Strings has been remixed so often, this being one of the most popular mixes (of course it's popular, it's Tiësto for crying out loud), Tiësto - Adagio For Strings...

There are countless trance mixes of the piece out there. I enjoyed checking out quite a few of them on YouTube, with this being another of the more popular ones - William Orbit - Adagio For Strings (Ferry Corsten Mix).

Ohhh and then this nice little surprise. Who doesn't love a beautiful female electric violinist in a sequin dress and rockstar lighting?...Electric Violinist Linzi Stoppard Rocks Adagio For Strings (Electric Violin Remix)

After getting sucked into and lost in at least an hour of remixes and other amazingly unique renditions and interpretations of Adagio For Strings, I noticed the piece appearing in several Internet lists and articles labeled 'saddest music of all time' which of course set me off on another click tangent...

Here: The Saddest Music In The World: 6 Tunes To Make You Teary-Eyed

and here: Barber’s Adagio: The Saddest Piece Ever?

Which reminded me about this movie I saw a few years back (very unique and entertaining), The Saddest Music in the World...

These are the times I'm very thankful to have been born when I was. I get to remember and reminisce about the pre-WWW times of my youth, and get to spend the majority of my life endlessly feeding my curiosities (and easily-sidetracked nature), and enjoying all of the post-WWW mind-expanding perks. Thank you, Internet, and all of you people who feel compelled to put this stuff out there.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Now that I've learned how to type in Chinese on my mac, behold, my first sentence!


"I love eggplant because it's so delicious!"

But doesn't Chinese text make everything seem more profound?

On a less profound note, I've been using QQ (the big instant messaging platform here in China) to practice typing and chatting in Chinese. It's a nice addition to the whole language learning process. Helps mix things up to prevent boredom, and I get a feel for how people my age really speak/chat.

Most of my conversations in day-to-day life outside of the house are with much older people, so it's been helpful to have these chats with people my own age. There's definitely some differences in the language usage...differences in generational usage, and difference between speaking face to face and online. Pretty similar to how we use English in these ways.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chinglish T-Shirts

I went shopping last month and couldn't resist buying this t-shirt...

Actually, I'm wearing it right now as I type this (I only wear it in the privacy of my home). And yes, you are reading correctly. The shirt says "SYSTEM OF A 520cc" "WHEN SOME BODY ANNYS YOU BUT IT ONLY TAKES8 MUSCUES"

What reminded me to post this gem was this post over at the talesfromhebei blog. She's an expat in a province in northern China. You have got to see the photos she took. Too funny.

Six Months

As I sit down to write this, it has been exactly six months to the hour that I boarded a plane to leave behind my life in the states.

I know that I'm not quite ready to write about the events, thoughts and emotions that led up to making the decision to leave. I think about it often, and it all seems so simple sometimes and so complex at other times, that I don't think any amount of writing about it will ever feel right. The whole thing is slowly becoming one of those things that's like a secret little gift to myself.

No longer in my twenties, I sometimes feel like I've done this a bit late in my life. And most times I feel so thankful I did it when I did. I talked myself out of it with countless excuses for over ten years. Looking back at those ten years, they were pretty freaking amazing. I'll save that for another post.

I have had a lot of uninterrupted time with myself these past six months, very few distractions, and a whole lot of insights gained, and lots more to come I'm sure.

You know how we go through life already carrying a big 'ol suitcase of idioms, cliches and just all-around cultural and social tidbits that are just generally accepted? And so we say yeah, yeah, yeah I know, I know. But then something happens, like a frying pan against the skull, where you think OK, I thought I knew it then, but I really know it now.

Or it's like wearing a raincoat made of all that stuff, and you can feel the weight of the rain against the coat to let you know something's happening, but you're still shielded from it by that nice slick coat. But in your guts you know how good a rain storm against your skin will feel, but you keep wearing that coat. Until one rainy day...

Anyway, the number one thing I'm taking away from these last six months, is I'm never again ignoring my guts. They know more than my brains ever did or ever will.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Don't We Just Dance

Speaking of two-steppin', this is one of my favorites to dance to...

Tell me you don't love this song. Dare ya.

Grave of the Fireflies

On this extremely gloomy, rainy afternoon, I thought hey, what better way to spend it than lounging around indoors watching the saddest movie of all time. Ok maybe not the saddest of all time, but damn. Here's a trailer for Grave of the Fireflies, "A tragic film covering a young boy and his little sister's struggle to survive in Japan during World War II"...

Another reminder of what a relatively easy, pain-free life I've been fortunate to live.

Creature in My Ceiling

There's an unidentified creature living in my bathroom ceiling.

I started hearing strange noises up there last week. It sounds as if something is scurrying as soon as it hears me approach the bathroom door. Sometimes it sounds thumpy, sometimes scurry-y, and allthetimes creepy.

I haven't shared too many of the creepy bug experiences I've had living here in this apartment on my blog, just Facebook mostly. And so far I've only had to come face to face with huge flying cockroaches (or "cockmonsters" as my good friend coined them), a friendly little gecko (who passed away recently), and swarms upon swarms of ants that I've so bravely battled with my detachable shower head.

But this creature in the ceiling is both less creepy AND more creepy than the other creatures named above, precisely because it is unidentified.

Less creepy because I have an amazing sense of out-of-sight-out-of-mindedness (that's my positive spin on my terrible short-term memory anyway)...

And more creepy because I don't know what exactly is lurking up there, waiting to pounce on my head as soon as I sit on the toilet below.

My bathroom walls/ceiling is creepy in itself. It's a bunch of broken ceramic tile meeting a bunch of broken ceiling tile, with big gaping holes leading to the creepy darkness above. Don't get me wrong, not a day goes by where I'm not consciously thanking the universe for my current situation -- living rent-free in a new country -- but this bathroom is not my favorite place to hang out.

At the risk of sounding completely insane to my neighbors who may be listening, I have started yelling into the bathroom as I approach it, because the creature seems to scurry at the sound of my voice. And I would much rather it scurry before I actually enter the bathroom and have a seat...







I've yelled much stranger things at my ceiling but I think this is plenty enough to share.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Winds of the Wasteland

It's been especially rainy here in Haikou these past few days, so what better excuse to live it up on a Saturday night by staying in and watching an old black-and-white western?

Sometimes I wonder whether I truly am a 34 year old woman, or a 75 year old man.

This preview, in all its hilarity and awesomeness, is in color...

You can watch the entire 55-minute movie on Hulu or on YouTube.

I'm really starting to love old westerns. I guess I've always had a soft spot in my heart for anything to do with cowboys, the old west, the pioneering spirit, cowboy songs and poetry, sitting around campfires, and I suppose loving camping and playing the harmonica sort of goes hand in hand with all that. In hindsight it's no wonder I ventured west to California at 18 and then finally after several years found my way to live in Colorado for a spell. (spell, hee hee)

Maybe I'm turning into my grandparents and parents. My mom's mom played harmonica, my dad played (still plays? I'll have to ask) harmonica and loves western novels and movies, and we all grew up camping. One of my favorite things in the entire world is when my Aunt Rhonda would play her guitar and sing Me and Bobby McGee around the campfire. Which probably led in part to my love of (obsession with?) folk music.

In one lifetime I'm sure I was a cowboy, and in another a beatnik. Living in Colorado got me reconnected with my love of cowboy boots and country music (sshhh) ... I even learned how to 2-step, and friends and I went two-steppin' quite often. Someday I'm going to write an ultra-cheesy memoir about all of these different lifetimes.

I wonder if it's ok to title it Winds of the Wasteland? For some reason I really like that title.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beware of octostarfish, great white eels, and mantajellyrays!

I had an embarrassing brain fart this week. One of my 6yr-old students walked up to me one morning waving a piece of paper very excitedly to show me her drawings. They were really good drawings of a bunch of fish and other sea animals. One of them was particularly good, and I pointed to it and was about to say what it was, but completely blanked…so I said "ooh this is a beautiful sea...uhhh"... "sea dragon!" (what?!) She gave me a really confused look, looked me square in the eyes and said matter-of-factly..."seahorse". How could I have blanked on seahorse??! What the hell is a sea dragon?! And my CHINESE student had to correct MY English. How embarrassing. I get the worst ESL teacher in the world award.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Planning my Summer 2012 vacation

I think I'm starting to wrap my head around the idea of living a teacher's schedule for the next however-many-years. I've never really planned for vacations before, having worked in very busy and deadliney business and IT jobs for so many years, so I'm going to take a stab at planning a long vacation for this Summer break.

Until now, I think the longest vacation I've ever taken has been about 10 days, and those 10 days sure did seem luxurious. I was just informed that I will have about 6 weeks off from mid-July until end of August. WHAT?! Six weeks?? ::faint::

Here is my very tentative plan:

Beijing, China
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Battambang, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Don Det, Laos
Kratie, Cambodia

Here's an overview snapshot of the Cambodia/Laos part of the trip, which is basically one big loop...

I currently live in Haikou, Hainan Province, China... way up there in the upper righthand corner of the map. It's an island and is the southernmost province in China.

Express Train from Haikou to Beijing to visit a long-time friend. I have been promising my friend that I will visit for the past 4-ish years since he moved there from the US, and this is the perfect opportunity. I'm finally in China! If this Summer doesn't work out, maybe I can head up there for Spring Festival in January during the other school break. I would like to try the express train instead of flying. Yes it will be uncomfortable and smelly, and no doubt my feet will get spit on and I may even get bucket-o-noodles spilled on me, but it's part of the adventure. I love trains, and I'll get a superfast 31-hour tour of China from wayyy south to wayyy north via little train window. And I've done so much flying over the past couple of years for work that I'm looking forward to other modes of transportation.

Fly from Beijing to Phnom Penh and probably stay the night. May not have time to see much of the city. It's funny how things work out, as this was the first place I researched teaching ESL until deciding to job hunt in China. It'll be nice to catch a glimpse and feel of the city to see if I may like it for future living/teaching gigs.

Bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, and am excited for it to become a reality. Ten hours of meditation a day for ten days, while observing a 'noble silence' which means no speaking or communication of any type. No computers, cell phones, writing journals, no distractions of any kind. This is the main purpose of the trip to Cambodia.

Bus from Battambang to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor temples. I am choosing to visit the temples after the meditation course instead of before, since I think it will be a very special way to end the course, spending two days exploring these amazing temples and the surrounding nature.

Bus from Siem Reap to the Laotian border and then hop a boat to Don Det, Laos. Don Det is part of the Si Phan Don (The 4000 Islands), a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River. It's a very chill place to lay in hammocks for maybe 5-6 days while exploring the surrounding islands and scenery by foot and bicycle. Apparently the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia is within a 45 minute bike ride of Don Det. Can't wait. I was originally thinking of spending the chill time in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, which is supposed to be a pretty great place to relax, but maybe I'll save that for a future trip. After reading a lot of reviews it seems to be more touristy and more of a backpacker party hangout than Don Det. But who knows...after 100 hours of meditation and complete silence, maybe I'll be ready to party with some crazy backpackers. This may be a game-day decision.

Boat ride from Don Det, Laos to Kratie, Cambodia down the Mekong River, which is probably as far as I should attempt to travel in a day. I keep reading that the full trip from Don Det to Phnom Penh is aggressive for a single day, so breaking it into two days by staying in Kratie is the smart way to go. Boating down the Mekong, what?! Doesn't sound quite real yet.

Bus from Kratie to Phnom Penh to catch a flight back to Haikou. Again, I doubt this leaves much time to explore Phnom Penh, but we'll see.

This leaves roughly 2 days to settle back in Haikou before going back to work. That first week back to work isn't really 'work' since all of us teachers arrive a week before the students to just sort of get classrooms ready, so I don't feel the need to allow too much chill-at-home time at the end of the trip.

So that's the tentative plan for now. Vacation starts a month from today! I've never really been a big planner. I really like this rough outline, but will probably leave plenty of room for spontaneity. This is all too surreal. Really feeling extremely fortunate lately,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spokey Dokey

Something to aspire to...

This is one of the best songs from one of the best soundtracks from one of the best movies of all time. And someone was awesome enough to tab this out!

What a gas!

Days like today make me laugh remembering my previous jobs as software consultant, having meetings with bigwigs, dressing fancy and talking fancy.....

when the highlights of my workday today were getting to color a picture of grapes with a purple crayon, and a little boy farting in my face...intentionally. I couldn't stop laughing (I don't think I have a 'discipline' bone in my body).

I suppose I was asking for it...

Some of the kids were still getting changed into clean clothes after their morning exercise and play time out on the playground. One of my 6-yr-olds, Peter, came up to me before class started as I was sitting talking with the Chinese English teacher, and he had his shirt off and started laughing and waving it in front of my face, because he's a goofball like that. And I made a silly face, waved my hand in front of my nose and said "whoo! smelly!" because it was his playground shirt and I was teasing him all in good fun.

He cracked up laughing and then gave me a look that seemed to say, "If you think THAT'S smelly, check this!..."

And then he turned around, bent over, and farted. And because I was already sitting in one of the tiny kindergarten chairs, his butt was right at face level, not even a foot away.

First of all, why is it that kids can magically fart at will?

And secondly, why do I still laugh at such things??

I feel like I'm a decent teacher and try to be a decent mentor... but 'mature role model'? Guess I need to work on that. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Exploring Haikou

I have been making an effort to get out and explore the city a bit more lately. And since the only camera I have is my iPhone, and I can never seem to capture very good cityscapes, here are a few nice ones I stole borrowed from Haikou's Wikipedia page...

Today I decided to check out another of Haikou's big public parks. I have visited Evergreen Park several times, which is a very beautiful and spacious park right on the ocean. It has a lot of open grassy areas and lots of pathways for walking or riding bikes. It also has an amusement park and some outdoor exercise equipment. But today I wanted to check out a new park, so I searched around online and found a list of Haikou's major parks.

I chose Golden Bull Mountain Ridge Park (金牛岭公园: Jīnniú lǐng gōngyuán) because it is fairly large with lots of tree coverage, a cemetery, a zoo and other interesting things to see. I didn't end up going to the zoo, but I did manage to walk a couple of hours along all of the beautiful paths through the trees. I figured the park would be much busier with it being a Sunday and all, but it was so peaceful, and the day couldn't have been more beautiful. I expected the usual afternoon rains to come rolling through in the middle of the visit, but I lucked out and the skies were bright blue with little poofy clouds rippling across the sky. Here are a couple of pics from my visit...

The rest of the pics are up on Flickr here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

i lost my run . com

I mapped a 10 mile run using, was pretty confident I could stick to the route, but managed to get lost about half way through it.

Help. I think I'm lost. And this is not a flattering angle.

I'm not sure where I ended up but thank goodness I brought enough cash along for a cab ride home. I magically hailed a cab that had the AC on full blast, and the cabbie was super friendly and chatty (most of them have seemed hesitant to try talking with a foreigner even when I've initiated conversation), and I got home just before the afternoon rains hit. Even though I lost my run, it turned out not so bad...even got to see new parts of the city.

This is right about where I realized I was lost.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

5 Little Monkeys

I know I'm pretty new to this whole teaching thing, but as of today I may be the worst teacher in the world.

I was teaching my youngest classes (the 3yr-olds) the 5 Little Monkeys song, and I selected 5 little munchkins to come to the front of the class so we could act it out since they are such little hams already. And I taught them that when we sing "1 fell off and bumped his head" they are supposed to squat down and yell "OUCH!" but they took it a step further.....they thought it was funny to fall to the ground very dramatically and actually bang their heads on the tile floor! And then yell OUCH HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Omg I about died, both of laughter and I quickly asked the Chinese teacher to explain to them not to actually hit their heads. I can just picture them going home and saying "mommy, look what my English teacher taught me today" ::smashing head motions:: Yikes.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Popup Chinese

This is my new favorite site for learning Chinese...

Well, it's new to me anyway...the site itself has been around for years and they have a ton of content. I love that all of their podcasts are free to listen to, and if you pay for the annual membership, you get all of the transcripts and can download the podcasts. So far I have been listening to the "Absolute Beginner" podcasts online for free and will likely purchase a membership once I progress to the more challenging levels.

The hosts of the podcasts provide real-life scenarios and conversations, and then break them down line by line. Not only am I learning a lot of practical Chinese very quickly, I'm learning a lot more about the culture and how people really speak.

Monday, June 4, 2012

KTV on a school night

One of my coworkers invited me out to karaoke with her friends last night, and it was 8pm and I was already contemplating konking out for the night. At first I thought, ooh hmm errr on a school night? ::pause:: YES PLEASE! (I think as I inch closer to 35 I'm rebelling more and more against logic).

I sang worse than usual, but I did get to try out my very first Chinese song! Success! And then I introduced China to a little Shania Twain ("Any Man of Mine") and Kanye West/Estelle ("American Boy") to show them some country twang and raps, you know, show them how diverse we are. After countless Chinese love ballads, it was much needed, no matter how terrible it sounded.

And here are a couple of videos of my coworker and her friends singing...

Afternoon time with my C.A.G. (Chinese Adopted Grandma)

Just returned from a mid-day run (not the smartest time to be outside here) and stopped at the hole-in-the-wall place that serves yummy iced tea drinks, and then plopped down on a rock outside my building to cool off a bit. The old lady neighbor who fed me mangoes the other night sat and chatted with me awhile and then invited me into the security booth to sit under the fan because she said I was "too red", hehe so sweet!

Then she read me some newspaper articles, not that I could understand much of it. And she took time to teach me several of the Chinese characters. Then she lectured me on being outside in the sun when I should be napping. Then she noticed my iced tea drink was empty, just a cup of ice at that point, and she grabbed it out of my hands and chucked it out of the booth onto the sidewalk. Guess that's what we do with trash here.

You know how we say "thank you" for everything?...and everyone here tells me "stop saying thank you!"...well I have the same problem about litter, I just can't do it. So, trying not to insult her kind gesture (of trying to get rid of my trash for me) I went and picked up the cup and then put it on my forehead and joked with her that I need the ice so that I can stop being so red. I'm glad she laughed and didn't get offended.

Then she shooed me away to go take a nap.

Nearly everyone you run into here will ask you "have you eaten?" and "have you napped?" and if you answer "no" or "not yet" you are punished with stern "tsk tsk tsk" noises and concerned looks. It's kinda hard not to fall in love with a place that punishes NOT eating and napping all the time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Diggin' to China

I posted this to Facebook last week...

I had a very doofus-y moment this morning. I walked over to some kids during recess where they were digging a very deep hole in the sandbox area, and the words were alllllllmost out of my mouth before I stopped myself... "If you keep digging, you'll reach China!" Doh! I can be such a moron. And now I wonder, do people in China say, "If you keep digging, you'll reach America!" ??? I'll ask around.

So today I finally remembered to get to the bottom of this…(get it?)...

So I asked my Chinese coworker teachers today if they say anything when the kids are digging really deep holes, and told them in America we say "If you keep digging, you'll dig all the way to China!"... They just looked at me funny, so I asked them a couple of different ways and they said, "Yes, I understand what you mean" and I was like and? well?... Turns out they don't say such silly things. If I had to guess, maybe they are more practical and simply say, "If you keep digging, you'll dig all the way to the bottom of the sandbox." Oh well.

Not a very exciting conclusion to this mystery, sorry folks.

Marathon #5, here we come (I hope!)

Well, they say if you come up with a goal you want to achieve, make it public and you're more likely to stick to it. We'll see! My foot finally seems healed and feeling good (after partially tearing a ligament or something in there about 6 weeks ago), so today I started a marathon training program with the goal being the 2012 Hainan DanZhou (pronounced like "Don Joe") International Marathon. Probably not the smartest thing to do after hurting your foot, but hey, you only live once :)

This will be my 5th and (possibly) final marathon, making it a nice round number. The last one I ran was in 2008 in Scotland, so I have some serious training to do to get back into running shape. I have exactly 6 months to train, and I mapped out my training runs between now and then, and it works out better than expected. It's more aggressive than the schedule we had with the LA Leggers (a marathon training organization based in Los Angeles) because I'm starting 6 months ahead instead of 8-ish months ahead, so I hope I can hack it. Dealing with this heat and humidity will probably be the biggest challenge.

I have no idea what finish time to aim for this time around since I'm running in completely different weather, and starting out in worse shape than before, so maybe after several weeks of training I'll try to come up with a time goal. My goal right now is to finish the race...alive, and hopefully cry-laughing like those previous races.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Don't stand on ceremony

I never realized how difficult it can be to explain English idioms until lately. Now that I'm practicing Chinese with people and helping them learn English as well, a few common sayings have rolled off the tongue, and it's funny to think that I've never had to explain them until now.

Today it was "You only live once!"

I didn't sleep much last night, woke up too early, and it's been a long, rainy, nappy kind of Saturday (ahhh heaven). So I decided to study some Chinese, and figured hey, I know what this calls for… Coffee! (any excuse, really).

So I am drinking coffee at 4:30pm and chatting with a new friend on QQ (China's most popular instant messaging service). He asked what I'm up to and I said drinking coffee and studying Chinese, and he replied, "You shouldn't drink coffee so late."

It's very common for people here to tell each other what they should and should not be doing. It's usually a pretty friendly gesture, and not a bossy/jerk-y thing. I've mostly gotten used to this, but being kind of a stubbornly independent person, it still feels a little strange at times.

So I tried to explain that since I have to go to bed early most nights due to needing 100% of my energy for wrangling adorably wild little munchkin monsters all morning, I like taking at least one weekend day/night and screwing it up completely. And then I said, "You only live once!"

He then asked me what it means. And I tried to explain it in simple English, well, at least what it means to me anyway...

It means, life is a gift and we only get one chance to live it, so don't waste time worrying about what everyone thinks you SHOULD be doing… do what makes you happy.

So whenever you are doing something that makes you happy, but maybe other people don't think it's very smart or wise, you say "You only live once!"

Even after I explained it, I get the sense that it doesn't quite fit well here. I've made several acquaintances who are younger than I am, and we talk about our cultures, customs, etc. And most of them tell me how they don't like the social and family pressures. For example, to be extremely thin and to find a husband well before you reach 30. Some of my Chinese teacher coworkers are nearing 30, and they seem to really enjoy being single, having a job and being independent, but then they talk about needing to find a husband soon. And when they speak about it, none of them have seemed very excited, and a couple have even seemed worried or anxious. The vibe is usually one of 'well, I don't necessarily like it, but that's what I have to do.' I nearly have to bite my tongue because I recognize that our cultures are wildly different, and it's not my place to interject my own thoughts/values into such a personal feeling. I would never give outright advice on such a thing, I'm just not an advice-giver, but I have to fight the urge to even explain how I feel about it for my own self in the context of just having a friendly conversation on the matter. When really I want to grab them, give them a huge bear hug and then shake them by the shoulders and say "You can do whatever you want with your life, it's yours! Run, be free!" hehe

But I'm 34, divorced, no kids, and I love Oreo cookies. I'm no poster child for the Chinese dream, or the American dream for that matter. So I keep quiet, and take it all in. :)

So anyway, it's a lot of fun trying to explain English idioms, because it makes me stop and really give thought to what they mean, since they have so easily rolled off the tongue my entire life, without any thought at all. And I'm learning some Chinese idioms as well, and they are as foreign to me as the English ones probably are to them.

This week on my audio lessons I listen to, I learned bié kèqì (别客气) which sounds like "bee-yeh kuh chee" which in Chinese means "Don't stand on ceremony." It is sometimes a response when someone says "thank you" so I think it's similar to our response of "you're welcome."

But I guess it means a little more, like "We are all friends, so please don't mention it." And yesterday at our school lunch, which was a slightly more formal or organized event and a treat to us teachers from the school, someone stood for a toast and said "bié kèqì" and everyone cheersed (is that how you spell cheersed?). I remembered hearing the phrase in my Chinese audio lesson, so I took the opportunity to ask my Chinese coworker who speaks really good English to explain what it means in more depth. And she said it can also mean "make yourself at home, we are all good friends."

My Chinese tutor also taught me some curse words and phrases, but I'll spare you. I'm trying to forget them so I don't accidentally use them since I'm still in the phase where I mix up all the vocabulary I have floating around in a jumbled blob in my brain.

I feel like I've advanced in my Chinese speaking from the "baby stage" to the "caveman stage"… I doubt these are real, documented stages in language learning, but it's the best way I've found to describe how I sound when speaking Chinese. I used to sound like a baby, just making a bunch of sounds that don't really make sense at all, all of the words mixed up in the wrong order, wrong words, no context, no sense. Kind of like when I try to tell someone "Nice to see you" and I accidentally say "I want to see good." Now I feel like I've advanced to the stage where I have more context and the words are mostly in the right order, but I still sound like "Me like coffee. You would like with me go drink?"

Me like learn Chinese. ::grunt::

Friday, June 1, 2012

I think I have a new Chinese niece as of today

Today was awesome and weird and more awesome. The awesome: Sickeningly sweet and cute Children's Day performances by the munchkins. Being treated to lunch by the school, where I got to sit with my coworkers and actually take part in the gossip and jokes, even when everyone is speaking 100 miles per hour. All this studying is paying off!

Then I was treated to dinner by a new friend I made last week at the fruit vendor as we were each buying bananas. It's funny, no one lets me pay for anything, maybe because I'm a guest in their country? I always try, but they never let me, and no one lets me say "Thank You" almost seems like I'm kind of insulting them by saying "thank you" so often. But it's so ingrained in us Americans that I don't think I'll ever be able to break the habit. I've already told a couple of people "I don't think I can stop saying it...can you try to program yourself to not hear it?"

The weird: Aside from the unbreakable "thank you" habit, I think I'm doing pretty well with going-with-the-flow here and maintaining an open mind and positive/optimistic outlook about absorbing the culture. It's an amazing place and so completely different than I ever imagined or expected, but here are a few things that keep making me do a double-take, like "what the?!"...

When I meet someone new (anyone and everyone), the first questions they ask me within mere minutes of saying 'hello' are, "Are you married?" "Why not?" "Don't you want kids?" "Do you want to stay in Hainan a long time?" "You want us to find you a Chinese husband?" and "What's your salary?" And if we chat or hang out for awhile, they immediately ask if they can see my apartment. This one is so bizarre, but people tell me that's just how it is here.

Tonight after dinner I stood chatting with some of my neighbors. One is an older woman who I see and chat with everyday, and she introduced me to her daughter and granddaughter. After chatting awhile, they invited themselves to my apartment, so I said sure, and took them to see my place. This is the 3rd time I've let new acquaintances into my apartment after they've invited themselves over, and the first thing they've all done is walk right in and give themselves a tour of the entire place, bathroom, bedroom, the whole shebang. I guess that's the culture, but it still throws me for a loop. A couple people have told me there's no word in the Chinese language for "privacy" and now it's starting to make sense. They've all invited me to their places too, but I don't think I'll ever be able to give myself the free tour.

Then they invited me to their apartment which is a few floors up from mine, and off we went. They sat me down, peeled me a mango, handed it to me and all 3 of them stared at me while I ate it. Their faces were about a foot away from my face almost the entire time I ate the super messy, juicy mango. No, not awkward at all. Uhh.

The more awesome: Then they showed me a stack of the granddaughter's color drawings, which were actually pretty damn amazing for a 7-yr-old. I wish I could frame them and hang them in my place. Then grandma loaded up a bag of all kinds of goodies for me, like lots of mangoes, lychees, homemade breakfast buns, and homemade treats of some sort that smell really good. We chatted for awhile and I excused myself so the granddaughter could go to bed. They all saw me to the door and grandma told me that I'm the granddaughter's "auntie" now. Looks like my family just grew a bit larger. Except I'm learning that here when someone says "auntie" it means something like "that old unmarried woman with no kids" ... but at least it's not said in a derogatory tone. :)