No, I will NOT take off my clothes!

Today I had the BEST misunderstanding in class.

They both need to get outside for some fresh air!

Look at these 2 pictures in our book. We decided “Anna” on the left looks really hot (temperature, people!!), maybe stressed, possibly needing a drink of water. “Ben”, on the right, is clearly angry. (In fact, he reminds me of myself when our internet goes out and I’m interrupted in the middle of watching Grey’s Anatomy. Have you SEEN that show?! Man, it’s good! If I had no conviction for compassion I’d totally be Dr. Yang. She’s such a heartless witch and it. is. HI.larious.)

This unit was about making requests, offering suggestions, and…..whatever, stuff like that. Before we practice ourselves, the book gives examples and we have to decide which person, “Anna” or “Ben”, would be appropriate to say the phrase too. For example:

“Could I turn on the air conditioning for you?” – that one is clearly for “Anna”

“Would you like me to help you fix it?” – this one’s for “Ben”

Here’s a doozy: “Why don’t you take off some of your clothes?”….Now, this seems relatively reasonable for “Anna”. She’s wiping her forehead. Her face says, “Frick, it’s hot in here!” HOWEVER, she isn’t wearing her jacket/blazer anymore. What else is she supposed to take off exactly?!?! She’s already tried that one. Soooo………this is the 1st funny thing about class, to which my students got a good laugh.

I’m so glad there’s a 2nd misunderstanding, which revolves around this same phrase, to tell you about.

So then we practice using different phrases to ask for help and make requests…

Me: Kara, If you were “Anna” and needed to make a request, using “Could you please…”, what would you say?

Kara: Could you please give me a drink of water?

Me: Awesome, that’s a great idea! Ok, um, Vicky, if you were offering to do something for “Ben”, what would you say, using “Would you like me to…?”

Vicky: Would you like me to call IT?

Me: Yeah! Good one!….Mandy, what if “Ben” was making a request. What’s something he might ask for?

Mandy: Could you….Would you please…uh, um *scanning over page frantically, looking for something to say because she hasn’t been paying attention* Would you please take off some of your clothes?

Me: HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!! You want me to take off my clothes?! I will NOT! *jokingly pulling my cardigan together*

Class: LAUGHTER ALL AROUND!

Best part was, this all happened in my first class and I had to teach this same lesson 2 more times. Ooohh, it was good fun! I LOVE making my girls laugh!!

Hwa Nan Women’s (??) College

I’ve officially witnessed history being made. Hwa Nan Women’s College now has male students. What a sad day. All the tradition and history, and quite frankly, the only selling point of this private school, down the drain. As I cracked open my journal today, sipping my coffee, I turn to look out my window at the adjacent dorms to find a shirtless boy brushing his teeth. (Their sinks are out in the lanai…can you imagine when it gets cold? No thanks, Hwa Nan.) If I didn’t know any better I’d be dragging him and whatever girl outta there by their ear lobes! Lucky for him, he’s been properly admitted to this school and I can’t argue.

In other news, today was my 3rd (and final) 1st day of classes. It’s amazing what can happen in a day in China. Let’s review, shall we?

First off, how does this happen so quickly?? I don’t consider myself a neat freak, but I’ve been here for a 37 hrs, for cryin’ out loud!

Who needs a lesson plan?!

Next up we’ve got Ms. B in full force, high heels and all! I love it! My feet were killing me, but totally worth it! I can hear you already, “Who are you and what have you done with Emily??!!”

Can I be to blame if my girls can’t take any good frontal photo shots? I don’t know what to tell you.

I’m feeling good. I’ve got the girls smiling and laughing. I’ve already decided today was going to be an introduction day and “real” learning would start on Monday. Then this happens:

Me: Does anyone have any questions for me?

Student A: How old are you?

Me: Does anyone want to guess?

Student B: 25!

Me: I love you, but no.

Student C: 40!

Me: Get out.

I guessed I asked for it, but I gotta admit, it was hilarious.

I had a full morning and still half the afternoon to go. Everybody’s in for the 1:30pm class when I spot a shirt. I can’t make out what it says, but it’s hilarious, nonetheless. And of course, the girl has no idea what she’s wearing.

Then I told them that while English is really important and useful in life, sometimes it’s of no help. Yes, I want them to learn English, but I’d also like for them to be able to take away something a little deeper. So everyday I’ll try and come with something in Chinese that we’ll translate together.

1. I write the Chinese characters on the board.

2. They help me with the pinyin (English alphabet spelling of the sound of the characters)

3. They tell me different ideas of meanings in English.

4. I give them my translation.

5. We discuss what that means in our lives.

 

Here’s today’s:

The word of God never goes out void.

I did this with all 3 classes I had today. At the end of my 3rd class a girl walks up and shyly asks me if I’m a “chr-christ-christian”, spelling it out with her pointer finger. I tell her yes. “Me too” she replies with a big grin on her face. I give her a soft and subtle high-five, “Thanks God”, my soul sings. If even to be an encouragement just for this one little sister, I’ve found purpose of my being here.

Best 1st day of classes ever.

We proceeded to take pics with their names…none of which I can read in the photos. *backfire*

Cheese!!

Don’t be shy!

Yeah!

This is one of my bigger classes.

 

 

 

Work Ethic in China…

Unmatched.

I thought this was so funny. Actually, our girls in our Foreign Affairs Office work really hard, but I couldn’t resist. It is a true example of how laid back things are here at Hwa Nan though, which I’m very grateful for. Everyone deserves a siesta now and then.

How Do You Like the Food?

I’ve had countless people ask me, “So, how do you like the food?”, and if I were to answer that question, based solely on the handful of times (maybe a few more) I’ve eaten authentic Chinese cuisine, my answer would be, “I don’t. It’s worthless. I need MEAT and they got cartilage and bone on the table. I know they don’t like to waste, but where did the chicken’s breast or the pig’s butt go? I love chicken, but I don’t want a fried fetus. I love pork, but the skin off the face was actually the last thing I would’ve gone for, and I don’t believe you when you tell me it’ll make my skin glow. That’s ridiculous! Why do you people believe such nonsense?!”

See, the problem is Hwa Nan has a cook for all the foreign teachers. (I’m sorry, did I say problem? I meant, awesomest thing ever!…yeah, awesomest) That’s right, I’m completely spoiled. (She does our laundry too!) She makes the traditional jiaozi (dumplings) every once in a while, but it’s mostly a meat dish (REAL meat, none of this chicken foot or frog leg crap) and lot of veggies. I did a week long picture-taking of all my meals. (My breakfast is coffee. I think you get the idea of that one.)

Here we have chicken and leek stir-fry with bok choy, spinach, steamed pumpkin (this stuff is BOMB!) and purple potatoes. Dessert was strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

This is one of my favorite things Aunty makes. These chicken legs are so savory with an orange flavored sauce. She doesn’t use a lot of salt and thankfully, no MSG. We have our regular bok choy, little pumpkin pancakes from leftover pumpkin, and little red bean paste yummies. Yummies isn’t the real name, but they’re these doughy balls stuffed with sweet red bean paste, one of my favorite things these days.

This is ground pork with carrots, chives and probably something else. This is the only dish I eat rice with and drizzle soy sauce on. There’s spinach with garlic as the side and red bean baozi (steamed bun) and apple slices for dessert.

Oh, this one is good too! This is chopped pork (the quality pieces) in a bbq-tasting sauce, bok choy and squash. She also made fish, which is good, but it takes too long to eat with all the little bones so I usually eat a small piece. Tangerines for dessert.

This is the rest of the chicken, but I don’t know what parts. It’s still quality though because you can get a good amount of meat off that bone. Her cauliflower is the best, not too much salt, but tasty! We also had snap peas (is that what those are?) and homemade roasted/salted peanuts.

This is actually one of my least favorite dishes. Frozen chicken nuggest? Really Aunty? You’re so much better than that. The bok choy and steamed potato made up for it. The thing on the dessert plate, no idea what it is. It only has a Chinese name, of which I don’t know either, but it’s not good. That’s what I do know. It’s just boring, no real taste.

That’s the red bean paste in the center of the baozi. It’s so good!

Here’s more chopped pork with garlic, steamed broccoli and carrots. There’s a few leftover ground pork patties from the meal before. She never wastes anything, a true Chinese. Baozi and tangerines are for dessert.

Yeah, ok, here’s the patties she makes with the leftover ground pork. They don’t have ground beef here. We had the steamed pumpkin and bok choy with garlic and leek soup on the side. It seems monotonous, but it’s not. I can’t express how amazing it is to have a hot meal cooked for me 2 times a day, 6 days a week. I’m starving after 4 hours of teaching and it’s so nice to have that prepared for me.

Here’s the chicken stir-fry again with guilty pleasure, fried spring rolls. We rarely have these, but they are yummy when they come around again on the dinner table. A common peasant’s dish here is egg and tomato. It’s so simple but so good! Dragon fruit for dessert.

None of this is possible without the hard working hands behind it. This is a picture of me and Aunty at Christmas. She’s a real firecracker! What a doll!

I love her. She doesn't speak any English except for "ok!" and our communication is still strong.

And I thought China couldn’t get any funnier…

With China’s history of about 5000 years or so, there’s so much tradition rooted in the things they say. Chinese proverbs are very common here, but when translated into English they are, well, flat out hilarious. Case in point:

This sign is on the front of our administrative building here at Hwa Nan. I'm sure the Chinese proverb makes perfect sense, but in English, it simply had me laughing all the way to the bus stop.

It’s funny (literally) the things that can brighten any dreary overcast day.

5th (9/13/11)

Ni hao! (nee how)

I’m not even sure if that’s spelled right, but I tried. That’s the formal hello, but when you’re talking to a friend you’d actually say “Have you eaten today?” It’s b/c when someone came to visit you, it was probably a long trek and offering food was the best thing you can greet someone with. My girls are about a generation away from a starving population, especially in the rural areas that most come from, but b/c they DO come from rural areas, most have brothers and sisters. The one child law only applies to urban families and has a lot of exceptions anyways.

This weekend was a 3 day holiday celebrating the full moon. It’s called Mid Autumn Festival and it’s like the Thanksgiving of the East. Families come together, a lot of people go on tours (that’s the way asians vacation). You trade moon cakes with everyone. It’s kind of like giving fruitcake at Xmas. They’re the shape of the moon with different flavors. A group of 7 from Hwa Nan went to Wu Yi Shan, a mountain range northwest of Fuzhou. It’s a 6hr train ride there. It was a lot of fun but draining. We hiked all morning long on the mountains, had awesome meals, and had something planned past the sun going down. I didn’t even bother bringing make-up. It was a super active time. It was first time stepping out of Hwa Nan into real Chinese culture and it was an eye opener!

One thing that doesn’t exist in China is the concept of personal space. Like, at the train station, the doors open up to the platform exactly 30 minutes to the train leaving, all seats are assigned, you have 30 min to walk about 100 steps, but for some reason the mindset is “Hurry! Get through the gates as fast as you can. Knock people over if you have to, shove, push, we’re not gonna make it!!!” And it’s not considered rude, no one gets offended, I’m laughing at the madness the whole time. In fact, being polite in this situation will only get you pushed to the back of the crowd. Notice I didn’t say line. That’s because there are none. No lines, no rules, no order, no patience. For example: while in Wu Yi Shan, I went to the grocery store to buy a big jug of water. After waiting in line (what was I thinking, these people don’t do lines) I stepped forward to put my jug on the counter to be the next customer to pay. A girl walks right up in front of me, scoots my stuff back, places her things in front, gets rung up, pays, and leaves. I was like, “what just happened?” In America there would’ve been words, and had I known Chinese, there would’ve been words, but it’s like I’m still not sure of the culture just yet so I just let her go. HOWEVER, climbing down the mountain, I stopped to take a quick photo and it was at a place where you had to be in single file (or I guess you could jump, which IS faster, technically) going down these steps. This big older Chinese gentlemen (is that the right word?) growled in my ear….growled! I casually turned my head and said “Chill out, you’re alright!” Of course he didn’t understand a word I said, but I soon had the Taiwanese husband tell me the word for patience. I think he got the point. And even at breakfast, 6:30am we walk into the dining room for our continental breakfast and this swarm of what I could only assume were starving people flood to the buffet. No line, no rules, don’t care if you have rice porridge sloshing everywhere. Elbows up everyone! I just kept thinking “The food’s not going anywhere people! They’ll even refill it lest it run out!” It kinda makes you think as you walk in and see it, “Eh, wasn’t that hungry anyways.” I think that’s the most maddening thing about the culture. Why is everyone in a hurry? Why can’t they wait? But you know, only 15-20 yrs ago, had you not gotten your share and done whatever it took to get your share, you may have just starved. The history here is insane and is definately cause for a different mindset than I’m used to. So I’m working on thinking like Easterners. I’ll have to be careful when I go back to the States, though. it might get me into some serious trouble.

The other side of the coin is that that mindset doesn’t in the least bit reflect the true essence of the people here. Really! When you say a simple “Ni hao” a huge smile comes on their faces and if you have a question and are really trying to speak any Chinese or just communicate, for that matter, they will do anything and everything in their power to understand and give you an answer or help you out. The pushing and shoving is funny, but actually, they’re a very gentle people. I love saying hello to the babies and children we pass on the street, and the parents love for us to adore their children. They just couldn’t be any cuter. That’s one type of communication that crosses all boundaries, the love and adoration of children. It’s all said through your face and tone. You don’t have to actually understand the words.

Highlights of Wu Yi Shan trip:
– I ate pig’s feet for the first time. Didn’t know what it was before I ate it, wasn’t disgusting there’s just no real meat. It’s all bone, cartilage and fat. No thank you.
– My soup from the Muslim noodle place was only $1.50 and it was bomb! They make the noodles right there in the shop. It’s like watching a pizza guy toss his dough, but with the noodle dough, they just keep stretching it and doubling it and stretching and doubling it, slamming it against the table, and then they just toss the whole thing into a huge boiling pot of water and you order. No pork of course.
– I had my first experience with an asian toilet…on the train. Sorry, but they’re pretty disgusting. Great thigh workout though!
– My roommates got a lesson from the Emily’s School of Sleeptalking. haha They had no idea what excitement would come after I fell asleep. Just an FYI: I speak in full, very clear sentences.
– We got to see an opera/performance/show by the same guy who produced the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. It was downright incredible and I didn’t understand one word. Oh wait, that’s not true. I did pick up that it was about tea (cha).
– We hiked thru a crevice between two mountains that at one point was only 40cm!! The sign before you entered said “Do not attempt if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, overweight, etc.” It did not mention closterfobia. Even my backpack was scraping against the wall it was so tight. But it was short. One thing you have to remember in that cave, don’t look up with your mouth open, white bats live in there. haha!!! But don’t worry, you’re too busy looking where you’re going b/c it’s pitch black.
– I ate pig skin for the first time. No thank you, too chewy. Again, no real meat, but these people don’t waste anything, so there you go.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this experience the best I can in a short 4.5 mo. I kept thinking, “oh I’ve got to travel while I’m over in Asia and see as much as I can.” But then I thought, “You know, I lived in Hawaii for 6 yrs. It’s my favorite place to be, when I did travel, it was just to see family. So why is it that I feel this pressure to travel travel go go?” I realized through a Friend, “It’s not in the things you see, it’s in the relationships you invest in.” How could I forget. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but that’s not what kept me there on that rock. It’s the people. I’m in love with the people of Hawaii. And I’m in love with the girls at my school, and the people of China. So I’ve got to keep reminding myself of that. We have a big holiday break coming up Oct 1-7, and instead of skipping town (also too, I don’t have any money. That’ll decide real quick where you’re going…nowhere.) I’m gonna stay here. We’re located outside of the huge city of Fuzhou, but I’m gonna take that week to travel around Fuzhou. I’m gonna see the city and get to know the place I’ve been placed in. I do want to travel, but now’s not the time. I have a purpose here much greater than myself and I need to stick to that. I’m so thankful for this experience.

So, apparently there was some big protest (about what, I don’t know) on another campus and so all the campuses are on lockdown towards foreign teachers. So no more track as of last Friday. We should be getting written permission any day now. So, good thing I was gone this weekend, I took yesterday off, and this morning I used our small basketball courts as my workout area. I went into it with a frustrated attitude, wondering why the ONE thing I really enjoyed and used was taken away. I grumbled walking out to our tiny little concrete area, started working out, made up my routine as I went along. Finally, I just said “Whatever, if I have to adjust, so be it. I should be able to no problem, I’m just spoiled.” A few minutes later, this 1st yr student who had been studying a few steps away wanted to talk to me, I brushed her off, answered quickly. I soon felt really bad. LiyinHua was her name. I decided, “You know, she’s pretty brave to not speak a lick of English and try and talk to me.” She had already started mimicking my push-ups, running around the court area. So cute, yeah? So it was time for box jumps (thankfully there’s a huge ledge around the court area I could use) So I said, “Do you want to practice counting?” She didn’t understand but after much writing and drawing and body language she got it. So she counted my reps for me. (She loved it, go figure. Maybe she should be a trainer when she grows up, haha) I had to help her with 11 and up and major pronunciation, but she improved. I explained the sun and shade it makes when it’s behind the building. I explained how if I didn’t do something correctly, I must try again and for her to remember that when learning English. (Some of my push-ups I never came back up and they had to be redone.) I told her “Exercise is hard. English is hard. You must practice if you want to get better.”

Something you must understand: Hwa Nan takes all the girls who didn’t score high enough to get into an actual college or university. We have the most remedial of the remedial (well, in English anyways, don’t know about the other subjects). It’s quite amazing the low level they’re at as freshman (the girl I talked to this morning didn’t even understand “My name is/what’s your name?”), but even as 2nd and 3rd yr students. They don’t receive a degree when they’re finished here, but they can learn a trade, or if they want a degree, their credits will transfer to a university and maybe they’ll only need 1-2 more years. But without Hwa Nan, they wouldn’t have even had the chance at furthering their education. That was one thing I totally misunderstood before coming here.

So here’s my journal:
“I almsot just missed a magic moment because of my selfish attitude of “This is my time”. Shame on me. What just happened during that workout session is what this China trip is all about. It’s NOT my time. My life is NOT my own. I already gave it to Someone else to control. My Father LET me come here. I did nothing to deserve this opportunity, He provided everything for me. I’m here for a bigger purpose than selfish ambition. We all have a purpose larger than ourselves. What is it? We are but a tiny notch on the timeline of history. Will anyone know my name in 100 yrs?”

Sorry it’s so long. Love you guys!

Emily

First Email Update (9/1/11)

I’m copying and pasting all my emails from there to here so titles are a bit boring, but hang in there. Just trying to stay organized. Here goes ‘nothin!

Hey guys!

Well, this is my first email update from my official household. It’s awesome. I have a whole 1 bedroom to myself! I’m sending it out to a ton of people, but if I don’t hear back I’ll just keep you from being annoyed from my emails, no worries…and there were so many people, I won’t even notice.

So after 33 hrs of travel, I’m here in Fuzhou. There was a typhoon here just a few days ago so it’s SUPER foggy still. Like, San Fran fog, but they were happy about it b/c if it wasn’t foggy, it’d be really hot. Gew! We got to campus from the airport around 6:30. I’m so glad for my life after seeing the way people drive here. Pretty hilarious. There’s lines, but might as well be none, tons of honking, and every sort of transportation possible…mixed, just going around one another. madness.

I forgot to download a VPN before I entered China, which is this thing that helps secure my internet, totally legal, and allows me to use all social networking sites. So, no FB. Crazy, like totally shut down, doesn’t allow the page to even show up, and it’s the same for VPN websites. Crazy, these guys here. They see and hear every word typed and spoken so please be mindful in your emails. But so far, just from the car ride over, visiting with one of the girls, I’m in love. I’m super stoked to learn as much Chinese as possible, and mentor these girls through teaching English.

I did get to travel all this way with a couple that teaches here every fall. In fact, I trained them at 24 Hr, and they were the ones that proposed the whole idea. They’ve been coming here since 2004, a retired couple. The great great aunt of Gordon Trimble (husband) was one of the ladies that opened up Hwa Nan Women’s College. Pretty cool. They’ve been a real joy to travel with and quite helpful as they’ve traveled this path many times.

I don’t have much else. I’ve only been here for about 3 hrs, but wanted to send something out as I don’t have access to FB, which is usually the easiest form of communication to the masses, especially since those who don’t care can just skip past me. I also realize my grammar and English are horrendous in this so please forgive me. I’ll clean it up when I have more time and…while I’m teaching English to my students. haha

Let me know how life is. I’d love to hear back. I can already tell it’s gonna get pretty lonely here sometimes, but with my music and journal, I’ll also be able to turn my room into a daily meditating closet. I sure love you guys, and am so thankful to have family in so many parts of the world. If you reply, spare others and don’t hit “reply all”. Thanks guys!

Emily