Monday, March 31, 2008

On the Brink of Changing History

Tonight I talked with a Chinese man who works for the L'Oreal company. His job has allowed him to travel to France and the US which was slightly surprising. I don't meet to many Chinese people who have traveled outside of China. Anyways, he was telling me about the first time he visited the States. He went to Little Rock, Arkansas (what a bummer first impression!) for a training. He arrived in the US on September 10,2001. The next day he sat in utter confusion because he did not know enough English to understand what had happened. It was not until his wife called from China until he knew what had just happened. September 11.

Can you imagine being in his shoes? A foreigner who speaks little to none of the language around him... surrounded by the misery and outrage of something so tragic.... Over the next few days, he got to experience what sorrow of a great nation felt like. He wept with the Americans. He came back to his home and shared with his family what he saw. He was on the brink of a piece of history. Many Americans will share their stories of 9/11 with their children and grandchildren, but this Chinese man gets to share his rare experience with not only his family, but so many others around him. He gets to offer another point of view. So interesting to hear his thoughts...

I cannot help but wonder if I, too, am on the brink of history. While I pray it is nothing so tragic, will I be able to look back at my time here and see how life in China has changed? What stories will I tell my children one day? What did I experience with the Chinese people? Each day I experience something new. Each day I have a new story. Each day a little piece of history etched into my life. So blessed to be here at this moment in time...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thoughts on Cross Cultural Friendship

When I came to China, I was so naive. You research, talk with the experienced, attend workshops, imagine and try not to have expectations all at the same time. Nothing prepares you for life here.


One of the biggest surprises, I have encountered though, is cross-cultural friendships. Expressing yourself in another language is most difficult. I did not come here expecting to form the closest of friendships like I did in college and whatnot. I knew I would been close to Amy and Brad because we share a life most do not. However, Peach walked into my life. And well, it has not been the same since.

Peach and I met through another American. We spent our first outing together shopping for a cell phone. She was quiet and was nervous to talk with me. I was so thankful to have somebody help me in a time that just seemed so overwhelming. Our relationship went from meeting for lunch to practically roommates. We are both highly emotional and complete klutzes. Expressing our thoughts has rarely been a problem. Peach was right beside me when Emmie died last year. She blow dried my hair as I sat crying in my chair. She buried my crab Wasabi with me. She would get excited when I showed her the last artwork from my sister Rachel. She taught me to cook Chinese food, pulled out my splinters, tried to speak in a Southern dialect, watched Gilmore Girls, would try anything once and well we just did everything together. She even went to the gynecologist with me! (I would not recommend such an outing for any friendship!) She is the kind of friend Jane Austen and the Louisa May Alcott wrote about. I don't normally go around just staring at the faces of my friends or holding hands, but with Peach it just happens. The most endearing and innocent kind of friendship there could be. To think that somebody from another culture could not only do all this with me, but to really understand me and vice versa... well it is rare.

Watching Peach grow over the past two years has been awesome! Not only did she really become a good caretaker and woman, she grew in Love. We got to celebrate some big things with her including her BirthDay. Today, we had to experience another stage of her life... Moving away.

On Friday night, we built a campsite on Brad's porch. We borrowed some tents, made a campfire from candles, pulled out the Christmas tree for nature, ate buffalo wings and bai cai, made smores, sang and played the guitar and told ghost stories. It was the first camping experience for both Peach and Amy and definitely the most fun one for me. The perfect night for the end of such a time. Saturday morning, we had some great Indian tea with Kim and Katie. We were supposed to say goodbye in the afternoon because Amy, Brad and I were going to WuDang Shan. However, after a long goodbye of uncontrollable sobbing (I'm talking snot covered, eyes bloodshot, Brad wearing smeared makeup all over his clothes and face, loud noise crying), we decided to stay in Yichang and see Peach leave on the train on Sunday morning.

We spent the afternoon just being in the same room, had hamburgers for dinner and then I helped Peach pack her dorm room. We all spent the night in the floor of Brad's again, but this time actually slept. At 7am, we all climbed into taxi, drove to the train station and said our goodbyes again. This time much less hysterical, but still emotional. Peach is bound for Wuhan and a new job. A new stage in her life. She is growing up. I couldn't be prouder.

While a lot of people might think that this whole friendship/relationship is unhealthy because we did rely on each other so much, I vote to differ. Peach was a true friend. She was not looking for English lessons. She did become "Westernized" in some ways, but she also taught me a lot about Chinese culture and was never one to sacrifice her true self. She understood me better than most people did. I became a better person by knowing her.

I know we will see each other at least 2 more times this term, but it is hard coming home to an empty apartment. After July, I do not know if I will see Peach again and I just cannot think about that right now. This is so much harder and different than I expected. But I would do it all again to experience the love and life of my Peach.

"The times they are a'changin..." -Bob Dylan

(This post is probably a little personal, but something I feel so important to my time here so I thought I would share. Still not sure it does the friendship justice. Picture taken from the morning after our camp out.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008


It was a beautiful Easter day here in Yichang! In the morning a group of us got together to read the story and have Supper together. Then we went to the park by the Yangtze for our annual picnic. People played cards, Frisbee and sang songs together. For dinner Brad, Amy, Peach and I sat out on Brad's sun porch with some good old Cincinnati chili. Amy and Brad will one day win some awards with their quick penned lyrics I'm sure. :) Ended the day talking to my friend Peach until late into the night. It could not have been a better Easter here in China.

Happy Easter from Yichang!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Two Thumbs Up!

Two thumbs for Bei Shan Supermarket!
Tonight Amy and I are hosting a girls slumber party. What makes a good party? Food, of course! When SPAR was out of butter for banana bread, I walked on to Bei Shan. I found my butter and then cruised through the chip aisle. Lays, Cheetos, Oishi, Doritos, Bugles.... Wait a minute... That's right ladies and gentlemen, Yichang now has Doritos!
I am not even a big chip eater, but it made me happy to see "Nacho Cheesier" and "Rock Taco Flavor" Doritos logos. And when you have not eaten lunch... well... :) Tacos in bag will be perfect for March Madness starting next week! All of this goodness for 2.5 RMB. Keeping the wallet happy...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A New Season

March 8th... a day to celebrate being female... It's International Women's Day.

But that is not why I am celebrating...

Today marks the beginning of kite season! Yea!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Not-So-Chinese Fortune Cookie

Brad has decided to give a culture lesson to his 4,000+ students based on the book they are using. After brainstorming some ways to make his lessons interesting, he mentioned that he might talk a little bit about American Chinese food.

The Chinese Fortune Cookie has long been the reason why kids even agree to go to a Chinese restaurant in the States. Wouldn't they be shocked to know that fortune cookies are not found in China. Nobody even knows what they are! Professor Ellis' students will know what fortune cookies are after this term though.

Tonight after making some authentic Chinese hot pot, we busted out the cookie making supplies and created a big batch of fortune cookies. Our Chinese friends that were over were curious. Amy, Chen Tao and I wrote out some silly fortunes/proverbs. Brad washed the million dishes from dinner. It was a group effort to bake the cookies though because you have to do everything very fast. Not a job for one man. A couple hours, several burns and one melted plastic mold later, we read each other fortunes while snacking on some delish cookies.

Chen Tao helps spread batter.

This IKEA ice mold helped the cookies to cool in perfect shape!

Only one lucky student from each class will win a cookie, but I think they will enjoy seeing some American Chinese food.

So from Yichang and the kitchen, where we do try to make dreams come true... Good night!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Meager March

Last term our sweet friend Angelyn did some research about Chinese poverty levels. (Please click link to read her blog.) After hearing her findings, several of our friends in Shiyan proclaimed March as "Meager March." The idea is to live on what the government declares the amount that one can survive on. Well, the idea caught on and now several foreigners are participating in their own ways.

For the month of March I will be...
Not taking taxis. It is such a quick fix to the amount of time spent on a bus. Putting on my walking shoes and having my 1 yuan coins ready for buses though now.
Buying produce from local people. The supermarkets charge a lot of money and throw out excess/waste. Instead, I will be supporting Yichangren, a people I love.
Limiting internet access. I have chosen to cut my internet time down to one hour a week. No Google Talk this month. If you send me a personal email, I will reply.
Be more conscious of electricity and water usage. Amazing how often I leave lights on without even meaning to. Kissing my heater goodbye because we all know how I am out of control on its usage.
No fast food (McDs, KFC, etc) or buying snacks. Really it is just unnecessary.
Spending time each day with Father discussing living a simpler life, homelessness/poverty, and friends who have chosen to participate in meagerness.
No TV. Movies have become a quick fix to boredom here. This month I will be working on other projects, outreach, etc.

The exception to any of these are just if it gets in the way of doing my work here (school or otherwise.) Hopefully I will be able to instill some good practices that will continue in following months.

Well, this has taken a little chunk of my internet usage for week. Will blog when/if I can...