Sunday, July 9, 2017

Chinese Speaking Lady

You know how we often get asked by others to take a picture of them? I've now gotten used to others asking if they could take a picture WITH me. It still happens on the daily. They then post it on their "Instagram" (not really Instagram; it's called WeChat), after adding me as a friend, of course. I have so many Chinese names on my WeChat, I don't even know who is who. Luckily, all of my coworkers have English names, so that's been nice. Speaking of English names, I am given the enormous responsibility of giving the kids English names. It's kinda like receiving a sign name from a Deaf person (for those who are familiar), but I'm basically giving them the name that everyone will know them by, that may not be in favor of the parents. It's slightly a big deal. But sometimes fun! I've given a few names already. They like to stick with one or two syllable names. Even my name is a bit tough for them.

On my lonely nights after I'm off work, I tend to go to the town square. While there, I just kinda chill all by my lonesome and read or work on some word/number problems (yes, call me nerdy, I don't care). It's actually quite a nice time, until people come over to me and start speaking Chinese to me. That's when the chaos occurs. Everyone then decides to huddle around. Cameras out, mouths yapping. I most times don't know how to respond. There was one evening were a little 8yr old girl came and sat by me. I asked, "你会说英语吗" (Nǐ huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma or "Do you speak English")? She then responded saying NO! Why come and sit down, expecting a conversation, when clearly we couldn't speak each other's languages?! That was my initial thinking. But then, after an hour of conversing, which was all in 中文 (Zhōngwén or Chinese), I was very grateful for the blessed chance to be with her. Yes, we did big forth a little crowd, which I purposely ignored; it was just me and her in our own little world. I had my translate phrase app and would look at it, speak it, and then show her to have her correct me. She then responded, and I, naturally, had NO idea what she said. But it definitely was good practice! I went into work the next day and my coworkers were amazed with the random bits of Chinese that I threw out, thanks to the little girl.

It was my birthday the other week, and I got to celebrate it Chinese style! First off, my coworkers gave me a few gifts including lollipops, a bottle of yogurt, pop rocks (which yes, do still make me sick), some towels, cookies (except they weren't really cookies and were kinda gross....), a China tea set, and my own authentic pair of chopsticks with the Chinese flower on them. They then took me out to dinner. We went to a restaurant where we ordered about 7 different dishes. They bought me a cake, sang to me in Chinese, and I ate noodles because it's a tradition on your birthday symbolizing having a long, healthy life. I love my new friends here!

So, I did two things in China that I never imagined I would do. 1) I went to the salon and got my hair colored, and 2) I bought a dog. Why, you ask? Because it was more than half the cost as what it would be in America; it is dirt cheap. My impulsive nature won out, and I just did it. Do I regret it? No way! My puppy, Duke is the cutest thing, ever! He's a 3mts old little brown poodle (they call it a Teddy here). And my hair? It didn't turn out exactly how I wanted, but it's getting there! China is pretty dang great! Also, if you have a dog, you have INSTANT friends. Taking Duke to the town square has helped people actually have the courage to approach me, which has been everyone's desire, but now they have a true purpose. To say it's been a fun time would be an understatement. I'm absolutely loving it here!! I'm so happy that I still have 5 more weeks! I am planning to go to Qingdao for the beach, Beijing to check out the Great Wall, and Hong Kong to go to the temple. It'll be a grand remaining time!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"I Don't Think We're in [America] Anymore"

The longer I am here, the more I realize that China is VERY different from America (by the way, that is what they call it, if they speak English; it's not the USA). I mean, there's the very obvious ways—the food, language, people. But even in more basic ways—the smell, the atmosphere, the ambiance, attitude. 

I have NEVER seen any Asian smoking in America. Coming here, everyone and their mom smokes! I've been offered a cigarette on more than one occasion. There also are no "no smoking" signs posted anywhere. You're free to smoke wherever (and in-ever) you want. And believe me, they certainly do! 

Growing up in Seattle, I become pretty accustomed to rain. Especially when moving to Hawaii. Rain just seems like a very normal thing to me, and there should be no reason to fret. The first time I experienced rainfall here, I was oh so very delighted. Why? Because I haven't felt warm rain since Hawaii and I've missed dancing in it and getting soaked. We had just finished a meeting and heading home. All the girls I work with were staying undercover and not even considering the idea of being out in the open. So, naturally, what did I then choose to do? I ran out and danced as I got soaked. I proceeded to then teach the song "Singin' in the Rain". The girls thought I was crazy. They pretty much viewed the rain as though it was toxic. And it could've been; I wouldn't have known. If you can recall, think back to after it rains. You smell the air, and it often smells fresh, clean, and has a flowery smell/taste, right? Not here. After the shower of rain, the city reeks with a horrid smell. Granted, it smells awful even without the rain, but it was definitely magnified. Sometimes as I am walking around, I have to hold my breath because it's just that bad.

I've been venturing out of my comfort zone and going to the random little food stands that are setup all along the sidewalks. The main reason I've been doing it is because it's literally 1/3 of the price. Regardless, I've been trying new foods! Most times, I don't even know what I'm eating, and I think I'd like to keep it that way! They also sell sliced up chunks of melon on a stick for like $.40, so that's been way nice. I've become pretty well known at these stands and they always perk up when they see me. Also, I am officially a regular at KFC and Starbucks—they know my order and have it ready upon my turn at the counter. I guess I do kind of stick out like a sore thumb, so it's kind of hard to forget me. Whenever rice is available, I still will always get it though because I know that it's a pretty safe bet. I now fully understand the purpose of sticky rice in China. If it weren't sticky, it would be pretty tough to eat it all up with chopsticks. The stickiness of it makes it much less difficult. Speaking of chopsticks, I pretty much have it down solid! Except I use them not entirely in the natural way that others do. I figured out a way that works for me and I'm sticking (ha-ha) with it! My co-workers still laugh at me whenever we go out to eat and try to teach me how to use them properly. It's not going to happen.

Work is so great! I'm just loving the girls more and more each day. I continue to be taught by them, as they learn more from me as I speak with them. It's a great exchange. We are getting closer and closer to the school actually being up and running! Next week, we officially open. We moved into our new office, which was a huge relief! The old one was very cluttered. I have my own desk and computer (which is completely in Chinese, so little good that will do me). It's quite exciting. Too bad I'll only be here for another 6wks. I don't even think they have a foreign teacher to replace me. I mean, I know I'm pretty much irreplaceable, but I hope they find someone! An English school without an English teacher isn't very beneficial.

Days here have gotten pretty monotonous and repetitive (especially since we do the same activities with a different group of kids multiple times each day). They all seem to run together. Another contribution to that could be the fact that I haven't really adjusted to the time change and so I'm on a reeeeally odd sleep schedule. Hopefully that will get regulated soon.... Bye bye for now!