Sunday, December 4, 2011

Teaching Abroad

       Children. In all their nose-picking and tear-filled screaming, I have found a strange love for them. Monsters. They can change my, "what is wrong with these strangely small people," to "how are you so freaking cute?" Daily, I ask myself, "Self, why are you a teacher? Why do you surround yourself with these ignorant midgets?" And then little Peter, Grace, or even Dolphin (yes, that is his English name) remind me.

"No, No, No. No touching!" Dolphin says to me while pointing to the scissors on my desk. Yes, very good. Now, if I can only get him to express his own thoughts in English and not just repeat me like a parrot. But he's come along way since the first week of school, when everyday was characterized by screaming tears and throwing up his morning milk. Dolphin has perhaps become my favorite student.
When he points to something and says, "This is blue." Something alights inside me and I feel a sense of worth as a teacher. I am somehow shaping these beings into English speaking, well-mannered, and color naming people. And this is why I teach. At the end of my day (yes, noon. Sorry 9-5ers), when I'm tucking these little Chinese angels into their naptime beds, I feel this strange feeling I've never felt before. And the only word I can think to describe it is maternal. I still don't want children, but don't feel completely freaked out by the idea. I enjoy wiping their snot ridden faces and even reminding them to wash their hands. I like shoveling food into their mouths and especially love tucking them in like a bug in a rug and wishing them sweet dreams before they doze off. But at the end of the day, I still get to come home to my child-free apartment where the only person I'm responsible for is myself. But when I took my vacation, I still find myself wondering about them. Is my fill-in teacher taking care of them like I do? Is she wiping away their tears and then doing something silly to make them smile? Is she helping them eat, or just yelling at them for eating slowly like their Chinese teacher? Is she tucking them before naptime or just pointing them to their bed and telling them to "Lie down!" And most importantly, is she getting as grossed out as I do when they bring her boogers?
                              Nonetheless, being a teacher has changed me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bangkok: City of life

                    A bustling megalopolis, Thailand's capital is not only tourist driven and overrun by foreigners, but holds within its city limits something so culturally charming. The streets are polluted with vendors and tuk-tuk drivers demanding your business, and every other small shop features some Middle Eastern merchant insisting you buy a suit. But if you can see past these sometimes annoying small business owners, you find yourself lost in what you may only see in movies. Quintessential alleys with small, sit outside, mama's cooking, cafes with lovely gardens, beautiful archways leading to centuries old temples and more modern places of worship. The less frequently you hear, "Hello, taxi!" or "Where are you going?" the deeper you are getting into Thailand. 

  I've found the only way to truly find amazing things, is to get lost. Leave the map at home (or in our case, leave it on the counter by mistake at a string shop; my bad). But having gotten remarkably lost and walking in no particular direction for several hours, we stumbled upon something amazing and sentimental. Chris' father's "go-to" jewelry shop. The place he bought all of his wife's jewelry. The place he probably stood on the same day as we, several years prior. Unfortunately, the shop was closed due to the impending floods, but nonetheless, we stood on the stoop and admired the shop's significance.

Bangkok has many sights and "must sees" to offer but walking amongst the locals and eating the freakishly delicious food is really all you "must do!" Unlike China, every food vendor smelled remarkable and the dishes were breathtaking. No exaggeration! I literally held my breath so that I could continue to eat as much and as fast as I could, like I just got out of jail or someone would snatch my dish away at any minute. But read more about the food in my food blog. Link there --->

Friday, October 7, 2011

Things traveling has taught me...

How to take a city bus.
How to take a long distance bus.
How to sufficiently travel with no real plan.
To get lost and realize that you are going to end up exactly where you are meant to be.
How to learn (and butcher) new languages.
How to cross boarders.
How to be a teacher.
That strangers offer the best insight.
That people do different things and its okay.
Being resourceful is one of my best attributes.
Sometimes reading Chinese is easier than speaking it.
My body can tolerate a lot more than I give it credit for.
The 5 second rule is true.
That air drying your clothes not only is better for the environment but is good for your clothes too.
Things about refrigeration and cleanliness when handling food isn't as necessary as we're told.
That Starbucks is awesome in every country.
Sometimes where you sleep won't be the cleanest (or the softest!!)
Not to drink water from the shower.
Eggs don't have to be refrigerated.
No matter how far away I am, I am always part of my family.
That being so far away from my family sometimes makes me feel like something has been ripped out of my body.
Getting lost is essential.
Trying new food (even food you're pretty confident you won't like).
How to bring a jasmine plant back to life after killing it.
How to pee squatting without always getting pee on your feet.
How to talk yourself out of panic attacks (and just get them less).
One should never leave the house without a pen and paper.
That I can be happy in any situation I find myself in.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marketplace Labyrinth

      Strolling through the busy shopping streets that is Zhongshan Lu, I decide to venture down a less beaten path. Immediately, I am pleasantly rewarded with a colorful market street. Curiously, I walk deeper in. Both sides aligned with fresh produce and recently killed meats. Bright green melons, perfectly pink dragon fruit, and little wooden buckets filled with different types of rice. I continue down the umbrella shaded alleyway and soon find out that this path is quite beaten. Many Xiamen locals (no foreigners) frequent this area to buy their fruits and vegetables, meats and seafood. It becomes louder with each step taken deeper in. Laobans (sellers) screaming prices and showing quality to the dozens of customers. And then, I'm confronted with a smell. Seafood. But not quite seafood yet. Still just fish. Fish so fresh its still swimming. On either side of me were containers filled with water and every type of sea creature I can imagine, most still alive. Red buckets and bins crowded with swimming eels or some sort of almost glowing teal shellfish. Trays of raw squid on ice or crawling crabs, claws taped together for safety reasons, and fish heads and guts are set aside to be sold as parts.
     Fresh poultry can also be found within the Zhongshan marketplace. Littered between the fish and vegetable stands are cages of raised (or caught) pigeons, chickens, ducks, and geese. Tables of already killed birds, feathered and skinned if you like, or split open and de-organed per your preferences are also found in this area. Meat cleaver wielding stand owners chop off heads left and right and dogs linger looking for handouts or the dropped.
     However, on extraordinarily hot days (which is everyday!) this marketplace gets very smelly! The pungent fish odor becomes suffocating. I force myself to walk briskly through this never ending market. Every so often, I get some reprieve from a garlic and ginger stand, where I take this time to take in another breath to hold as long as I can. Finally, I find an exit to this rather long, straight street. I turn right onto another alley only to find myself still under the sea of umbrellas. I try to look ahead for an escape but only see stand after stand with no end in sight. No light at the end of this tunnel and no solace for my nose. Like a venus fly trap it lured me in with pretty colors and delicious looking fruits only to hold me captive in its inner windings and streets of stench. Succumbing to the smelly mess I've gotten myself into, I hold my breath as long as possible, refusing to breath through my mouth. While I pick up the pace, I have to remember to walk carefully. Wearing flip flops through a wet fish market is never a good idea. It is easy for one to flip dirty, sidewalk water onto the backs of one's legs or to flop said water onto the feet.

Finally! I see cars ahead and passing busses. The End! I'm free! As I escape the market place's fierce grasp, I gasp for fresh air like I've been underwater too long. Ah, at last. While a very neat and lively area, I will remember to only go on cooler days.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reminders and last resorts...

So here I sit. Well, squat.
Stomach pains? Check.
Uncontrollable bowels? Check.
No toilet paper? Check.
Yep. I'm back in China. A little panicked that I may have a heat stroke at any moment in this sweltering mall bathroom stall, I remind myself I've done this all before. Am I crying? No. That's my eyelid sweat blurring my vision. I didn't even know my eyelids could sweat.

Traveling equals creativity. What do I have in my mini backpack I could function as toilet paper? Which item would be most palatable for my ass? And where can I buy tissues when I finally escape this hot ass bathroom? How could I have forgotten this aspect of traveling and left myself so unprepared?

Ah, an article by a Jonathan Swift in a magazine I swiped from our hostel will have to do. I wonder how he would feel if he knew that instead of reading his article, a foreigner somewhere in a hot mall bathroom in Shanghai is wiping her ass with it.

Walking out of the bathroom, I feel lighter, violated and one potentially interesting article shorter. Thank you Jonathan Swift, you really helped me in a bind :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

China: part deux

Walking up the stairs from the subway, I am hit with the smell of something spicy. It’s a foreign smell but is all too familiar. The harsh aroma of Chinese spices and stir fried something or another slaps me in the face. Stinky tofu and roasting nuts vendors align the streets. Obnoxious entrepreneurs hastily walked up to me throwing there goods in my face trying to get me to purchase. Am I back so soon? Or did I just never leave? Was my 7 month sabbatical back home to the states a dream that I am just now waking up from? I will never know for sure. I lost my consciousness somewhere on the plane. That 11-hour flight seemed to drag longer than they usually do. I swear with every hour that ticked by, I lost an hour of my life. When I waddled off the plane (and I do mean waddle, my legs swell up like a fat infants’) and cart my 100 plus pounds of luggage, I realize time stopped when I left. I live two alternating lives. Here, on this side of the world, I am one person. A person that loosens her grip on control, lets things happen. No plan, no worries. But the other girl, the one that lives in the US time zone…She’s scared. She tries to hold on tightly to her ever-slipping grip on control. She panics, worries. Tries to amount to unrealistic expectations but fails.

As I lay awake here in my wooden bunk (top bed!) I grow excited to see what this foreign (but familiar) land may offer me. Its 4 am, is Starbucks open yet??

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More on this past year...But mostly just about my Grams

Well, after eating every thing in my American sight, I certainly put back on any weight I lost plus some. I'm at an all time high of just over 150 L-Bs! AND I go to the gym (also a first) almost every day! What the F?? I've cut back drinking and started eating better but for some strange strange reason, its much easier to put on the weight than to lose it! But I digress...
Shortly after arriving back home, we transported my Grams up to Gainesville to stay at my mom's. While I had an apartment elsewhere with Chris and my roommate, Stefy, I spent most to all of my time at my mamma's taking care of Grandma. She and I, although suffered our differences, were always extremely close! The only person to have read every page of this blog and beg for more, I'm devastated to say I have lost some viewership. She passed into Heaven or the great who knows where a little over two months ago. We managed to care for her for the very last four months of her life. It was an honor for me. While some days were worse than the others and could be very taxing, I often reminded myself of everything she did for me. Cooking and cutting her lunch, helping her bathe and go to the bathroom, setting her up to brush her teeth, lying with her and comforting her when she felt scared or alone; it's all so bittersweet. I'm so thankful I was able to return only some of what she ever did for me.
When she passed, it didn't hit me for days later. In fact, the two weeks while she rapidly declined, my presents at the house also declined. One, I was needed a lot less with the increased family in attendance and two, it was just to tragic! The day after she died, I was fine...until I went back to my mom's to help pack up her things and clean. Sitting in her room, I became despondent. Helping the Hospice equipment guy clumsily load her deathbed into the back of his rapist van, brought reality crashing on top of me, trapping me between it and the ground until I felt claustrophobic. I finally found an out and left, oh yeah, I had to work.
The next day, my aunt and cousins asked me to help with her obit. Regardless of my reluctance to assistance with such a strange request (I will go into the absurdity of obituaries later), I received an email and was asked to edit and or add. I read, approved and then cried. Not much of a crier, I didn't stop crying for several hours later. I took this opportunity of feelings to write her eulogy (which per her request over a year ago, I write and read at her funeral. Morbid, I know, but what an an honor!) And through the whole process, just when I felt I couldn't feel or cry anymore, Norah Jones would bust out on Pandora and then I would start over. But several pages and hundreds of words later, I had some editing to do. Finally, the eve of her funeral, her eulogy was complete! I wish she could have heard it, cause as my number one fan, she would have loved it!

Okay, more on this later...I gotta ride. Its Taco Tuesday.

Thinking about the idea that the main (if only) person that read this was my Grandma, makes me wonder why I'm writing this. Is there internet in Heaven?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In this last year...

Well, the rumors are true...I'm a slacker. Its been just over a year since I have submitted my last blog. And a lot has happened. After my last submission, I boarded the next plane to Seoul, Republic of Korea where I was greeted by strangers, American, but strange. Well, first I was greeted by Koreans but an hour long bus ride and panicked moments of searching for a phone, I met my couchsurfing hosts. They were awesome! They took me to have my first Korean meal in months and my first REALLY Korean korean meal! It was fabulous! Then I celebrated my first Canada day which I have to admit was crazy, son! Turned out, my hosts party as much as I do! I lost my beloved havainas by taking them off to get on a table to dance...go figure. However, I managed to find a different pair..same size! I guess the girl that swiped mine also had great taste. The next day, I suffered through a pretty bad hangover while my host went to teach. Later, that night I was met by my best friend, Julia and Tina!! Let me just say, that weekend was epic! Perhaps, at a later date, I will tell my travel stories in detail, but for now...I only give highlights. Left Korea two months later to meet Chris in China. Twas awesome!
I came home Christmas Eve, spent the night with my best friend, Erica, in Orlando. Daddy and Haley picked me up the next day and we went to Daytona. Tragically, my Nana died three days later. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to see her one last time and tell her I love her and goodbye. I spent the last days of her life with her. The morning she died, I woke up just moments before she took her last breath. I woke up my dad and said, "Dad, its time..." We, plus my aunt, held her hands and comforted her as she headed toward the light or whatever it is we see when we die.
After we got everything taken care of there, we went to my other grandma's. She greeted me in tears and was sooo happy I was home! I was so happy to see her as well. Especially since her health was declining...ta de shenti bu hao....okay, I have to be continued! I promise!