Wednesday, December 28

a week of experiences

I've had a few firsts this week:
My first time to sing (and, ahem, dance) with my students at a karaoke room. My beginner class took me and my partner teacher out to eat and then they insisted we go to the nore-bang (Korean for song room) together. I've been to plenty of these in Korea, but this was my first one in China. We sang a few songs together and then everybody got up and they put on dance music. Not only that, but they spun a bottle on the floor to decide who would dance in the center. It was an experience.

Last night was my first time to eat dog. Yes, I ate it. It was good. I always said that I wouldn't intentionally go out and eat dog, but that I would eat it if I was taken to eat it. Well, last night, I got that opportunity. My roommates from the summer English house took me out for a meal before we separate for the winter. They ordered dog soup, and honestly, I would have thought it was beef if I hadn't known. They brought out a broth to warm in front of us, then the meat and veggies to put in with some noodles. They also ordered another dish, guo ba rou, which is a sweet and sour pork dish that just about every Westerner likes. I think they ordered it as a back up. Anyhow, we had a good dinner. Afterwards, I went to meet a group of teachers at a going away dinner for one of our teachers in the conversation office, then we went to the sauna/bath house for a last scrub and massage. Very nice.

Tonight, I'm headed out. Not quite packed yet, and still a few errands to run, but I should be ready by 5. A small group of us is flying to Beijing together and a larger group is taking the train (24 hour train ride, and they didn't get sleepers...I don't envy them). So, we'll meet up for two nights in Beijing, bring in the new year together, and then I'm off to Texas! Yee-haw!

Friday, December 23

christmas eve!

I can't believe it's already Christmas Eve. Of course, it doesn't feel like it, because we're at the office grading and getting stuff done this morning. We gathered at the office today at 8:30 AM to share breakfast and grading. It was actually worth coming just for the breakfast offerings. One girl made omelets, I made breakfast casserole and banana chocolate chip bread, and one girl even found bacon to bring. Now, we're just working together to the tune of Christmas music. Yesterday, some of our classes finished their finals, so we're getting the first round graded before the last set of tests comes in on Monday. I got my two beginner classes graded and their averages are finished. That feels really good!

I'll be in Yanji until Thursday night, then I'm going to Beijing with some of the other conversation teachers for a few days before heading home on the first. I think I already mentioned that in a post a few weeks ago...but what else can I write about here?

Tonight, some of us are having a Christmas Eve gift exchange. We might go ice skating at an outdoor rink later this afternoon, but other than that we don't have any special plans for the holiday. We're all a little too caught up in getting stuff finished. I did get two cookies - one gingerbread and one decorated sugar cookie - made for all my 80 students and 17 teachers in the English conversation department. You can see my box with some of the cookie packages and cards under my baby Christmas tree in my room. I bought it downtown a few weeks ago for about a dollar. Very worth it. I also had some of the students who I got to know this summer over to decorate cookies with me and take some home as their present. All that baking has helped put me in the Christmas spirit, and I think I'll do a little more for the party tonight and hopefully some for a local orphanage before I give up baking for the year.

Tuesday, December 13

what's up

I got to teach that to my beginner students yesterday. There's not a real translation into Korean, but I tried to show them different situations where they would hear it or use it. They thought it was fun. We're learning about how to decline invitations, and how to give excuses, so I also taught them about how a girl can refuse a date by saying that she has to wash her hair (and that's not a good signal for the boy) and how an excuse for kids who don't do their homework is to say "my dog ate it." They found that one especially funny.

Anyhow. The semester is winding down and I am finding out how much I love my students! I just want to keep teaching the same ones and not lose them next semester. I'll probably get some of the same ones, and I'll learn to love new ones.

Monday was a friend's birthday. A big group of us braved the cold in our multiple layers, scarves over our mouths and noses, caps on, hoods over those. We might as well be wearing burqas with as much skin as we're showing. With all this on, I stay warm when I go out, but my toes and hands feel the cold. I've got good gloves, but my hands only stay warm if they're inside my pockets. I can't walk around with them in my pockets, though, because I'm afraid I might slip and fall on the ice. One person I know slipped and fell flat back on her head yesterday. I've always enjoyed cold weather, though, and this is still a little bit of an adventure for me. This morning, I left my warm room before it was light and walked across campus outside to grab a taxi to a friend's house downtown. I couldn't see where the snow was deep or not, and I found myself walking in a spot off the beaten track where it was a foot or so deep even though it hasn't snowed in a few weeks. The fact that we can still walk on snow, even so long after a snow, is kinda fun. Last week, I made my first snowman in a few years with two of my younger (not yet teenager) friends. It was a cute little guy.

I started making Christmas cookies (thanks to the vanilla and shortening my mom sent me!) last night. I put them in the freezer to keep until next week, and then I'll make little packages to give out to my students and friends. Yay for Christmas!

Monday, December 12

maybe these are funny only to me

But, I keep posting them anyway. Perhaps so I can remember them later.
These are answers from the beginner fill in the blank section on the last test.

In America, a popular food to eat when you watch movies is _____.
These are the answers I got: chores, laundry (as well as some people who actually got popcorn.)

If you want to be healthy, eat 3 ____ a day.
Some funny answers: chores, letters, laundry, popcorn

I had to ____ bill this weekend. It wasn't fun.
One guy wrote "girlfriend."

Some common ____ are laundry, vacuuming, dusting, and sweeping.
Some funny answers: roommates, meals

Only two more weeks of classes! I give my last final on December 26th, then I'll be heading home on January 1st.

Monday, December 5

"A Special Memory"

That was the title I gave to my beginner students last week. I translated the word "memory" for them. We've been studying the past tense in the last unit. This is one essay I got. (He's one of my better students, by the way.)

When I was a high school. My high school is far from my home. So I
walked to school forty minutes everyday. Sometimes I read some books and
walked. But very special time is I had lunch and walked. I remember
it's very tired. I know this is not good for my health. But I don't
had a time. Now it's a very special memoris in my head. I want to
eat lunch and walk now.

I mean, doesn't everyone, deep down inside, want to eat lunch and walk at the same time?
Another student begins her essay with the sentence: "Formerly, I was a child." As if I doubted that?

Saturday, December 3

more snow

I thought you guys needed to see some more snow scenes, mostly because I'm so fascinated by snow that I can't stop taking pictures of it when I go out. When we went to the gym again on Thursday, it was snowing again and we slipped and slid down the hill to get a bus. These pics are from that day. The second one is of a bunch of students out on the basketball court outside my dorm scraping ice and snow so it's not so slippery. The third one is a popular picture spot on our campus, and the rest are just random scenes on the way down the hill and downtown on the way to the gym.

It snowed again this morning, and as I was walking through the halls, there was actually snow coming in through the roof in the hallway! I have certainly never seen it snow inside before, but this morning I did. I didn't put on my long johns, because I planned on walking the halls to go to our meeting, but I was wishing I had. Even the room we were meeting in, sitting all close together, and the cafeteria were so cold that with my long coat on, I could still feel a chill. So many people got serious colds this week, but I'm really blessed to be free of sickness.

Yesterday, I had most of my intermediate students over for cake and coffee at my apartment in four shifts. They loved the cake (chocolate, banana, and cranberry pumpkin), having a chance to see my room, and we had a good time talking. It also made me feel warmer with groups of visitors coming into my little room. Yay for snow! Yay for yummy cake and having people over!

Wednesday, November 30

a beautiful week

So, it snowed Monday morning and then again Monday evening. We went out for pizza on Monday night, then some of us went to the sauna afterwards. We went to a newly remodeled Korean-owned Western style food restaurant and it was so good. They also recently added frozen yogurt to the menu, so we ordered a big bowl and shared. It was expensive for Yanji (pizza, dessert, and drink turned out to be about 40 yuan each, which isn't expensive by most people's standards, but it is for us.) What a great evening.

Tuesday, I went to the gym that a few teachers found and have been going to. It's so much cleaner and well-equipped than I expected. It felt really good to work out for a while. Since the weather has been cold and the swimming pool closed for the winter, my workouts have been few and far between. After working out, we went to a stationery store where I bought a bunch of envelopes to send Christmas cards in. A friend of mine is visiting the States and offered to mail some for me. (If you don't get one soon and you want an update, shoot me an e-mail...I only had a limited number of stamps.) After buying stationery, four of us ate at a cheap Korean food restaurant. This meal was only 9 yuan each, and healthier than pizza. We got kimbap, cold noodles, fried rice, dduk bokki (one of my favorite Korean dishes- rice cakes cooked in spicy sauce), and fried squid, and ate it "family style" so we could taste everything.

I've been able to get caught up on some things. My desk is clear, homework is graded, socks are mended, dishes are washed, and my room is pretty clean. Plus, I got all those cards written. I have to admit, I did skip Korean class to go to the gym, but it was worth it. I'm so thankful for weeks when I can rest and do things I want to do. Now, it's snowing again and has been all morning. The first snow this week didn't melt because our highs have been at or under freezing, so it looks like we can have some fun in the snow today and tomorrow! Yay!

Sunday, November 27

second snow!

When I woke up this morning, it hadn't started to snow yet, but around 7, huge, fluffy flakes were falling. Yay! Most on the ground had melted by lunch, but then around 1, it started again! I love snow... but my Korean tutor warned me that soon it won't melt, but it'll turn to ice on the ground and stay there. I'm gonna enjoy it while it's not slippery. (The first picture isn't real's a sculpture in front of our building.)

Thursday, November 24


We got a KFC on October first. It was a monumental event, because although we have a few places where you can get something that is called a hamburger, the hamburgers in those places don't really taste like what you're craving. We also have a few pizza places that serve a pretty good version of pizza, but other than that, no real Western food available easily. So, KFC opened. I finally went last week. It was good. We got french fries and a chicken sandwich, with chocolate dipped ice cream for dessert. It's super expensive compared to other yummy food that is available in Yanji, but it was worth it for a taste of home (even though I never eat KFC at home). For the record, though, it did take me a month and a half to make the first visit. It was really crowded for the first few weeks it opened, but the real reason I didn't visit sooner is because we do have many choices for great tasting Korean and Chinese food in our city.


was Thanksgiving, sort of. This week has been crazy busy for me for several reasons: tests to write, give, and grade, a Thanksgiving lesson to prepare for the beginner level team teachers, stuff to buy for that lesson, an extra class to prepare for and teach (a prep class for our students who are going to volunteer teach during the winter vacation), a Thanksgiving dinner program (that we'll have on Saturday) to put together plus all the normal stuff that goes on during a week. So, when Thanksgiving came yesterday, I wasn't really ready. I taught a Thanksgiving themed lesson to my intermediate students on Wednesday (I don't teach them on Thursdays) and then to my beginner students on Thursday morning. They went well. It was a nice break from the normal stuff we teach. Thanksgiving lunch consisted of some meat and cilantro dish, rice, and seaweed and fermented bean soup in the cafeteria. (I actually like all of those things, but while I was eating with another American friend, she commented that she should have brought a camera to take a picture of our "thanksgiving" lunch.)

After lunch, I had to meet with two students who cheated on our last test. I hate that. It tenses up my left shoulder. But, after that, my afternoon was free, and after such a crazy week, I was super glad. I went home, put on some music, started grading tests, and then fell asleep for a short nap before dinner. For dinner, a small group of us Americans went out to eat chicken, the closest thing to turkey that we could muster up. We debated between KFC (new in town...our first real fast food restaurant) and a traditional Korean chicken soup restaurant. We were torn between the mashed potatoes sold at the former and the atmosphere of the latter. We decided to go for atmosphere, and we were glad we did. We split two roasted chickens and two bowls of samgetang (the traditional chicken soup) plus side dishes. It was great. Afterwards, we walked to the big grocery store in town and bought ice cream for dessert. Like crazy people, we walked a few blocks to catch a taxi while eating our ice cream. Too cold for that...reminder to self. (We walked to catch the taxi, because if you walk a few blocks away from the center, you can get a taxi back to school for 5 yuan instead of 10. We're cheapos.)

So, with the relaxing afternoon, the yummy dinner, and a few students who made a point to wish me a happy Thanksgiving or give me a special card because they know it's a big day for Americans, it was a good day, even though it sure wasn't traditional!

Friday, November 18

high of 34, low of 14

So, the high hasn't gotten above 40 degrees F all week. You see today's temperatures in the subject. It's cold. It's also windy. Every time I go outside, I cry because the combination of wind and cold just makes the tears fall. Everybody is staying inside as much as possible (we have this hallway that connects all the buildings), but I still walk outside when going to lunch, because I can't stand not feeling the real air and seeing the real sky at least once or twice a day. We're all wondering what we're gonna do when it really gets cold. I contemplated buying a mask today, because when the tears freeze on my cheek, it's pretty cold. But, I'll wait until it gets a little colder. I'm living in long johns underneath my other clothes all the time except for when I sleep. (My room gets the morning sun straight through the window, and is heated pretty well, so I'm always warm in there. Yay!)

I went downtown with my Korean tutor today. She's an exhange student from South Korea. We ordered rice cakes for her group trip tomorrow, then we went on a paper search for my beginner Thanksgiving lesson on Thursday. It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving (well, I have to remind myself, I AM in China), but maybe it will once we start making cornucopias, origami turkeys, and singing "Turkey, Turkey" to the tune of "Frere Jacques." I hope that our freshman university students won't think it's too babyish. Last year, they made turkeys out of tracings of their hands, so I think this'll be a little better. We went to have an egg custard and warm orange juice at a cake shop after shopping, then she went to meet some other friends for dinner. I opted for spicy squid on a stick and some rice cakes from a vendor in front of the grocery store, then bought some milk and yogurt and headed home. I feel so sorry for those vendors who have to work with their hands exposed to the cold. Brr!

We had the electricity turned off all day at school for some repair, so I came back to the office to drop off my paper and check my email. It's the weekend, so I'll get to sleep in a bit, study a bit, and grade some tests over the next two days. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 16

street vendors

Today's picture theme...people who sell food on the street. The first guy is selling fruit on a stick, covered with caramelized sugar. The second guy is a cooked meat vendor. There's also a street scene from downtown, a guy cooking meat on skewers, and a jiaozi (steamed dumpling) vendor.

Tuesday, November 15

daily life pictures

I wish I could figure out how to format these pictures so that they look good in the post. I can't see the finished post, but it seems like they don't look that good in the preview. Anyhow, these are some pictures a recent visitor took and I thought they provided a little glimpse into life in Yanji. The first picture is of some people setting up for market. You can see a wagon with a lot of cabbage. Before the cold hits in full force, it's the Korean tradition to put away cabbage in the form of kimchi. (That's why kimchi is the national food of Korea, because it provides a vegetable source during the cold winter when other vegetables used to not be available.) The second picture is of a common tractor/wagon combo, seen often on the hill leading up to and away from our university. (The motor is just open, and I always think it could be so dangerous!) The third picture, of a pile of coal ready to heat a nearby building. These piles are all over town, and just keep getting bigger as it gets colder. Then, there's a picture of the polluted sky as a result of the coal being burned. The last picture is the same market as the first, just getting set up.
I haven't taken any pictures like this yet, but when I saw the ones this guy took, I realized you guys might find it interesting to see more of what it looks like here.

Thursday, November 10

another set of essays

I had my students write about what they'd be excited about, find difficult, etc. if they went to Texas. Here are a few funny quotes:

If I went to Texas, one thing I'd be worried about is the food there.
The food there is too rich in energy. You can get this conclusion surely
from the conversation teacher in YUST. Everyone are tall enough. On
the contrary, I hate being taller than others, because the obvious height will
cause troubles for me.

If I went to Texas, something I'd be really nervous about is the frequent
kiss. In the Western countries, it's so popular for people to kiss each
other every day. How can I refuse the kind kiss from the friendly Texas

And I think I will make a lot of friends in the Texas one day. If
possible, I want to buy a lovely and pocket dog. I like dog very
much. But I don't know how much it is.

Monday, November 7

cold's blowing in

We've been so lucky to have great weather so far this winter...only a few days that were really cold, and only one day of beautiful snow. Today, though, the weather has taken a turn for the colder side and the wind has been blowing super hard all day. The positive side of that is the normally polluted coal dust filled sky has been blown free of nasty stuff and is a beautiful cloudy light blue.

Today, I went downtown to pick up some pictures I left to get developed, and I stopped by the fruit market and the supermarket while I was down there. The main supermarket downtown is three levels. The first level is refrigerated stuff, bread, fruit and vegetables (but nobody buys
fruits or veggies there, because they're more expensive than the market). The second floor is other nonperishables, and the third floor is electronics, plastics, stationery, etc. So, I go into the first floor and there are throngs of people waiting to check their bags (you have to check your bag before you enter). Then, there were people crowded around piles of sausages and huge boxes of milk. They were having a sale! On a Tuesday, the whole store had random things on sale! The ramp going up to the second floor was so packed that it was almost dangerous, and then I get up to the third floor and there's a really long line. Of course, I was curious, so I wandered to the front. I couldn't tell exactly what they were waiting for, but I think it was rice. Unfortunately, nothing I really buy was on sale, but it was an interesting experience!

i haven't forgotten

about this blog. I have been inspired at random times on what I could write here, but I haven't made a lot of time to even respond to emails lately, let alone blog. I have to go now, actually, so I don't have time to write an inspired note here, but I'll be back soon. Tonight, I'm meeting to study with someone and then I'm inviting the girls of one of my beginner classes over to bake. At this point, my apartment is only halfway clean and I don't have anything ready to put together to bake, so I must go.

Sunday, October 30

language learning...

I've had a few people ask me recently about how my language study is going. I keep forgetting that I've been meaning to write a little about this process for a long time.

The first few months I was here, I didn't feel like I was getting any language practice. I got frustrated that the language I had learned was slipping away, so I decided that self-study wasn't getting me anywhere. I enrolled in a night class when the fall semester started through the community education office that is sort of a part of our school. The class I started going to was too easy, so I moved up a level. That level turned out to be quite frustrating for a few reasons. At first, the main reason was that the teacher was pretty boring. The second reason was that he started to use more Chinese words. On my second day of class, he went around the room and had us translate a Korean vocabulary word into Chinese (as if that's a good language learning technique, or a good way to spend class time). When he got to me, I translated it into English and he said, "No! Chinese!" He doesn't speak English, so he feels threatened when any English is spoken, but what was my alternative? It wasn't one of the approximately 17 Chinese words that I know. He continued to write Chinese characters on the board as explanations for words (he doesn't even really speak Chinese, he only knows some words and characters), but he wasn't even doing it for words that the Chinese students really even needed. One day, I went in and he had written three sentences on the board in Chinese and he wanted us to translate them into Korean. I almost got up and left, but I decided not to be rude. I did ask, in probably a not-as-polite-as-I-could-have-been manner if we were going to study Korean that night. The next day, I went to the office to drop the class, but they were only going to give me 60% of my tuition back. (I only paid 330 yuan to begin with, which is only about 40 bucks for a whole semester.) Also, the guy in the office told me that he would talk to the teacher and it would get better. The class did get better, and the other non-Chinese that is taking the class with me thanked me for talking to the office. So, I'm still in this class. The teacher hasn't gotten any more interesting, but it is a steady way to keep getting language practice. The problem now is that I have other commitments twice a week now, so I only go two nights out of the four. The class is at a slow enough pace where this doesn't make it any tougher on me, but I think the teacher sorta dislikes me now. Oh well.

I started asking around for tutors once I thought that I would quit the class,so now I also have two Korean language tutors. I intended to use them as a replacement for my class, but since I didn't quit class, I have both class and tutoring. One is an exchange student from South Korea and one is a Chinese-Korean from here in Yanji. They both have their different accents and ways of saying things, so I think I'm getting good practice. All we do is talk in Korean for an hour. (Actually, I do more listening since I'm not naturally much of a talker and it's obviously much harder in a foreign language, but it's still good.) I also ask them questions about the workbook homework that I do for my class. So, finally, I feel like I am making progress again in this language thing.

I am also attempting to learn some Chinese, but I want to do it right and learn the characters and not just how to say things, so it's slow going. I bought the Beijing University conversation book and it's pretty hard and progresses pretty quickly, so it might be about 10 years before I can finish the first book, but that's okay. I have a friend who comes over once a week to teach me some Chinese, but we mostly just talk about life, and that's okay, too. That's the real reason why I'm here.

Thursday, October 27

dictation answers

So, on the listening section, the beginner students have to listen to two sentences and write what they hear. The dictation sentences are:
1. She works near here.
2. Are they in your purse?

Here are some answers I got:
She wercks nuirer.
She works New York.
She works nere hire.
She walks Univer.

Are day nuer peas.
a ten you pass.
Are the in your porst.
Are they the bus.
Are the your forse?
are They your parents?

What can I say. Listening is hard.

Wednesday, October 26

beginner mid term: writing section

Yesterday's post was from my intermediate class. Today's is from my beginner class, who learned Japanese in high school and have never taken English before this semester. Here are some responses from this prompt:
Write about your mother or father. What do they look like? What do you like about them?

My mother is very pretty and very smart. She's tall and funny.
She loves me very much, so I love you too. She's forty four years
old. She's in the Korea.

My hometown is Yanji. Yanji is butyfur. Yanji has downtown, but
Yanji very cold. I don't like the weather.

My mother is very friendly. My mother is smart. My mother is very
fanny. My mother is very good looking. My mother is tall. So,
I like my mother.

My father like working. My mother like cooking. They are very
frindly. I like it. I like bed of my home. I don't like wall's
color. (Who asked about the house, anyhow?)

Tuesday, October 25

a great essay

I assigned a creative writing last week where my intermediate students had to write a story to go with one of the crazy headlines that I found online. This one was about the headline: 13 Year Old Ninja Captured, but she titled it The Surprising Weakness. All the names she uses in the story are names of past or current teachers. The victorious one is the sometimes feared director of our office. Usually, our students struggle with creativity, but this showed that it is possible to draw some creativity out of them.

The story happened in 2045. Japan had been controlled by Ninjas for
many years. The new Ninja was strong and bellicose, and they hated
endure. To be No. 1 the Ninjas wanted to capture America. But
American president Bush III had already made "Plan N" to deal with them.
Plan N went back to kill the Japanese president at his 20th birthday by using
the timing machine. Because the weakest time of the person was his last
day of 20th birthday. Lela, a young but clever girl accepted this
task. She was the youngest of the Texas Police.

So the story went back to the year 2005, YUST, China. The Japanese ws
studying here, and he had an interesting name: X man. Lela tried to search
for his information by working as a teacher. She couldn't expose herself
because the boy was still a 13 year old ninja and she was just 19 years old, she
couldn't beat him. Lela stayed at YUST as a teacher. She was so
beautiful that many teachers fell in love with her. Lela told them that
she would choose the strongest one who could beat X man. So they tried
their best, but unluckily, no one won. Abraham disappeared after the
fight, Mr. An got married with another one, and Emeric was badly hurt, his leg
was broken. The task was even harder. But the clever Lela didn't
give up. She found that the boy feared Hannah Pyon. On the last day
of his 20th birthday, she killed him with the help of Hannah Pyon.

After that, Lela understood one thing. Although a man was strong, the
English was more terrible. They were all frightened of English.

Thursday, October 20

can you believe it?

I can't! It's OCTOBER 21st and it snowed this morning! I had absolutely no idea that this was coming, but one of my friends said that it was forecasted on the internet. Anyhow, I was super happy to be surprised this morning. The first words out of my mouth (I don't usually talk to myself, this is reserved for special occasions such as an early snow) were OH MY GOSH!

So, I snapped a few pictures from my window for your viewing pleasure...not that they are great landscapes, or anything, but just to prove to you that it did in fact happen. Now, it's almost 11am and it's not melting. Wow! This ain't Texas!

I took the long way to the office this morning so I could walk outside and feel the snow hit my face. (It actually felt a little more like ice falling instead of snow.) Lovely. I got to the office and one of the teachers there shared my fascination with the snow, but most of the others sort of had a bah-humbug-i-have-to-walk-around-in-this-and-this-is-the-beginning-of-a-long-winter sort of attitude.

The weird thing is that the past few days, it's been warmer. Yesterday afternoon, I took a long walk in only pants and a long sleeved t-shirt, and now sitting in the office, I'm not cold at all (I have a shirt, sweater, and down vest on, though).

I know it will be a long winter, but snow is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 18

a checkup!

Our school announced last week that there was an arrangement with one of the local hospitals to give us physicals for 100 yuan each (about 13 bucks). So, I decided for that price, I should sign up. I skipped breakfast yesterday and today to get all these different tests run. Yesterday, I got my blood drawn. Today, I went to the hospital with another woman from the office and we got to pee in a cup (is there a way to do that without getting pee on your hand? just wondering), we got a sonogram (definitely first time for that!), an EKG (that felt totally weird to get all these points of my body suctioned or aliens had captured and were testing me), and an X-ray. It looks like I'm normal, although I'm still waiting for the results of the fluid tests. I guess next week, they'll go over the results with us. Can you believe I got all of that for only 13 bucks? I probably didn' t need it, but knowing I'm healthy might make my mom feel better. :)

I also got to eat one of my favorite meals for lunch, since we had to wait on the X-ray man to come back, we went across the street and ate at a Korean restaurant. I had sun du bu jigae (spicy soft tofu soup), then we went for a little walk. It's been really cold the past few days, already long john and coat weather, but today we were just wearing shirts and sweaters, and the sun is out to warm our skin. Beautiful day.

Sunday, October 16

heard in the office

"Those painted trees remind me of a french manicure."

Almost all of the trees in China have part of their trunks painted as a pest control technique. I don't know if this is effective or not, but I remember seeing it in Romania too. Anyhow, now I look at them and laugh, remembering the french manicure comment. And, it came from a guy, no less.

Friday, October 14

it's saturday

and saturdays are always good....
I got to talk to my sister this morning for a good long time. It's been a long time since we talked. I had cinnamon toast and an apple (that I just remembered I didn't finish, so it must still be sitting on my table half eaten...eww.) I got a good amount of sleep. I came to the office and got my inbox down to six emails, but I still have a lot to do.

Yesterday was a rather full day. I taught my two beginner classes (8am, 9am) and then went to watch the elementary classes in their English skit competition. That was fun. Lunch took forever because it was hot noodles and the line was enormous. Intermediate class at 1 (they performed memorized dialogues...they were cute), then a short break and a meeting to revise our midterm, which lasted until almost 5. (We have to give the same midterm test, so all the teachers have to agree and make the test together.) Then, at five, we took part of our beginner class out to dinner. We have to do interviews with all of our students, but with beginners, it's hard, because they don't know much English at all, and my beginner partner's and my Korean is just OK, but not great enough to conduct a fluent interview. So, we took the guys of the class out to dinner in two small groups. It was a good way to interact. We're having a baking night with the girls next week.

So, the longer I sit in the office today, the colder it gets and even though I have homework to grade and record, I think I will go home and accomplish these tasks later. I've got a good book to finish anyhow.

Thursday, October 13

haircut, etc.

Don't worry, I don't think I caught bird flu. I did get downtown on Saturday to get a haircut. I picked a random place on a street where most of the people speak Korean. They started out by shampooing my hair with no water and no sink. They just poured some shampoo on the top of my head and made an increasingly bigger shampoo cap on my head. They added moisture by strategically squirting it on, then they took me to the back to wash it out. They had to move me around until they found a sink that had hot water working, but thankfully they weren't completely out of hot water. They then straightened my hair, layer cut it, and finished it. The whole process took more than an hour, and only cost 20 kwai, or about $2.50. Amazing. The cheapest cuts here are only 5 kwai, less than a dollar. I almost went for one of those, but I figured an extra buck or two might be worth it. It was. I have a really good cut now, and with the layers, it takes much less time to dry, which will be handy for the winter when (I've been warned) there's the possibility of it freezing when you walk out the door, even if you don't go outside.

I spent the rest of Saturday back at home, under the covers reading. I imagined that the heat I trapped under the covers would make the achy body go away, and it did. I felt much better Sunday and this week even though I don't feel normal, I am doing well. I borrowed a small pile of fiction from a friend, and got a whole book read on Saturday and Sunday afternoon: The Secret Life of Bees. It inspired me to make some corn fritters (the first time ever) and cornbread for an office birthday lunch on Tuesday. We had chili, cornbread, corn fritters, and cupcakes. It was a near perfect lunch, just missing some sour cream to top the chili. One person even commented that perhaps cornbread is meant to be made by southerners, it was so good. I have to say, though, that after the frying those fritters and getting oil popped on my hand, I don't want to fry anything again for a long while.

Friday, October 7

nothing in particular

We only had two days of school this week. That was good. I've been spending more time in the office than normal, though, to get caught up on emails (still not done) and make tests. We're already getting our midterms ready and we have unit tests this week. Today, though, I'm finished with that stuff and I just came to check email. I somehow got stuck checking out other people's xanga sites (blogs that aren't blocked here), and now my hands are cold and it's time to step out into the sunshine.

Yesterday, it was really cold and drizzly. Today, I woke up to bright, beautiful sunlight, though! Yea. I was feeling a little achy last night, so I let myself stay in bed this morning (falling in and out of sleep while reading) until a little after 10. I thought I was feeling better until I actually left my room and walked up here to the office. My body is now saying it doesn't like being out of bed, so I might listen to it. I was going to go swimming tonight, but my swimming buddy and I decided I shouldn't. I might still go downtown to get a haircut, though.

I've read my way through my fiction supply, so last night I watched a movie since I didn't feel like reading non-fiction and I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything. Then, some friends came over and we watched another movie. Unfortunately, neither one was really worth watching. I need another book. I'm gonna have to check out my friends' collections.

Okay, I think I've mustered enough energy for a trip downtown, especially since there's sunshine today!

Wednesday, October 5

my holiday

We are at the end of a five day (weekend included) break for national day here in China. Most schools get a week off, but we have to go back to school Thursday and Friday. Here's my holiday recap, since I'm sure you were wondering.

Friday night: Turned down the chicken liver in the cafeteria for a tasty impromptu dinner with a student. Later, went with three other teachers to one of the best saunas (bath houses) in Yanji for a good soak. We decided we deserved a little extra that night and all got hour and a half massages. For only 16 bucks, it's hard to beat. We left total balls of jelly.

Saturday: Harvest day on the farm. Laundry later that night, then early to bed.

Sunday: Normal activities in the AM, shopping to stock up in the afternoon, a good nap, a movie at home, and reading. Good stuff.

Monday: Up early to get the beans cooking for Mexican night. Ultimate frisbee with another teacher and some students, shopping for meat in the meat market (first time there...the Chinese student who went with me even pulled up his jacket collar as a breathing mask). Mexican night with the conversation teachers. Homemade tortillas (we can't buy them), cheese smuggled in from the US, my beans, and all the fixins. Good, good stuff.

Tuesday: Day trip to Hoon Choon, a border town in China where you can see Russia and North Korea at once from a viewing tower. Good times travelling with four other teachers, fitting into one taxi to get us from the bus station to the border (only 150 yuan, or about 19 bucks for a two hour round trip taxi ride!).

Wednesday: Up early to get my unit tests made for this week, to get my portion of the midterm ready, and get a bit of grading done. Soaked up the last bit of sunshine outside this afternoon, then took a walk at dusk.

Tomorrow, back to work, but only two days left in the week!

Sunday, October 2

day on the farm

Yesterday, our school took a group of students (and five teachers) on a bus about an hour and some change away from here to volunteer on a farm that needed some help with the harvest. It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day, the first one in a while. We showed up on a farm of someone (not sure how the school knew them) and helped with their corn and soybean harvest.

In the morning, I helped with the soybeans, taking turns cutting the plants at the root with a sickle and stacking the small piles into larger piles for collecting. We broke for an extra yummy lunch at the farmhouse of rice and sidedishes (kimchi, tofu soup, cucumbers to dip in hot pepper paste). They had one side dish that was almost just like saurkraut with clear noodles in it. It was really good. Another American teacher and I sat next to the owner of the farm's brother at lunch (the owner of the farm is the little guy in shucking corn in one of the pictures). The other teacher speaks Chinese and I speak some Korean, so he took turns speaking in both languages (he's a Korean Chinese man.) I still find it amazing that normal farmers can speak two languages so well. We mentioned that to him and he brushed it off saying that one is the language of the country, so of course he speaks it, and one is just a small dialect language that he speaks with his family.

In the afternoon, some people went back to finish the soybean field, but I joined the team to shuck corn, then I went with a group up the hill to another field to cut down corn stalks with a sickle. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but soon I had a system down and was doing it pretty quickly. It gave me a lot of time to think. (I'm sure I thought some really profound thoughts, but right now I can't think of any to share with you.) We left late in the afternoon with sunkissed faces and tired bodies. It was a wonderful way to start off our three day break (for national day) and enjoy one of the last warm days of fall. Today, the cold winds of (what feel like) winter have been blowing all day and at 5:30 it's already pitch dark outside!

(I don't know why my pictures won't cooperate and go where I want them to, so you have to endure a post with a layout of pictures that's not so pleasing to the eye...sorry.)

Tuesday, September 27

"chinese barbecue"

Last night, I took the girls that I lived with over the summer out to eat. At my request, we went to eat yang rou char, or lamb meat roasted on a stick over the fire at your table. It's one of the favorite things to eat among foreigners here in Yanji. You order from the various kinds of things to roast over your fire. Usually, we order about 10 small skewers of lamb per person and then some other stuff, like cow cartilage, hot dog type meat on a stick, the meat from the ear of a lamb, which has soft bones in it that you eat as well, and other stuff. One of the best things to get is thick slices of a bread like substance that you toast over the fire. They give you honey to dip it in, too. Mmm. Last night we also ordered some raw cucumbers to dip in hot pepper paste, some pickled sesame plant leaves to wrap around the meat after it's roasted, a hot noodle dish, and some fried rice, then we all share it. After you leave, you smell like char until you wash your clothes, but it's worth it. It was good to catch up with my roommates and hear a little about their summer vacation and their semester so far since I don't get to see them much anymore.

Since my beginner classes are having a hard time with how fast we're moving because they just learned how to read English two weeks ago, I told them I would be available last night in the cafeteria for anyone who wanted help. I had three students show up, and I just helped them with pronunciation and a few little grammar points. Of course, the ones who really needed it didn't show up, but maybe if I make it a regular thing, they will. One of the guys even went to the store and bought us four sodas to drink while we studied. My students are so cute.

Today, my co-teacher and I are doing interviews of all our beginner students. So far today, we have interviewed 16. It's too many for one day, but it does help put faces and information with their names since I don't have all their names down yet. My co-teacher is Korean American, so she does most of the interviewing in Korean and I just ask a few questions that they can understand and answer in English. Only three more interviews to go!

the forbidden city

After Angela's question about the Forbidden City, I decided to post a few more pics. I didn't actually take any really good ones, but here are a few of the outside, the inside, and the gardens.
It's called the Forbidden City because it used to be forbidden to everyone except for royalty.
It's just behind Tiananmen Square, right in the middle of Beijing. I had a great hostel to stay in just a ten minute walk from Tiananmen Square.

Sunday, September 25

grading is entertaining

In the intermediate class, we assign one creative writing assignment per week. Last week's was to write about what your childhood dream was. Here are a few that made me laugh.

This guy's dream was to become a famous soccer player. He wrote: "Soccer gave me so much laugh and happiness, but unluckily I wasn't strong enough so that I had to throw up my dream."

One girl titled her essay "My Gream" instead of "My Dream."

And, this one just made me smile: "At seeing the title, I was brought back my childhood. Also caused me to miss my dear grandmother. I can't describe how much she loves me. The love she gives me is so lofty that the sun will seem faint if you can put them together, also sea will seem paltry, the mountain appears tiny." (He goes on to say that whatever he does, he wants to give back to his grandmother for all the love she's given him.)

I've had a lot more funny ones, but I haven't written down what they were before I gave them back. We all agree in the conversational English department that grading these papers is more rewarding than it is a chore!

Tuesday, September 20

a picture from beijing

I was going to post something, but I decided to post a picture instead. This is a shot of people resting inside the Forbidden Palace. It's not raining at all...the umbrellas are a shade from the sun (which wasn't all that strong that day, but it's an Asian custom to shield themselves from the sun).

test time

This week, it's time to give our first unit tests of the semester. I made the intermediate test first. Since they've used the books before, there are old teachers' tests on the computer, so we can look through, cut and paste, and make one that suits us. It took relatively little time, even though I did make up some of my own questions and tailor it to my students. My intermediate class is so fun. I can talk to them at an almost normal speed, and I often find myself acting things out (like what it looks like to make a big deal out of something), or explaining words like disgusting. They are really good natured and they laugh a lot, so I have a really good time with them.

I have a good time with my beginners too, but I leave class a lot more drained. Today, for example, I was trying to teach them prepositions in a way that would involve them talking(it's supposed to be a conversation class). The idea was they would draw a bug on their paper, either in, on, under, or beside the box. Their partner was supposed to ask questions about where the bug was until they got it right. This might sound like an easy assignment, but even with me doing an example on the board and modelling it, most were clueless, just because their English isn't at a level to understand even the most simple directions yet. I was teaching prepositions, but I had to translate the words for draw, bug, ask your partner... everything. So, the test for the beginner class consists of pictures, choosing words to make a correct simple sentence, and choosing the right preposition in describing a picture. I know these guys are gonna make progress fast, though!

Thursday, September 15

small joys

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don't have any afternoon classes. It's wonderful. If I have any work to do, I take it home and do it there. Yesterday, I had my lesson plans for today finished, and just had a few papers to correct. I went home and finished those, then I cleaned my room a little and made some chocolate chip (cut up from a cheap chocolate bar) banana bread. I finally got my oven figured out and it turned out really well. I have Korean class in the evenings, starting at 6:00, so I threw together a quick dinner and it turned out to be one of the yummiest things I've eaten in a while. I had some chicken nuggets (from the local supermarket "deli") dipped in ranch dressing (ranch mix from home, mayo and yogurt), some corn on the cob (given to me by a friend), tomato and onion salad/salsa I made the night before, and thin sliced sweet potatoes tossed with a little oil and salt, then baked until crispy. Honestly, for a second, I thought I could be eating at Chili's in Texas. It was tasty.

I went to Korean class, for a walk around the track afterwards, then to bed early (since I'm getting up at 5:30 these days, I let myself go to bed as early as possible). Life is good.

Monday, September 12

bike taxis

These are the bike taxis that they use in some cities in China. We don't have them in Yanji, but I first saw them in Tumen this summer. They only cost one yuan (13 cents) per person. I thought they were so cute; they gave the city character. They also have them in Beijing, offering rides through the famous old alleyways of the city, but they're much more expensive there (at least at the rates they quoted for this tourist). I tried to take one to meet my friends just across Tiananmen square one night, and they wanted 20 yuan!

full swing

I started teaching my beginner classes this week and I started taking Korean classes last night, too, so I'm getting busier. The beginner students are freshmen who are required to take English, but have only taken Japanese in high school, so they start from the beginning here at college. They take 8 hours of conversation a week and then some grammar classes, too, so their first year of college is full of a flood of English. It's strange to be teaching college students the basics, since in Korea I taught these same things to 5 and 6 year olds, but I think our freshmen will learn quickly. Most of them are very eager.

My Korean class is at night, and is full of university students, mostly from the other university in Yanji. I was the first student in the classroom, and that really confused the other students who came in after me. They saw me there and they thought they had the wrong classroom, because they assumed the white girl would be the teacher and she obviously wouldn't speak Korean. But, they checked the room number and started filtering in. When they heard my first response in Korean to the teacher, they sorta laughed and murmured some things softly. The class was much easier than my classes in Seoul, so I'm thinking about moving up a level, but I might just stay because the next level is the highest one. The good thing was that even though I knew all the words, it was good to practice and think in Korean again. Maybe being at a lower level will increase my conversational ability.

Monday, September 5

going through pictures

I'm trying to organize some of my pictures, and I found this one that I took at a market here in Yanji earlier this summer. English translations of things are often funny, and both Chinese and Koreans are known for not always being what is known as tactful in Western culture. It's not uncommon for someone you really don't even know that well to tell you that you're fat, or you've put on weight. Of course, the often is also true. They will often tell you that you are beautiful, or wow, you must have lost weight this summer! They just say what's on their mind, especially regarding appearance. I'm sure, in some ways, we are just as shocking to them about some things that we don't do the same way their culture does. Anyhow, this name on the side of the store made us all laugh. I mean, who actually wants to shop in a store with this name?

Sunday, September 4

the first day of school!

Finally, the first day of school is here! The weekend was full of students returning and making the campus buzz with energy again. It feels good to be starting off a new semester! It's also kinda good that our freshmen don't start until next week, because they have some classes required by the government at the beginning of the semester. So, I only have one class today. It's a good way to ease in to the year.

I also don't start my Korean classes until next week, so this will be a relatively easy week. I'm gonna keep my office hours to get into a schedule and get some stuff done in preparation for the busy year ahead. People keep scaring me that the Korean class Monday through Thursday nights is gonna eat my lunch, but I am determined to get my Korean up to a fluent level!

One of the perks of working in the English conversation office is that we have fresh brewed coffee every morning! I know that might not sound like much to most of you reading this, but it IS! In China (even more so than in Korea) it's really hard to get fresh brewed coffee. I've become used to the mix kind, that comes in packets with cream and sugar already added. It's actually not that bad once you get used to it, but fresh brewed coffee is SO good! Our teachers who go home for the summer bring back big bags full for our office, so we have a good supply. Some teachers who left last year even sent some coffee beans for our office this year!

I've had a really good time getting to know the teachers in our office, and the new set of young German teachers (we have a German major at our university, too). I am really looking forward to getting to know the students and settle into this year!

Friday, September 2

money, money, money

I thought I had the money thing figured out until I went to Beijing and found a coin that I didn't recognze. It took me at least a month here to get to the point where I got a handle on the money, though. The first night here, I didn't even know what to call the money, because I thought it was yen, but people here called it renminbi or kwai. So, I finally just asked what the difference was and found out it was all the same. I was further confused when coins of different sizes and appearances, as well as different colored bills, all had the same value. There are at least two different coins and two different bills that all equal one kwai. Once I got that figured out, I learned about the smaller denominations. There are one mao bills, two mao bills, and five mao bills, but they can also be called jiao instead of mao and there are also coins that have the same values as those bills. But, it only takes 10 mao to equal one kwai instead of a hundred, like we're used to in dollars. There's a coin they use (in bigger cities, maybe?) that's called a fun, and it's smaller than a mao. I tried to pay with it in Beijing for something that was 2 kwai, but it didn't work. I knew the characters didn't match, but I didn't know what else it could be. So, I asked about this too and found out that it was really small and I couldn't even use it in Yanji. Crazy.

So, I'm getting this money thing down. Now, when I go to the market, I can ask how much things are, tell them how many I want, and understand when they tell me how much it is. Usually, the merchants don't speak Korean, so I've learned how to do this in Chinese. Yesterday, I was getting beyond my very elemental Chinese limits and I started mixing Korean and Chinese. I was even confusing myself. No wonder the lady couldn't figure out what I wanted. Oh, well, a little progress is still a good thing.

Sunday, August 28


Before I went to Beijing, I found out that my debit card had just expired, so I've been on a limited budget since then. I was able to enjoy Beijing a lot since I stayed in a really cheap place, so I even got to shop a little bit, and I had enough money to make it for almost two weeks afterwards here in Yanji on the remaining money. Today, I had about 30 yuan left in my wallet, so I hadn't hit rock bottom yet, and I finally got the ATM card! Woo hooo! Now I can buy a water heater and start taking some hot is good.

This week, we just have a lot of meetings, but the pace is still pretty slow. I've been reading a lot, studying a little, and taking a few naps. The pace will pick up considerably once classes start, because I'll be taking language classes and teaching language classes, getting to know my students, grading, making tests, all that fun stuff that goes with teaching at a university.

Thursday, August 25


Yanji has taken another step towards civilization. Cabs are now required to use their meters! Since I've been here, I've learned how to bargain a taxi rate before I get in. Yesterday, I learned that the drivers are actually expected to use the meters that are in every taxi anyway. So last night, coming back from downtown, one of the girls first asked the rate to take us back to school and he said 10 yuan. That's the usual rate at night from downtown, so we got in. Then, we remembered that we could ask him to use the meter, so we did. He didn't want us to use it, so he said it didn't work, but we insisted. It was only 7 yuan, but then as we sat and he tried to get us to pay 10 like he said at the beginning, it went up to 8. So, we paid 8 and he acted like he was giving us a deal. The great thing about the meter system is that it won't matter that I'm white (which usually makes it harder to bargain) and it won't matter if it's raining or if it's night time, because taxis will always be the same rate! What a concept.

Sunday, August 21

a few more days of rest!

I've been taking it easy, reading a lot, going for a walk every morning, and getting my place a little better organized. Good times. This weekend, I had two surprise calls from friends! One call from Korea and one call from California. That made me smile. :)

Today, I went to the plant market and bought three nice plants. I didn't get ripped off, I don't think, but I didn't get that good of a deal either. I've gotta work on my bargaining skills (which means working on my Chinese skills).

New teachers are coming in, so it's fun to meet the people I'll be working with. Old teachers are returning, too, so it's becoming more lively around here, plus the freshmen are in the middle of their required military training on campus, so there's a lot of activity, but still two weeks before classes start!

Thursday, August 18

i'm back!

My last day in Beijing, I met my friends for the famous Beijing duck, which was very good and very expensive, then I got on my 26 hour train ride back to Yanji. Oh my goodness. The sleepers were all full, so I sat up the whole trip. It was SO long. You can't even imagine. I got a little sleep, read a whole book, studied a tiny amount of Korean, and sat in a daze the rest of the time, trying to keep my mind off how much time I had left. Finally, I made it back at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, stopped off at the grocery store to get some food (I had only packed a little bag of chips, some Chinese fruit roll ups, and some nuts that turned out to be so nasty I couldn't eat them), then got home.

It feels so good to be back here. I've only lived here about two months, but it's home. I did laundry, talked with a friend who got back just before me, ate some noodles, and slept. Oh, sleeping in a bed is so good. Today, I got to reconnect with some people at the coffee shop. That was really good. This is a good place for me to be now.

Monday, August 15

The Great Wall

This post could end up being really long, because there are many stories to tell from yesterday...
The day started with meeting one of my friends at the subway station that was next to the bus station that we were departing to the wall from. After much waiting and searching, we finally connected an hour and a half later than we planned. I won't go into all of that, but it was a good lesson in patience and many other things for me. We decided, at my recommendation, to go to the Hwang Hua section of the wall, not Badaling (like most tour groups go to) because we didn't want to be surrounded by other tourists and we wanted to see the real wall, not a rebuilt version.

We got on the bus, already pretty wet from sweat, and began asking (my friend is Chinese) about a mini bus that we could take from where the bus stopped. They said there weren't any mini buses that went to the great wall from where the bus stopped. We weren't phased, though. We got off the bus and were immediately latched onto by two guys trying to get us to take their taxi for too much. We went in to ask about the bus situation, were told there were no buses, then after some deliberation, one taxi driver actually told us that there was a mini bus station and he would take us there. He did, but on the way he tried to get us to just go with him. We bargained and bargained and weren't satisfied, so we just asked him to take us to the mini bus station. We get on our mini bus, wait and wait, then finally take off. Soon, we see two white people looking a little lost, so we yell out the window where we're going and they jump in. They're a couple from Poland.

We get to the section of the great wall that we want to visit, and when we get off, an older lady escorts us across a dam to the base of the hill. We each pay her 2 yuan and another guide passes us and starts walking quickly up the hill. We are told to follow him, so we do, but he soon leaves us. We are walking beside the wall and keep walking, then we see a ladder to go up the wall. The couple starts to climb, then the man at the top says that it's 2 more yuan to go up. That's not much money at all, but the lady told us that our 2 yuan we already paid would get us up. So, we keep going to see if there's another way. After a while of walking up this narrow and steep path with rocks, bugs, trees in the way, we decide to go back down to the ladder. Now he tells us that he wants 20 yuan from each of us. (We don't know if he was mad, or if he just didn't say the right price the first time.) The Polish guy had already gone up, with the ladder man expecting his wife to pay. When she wouldn't pay that price, the ladder man moved the ladder and wouldn't let the Polish guy down. We spent a while waiting, deciding what to do, while the P0lish guy tried to find another way down. He couldn't, so we bargained the ladder guy down to 12 yuan per person.

The view from the top, and actually being on the Great Wall, was worth it. We climbed up until a lightning storm came, then decided it wasn't the best place to be. We walked down a little until the lightning subsided, then the Polish couple shared their bread with us. It was the first time I had been cool in Beijing, being wet from sweat and with the cool breeze blowing on us. It was also the first time I'd been able to sit and enjoy being away from tourism. We four were alone up there, with the amazing wall stretching out before and behind us. After our rest, we walked down to our ladder and found out the guys were gone, and with them, the ladder. We could have been upset (especially because the guy had said the ladder would be there when we got back), but it was just another obstacle to overcome. So, walking a little further, we found a place to get down and walked down the other side of the wall to the river. We proceeded across a two plank bridge, and then found that there were people behind us yelling that we pay to cross their bridge. Again, they were only asking two yuan per person, but the principle behind it was what upset us, because we should have been able to take our 12 yuan ladder down for free!

The Polish couple is convinced that everybody works together to make sure the foreigners have to pay at every spot. They probably do. We tried to get out of paying our bridge fee, a fight almost broke out, and one of the guys threatened calling the police, but we ended up paying. When we got on the bus, there was a group from France who had gone to another section of the wall on a tour and their guide actually left them there by themselves! Through all of these experiences, I really do believe that I got an "authentic Wall experience" (as Lonely Planet called this section of the wall), although I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they have a Chinese speaker to go with them!

Sunday, August 14

day 4

I rented a bike yesterday and really enjoyed it. I also had a McDonald's kids meal with pancakes, hashbrowns, and hot chocolate for breakfast. There's not much of a chance of a day going bad with that to start you off!

The first place I trekked to was an old market, about a thirty minute bike ride away. I couldn't figure out how to get there by bus the day before (and the subway doesn't go out that far), so having a bike was excellent. On a bike, there's always some wind surrounding you and you feel a little less like a tourist even though you can't get away from looking like one. The market was great. It was full of antiques, fabrics, lanterns, carvings, paintings, all sorts of stuff. The best part about it was that none of the people there reached for you or called out "lady, lady! looka, looka! cheaper for you!" like they do in every other market I've been to in Beijing. Hearing that all day is enough to make you want to leave the city on its own. Anyway, the market was really nice.

I rode up to the China Art Museum and had a great time (in the air conditioned building) looking at the mostly Chinese, and some French art. From there, I rode around the Forbidden City moat, went to Wang Fu Jing (the big shopping street that feels like any big city) and bought two cheap classic books to read on my long train ride home.

In the evening, I finally caught up with the two friends I came with. They had a late dinner and we shared stories. Today, we are going to the Great Wall together. I'm happy to have someone to go with!

Saturday, August 13

day three

Today's high points:
-finding my way to Beijing University on my own by reading the bus map in Chinese! (okay, I only had to know four easy characters to do it, but still, I'm sorta proud about it)
-seeing the beautiful campus
-walking in an air conditioned mall in the afternoon when I thought I would melt because of the humidity
-drinking an Orange Julius
-finding my way back to my hostel area by reading a bus sign again, this time reading the characters for my area

Today's low points:
-somehow missing meeting my friends at the main gate of the university. either I was at the wrong "main" gate, or they couldn't make it (no cell phones is pretty freeing, but in this case, it would have been helpful!)
-sweating about a million liters in this crazy humidity

I am really enjoying being here, seeing things at a leisurely pace, but I am thinking about leaving sooner than I thought because I am missing the lovely weather of Yanji. I just thought it was hot there during the day! Either way, at night there, it's so beautifully cool. Well, I do still want to see the Great Wall and the Summer Palace, so maybe I'll stay until Tuesday night.

Friday, August 12

day two

We got a sudden downpour in the middle of the night last night. It had stopped by the time I went out at about 7, but started again later in the morning. I went to the train station to try to get a ticket back home, but they wouldn't let me reserve more than five days in advance. They don't have any sleepers available, so unless I get someone to pull some strings for me, I'll be sitting up all the way back home. As one of my friends says, it will help me understand more Chinese culture, because that's the way most of the Chinese do it. So, I haven't reserved yet. I'll probably go again tomorrow. From the train station, I took the bus back to my hostel, but decided to ride it a little longer to see what else was in the neighborhood. I got off after seeing a McDonald's, with the intention of going in for coffee (they have free refills and air conditioning there), but when I got off the bus, I found that I was right next to an entrance to the Temple of Heaven park. So, I went in and spent a few hours wandering through. The buildings there are really interesting. If I were still a math teacher, I would have an application for next year. One of the structures (it's an altar of some kind, I think) has 9 levels because 9 is the largest single digit odd number, thought to have significance of some sort. The top level has circles of marble slabs with the multiples of nine, so the first has 9 and the last has 81.

After the Temple of Heaven, I walked and walked. I found one of the big markets here and bought a few things, even though I'm trying to keep myself on a very tight budget. Things here are cheap, and I'm getting a little better at bargaining, although I'm sure I'm not getting things for the prices Chinese people would.

I came back to the hostel and took a nap, because I was exhausted from walking all day. It looks like I missed a good chance to see Tianamen at dusk, though, because it just started pouring again. Well, maybe journaling in the hostel is a better bet for tonight.

Thursday, August 11


We got in to Beijing this morning, took the subway over to Tianamen square, which is the area where my hostel is, and I got to check in. Walked through the square, did the Forbidden City (which apparently means something like purple palace in Chinese, so our Chinese friend laughed at the name), walked along the touristy commercial street, got lost in the traditional alleyways, ate in air conditioned McDonald's (nothing like that where I live!), and sweated buckets. I happened to meet one of the students from the university I teach at on the street. How random! She's here for the break, staying with relatives. She bought me some spicy marinated tofu at a place where you could also get four live scorpions on a stick. I suppose they fry them before they eat them, but I didn't get to witness anyone try. They also had skewered beetles (or maybe they were silkworm larvae) and seahorses for sale. I was so glad she bought me the tofu.

The weather is kinda strange. It's not really that hot, but you're just wet all day. In the middle of the Forbidden City today, a big white guy stripped his shirt off and then his son followed suit. The wife was already in a spaghetti strap shirt. Everybody around stared with googly eyes as he then put his backpack on his bare back and kept walking. Other than the fact that he was a big guy, I don't know why the Chinese had reason to stare, because the men here make a regular practice of lifting their shirt up above their belly when it's hot and walking around like that everywhere. Some also do the no shirt thing.

On my way back to the hostel this afternoon, two students walked along beside me and started talking. They invited me in to their student show and explained about Chinese artwork. It was all very interesting, and I realized that there would be a catch at the end, but I stayed. They did my name and a message in Chinese calligraphy at the end of the tour, and I expected to pay for that, but they told me it was free. They said, though, that if I'd like to support the scholarship fund, then I could buy some of their artwork. So, I did. I think now that it could have all been a ploy, that maybe they weren't even students, but it doesn't matter. I might not have gotten the best deal on the things I bought, but by American standards, it's a great price.

Well, the internet here is free, but we're asked to limit our time, so I am going to get out of my two day old nasty clothes and get as clean as possible in the hostel shower, then journal a bit and head to bed. I hope to get an early start, maybe to see the sunrise flag raising at Tianamen.

Wednesday, August 10


We're at the halfway point of getting to Beijing. We were escorted to the train station last night, even all the way to our car (they had to pay one yuan each to be able to do that) and we had a relatively peaceful night's sleep in the "hard sleeper" section of the train. There are six beds per room (which isn't really a room since there's no door). Getting to the top bunk is actually a bit of an adventure in itself, but I just know by observation since I was allowed the bottom bunk. Next to me was a young mother and a really sweet little one year old boy who even paitently waited for his mom to wake up this morning as he laid his head on her stomach. Nothing like a sweet picture like that to make you want a kid. :)

We spent today in Changchun, just seeing random stuff like the university, Wal-Mart, and eating some good food. For dinner, we had some pancake/crepe/tortilla like things that you put meat and veggies in, then dip in your choice of sauces and eat. When we were asked by our friends we met here what we wanted to eat, I said I wanted Mexican. This was the closest we could get. It was really good. I don't know the Chinese name, or I would tell you. Anyway, if you ever get a chance to try it, I recommend it. We left full and satisfied, all for less than two bucks per serving. Tonight, we're on the night train to Beijing. We're excited!

Monday, August 8

you've all been of my apartment

In keeping with tradition, I thought you guys needed to see my apartment here at the university. The wooden door in the background leads to the hallway. The posters on the wardrobe are of basic fruits, foods, etc. in Chinese. I'm actually learning something by glancing at it everyday! Just to the right of the outside door is my bathroom, which doesn't have hot water yet. I think when I get back from my trip I am going to buy a hot water heater. Right now, I heat up a bucket of water with a water coil (if you put your hand in the water to test it while it's heating, you'll get a buzz!) and pour it on me with a ladle type thing. It's an OK way to shower, actually, but I think when winter comes I will appreciate having hot water on demand. Behind where I stood to take the picture on the left is the picture on the right. It's my kitchen area, which actually isn't a kitchen, but has a fridge, little oven, electric skillet, shelves for food and a desk that I keep dishes in. Those two extra doors separate the porch (kitchen) area from the rest of the apartment. I just took them off for the summer to let more of a breeze flow through. On the porch, there is a big window where I can see the beautiful landscape behind the university.

This picture of the rainbow shows the landscape behind us, but it's taken from our office window. I went for another walk this morning around some of the paths back there. There are a lot of little houses and their little farms. It's really a nice place to walk!

I am headed out tonight for Beijing. We'll see if I can post there. I'm sure I can... I guess I just mean we'll see if I have the time and get motivated to post from there.

Sunday, August 7

a day of rest

This is my first real free day since getting to China, and it's lovely. The last person from our team left this morning, so I got up, had breakfast with her in my apartment, then saw her off at 7:30. Since then, I've just been taking it easy. I took a walk around the beautiful green farm land behind our university, cleaned a little, read a little, had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I really am going to try to get around to some language study this afternoon. My friend and I finally got train tickets last week, so we're heading to Beijing tomorrow night. We're actually making it a two day trip with a day stop in the capital city of our province. I'm really looking forward to seeing some more of China.

Saturday, we had our final summer team meal at a good Chinese (I say that because there are quite a few Korean restaurants here, so it's not a given that you'll eat Chinese) restaurant. We ordered way too much food and all ate more than we needed to, so a few of us decided to take the 40 minute walk back to the university since it wasn't too hot that night. On one of the street corners not too far from our university, there is a group of old men and women who gather to dance every night. It's all old people, and they all dance pretty formally. It is so sweet to watch. There are inevitably more women than men, so a few of the pairs were two women. We had passed by this before, but never on foot, so this time we stopped to watch for a while. I really wanted to join in, but I didn't know if it was some sort of club, and also I can't dance at all. Maybe I'll get someone to teach me sometime if I can get up the guts. That might throw some of those older folks off, though, to see a young white girl joining in.

When we got up the hill, we stopped for a while to take in the night sky. In Korea, I couldn't ever see more than a few bright stars at best, but here on a clear night, the sky is absolutely beautiful. It feels like I'm back in the countryside of West Texas it's so clear. It helps that the university is up on a hill and there aren't too many outside lights to interrupt the view. (Don't worry, the university is a safe place.) Wow, it's amazing. We found a few constellations and marvelled at the fact that they're the same ones we can see at home.

Thursday, August 4

miscellaneous activities

I don't remember what I posted about before, and I can't view the page, so I don't know where to start when I write these things. But, I want to try to stay in touch with friends at home as much as possible, so I write these random entries. School ended last week, and all of us who are staying just took the weekend easy. I got settled into my apartment that I'll live in for the year. Monday morning, our team split up. Half of us went to Tumen to help at a new business and half stayed here to volunteer at a coffee shop that just opened in Yanji. I went to Tumen first. It was some tiring work, but a lot of fun to work with a team and help out the factory. Getting a
better feel for Tumen was nice, too. It's a smaller city, so it has sort of a homey feel, I think. We stayed at a hotel together and had some fun team time while we were there. Yesterday, we came back to Yanji and switched places with the other half of our team. So, we have the easy job now...just hanging out at the cafe, talking to people, and helping serve when they're busy. Today, a group of tourists came through and I got to help cut fruit for about 10 bowls of pat bing su, which is an ice, fruit, and red bean dessert that is really popular in the summer here. This evening, we got to help with an evening English class and were treated to dinner by the teacher. That was a good experience.

Next week, I'm hoping to travel, but the train tickets are really hard to come by, especially for the sleepers, so we are waiting on our friend to help us get some tickets. He's been trying every day for almost a week now, so I hope if we're patient, we can go. Until then, I'll just be settling in and trying to spend some time language learning after the summer group leaves on Sunday and Monday morning.

Sunday, July 31

a week of work

The past three days have been a sea of saying goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. All the summer volunteers are leaving at different times and we have appointments to meet at the front of the dorm to see them off at various times of the day. In between, I've been sorting things in my new room and trying to read up on China a bit through a Lonely Planet guidebook I borrowed from another teacher. I'm still in the introduction, but it's pretty interesting to get a bit of a historical view of China.

This week the remaining volunteers are splitting up to help with different projects in the area. I'm looking forward to spending some good time with the team and doing some non-teaching work. After that, I plan on travelling to Beijing for the first time. That's why I have the guide book. There is a problem with our train tickets, though. The train tickets we want are all sold out. So, I have to wait to reserve a room in a youth hostel until we know when we're leaving. Hopefully by the time we get our train tickets, all the youth hostels won't be booked. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to a good few weeks of rest from teaching and getting more settled here now that I have my own place.

Saturday, July 30

friends are good

My three friends just left last night. We went to Tumen, a nearby town that's on the border of North Korea yesterday. We took a bus there and some friends met us at the station. They took us to the river where just across is North Korea! It was a little strange to just look across the river and see it. We went to lunch together and then visited a business that a guy we know is starting up. I'm going to go back there next week with some of the summer volunteers to help get it up and running.
On the bus back yesterday, I was thinking about how well everything worked out for my friends' visit. I really have only been here a short time and don't know that much, but somehow everything worked out so easily and smoothly for the three short days that they were here. They got to see Yanji the first day, Chang Bai Shan the second day, and Tumen the third day. Somehow we made it everywhere without any trouble, and we packed a lot in!
The greatest thing about them being here was that they came as servants and were so encouraging. They brought me some of the stuff (mostly books and winter clothes) that I didn't have room to bring with me and they made the time that they had here quality. I'm so thankful for them!

Wednesday, July 27

friends here!

Three friends from Seoul arrived on Tuesday night to visit me for three days. They flew in to the capital city of the province and then took a nine hour train here. Yesterday, we spent the morning at the university, then went to the train station to work out their return trip. We thought that would be sorta easy, but it turned out to be quite an ordeal. Both the night trains were booked. They told us to call a number and try to get a reservation, but that didn't work either. A little Chinese Korean guy fortunately decided to help us, and he directed us over to the buses to try to get a night bus (all of this in the middle of a crazy sudden downpour.) It was significantly more expensive, but still not bad by our standards, so now the three are on the night bus to Changchun. Yay!

After our ticket adventure, we explored downtown, picked up pictures, tried to pick up a package from my sister, but found out we were at the wrong post office, poked around at the markets, and checked out a book store for Chinese posters and maps. One of our members wanted to taste the famous Yanji naeng myeon (cold noodles), so we had an early dinner, then we went to our second dinner at a Chinese restaurant to try the banana dessert I wanted them to try.

Today, my friends are at the famous mountain that's about 4-5 hours away from here. They had to leave at 4am! I hope the weather is clear for them. It was raining when they left, but it's pretty clear here in Yanji now. Of course, on the top of a mountain, you never know! They'll probably be beat tonight when they get back.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning up my desk, finishing grades, and getting ready to give our final in 15 minutes. Today's the last day of our summer term!

Wednesday, July 20

hot, hot, hot

Up until this past Saturday, it was cool here. You took a jacket when you went out in the evening and you wore a sweatshirt to sit in the office in the morning. Well, it got hot. Our temperatures have been steadily climbing since Saturday. Today, our high is in the upper nineties. We have no air conditioning, which is completely OK if you can get a good cross breeze going in whatever room you are in and you don't move too much. However, walking across campus, teaching, going up stairs, or even thinking too hard will produce heavy sweating. Students have a very hard time staying awake in class - both because it's hot and it's harder to get a good night's rest if you're sweating all night. So today, I came to class armed with a squirt gun and then went to get popsicles during my co-teacher's hour with the class. (It only cost $1.50 for 32 popsicles!) They stayed a lot more awake than yesterday, but it was still a struggle. I was mean and shot some guys who fell asleep during class. I feel sorry for them, but they've gotta stay awake!

Today is a sweet day, though, because I got a birthday package from my lovely friend Adrielle in California. She sent me a new card game, good candy, hand sanitizer packets, Teddy Grahams cubs (how cute are those?), orange crush lipsmackers, and green apple gum! Wow! Exciting times!

Monday, July 18

grading is fun

Every time I get to grade a writing assignment, I laugh. On our last test, we had a writing prompt that asked the students to write about their pet peeve. Here are a few of the funny ones.
I really can't stand smoking. It's so terrible when someone smokes in front of me. The smog makes me breath hard. I don't understand why the people are smoking. Is it so healthful?

I can't stand when someone touch my head. I think that head is most important at body. So if someone touched my head, I'd be very angry.
(This is actually a cultural thing...if someone touches your head, it is degrading, because it's only acceptable to touch the heads of kids.)

I can't stand when my roommate doesn't wash his socks. It is very dirty and awful. I always talk to him wash his socks, but he never wash socks. I can't wash his socks for him everyday. I want to change room.

On the first test, we had a fill in the blank section. The words shrine and hug were among the words in the box as choices. So, this is how one person completed the blank:
I am feeling so lonely. I really need a shrine from someone.

On one of our homework assignments, there was a picture of an apartment with a dog in it. The assignment was to make a list of requests that you might ask your friend to take care of for you while you went on vacation. So, one person wrote this:
Could you please eat my dog while I'm away?
In a culture where dog soup is a delicacy, we thought this was an interesting request. I actually couldn't figure out what the student was trying to say, because was trying to figure out how "Could you please take care of my dog?" could be confused with "Could you please eat my dog?", but my co-teacher clarified it for me. He meant to say "Could you please FEED my dog while I'm away?" That's still a horrible mistake, but at least understandable.

Thursday, July 14


I am really enjoying life here, but I'm pretty busy. I am trying to spend as much time as I can with my roommates in the dorm, because I'll only live two more weeks with them. We gave our second test this week, so I had to write that with my partner, then there's grading, teaching, activities with the English house, etc. This week I've also been starting to clean out the apartment that I'll be moving in to at the end of the month. The girl who was in it left on Saturday, and she left me a lot of good stuff and a lot of junk, so I've been sorting through that and cleaning it out. All of this and I'm trying to learn some Chinese characters and phrases. I'm not stressed, but it just makes for a lot of stuff to do, so that's my apology for not keeping my blog updated. If you email me, you are guaranteed a response, though, even though it might take me a week to get to the bottom of my inbox.

I've been able to connect more with some of the people who have been here a while, and that's been really good. The summer team of volunteers is great, too, but they're gonna leave soon. This morning, I took the bus downtown by myself for the first time since I've been here, and it took me a while to find out how to get the bus back after shopping, but I did and made it back safely. I forgot our weekly office meeting in the process, so I'll have some apologizing to do for that. It was really nice to have a morning to myself, though, to get some stuff for my apartment and think.

Thursday, July 7

chang bai shan

On Saturday, we took a trip to a mountain that's about four hours away. In Korean, it's called Bek Du San and in Chinese it's called Chang Bai Shan. It's half in China and half in North Korea. We were told to take the warmest clothes we had. I didn't take the warmest clothes I had because I brought clothes for the Siberia type weather that they have in the winter here. So, I dressed in a few layers and was pretty comfortable, even at the top of the mountain, except for the fact that I was drenched from the constant drizzle on the hike up. Anyhow, for the first part, we took jeeps up to the top of a mountain and then scrambled up a gravel slope to get to the peak. There is supposed to be a magnificent view of the lake from up there, but we couldn't see more than about five feet in front of us. It was kind of a mysterious feeling about it, but of course we were a little disappointed. We took the jeeps back down, then went to another place where we climbed more than 1,000 steps to get to the same lake that we should have been able to see from the top. It was really hard, but it was totally worth it. The lake was absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, June 30

first few days

I've been here almost a week now, and things are going so well. As soon as my friend and I got off the plane and got our luggage hefted into the van at the airport, a huge rainstorm came. As we drove through the city, rain was washing down the streets like a river. Some girls were wading up to their knees at one point. Amazingly, with the help of our talented driver, we got up to the top of the hill that the university is on and we got our luggage all the way up five flights of stairs with the help of some strong guys. That first night, we ate together in the cafeteria and we went to a performance done by the Korean exchange students on campus. Our weekend was full of orientation meetings and getting to know each other.
Saturday, after a full day of meetings, we ate the most incredible meal. I think it was at a Chinese Korean place downtown. They had a huge glass "lazy susan" on each table and they just kept bringing out plate after plate of scrumptious Chinese food for us to feast on. We ended the meal with a dessert like dish that had mashed bananas wrapped in a bread like something with caramel drizzled on top. You could grab one of them and then dip it in cold water to harden the caramel before you ate it. Oh, so good.
My class is in the afternoons everyday from 1-3. I am team teaching with another girl because it's a repeat class and because it's so big. At first, we had 40 students, but now we're down to around 30 for conversational English. They're all very respectful and well behaved, but it's hard to get around to meeting all their needs with that many, so we encourage them to come to office hours or to set up appointments with us if they need help. They're really good students and have turned in some interesting essays on culture. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.