Tuesday, February 28

the first day of school

Today is our first day! I'm lucky, because I only have one class. Our beginner classes don't meet on Wednesday. This is a nice transition from two months of not having to wake up for much to getting to the office at 7:15 to get ready for my 8:00 class.

I got some "find someone who" sheets ready for the classes and made "syllabi." I put syllabi in quotes because they're not real syllabi. Mostly, I just like the plural of the word syllabus and I try to use it when I can. They have the test dates on them and the percentage of each thing that goes into their grade, plus my office hours and phone numbers, but that's about it. We don't have to make them, but it makes me feel good to give them something.

Last night was fat Tuesday, called "Shrove Tuesday" in England. I have an English friend here and she says that they eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. That made me hungry for pancakes, so I made some (apple walnut with a little cornmeal mixed with the flour) and invited her and another friend over. I then realized I don't have enough forks. I had one real one and one plastic one. I ate with a spoon and it was all good. The great thing is that Saturday, when I didn't have enough spoons, one of my friends offered to give me some, and last night when I didn't have enough forks, one of my friends said she had extra and she could give me some. How great is that? I also got a hot water boiler given to me last week, right before I was going to have to return one to a student who left his with me while he was in Korea. I'm thankful for provision!

a late Valentine's message

We cleaned out the office last week to get ready for a new semester and I found this gift bag. It's a lovely example of the need for English teachers in China (or Korea, since this might be a made in Korea bag). It's filled with hearts that say "my herat" all over it.

Does herat even sound like heart? No. It's just a silly error. Spell check! Dictionaries! Think about something and run it through someone else before you make bags out of it and mass market it!

Monday, February 27

almost in the swing of things

Last week, we had a few different meetings to go to get ready for classes. When we weren't meeting, I was unpacking, organizing, cleaning, shopping for groceries, etc. I must report that I made a quite successful veggie soup modeled after my cousins. (I posted about that a few weeks ago.) I found green beans, carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms in the market. I found tomato juice and canned corn in the supermarket, and I used some ground beef I had leftover frozen in my freezer. It was yummy. I felt quite old fashioned as I washed and snapped the ends off the peas. I remember going to my great grandma's house and helping with that. (Or maybe I just watched?) I made some cornbread muffins in my new silicone bakeware (I cut the muffin pan in half to fit in my oven) and invited some friends over. I had to ask one of them to bring five spoons because I only had two, and one was dirty. They agreed that it was tasty. I put the rest of the veggies in the freezer after cutting them and now I'm ready to make it at a few hours notice again!

I have been cleaning my house pretty much every day since I've been back, and every day I find more to clean. The dustbunnies and charcoal dust covered nooks and crannies seem abundant, even though my apartment is pretty small! I've done endless loads of laundry, washing my rugs, sheets, clothes, curtains, my down coat, everything. I think I'm about done.

Today, I went to the gym for the first time since I've been back. A friend went with me, and afterwards, we went to our favorite Korean food restaurant to eat kimbap, kalguksu, and dduk bokki. Yum. We went shopping after that and when we came back I was beat. I still haven't made any time to prep for my classes, but I have tomorrow. I should get going now, because we're having a little game night in my apartment later. I should make my bed before people come over.

Wednesday, February 22

in my suitcases

Some people asked what I was taking back to China with me. Here's a list of most of the things I brought.

1 soft, fuzzy blanket
6 pack Dr. Pepper mini cans (minus one I had to open for them to check in Beijing at the luggage inspection) for my Texas friend who didn’t get to go home this vacation
2 boxes of apple cider mix
small jar of apricot jam
baking soda, baking powder
3 DVDs (ab workout video, Napoleon Dynamite, My Cousin Vinny)
1 box of granola bars
cheese grater
2 packages of herb seeds
1 set of silicone bakeware
3 sticks of shortening
3 packages of cheese
2 packages of tortillas
1 bottle of perfume
1 package of pepperoni
3 packages of pasta
2 bags of craisins
1 bottle of salsa
1 package of cocoa
2 cans of candy sprinkles
1 bottle of vanilla
3 bags of chocolate chips (one mini, one white, one butterscotch for my friend)
4 pairs of shoes
2 biscuit mixes
3 bags of coffee
1 collage made by my friend in dripping springs
5 tubes of mentha lip shine from Bath and Body works (that stuff is so great, I had to stock up!)
2 bottles of shampoo
2 bottles of conditioner
body and face lotion
an exercise ball
vanilla scented baby powder
2 bags of candy
Burts Bees milk and honey lotion
2 candles
2 boxes of mac and cheese
2 pairs of long underwear
6 sticks of deodorant
1 bag of tortilla chips (slightly crushed)
24 books (I always go overboard here)
1 large bottle of olive oil
shower curtain, liner, and rings
plus my laptop, small amount of clothes and miscellaneous stuff

**note to those of you who leave me comments...I can't comment back to you, because I can't see my blog to look at the comments. I can only post. (I also can't read other blogspot blogs.) I do get your comments e-mailed to me, though, so keep commenting!

recounting my trip back

I began my journey back to China early on Sunday morning. Friday night, my aunt and cousin made a last minute one night visit, so we lounged around and visiting, had breakfast tacos made by my dad, and went to Cracker Barrell for a last homestyle meal before they left Saturday evening. I had a t-shirt quilt that I had vague intentions of finishing Saturday night/Sunday morning before leaving, but with sewing machine issues and limited time, I didn't get anywhere close to finishing it. I did stay up all night getting as far along as I could on the quilt, answering e-mails, and hemming a pair of pants. My parents took me to the airport at 4:30 Sunday morning.

At the Abilene airport, my two large bags made it in, even though they were one pound and six pounds over the limit. (The new limit was 50 pounds each, 20 pounds each less than it used to be! That's probably good for me, though, because I really do have a lot of stuff already and I need to learn to be more of a minimalist.) When I went through the security check point, my heavy carry on had to be searched through because there was so much metal in it. I had a six pack of mini Dr.Peppers for my friend, a jar of jelly, apple cider packets with metal foil on them, a cheese grater, and various other small bits of metal that the detector didn't like. They unpacked it all, and then asked if I was going to cooking school. No, I told them, I just live in China. They nodded like they understood, then as I walked away, they kept on talking about the contents of my bag.

I slept all the way from Abilene to Dallas, and most of the way from Dallas to San Jose, waking up only for the breakfast, which was a choice of special K or egg and cheese quesadilla. I was sitting next to a big guy who asked me "Do you think anybody ever actually chooses the Special K?" I laughed, savoring the last of my chances to interact with strangers in English.

As I walked to the gate in San Jose to depart on the plane to Tokyo, I breathed deeply the smells of Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, and Cinnabon. Oh, the smells of America! It'll be a while until I get to experience those again. I got closer to my departing gate, but I didn't actually have to look for the gate number. I knew I was there as the number of Asian guys wearing cute clothes, thick plastic rimmed glasses, and carrying girly looking handbags increased.

I sat next to a guy on the overseas flight who asked me a lot of questions about spirituality. That was good and made me think through some things. I got to watch the new Pride and Prejudice and part of Proof. I was happy for good movies, although I think I like the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice better. Colin Firth just can't be outdone as Mr. Darcy.

In Tokyo, we had to deplane at a cargo gate and then be shuttled to the gate. That gave me bruises from carrying my too heavy carry-on up and down the stairs, but I'm recovering well. I also had issues getting my carry-on in some of the overhead compartments. On the first flight, one guy standing near me actually told someone next to him that he didn't think it was going to make it. I sorta felt like I was being voted off a reality show or something. Anyhow, it did make it with a few pushes and shoves.

I had to spend the night in Beijing, then I got on a plane to Yanji Tuesday afternoon. I didn't even leave the hotel. They had a free breakfast, then I just stayed in my room and read. I decided to savor some relaxation time before check-out.

In Yanji, I was surprised to not even need a hat and gloves from the airport to the taxi. Apparently, the weather has just gotten warmer in the past few days. The high temp is still hovering around freezing, but with the sun shining, it's definitely bearable. After haggling with the taxi driver (bringing the price down from 6 bucks to 4), I got back to school early evening. It's been so nice the past few days to see friends again, settle back into a routine, unpack and clean. I decided it would be best to clean a bit before I really unpacked, so I hit the floors with wet rags. The result was a handful of blackened rags from the coal dust that settled on the floor (it even creeps in through closed windows!). After a few rounds of cleaning, finally my room is looking pretty good again, although I am going to have to de-clutter it.

We started meetings yesterday and will have them through the weekend, then we have classes starting on Wednesday, March first. It's good to be back!

Thursday, February 16


I got this idea from jenni to make a word cloud. It's a word picture of the words that appear most often on this blog. You can make one from your blog here.

more drive time

I drove all the way to Denton from outside Louisville on Tuesday. Only two stops. I was trying to make it in time to join my cousin for a girls' Valentine's night. I made it, just a little late, but I was really in no mood to be out. I wanted to go to bed. Funny how driving wears you out. I did get some good thinking time in, though. This time, I prepared myself to write some stuff down as I thought about it. My Dad's truck has this great pull down armrest with a pullout clipboard on it. So, I prepared it with some paper and a pen. I wrote stuff down as I drove. Stuff I heard on the radio, songs I wanted to put in playlists on my ipod, people I needed to email and call before I leave, and other thoughts. You can see that I wasn't looking at the paper much while I was driving, because it's hard to make out most of what I wrote, but the reminder is still there. Maybe I'll expand a little more on these drive time thoughts in the next few posts.

Oh, and Texas sunsets take the cake, don't they?

gold worthy

I didn't even know that the winter Olympics were this year until about a week ago. I did get to watch part of the opening ceremonies, though, and they were nice. Since I've spent some time in the car this week, I've been listening to some of the news on the radio. I heard an interview with this guy, Joey Cheek, that won the gold in speed skating a few days ago. He donated his 25,000 dollar bonus to an aid organization that helps people in the Darfur region of Sudan. Here's a little article about it. He said something like, honestly, what I do is pretty ridiculous, I skate around the ice in tights, but if I can do something to help the people of Sudan, then it's worth it. He used his time in the spotlight to help some people in Africa. That's inspiring.

Sunday, February 12

drive time

I spent almost two whole days on the road last week, listening to music, trying to get through a biography on CD about Alexander Hamilton that turned out to not engage me so well, and thinking about stuff. The thinking about stuff part is the best. That's the reason that road trips are worthwhile to me. For some reason if I'm flying, I don't get the same contemplative time. That's probably because I'm a good sleeper and will easily fall asleep instead of think or listen to music on a plane. Anyhow, I had some good think time. I would randomly think, hey, I should blog this when I get near a computer. But, I didn't. It's not all lost, but I'll have to think about it again before I can blog. I'm pretty sure that my thoughts aren't really so revolutionary, but while I'm driving I think that they might be.
I've spent the past few days not doing much. I've been cooking some, resting some, just hanging out with my sister and brother in law. We've been having a good time. I'll be heading back to Texas in the next day or two. I'll see if I can get some really deep thoughts from that drive posted up here before I head back to China.

Sunday, February 5

master pirateers

Is pirateers the right word?
This is an example of how China can copy anything.

not even half

In this desert are preserved traces of an ancient road along which Marco Polo passed six centuries before I did: its markers are piles of stones. Just as I had heard in a Tibetan gorge the interesting drum-like roar which had frightened our first pilgrims, so in the desert during the sandstorms I also saw and heard the same as Marco Polo: "The whisper of spirits calling you aside" and the queer flicker of the air, an endless progression of whirlwinds, caravans, and armies of phantoms coming to meet you, thousands of spectral faces in their incorporeal way pressing upon you, through you, and suddenly dispersing...When the great explorer was dying, his friends gathered by his bedside and implored him to reject what in his book had seemed incredible to them - to water down its miracles by means of judicious deletions; but he responded that he had not recounted even a half of what he had in fact seen.

- from Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift, quoted in TIBET Through the Red Box by Peter Sis

Have you ever felt like that? That you can't even recount half of what you have seen in some situations, or experiences in your life? Either because you don't know how to recount the experience, how to put it in words, you don't really think it's worth it, or you don't think others will understand?

Thursday, February 2


I like to cook, but I don't really do it that much. When my parents asked me to help them cook something for a family that's coming over this weekend, I didn't have any clue what I should make. It's an Asian family, so I certainly wasn't going to try anything Asian on them. (How weird would it be if you went to a Chinese family's house in China and they cooked you chicken fried steak? You would probably be very curious to try it, but it probably wouldn't taste much like you think it should.) I don't think I'm still in charge of this meal, but my Mom asked me for input on what we should make. I still don't know, but I'll probably flip through some cookbooks for inspiration. The great thing about being in America is you can find the ingredients to almost anything in the cookbooks (even in a not-so-big town in Texas!).

I spent the weekend with my cousins in Denton. On Saturday afternoon, my cousin made a hot and yummy vegetable soup and cornbread for lunch. It was simple. She used V8 as the base and a vegetable soup mix from the frozen foods section with some browned ground beef. It was the perfect transition from a soft, gray sleep-in Saturday morning to a sunny afternoon out. It inspired me to cook more. One reason I didn't cook much this past semester is that my one burner gas range would often set itself on fire. There was some kind of leak in the fuel line. I had to watch it carefully and shut off the fuel tank as soon as it malfunctioned. So, it wasn't worth the effort to get all worked up about. I took it back to the store where I got it from just a few days before I left for the winter and they told me that I just need to make sure the gas tube fits more tightly around the point where it attaches to the stove. I tried it again after that, with the wire they gave me to assist in a tight fit, and it seems to be OK. We'll see what happens in my next semester of cooking. I can't get V8 or a pre-packaged box of veggies in the freezer, but I can make my own vegetable packets and stick them in the freezer for when I feel like vegetable soup. I might even try making my own tomato sauce before the semester gets too crazy.

Since I moved to China, I have had one lovely luxury. I have had a working oven. In Korea, I had a little toaster oven that couldn't make anything except toast, really. It made pretty good pizza with a little finagling (how do you spell that?), but no cookies or anything else. However, when I moved in to my room in China, though, I inherited a small working oven. It is marvelous. It took a few trial runs to get used to it, but it works great. I learned to make cakes, cookies, cornbread, and muffins again. I shared with the office and I made homemade cakes for my students and invited them over for coffee. They don't bake, so they thought I was amazing. I also had students over for Christmas cookie decorating and gave cookies to all my students for Christmas. The joys of having an oven. All of this was done in a little oven that will only hold a 9x9 square pan. I read in the Austin paper last week about people who are re-discovering their gourmet toaster ovens - how they are "perfect for just baking a few muffins at a time". I just laughed. We rediscovered them in China because that's all you can buy!