Friday, April 27

spring came early!

This week has had a few cold and windy days, but the weather today is absolutely beautiful. Jacket only weather with sunshine and no wind! The trees have started blooming, too. Last year I remember going to Dalian for May holiday and seeing our first budding trees on the way from the train. This year we have beautiful blossoms in Yanji already! These guys are playing cards on a streetcorner. It had been sprinkling off and on, maybe that's why the umbrellas are down so close to them.
These ladies are practicing some sort of dance with pots on their heads. Most of them have their pots wrapped in a plastic bag and many of them have on face masks to keep from breathing in the dust/pollution in the air.

Our early blossoms! In the picture above, you can see the tricycles that they use a lot for delivery here. All the furniture I bought from the used furniture market was delivered on one of those.
And since I was in the picture taking mode this week, I took a picture of this huge hamburger on a pole that advertises the nearby burger place. I just think it's funny.

I'm leaving for Beijing tonight and then to Korea tomorrow for my friend's wedding in Pusan! I am excited about the wedding and about visiting this city on the coast that I've never been to. Warmer weather ahead!

Sunday, April 22

another Monday

In one sense, Mondays are great. I don't usually have anything scheduled to do other than plan for the week's classes. In another sense, I don't really like them because I don't feel productive since planning for class is something that doesn't ever really end. I was talking to one of the Russian teachers last week as he dropped by to say hello at the office and I told him about this feeling that it's hard to plan for a lecture class because there's so much to learn that I can't ever feel like I'm really prepared. He assured me that it's a good thing for a teacher to feel that way. I think, though, that if I were more knowledgeable then I would be more prepared and be a better teacher.

Despite the fact that I never really feel prepared, I feel satisfaction in learning about the topics I teach and have found myself lately without enough time in class to finish what I hoped we could cover. That's a much better feeling than coming up with time fillers like I was the first two weeks of class. I am enjoying this process of being a learner myself and conveying the information I think is important. I'm also enjoying the fact that many (not all, of course) of my students are very curious and will read all the outside reading and other assignments I give them even though they only have two assessments during the whole semester.

Next week is our spring break type holiday. It's May holiday, which is May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd so our campus scheduled classes on Monday and Friday of the holiday week. But, most of the students (and teachers) don't want to go to school on those days so they scheduled make up classes on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend. I'm super glad I don't have class on Monday and Friday! I'm going to Pusan, Korea for my friend's wedding. I'm excited about seeing the beach and eating dduk bokki, soondae and o-daeng!

Thursday, April 19

a few random pictures

You've heard of Dole bananas, but have you ever heard of Bole? One great thing about living in Asia is getting a kick of seeing how things are misrepresented or copied. I saw this in one of the back streets a few weeks ago. It was covering up a hole that is now just open. Everytime I walk by the hole I wonder if anyone's fallen in yet.
I walked a different way out of my friends' house and saw this house in the right foreground that burns the coal for the neighborhood. It's hardly even cold anymore but still the chimney is spewing out the nasty smoke.
And I took a picture of my lunch yesterday. It's one of my favorite meals to eat alone. (For some reason I don't order it when I'm eating with people. I wonder if that means something?) It's kimchi tuna stew served with rice and whatever ban-chan (side dishes) they have made up that week. Usually it's this: tofu strips and radish cubes, both pickled with chili sauce.

Monday, April 16

the golden pig

I was searching for somewhat recent pictures to post here because I noticed (after I was allowed to view blogspot blogs after a few weeks of them being blocked) that I had been text centered recently. I found this one that I took a few days after I came back. This year is the lunar year of the golden pig so we have this huge ugly yet fun statue downtown. The words are in Korean with no Chinese, which I think is interesting. This year, since it's not just the year of the pig, but the golden year of the pig, is supposed to be a lucky year to be born because you'll be more successful (monetarily, I think).

Today is the first day in about two weeks that I haven't had commitments outside myself due to visitors. I treated it like a Saturday (since I don't teach or have language class on Mondays) but now I feel like such a procrastinator. I actually got up and got going very early (in the surprise morning snow!) but then came back home to cook myself brunch and got tired, so I took a long nap. I finally got around to planning for my American culture class later in the day but I'm still not finished. As usual I am feeling uninspired for it, although I am teaching on the American education system which I know relatively more about than other topics I teach on. I've learned that the class goes fine in the end. I'm always so relieved when it's over for the week!

So, since I'm procrastinating by writing this blog, I will leave it at that as I need to continue to educate myself to educate on education tomorrow.

Sunday, April 8


This week I've been a little busier than normal with visitors who came on their Easter break and a new roommate. Both have been fun to have and have allowed me to notice a few things about life here that I've become used to. I'll list a few.

Crossing the street is an art. You have to have a mix of about 85% courage and belief that the drivers will see you and swerve around you on a busy street and 15% caution to know when is not the right time to step out. On a busy street that has pedestrian lights (there are a few of these), you can (and should) follow them, but you can't trust them.

Street muck and stink is common. You just get used to it. But, occasionally you get a refreshing smell of cooking rice or roasting sweet potatoes. You have to know how to ignore the nasty smells and breathe deeply of the nice ones.

Buses don't always stop fully for you to get on, but don't worry, because the guy who takes your money will pull you up by the arm if you need it. He'll also push you (gently) off if you don't get off quickly enough. The driver is not your friend. He will not go slowly over bumps or wait for you to get your footing or a hold of anything before he steps on the gas. He might even take pleasure in seeing you fly into someone's lap (at least I imagine that's his secret entertainment).

Weird things about my apartment: The toilet doesn't flush well. There aren't many electric plugs (this is why there is a huge market for extension cords in China). There is a window in between the two bedrooms because the inside bedroom doesn't have another window. The water heater takes a good 45 minutes to heat up for a shower and the other faucets aren't connected to the water heater so the water that comes out of them is ice cold. The on and off switch on the oven doesn't work so you have to plug and unplug it to turn it on and off. The military guys at the base that we are right next to sometimes come and shout at the statue that is right below the apartment at 6am.

There are probably other things too, these are just the things that I have found myself explaining (or not able to explain) recently.

Sunday, April 1


"...he talked of marriage and how after three or more years he would find a wife. There were often schedules like this for the young Chinese I knew; they were pragmatists about love as well as politics and nearly everything else. The young man explained his reasons - in three years he would be twenty eight years old, which was neither too young nor too old, and by then he should have enough money to get married."

This is another quote from Rivertown by Peter Hessler that I identify with. My students here in China and many people in Korea when I go back to visit ask when I plan to marry. Well, if my plans would actually work, I would have planned to get married a few years ago. I guess, if I look at it from their perspective, they are young and can still have ideas that life can be planned out according to what is expected of them and what they want.

When I am asked this question, I smile and ask them how it's possible to plan things like that. They smile back and admit that it's difficult, but I can still see the question in them wondering about this single girl.


I just finished reading River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler. Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Fuling, a town on the Yangtze river. I identify with a lot in the book, but I'm jealous about how much time he was able to spend learning and practicing the language. Anyway, this section is one I particularly relate to:

Most of the sound came from car horns, and it is difficult to explain how constant this sound was. I can start by saying: Drivers in Fuling honked a lot. ...they were always passing each other in a mad rush to get to wherever they were going. They honked at other cars, and they honked at pedestrians. They honked whenever they passed somebody, or whenever they were being passed themselves. They honked when nobody was passing but somebody might be considering it, or when the road was empty and there was nobody to pass but the thought of passing or being passed had just passed through the driver's mind. Just like that, an unthinking reflex: the driver honked. They did it so often that they didn't even feel the contact point beneath their fingers, and the other drivers and pedestrians were so familiar with the sound that they essentially didn't hear it. Nobody reacted to horns anymore; they served no purpose. A honk in Fuling was like a tree falling in the forest- for all intents and purposes it was silent.
The sounds of car horns in our city still annoy me. There are quite a few cabs here, and they're always honking. I think they honk more at foreigners, but I could be wrong. If I hear one honk at me as he approaches, I ignore it and wave down the next one if possible. I try not to reward their honking unless I'm in a hurry or there are no other cabs in sight.